Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

by Staughton Lynd, Andrej Grubacic

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ISBN-13: 9781604860412
Publisher: PM Press
Publication date: 09/26/2008
Series: PM Press
Pages: 261
Sales rank: 1,023,904
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author


Staughton Lynd taught American history at Spelman College and Yale University. He was director of Freedom Schools in the 1964 Missisipppi Freedom Summer. An early leader of the movement against the Vietnam War, he was blacklisted and unable to continue as an academic. He then became a lawyer, and in this capacity has assisted rank-and-file workers and prisoners for the past thirty years. He has written, edited, or co-edited with his wife Alice Lynd more than a dozen books.

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Wobblies & Zapatistas

Conversations On Anarchism , Marxism and Radical History


By Staughton Lynd, Andrej Grubacic

PM Press

Copyright © 2008 Staughton Lynd & Andrej Grubacic
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60486-185-3



CHAPTER 1

Zapatismo


STAUGHTON, LET ME BEGIN by saying how exciting this conversation is for me. As you know, I am an unrepentant anarchist. I belong to that perpetually reinvented, and perpetually re-emerging, ethical tradition, premised on the principles of prefigurative politics, direct action and direct democracy, decentralization and grassroots federalism. I believe that the anarchist tradition was suppressed and crushed by the hegemonic ideologies of Marxism and Liberalism. I believe that today we are witnessing a large revival of left libertarian thinking all over the world, and I propose the term "new anarchism" to describe this process. You are, on the other hand, one of the most fascinating contemporary protagonists of the Marxist tradition. It is virtually impossible to write or read about American radicalism after the second world war without encountering the remarkable activist life of Staughton Lynd. So I propose for us to begin this conversation in what might, on first glance, appear to be a somewhat unusual place: not in 1964 Mississippi, but in 1994 Chiapas, where a rather remarkable movement emerged, one that invited the rebels of the world to participate in what you have called, in Stepping Stones , a "fresh synthesis of what is best in Marxist and anarchist traditions." Let us talk about Zapatismo, its novelty, and the way it places into an historical perspective those defining radical ideas of the 1960s you write about in Living Inside Our Hope : nonviolence, participatory democracy, an experiential approach to learning, accompaniment, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism.

Yes, let's talk about Zapatismo!

About ten years ago Alice and I were in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, where the Zapatista uprising went public on January 1, 1994.

We were there with our daughter Martha and a friend of hers from Chile, Roberto. Roberto and I talked about our experiences in the armies of our two countries. Roberto said that when he and his friends were sent to the scene of working-class demonstrations, they fired into the air. I said that during the time of Senator Joe McCarthy, I had been given an "undesirable discharge" from the United States Army.

Roberto asked, "Were you tortured?" The question made me realize, once again, that the consequences of being Left in the United States are much less than in Latin America.

Alice and I were able to visit the community of Chamula, about ten miles from San Cristóbal. What was interesting there was a church that seemed to combine elements from both Mayan and Christian traditions. There was no altar and, apparently, no priest. Pine needles were strewn on the floor Families sat in circles on the floor around lighted candles Against both walls were niches for the saints, including one saint to whom you could turn if the other saints did not respond to your requests for help. "Deacons" came by, to ask that visitors take off their hats, and to solicit contributions.

Alice and I also talked with a woman named Teresa Ortiz, who later published a collection of oral histories by Chiapan women. She had lived in the area a long time.

Ms. Ortiz told us that there are three sources of Zapatismo. The first is the craving for land, the heritage of Emiliano Zapata and the revolution that he led at the time of World War I. This longing for economic independence expressed itself in the massive migration of impoverished campesinos into the Lacandón jungle in eastern Chiapas. But in Chiapas pioneering was different from the movement of individual farmers to the frontier in the United States. The Mexican Revolution wrote into the national constitution the opportunity for a village to hold its land communally, in an ejido, so that no individual could alienate any portion of it. Chiapas pioneers fiercely defended these communal landholdings. When the United States insisted that, as a precondition for participation in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico must delete this provision from its Constitution, it triggered the Zapatista uprising. The uprising began on the day that NAFTA went into effect.

