EZLN Letter to National Civic Alliance on great national consultation

Mexico, June 20,1995

To : National Civic Alliance
National Coordination
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
CCRI-CG of the EZLN.
Mountains of the Mexican Southeast

Brothers and Sisters:

Through this letter I write to you to acknowledge receipt of your letters dated June 8 and 9, 1995 (signed by Martha Perez B., executive secretary of National Civic Alliance).

Due to an internal agreement of the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the EZLN, I have been ordered to be in charge of the communications with the national and international civic society, with social and political organizations, and with non-governmental organizations. For this reason the delegated companeros to the dialogue in San Andres Sacamach'en de Los Pobres did not respond immediately to your letters. They have been commissioned to do the initial dialogue with the supreme government, and I have the same with the dialogue with civic organizations. The former explanation is worth the excuse for not having responded, with the appropriate urgency, to your words. Now, with some delay (product of the distance and the climate typical of the jungle), I write you this with the goal of responding to all the points that you signal and some others that may not have been defined in our communique of June 7, 1995, where we called for a great national consultation.

First, I would refer to your June 8, 1995, press communique, where you express your disposition to share methodology and experience for the consultation which we proposed. You point out that it is necessary to specify the invitation and you give two clear arguments: a) the organization and the management of the consultation should be through impartial entities which give guarantee of credibility, b) the questions should be clear on their own and between themselves (meaning, that there should not exist confusion between one and another question).

You point out, also, that the State(wide) Alliances should be consulted before taking a definite resolution about your possible participation.

To respond to this and to what you stated justifiably in your letter dated June 9, 1995, I am going to try to explain what we are thinking of, and what we hope for with this consultation.

First and foremost, it is an effort to be true to the words. Zapatismo has insisted in the concept of "leading by obeying" as one of the points of a new democratic culture. We are an armed and clandestine organization, that is true. That we are an organization that has declared war on the federal government, is also true. But we are an organization that is in dialogue with the government, which is to say, that we are seeking that words, not arms, resolve our just demands. We are an organization protected by the decree of law on March 6, 1995, and because of that, and while the process of dialogue and negotiation lasts and new conditions are agreed upon, we are a legal organization recognized by the government's authorities. We are, then, an organization that is willing to seek and follow roads, other than war, to democratic change.

As you know, since January 12, 1994, we have not carried out any violent action against the government. The delegates of the federal government to the dialogue in San Andres Sacamch'en de los Pobres accuse us of trying to buy time, that we do not have a "will to dialogue". But buying time for what? Since January 1, 1994 the country has suffered not just a few crises (for example those of the assassinations of public figures, and the economy) and many moments ripe for "destabilization" have been created. However, our EZLN has not carried out even one action in these times to take advantage of them. We have not lacked for opportunities or "times" to take advantage of. What we have been missing are the serious proposals for solving the fundamental causes of our uprising. And what we are looking for is a just and dignified solution, not a check or a paved road.

Our struggle is political. This we have been teaching everyone, including ourselves. For this reason we do not seek with this consultation an endorsement of war, just as we did not seek it in August 1994 when the National Democratic Convention was formed. I believe that our brief and intense public life, since January 1994, has demonstrated that we are willing to seek, even at the risk of our own lives, the political rather than the military solution. For us the "political solution" is synonymous with "peace with justice and dignity". We do not expect a political solution from the government. For them, the "political solution" is equal to surrender, to defeat, to humiliation; this is the reason for the overbearing and arrogant attitude of the government's delegates. They are not interested in resolving the conflict, but instead in winning it. We are interested in resolving it, and we know that the solutions will not come from the government or from our ranks. They will come, we think, from the same place that have come: the cease fire in January 1994, the dialogue in San Cristobal, the National Democratic Convention, the humanitarian aid, the support in search of a dignified peace, the clamor to detain the treason of February 1995, the peace camps, the national and international observers, the dialogue in San Andres. The origin of all of these happenings, so large and so quickly done, is what many are disdaining, looking at with skepticism or disillusion: the civil society that struggles for democracy.

In disagreement with not just a few political analysts and politicians, as well as some intellectuals and artists, we continue watching with hope and interest this civil movement, that has no defined face or clear political project yet has a capacity for indignation and imaginative responses that surpass the great personages of politics.

We have not received, from this civil movement, applause or help for continuing the war. We have received, from them and no one else, an opportunity. An opportunity that has always been denied to thousands of men and women because they are indigenous and don't speak the same way, and have a different culture, and are not "productive", and are at the bottom of the statistics of death and misery. Life is worth so little in these lands, that death is valued even less, and it was cheaper to die...than to live.

