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- Subject: En;Cleaver:Virtual &Real Chiapas Support Networks,Pt 3/4
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- Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 15:57:43 -0500 (CDT)
- Reply-To: email@example.comThis message is forwarded to you by the editors of the Chiapas95 newslists. To contact the editors write to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. To submit material for posting send to: <email@example.com>. beginning of part 3 of 4 ................ > Indigenismo > > The promotion of indigenous identity and the drive for >indigenous autonomy seem very straightforward goals when they >appear in internet communications. However, given the size of >Mexico's indigenous population of 6.5 million,(26) and the >centrality of the "indigenous question" to the development of >Mexico as a nation, the issue turns out to be, of course, far >more controversial than the current, nearly unanimous >international call for autonomous communities would suggest. This is another one of those amazingly arrogant moments in which Hellman would have us believe that the only way that there can be so much international support for indigenous autonomy is that its supporters have only a simple minded understanding of the issue. In her usual style, Hellman then proceeds to sketch for us the history of the "indian question" in Mexico as if all this were unknown to those who have been studying the issue for years. > Under the circumstances, before weighing in with >enthusiastic international support for autonomy, it would seem >important to have at least some understanding of the concepts >that emerged from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) and the >public policies to which those concepts gave rise. At a minimum, >we would need to acknowledge the historical identification of >Mexican nationalism with the indigenous past.(27) In the aftermath >of the Revolution, the revival of interest and concern with the >indigenous roots of the country, the recuperation of the figure >of Cuauhte'moc, the nephew of Mo'ctezuma who led the uprising >against the Spanish, the celebration of indigenous history in >postrevolutionary intellectual life - whether in the textbooks >issued by the new revolutionary regime, or the works of the >Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, David Siquieros, or Jose >Clemente Orozco -- all provided the ideological foundation on >which policy debates took place around the future of indigenous >people in modern Mexico.(28) This history, and in greater detail, is so familiar it is not worth quibling about this sketch. > Unfortunately, however, these discussions took place not >within indigenous communities, but rather among "indigenistas," >that is, mestizos or whites who were usually quite unself- conscious about establishing policy on "Indian affairs." Not >surprisingly, progressive Mexican intellectuals and policymakers >have always been deeply divided on the subject. Cultural >ecologists, integrationists, and marxist indigenistas, (who >understood ethnicity as equivalent to class in relations between >indios and mestizos) vied with incorporationist indigenistas for >control of policy formation. This last group prevailed and >implemented programs for community development and the >construction of schools, clinics and roads to bring disadvantaged >indigenous people into full participation in the economic, >political and social life of the nation. At the same time their >vision required the "preservation" of indigenous culture through >the creation of dictionaries of indigenous languages, the >stimulation of craft production, and similar programs. About this, I will only say the following: the basis thrust of the official policy of "indigenismo" was integrationist in a way that "full participation" in the life of the nation mean incorporation into the lowest rungs of the wage and unwaged hierarchy. Moreover many Mexican Marxists have cared less because they were "decampinsinistas" believing that not only the indigenous but peasants more generally were a disappearing class. The struggles for peasant and indigenous autonomy originated in the communities themselves but found expression in the words of "campesinista" intellectuals, like Gustavo Esteva or Warman (before he went over to the state). The movement for autonomy has been long in rising from the invisible "ground" to the political "surface." > However, the same drive to incorporate indigenous people >into the Mexican nation and market opened the door to their >manipulation by the PRI, their gross exploitation by non-Indians, >and their increasing dependency on the state. Under the >circumstances, given the negative outcomes of integrationist >policies, the development of a capacity for autonomous self- government became a principal goal of the Chiapanecan catechists >in their missionary activities in the highlands in the 1970s. Before it was the goal of catechists it was not only the goal of many indigneous, it was often their surrepticious practice as they organized themselves independently of whatever state structures were imposed on them. It is from this concrete ferment of self-activity that the current movements have arisen. To repeat what I said earlier and above, it is time Hellman and many other Marxists set aside the view of the peasantry and the indigenous as a quiescent, exploited pool set in motion by outsiders. If they don't find ample evidence in the work of the anthopologists who have studied Chiapas, then they might turn to the work of those like Guillermo Bonfil (whom she cites but doesn't seem to have read) or James Scott who has studied the "arts of resistance" elsewhere. >The composition of new pluri-ethnic communities comprised of >indigenous people of various identities governed by structures >"designed to transcend rather than erase ethnic differences" was >at the heart of the catechists' efforts in Los Altos. As Neil >Harvey describes this movement, "Community cohesion was not based >on native traditions, but rather on political militancy and >religious belief. Ethnic identity was recreated as a basis for >political unity."