Mexican hot house

MEXICO CITY’S historic main square was the sight of a huge and dramatic rally last weekend, as 100,000 people vented their rage against the government of Ernesto Zedillo and his vicious military campaign against the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). This was part of a nationwide protest against the regime, which is slipping inexorably into a castastrophic financial crisis and is hoping to shift some of the £96.6 billion debt onto the backs of the already impoverished masses. Thus, ‘real’ war reinforces and complements the existing economic war.

With the support of the Clinton administration, the Zedillo government has been pursuing a ‘get tough’ policy against the EZLN in Chiapas, which is the power base of the guerrillas. This ‘toughness’ has included the torture of detainees, bombing of civilians, drastic censorship and a general ‘scorched-earth’ approach  of the kind used by the Guatemalan military against the insurgents and their sympathisers.

At the rally many demonstrators chanted, “Todossomos Marcos” (We are all Marcos) and carried gigantic painted portraits of “Subcomandante Marcos”, leader of the Zapatista guerrillas. Marcos sees himself as following in the footsteps of revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata and one of his key slogans is “national liberation” - from Mexico’s unbroken 65-year, one-party rule.

While we applaud the heroism of the Zapatistas, and the healthy development of militant anti-government sentiment amongst the masses, we would strike a note of caution. The essentially petty bourgeois, ruralist nature of the Zapatistas can only lead the rebellion into a dead end, if not a blood soaked disaster. The masses need proletarian leadership and tactics, not Maoist type romanticism, which can easily degenerate into the realm of futile terrorism and ‘left’ nationalistic demagoguery.

Frank Vincent