We have received an opportunity, the opportunity to speak and be heard. Now we learn that this opportunity is real, and we are willing to use it, and use it always so that we don't lose it again. We learned to speak and this is what we have come to say:

We are Mexicans and we have a national proposal. We propose to struggle for, and achieve, democracy, liberty and justice for all the men and women of this country.

We came to say, also, that we are human beings and we have a global proposal. We propose a new international order based and ruled by democracy, liberty and justice.

But the surprise is not that a movement that is mostly indigenous recover its national and international nature. In addition to being indigenous, the EZLN is principally illiterate and poor. But this does not invalidate our national and international proposal. It is already known by everyone what the technocratic culture has done, as a post-doctorate from a foreign country, with this country: it has brought misery, crimes, inability to govern, uncertainty, and some immense desires, in the gut and the heart, for everything to change. What is surprising is that our voice has found other ears, different from ours, and who do not try to make our words go away or adulterate them. We have found ears that listen to us and make our words their own. This is the surprise for everyone, including us.

We learned, with this war, to speak and be listened to. But we did not learn to listen. This we already knew. To learn to listen is, at least for the indigenous of southern Mexico, to learn to live. Now we want to use these rights and responsibilities, the rights to speak and be heard, and the responsibility to listen to what others are saying. They say that this is a "dialogue": to speak and listen...to find our differences, but also, and this is the most difficult, what makes us the same.

Old Man Antonio taught that questions serve for walking, for moving forward. With the example of Ik'al and Votan, Old Man Antonio demonstrated that asking and responding is walking and arriving...at another question and another response. Now we are following this road, we are asking..and we are awaiting responses.

For this reason we say that the best demonstration of our will to achieve a political solution, which is to say a peace with dignity, is our calling for this National Consultation. We are not making a call for war. We are asking...to walk. To participate in this consultation is to collaborate in the political solution to the war, it is to participate in a just and dignified peace, that I believe, we deserve.

I understand that you have asked why an invitation was made to the National Civic Alliance, and in what way we are asking for them to participate in the consultation.

True, you have the technical means, the knowledge and the methods (which you have already proved) so that our questions get out to all of the country and so that they will be responded to by many, thousands, for dozens of thousands, for hundreds of thousands, for millions if there is a favorable wind. But it is not because of the technical means, the knowledge, and the methods that we are encouraged to direct ourselves to you so that you can help us ask the people of Mexico and have them respond. These means are also in others' hands who use them in other ways..What has caused us to come to you is... your history. We have "read" in it your ethics. Now I know that "ethics" has many meanings, and that it is, most of the times, something not used in "the new world" that is imposed on us. But for us it signifies "honesty", something not very common in these days and in these lands. There is, in addition, other elements that are more important to this work than the computers: impartiality and credibility. "Legitimacy" I would normally say, but it is a word that the Mexican political system has turned into illegitimacy. With these questions we want to learn what is real. We do not want a reality for our liking and convenience. We know that from you will come real results, even if they do not make us happy.

And now that we are talking about the questions, what consultation do we want? Or even broader, what do we hope for with this consultation? The answers will not be as easy as "yes" or "no", but I will try to make them concrete.

FIRST. The consultation that we want should be impartial, which is to say, we do not want people to respond with what we want them to respond, we do not want the results to be what is most convenient for us. We want the people to respond with what they think and we want to know the real results of this consultation. We want a national consultation, one that includes all social classes and is done throughout the national territory. We want to ask, the greatest number of people possible, and to know what they think and hope for.

SECOND. We want it to have credibility. This does not come from the result or from the quantity consulted. It comes from the seriousness and professionalism of its organization, direction, methods and impartiality.

THIRD. We do not want a survey. Not because we do not think it would have value, but because it is not about a market study to "offer" a new political "product", but rather, is about a dialogue.

FOURTH. The questions are definitive in what they want to find out, but not in their formation. They can be amplified, reduced, written in another form, but we need to know the answers to these questions. We think that not only for us, but for all the democratic forces, it would be good to know the answers to these questions.

The first of these questions refers to the need for a new social pact based on 13 points: housing, land, work, food, health, education, independence, culture, information, democracy, liberty, justice and peace. If these 13 demands are the principal ones for the majority of the Mexican people, then the economic direction of the country should be redefined, and have as a fundamental objective the satisfaction of these needs.

The second question refers to the need to unite the oppositional forces in a common program of struggle. We have already written what we think about this, but what do the people of Mexico think?

