Mexico: EZLN, Marcos and friends strengthen the campaign on the death of marxism

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Since 1994, with the public appearance of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the editorials of the bourgeois press left and right have used every opportunity to launch their attack against Marxism. The book by B. de la Grange and M. Rico, "Marcos, The Genial Impostor", is structured as if it was the synthesis of police archives. It shows the origins and actions of the EZLN and, even though it seeks to be an offensive against Marcos, it also subtly spreads calumnies and attacks against Marxism, pointing out that all of the authoritarian attitudes of the EZLN are a legacy of its supposed 'marxist' past, which the book says is rooted in the guerrilla group called National Liberation Forces, which were never Marxist, but rather expressions of radical Stalinism with a special cult for Fidel Castro. Marcos himself, while at the beginning of his 'career' cautious, has not missed an opportunity to launch ironic and critical attacks against what he, from his vision of ex-Stalinist, regards as Marxism.

The book by Vasquez Montalban, "Marcos, the Lord of the Mirrors", contains an 'interpretation' of the world events since the fall of the Eastern bloc. It points to a crisis within the left consisting in its "inability to capture today's reality". The followers of this book's author, for example J. Holloway, who wrote "Changing the World Without Taking Power", define the crisis in the left in this way: "the crisis of Marxism is the liberation from dogmas..." which helped to discover (yet again!) that the proletariat is not the subject of change because, by manipulating the concept of 'anti-power' and 'anti-capitalism', it is possible to establish an assessment of history and of the dominant system which is not based in the material comprehension of how this system functions, that is, on the separation between producer and product, labor and capital, value and surplus value, but rather on ambiguous concepts such as 'dignity' (note 1). This makes of each individual oppressed by capital a revolutionary being. Armed with this 'new' reasoning, J. Holloway and his followers can say that pauperized peasants, locked in the traditions of the Indian culture, or any other social entity oppressed by capital, such as the petty bourgeoisie, are capable of transforming the world. By contrast, the role-played by the proletariat in production and the fact that it is the only modern class that has no organic or material ties with capital or other past systems of production are totally ridiculed as simple dogmatic postulates. This argument is a new weapon used to deepen the confusion within the proletariat and further demoralize it.

Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, explain the material bases to recognize the proletariat as the only revolutionary class. They clarify that, "The petty bourgeoisie - the small industrialist, the small businessman, the artisan, the peasant- all of them struggle against the bourgeoisie to safeguard their own existence. For this reason, they are not revolutionary. On the contrary, they are conservative. They will be revolutionary only when they will abandon their own point of view and embrace that of the proletariat." In spite of this, the ideologues of zapatismo want to 'enrich' Marxism and with an impressively entangled ideological argument, they claim a similarity between "the Paris Commune, the workers' councils, and the zapatist town councils [insofar as] these are all experiments in self-determination." (Holloway). Such aberration, beyond being the irresponsible expression of a philistine, or an idiotic statement made out of good intentions, is a conscious attack directly aimed at the proletariat and its weapon of combat, i.e. Marxism.

The negation (and even the death) of the proletariat as a revolutionary class has been proclaimed on several occasions. More recently this has been coupled with affirmations about 'the end of history' and 'the death of communism'. It is precisely this argument, which is spread by Marcos' speeches and those of his 'army of intellectuals'. They justify such an argument by using a marxist verbiage, as it's the case with Holloway & co., who fill the pages of a number of reviews. During his visits to Mexico City, Marcos, always escorted by the Federal Police, expresses his hatred for Marxism when he mocks it at the UNAM, the most important university in Mexico City. He uses a kind of irony which has the clear aim of denigrating the internationalist principle defended by communists when he says, "Forgive me if I bore you. I am here to make you waste your time when I talk to you about an Indian child, instead of talking about the world revolution." Brazenly, Marcos has had the guts to affirm that 'we are the only radicals'. However, such glorified radicalism of zapatismo IS NOT noticeable in its submission to capital's institutions and symbols, such as the House of Representatives, to which it pleads for a chance to have its voice heard. Neither is it noticeable in its defense of the constitution, the flag, or the national anthem. We can't note this supposed radicalism in its critique of the system of exploitation, the destruction of which they don't even dare to pose. On the contrary, they demand that capital give 'a few non-transferrable actions' to its workers when they retire, as the 'zapatist laws' dictate. Zapatismo's true radicalism rests in its constant attack against Marxism. Never before had another guerrilla group gained so much attention by the media, making of each declaration an advertising event. Because of this, each attack against Marxism is exaggerated, reproduced, and justified by the press and its 'intellectuals', as the media are at the same time engaged in capturing the attention of the young generation of workers, who have less experience and a weaker attachment to the Marxist tradition. For all of these reasons, the working class today needs to reflect collectively more than ever before. It needs to re-appropriate the experience of its struggles and its theoretical arsenal. This is the only way for it to recover the confidence in its own strength, while strengthening its consciousness and giving an impulse to its organization. Only the world proletarian revolution can transform the world

