Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico

By De Angelis, Massimo | Capital & Class, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico


De Angelis, Massimo, Capital & Class


John Holloway and Eloina Peliez (eds.)

Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico

Pluto Press, London, 1998, pp.229.

ISBN 0-7453-1178-4 (hbk) L40.00

ISBN 0-7453-1177-6 (pbk) L13.99

Reviewed by Massimo De Angelis

The studies collected in this book are a welcome and timely contribution to a debate that, at least in this country, does not exist. Pity, because the key themes surrounding the Zapatista's phenomenon are of extreme importance for those interested in any emancipatory project. The missing debate, or at least its confinement to small circles of activists, is perhaps due to the hard core set of values of many on the left for whom 'socialism' (or any other -ism) is a state of affair, and the way to 'get there' is a process of 'raising consciousness'. The Zapatistas don't identify with any of the '-isms' of the left (although they are partially inspired by them) and they don't believe in the role of a vanguard (whether reformist or revolutionary) leading the way to a future social organisation.

This book provides information on the struggles of the Zapatistas and the indigenous communities in Chiapas to those who have not yet been exposed to it (the introduction by John Holloway and Eloina Pelaez may be of great help in this matter). It also serves as material for reflection for both enthusiast and critic of the Zapatista's struggle. Often enough, to the enthusiast, the Zapatista's uprising is one of the many national liberation struggles that follow the tradition of the many Latin American guerrilla movements in the last half a century. To the critics, it is one of the many revolts of a peasant population necessarily backward and not holding adequate 'class consciousness' or an objective social position, able to challenge the power of capital. The common themes running through the different articles of this book reveal how different the Zapatista's experience is and how difficult it is to classify it with the traditional stereotypes of the left.

The Zapatista's break with the traditional themes of the left has several coordinates, many of which are discussed at length in the essays of this book. For example, in the chapter by Patricia King and Francisco Javier Villanueva and the chapter by John Holloway, instead of the party, the emphasis is on the community; instead of 'efficient' democratic centralism or majority vote, the emphasis is on community's constitutive forms of direct democracy and consultation processes; instead of the political organisation doing the talking, its role is to do the listening; instead of 'unity is strength', unity is what allows difference to exist; instead of being locked into the dead polarity of revolution vs reform, human dignity is put at the centre of political practice.

In the chapter by Margara MillAn, instead of the subordination of women to the task 'ahead', emphasis is on women's struggles within indigenous communities and the Zapatistas themselves. …

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