WORDS OF THE EZLN ON THE 22ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR AGAINST OBLIVION
January 1, 2016
GOOD EVENING, GOOD DAY COMPAÑERO AND COMPAÑERA BASES OF SUPPORT FROM THE ZAPATISTA ARMY FOR NATIONAL LIBERATION, COMPAÑERO/AS MILICIANOS AND MILICIANAS,[i] INSURGENTS, LOCAL AND REGIONAL RESPONSABLES,[ii] AUTHORITIES FROM THE THREE LEVELS OF AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT, COMPAÑERO/AS PROMOTORES AND PROMOTORAS[iii] OF THE DIFFERENT WORK AREAS, COMPAÑEROS AND COMPAÑERAS OF THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SIXTH, AND ALL WHO ARE PRESENT.
Compañeras and compañeros, today we are here to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the beginning of the war against oblivion.
For more than 500 years we have endured the war that the powerful from different nations, languages, colors, and beliefs have made against us in order to annihilate us.
They wanted to kill us, be it through killing our bodies or killing our ideas.
But we resist.
As original peoples, as guardians of mother earth, we resist.
Not only here and not only our color, which is the color of the earth.
In all of the corners of the earth that suffered in the past and still suffer now, there were and there are dignified and rebellious people who resisted, who resist against the death imposed from above.
January 1, 1994, 22 years ago, we made public the “ENOUGH!” that we had prepared in dignified silence for a decade.
In silencing our pain we were preparing its scream.
Our word, at that time, came from fire.
In order to wake those who slept.
To raise the fallen.
To incense those who conformed and surrendered.
To rebel against history
To force it to tell that which it had silenced.
To reveal the history of exploitations, murders, dispossessions, disrespect and forgetting that it was hiding behind the history of above.
This history of museums, statues, textbooks – monuments to the lie.
With the death of our people, with our blood, we shook the stupor of a world resigned to defeat.
It was not only words. The blood of our fallen compañeros in these 22 years was added to the blood of those from the preceding years, lustrums, decades, and centuries.
We had to choose then and we chose life.
That is why, both then and now, in order to live, we die.
Our word then was as simple as our blood painting the streets and walls of the cities where they disrespect us now as they did then.
And it continues to be:
The banner of our struggle was our 11 demands: land, work, food, health, education, dignified housing, independence, democracy, freedom, justice, and peace.
These demands were what made us rise up in arms because these were the things that we, the original people and the majority of people in this country and in the entire world, need.
In this way, we began our struggle against exploitation, marginalization, humiliation, disrespect, oblivion and all of the injustices we lived that were caused by the bad system.
Because we are only of service to the rich and powerful as their slaves, so that they can become richer and richer and we can become poorer and poorer.
After living for such a long time under this domination and plunder we said:
ENOUGH! THIS IS WHERE OUR PATIENCE ENDS!
And we saw that we had no other choice then to take up our arms to kill or to die for a just cause.
But we were not alone.
Nor are we alone now.
In Mexico and the World dignity took to the streets and asked for a space for the word.
From that moment on, we changed our form of struggle. We were and we are an attentive ear and open word, because from the beginning we knew that a just struggle of the people is for life and not for death.
But we have our arms at our sides, we have not gotten rid of them, they will be with us until the end.
Because we see that where our ear was an open heart, the Ruler used his deceptive word, and ambitious and lying heart against us.
We saw that the war from above continued.
Their plan and objective was and is to make war against us until they exterminate us. That is why instead of meeting our just demands, they prepared and prepare, made and make war with their modern weapons, form and finance paramilitaries, provide and distribute crumbs taking advantage of some people’s ignorance and poverty.
These rulers above are stupid. They think that those who were willing to listen would also be willing to sell out, surrender, and give up.
They were wrong then.
They are wrong now.
Because we Zapatistas know full well that we are not beggars or good-for-nothings who hope that everything will simply resolve itself.
We are people with dignity, determination, and consciousness to fight for true freedom and justice for all.[iv] Regardless of one’s color, race, gender, belief, calendar or geography.
That is why our struggle is not local, regional, or even national. It is universal.
Because the injustices, crimes, dispossessions, disrespect, and exploitations are universal.
But so are rebellion, rage, dignity, and the desire to be better.
That is why we understood that it was necessary to build our life ourselves, with autonomy.
