Of bombs, firefighters and light bulbs

["bombas, bomberos y bombillas"]

Presentation from the EZLN to the Civil Society - EZLN encuentro


1. - The Economy, the Tragedy

"They are no longer words, but realities: the land tosses about convulsively, and from the depths of its bowels the thunder erupts; the lightning zig-zags across the sky; a hurricane raises up storms of dust; all the winds blow furiously in fierce combat, and the sky and the sea become one in their struggle; look what a storm Zeus has provoked in order to frighten me!"
Prometheus Unbound
Aeschylus. The Seven Tragedies.

The Bombs

In war, concepts and realities exist which reflect, and find a mirror in, the politics and economy of a society. As in war the objective is the destruction of the opponent, science and technology work in the production of machines of destruction: from bayonets to intercontinental missiles, to grenades, machine guns, armored vehicles, airplanes, warships, electronic surveillance systems, etcetera, the production of destructive machinery incorporates ever more sophisticated advances. Military theory gives these machines of destruction the pretentious name of "military devices".

North American army manuals say the military devices should carry out their destructive mission in accordance with the terrain where they are being used. And they pride themselves in having found a bomb suitable for irregular terrain, with hills and hollows, which allows for the existence of "blind spots", that is, those which are not reached by the destructive effect of "ordinary" bombs. The bomb in question is not made to explode on touching land, or in the air at a predetermined altitude, and to destroy a specific area. This bomb falls, explodes, destroys and launches other bombs which, in their turn, fall, explode, destroy and launch other bombs, and so, successively, until the "cargo" is used up. The effect is described as being like that of "a bomb which ricochets". Its destructive effect is truly terrible, and it is more extensive and intense that that of "normal" bombs.

In the manuals of the neoliberal economic policy, and in the catastrophes which it produces in reality in the countries, one can find the equivalent of the "bomb which ricochets", the financial bomb.

The common and ordinary man and woman, that is, all of those who do not appear in the "FORBES" lists, are the most frequent victims of these "financial bombs".

Thanks to economic globalization, the finanacial problems in Russia or in Southeast Asia "ricochet" in a matter of seconds (advantages of the information superhighway) and destroy economies in Europe and Latin America. Through the work and by grace of modernity, if they have toothaches in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, they are in agony in Brazil and the Mexican economy requires emergency surgery.

Over the last few weeks, and in the midst of a profound economic barrage, millions of Mexican men and women have received an intensive course in neoliberal economy, and it has been explained to us that the increases in the cost of gasoline and taxes, the price increases, the lowering of our salaries, the closing of businesses, the loss of jobs, the devaluation of the peso to the dollar, the reduction in the quality and quantity of public services in health, education, housing, communication, food and security, are not due to the fragility of the Mexican economy, but rather to the Russian one!

We have also been conveniently tranquilized by that seasoned, intelligent and comical leader of our country: Mr. Zedillo has told us that we have nothing to worry about, because he is going to "shield" our economy, in order to resist "external" crises.

The problem is that the members of the economic cabinet think that "shielding" is what the ostrich does in order to hide itself, and now they are proposing that the Congress of the Union approve the "heroic" plan of income and expenditures for 1999, which consists, in summarizes of accounts and stories, in the majority of Mexicans, that is, the poorest, "shielding" the richest, that is, the minority of Mexicans (the government included), with their bodies.

He who promoted the "wellbeing of the family" now scolds and warns us, in a severe tone, that the next two years will be ones of austerity, which is the name the government uses for poverty.

What neither Zedillo, nor Gurria, nor the sweaty Ortiz tell us, is that more "bombs which ricochet" are coming. And that their austerity program will be as effective against international crises as an umbrella would be to protect oneself from the fury of "Mitch". And they do not tell us that because up there the calendar already reads the year 2000.

But the problem is not financial, that is, not just financial. It is a problem of the economic model, of a form of production and appropriation of wealth.

