by Crow Qu’appelle – March 13th, 2022
Today, March 13th, 2022, the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (also known as the EZLN) converged on the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, to declare their opposition to both the Russian invasion of Ukraine and NATO imperialism.
THE LARGEST ZAPATISTA MARCH IN YEARS
This was the largest mass mobilization of the EZLN in almost ten years. The mayority of Zapatistas live in rural villages in Chiapas, the Southernmost state of Mexico. As the Zapatistas are dispersed across a vast territory, mass mobilizations are logistically complicated and therefore do not happen frequently.
My friend and I woke up early and made our way to the highway to witness the arrival of the Zapatista caravan. In this video, journalist Ivan Molina explains the historic significance of today’s events.
THE EZLN DOES NOT SUPPORT ANY STATE
On this occasion, the gathering was precipitated by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. Although it is always difficult to estimate the number of people in a crowd, our best guess is that between 2000 and 3000 people participated in the protest.
This demonstration follows the EZLN’S March 2nd communiqué, entitled “There will be no scenery after the battle,” which forcefully expresses the group’s opposition to both the Russian invasion and the imperialism of the U.S.-led NATO alliance, stating:
“As Zapatistas, we do not support one state or another, but those who fight for life against the system.”
NEITHER RUSSIA NOR NATO
The statement rejects the notion that opposing the invasion of Ukraine implies sympathy with the Putin regime, pointing out that during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq “No one in their right mind thought that opposing the invasion was siding with Saddam Hussein.”
As Raul Zibechi recently wrote on the Chiapas Support Committe blog, the EZLN rejects the notion that those opposed to U.S. imperialism should reflexively support Russia in this conflict.
“Unlike a good part of the Latin American left… the EZLN condemns the invasion, rejects Putin, big capital on “both sides” and places itself on the side of the peoples of Russia and Ukraine who resist the system. What’s most important about the first point in the communiqué is that it doesn’t take sides with any State, something that is customary in Zapatismo, but always with those from below.”
ANTI-IMPERIALISM SHOULD NOT MAKE US APOLOGISTS FOR RUSSIAN AGGRESSION
Zibechi goes on to explain why this is of particular importance in Latin America:
“In our region there are many who support Russia quietly, with two arguments that they don’t dare to debate: they believe that there is a certain parallelism between today’s Russia and what used to be the Soviet Union and, on the other hand, they hold the strange idea of supporting everything that is opposed to US imperialism.”
In their statement, the EZLN also revealed that they are in contact with libertarian comrades in both the Ukraine and Russia, and have sent monetary aid to elements in those countries resisting the tyranny of their respective governments.
Of course, the Western propaganda machine is casting Putin as a demon from hell. This narrative ignores the fact that NATO has long meddled in Ukrainian politics. To cast NATO as a benevolent actor genuinely concerned with the welfare of the Ukrainian people would be disingenuous at best and straight-up mendacious at worst. For more on the historical background of the region, please check out Iain Davis’s recent deep dive. “Ukraine War – What is it Good For?” by Iain Davis.
Interestingly, the EZLN statement also addresses Putin’s claim that the Russian army’s intention is to “de-nazify” the Ukraine. While it is certainly troubling to see images of neo-nazi militias, we should be aware that such images will also be instrumentalized by Russian propaganda to justify the subjugation of the people of Ukraine. We should be aware that the spectre of the Neo-Nazi bad guy will likely be used by the Putin regime in a similar way to how the boogeyman of the “radical Muslim terrorist” was used to justify all kinds of atrocities during the War on Terror.
We should also keep in mind that NATO has a long history of arming and training far-right militias throughout Europe. If you want to educate yourself about this history, you can check out our recently published piece “The Sordid History of NATO-Sponsored Terrorism” or watch the following video, made by Nevermore contributor Iain Davis.”
NO TO CAPITALIST WARS!
The position of the EZLN is clear: that both Russia and the members of NATO are capitalist countries who intend to profit from war while the people on both sides of the conflict are victimized. Their communique calls for solidarity, both symbol and material, to those in both Ukraine and Russia who are fighting for their freedom, stating:
“Our duty is to support them to the best of our ability. A word, an image, a tune, a dance, a fist that rises, a hug – even from distant geographies – are also a support that will animate their hearts. To resist is to persist and to prevail. Let us support these likenesses in their resistance, that is, in their struggle for life. We owe them and we owe it to ourselves.”