In the midst of the major threats, military and paramilitary harassment, and the bad government’s constant provocations, we began to form our own system of governing—our autonomy—with our own education system, our own health care, our own communication, our way of caring for and working on mother earth; our own politics as a people and our own ideology about how we want to live as communities, with an other culture.
Where others hope that those above will solve the problems of those below, we Zapatistas began to build our freedom as it is sown, how it is constructed, where it grows, that is to say, from below.
But the bad government tries to destroy and bring an end to our struggle and resistance with a war that changes in intensity as it changes its deceptive politics, with its bad ideas, with its lies, using the media to spread them, and by handing out crumbs in the indigenous communities where Zapatistas live in order to divide and to buy off people’s consciences, thus implementing their counterinsurgency plan.
But the war that comes from above, compañeras, compañeros, brothers and sisters, is always the same: it only brings destruction and death.
The ideas and flags may change with whoever is in office, but the war of above always destroys, always kills, never sows anything other than terror and hopelessness.
In the middle of this war, we have had to walk toward what we want.
We could not sit and wait for the understanding of those who don’t even understand that they don’t understand.
We could not sit and wait for the criminal to repudiate himself and his history and convert himself, repentant, into a good person.
We could not sit and wait for a large and useless list of promises that will be forgotten a few minutes after they are made.
We could not wait for the other, different, but with the same pain and rage, to look at us and in looking at us, see.
We did not know how to do it.
There was no book, manual, or doctrine that told us what to do in order to resist, and simultaneously, to build something new and better.
Maybe not perfect, maybe different, but always ours, our people’s, the women, men, children and elders who, with their collective heart, cover the black flag with a red star with five points and the letters that give them not only a name, but also a commitment and destiny: EZLN.
And so we searched in our ancestral history, in our collective heart, and through the stumbles, through flaws and mistakes, we have been building that which we are and that which not only keeps us going with life and resistance, but also raises us up dignified and rebellious.
During these 22 years of struggle of Resistance and Rebellion, we have continued to build another form of life, governing ourselves as the collective peoples that we are, according to the seven principles of lead by obeying, building a new system and another form of life as original peoples.
One where the people command and the government obeys.
And we see, from our simple heart, that this is the healthiest way, because it is born and grows from the people themselves. It is the people themselves who give their opinions, discuss, think, analyze, make proposals, and decide what is best for them, following the example of our ancestors.
As we will be explaining in more detail later, we see that neglect and poverty reign in the partidista [political party followers] communities, they are run by laziness and crime and community life is broken, now fatally torn apart.
Selling out to the bad government not only did not resolve their basic problems, but gave them more horrors to deal with. Where before there was hunger and poverty, now there is hunger, poverty, and desperation. The partidista communities have become crowds of beggars who don’t work, who only wait for the next government aid program, that is, the next electoral season.
This doesn’t of course show up in any federal, state, or municipal government report, but it is the truth and can be seen in the partidista communities: peasant farmers who don’t know how to work the land anymore; concrete block houses with aluminum roofs that are empty because one can eat neither concrete nor tin; communities that only come together to receive government crumbs.
Perhaps in our communities there aren’t cement houses, or digital televisions, or brand new trucks, but our people know how to work the land. The food on their tables, the clothes they wear, the medicine they take, the knowledge they learn, the life they live is THEIRS, the product of their work and their knowledge. It isn’t a handout from anyone.
We can say this without shame: the Zapatista communities are not only better off than they were 22 years ago; their quality of life is better than those who sold out to political parties of all colors and stripes.
Before, in order to know if someone was Zapatista, you checked to see if they had a red handkerchief or a balaclava.
Now it is enough to see if they work the land, if they take care of their culture, if they study science and technology, if they respect the women that we are, if their gaze is straight and clear, if they know that it is the collective that rules, if they see the job of the autonomous Zapatista government in rebellion as a service and not a business; if when you ask them something they don’t know they respond “I don’t know…yet”; if when someone mocks them saying that the Zapatistas no longer exist or are very few they respond, “don’t worry, there will be more of us, it may take awhile, but there will be more”; if their gaze reaches far in calendars and geographies; if they know that tomorrow is planted today.
We recognize of course that there is much left to do, we must organize ourselves better and organize ourselves more.