This model is what is called the neoliberal, and it began to be introduced into our country from the time of the government of Miguel de la Madrid, it reached its drunken heights with Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and it is in the middle of a hangover with Ernesto Zedillo. "Beginning in 1983, the neoliberal economic stance - held by orthodox ideology, which attributes "the economic woes" to the State - turned towards restoring the role of the market as the almost exclusive mechanism for the optimal allocation of resources, for maximizing production and employment, for automatically correcting possible economic adjustments and for guaranteeing productive insertion and economic development, transferring to private agents and to the markets, in a gradual but sustained manner, the economic functions previously assigned to the State
(Jose Luis Clava, "Tres lustros del nioliberalismo economico." El Universal, 13.X98)

De la Madrid-Salinas-Zedillo, all of them promised economic bonanzas, all of them have provided catastrophes.

If we observe our economy's performance over the last 15 years, we see that the drop in national economic indicators is continuous.

It is as if the clock of the Mexican economy is running backwards, and each new administration strives to surpass his predecessor in backwardness and atrophy.

"(...) The gross national product by inhabitants grew at an average annual rate of 3.1% between 1934 and 1982, the per capita fixed investment expanded at an average annual rate of 5.4% between 1940 and 1982, and the buying power of minimums salaries grew 54% between 1934 and 1982. Under the neoliberal model, based on the unilateral and abrupt commercial opening and on the reduction of the participation of the state in economic development - the per capita GNP contracted to an average annual rate of 0.4%; per capita fixed gross investment decreased to an average rate of one percent annually; and minimum salaries lost 66.4% of their buying power, that is, they deteriorated by a third of what they had been in 1982."
(Ibid).

Since Zedillo's gang reached the height of political power, the bombarded Mexican public has not had even one truce: The "errors of December" of 1994 cast their shadows over 1995, 1996 and 1997. In 1998, th error acquired new names: "vodka effect" and "dragon effect."

Nothing is better, everything is worse than it was the year before. The "today" which the govenrment and the media offer pretends to be "recoveries". "the market dropped in respect to the last few weeks", "the peso recovered facing the dollar", say announcers turned economists.

But, on the tables of millions of Mexican homes, there are constantly fewer things and of worse quality, unemployment is a reality in the present or to come, prices easily surpass salaries, more and more small and medium businesses fail, disappear or are absorbed.

In response to this, in the ostrich farm which is the economic cabinet, a rescue plan was formed. But not to rescue the poorest, the poor, those not so poor, or those more or less.

No, the plan was to save the rich!

"FOBAPROA" this plan is now called, but do not lose sight of it, because it could change its name, but not its objective. In order to rescue the rich, and to "shield" them from the "external" crisis, the supreme one proposes that all Mexican men and women, their children, and their descendants to come, pay FOBAPROA.

But this is just the appetizer of a nightmare in action and destruction. The entire economic model is operating to uindermine the naitonal economy. While Zedillo does us the favor of putting an external shield on the country, inside the bombs continue to fly and to destroy, the bombs with the names: FOBAPROA, Proposal for a Law for Income and Expenditures of the Federation, increases in gasoline prices which ricochet to increases in the prices of basic products, taxes which explode and ricochet in the prices of everything, small and medium businesses, bankrupt and sold at wholesale prices. The problem is not external, foreign capital is now embedded within the national economy. International financial capital is the true regulator of economic policies and national policies.

Wealth continues to be produced in Mexico, but it is going abroad, among other methods, through the payment of debt service, the payment of royalties and the payment of interest to foreign investors in the stock market. In this, speculative capital governs, which goes to the house of easy, fast money, seeking the best performance, and not the greatest production.

In addition, the opening of the national market to foreign investment has destroyed the national productive program. Small and medium national businesses are about to disappear, and only the largest industries have been able to resist, although with constantly fewer resources and energy. The result: greater unemployment, underemployment and the apogee of the "informal" economy.

As this economic model continues to move ahead, nothing which can be called the "Mexican economy" will be left standing. Not the indigenous, nor the workers, nor the campesinos, nor the employed, nor the teachers, nor the businesspersons, will be able to have any expectations of improvement. New "bombs" are ready to go off, and one of them could be decisive: the Multilateral Investment Accord (AMI), which the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCDE) is preparing.

