In this post we publish an email we received from a person who is not a permanent resident of Greece, and who attended the event “in solidarity with the rebel Zapatista autonomous communities”, held in the evening of July 12, 2014 in Athens. We neither adopt nor reject what is written in this email in its entirety. We publish it because we think it is interesting for both its content and the point of view which approximate the event.
After noting on your site the call for an event “solidarity to the Zapatista rebel communities” I decided to attend the event accompanied with a Greek friend who loosely belongs to the extra-parliamentary left. The reason I visit websites such as yours quite often is to discover what is happening in the wider (anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist) movement in Greece, where I am living for a few years due to employment. Relatively few activities and political documents are translated from Greek to other languages. For those whose native language is not Greek, participating in activities and organization has proven not to be very hospitable. Generally the prevalent climate is that of personal relationships and acquaintances among comrades that make newcomers seem very self-conscious and perplexed (this may very well also apply to local newcomers as it is to foreigners).
The subject of Zapatismo, and more generally of social organization of the marginalized peoples of Latin America, has been a prime interest of mine for many years. Indirectly, I try to keep myself abreast on the developments there and at the influences of these movements on other parts of the world, primarily in North America and Europe. To be honest, I didn’t go to the event that you published to inform myself, but to see how Zapatismo is used as a mobilization tool, by what kind of political entities, why is this subject promoted, how is it adopted, and how it generally affects the local movement.
The event as it was published should have begun at 6pm, but no event that I’ve attended has ever started on time. Usually the few that come on time do so as to be able to socialize with comrades before an event or assembly, while the vast majority usually comes 1 or 2 hours late and never miss much. I’d rather not judge this as an attribute, but as a local cultural peculiarity of laxity and inconsistency. But in reference to this particular event, of Zapatismo, the movement where consistency, commitment, and accountability among equals is of utmost importance, the delay was extended to 3 hours, while a live concert was scheduled for about 10pm. The crowd gathered for such an event was surprisingly low. Meanwhile during the course of the event there were still more people coming, going in rounds and exchanging salutes with comrades. It looked more like a wider family get-together than a political event. It seemed as the attendees gave a higher priority to social contact than the object of the event itself.
The event began with a few introductory speeches (presentations) of encyclopedic content, with many details, historical political developments in Mexico, and with a distinct focus on the latest homicidal attack by paramilitary thugs. While it had been announced that the presentations had finished by the organizing group, another speech by a person sitting by the organizers was made. With great interest, and some assistance from my translator friend, as my Greek is not adequate, and with great surprise I heard this person mentioning and amplifying the indigenous cultural features of the movement as something “very alien to Western people” and that the historical development of the movement was as if it had metaphysical attributes and as if it was some kind of karma of the people of Chiapas to have to struggle for the obvious, of justice, dignified survival, and for autonomy. None of those around me knew whether this person was a member of the organizing initiative or not. Afterwards, someone who mentioned that had visited Chiapas, spoke in a way that made the unique interface of what is going on there with what is happening here, by talking about the Zapatistas in ways that bring them closer to the struggling people here.
After this there was little questioning, demand for clarifications, or proposal for discussion by the audience. The event was notoriously pressed for time and shortly after a composition of videos from Chiapas in Spanish with Greek subtitles was shown. The crowd that had come to the general area for the concert was growing significantly but with little interest to the event and presentation, which initially puzzled me. While the video had started loud music from the concert area made it impossible to listen to the audio part. Of course, with the vast majority of listeners not being Spanish speakers I imagined that it did not prevent them from following the subtitles. But how would it be possible to really concentrate on the video while almost everyone was engaged in small circles of chitchat? Even though I love this country and the people here, certain habits could never be respected as cultural attributes, but can only be perceived and interpreted as individualistic disrespect to anything common, or collective.
If people by the amphitheater reached 100, the area round the concert exceeded 1000. The volume was annoyingly high for a densely populated area; the musical repertory (punk rock, hard-rock, and hip-hop) was completely irrelevant to the culture of Zapatismo. I also noticed a significant age difference between attendees of the concert (much younger 15-35 years old), and the participants of the event (40-60+ years old). The explanation given to me is that this is the music of local anti-authoritarian/anarchist movement and these bands are composed of individuals participating in the movement. Rather than sit in this uninteresting concert, I went home inquiring online whether there is much of collective reference to the Zapatismo movement.
As far as I know, the articles that have been published on this subject, apart from this initiative, can hardly be distinguished whether they are individual or collective efforts. Few social, class, or political groups have referred to the great self-organized movement of Mexico. No anarchist political group has dealt seriously with Zapatismo. Everything in this Greek lively and energetic movement is based on individuals and their relationships with other individuals. Groups appear to be based primarily on these relations of comradeship and not on political agreement. The treatment of Zapatismo in Greece seems unable to attract collective interest, but is the object of dedicated individual promoters.
The rest of the people embrace Zapatismo with an encyclopedic interest on its surface and as a social obligation to comrades (individuals) who “run the issue” (if I understood the context of the literal term). This is a common practice within the local movement, as it was explained to me. In other words, the thematic agenda of the movement weighs in importance on the basis of who is promoting the issues. That is to say political issues are adopted, are promoted, and materialize as part of an agenda on the basis of a network of personal relationships among comrades. I am thus wondering what kind of collective (assembly/union/squat) from the Athens area could see itself responding to the Sixth; and if and when it did, whether this would be based on a false or incorrect premise.
I wish that the disappointment I felt, and express here, could become the springboard for public or internal discussion and debate, and that it is not treated as a hostile attempt to undermine current efforts. The anarchist/antiauthoritarian movement In Greece for the past 30 years seems to me as it is perhaps the most active and lively around the world. But almost no one could say that it has gone through the infantile stage of maturation, i.e. the transition from a loosely defined hoard to a more structured and politically organized movement. In contrast, in Europe and other parts of the world, one may see signs of maturation when examining the corresponding movements by published documents on the internet. From up close on the contrary one finds these movements hardly appear to exist, in terms of street appearance and activities.
These, with regard to an event about the Zapatista communities’ solidarity could be disturbing. Solidarity to the Zapatistas may have meaning coming from an organized movement, social, class, and political organizations and collectives, who see elements of political affinity with that movement, but would be meaningless when it comes from unorganized individuals. The individuals who are largely expressing their solidarity to the object of Zapatismo, are doing so through the individuals who operate as the medium, the experts, or ambassadors of Zapatismo, instead of immediate solidarity to the movement itself. Thus Zapatismo here has become a product that is promoted through political channels of individuals.
The specific a/a channel/movement displays similar features to the left-wing organizations, who for two decades now have been exploiting Zapatismo as a commercial product of their own. One would expect to have qualitative differences from the partisan left, but it appears as it doesn’t. This event aimed at raising funds for assistance to the attack on Realidad was expressed through a commercialized process of selling pop-music and drinks without the required public involvement in discussing “what we have in common with those that struggle in Chiapas?”. Why are they struggling in Chiapas and what are we struggling for here? Zapatismo in Greece despite the superficial indication of a large fan club, and despite of recent attempts for self-organized struggles to meet internationally, continues to remain alien and irrelevant to local struggle. It is so because it is a stranger to the individuals who directly or indirectly involved in social, class, political, self-organized struggle. The question I raise is whether the individuals, those well meaning experts, by treating it as a remote scientific object of inquiry, have contributed to the phenomenon of it being perceived as an alien and irrelevant indigenous movement to the possible organizational aspects of collective processes here.
The text in Spanish.