(29) > > It is this concept of self-rule that underpins the >proposals on indigenous autonomy put forward by the Zapatistas >and embodied in the San Andre's Accords, signed by the >representatives of the EZLN and the Mexican State in February >1996. The accords call for "the recognition of the right of >indigenous people to self-determination within a context of >autonomy, the expansion of their participation and political >representation, the guarantee of their access to justice, and the >promotion of their cultural, educational and economic >activities".(30) The San Andre's Accords are available on the Internet, and have been since the time of their creation and signing. These accords were reached after extensive consultation both within the Zapatista communities and between the Zapatistas and a host of "advisors" who were invited to provide input into the ideas and negotiations. The final accords were a compromise with the government and have never been considered to represent the full desires of the Zapatista communities. They were agreed to as one step in the direction they wanted to move. > Inasmuch as the Zedillo regime signed the Accords but then >failed to implement them, the EZLN broke off negotiations, and >the call for the implementation of San Andre's quickly became the >rallying point for Zapatista supporters everywhere. It has also >become a mobilizing theme for indigenous people throughout >Mexico. To read the accounts on the internet, it would seem that >the entire world of progressive opinion is also solidly behind >this model, or indeed, as Padre Gonzalo Iruarte, Vicar-General >for Justice and Peace of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las >Casas said to me in an interview in May 1998, "only profoundly >paternalistic people who do not respect the capacity of >indigenous people to govern themselves would be aligned against >the principles embodied in this agreement." The "entire world of the internet" is no more "solidly behind this model" than the Zapatistas! As Hellman fails to note, and as I just pointed out above the actual Accords do not codify the Zapatistas' desires but were a compromise, a step in a direction. The Accords have become an icon, their inactment a ceaseless demand because due to the government's hypocrisy and perfidity not even that first step has been taken. > And yet, the idea has its critics. As has always been the >case in the debates around the "indigenous question" in Mexico, >profound disagreement characterizes the positions held on the >issue. In the interviews I conducted with Chiapanecan political >activists and anthropologists involved with indigenous >communities in the highlands, the lack of enthusiasm for autonomy >was striking. It is notable that the climate of intolerance for >alternative perspectives on autonomy was such that those based in >Chiapas were very eager to express their views to me, but some >were reluctant to speak for attribution. One explained: > > This concept of autonomy is illusory because it suggests >that caciquismo,(31) the divisive forces of class, religion, >political affiliation, and all the corrupt and violent people are >external to indigenous communities and can be shut out once the >communities gain autonomous control over their affairs. But >these forces don't lie outside of indigenous communities. They >are already deeply rooted inside these communities, and >autonomous administration will only reinforce the divisions and >the dominance of the powerful over the weak, of rich over poor, >of men over women. Of course the project of indigenous autonomy has its critics, not merely in the government but on the Left as well. Marxists in particular have generally been opposed to indigenous autonomy because their conception of "socialism" or "communism" has always involved the emergence of a new singular way of organizing society. The non-"model" of indigenous autonomy is one of a radical pluralism with many forms of self-organization. Those who have supported indigenous calls for autonomy, however, are rarely guilty of the sin Hellman's unknown speaker attributes to them: that of believing it a magical cure-all that will make class, religious and political differences disappear. On the contrary, the demand for autonomy is the demand for the space and time for communities to cope with all those differences without their efforts being manipulated and controlled from the outside. It is obvious that, say, divisions between PRIistas and PRDistas within communities are the result not just of internal differences but of the larger national framework of party politics and patronage. The demand for autonomy is a demand for setting limits to such influences, but no one expects them to disappear. That autonomy would reinforce divisions and dominance is asserted but not even argued. It is not based on a concete analysis of either the form that autonomy might take or how it might work. It is a fearful a priori condemnation. If there was any concreteness here, it could be debated, as it has been in Chiapas, and elsewhere. >Another told me: > > Somehow this proposal has garnered great international >support, but for me autonomy is not an answer. I have heard a lot >about the "Canadian model" and it is usually posed as if, applied >in Mexico, the indigenous people could close off their >communities to outsiders and the vast natural riches of Chiapas >will become theirs to exploit! The only problem is that the >indigenous people of Los Altos are not sitting on top of the oil >or gas or timber or hydroelectric power. These natural resources >are in other parts of the state. The resource base in the >highlands and the Selva is miserably poor. > What I think is needed is not autonomy but a serious >redistributive policy. Autonomy would only mean that these >impoverished people would be even more enclosed in their misery. >What we should be demanding is that the poorest, disadvantaged >regions receive a greater proportion of the national wealth. >It's little wonder that this proposal on autonomy is the only >part of the San Andre's agreement that the Mexican state was >willing to sign on to. It costs the state nothing if the >indigenous people close in on themselves.