This AMI is an international accord which will give foreign investors total rights for penetrating all the economic sectors of nations, to bring in andto take out economic funds and to receive better treatment than the national businesses. The AMI will give foreign investors the right to establish businesses and to possess one hundred percent of the activities, without making any commitment to the national economy in which they are investing.

What can the national businesses do in the face of the financial, industrial and commercial giants, without an economic policy which protects the Mexican investor? How many unemployed will it bring? What strategic sectors of national sovereignty will pass into foreign hands? What culture could survive this offensive?

Let no one be deceived. If this economic model continues, the Mexican nation could soon present a panorama similar to that of Hiroshima on August 7, 1945.

How long will this war of destruction last? What will be left standing after it ends? The uncertainties are exceeded by the dizzying reality. A new economic surprise awaits us every day, pulled out of the hat of the sorcerer's apprentice who says he serves in Los Pinos. Note the surprises yet to come: the complete privatization of Mexican Petroleum, of the Federal Electricity Commission, of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, the transmutation of the peso into the dollar, the reduction of social spending to the point of the infinitesimal.

The social and "political costs", which do not seem to matter to Zedillo either, will be very much higher. Not just the PRI, and their permanent or short-term allies, will have to pay the costs, the discontent will unite traditionally opposed sectors, crime will continue to grow, unemployment and desperation will be the promise and the reality for millions of young people. In short, what is coming is a fire in the lands of...

II. Politics, comedy

"Governing the people, then, is not for well trained men, nor for those of good habits...It requires someone ignorant, someone wicked! Therefore do not spurn what the gods provide in their oracles."
The Gentlemen
Aristophanes. "The Eleven Comedies"

The Firefighters

The technocrats, that cybernetic species, a mixture of human mediocrity, mathematical wisdom and political stupidity, are now in political power. And they plan to remain there until their work is complete. With neoliberalism as weapon and shield, they perform their duty in the great and holy crusade of economic globalization.

However, the neoliberal model encounters problems and resistance in their activities. One of those problems is made up of the old political and legal structures. Their resistance to "modernizing" themselves, that is, to adapting themselves to the neoliberal model, is explained by the fact that this modernization implies the disappearance of an entire political class and of an entire class of political relationships. The old politicians resist disappearing, and therefore they struggle against the new politicians. The changes in the "rules" of political relations clash with the old relations, crossing signals and readings.

The results? A political crisis without precedent, a crisis of the State.

But the crisis of the current State is not just the crisis of the political class which governs, it also encompasses all the political and social actors, that is, the entire Mexican nation. Social and political organizations from the entire ideological spectrum, political parties, non-governmental organizations, churches, armies, media, governments, security agencies, business groups, unions, all are being shaken by a crisis of varying intensity.

The consequences remain to be seen, but it must be pointed out that a good part of this crisis is owing to the emergence of civil society. The non-organized individual is now more active, and more critical, of what is going on everyday. Everything which should be accepted and silently obeyed is now put into question, analyzed, scrutinized and sanctioned by the "people". No "political", that is, public, actor, can any longer avoid being questioned, judged, by the "people".

The "people" factor does not exist in modern political science, and it is not taken into account by any serious and respected political scientist. But, since we are neither political scientists, nor serious, nor respected, we do take the people into account. But we will speak of that on another occasion.

As for the crisis of the Mexican political class, we say the following: the neoliberal model demands the appearance of a new political class, or of a reconstructed old political class. It is now not about governing a country, but rather about administering its destruction. And to administer, neither creed nor color matters, only the results.

Globalization is quite tolerant in political terms. Financial capital is not concerned with the political-ideological sign which heads the government of a Nation. What is important to it is that that government not oppose the economic model. Consequently, the doors of political power are beginning to open all over the world to all the political positions, as a result of globalization. Economic power, the power par excellence, now allows political power to be fought over by more forces, even by those who had been previously banned from that terrain.