That is why we must make an even greater effort to prepare ourselves to more effectively and more extensively carry out the work of governing ourselves, because the worst of the worst, the capitalist system, will come back at us again.
We have to know how to confront it. We have 32 years of experience already in our struggle of rebellion and resistance.
And we have become what we are.
We are the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
This is what we are although they do not name us.
This is what we are although through silence and slander they forget us.
This is what we are although they don’t see us.
This is what we are through our step, on our path, in our origin and our destiny.
We look at what was before, and what is now.
A bloody night, worse than before if that is possible, extends over the world.
The Ruler is not only set on continuing to exploit, repress, disrespect, and dispossess, but is determined to destroy the entire world if in doing so it can create profits, money, pay.
It is clear that the worst is coming for all of us.[v]
The rich multimillionaires of a few countries continue with their objective to loot the natural riches of the entire world, everything that gives us life like water, land, forests, mountains, rivers, air; and everything that is below the ground: gold, oil, uranium, amber, sulfur, carbon, and other minerals.
They don’t consider the land as a source of life, but as a business where they can turn everything into a commodity, and commodities they turn into money, and in doing this they will destroy us completely.
The bad and those who carry it out have a name, history, origin, calendar, geography: the capitalist system.
It doesn’t matter what color they paint it, what name they give it, what religion they dress it up as, what flag they raise; it is the capitalist system.
It is the exploitation of humanity and the world we inhabit.
It is disrespect and contempt for everything that is different and that doesn’t sell out, doesn’t give up, and doesn’t give in.
It is the system that persecutes, incarcerates, murders.
At the head of this system there are figures that emerge, reproduce, grow, and die: saviors, leaders, caudillos, candidates, governments, parties that offer their solutions.
They offer recipes, as one more commodity, to resolve problems.
Perhaps someone out there still believes that from above, where problems are made, will also come solutions.
Perhaps there is still someone who believes in local, regional, national, and global saviors.
Perhaps there are those who still hope that someone who will do what we must do ourselves.
That would be nice, yes.
Everything would be so easy, comfortable, not requiring too much effort. It would mean just raising one’s hand, marking a ballot, filling out a form, applauding, shouting a slogan, affiliating oneself with a political party, and voting to throw one out and let another in.
Perhaps, we Zapatistas say, perhaps, we think, we who are what we are.
It would be nice if things were like that, but they aren’t.
What we have learned as Zapatistas, and without anyone or anything except our own path as teacher, is that no one, absolutely no one is going to come and save us, help us, resolve our problems, relieve our pain, or bring us the justice that we need and deserve.
There is only what we do ourselves, everyone in their own calendar and geography, in their own collective name, in their own thinking and action, their own origin and destiny.
We have also learned, as Zapatistas, that this is only possible with organization.
We learned that it is good if one person[vi] gets angry.
But that if more people, many[vii] people get angry, a light ignites in one corner of the world and its glow can be seen, for a moment, across the entire surface of the earth.
But we also learned that if these angers organize themselves… Ah! Then we have not just a momentary flash that illuminates the earth’s surface.
Then what we have is a murmur, like a rumor, a tremor that begins quietly and grows stronger.
It is as if this world was about to birth another, a better one, more just, more democratic, more free, more human… or humana… or humanoa.
That is why today we begin our words with a word from awhile ago already, but one that continues to be necessary, urgent, vital: we have to organize ourselves, prepare ourselves to struggle to change this life, to create another way of living, another way to govern ourselves as peoples.
Because if we don’t organize, we will be enslaved.
There is nothing to trust in capitalism. Absolutely nothing. We have lived with this system for hundreds of years, and we have suffered under its 4 wheels: exploitation, repression, dispossession, and disdain. Now all we have is our trust in each other, in ourselves. And we know how to create a new society, a new system of government, the just and dignified life that we want.
Now no one is safe from the storm of the capitalist hydra that will destroy our lives, not indigenous people, peasant farmers, workers, teachers, housewives, intellectuals, or workers in general, because there are many workers who struggle to survive daily life, some with a boss and others without, but all caught in the clutches of capitalism.
In other words, there is no salvation within capitalism.
No one will lead us; we must lead ourselves, thinking together about how we will resolve each situation.