(32) The Zapatista demands for autonomy are not demands for localism or autarchy. As mentioned above they are well aware of how the "economy" of Chiapas is integrated into that of Mexico and the larger neoliberal world. What they are demanding is a better deal in which local communities have something to say in such a deal's negotiation -something that has never been the case. This evocation of autarchy is a misrepresentation that anyone familiar with the history of the debate on this issue would recognize. The source of this quote, as footnote 32 points out, is Juan Pedro Viqueira who, interestingly enough, wrote an article attacking the Zapatistas and their supporters for the December 1999 issue of the French journal ESPRIT entitled, of all things, "The Dangers of Imaginary Chiapas"! It is of some interest to note that not only the title of Hellman's essay resembles Viqueira's but she repeats many of the same arguments and uses much the same language in caricaturing those she attacks. The main difference btween the two is that while Hellman sets her gunsights on the pro-Zapatista solidarity network, Viqueira aims at university academics and intellectuals who support the Zapatistas. I would recommend to anyone with both English and French a comparative reading of these two texts. >Another interviewee was more directly critical: > > North Americans who participate in these discussions seem >particularly enthusiastic about autonomous control but often they >are bringing their own concepts to the discussion, concepts that >pertain to a different reality. Do they think that the Tzotzil >are going to set up casinos where well-to-do Mexicans are going >fly in to drop millions of pesos at the gambling tables? Do they >imagine that this is Canada where the dominant society copes with >its guilt by channelling billions of dollars into the >construction of a provincial capital for a new province and >supporting autonomous indigenous government at the rate of tens >of thousands of dollars per capita? > The real question is not whether foreigners should be >discussing the issue, or whether the experiences of indigenous >struggles in other countries have bearing on Mexico. Rather it >is a question of whether indigenous people in Chiapas are going >to be better off with autonomy. Well perhaps they will. Or >maybe they will end up no worse off than they are today. But in >either case, it is not a discussion in which people with an >essentialized notion of the indio should be participating. It would be nice, as usual, if Hellman or her "interviewees" provided some concrete instance to support their claims. I, for one, have never seen anyone trying to uncritically apply the experience of Native Americans to Chiapas. As with every other possible simplification, it is possible to find those in the cyberspacial networks of solidarity who have an "essentialized notion of the indio", just as it is possible to find such people anywhere. There is no evidence presented, however, to demonstrate that such persons are characteristic or even common in cyberspace. I know a couple of people like that. I also know lots who are nothing like that. Hellman has found another anonymous interviewee after her own heart: someone with a stereotypical image of the average pro-Zapatista supporter. The sarcasm of this person is completely unwarranted. The people being mocked are being mocked for perhaps comparing (and yes, inevitably contrasting) the situation of indigenous in Chiapas with those of indigenous elsewhere. What is wrong with that? That is exactly what has been going on throughout the world during the whole indigenous rennaissance of the last two decades or so. Native Americans have gone South to support their brothers and sisters in Chiapas. Representatives of the Zapatistas have gone North to discuss their situation with Native Americans and others. Why does this arrogant person assume that when they share their views and their experiences they do so stupidly, not recognizing differences as well as similarities. There is no excuse for this kind of commentary. > It is this kind of essentialist notion of el indio that was >expressed when, as in May 1998, 134 Italian would-be human rights >observers turned up in Chiapas wearing neon green vests >emblazoned with the words somos todos indios del mundo, "we are >all Indians of the world." > I'm sorry, but this is nonscense. Hellman is either not aware or choses to forget the fact that for much of the last six years the slogan "todos somos indios" or more particularly "todos somos Marcos" have been common in the solidarity movement in Mexico and without. The cry "todos somos Marcos" became common when the state issued arrest warrants against Marcos and other Zapatista leaders as part of the states February 1995 military and police offensive. The cry "todos somes Marcos" was in the spirit of the scene in the movie Spartacus when slave after slave stood up saying "I am Spartacus" to prevent the Romans from singling out one man for death. The cry was generalized to "todos somos indios" in huge rallies in the Zocalo in Mexico City as people cried out their solidarity with the Zapatista rebellion. They were not fools; the mestizos who said this were not confused about who is indigenous and who is not; they were making a statement of solidarity. So too, were the Italians who went to Chiapas against the wishes of, and to the embarassement of, the Mexican government. >In examining the international fascination with indigenous >people, Alison Brysk writes, > The image of Indian as Other was read differently by Latin >American policymakers and international publics. To their >compatriots, Indians' appearance made them threatening, subhuman, >or simply invisible; to North Americans and Europeans, it made >them fascinating, exotic and romantic.