The third is about the need for one of the necessary and justified conditions in the peaceful political struggle. The lack of conditions for a political struggle obliges citizens to take up the clandestine and illegal struggle, or skepticism and apathy. The electoral struggle is not the whole of the political struggle. Electoral reform does not signify political reform. This last thing signifies the destruction of the system of the party-State, a revolution and not a reform. But a fair and free electoral system is necessary for the transition to democracy.

The fourth and fifth questions are mutually exclusive. To say no to both means that one is saying "no" to the question of whether the EZLN should make itself a political force. If the answer is "yes", then one still has to ask whether it should be done alone, which is to say, as a new and independent political force; or should it unite with other forces in Mexico, and together, form a new political force. We are not asking if we should incorporate ourselves into one of the existing political forces. On the one hand, for this to occur, one would suppose that we would have to take on the appearance of the organization that we plan to incorporate ourselves into. On the other hand, we are following this road precisely because we do not feel represented by any of the existing ones.

Perhaps questions four and five are the ones about which there are the most doubts. We will try to continue trying to clarify them by various means. For now, I only want to say that we are not asking if we should disarm or not. We have been clear that laying down our weapons is not open for discussion. Nor are we asking if we should become a political party, as the "party" is only one of the many forms that a political force can take. Until now the EZLN has only called for organizing and struggle for democracy, liberty and justice. But as it is clandestine and armed, the EZLN has not organized. We are not a political force.

We are a moral force or a catalyst of new organizing forms, but our force is not organized politically. Our opinion is listened to by many people, and perhaps, followed. But it is not translated into organization. Perhaps our role is only to point out the scarcities and open a space for discussion and new participation. Perhaps that is all our historic role is to be.

Or perhaps, the time has arrived for the Zapatista word not only to move people or create consciousness; perhaps, the time has arrived for the word "organizing" to be Zapatista as well. This is what we are asking.

There could have been more questions about other themes, this form of national dialogue is not exclusive.

Fifth. It is also about a proposal for participation. From a consultation that is not limited to "yes" or "no" for one or more of the questions, but rather involves broad sectors of citizens in its organization and implementation.

Sixth. It is a call to unity in two ways: to organize and to struggle.

Seventh. It is setting a precedent: an organization consults the citizenry about its next steps and future actions.

Eighth. It is about having criteria, the broadest possible, for making a decision that could be definitive for us. If the government's position in the dialogue improves and a just and dignified agreement is reached, the problem for the EZLN will continue: What should be done? Continue struggling through other means? Disappear?

Ninth. It is not a propaganda action. It is a referendum about our demands (the 13 points), about our call for the opposition to unite (a broad oppositional front), about our principal political demand (profound political reform). It is a crucial question: What are we going to do? How are we going to do it? Should we become a political force? Alone or with others?

Tenth. The dates are flexible, but it should be taken into account that we need to know the answers in order to guide our process in the dialogue with the government.

Well these are some answers...that bring us to new questions. But now I want to explain to you...


FIRST. The work of promoting the consultation and that of organizing it should be separated. This is because we need for the consultation to be conducted with impartiality, autonomy, objectivity and credibility. The brothers and sisters of Civic Alliance have earned respect in Mexico and outside of the country for its seriousness, professionalism and neutrality. Its commitment to a new peace and a transition to democracy is beyond a doubt. They have the experience and the infrastructure. In the end, they have the technique, the methodology and the moral authority to give a national consultation credibility. For this reason we are asking that the National Civic Alliance be the one that makes up the National Organizing Commission for the Consultation.

This means that the Civic Alliance would be in charge of, with full autonomy and independence, the organization of the consultation. The "organizational chart" and form of working in the states and municipalities of the Republic will be determined by the National Civic Alliance based on their criteria.

SECOND. Nevertheless, the EZLN conceived of this consultation not as a simple exchange of questions and answers. We think that the consultation should be part of a great national dialogue that looks for new forms for conducting it and coming to concrete results. The consultation is part of the process of initiatives for meeting, holding a dialogue and coming to agreement among different forces and citizens. It is part of the effort of the National Democratic Convention, of the Dialogue of the Civil Society, of the citizens movement, of all the initiatives of the civic society who struggle for democracy, liberty and justice. The EZLN recognizes the National Democratic Convention as an organizing force of the civic and peaceful struggle for democracy, liberty and justice. The spirit that made it possible for thousands of Mexicans to travel from all of the states of the Republic to Chiapas and for the formation of the CND in August 1995 [sic], has here a new opportunity to show that we have the maturity to organize ourselves.

