Original in Spanish

Reading a Video

Part Two: Two Flaws

Okay, fine, I'm being too generous with the mirror. But I'm not saying that we've only had two flaws, errors or mistakes (they say "flaws" here) during the first year of operations of the caracoles and the Good Government Juntas. Instead, there are two mistakes which seem to have persisted in our political work (and which flagrantly contradict our principles): the place of women, on the one hand, and, on the other, the relationship between the political-military structure and the autonomous governments.

For those who have been in contact with the caracoles or with the Good Government Juntas, there have probably been many more mistakes. But some of them, however, are owing to the dynamic of resistance, while some are errors which are already - at least tendentiously - in the process of being resolved. Others are errors which are not errors (they are done deliberately).

There are other mistakes which, I'm not sure, but which might be owing to something that has to do with war, resistance, the clandestine. Often someone will come to the caracoles and attempt to speak with the Good Government Junta, and they spend a good bit of time waiting to see whether or not they will be received. Questions are also frequently sent, and the response never arrives ("they should at least answer that they're not going to answer," civil society begs-grumbles).

It might sound amusing, but, for someone who has occasionally crossed an ocean (and not metaphorically) to reach our lands, there's nothing funny about not being received. I believe it's the "way" here, but it's already being resolved. Now there is a committee which - while the Good Government Junta does their thing - meets with everyone who arrives (always and when they're not from the federal government). The "reception committees" (made up almost always of members of the CCRI) have not been functioning at the same level in all the caracoles, and more than one person from civil society has been left waiting. But believe me, we are mindful that this does not happen anymore...or not as often anymore.

On the other hand, it should be understood that we are in a movement in rebellion and resistance. And, if you add to that several generations who have been the victims of deception and betrayals, the natural suspicion in the face of new visitors can be understood, as well as requests for information and references which help clarify whether the newly arrived is coming with good or bad intentions. What some see as bureaucratic tendencies in the JBG [Good Government Junta] and the autonomous councils are, in fact, the product of the dynamic of the harassed and the persecuted.

Another "error" detected by civil societies, and especially by non-governmental organizations in the communities, is not an error.

I'm referring to the fact that the members of the Good Government Juntas change continually. After "rotations" which last from eight to 15 days (according to the region), the junta is replaced. Those who are there then return to their work in autonomous councils, and other authorities come in to run the JBG.

"When we've already been dealing with a team," say the civil societies, "they're replaced with another, and we have to begin all over again. There's no continuity, because agreements are made with one junta one week, and the next week there's already another, different junta." Some don't go into details and posit: "the Good Government Juntas are chaos."

A "security committee" (a CCRI team in charge of helping the JBGs in each region) told me: "We're fighting a lot, because when one team is catching on to what the junta's work should be, it's replaced by another team, and we have to start all over again explaining to the new ones. And not just that. Once all the autonomous authorities have come and gone, lo and behold, the council changes, and it happens again."

You might say I'm going too far, but the truth is, that's how it's planned.

Obviously the plan isn't for the juntas to be - to use the term of the civil societies - chaos. The plan is that the work of the JBGs should be rotated among the members of all the autonomous councils of each region. This is so that the task of governing is not exclusive to one group, so that there are no "professional" leaders, so that learning is for the greatest number of people, and so that the idea that government can only be carried out by "special people" is rejected.

Almost invariably, once all the members of an autonomous council have learned the meaning of good government, there are new elections in the communities, and all the authorities change. Those who have already learned return to their fields, and new ones come in...and start over again.

If this is analyzed in depth, it will be seen that it is a process where entire villages are learning to govern.

The advantages? Fine, one of them is that it's more difficult for an authority to go too far and, by arguing how "complicated" the task of governing is, to not keep the communities informed about the use of resources or decision making. The more people who know what it's all about, the more difficult it will be to deceive and to lie. And the governed will exercise more vigilance over those who govern.

It also makes corruption more difficult. If you manage to corrupt one member of the JBG, you will have to corrupt all the autonomous authorities, or all the rotations, because doing a "deal" with just one of them won't guarantee anything (corruption also requires "continuity"). Just when you have corrupted all the councils, you'll have to start over again, because by then there will have been a change in the authorities, and the one you "arranged" won't work any longer. And so you'll have to corrupt virtually all the adult residents of the zapatista communities. Although, obviously, it's likely that once you've achieved that, the children will have already grown up and then, once again...