(33) Which Mexicans have been threatened by the indigenous? Those who have exploited them. To what North Americans and Europeans does this accusation of Rousseauian delusions apply? As an epitaph applied to a whole movement of solidarity it is merely a baseless insult, perhaps a psychological projection of the author's own inclinations. > Those who hold romanticized, essentialized notions of >indigenous people in Chiapas necessarily have trouble thinking >through the implications of autonomous communities in which >minority rights are not guaranteed because, for them, los indios >are all one undifferentiated mass of people. First, who holds "romanticized, essentialized notions"? I repeat: as an epitaph applied to a whole movement of solidarity it is merely a baseless insult, perhaps a psychological projection of the authors own inclinations. Second, what makes Hellman think that "minority rights" would not be guaranteed within the context of autonomy? On the basis of what elements of the San Andre's Accords does she base this accusation? And how can she maintain it against the evidence of the Zapatistas repeated condemnations of such discrimination against minorities as the expulsion of religious minorities? She cannot. While these Italians may be familiar with a long history of intolerance, expulsions of minorities, and even ethnic cleansing in Europe, their "re-enchanted" image of indios did not admit the possibility of violence or intolerance within indigenous communities in Chiapas. Hellman deserves a resounding rebuttal from the Italians whom she insults in these lines. Of all the places in the world where pro- Zapatista supporters can be found, Italy is one of the best examples of the continuous translation and circulation not only of materials on the Internet but of hard copy materials produced in and around the movement. Did Hellman ever examine the archives of EZLN-it, the Italian listserv? I see no evidence of it, not in her footnotes or in her appreciatation of the knowledge of the people involved. What she has done is hurl insults on the basis of one misunderstood slogan. Inexcusable. >But, in fact, the map of Chiapas is dotted with settlements >formed by indigenous people who were expelled from their >communities for religious or political reasons. It is remarkable >how little appreciation of this problem is part of the discussion >on the internet. In his writings, John Gledhill has expressed >concern about the "unresolved tension between constitutional >individualism and indigenous communalism,"(34) But, for most >Chiapas solidarity network members, the issue of minority rights >within autonomous communities simply does not arise. > What can you say about a writer who repeatedly speaks about "most" people in some group when she has presented no evidence whatsoever to convince the reader that the characteristics she denounces are even common much less pervasive. This is poor research and poorer writing. Beyond this, the issue Gledhill refers to is indeed an important one that gets to the heart of the differences between many indigenous cultures and bourgeois ideology and law. The former often grasp the individual first and foremost as a member of a group, with the corresponding rights and responsibilities. The latter celebrates and recognizes only the individual and rejects the former. There has been, in fact, a developing dialog over such issues in the solidarity movement and it has been a sticky one. The most obvious reason is that vast numbers of those preoccupied with "human rights" think about that issue in the classic bourgeois/individualistic way in which most statements of such rights have been formulated. The indigenous whose views of rights and obligations differ from this mold have been, to all appearances, careful not to alienate some of their best supporters over a disagreement about philosophy. But some efforts have been made to articulate these differences and to discuss them. The "tension" is indeed unresolved and will remain so for the forseeable future, but it can be a fruitful one as it develops. Had she read more deeply into the essays developed around these struggles Hellman might have talked about this instead of just, once more, dismissing those in solidarity with the Zapatistas as ignorant fanatics. >Revolution by Internet? > > The relationship of electronic communication to the >struggle in Chiapas raises two questions. One, as we discussed >in the previous sections, is the way in which the information >that circulates about events in Chiapas is simplified, flattened >and sometimes, even distorted by its transmission and >retransmission on the internet. This problem, of course, is >related to the question of how we learn things on the world wide >web. What are the sources from which the information comes? A >separate question is how do we respond to the information that we >receive electronically? How do we "do politics" as an internet >community? What does it mean when you can "participate" in a >movement without ever leaving the comfort of your room, without >ever standing or marching in the rain? First, leaving aside the issue of "simplification" discussed abundantly above, Hellman has nowhere demonstrated that information that has been circulated on the Internet has been "distorted." It is possible to argue this, but she hasn't. One could, for example, argue that each posting, taken out of context, "distorts" one's impressions. But this, of course, is true about any particular bit of evidence in any media. There have also been accusations of the circulation of "disinformation" which is surely a distortion of sorts. But she doesn't take that up either, nor the equally interesting issue of how quickly such disinformation can be countered on the Internet as opposed to other media. Second, the smug evocation of someone "participating" in a movement without ever leaving the comfort of their room tells us more about Hellman's "holier than thou" attitudes than it does about anyone on the Internet. One might as well smirk at Karl Marx's "participation" in the German revolution of 1848 because all he did was produce a workers' newspaper while Engels was on the barricades! >Sources > > Careful examination of the material that is translated, >summarized and distributed through a variety of networks reveals >that almost all of this material is drawn from the Mexican >leftist daily, La Jornada which is published in Mexico City. La >Jornada has had a special relationship to the Zapatistas from the >start and the EZLN relies on this newspaper in a number of ways. >Although there is a public perception that the Zapatistas are >directly wired to the internet and tap out their messages on >laptops in the Selva, in fact they count on La Jornada to relay >their messages. While it is true that La Jornada has been an essential source for keeping up not only with the Zapatista communique's but with events in the state, and with useful analytical essays by columnists, it is not true that "almost all of the material" on the Internet is drawn from this one source. Hellman can say this only because she has neglected to study the daily flows of information on the listservs. Otherwise she would have seen, and hopefully reported, the mass of information that has been regularly drawn not only from other mainstream sources (New York Times, La Reforma, Washington Post, El Financiero, El Diario de Yucatan, Dallas Morning News, AFP, Reuters, AP, VOA, IPS etc) but also from the kinds of NGOs mentioned above (NAP, the FZLN, Melel Xojobal, etc.). The fact is that the flow of information on the Internet is the most comprehensive available from any one source because the participants in the solidarity network feed all of these other sources into it in steady streams -streams that have so swelled the quantity as to make it an unmanageable for flood for some. I'll return to this shortly. >As Lynn Stephen notes, > In reality, the EZLN is not directly connected to E-mail or >to the internet. According to Justin Paulson, Webmaster for the >website "EZLN.ORG," EZLN communique's are first faxed to several >newspapers including La Jornada which publishes them. Different >websites then pick them off La Jornada's web sites. Because of >the rapid publication of the EZLN's communique's on the internet, >they appear to come directly from the EZLN onto the net. In >reality, often when I have visited Zapatista communities, I have >brought news to them of what is going on in Chiapas - sometimes >just 40 kilometres away.(35) All this is well-known. >Not only do the Zapatistas count on La Jornada to transmit their >messages to the world, but, according to a number of people I >interviewed in Chiapas, the newspaper has played a major role in >providing feedback to the Zapatistas on how to craft a message >that would be better understood beyond the borders of Chiapas or >Mexico. Moreover, La Jornada has a particular relationship to >the Zapatistas that some argue effects its coverage of the news. >As one Chiapanecan activist told me in April 1998, > > Here we jokingly refer to La Jornada as the "Chiapas >Gazette" or the "Ococingo Times" because it carries more news on >Chiapas and the EZLN than on any other place in Mexico, sometimes >even the capital! Of course it's convenient for us who live here >and get to see two "local papers." But I read La Jornada and I >don't recognize a lot of what I read. I'm not saying that they >make things up. But they report things in a very partial way. >If two Zapatista sympathizers are found dead in a gully, that's >always reported. But if two peasants who were not EZLN >supporters are found dead, sometimes it gets no mention at all. The idea of the editors of La Jornada explaining to Marcos how to write is amusing. This is a story I've never heard before. It is one of Marcos' great abilities to be able to craft communique's in ways that appreal to a diverse array of people, from intellectuals to those in the streets. The quality of his writeing is so different from the journalism in the paper that I can't even imagine what Hellman's informants think the editors of La Jornada have told him? What Chiapan activist? Once again Hellman cites convenient unnamed persons as authorities in the place of personal study and experience. For those of us who are constantly processing the news, the coverage that La Jornada gives Chiapas is a god-send compared to the lack of regular coverage in other major dailies. We also read and circulate everything the others print but their coverage is often spotty. How different the attitudes of Hellman and her friendly unknown "activist" as they make fun of and question the legitimacy of La Jornada's coverage. Even so, the reality -as any examination of La Jornada's abundant on-line archives will reveal-is that the newspaper does not constantly cover Chiapas and it does in fact carry much more information about national issues and the capitol than it does about the state. Moreover, it's on-line