For this reason we are asking the National Democratic Convention to make up the National Promotional Commission of the Consultation. This means that the CND would be in charge of, in agreement with its structure and methods of work, the promotion of the consultation, of its distribution, propaganda, and the explanation of the goals and nature of the consultation.

This National Promotional Commission of the Consultation would be made up of representatives of the State Conventions and that of the Federal District, and those of the Sectoral Conventions (women, students, workers, indigenous, campesinos and cultural workers).

It would have a Directing Committee made up of 10 members of the National Council of Representatives of the CND as proposed by the EZLN and representatives of the EZLN.

The organizing form of the CND for this work of the consultation would be the following:

a) The National Promotional Commission of the Consultation would be made up of two representatives from each one of the State Conventions and that of the Federal District, and two from each one of the Sectoral Conventions.

b) The Directing Committee would be made up of 10 members of the CND proposed by the EZLN and representing the different currents within the CND. Five of the ten will make up the General Council of the National Consultation.

c) The EZLN will make the corresponding convocation and will establish the protocol for installing, carrying out and evaluating the said National Consultation.

d) In each state in the Republic and in the Federal District a Promotional State Commission will be established, organized in accordance with the National Promotional Commission.

e) The State Conventions and that of the Federal District will make the corresponding convocation and will establish the protocol for installing, carrying out and evaluating the State Commissions.

f) In each municipality of the country a Promotional Commission will be established, following the form of the State Commissions. The State Commissions and that of the Federal District will be responsible for this activity.

g) The Sectoral Conventions will also work according to the territory where they have representation, with the goal of broadening the consultations and representation.

h) At all times there will be a commitment to maintaining a tight coordination among all the levels and a constant and timely flow of information.

THIRD. It is necessary to remember that this is a consultation of the EZLN. It is not a consultation of the CND or of the Alliance or of a political party or a business. For this reason we ask that the EZLN participate in the planning and the organizing of the consultation.

FOURTH. It is an effort, then, to establish a relation among these three parts: the one who asked for the consultation (the EZLN), the one who is promoting and distributing it (the CND) and the one who is organizing it (the Civic Alliance). For this reason we are proposing to the National Democratic Convention and the National Civic Alliance that a General Council of the National Consultation be formed that is responsible in tying together the National Organizing Commission, the National Promotional Commission and the EZLN. This General Council of the National Consultation would be made up of five representatives of the CND as proposed by the EZLN, five from the National Civic Alliance, and one from the EZLN, and its work would be to follow through with the works of the consultation and to settle any differences that could develop.

FIFTH. All that is involved with the International Consultation will be the result of, in organization and promotion, an International Coordinating Commission made up of 10 Convention members proposed by the EZLN. That is to say that the organization of the International Consultation is the responsibility of the CND.

Chronology of activities:
We proposed the following calendar. I repeat that it is not definitive and could be adjusted:

a) June. Convocation, preparation meetings, installation of the National Organizing Commission and the State Organizing Commissions.

b) July. Distribution and organization of the National Consultation. Implementation of the International Consultation.

c) August. Carrying out of the Consultation, results and evaluation

I believe that is all for now. I am sure true to what Old Man Antonio teaches, this will bring more questions. I hope that we will answer them together.

Lastly, some words regarding the possibility that you reject this invitation. We do not ignore that you, like us, have your mechanisms for making decisions. Nor has it escaped our attention that your participation, if you decided to do so, could bring you unjust accusations and calumnies. Whatever is your response we will accept it and respect it. I only tried to explain to you why it is worthwhile to participate. I am sure that there will be reasons, and that they are neither few in number nor less forceful in reason, for not participating. Regardless, value this as a greeting and a small recognition of your work..and of your history.

And hopes that the stories that are worthwhile, or in other words those that cause one to wake up, be many.

>From the mountains of Southeastern Mexico
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico June 1995

P.S. I am sending a copy of this letter to the National Democratic Convention along with our proposal for the Convention members who would make up the General Council and Directing Promotional Committee.

P.S. Durito asks if beetles are included in the consultation. For now he is announcing a solemn piano recital in four hands in order to promote it. The menu will include Bola De Nieve and a global premiere of the work "The Ballerina and The Beetle" whose author (did anyone have a doubt) is Durito! I reminded him of the military blockade and he decided that was good because it would avoid re-sale.

(translated by Cindy Arnold and Cecilia Rodriguez. Corrected portion translated by Eduardo Vera, National Center for Democracy, Liberty and Justice)

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