Because if we think that there is someone to lead us, well we have already seen how they lead during the last several hundred years of the capitalist system; it didn’t work for us, the poor, at all. It worked for them, yes, because just sitting there they earned money to live on.
They told everyone “vote for me,” “I will fight for an end to exploitation,” and as soon as they take office where they can earn money without sweat, they automatically forget everything they said and begin to create more exploitation, to sell the little that is left of the riches of our countries. Those sell-outs are useless hypocrites, parasite good-for-nothings.
That is why, compañeros and compañeras, the struggle is not over, we are just barely getting started. We’ve only been at this for 32 years, 22 of which were public.
That is why we must better unite ourselves, better organize ourselves in order to construct our boat, our house—that is, our autonomy. That is what is going to save us from the great storm that looms. We must strengthen our different areas of work and our collective tasks.
We have no other possible path but to unite ourselves and organize ourselves to struggle and defend ourselves from the great threat that is the capitalist system. Because the criminal capitalism that threatens all of humanity does not respect anyone; it will sweep aside all of us regardless of race, party, or religion. This has been demonstrated to us over many years of bad government, threats, persecution, incarceration, torture, disappearances, and murder of our peoples of the countryside and the city all over the world.
That is why we say, compañeros, compañeras, children, young people [jóvenes and jovenas]: you new generations are the future of our people, of our struggle and our history. But you must understand that you have a task and an obligation: to follow the example of our first compañeros, of our elders, of our parents and grandparents and all those who began this struggle.
They have already laid a path; now it is our job to follow and maintain it. But we can only achieve this by organizing ourselves generation after generation, understanding this task and organizing ourselves to carry it out, and continuing this until we reach the end of our struggle.
You as young people are an important part of our communities; that is why you must participate in all levels of work in our organization and in all areas of our autonomy. Let each generation continue to lead us toward our destiny of democracy, freedom, and justice, just as our first compañeros and compañeras are teaching us now.
Compañeros and compañeras, all of you, we are sure that we will one day achieve what we want: everything for everyone, nothing for us—that is, our freedom. Today our struggle is advancing little by little. Our weapons of struggle are our resistance, our rebellion, and our honest word, which no mountain nor border can block. It will reach the ears and hearts of brothers and sisters all over the world.
Every day there are more people who understand that the cause of our struggle against the grave situation of injustice we live is the capitalist system in our country and in the world.
We also know that over the course of our struggle there have been and will be threats, repression, persecution, dispossession, contradictions, and mockery from the three levels of bad government. But we should be clear that the bad government hates us because we are on a good path; if it applauds us we have detoured from our struggle.
We must not forget that we are the heirs of more than 500 years of struggle and resistance. The blood of our ancestors runs through our veins, it is they who have passed down to us the example of struggle and rebellion, the role of guardian of our mother earth, from whom we were born, from whom we live, and to whom we will return.
Compañeros and compañeras Zapatistas
Compañeros and compañeras, compañeroas of the Sixth:
Brothers and sisters:
These are our first words for this year that is beginning.
More words will come, more thoughts.
Little by little we will show you once again our gaze, our collective heart.
For now we will finish by telling you that to honor and respect the blood of our fallen compañeros, it is not enough to remember, miss, cry, or pray, rather we must continue the work that they left us, to create in practice the change that we want.
That is why, compañeros and compañeras, this important day is the time to reaffirm our commitment to struggle, to going forward at whatever cost and whatever happens, without letting the capitalist system destroy what we have won and the little that we have been able to build with our work and our efforts over more than 22 years: our freedom!
Now is not the time to retreat, to get discouraged or to tire; we must be even firmer in our struggle, to maintain the word and example that our first compañeros left us: to not give in, not sell out, and not give up.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.
Mexico, January 1, 2016.
[i] A member of the EZLN’s civilian militia or reserves.
[ii] Literally “responsible,” but used as a noun to refer to a person in charge of a particular area of work.
[iii] Zapatista bases of support chosen by their communities and trained to work in the autonomous health and education systems.
[iv] The text uses “todas, todos, todoas” to give a range of possible plural gendered pronouns including male, female, transgender and others.
[v] See iv.
[vi] The text uses “uno, una, unoa” to give a range of possible versions of “one,” including male, female, transgender and others.
[vii] The text uses “muchos, muchas, muchoas” to give a range of possible plural versions of “many” including male, female, transgender and others.