version is not complete and research has shown that many communique's that were actually published in the paper don't make it onto the paper's website and archives. "If if two peasants who were not EZLN supporters are found dead, sometimes it gets no mention at all." Nor I suspect are all the murders and crimes committed daily in Mexico mentioned either. La Jornada is not a tabloid. The newspaper's coverage is selective, like all papers. Fortunately, for those concerned with the struggles in Chiapas it is better than most. > Editorially La Jornada is close to some elements on the >left and critical of others. And the newspaper's preference for >the Zapatista position over other left positions has sometimes >led to the exclusion of alternative views from the left. For >example, regular contributors to the signed "Opinion" sections >of La Jornada have been bewildered to find that their columns >were not run when they put forward views more sympathetic to the >PRD position which called for fostering electoral participation >in Chiapas than to the Zapatista position that elections were >fraudulent and served reactionary interests and should not be a >priority. Which regular contributors? I suspect that regular readers of the La Jornada are highly unlikely to consider it biased against the PRD. It is much more of a PRD paper than a Zapatista paper. The attention its editorials and its columnists pay to inter- and intraparty squabbles -something which are of very secondary interest to the Zapatistas-make this very clear. It's attention to elections is a great as any other mainstream papers and it has never, to my knowledge, ever embraced the Zapatista refusal to participate in elections. When I read this kind of commentary I wonder if Hellman has ever read more than a copy or two of the paper. > Having participated as an electoral observer in Chiapas in >1994, I would be the last to argue that fraud is not a problem in >Chiapanecan elections.(36) Given the Chiapanecan elite's >historical use of elections to reinforce its illegitimate hold on >political power, it is easy to undertand the EZLN's decision to >sit out the elections of 1996, doing nothing to mobilize its >supporters to vote. However, even if the question of the >electoral road vs. extraparliamentary activity is a very old >debate on the left, it would still seem to be a discussion that >is worth having. > Once again, where has Hellman been? The discussion is renewed at every election. How does she think the EZLN comes to the positions it has taken on the elections? How does she think the communities do? The anger of the PRD over the Zapatista refusal to back them has made it a much discussed issue. Marcos has written many things on this subject, precisely within the context of such discussion. For her to pretend there is no discussion is ludicrous. >By 1996 the Zapatistas had settled on a position of indifference >to electoral activity at the same time that the Chiapanecan PRD >thought it stood an excellent chance to take control of the >Chamber of Deputies in Tuxtla Gutie'rrez, if only people in the >conflict zone would show up at the polls to cast their ballots. >In May 1998, I interviewed Gilberto Go'mez Maza, head of the PRD >in Chiapas who asserted, > > The PRD is organized in all 111 municipalities in the state >and if you count the seats we did win, plus the seats we could >have gained had people voted in the regions controlled by the >EZLN, we would have been able to form a majority in the Chamber >of Deputies together with the opposition deputies from the PAN. > > The son of two rural school teachers, Go'mez Maza studied >medicine at the National University and became the first, and for >decades, the only pediatrician serving the indigenous people of >the Chiapanecan highlands. His experience of the poverty and >neglect in Los Altos, propelled him into political activity first >as a follower of Heberto Castillo and the Mexican Workers Party >(PMT), and later, when Castillo decided to support Cuauhte'moc >Ca'rdenas's bid for the presidency in 1988, in the PRD. "What we >are struggling for is to change the relations of power in this >state," he observed, "and were it not for the anti-electoral >stance of the EZLN," he insisted, "we could have gone a long way >to accomplishing this goal." > > It seemed to me in speaking with Go'mez Maza that foreign >activists concerned with the future of Chiapas would at least >want to think through and debate these assertions. But a full >discussion among foreign Chiapas solidarity groups of the >appropriateness of the electoral road would have been difficult >based on the information available on most web sites because >those speaking in favour of participation in elections generally >did not make it into print,(37) or, when they did, theirs were not >the features from La Jornada that were relayed around the world. How does Hellman know what articles were "relayed around the world"? By her own admission she has not studied the archives of the listservs. If she had she would have found find plenty of articles dealing with such issues. What she would find less of, although she doesn't take this up here, are the more stridently anti-Zapatista articles published by PRIista and PANist columnists like Sergio Sarmiento in La Reforma and elsewhere. Those who choose and post articles to the listservs (and eventually to the websites) in general have not seen any point in working for the enemies of the Zapatistas in spreading their material. It has been done when there have been particular reasons to do so, but it is not done in general. The same is true with lots of the stories about infighting in the PRD and accounts (frequent in the La Jornada) of its adventures in electoral campaigns. Precisely because many who support the Zapatistas share their scepticism of electoral politics