The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is an armed revolutionary group (VNSA) based in Chiapas, the southernmost, and one of the poorest, states of Mexico. Since 1994, they have been in a declared war “against the Mexican state,” though this war has been primarily nonviolent and defensive against military, paramilitary, and corporate incursions on their territory. Their social base is mostly indigenous but they have some supporters in urban areas as well as an international web of support. Their main spokesperson is Subcomandante Marcos (currently a.k.a. Delegate Zero in relation to the “Other Campaign”). Unlike other Zapatista spokespeople, Marcos is not an indigenous Mayan.
The group takes its name from Emiliano Zapata, the agrarian reformer and commander of the Liberation Army of the South during the Mexican Revolution and sees itself as his ideological heir. In reference to inspirational figures, in nearly all EZLN villages exist murals accompanying images of Zapata, Che Guevara, and Subcomandante Marcos.
Their ideology combines libertarian socialism, libertarian municipalism, libertarian Marxism, and indigenous Mayan political thought. They align themselves with the wider anti-globalization, anti-neoliberal social movement and seek indigenous control over their local resources, especially land. The New York Times called the Zapatista movement the first “post-modern” revolution: an armed revolutionary group that has abstained from using their weapons since their 1994 uprising was countered by the superior military might of the Mexican army. The Zapatistas quickly adopted a new strategy by trying to garner the support of Mexican and international socialist anarchist societies. They try to achieve this by using the internet to disseminate their statements and to enlist the support of NGOs and solidarity groups. Awareness of the Zapatista Movement has also been raised due to support from bands such as Rage Against the Machine, Leftöver Crack, Brujeria, Anti-Flag and Manu Chao.
“We dont want to impose our solutions by force, we want to create a democratic space. We dont see armed struggle in the classic sense of previous guerrilla wars, that is as the only way and the only all-powerful truth around which everything is organized. In a war, the decisive thing is not the military confrontation but the politics at stake in the confrontation. We didnt go to war to kill or be killed. We went to war in order to be heard.”
— Subcomandante Marcos
Released in 1998. 90 min. Director: Nettie Wild. Indie documentary film.
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