Thursday, June 30, 2005


I was wrong about the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas. When the EZNL first made it into the headlines back in 1994, I though, "Oh no! another Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group." The worst thing that could happen to the liberation movement I felt, would be the re-birth of Leninist ideology in Latin America. Such a rebirth would spur imitators in the First World and any hope for a re-implantation of libertarian socialism would be if not over, at least made very difficult.

I am so pleased that I was wrong about the Zapatistas and they turned out not to be Leninists after all. No matter what the original intentions of the small group of Maoists who entered Chiapas in the early 1980's, the movement they helped create went in another direction. And they went with it - truly "learning from the people." Rather than Leninism, they turned to the peasant anarcho-populism of Emiliano Zapata, which never really died out.

Rather than allying with Leninists, the Zapatistas have close relations with the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists. Rather giving rise to centralized authoritarian groups they have , by their existence, spurred the creation of mass social movements, one of which , The Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca - Ricardo Flores Magón is a member of the international anarchist network, International Libertarian Solidarity

Discussing this development with an old friend at the recent Montreal Anarchist Book Fair, he said that it would be unlikely for indigenous people, given their culture and social organization, to be attracted to an authoritarian political movement. I think this has a lot to do with it.

I was also wrong about the end of "traditional" anarcho-syndicalist unions. After an initial burst of enthusiasm in the late-1970's - early '80's, unions like the CNT of Spain, French CNT and IWW lost members or split into hostile factions. I felt that these unions were finished as important instruments of working class struggle and that the essential ideas - self-management, local control, direct democracy and delegation - would arise elsewhere in new forms. This was already happening with the COBAs or base-committee organizations which developed in Italy and spread to France and Spain.

But out of the broken pieces of the old movement a new and revitalized syndicalism arose. The Spanish CGT now represents a million workers, the French CNT went from 100 members to 5000, the Italian syndicalists are gaining new members, the IWW has doubled its membership and is organizing once more. Anarcho-syndicalist groups are now found in virtually every European and Latin American country. And in Europe they work happily side by side with the COBAs.

May I continue to be wrong when I am pessimistic.

For more information see: Alternative Union Movement


Blogger Gazetteer said...


Thanks again Larry, my education is continuing....

This is a naive, straight-up question...have you already commented on the factory take backs in Argentina and elsewhere that were the subject of Klein and Lewis' 'The Take'?

7:53 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I haven't commented on them on this blog, but of course support them 100%. The Argentine occupations were the sort of thing I more or less expected. The trad anarcho-syndicalist movement was weak, due to years of repression and cooption by the Peronists, but the ideas were still there. Thus, Argentine workers seized the factories, a basic syndicalist concept, but without many ideological syndicalists. I would suggest that the lack of a large syndicalist movement is now causing problems with the occupation movement as the various parties of the left seek to use it as an area for recruitment. A strong syndicalist movement, say like that of the Spanish CGT, would tend to keep these parasites at bay.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Gazetteer said...

thanks - again.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Pat Murtagh said...

Surprises happen, and "unsurprises" happen as well. I doubt that the EZLN would ever "do a Castro" because the world environment is totally different today. As the American Empire unravels because of overextension, however, I could easily see the Zapatistas realligning themselves with a Latin American social democratic current. Venezuela can provide a lot more actual help than ILS can.
All that being said the whole matter is far out of the range of anything that anarchists can influence. One can only hope that the EZLN continues on their present line.
Even Maoists can change their minds, witness Gilles Duceppe.

1:17 PM  

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