they don't allocate as much of their limited time and energy to reproducing such material as they do, for example, to tales of repression in the villages. Clearly Hellman does not share these priorities. > La Jornada's partiality on the subject would not be a >problem if Chiapas solidarity groups outside of Mexico had other >sources with which to cross check. But, careful examination of >the material that is translated, summarized and distributed >through a variety of networks reveals that most of the material >available electronically is drawn from La Jornada. To be sure, >this is a limitation not so much of La Jornada, which does >provide broader coverage of the PRD, the unions and other >struggles on the left, but of the way that material is selected >and distributed and edited for internet distribution. Unfortunately, as I have already pointed out there is absolutely no evidence in this article that Hellman has ever carried out a "careful examination of the material that is translated, summarized and distributed through a variety of networks." She has limited herself to websites, which as I have said, contain only a tiny fraction of the material circulated. Her repeated statement that "most" of the material is drawn from La Jornada will not stand up to "careful examination." It is also interesting that after having just branded La Jornada a slavish follower of Zapatista dogma, Hellman now admits that it does provide broad "coverage of the PRD, the unions and other struggles on the left." She should try to be more consistent instead of shifting arguments as she shifts targets (from La Jornada to the cyberspace networks of information.) > It is striking that many people who bring a sceptical >attitude to anything they read in the "bourgeois press" and who >are capable of making the proper adjustment for sectarian >perspectives when they read material generated by others on the >left, accept what they read on the internet with no further >critical thought - although this material is also filtered >through the lens of particular political perspectives. And who are these uncritical dupes? These "many people" who take everything on the Internet at face value. Hellman excells in crafting unnamed and faceless strawmorons to knock down! >In interviews with dozens of Chiapas solidarity activists that I >carried out in Canada in 1996-1997, I found no one who could tell >me who any of the web masters are, (other than their names), what >are their politics or why one would feel comfortable with >depending on a variety of sites, all of them monitored by just a >handful of individuals. Like others around the world, I feel >respect for and gratitude to someone like Harry Cleaver at the >University of Texas for the time and effort that he has put into >keeping us all informed about Chiapas from the first day of the uprising. But it is nonetheless astonishing that there is so >little awareness that most of what we read about Chiapas, and >civil society in general in Mexico, has been selected and >transmitted by Harry Cleaver or a couple of other people whose >political outlook -- other than a passionate belief in the power >of the internet and its potential to build a "civil society in >cyberspace"(38)-- is completely unknown to most. This is a truly remarkable passage. On the one hand I wonder how many readers of the Nation or some other Leftwing magazine could recount with any accuracy the political lives and theories of their editors and writers? On the other hand, her choosing me as an example is highly ironic because I have a rather elaborate homepage from which anyone curious as to my history and politics can satiate their curiosity to their heart's content! (http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/index2.html) Moreover, by my automatic counters' count, my webpage is accessed as often as that of Chiapas95 (which I also maintain) (http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html) so I suspect that a great many people are as familiar with my views as they are with what I post. Moreover, it is no secret that Chiapas95 is maintained by less than a dozen people, or that almost all websites are the product of the labors of one or a few individuals. There are, however, a great many websites maintained by a great many people all over the world, so Hellman's image of it all being done by "a couple of other people" is highly misleading. One might apply her argument to articles in magazines and to books. Gee, look at this article by Hellman, there is only one author! But guess what? There are many articles, many books and many authors. On the other hand, the major flows of raw data occur on the Chiapas-L listserv which is an open and unmoderated list to which anyone subscribed can post, and dozens do every time they find (or create) something worthwhile to send out. The same is true with the various other discussion lists and conferences that have often dealt with Chiapas, e.g., reg.mexico, Mexico94, Mexico2000, Native-L and Mexicoxxi, as well as relevant newsgroups, e.g., soc.culture.mexican. Hellman's argument about a handful of people being responsible for selecting what goes out is only true for Chiapas95 and if she wants to do some real research sometime, she could click back and forth between the web archives of Chiapas-L and Chiapas95 and see just what that filtering produces. (This would, however, only tell part of the story because the Chiapas95 moderators also subscribe to lists like the Italian EZLN-it and the French "comite's" as well as other language sources so the material on Chiapas95 is, in some ways, richer than that on Chiapas-L. Mostly what gets left out is the chit chat of discussion. All serious students of the situation in Chiapas know that the best flow of regular information available is on the Internet. Hellman tries her best to deprecate what is there, to deligitmize it as a source. But there is more raw information available there and more regular analysis than anywhere else --because it combines the most useful material from all sorts of media: newspapers, wire services, even radio transcripts, magazines, etc. It is not exhaustive because not all magazines and books are online, nor do people often have the time and energy to scan in articles from hard copy. And for that reason those in the network also read (and produce) articles and books and often report on them and their usefulness on-line (as in the my reviews of Collier, and Ross etc.) I find it truly curious that Hellman works so hard to discredit what so many know to be so valuable. >The problem of unequal access > > This brings us to the problem of unequal access to >progressive world opinion. The received wisdom about power and >communication is, of course, that there is very unequal access to >the means of communication. But this is usually proposed as a >problem by which progressive opinion loses out to conservative or >mainstream interests in media controlled by the rich and >powerful. The internet, in most of these discussions, is posed >as providing a levelling mechanism, a democratic or popular >opportunity that opens the way for the poor and marginalised to >communicate on the same terms as the rich and powerful. Through >this means, we are told, it becomes possible for us to build >links to other progressive actors and to construct a community in >cyberspace. It provides, as Cleaver and others have asserted, >the possibility to circumvent the censorship of the state, to >chop down electronic barriers and to liberate information from >corporate and state control.(39) > While this is unquestionably an achievement of electronic >communication, there is an argument to be made that progressive >organizations within Mexico have very unequal electronic access >to public opinion. The Zapatistas have been appropriately hailed >as media savvy communications geniuses, but other movements of >the left, indeed, other armed revolutionaries like the Popular >Revolutionary Army (EPR) that is active in Puebla, Guerrero, and >Oaxaca, not only lack an articulate spokesman like Marcos, they >have not found their Webmaster. And, as a consequence, their >perspectives are not before us on our screens, and their >activities are rarely reported. As a matter of fact virtually all the communique's of the EPR that have been sent to the press have been circulated on the Chiapas listservs. If like many other old-left Leninist organizations around the world they have not generated the kind of support that the Zapatistas have, that is, in large part, due to their politics and their rhetoric, not to an unwillingness on the part of those sympathetic to change in Mexico to give them a hearing. The same is true of news reports on their activities. To my knowledge every news story on the actions of the EPR or the state against them has been posted to the listservs. But this group, as well as some others, are by all evidence, small, isolated and unable to generate either the support or the voices necessary to make themselves heard more frequently or to evoke a more sympathetic response. That is the situation and it is a situation that only they can change. > In the case of the most important party of the left, PRD, >one Mexican-based media expert explained, "the traditional left >in Mexico is technophobic, and has few ideas how to make >electronic communication work for them." Whatever the reason, >indeed, the PRD has been very slow to make use of the internet >and as a consequence, the party appears in electronic sources >largely in terms of its deficiencies which are highlighted in >communications from the EZLN. Because of this unequal >representation on the internet, few sympathizers around the world >are able to debate, based on statements from both sides, the >relative merits of each position and the appropriateness of >various tactics and strategies. Actually, for what they have to say, the PRD has several able and voluble spokespersons and their speeches and statements are carried by La Jornada and other media not controlled by the PRI, as even Hellman recognizes in the case of La Jornada. There are those who upload such material to the internet, sometimes on Chiapas-L, sometimes on Mexicoxxi. Today the Perredistas of California have set up their own news service and are sending out regular postings. It is generally true that the pro-Zapatista network has been much more effective than the PRD as a party, but this is not surprising, not because the Perredistas are technophobes but because the pro-Zapatista networks are world- wide and involve thousands of people from all kinds of movements. And, as the experiences of the UNAM strike and the most recent elections have most clearly demonstrated, the PRD often doesn't have much to say of interest to anyone! As some commentators have noted, Cardenas came in a miserable third in the elections with only 17 percent of the vote because he and the PRD had nothing to ofter that Fox hadn't already picked up and packaged better. At any rate, as Hellman almost explicitly admits, whatever limits exist to the PRDs presense on the Internet is its own fault and not primarily those of the pro-Zapatista networks. ...................... end of part 3 of 4 .......................................................................... -- To unsubscribe from this list send a message containing the words unsubscribe chiapas95 (or chiapas95-lite, or chiapas95-english, or chiapas95-espanol) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous messages are available from http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html or gopher to Texas, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Economics, Mailing Lists.