By Keegan Smith at Jan 25, 2008
I spent today being a revolutionary. It wasn’t with a gun or via a land-mark speech calling the oppressed to take to the streets. In fact many of you may find it hard to see the revolution in day to day life supporting a pacifist resistence organisation (Las Abejas) in a small Mexican village. Todays call of duty involved the following revolutionist tasks: I translated a speech denouncing government and paramilitary aggressions against their people, NAFTA’s effects (which for 2008 have increased in severity for the people of Chiapas) and the impunity governnent authors for the masacre 10 years and 1 month prior to yesterdays commemorative event; I went to a meeting to discuss how the various departments within the organisation could be better coordinating their abilities (the womens group, the independent radio, the chior, the area for economic development etc.); I had a meeting about a new project to sell locally grown corn in a cooperative shop run by a group of local women; I balanced the numbers to see if there is any nomey to be made from making tortillas locally for the directors of the organization instead of buying from the shady tortilla giant MASECA (I think the owner’s brother was a former president) who have a monopoly on tortillas in Mexico, and make tasteless tortillas!; we then went to put a proposal to 2 families to make the tortillas thus using local corn and local labour to deliver tastier tortillas, they seemed positive about the idea (it will pay about $1 an hour for labor and requires no increase in spending from the directors tight budget, which for here is a good rate of pay given that some work a full day on the land for $2.5). Revolution?
Maybe kind hearted development work but few would call it revolution. Well consider that the news for the evening is that a soft coup is about to take place in the morning. The elected president of the organisation who took charge just 3 weeks ago and is a founder of the organisation has been talking tough against the PRD (Partido de la Revolucion Democratico) and other major parties along with some hardline anti-capitalist rhetoric. This goes against the work of the organisation’s most recent leaders who have come to accept support both above and below the table from the PRD in a grey zone that has become increasingly black.
It’s not easy to fight capitalism. Even for a pacifist christion organisation who’ve paid in blood for their beliefs, (45 people were masacred in Acteal in 1997) the iron fist and the iron feather continue until the ultimate destruction. Creating fear on one side and hope on the other while buying off those in power and convincing others of the righteousness of the alternate path. The implications for me are that all the ways that I was thinking about trying to help the organisation remain in resistence have been neutralised. The work I have taken part in so far will still help the masses, who are unlikely to see rewards from the government kickbacks which reward the leaders for signing off that “there are no paramilitaries in Chiapas” and that the government wants to deliver on promices to respect the rights of the poor, indigenous people of Chiapas.
Some here say that this has all been played out before within the Abejas. My time here has been a real rollercoaster seeing more changes than you see in a decade in my countries benign version of politics (Australia). Here I have found a real mixture of ideals and ideas about how to achieve peace, justice and dignity of all.
Come to think of it maybe today wasn’t part of creating revolution. Maybe it was a lesson about the failure of soft revolution, and pacifist change, about the abuse of poverty for power and about the need for popular education above all else to maintain resistence.
Thinking about tomorrow: the indigenous people of Chiapas will still be poor, oppressed and endangered pawns in the capitcalist game; I won’t be working for a revolutionary organisation; politics is dirty and more subject to human flaws than I thought.