But, while the political classes renew themselves, neoliberalism continues straight ahead in its operation of destruction/reconstruction of nations, handing out financial bombs as if they were candy on Halloween, and provoking regional social fires which would have embarassed Nero.

In the Europe of the "euro", the so-called "third way" offers new makeup to conceal the globalized blood and mire. Neoliberalism "with a human face" assumes, in social democracy, a new political administration of the economic cruelty. The rebound reaches to Latin America and to Mexico. The political center is converted into the obscure object of desire of political forces who go from one extreme to the other. And it is here where the political class, the Mexican in particular, produces and offers their FIREFIGHTERS.

>From all the political currents, of the right, center and left, appear firefighters, willing to put out the predictable fire of popular discontent. But the economic programs are blurred in their political platforms, or they are an outright carbon copy of the one being carried forward by the technocrats.

The replacement of the technocrats seems desirable and possible, but one must ingratiate onself with he who has the real Power, and offer him guarantees that no far-reaching change will arise from the fundamental.

In order to prepare this replacement, the Mexican political class has decided to set the calendar ahead, and to decree that the year 2000 is already here. Not only that, they are also trying to have all of us running behind them, at a rhythm that is not ours, that does not follow our logic, that we do not understand, that they impose on us. This frenetic adoration for the political calendar is renewed by the recurring apparition of candidates and pre-candidates to the already vacant presidential chair.

But you can give up hope if you think that an alternative economic program will come from them, which would avoid the morning of destruction promised by neoliberalism. If economic issues are touched on by the political class it is only to point out certain "excesses", which - of course! - the candidate will know how to avoid if he reaches power.

The political firefighters do not have it easy. In addition to the resistance by the old political class to see themselves displaced - which can reach bloody heights, as the assassinations of Coloso and Ruiz Massieu demonstrated - , the neopoliticians confront the skepticism of the people and a voracious globalization, which is digesting its national bites even before taking them between its paws. But this does not intimidate the country's "saviors". The dinosaurs and technocrats debate with each other in the middle of the mire and the blood of a dying political system, and globalization seems willing and ready to change its ideological face and its political sign. Above everything, it is about gaining power, not mattering to them whether it be through men of State with neither the vocation nor the size. Modern politics allows ample space for the ignorant and wicked, they are neither persecuted nor set to one side, they are elected leaders and awarded the fate of nations.

Experts in improvisation, ignorance, pathos and imbecility, the technocrats have demonstrated that anyone can "govern", and they have left the country ready for the neoliberal requiem, or to be "rescued" with publicity spots. In the Mexico of today there are ample willing firefighters, there are even those with cowboy boots.

But it is not firefighters which this country needs, among other reasons, because they are trying to put out the fire with gasoline, but also because the national fire requires more audacious measures than those of trying to contain a social outbreak or of "sharpening the neoliberal blades".

The solution (if there is one) will not be up there on the top floor, where the Mexican political class has their laboratories of alchemy. No, the solution is further down. There, where some small twinkling lights can be seen, there, where lives...

III. Civil Society, the Prophecy

"This is the way in which the work is perfected, when it is executed after thinking and meditating on its happy end."
Popul Vuh

The Lights

The neoliberal model does not find resistance only in the old political classes. Struggles are being born and growing, by ever more varied and numerous social classes than before. If yesterday the "old" Mexican political system offered capital lower salaries and "social peace", now the latter is shattered. The zapatista indigenous uprising, the appearance of the EPR and, subsequently, the ERPI, a workers' movement in resistance and fighting against the reforms of Article 123, a civil society struggling for a citizens democracy, artists and intellectuals touched by the crisis in all senses, dissident and rebellious young people, non-submissive women, pensioners and retired persons raising the right to dignity, homosexuals and lesbians leaving the closets and invading all social arenas, independent opposition political organizations ever more oppositional and independent, social organizations who do not postpone the entire "triumph", but which are now going about constructing their alternative of society, all these and others who are dissenting, and organizing their dissension from the economic model from which we are suffering.

Like tiny lights in the social tree, here and there they light up struggles, experiences and histories, which perhaps only manage to illuminate local terrains, but, all together, cause hope to shine for the possibility of another country, which is necessary and essential.

These lights, scattered, intermittent, even faint, are beginning to proliferate all over society. Of diverse colors, under varying forms, with different flags, the social and citizens movements are beginning to push for the emergence of another way of making politics. They know themselves to be mirrors of each other, and the twinkles nurture each other among themselves. There an indigenous assembly emerges, over there, a union meeting, on the other side, a citizens' meeting, on this side, a neighborhood organization, suddenly, from every side, rose-coloured shoelaces are appearing, everywhere, and with an inevitable perseverance, young people and women rise up, and rise up again.

What energy nurtures these lights? With what strength are they trying to defy the monopoly of the dull green dollar and challenge it with what appears to be a rainbow? Why are they striving to illuminate the dark basements and labyrinths of this country? Why do they not dazzle with the abundant mercantile light of the Mexican political class' great runways? Why are they applauding each other? Why are they shouting 'viva's' and supports? Have they forgotten that they are losers? Did they remember that they can cease to be that? How can they smile in the midst of such pain and anguish? Why are there so many arms outstretched to protect and to embrace that dark, irreverent and unfashionable blood?

Up there they ask these and other questions. They do not have answers. They do not want them. They believe they do not need them.

Rather than discovering the complex source which gives energy to this multiple light, the political class disregards the existence of such a faint and scattered luminosity for now, and dedicat themselves to arranging wardrobes, sharpening daggers, oiling 38 caliber "Taurus" pistols and tuning voices. The time will come for remembering that the people exist, and of turning to them in order to buy votes. But the contempt with which they are treated by those from above seems to matter little to these rebel lights, and they seek and seek each other among histories of yesterday and today. And they find each other.

Within that unknown game of lights and mirrors of the Mexico from below, they are drawing up proposals and committing their lives for something better than everything. There, among all of them, a small light, resembling a five-pointed red star, makes and proposes seasons and intensities.

So says that which is called neo-zapatismo.

1. The political times and winds which mark and drive the possibility of another, more just, more free and more democratic Mexico, that is, a better one, are not created in, nor do they walk the corridors of, those from above. Neither the calendars nor the winds of power are ours.

2. Our nearby wind blows the struggle against the neoliberal economic model, for the transition to democracy and for the settling of the overdue accounts with the nation's history.

3. Our hour speaks of the time of the struggle against the neoliberal economic model. Not only because its essence is unjust, but also, and above all else, because its objective is the destruction of Mexico as a sovereign and independent Nation. The struggle against neoliberalism is a question of survival for the country.

4. Our wind pushes the boat of the struggles for direct democracy and for representative democracy. The fundamental problem is not who will be the presidential candidate in the year 2000, but rather how to do away with presidencialismo, and with everything which, taken as a whole, is called the State party system. The direct participation by the governed in those issues which concern them (that is, in all of them), and obligating the elected representatives to "govern obeying", are path and season in the transition to democracy.

5. Our calendar marks the time of recognizing that we are made differently, and that the different have rights. One of those is the right to be next to others without having to cease to be different. The rights of the Indian peoples should be recognized not only because it is fair to do so, but also because nothing will be complete if one part is forgotten.

6. A new way of doing politics is necessary. That which incorporates more and more actors, who recognize their difference and their weight, and who know how to incorporate those differences and that weight, in order to make a common history, which is nothing other than a Nation. Asking everyone, consulting them on what is to be done, on how it is to be done, on when it is to be done, and for what it is to be done, is an important part of this new political work. Speaking and having the weight of their word heard is the challenge for Mexican civil society. To construct the mechanism to make themselves heard, and the balance in which to have their weight valued, is to build the spotlight which will concentrate the light which is now scattered, and which will direct it towards where it should be directed, that is, to the morning.

7. From above, only wars and catastrophes will come. From below, the peace with democracy, liberty, justice and dignity will be born, and that is how we name the world which we all want.

>From the mountains of the Mexican southeast
By the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee
- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Comandante Tacho
Comandante Zebedeo
Comandante David

Mexico, November of 1998


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