Bulletin 10-1997
September 5, 1997

FZLN ( Zapatista Front for National Liberation ): The New Political Force

In their effort to gain time while the time for peace talks that don't lead to anything is past, both the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) and the Federal Government have brought to their end a series of actions based on differing logic. In fact, while the government has used the military to pressure the political climate- at times these activities have conincided with political actions by the EZLN- this organization has focused more on peaceful activities.

The inciative to create the Zapatista Front for National Liberation (FZLN) should be seen in this context. The foundation of this organization began in January 1996 when the EZLN sent out the Fouth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. It's worth remembering that it was the product of the results of the National Consultation for Peace and Democracy from August 1995 in which some of the mandates given by the participating civil society was, exactly, to create a new political force, independant of those already existing.

It is also necessary to point out that it is the EZLN's third intention to organize the so called civil society- as they were asked by the National Democratic Convention (CND) and the Movement for National Liberation (MLN)- and it is, without a doubt the most important both because of its content, the manner of organizing, their purpose and furthermore the post-electoral period in which their founding congress in which 1,111 indigenous zapatistas from Chiapas are going to participate. For some of these reasons it is certainly very controversial; but if something, from the start, can globally define the most recent zapatista intention it is its national character and the search for a national dimesion for its struggle, which it already has in its actions, but according to its promoters, only "within the local and regional ".

The construction of the Front was described as a "peace iniciative ", and as a proposition to "prepare the transition of an armed and clandestine organization into a pacific, civil and democratic organization. "

1. After the call to construct the Front more than a year ago, the welcomes and the critiques have not waited to come forward. The first saluted the probable conversion of the EZLN into a political force, that possibly would be participating in elections like any other party. The second basically concentrated on two questions, namely the zapatista conception of Power and the relationship that political parties and the EZLN would have. "Anti-parties ", "self-limiting ", "suicidal and lack of vision ", "uncertainty " and "fraud " were used to describe the idea of the zapatistas not to try to win power and not to seek popular election; they called it "contradictory " to maintain their desire to enter the political sphere at the same time as being an army.

More recently the National Organizing Committee of the FZLN proceded to define the existence of two national projects Mexico, namely, the immobility of the Power and the Movement. The first implicates "the destruction of the nation... denies our histroy and roots, sells the sovereignty... imposes an economic program which solely increases the destabilization and the insecurity of all citizens. " The second, in exchange, seeks "the reconstruction of the Mexican Nation in the only possible form, that is to say from the bottom up; recuperating the history and root of our people; defending the sovereignty, fighting for a transition, for a democracy that does not stimulate change if it doesn't have as a project the reconstruction of the country; fighting for a country that holds the truth and the political norm of ruling by obeying, fighting to make democracy, freedom and justice the national heritage, fighting because dialogue, tolerance and inclusion construct a new form of conducting politics. " (Statement on Motives and Declaration of Motives, p.1)

To pose the subject like this or to reduce it like this- the FZLN performs in the style of the old left, to which the world was devidable into two big social classes, the mission of one of them being to fight against and conquer the other. However, politically, when talking about the mentioned strategy it persues an implicit goal: to summon, to a new encounter, the most different social sectors, all those who have been hurt by the Power. Although the zapatistas conceptualization of Power has recieved a lot of criticism, we should not forget the possible resulting political effectivity, in considering the civil society as the most important part of the political process, integrating it in the process of discussion and decision making.

Likewise the FZLN insists that the vanguardism and the struggle to take Power or to maintain it has defined a way of conducting politics, and that this new way of action, not seeking to take over Power can create a new form of conducting politics. Like this, for example, the role of the Front would be not to fight to transform the social relations of production, but "to create the necessary conditions for the majority to decide if it should change or not. " (Elorriaga, Este Sur, May 26, 1997, p.16) The echos of the old language persist, as it appears, but now intelligently tinted with a dose of direct democracy, which has lost a lot of terrain to the tendencies of liberal democracy.

It is this, we insist, that the FZLN hopes to recuperate and promote, the active participation of civil society in the formation of central themes and problems of the common life, as a basis for making decisions.

