Chapter Ten – Postmodern, Postcolonial Revolution

Zapatistas Takeaways


  • The Zapatistas call on diverse groups of people from across the world to build a world where many worlds fit, including those who identify with diverse sexual orientations. Zapatistas call on those “to the left and from below,” a broad coalition of peasants, LGBTQIA, small business owners, the indigenous, and many others who suffer under bad governments. They would not exclude tree lovers (Anzaldúa).
  • The Zapatistas engage in non-binary thinking when they practice “govern by obeying,” and “walking questioning.” This way of thinking is different from Vanguardism, that opposes proletariat ideology versus bourgeois ideology (binary and dialectic).
  • Zapatistas support indigenous women within the Zapatista communities (Women Revolutionary Law). The women were oppressed by patriarchal structures imposed by the colonizer on the Mayan communities. The Zapatistas supported to become autonomous within their own communities.
  • The Zapatistas ran their last electoral campaign with an indigenous woman as their candidate. They affirm their feminisms as a way to engage in a struggle to end class (in the Marxist sense, see Important Marxian Concepts), imperialism (as describe by the Che Guevara in Create One, Two, Three, Many Vietnams), and colonization.
  • Govern Obeying An example of govern obeying, one of the rules of the Zapatista political philosophy of governance is that of the process that led to the creation and approval of the Women Revolutionary Law. Although initially not everybody agreed on the need to produce changes to the way women were allowed to live their lives, the leadership introduced the idea of women’s rights, and worked with the women to gain acceptance for that idea. That is the leadership part of the equation of govern obeying. There is a need for governance which the leaders take on, but not by imposing women’s rights on the communities but rather by working things out with the women so that the women are empowered to work on that change themselves. They support the women against oppressive patriarchal practices. In this way, they exert governance by obeying the empowered women. In contrast, Guevara’s vanguard knew what was best for the working class of Cuba and imposed that knowledge and the practices that derived from those knowledges through a dictatorship of the proletariat.
  • Zapatista subjectivity.The Zapatistas’s subjectivity is not built around national pride for being Mexican. Instead, they uphold a complex subjectivity as they are Mayan descents (14 different ethnicities) that organize autonomously from the Mexican state. In fact, they have created their own territories within one of the biggest states of Mexico, Chiapas.  They created this territory because they are conscious that the Mexican state has abandoned them. Their subjectivities are built around being indigenous of different backgrounds, and around the influence that they have experienced from a specific branch of the Catholic Church, and from the intellectuals, artists, and activists from around the world who support their communities and interact with them. These transformations were made possible by the encounter of indigenous people with organizers who had educated themselves in Marxism, Anarchism, Autonomism, and other radical theories and practices for social change. It is from this complex, global and local interaction that the Zapatistas have built their autonomous subjectivities.


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