'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Subcommandante Marcos: a Great Uprising or a Civil War 

The Other Campaign, a campaign of inquiry and social organization outside the Mexican political system, conducted by the Zapatistas, is making its way through Northern Mexico:

December 1, the day that Felipe Calderón takes office, will be “the beginning of the end for a political system that, since the Mexican Revolution, became deformed and began to cheat generation after generation, until this one arrived and said, ‘Enough,’” warned Subcomandante Marcos during a press conference. Calderón, he added, “will begin to fall from his first day.”

He stated, “we are on the eve of either a great uprising or a civil war.” As to the question of who would lead the uprising, he responded, “the people, each one in his or her own place, within a system of mutual support. If we can not succeed in having it happen that way, there will have to be spontaneous uprisings, civil explosions all over, a civil war in which each person is only looking out for his or her own well-being, because the possibility is already there for things to cross that line.” He cited the case of Oaxaca, where “there are no leaders or political bosses; it is the people themselves who have organized. It will be like that across the entire country.”

Is it possible that the insurrection has already begun in Oaxaca? For background as to the continuing civil unrest there, go here and here. According to indybay.org, Federal authorities escalated the conflict on Saturday with attacks upon protesters, mass detentions and home invasions:

A peaceful protest in Oaxaca was repressed by the federal police stationed in the center of the city. By nightfall, a few people were reported killed, hundreds arrested and hurt and many disappeared.

Today, after the seventh megamarch in Oaxaca, members of the APPO attempted to form a human fence around the federal preventative police (PFP), but were attacked with gas. This unleashed a series of clashes with violence again igniting in the city. Many have been arrested and there are reports of many wounded, some by gunfire. It is confirmed that three people were killed.

The march unfolded in a festive atmosphere until it reached Oaxaca’s downtown. There began the attempt to form a human fence around the PFP forces in Oaxaca's zocalo. Groups of PRI members started provoking the demonstraters with insults and shooting slingshots with marbles. Later, the PFP began using tear gas to disperse the people. People started to withdraw, but police kept moving forward and then began the riot. While shooting off tear gas, police kept charging on. People tried to resist in a peaceful way, but couldn`t stand up against the tear gas. The people began to defend themselves with rockets, home made bombs and stones.

The situation became very tense toward the area north of downtown where the police attempted to surround the protesters. At some point, the PFP entered Santo Domingo, which is occupied by an APPO encampment, and then set fire to the camp. Many fires started throughout the city, which were set by saboteurs. A bus near the University City, a door of the Hotel Camino Real and then the legislative palace and external relationships buildings were all set aflame.

The police started using gunfire and also shot gas cans at the protestors. This practice has killed people before in Oaxaca on Nov. 2 and in other places like Atenco. Radio Universidad made a general call to withdraw and to get off the streets. Three people were shot by police from two pickup trucks using heavy gunfire near the College of Medicine. Reports indicate more than one hundred shots heard. The killers took two of the bodies and left the third one lying at the spot.

Near a place known as El Pochote, a big group of people were surrounded by the police. Also in the streets of Fiallo y Colón, a big number of teachers and workers of the health department were detained and removed in two buses. To the north of downtown, several reports indicate that there were massive arrests of up to thirty people who were sprayed with gas after being detained. In a place called El Fortin, witnesses report how police were beating up and torturing detained ones before moving them from the spot aboard pickup trucks. Radio Universidad keeps transmitting and making announcements and denunciations.

The pacific mobilization received an attack from the federal police with gases and gunfire. Then protesters faced a wave of represion by armed police officers and paramilitary which resulted in the deaths of three people, many injured individuals, more than 60 detained protesters and innocent bystanders and an unknown number of disappeared people. The numbers are increasing because violence has not ceased in the streets of Oaxaca.

People caught on the streets are looking for safe places to hide as the night promises more terror. Radio Universidad is asking its listeners to open their doors and allow people to hide. Now the PFP is entering people’s homes to ransack them and search for protesters. The APPO has made a plea for all national and international organizations in solidarity with the Oaxaca struggle to protest where they can against the brutality of the Mexican federal government in its support of Ulises Ruiz.

One can place this struggle in context by reference to a recent seminal column by Richard Gott, a journalist who has spent decades covering events in Central and South America:

A feature of all "settler colonialist" societies has been the ingrained racist fear and hatred of the settlers, who are permanently alarmed by the presence of an expropriated underclass. Yet the race hatred of Latin America's settlers has only had a minor part in our customary understanding of the continent's history and society. Even politicians and historians on the left have preferred to discuss class rather than race.

In Venezuela, elections in December will produce another win for Hugo Chávez, a man of black and Indian origin. Much of the virulent dislike shown towards him by the opposition has been clearly motivated by race hatred, and similar hatred was aroused the 1970s towards Salvador Allende in Chile and Juan Perón in Argentina. Allende's unforgivable crime, in the eyes of the white-settler elite, was to mobilise the rotos, the "broken ones" - the patronising and derisory name given to the vast Chilean underclass. The indigenous origins of the rotos were obvious at Allende's political demonstrations. Dressed in Indian clothes, their affinity with their indigenous neighbours would have been apparent. The same could be said of the cabezas negras - "black heads" - who came out to support Perón.

This unexplored parallel has become more apparent as indigenous organisations have come to the fore, arousing the whites' ancient fears. A settler spokesman, Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian-now-Spanish novelist, has accused the indigenous movements of generating "social and political disorder", echoing the cry of 19th-century racist intellectuals such as Colonel Domingo Sarmiento of Argentina, who warned of a choice between "civilisation and barbarism".

Latin America's settler elites after independence were obsessed with all things European. They travelled to Europe in search of political models, ignoring their own countries beyond the capital cities, and excluding the majority from their nation-building project. Along with their imported liberal ideology came the racialist ideas common among settlers elsewhere in Europe's colonial world. This racist outlook led to the downgrading and non-recognition of the black population, and, in many countries, to the physical extermination of indigenous peoples. In their place came millions of fresh settlers from Europe.

Gott concludes: The outline of a fresh struggle, with a final settling of accounts, can now be discerned. On this, it appears, Gott and Marcos are in agreement.

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