The concepts of 'civil society' and 'citizenship of the struggle' are supported by zapatismo and reproduced by the 'anti-globalization' groups to define a movement that calls itself 'transformational' and 'different', a movement by which it is possible 'to change the world without taking power'. This argument, which apparently embraces a vocation to total freedom and an 'inclusive' nature, does nothing but reproduce the bourgeois argument about democracy, with a few more colorful strokes. In fact, it is a direct attack against Marxism. In order to strengthen its 'new' ideas, it has to equal Stalinism with Marxism. For instance, Rodriguez Lascano, in "Rebellion" N.1, in order to conclude that the EZLN is the alternative which humanity has been waiting for centuries, states that there has been a "failure of the experiences in the construction of post-capitalist societies [in the sense that, these experiments have led to a] binding of marxism's conception of emancipation with the bureaucratic mechanism of political dominion." (note 2). It is clear that he does not want to make a critical analysis of history. All he wants to do, in an incorrect manner, is establish an identity between the aberrations of Stalinism with Marxism. A popular practice with the bourgeoisie is to attack Marxism by linking it to Stalinism, and the 'intellectuals of zapatismo' share such practice but revolutionaries know that Stalinism is not a particular expression of Marxism, but rather it exposes the defeat of the world revolution and, with it, the extension of the counterrevolution. Because of this, it is only either ignorance, or the planned attack against the principles of Marxism that can explain the arguments of these 'illustrious' intellectuals.

The real issue here is the insistence on the idea that the taking of political power, as a consequence of the proletarian revolution, implies its being locked within the national borders or the reproduction of the very repressive state apparatus that the revolution was seeking to destroy. Worse still, zapatismo's fiercest attack is the spreading of the idea that the origin of the problem rests in the existence of a proletarian party structure, insofar as it imposes a 'hierarchy of combat' (Holloway). We can see how zapatismo starts by posing that Marxism is a 'coup' by a minority, and ends by ascribing a kind of nationalism to Marxism. In addition, by pointing to a supposed interest by Marxism in gaining state power, it portrays the former as a bourgeois current interested in gaining hegemony over the state structures.

Where do they get these ideas about Marxism? The above mentioned author tells us: "not only from the experience of the Soviet Union and China, but also from the numerous movements of national liberation and from the guerrillas of the 60's and 70's." That is to say, from expressions and experiences that have nothing to do with Marxism.

The bourgeoisie's hatred for Marxism has found an echo in the voices and writings of these 'intellectuals'. The activity of zapatismo and its intellectuals is to denigrate Marxism. We cannot deepen here, but it's important to at least note that the radical transformation of the capitalist mode of production, which is what Marxism proposes, is derived from the material understanding of this mode of production, in which capital itself is conceived as a relation of production, which can be destroyed only by abolishing the exploitation of wage labor. This is why the taking of political power is just the beginning of this process, which must lead not to the perpetuation of the proletariat as a class, but rather to its disappearance. This is why Marx says that for the radical transformation of society what's necessary is both "a violent revolution, and also the destruction of the state's power apparatus, created by the dominant class." A desperate minority cannot accomplish this. It is rather conceived of as a historical process, constructed and conducted by the proletariat, which exposes its revolutionary nature by founding its practice in conscious and massive actions.

Lastly, among the lies dished out by these 'wise' supporters of the 'new style' guerrilla, is the one that portrays marxism as a mystical and rigid structure, which conceives of the revolution and communism as inevitable events. By contrast, Marxism talks about revolutionary combat and the construction of a truly human community (communism) as a possibility based in necessity. This is why it does not need utopian illusions that look backward, nor does it need desperate voluntaryism such as the one embraced by the guerrilla. This is why when communists defend the legacy of the Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution and the revolutionary experience of the Communist Left, which fought against the degeneration of the III International, they don't deny the mistakes that were made. What communists do is tread marxism's historic thread to unite in time the experiences of the past with the present, and thus prepare for the future. This means to acquire the METHOD to discuss, to analyze, to struggle, and to organize. It is the same method we use to denounce in front of the working class all those who, like the EZLN, disguise themselves in sheep's clothes the better to launch a systematic attack against the proletariat's program and organization.

MA, 11/25/03.


  • If anyone thinks this is just irony, we invite them to read Revista Chiapas #5 (The Revolt of Dignity), in which Holloway himself, after 'explaining' that the principal antagonism in capitalism is not to be found in the struggles between classes and that the proletariat is nothing but an old word used by Marxism, concludes that, "Dignity is therefore the revolutionary subject." Back

  • Following his trotskyist past, R. Lascano claims that the ex-USSR and its satellite nations are not capitalist societies, and while he previously called them 'degenerated workers' states, now he subtly calls them 'post-capitalist'. Back