A second source of Zapatismo, we were told, was liberation theology. Bishop Samuel Ruiz was the key figure He sponsored what came to be called tomar conciencia, a phrase that means "taking conscience (or consciousness)," just as we speak of "taking thought." Taking conscience also produced countless grassroots functionaries with titles like "predeacon," "deacon," "catechist," or "delegate of the Word": the shop stewards of the popular Church who have been indispensable everywhere in Latin America.

The final and most intriguing component of Zapatismo, according to Teresa Ortiz, was the Mayan tradition of mandar obediciendo, "to lead by obeying." She explained what it meant at the village level. Imagine a village. To use her examples, we feel the need for a teacher and a storekeeper But these two persons can be freed for those communal tasks only if we, as a community, undertake to cultivate their milpas(their corn fields). In the most literal sense their ability to take leadership roles depends on our willingness to provide their livelihoods.

When representatives thus chosen are asked to take part in regional gatherings, they will be instructed delegates. If new questions arise, the delegates will be obliged to return to their constituents. Thus, in the midst of the negotiations mediated by Bishop Ruiz early in 1994, the Zapatista delegates said they would have to interrupt the talks to consult the villages to which they were accountable, a process that took several weeks. The heart of the political process remains the gathered residents of each village, the asemblea.

An anthropologist named June Nash has written a book about a village in Chiapas. She says that village functionaries (like the teacher and the storekeeper) meet frequently with the entire local population. According to Nash, at these meetings the functionaries are expected, not to talk, but to listen.

Now I want to address two questions. First, what is globalization? Second, what is the Zapatista strategy for change?


WHAT IS GLOBALIZATION?

Everyone agrees that the Zapatista uprising was prompted by something called "globalization" and kicked off a worldwide anti-globalization movement. It would seem that to build such a movement over the long run we need to understand the causes of globalization.

I got a glimpse on visits to other parts of Mexico. For a time our daughter Martha taught English as a second language in a village called Tlahuitoltepec, in the mountains of the province of Oaxaca ("wah-hah-cah") which is just north of Chiapas. (Every village in that part of Oaxaca has its band. The school was for band members from all over the region.) One day a farmer explained to me that over many generations his family had grown corn for the local and regional market. They could no longer do so, he said, because of cheaper imports from abroad. Harvesting timber was becoming unprofitable for the same reason.

Some time later, while attending a school sponsored by the Mexican network of independent unions, I heard the same story from a farmer in central Mexico. His family owned land near the city of Puebla. When he took over the farm he could not grow corn because corn imported from Iowa sold for less. He had begun to grow feed for animals. "Ah," I said, "you are selling meat?" "No," he responded. Meat, too, could be imported and sold at a price with which he could not compete. "I am raising sheep and selling the wool!" I could only wonder how long it would be before fibers from the United States would close off this market for him, too.

But why was NAFTA so much desired by United States corporations? I think the best answer comes from Marx. Marx argues in Capital that as capitalist firms compete with one another, they invest in new machinery. This changes the "organic composition of capital": an increasing percentage of investment is in fixed capital, like machinery, and a decreasing percentage in labor from which profit can be extracted. The rate of profit accordingly falls. This began to happen during the 1970s. And at about that time firms headquartered in the United States began a serious push to invest in Third World economies. There, as in the maquiladora factories just south of the border between the United States and Mexico, workers could be paid far less than in the United States and the rate of profit would increase correspondingly.

A friend of mine works for one of the largest employers in the Youngstown area, Delphi Packard. Delphi makes automotive parts. It used to employ more than 10,000 workers in this part of Ohio. Now it employs only a few thousand locally but is the largest multinational employer in Mexico, with a reported Mexican labor force of 40,000. From time to time when Delphi workers in Youngstown open shipments from Mexico, they find scraps of paper on which Mexican workers have written how little they are paid.


WHAT IS THE ZAPATISTA STRATEGY FOR CHANGE?

At the time of the initial uprising, the Zapatistas seem to have entertained a traditional Marxist strategy of seizing national power by military means. The "First Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle," on January 2, 1994, gave the Zapatista military forces the order: "Advance to the capital of the country, conquering the Mexican federal army...."

But, in the words of Harvard historian John Womack, "In military terms the EZLN [Zapatista National Liberation Army] offensive was a wonderful success on the first day, a pitiful calamity on the second." Within a very short time, three things apparently happened: 1) the public opinion of Mexican civil society came down on the side of the Indians of Chiapas and demanded negotiation; 2) President Salinas declared a ceasefire, and sent an emissary to negotiate in the cathedral of San Cristóbal; 3) Subcomandante Marcos carried out a clandestine coup within the failed revolution, agreed to negotiations, and began to promulgate a dramatically new strategy.

Beginning early in 1994, Marcos said explicitly, over and over and over again: We don't see ourselves as a vanguard and we don't want to take power. Thus, at the first massive encuentro, the National Democratic Convention in the Lacandón jungle in August 1994, Marcos said that the Zapatistas had made a "decision not to impose our point of view"; that they rejected "the doubtful honor of being the historical vanguard of the multiple vanguards that plague us"; and finally:

Yes, the moment has come to say to everyone that we neither want, nor are we able, to occupy the place that some hope we will occupy, the place from which all opinions will come, all the answers, all the routes, all the truth. We are not going to do that.


Marcos then took the Mexican flag and gave it to the delegates, in effect telling them: It's your flag. Use it to make a democratic Mexico. We Zapatistas hope we have created some space within which you can act.

What? A Left group that doesn't want to take state power?

There must be some mistake. But no, he means it. And because it is a perspective so different from that traditional in Marxism, because it represents a fresh synthesis of what is best in the Marxist and anarchist traditions, I want to quote several more examples.

In the "Fourth Declaration from the Lacandón Jungle," on January 1, 1996, it is stated that the Zapatista Front of National Liberation will be a "political force that does not aspire to take power[,] ... that can organize citizens' demands and proposals so that he who commands, commands in obedience to the popular will[,] ... that does not struggle to take political power but for the democracy where those who command, command by obeying."

In September 1996, in an address to Mexican civil society, Marcos says that in responding to the earthquake of 1985 Mexican civil society proved to itself

that you can participate without aspiring to public office, that you can organize politically without being in a political party, that you can keep an eye on the government and pressure it to "lead by obeying," that you can have an effect and remain yourself....


Likewise in August 1997, in "Discussion Documents for the Founding Congress of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation," the Zapatistas declare that they represent "a new form of doing politics, without aspiring to take Power and without vanguardist positions." We "will not struggle to take Power," they continue. The Zapatista Front of National Liberation "does not aspire to take Power." Rather, "we are a political force that does not seek to take power, that does not pretend to be the vanguard of a specific class, or of society as a whole."

Especially memorable is a communication dated October 2, 1998, from the Zapatista National Liberation Army to "the Generation of Dignity of 1968," that is, to students who survived the massacre in Mexico City prior to the 1968 Olympics. Here Marcos speaks of "the politics of below," of the "Mexico of those who weren't then, are not now, and will never be leaders." This, he says, is the

Mexico of those who don't build ladders to climb above others, but who look beside them to find another and make him or her their compañero or compañera, brother, sister, mate, buddy, friend, colleague, or whatever word is used to describe that long, treacherous, collective path that is the struggle of: everything for everyone.


Finally, at the zocalo(the public square in the center of Mexico City) in March 2001, after the Zapatista march from Chiapas to Mexico City, Marcos once more declared: "We are not those who aspire to take power and then impose the way and the word."


DOES IT WORK?

Does it work? Can a society be fundamentally changed without taking over the state? I don't think we know yet. Many people felt that the "other campaign" undertaken by the Zapatistas during the Mexican presidential campaign of 2006 was counter-productive. By refusing to endorse Obrador, by focusing on local struggles and criticizing Obrador more than his opponent, the Zapatistas may have helped to elect the candidate of the business community, Calderon.

Likewise, we in the United States have not done very well in ending the Iraq war while President Bush remains in office.

Latin American liberation theology, and the Zapatistas most incisively, have given us a new hypothesis. It combines Marxist analysis of the dynamics of capitalism with a traditional spirituality, whether Native American or Christian, or a combination of the two. It rejects the goal of taking state power and sets forth the objective of building a horizontal network of centers of self-activity.

Above all the Zapatistas have encouraged young people all over the earth to affirm: We must have a qualitatively different society! Another world is possible! Let us begin to create it, here and now!

CHAPTER 2

A Haymarket Synthesis


I like what you say about the Zapatistas very much. Our attempt, with this conversation, at least the way I see it, is to offer a distinctive contribution to the possible synthesis between anarchism and Marxism. In my opinion, one of the most exciting, and, at the same time, most neglected examples of anarchist-Marxist syntheses historically comes from the United States. I am referring to the Haymarket anarchists and the so-called "Chicago idea," an idea that is not all that well known even among U.S. activists. I would even go so far to identify something that might be called a "Haymarket synthesis," an experience of struggle and accompaniment, an experience that brings together, in a generous way, our two respective traditions.

By way of introduction: This question presents itself somewhat differently in Europe and in North America, I think.

In Europe, a long-standing feud between anarchism and Marxism was firmly established in the quarter century following the Communist Manifesto(1848). Viewed from afar it seems almost like the wars of Protestants and Catholics in the seventeenth century, or an hostility between extended families that is handed down from generation to generation. If I am not mistaken the First International was moved from Europe to the United States so as to avoid a "takeover" by anarchists.

This is, well, ridiculous. What is Marxism? It is an effort to understand the structure of the society in which we live so as to make informed predictions and to act with greater effect. What is anarchism? It is the attempt to imagine a better society and insofar as possible to "prefigure," to anticipate that society by beginning to live it out, on the ground, here and now.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Wobblies & Zapatistas by Staughton Lynd, Andrej Grubacic. Copyright © 2008 Staughton Lynd & Andrej Grubacic. Excerpted by permission of PM Press.
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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments,
Foreword, Forward! by Denis O'Hearn,
PART I, MARXISM, ANARCHISM AND ZAPATISMO,
ZAPATISMO,
A HAYMARKET SYNTHESIS,
THE WOBBLY EXPERIENCE,
LUXEMBURG, WEIL, AND E. P. THOMPSON,
THE WORKING CLASS,
DIRECT ACTION AND ACCOMPANIMENT,
HIGH AND LOW THEORY,
BURNHAM'S DILEMMA,
ACCOMPANIMENT,
INTELLECTUALS AND ACCOMPANIMENT,
RADICAL INTELLECTUALS,
DUAL POWER,
WATCH,
PARALLEL INSTITUTIONS DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION,
OAXACA,
SPONTANEITY AND ORGANIZATION,
DIRECT DEMOCRACY AND REPRESENTATION,
ARE WE WINNING?,
OLD AND NEW MOVEMENTS: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES,
SEEDS AND SOIL,
HOW CAN WE REBUILD OUR MOVEMENT?,
PART II, GUERRILLA HISTORY,
WHAT IS GUERRILLA HISTORY?,
HISTORY FROM THE BOTTOM UP,
AMERICAN RADICAL HISTORIANS,
ECONOMIC INTEREST AND IDEOLOGY,
SONS OF LIBERTY,
HISTORY BY PARTICIPANTS IN THE STRUGGLE,
HISTORY AS ACOMPANIMENT,
STAN, MARTY AND SOLIDARITY UNIONISM,
PART III, MY COUNTRY IS THE WORLD,
HOMELAND WITHOUT NATIONALITY,
HUMANITARIAN ACTIVISM,
PEOPLE DIFFERENT FROM ONESELF,
EXAMPLES OF INTERRACIAL SOLIDARITY,
ANABAPTISM AND MOVEMENTS OF THE 1950S AND 1960S,
NATIVE AMERICANS AND COLONISTS WHO LIVED TOGETHER,
CONSENSUS DECISIONMAKING,
PALESTINE AND ISRAEL,
ANTI-WAR MOVEMENTS IN THE 1960S AND IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM,
SELF-SACRIFICE,
CENTRAL AMERICAN SOLIDARITY,
DO WE NEED RIGHTS?,
WAR, PEACE AND NONVIOLENCE,
HUMANITARIAN IMPERIALISM AND NONVIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE,
BOOKS AND ARTICLES MENTIONED IN OR RELEVANT TO THE TEXT,
INDEX,
ABOUT THE AUTHORS,