We are well aware that this method makes it difficult to carry out some projects, but, in return, we have a school of governance that will, in the long run, bear fruit in a new way of doing politics. In addition, this "error" has allowed us to fight any corruption that might arise among the authorities.

It will take time, I know. But for those who, like the zapatistas, make plans for decades, a few years isn't much time.

Another "error" which isn't an error, is when someone goes, sometimes, to the Good Government Junta in order to ask for a statement of support for a movement or for an organization, and the petition isn't granted. This is not because the junta isn't interested in supporting or participating. It is simply owing to the fact that these actions do not pertain to the Good Government Juntas since they involve all the zapatista peoples, not just those who are within the jurisdiction of a junta, and the JBGs cannot assume representations which do not belong to them. In addition, most of the time the requests or invitations are made to the EZLN, but the EZLN is one thing, and the juntas are another. So don't get upset, we're all learning.

Contrary to what might be thought, those errors which are our responsibility are the ones which are the most difficult to resolve.

I said, at the beginning of this second part of the video, that one flaw which we have been dragging along with us for some time has to do with the place of women. The participation of women in the work of the organizational management is still small, and it is practically nonexistent in the autonomous councils and the JBGs.

While the percentage of female participation in the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committees is between 33 and 40%, in the autonomous councils and the Good Government Juntas it is less than 1% on average. Women are still being ignored in the naming of ejidal commissioners and municipal agents. Government work is still the prerogative of the men. And it's not that we're in favor of the "empowerment" of women, which is so fashionable up above, but that there are still no spaces for women who are participating in the zapatista social base to be reflected in government positions.

And not only that. Despite the fact that zapatista women have had, and have, a fundamental role in the resistance, respect for their rights continues, in some cases, to be just words on paper. Domestic violence has decreased, it is true, but more through the limitations on alcohol consumption than through a new family and gender culture.

Women are also still being limited in participating in activities that involve their leaving the village.

It is not something written or explicit, but the woman who leaves without her husband or children is viewed and thought of in a bad light. And I am not referring to "extra zapatista" activities, where there are severe restrictions which also include the men. I'm talking about courses and meetings organized by the EZLN, the JBGs, the Autonomous Municipalities, the women's cooperatives and the villages themselves.

It is a shame, but we have to be honest: we still cannot give a good report regarding women, in the creation of conditions for their gender development, in a new culture which acknowledges their capacities and aptitudes that have purportedly belonged exclusively to men.

Even though we are aware that it will take a while, we hope some day to be able to say, with satisfaction, that we have achieved the disruption of at least this aspect of the world.

Only in that way will it all have been worthwhile.

What the EZLN has indeed contributed (bad, for certain) to the communities and their autonomy process, is the relationship of the political-military structure to the autonomous civil governments.

The idea we had originally was that the EZLN should accompany and support the peoples in the building of their autonomy. However accompaniment has sometimes turned into management, advice into orders...and support into a hindrance.

I've already spoken previously about the fact that the hierarchical, pyramid structure is not characteristic of the indigenous communities. The fact that the EZLN is a political-military and clandestine organization still corrupts processes that should and must be democratic.

In some juntas and caracoles the phenomenon has arisen of CCRI comandantes making decisions that are not theirs to make and involving themselves in problems with the junta. "Govern obeying" is a tendency that continues to run into those walls which we ourselves have erected.

These two flaws need our special attention and, obviously, measures to counter them. We cannot blame the military encirclement, the resistance, the enemy, neoliberalism, the political parties, the media, or the bad mood that tends to accompany us in the mornings when the skin we desire isn't there.

There. I was as brief as possible because one must be as succinct in accepting one's errors as expansive in their solutions.

Vale. Salud and I understand that you still don't understand. That's why I began with "patience, guerrero virtue."

From the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, August of 2004. 20 and 10.

P.S. Or could it be that you find us nicer when we're quiet? No way, we say what we think and what we feel. And how many persons and organizations can you say that about?

Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa