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|[Nettime-bold] [Fwd: En;Cleaver:Virtual & Real Chiapas Support Networks,Pt 2/4]|
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- Subject: En;Cleaver:Virtual & Real Chiapas Support Networks,Pt 2/4
- From: email@example.com (Chiapas95)
- Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 15:57:05 -0500 (CDT)
- Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.orgThis message is forwarded to you by the editors of the Chiapas95 newslists. To contact the editors write to: <email@example.com>. To submit material for posting send to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>. beginning of part 2 of 4 ................... >To build this base, the EZLN organizers drew upon longstanding >principles of Mexican nationalism and they "breathed new life >into a revolutionary history of Mexico which, for decades had >been appropriated by the ruling party."(13) Drawing on these >traditional radical themes, they developed a discourse that spoke >not only to the most downtrodden people in Chiapas, but to >disadvantaged Mexicans throughout the republic. Eventually, in >1995, with the convocation of activists and supporters from >around the globe, the Zapatistas came consciously to represent >and to articulate internationally popular critiques of >neoliberalism.(14) The representation of the role of nationalism here is misleading. The Zapatistas have certainly reappropriated an array of history, personalities and icons of the Mexican revolution that began in 1910. Naming themselves after Emiliano Zapata is the most obvious case of this. However, this taking back from the state of the revolutionary tradition was only possible because of the way the Zapatistas rerooted that history in indigenous traditions of Chiapas. This is an important point because too often Left observers, especially anarchists, have sometimes cringed or exclaimed openly against the Zapatista use of nationalist symbols like the Mexican flag. Although they celebrate Zapata, it is as Votan-Zapata, an amalgam of real history and Mayan mythology that the Zapatistas root that history in the Chiapan soul. Marcos tells more stories of his indigenous mentor "Old Antonio" or of his master Don Durito de la Lacandona, a beetle, than he does of Zapata, or Villa, or any other Revolutionary Hero. The Zapatista reappropriation of Zapata is not "nationalistic" in the sense of being an ideological means to achieve or maintain the cohesiveness of a nationstate. They have simplely brought Zapata back to the people from whom he had been stolen. As for their emphasis on the ways in which their struggles are "Mexican," either in their use of the flag or their appeals to the Mexican people, the Zapatistas have had to struggle from day one against the attempts of the Mexican state to isolate them. They have been accused of being Balkan-like successionists, of advocating a pan-Mayanism in which Chiapas might be stripped away from Mexico and joined to Guatemala. It is against such propaganda and such isolation that the Zapatistas have reached out to others in Mexico (and beyond) to speak of the ways in which their struggles are like those of others, of the ways they share common enemies. In this political struggle symbols have played an important role, but they must be understood in context and not in the abstract. A second point, at the First Intercontinental Encounter in 1996 (Hellman got the date wrong), the Zapatistas convoked over three thousand activists from over forty countries to come to gather and to discuss, among themselves, the nature of neoliberalism and of struggles against it and to go beyond it. They were not, as Hellman suggests, simply articulating "internationally popular critiques of neoliberalism." Indeed, before the preliminary Continental Encounters organized in the Spring of that year, the very term "neoliberalism" was term known only in Latin America. (In the US a "neoliberal" was ex-ADA democrat turned free market republican!) Much of the Spring encounters involved discussion in Europe, North America and Asia of the meaningfulness of the term "neoliberalism" outside of Latin America. Once the essential commonalities between "neoliberalism" and Thatcherism and Maastricht and Shengen and Reaganomics and new classical economics were recognized, the term stuck and is now a widely shared way of refering to capitalist policies in this period. > It is similarly clear that a defining characteristic of the >uprising has been the ambivalent response it has elicited from >the Mexican state. While the Chiapanecan economic and political >elites rallied quickly to pressure for some definitive action to >dismantle the movement, neither Salinas nor his successor, >Ernesto Zedillo, has managed to settle upon a policy of >accommodation or repression, of negotiation or military action, >but rather both have pursued all of these possible responses at >different times. This lack of a consistent policy is, in turn, >tied to the unprecedented circumstances created by the technology >that allows people around the globe to follow events as they >unfold and to weigh in as a force of international public opinion >concerning an event that the Mexican state would prefer to define >as a national or local affair. The revolution in electronic >communication and the exceptionally effective communication >skills of Marcos have fostered an international solidarity that >has, in turn, promoted both the survival of the movement and the >personal survival of its members.(15) For a while early in 1994 Hellman's characterization of the Mexican government's response to the Zapatista uprising as ambivalent might have made some sense. At first it attacked with overwhelming military force, and then, faced with widespread public outrage and protest, it backed off and negotiated. Since then, however, this characterisation will not stand. We now know that the Mexican government's position has actually been fairly consistent ever since: a public fac,ade of negotiations behind which the state has elaborated a highly repressive counterinsurgency program of systematic terrorism against Zapatista communities using not only every available police and military agency of the state itself but including the financing, arming and cooperation with paramilitary groups that have murdered dozens and driven thousands from their homes and villages. Some time back the Mexican magazine Proceso published a 1994 internal military document outlining this strategy - including the use of paramilitaries-and every month that passes has brought more evidence of its systematic and continuing nature. The primary constraint that national and international mobilization has placed on the Mexican government has been to sometimes halt overt military operations (Spring of 1994 and 1995) and sometimes force the state to pretend to negotiate. But the reality revealed by the history of those negotiations has been one of hypocrisy and duplicity. Hellman's characterization hides the consistency of these policies and by so doing undermines the unceasing efforts of human rights observers and others in the solidarity networks to tear away the fac,ade and make that consistency clear to the public. In the next section of her article, "The Complexities", Hellman takes up four topics --Land, Relgion, Politics and indigenous autonomy-and treats each pretty much the same: she sets up a strawman (the simple-minded representation of the issue on the Net) and then draws on her readings and interviews to show how much more "complicated" the situation really is. >The complexities > > Thus we find very little disagreement among analysts about >the political, social and economic conditions that gave rise to >the rebellion, the largely incoherent response of the Mexican >state, or the success of the Zapatistas in reaching beyond the >immediate zone of conflict to incorporate other Mexicans and >sympathizers from around the world into their broader movement. >However, when we turn to the accounts available to this mobilized >international community of supporters, we find that what is >generally communicated about the situation in Chiapas is a highly >simplified version of a complex reality. While this picture is >not intentionally distorted, it is ultimately misleading in ways >that leave those who sympathise with and support the struggle in >Chiapas in a very weak position to understand and analyse the >events as they unfold. At times, as I will show below, it even >makes it difficult to support the struggle in meaningful ways. As Hellman turns from her reference books to "the accounts available to this mobilized international community of supporters" she would have us believe that we have moved from one world -an academic world that recognizes complexity-- into another: one that satisfies itself with simplified versions that bypass all the complexities. As I have pointed out above, this is a totally false dichotomy; these are not separate worlds, they are interlinked ones, overlapping spheres in which real individuals pursue activities in both. Hellman's blindness to this interlinkage can only stem from first, not being part of the networks, and two, doing a lousy job of studying them. > What are some of the politically important complexities of >the Chiapanecan situation that have been lost or ignored in >transmission to outsiders? > > Land tenure > > Almost everyone concerned for the welfare of indigenous >people and poor peasants in Chiapas has learned that 56 percent >of the land is in private hands. This oft-repeated statistic is >misleading because it usually presented in a way that suggests >that the private holdings are all concentrated in the hands of a >few large landlords. The corollary to this supposition is that >these estates could be available for distribution to the landless >in "ejidos" under the agrarian reform law if the political will >existed to move forward with expropriation of large haciendas and >the distribution of land to petitioning peasants.(16) > > Unfortunately, this agrarista dream cannot come true in the >conflict zone in Eastern Chiapas, that is, Los Altos and the >Lancandon Selva where the Zapatista movement is based. In this >region there is almost no "distributable" land left in large >haciendas.(17) In eastern Chiapas, the latifundios and even >neolatifundios,(18) substantially disappeared in the course of the >last three decades. Some land was given as ejido parcels in >earlier agrarian reform distributions and in the 1980s, the >federal government purchased 80,000 hectares of private land for >distribution to 159 peasant settlements. Thus, with the >relocation to eastern Chiapas of western Chiapanecans displaced >by the construction of the hydroelectric dams from the 1950s >onward, the settlement of landless peasants from fourteen other >Mexican states and the Federal District in the 1970s and 1980s, >and the land set aside for bioreserves (under pressure from the >international environmental community and supporters of the >Lancandon Maya), so much of the land in the region had been given >away in small parcels that the latifundistas in the zone found it >safer to sell off portions of their land to neighbouring peasants >in small lots than to resist the tide of land invasions and >expropriations.(19) > > Given the enormous pressure of population on land resources >throughout Chiapas, the vast preponderance of the 56 percent of >all land that is privately held in fact consists of minifundios >of 5 hectares or less in a region where the smallest ejido plot >is set at 20 hectares.(20) Thus, where some outsiders are apt to >see a traditional lucha agrarista taking shape in which they >imagine that landless peasants would be pitted against landlords >in rural class struggle, in reality, the "luchas" over land in >Chiapas are no less bitter but, sadly, they most often constitute >a "war of the poor." In these events, ejidatarios who are trying >to expand their inadequate parcels, or younger sons and daughters >of ejidatarios who cannot inherit the family holdings are locked >in conflict with neighbouring minifundistas who are fighting to >hold onto their pathetically small and poor subsistence plots. I would like to say two things about Hellman's treatment of the land issue in Chiapas. First, she creates straw targets to attack in pretending that the solidarity network is rife with people who believe Chiapas is covered in expansive 19th Century-style landed estates ripe for land redistribution. She gives no examples of such claims, whatsoever. Second, the portrait that she draws copies the propaganda of the state which, through spokespersons like Warman, have tried to present all land conflicts as petty squabbles among competitive poor small farmers -her "war of the poor" is the state's prime rationale for hiding its systematic attempts to divide communities through the differential giving of aid and the funding of paramilitaries. When state financed paramilitaries slaughted over forty people at Acteal in December 1998, the state, after failing to cover up the act entirely, dismissed it as an intra-community feud. What Hellman glosses over in her haste to attack an imaginary missrepresentation are the very real differences in size and value of farms, wealth and power among land holders in Chiapas. There are those with a few barely arable hectares and those with many, highly valuable hectares. There are those who have the wealth to employ hired goons ("white guards") to defend their lands and terrorize their labor force and those whose only defense is communal resistance. There are substantial cattle raising ranches in Chiapas and valuable coffee plantations. And if the neoliberal policies to attract foreign investment into Chiapas are successful expansive eucaliptus plantations may displace more and more small farmers and destroy the material basis of whole communities. There is none of this in Hellman's accounts. Nor, I might add are there any concrete examples of land battles, of what lands have been invaded or by whom that might illustrate or undermine her argument. Moreover there is no mention of the latest rounds of enclosure and land theft carried out by the state-financed paramilitaries who have driven thousands from their villages and seized both homes and lands. Finally, the key land issue for the indigenous concerns the survival of coherent communities, with whatever land tenure system they find best suited for their purposes. It is not the atomized world of individual against individual that Hellman portrays but of collective decisions against private appropriation and profit, whether by wealthy land holding families or corporations. These are not pseudo-issues but vital ones for indigenous communities. > Religion > > In the virtual Chiapas with which most internet users are >familiar, religious actors have a crucial role to play. The >religious actors we encounter on the computer screen are Bishop >Samuel Rui'z, the Diocese, the Catholic human rights activists of >the San Bartolome' Centre for Human Rights, and perhaps a few >Protestants in the form of the U.S.-based Pastors for Peace. > > While religion does play a central role in the events >unfolding in Chiapas today, the picture on the ground is far more >complex than the version on the screen. To begin with, >competition for hearts and minds and above all souls, between >Catholic and other religious groups has been a key motivating >force in all that has unfolded in Chiapas over the last forty >years. The transformation of Bishop Samuel, himself, from a >traditional conservative into a socially engaged activist was >prompted in the late 1960s by his perception of the need for the >Catholic Church to become involved at the grass roots in order to >check the advance of evangelical Protestants among the >peasants.(21) As everywhere in Latin America and particularly in >Central America, a ferocious competition exists in Chiapas >between the Catholic Church and evangelical missionaries for the >attention, affection and adherence of the poor. But for all the >courage and sincere efforts of the catechists, and the charisma >and dedication of Bishop Samuel, today only 51 percent of all >Chiapanecans are Catholic, a figure that represents the lowest >proportion in any Mexican state.(22) > > We might almost say that the downtrodden in Chiapas have >never been free to make political choices, but increasingly they >have felt free to make religious choices. And a great assortment >of Protestants, some progressive and some conservative, have >attracted converts. Of the Protestant churches, the >Presbyterians are the largest and longest established, followed >by Pentecostalists (Assembly of God, Charismatics, Elim and >Eunecer), Seventh Day Adventists, Sabbaticants, and Jehovah's >Witnesses. On the scene as well, but in smaller numbers, are >Baptists, Lutherans, Church of Nazarene, the Christian Church or >Followers of Christ, Church of God, Light of the World, Prince of >Peace, the True Church of Christ, and the Central American Church >among others.(23) Most recently Islamic and Mormon missionaries >have drawn converts and, in a couple of new settlements composed >of Protestants who were expelled from predominantly Catholic >communities, Islam will soon become the numerically dominant >religious group.(24) Thus the religious map of Chiapas resembles >a crazy-quilt of different religious sects, some historically >well rooted and others, brand new. And to complicate matters >further, these religious affiliations sometimes coincide with and >sometimes cut across political identifications with either the >official party, that is, the PRI, or the centre-left party of >opposition, PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party). > > Thus while Bishop Samuel appears to be - other than Marcos >himself - the central protagonist in the virtual accounts of >Chiapas, and looms as a towering figure in the versions of events >that circulate in France, Italy and Spain, he is not the only >important religious actor on the stage. To ignore the other >actors is to fail to recognize what many consider to be a low- intensity religious conflict that cross cuts ethnic politics. This whole sketch can be reduced to two sentences. There are other religious actors on the scene in Chiapas than Samuel Ruiz and the Catholic church. Those others are poorly represented in cyberspace. Neither of these afirmations are news to anyone that I have ever come across in the solidarity networks. As with so many of the other "complexities" that Hellman highlights, there is nothing new here. It is a fact that today the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas is on-line and puts out regular news bulletins and reports on its doings, protests, studies etc. This is, however, a relatively new phenomena. The Fray Bartelomeo Human Rights Center has been doing this for a longer period. As far as I know, no other religeous group active in Chiapas has this kind of internet presence and certainly this means that there is more news circulating about Diocean doings on the Internet than about those of other denominations. Nevertheless, there have been repeated reports of the expulsions of people of one religious denomination by those of others (often a political move disguised as a religious one) and these reports have been faithfully circulated on the Chiapas support lists and all who subscribe to them are familiar with the phenomenon, and thus the inter-religious issues involved. But, on the basis of the experience of the last six years, I would say that the primary reasons why Samuel Ruiz and the Catholic church have figured so prominently in the news from Chiapas are two. First, those opposed to change in Chiapas, not just the Zapatista rebellion but all indigenous struggle, have leveled more attacks against Ruiz and the Catholic Church than against any other religious group. While there are many cases of Protestants being expelled from certain communities (such as San Juan Chamula) where PRIista catholics hold the reins of power - and the Zapatistas have denounced such expulsions-no other religious sect has come under the kind of fire that has been leveled at Ruiz and the Catholic Church. If Ruiz is well known outside of Chiapas it is primarily because he has been a focal point of violent resistance to indigenous struggle. Second, it is also true that those associated with the Catholic Church have been more outspoken and have produced more detailed reports on human rights violations than other denominations. The second most visible group in the US, Pastors for Peace, which organizes caravans of aid to beseiged communities in Chiapas, advertize their efforts on the Net and those messages are widely circulated and quite familiar. Finally, I would also add the following. To date I have yet to see any detailed scholarly account of the relgious complexities to which Hellman points. Useful accounts of the various situations and activities of all the different religious groups are not merely absent on the Internet and in the Solidarity network but they have yet to be produced by anyone, anywhere. When such accounts do become available, they will, I have no doubt, be read and absorbed by the solidarity movement to whatever degree proves useful, just like the kinds of materials on other subjects that have been available. > The Political Actors > > Just as religious players turn out to be more numerous and >varied than in the picture we usually see on the computer screen, >the panoply of political actors in the drama unfolding in Chiapas >is also considerably more complex. A methodological pause: consider the characterisation: "the picture we usually see on the computer screen." Just what does one see on a computer screen within the circuits of the pro- Zapatistas/pro-democracry network? What one "usually sees" is an e-mail posting to a listserv or a single web page. It is similar to what one "usually sees on a book page" or in a clip from a movie, i.e., a limited quantity of information, ideas, etc. And just as one doesn't expect to be able to judge a book by a page, so can one not judge the flow of computer circulated information by a handful of bytes. When we actually examine the available information on the Internet, both its flow and the accumulating stock of material archived on web pages and gopher sites, we find something very different than Hellman's casual sampling seems to indicate. You would never know it from her article but there are litterally tens of thousands of archived e-mail messages accumulated from a steady flow of information that has been going on now for over six years. Counting both listserv articles and webpages there are hundreds of thousands, probably millions of words of material, not to mention images, video and audio clips. For those of us who have produced and managed these flows and their accumulation, it is hard not see Hellman's criticisms as anything other than an example of the blind person who tells us what the elephant looks like on the basis of only touching his tail. Either Hellman's "study" misrepresents the situation in the cyberspacial networks because her work was superficial and failed to examine the full range of materials available, or she is deliberately distorting what she found. I prefer to believe the former. > While virtual Chiapas is characterized by quite clear categories >of good and evil, the more complex reality on the ground features >a much larger cast of characters and even some groups that can be >more difficult to define and sort out. The Zapatista support networks grew out of a widespread reaction to what a great many people considered an unambiguous evil: the vicious and murderous repressive response of the state to a justified uprising of exploited people. Those networks grew and expanded and became denser as the policies of the Mexican state, with the backing of the US, settled down into a continuing, ever vicious and murderous counterinsurgency war against the communities in rebellion. When Hellman juxtaposes "clear categories of good and evil" to a "more complex reality" she is either being trite or she is attempting to cloud perceptions of the situation "on the ground" into a meaningless mix of ambiguities. In her preoccupation with being "more sensitive to complexities than thou" the life-and-death drama of the situation "on the gound" disappears from view. > In virtual Chiapas, the bad guys are the Zedillo regime, >President Ernesto Zedillo himself, his Minister of the Interior, >Francisco Labastida, his official negotiator, Emilio Rabasa, >(scion of an elite Chiapanecan family), the PRI (perhaps >disarticulated into branches: that is, "dinosaurs" and >"reformists"), the Mexican state, the Mexican armed forces, and >the U.S. military counter-insurgency forces, or at least the Drug >Enforcement Agency, acting in clandestine fashion as a counter- insurgency force. The good guys are understood to be the >Zapatistas, indigenous people, a broader category generally >referred to as peasants, plus their NGO supporters, and Bishop >Samuel and the Diocese. Hellman's looks at some of the solidarity network information and sees "bad guys" and "good guys." Can you imagine how ineffective that information would be if it were impossible to indentify "the bad guys"? Who would one address to protest the slaughter of innocents, the daily terror against thousands? Can you imagine why anyone would care, one way or the other, if there were no "good guys"? no innocents? no one in justified struggle? But even Hellman, earlier on in the article admitted that there are exploited people in Chiapas, there are victims of repression and those who struggle valiantly against that repression. So why attack efforts to to cut through the usual ambiguous news reports and try to clarify who's who in ways that mobilize people to take a position and intervene in a deadly situation? Hellman's own list of the "good" and the "bad" is pitifully short, and very recent (she forgot the "ugly"). Indeed her critique can only bite by keeping the list short and ignoring most of what has circulated in cyberspace. In reality, as she likes to say, the information and analyses that have circulated in networks have tracked, since early on in 1994 a vast panopoly of actors, as many as activists and researchers have been able to identify. From the Mexican government, for example, she lists only three people (how stupid those cyberspacial activists must be to only recognize only three). But any serious study of the archives of the Chiapas lists would reveal literally dozens of individuals in the government who have come, left their ugly mark, and gone. In part, the Zapatistas and Mexican journalists have done this for us, telling us the sordid histories of not only big people, like President Salinas who murdered his maid as a child, but ugly little people like del Valle and Orive, ex- Leftists come to Chiapas for vengence and power. She says "the Mexican armed forces" are one "bad guy" as if no one ever differentiated within or among the military forces. In so doing she displays an unfamiliarity with the work of people like NAP's Darrin Wood who have tracked down and identified much of the military command structure, often trained at the School of the Americas, who are responsible for so much of the suffering in Chiapas. Nor does she recognize the analyses that have been done of the differences between the officer corps and the grunts, often indigenous and peasant young people, who are used as the battering ram against their brothers and sisters. As for the "good guys," her, I have to say this, oversimplification, is just as striking. She says people only speak in terms of "the Zapatistas" when in fact those in the networks are familiar not only with Marcos, but also with Ramona, and David and Tacho and Anna-Maria and dozens more who voices have been reported and circulated through cyberspace. Those who have followed the flows, as opposed to those like Hellman who have only peeked in, know the difference between Marcos the spokesperson and the CCRI-GC of community leaders, between those who carry guns and those who support them (and that people move between these two domains). Hellman says people only speak in terms of "indigenous people" as if they were a homogeneous mass, when in fact people in the solidarity networks not only know of the ethnic and linguistic differences in peoples and communities but are all too familiar with the divisions in communities that include PRIista power structures and paramilitary bands. They know too of the rampant sexism in many indigenous communities and how that gave rise to an autonomous movement of women within the EZLN that formulated and demanded new "revolutionary rules" against gender discrimination. All of these things are familiar yet none of their familiarity is recognized by Hellman. It would undermine the whole thrust of her article to do so. > In reality, of course, there are more players and many >different interests at stake. A more complete analysis of the >situation requires us to consider the interests of the >Chiapanecan State as distinct from the Mexican State and national >strategic energy interests as distinquished from regional >economic and political power holders within Chiapas. For that >matter, we should think of both the PRI and the PRD in Chiapas as >having concerns that are far from identical with their national >affiliates. State vs local? "A more complete analysis"? Where was Hellman while those of us working in the solidarity networks were keeping track of the interplay between the struggles in Chiapas and the changes in local government and role of the national government in those changes, as governor after governor was removed and replaced in a comedic theatre of the absurd? Where was Hellman during the many posts that tracked the comedy at the state level, most recently of Albores' antics and stage productions? I don't know where she was, but she was obviously not following the flow of information on Chiapas-l, Chiapas95 or EZLN-it, etc! But that's ok, she has not been one of us. What is intolerable for a so-called "Leftist" writing in "Socialist" Review (I can not imagine anyone not considering themselves a "Leftist" writing for a journal of that name.) to stick her nose briefly into a terrain of struggle with which she is not familiar and proceed to lambast the simplicity of its militants' understanding on the basis of a superficial glance at what has been going on. >In addition to ethnic distinctions among indigenous people - an >aspect of the situation that does find its way into the >electronic version of events since the pluri-ethnic presence of >Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, and Tojolabal it is such a prominent >feature of all Zapatista gatherings - we need to factor in >important differences in land tenure that create different >interests among poor cultivators as in the conflicts among >ejidatarios, minifundistas and the landless that were discussed >above. > Well, "pluri-ethnicity" is soooo prominent, the dumbunnies had to let that bit of "complexity" into their simple-minded understanding! The business on land is redundant (and see above). >Moreover, a key group of people who receive only sporadic >attention abroad are those referred to in Chiapas itself as the >"army of the displaced," that is, indigenous people who are not >Zapatista supporters who have been dispersed as refugees from the >highlands to as far away as Tapachula on the coast. These >desplazados are Chiapanecans from the conflict zone who, in many >cases, voted not to take up arms when consulted by the EZLN in >late 1993, and who were subsequently expelled from their >communities or chose to leave the region for fear of getting >caught in the cross fire. Now numbering well over ten thousand, >the desplazados take centre stage in internet communications when >they become victims of violence at the hands of the Mexican army >or the paramilitary troops comprised of indigenous men armed by >the Mexican state. But the fact that many of the refugees from >the conflict zone also reject zapatismo does not figure >prominently in the internet accounts. And why would it figure prominently? The fact is that while there are wide assortment of "displaced persons" the ones that get in the news are the ones who get attacked, and those who get attacked are primarily pro-Zapatista refugees. Those driven from their communities by anti-Zapatista paramilitaries and other PRIistas have tended to stay together and re-form their communities under the dire circumstances of flight and refuge -in places like Polho. These are the groups that have been pursued, harassed and attacked by the police, military and paramiltaries. These are the groups that have appealed to human rights organizations for witnesses and who have thus been in the news. The large number of people who have been displaced under other circumstances and have often dispersed, not staying together in community groups, have found no voice, certainly no collective voice, whose messages might be circulated on in the solidarity networks. Those people do "not figure prominently' because they are not "prominent" in the political scene. Not because their voices are plentiful and ignored! > The internet does make constant generic reference to non- >governmental organizations as "civil society" and, indeed, a >great deal of electronic communication is, at some point, >filtered through NGOs. However the term, civil society, does not >seem adequate to capture the variety and diversity of >organizations on the ground where, in fact, more than 750 Mexican >and international NGOs are operating.(25) > The use of the term "civil society" had become virtually omnipresent in contemporary political discourse, across the entire political spectrum, from Left to Right. In the case of Chiapas, the term has become popular primarily due to its use by Marcos who frequently adresses his communique's to "Ms Civil Society." When one examines the diverse uses of this term, as has been done in several books, it is clearly highly ambiguous, its meaning changes from person to person. It is what a friend of mine calls an "amoeba word" constantly changing shape. In Zapatista discourse, however, and thus in the discourse of many in the pro-Zapatista solidarity networks, "civil society" refers to those at the grassroots who struggle against neoliberalism and capitalism more generally in any of its guises, economic, policial or social, e.g., against neoliberal privatization and austerity, against the party system of representative democracy. Moreover, Hellman here makes the same mistake as some others have of conflating "civil society" with NGOs (non-governmental organizations). The term, as I have pointed out elsewhere (and if Helman had done her homework and she would have read that discussion) not only fails "to capture" the variety and diversity of "organizations," it fails to capture the social currents that crystalize from time to time in the form of organizations. >For the most part, the NGOs appear on our screens as an >undifferentiated mass of progressive foreigners and Mexicans who >work more or less in concert to alleviate the pain of the >conflict in Chiapas, to stand by the oppressed, and to transmit >the truth about what is unfolding in this distant and isolated >place. While the internet version of events is largely >uncritical of both foreign and Mexican NGOs in operating in >Chiapas, this attitude is not always shared by the people on the >scene. Although those who principally relate to Chiapas on their >computers are understandably reluctant to criticize anyone who >has actually taken off for Mexico to participate in NGO >activities there, NGO activists and others at work in Chiapas are >not so reticent. It is very hard not to read this description of the treatment of NGOs "on our screens" as "an undifferentiated mass" as something other than mean-spirited misrepresentation. Anyone who follows the flow of news is well aware of the names and differences among a whole host of NGOs. Daily news summaries and synthesis, as well as special analyses and bulletins, have been forthcoming from the FZLN, from CIEPAC, from NAP, from Melel Xojobal, from Enlace Civil and so on, and these groups have identified themselves and differentiate their efforts from one another. No one who reads the postings to Chiapas-L or Chiapas95 regularly would see these as a "undifferentiated mass". The same is true with the human rights centers and organizations that regularly post urgent alerts or reports on the situation in Chiapas and elsewhere in Mexico. As for criticizing the work of these groups, well while in general it is probably accurate to say that people are grateful for their work, in numerous instances they have been criticized not only for actions but for more general behavior. Any detailed study of the archives of Chiapas-L, the main Chiapas discussion list, would reveal this. > Interviews I conducted in 1998 among a wide range of NGO >workers indicated that a great many of these people do not like, >trust, or respect one another and, as a consequence, are not able >to collaborate. Many of the Mexican NGO people are former >government employees who were downsized when the State was >"streamlined," and some of them have brought to their NGO work >the attitudes that informed their relations with poor people when >they were part of the state - a tendency for which they are >roundly criticized by other NGO workers. Competition for >international attention among a very limited universe of donors, >turf wars, as well as profound philosophical differences plague >the relations between and among NGO workers. One of the problems with the concept of "civil society" and with the conflation of "civil society" with NGOs is that it results in a regrouping of such a diverse organizations that almost everything obtains. Not only does this loose use of "NGOs" allow some one like Hellman to point to well-known differences between private NGOs and what are called "GONGOs" (governmental non- governmental organizations) but the term can include (as is done by the WTO and its ilk) out-and-out business organizations and business derivatives like the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations within the same set! Given this diversity, the kinds of conflicts Hellman mentions only scratch the surface of the kind of politics involved among these organizations. None of this is new, or ignored. >For example, Bishop Samuel and the Diocese -- so widely admired >abroad for their courage by progressive people in general and >progressive Catholics in particular -- evoke a very different >response among NGO women working in Chiapas on women's problems. >Many such activists note an ironic similarity between the >courageous political stances taken by both Bishop Samuel and Pope >John Paul II in contrast with the two leaders' conservative >social positions on contraception and abortion and indeed even on >women's rights. >Moreover, some NGO workers expressed resentment at the pressure >they experience