What People are Saying About This

Bomani Shakur

From the Zapatista movement in San Cristobal, Chiapas, to the steel mills of rural Ohio, [Staughton] reminds us that when it's all over, said and done, what truly matters the most is our willingness to reach out and love somebody. (Bomani Shakur a.k.a. Keith Lamar, death row, Ohio State Penitentiary)

David Graeber

An exquisite contribution to the literature of human freedom, and coming not a moment too soon. (David Graeber, author, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology and Direct Action: An Ethnography )

Margaret Randall

Here we have the best of a non-dogmatic Marxism listening to a most creative and humane anarchism. (Margaret Randall, author, Sandino's Daughters and When I Look Into the Mirror and See You )

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PoliticalMediaReview on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Reviewed by Deric ShannonUniversity of Connecticut Wobblies and Zapatistas is basically a long conversation between Grubacic and Lynd about building bridges between the best traditions within anarchism and Marxism written for modern militants, revolutionaries, and working people. It is a series of provocations, led by Grubacic as he asks Lynd probing questions about radical practice contemporarily and historically.One particular theme of interest is the position of contemporary anarchists in regards to mass social movement work. Grubacic (24) writes that ¿the generation of new anarchists¿ must learn how to ¿swim in the sea of the people¿¿. Lynd replies with recollections of the Left¿s past, focusing at one point on the SDS and how sections would leave school and organize amongst poor populations. Lynd describes the approach as short lived, but offers his own concept for organizing with workers and the poor.This concept, accompaniment, is a major theme in the book. It is used to describe the ways that radicals might organize alongside marginalized communities. The radical organizer accompanies the struggles of the marginalized like a string quartet might accompany a horn section¿s lead. This ¿lead¿, however, isn¿t to suggest uncritical acceptance of the politics of marginalized populations. Rather, it asks of us to be honest and vocal about our disagreements without resorting to patronization. This concept is similar to the idea of social insertion articulated in especifismo, a Latin American variant of anarchism. That is, anarchists should involve (socially insert) themselves in mass movements and actively argue our politics within them. Many anarchist events I¿ve attended over the last decade or so have included workshops on bike repair, mushroom foraging, punk music, etc. with little attention paid to involvement in social movements and mass struggles. This missing piece in anarchist practice is also apparent in the ways that modern anarchists at times actively discourage working class organizing. Lynd and Grubacic argue for a radical milieu that involves itself in mass struggles and sees the positive contributions of working class people in fights for social justice, as well as reminding us that without a struggle for socialism-or worker¿s self-management-we do not have a movement capable of talking about ¿justice¿ in holistic terms.Other interesting items of discussion include conversations on direct action, dual power, ¿whiteness theory¿, and behaving like comrades (something many of us could learn a lot about on the Left with our entrenched history of denunciations, sectarian squabbling, and our seeming inability to have diplomatic and principled disagreements). Throughout its pages, this book is about drawing those common threads together from the best of anarchism and Marxism. In a time of global economic depression, with factory and school occupations all over the world, as well as radical movements in as disparate places as Greece and Iran having pitched battles in the streets with the state, it is incumbent on us Leftists to work together. There is radical potential in the world right now-potential that need not be wasted over theoretical quibbles. This book is a good start in creating commonalities in practice along the radical Left-and at just the right historical juncture.