2. What's certain is that the EZLN has distanced itself and the Front as much from political parties as other armed organizations and of course from the Mexican State, churches and any other state in the world: their path is political, even though they maintain arms. Against all the criticisms of "incoherence" that have been made, one must ask honestly, why would the EZLN put down their arms before the federal government fulfills their demands or when, actually, they're doing everthing possible not to fulfill them?

However, despite the worsening conditions of the dialogue, the EZLN insists on the political route, and the FZLN is its most recent expression. By the mandate of its own social bases, the EZLN has decided not to ally itself with other armed organizations, while it maintains the political path it has opted for since 1994.

Another preculularity of the Front is that it is formed in an individual manner. Unlike previous occassions, this time the organizers, apart from the EZLN as an organization, are concrete persons, i.e. Subcomandante Marcos and Javier Elorriaga. Remember that the Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle emphasized the construction of the FZLN with its base in the EZLN. It appears that the zapatistas are trying to avoid the front sinking into the internal fights that divided and destroyed the CND. Also, maintaing complete autonomy from organizations and parties will allow the Front to participate politically with more advantages- better political definition, better ability to bring members together for conferences, better ability to negotiate, etc. In principal the people who leave an organization or party to construct something new and different do so autonomously, which doesn't mean they are closed to alliances or future coalitions.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee- General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN has strongly distanced itself from any connection to the Extensive Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement (FAC-MLN). Declarations of the FAC-MLN that they would meet with representatives of the FZLN were classified as "opportunism ", because they plan to do the opposite of the zapatista's proposal, capatalizing on the action of civil society, social and political organizations for their own benefit. The FAC-MLN responded immediately that the statements were made by a member of the Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFV) who wasn't authorized to make them. They denied acting with "opportunism " and lamented the declaration of the CCRI-EZLN calling on them to be "prudent ". The cold letter sent by the CCRI-EZLN with respect to the FAC-MLN seemed to demonstrate clearly the lack of the unity of political forces. This time the zapatistas acted with a lack of political tact.

However it's certain that the EZLN has never closed the possibility of alliances, and examples show this: they have made them with political parties, social organizations, and individual personalities. In this sense, we propose, only as a hypothesis, that to say that they are not now seeking power or elected positions doesn't eliminate the possibility that they will in the future, especially when the national convention proposes substantive political changes. Imagine for example a scenario where the peace process doesn't advance and at the same time the presidential elections of 2000 approach. That might represent an opportunity to make an alliance with political forces of the left, possibly with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), specifically the line of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas with whom the EZLN (concretely Subcomandante Marcos) has had important closeness since 1994.

It's too early to talk about the role of the FZLN in national politics, but if we pay attention to the experience of almost all guerrilla and revolutionary movements in Latin America, the electoral participation of the FZLN can't be ruled out. The rejection of arms is necessary, but it has demonstrated it limits: survival and political effectivness of all these movements that have resorted to armed conflict has not been based in the abandonment of arms but in the unification with civil society. Additionally, electoral participation wouldn't conflict with the zapatista conception of "rule by obeying ": it's popularity was displayed in a democratic exercise taken by one of the zapatista sympathizers within the PRD, Porfirio Muqoz Ledo, in his response to the thrid presidential address of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Lesn last September 1st.

3. So, let's greet the construction of the Zapatista Front for National Liberation as a new political force. It could not be more opportune, considering that we are at the eve of the Independence Day and that, in front of the new, more pluralistic, more combative Congress of the Union, the zapatistas are marching also to demand the fulfillment of the San Andris accords. There are without a doubt, various messages to the Executive Power and the Legislative Power in this one single action. Will these powers be sensitive to those messages?

Area of Information and Analysis

Calle YAJALON No.47
Col. 14 de Septiembre
C.P. 29210 Tel/Fax (967)86977
San Cristsbal Las Casas, Chiapas, Mixico
Correo Elictronico, E-Mail: conpaz@laneta.apc.org

14 Sep 1997
This was published before the marchers arrived in the Mexican capital yesterday.(mp)

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