to "filter" their work, as they put it, through >the Diocese, and the most important Mexican human rights >organization in Chiapas, the Fray Bartolome' de las Casas Centre, >which was founded by Bishop Samuel, but operated as a secular, >autonomous organization, was taken over by the Diocese after the >1994 uprising. Not only have these differences between feminists and the church been repeatedly discussed, essays have been written and circulated that have examined them. If Hellman had even examined carefully the webpages (other than the archives) that she only perused she would have found things like the book Chiapas, y las mujeres que? (Chiapas, and the women?), a collection of writings about women in Chiapas that quite explicitly addresses this "complexity" as well as others, a book whose translation from Spanish into English was carried out by a coordinated team of translators from throughout the solidary networks in cyberspace. That is the kind of "evidence" that there is really no excuse for Hellman to have ignored. > Relations between the Zapatistas and the Church, as well as >between Marcos and Bishop Samuel have had their ups and downs, to >say the least, and local organizations in place and struggling >for peasants' rights since the 1970s have been denounced by >Marcos as "tercerista" ["third way-ers"] when their adhesion to >the EZLN's appeals seemed insufficiently enthusiastic. Does Hellman truly think that those of us working in the solidarity networks are unaware of these differences? Given that one of the things repeatedly debunked has been the government and coleto efforts to conflat the "Red Bishop" and the Zapatistas as being one in the same? Given that Marcos, and Ruiz, for that matter, have repeatedly been quite open about their differences? As for Hellman's treatment of Marcos as some kind of sectarian who denounces even slight deviations from the EZLN party-line, well, not only does she give no evidence of this, but she also doesn't even treat the very real differences that have existed and been discussed, say between the ARIC-official and the ARIC- Independent. Some of this has been discussed in the books Hellman cites so we must assume she is aware of them. Why doesn't she discuss concrete cases? In the "complex" terrain she wants us to recognize can there be any surprise that the EZLN differs from some other groups? As she took pains to point out at the beginning, there have been several in the history from which the Zapatistas emerged. Why, all of a sudden, are they being portrayed as intolerant bastards because they have differences? >As one long-time peasant leader said to me in an interview, > > Marcos is always talking about 'civil society,' but who >does he think we are? He dismisses us as compromised by the >relations we have had with the state [agencies] to get the things >that peasants need. He appeals over the head of people here to >civil society in the rest of Mexico and abroad, as if people >farther away from Chiapas have not made their own compromises! Who is this peasant leader? From what group does he come? Hellman has already told us that there are not only pro-government "NGOs" but pro-government peasant organizations (as we all know). How are we to judge this testimony if we don't understand the context? As for the comments themselves, well, they seem to refer to the differences that exist within and amongst communities over accepting aid from government agencies. Some communities have accepted and some have refused. The pro- Zapatista communities have often refused because of the conditions and ties that have been attached to such aid. I wonder if Hellman would brand as intolerant those who have condemned others for accepting American foreign aid which has often come with strings attached to let the US get its hooks into not just communities but whole countries. As for the complaint that Marcos, and the EZLN, appeal "over the heads" of the people in Chiapas to the rest of Mexico and abroad, what does that mean? If it means that they do so without the sanction of the entire population of Chiapas, well, surprise, surprise, how could anyone expect anything else? If if means Marcos has no basis in community support to do so, well, Hellman has already admitted that that is not so. So where's the beef? As for people elsewhere in Mexico having "made their own compromises", what of it? Let's face it, the quote is neither edifying nor does it serve the purpose Hellman would like it to serve -unless that purpose is just to demonstrate that there are peasants who disagree with Marcos. In which case, gee whiz, what else is new? > In short the "civil society" that so many Chiapas >solidarity activists see as the focus of their own hopes for >solutions to the problems in Chiapas and more broadly in Mexico, >turns out to be a more ideologically diverse and conflictive >space than it might seem in the messages that circulate on the >EZLN websites and e-mail lists. When the array of actors and >interests are examined close at hand, we find, not surprisingly, >that there is a very large number of agendas both secular and >religious, as well as radical, reformist, and conservative, that >are being pursued in Chiapas today. Pure redundancy. In short what we see is that Hellman has given us an oversimplified picture of the complexities that she claims others have ignored and she herself has ignored much that is familiar to those she would critique. ............. end of part 2 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 email@example.com. 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.