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The Zapatistas and the invasion of Ukraine


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Source: Chiapas Support Committee

The EZLN’s March 2 communiqué “There will be no scenery after the battle,” fixes the Zapatista position in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in a concise and forceful way, supported in the political ethic that characterizes the movement.

Unlike a good part of the Latin American left (parties, governments and intellectuals), 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.

Then it rejects Putin’s argument about “de-nazifying” Ukraine. On this point it contrasts with those who believe that Nazism can be eradicated from above, at the point of a gun, accepting the argument that the invasion has that objective when it’s no more than an imperialist act.

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.

As some analysts have reflected, an unexpressed sympathy for Russia and in particular for Putin survives in Latin America. Years ago, one of them compared the Russian president’s speech in October 2014, with that of Lenin at the Finland station in April 1917, upon returning from exile (https://bit.ly/3CG2X0R).

Similar comparisons show the smallness of the aforementioned intellectuals who support progressivism. They simplify reality, insinuate continuities between two leaders and cloud the vision of part of the organizations from below by supporting, outside all ethical considerations, that everything that goes against the enemy must be supported.

The fourth and fifth points of the communiqué summarize the political option of Zapatismo. They don’t follow the big media or the “experts” to define politics, but rather they choose the path of “asking those, like us, who are engaged in the struggle for life in Ukraine and Russia.” It defines them as “relatives in resistance and rebellion,” which tells us that they feel like brothers and sisters to those who fight in any geography.

They support and encourage those who reject war, people who repudiate borders and national states and stand firm in their convictions. “Resisting is persisting and prevailing,” concludes the fifth point. Consequently, it makes a call to support those in Ukraine who resist the Russian invasion.

This point has raised criticisms in various geographies. Not a few insist that supporting the resistance, is the same as encouraging the Nazis, since the money that arrives could be diverted to the bad government of Zelensky or to the fascist squads that operate in Ukraine.

This way of analyzing the world, has profound repercussions on anti-systemic movements. In some way, it’s heir to the idea that there is a main enemy, against which any alliance is useful to bring it down. However, that is the same way that states and governments act, which don’t act based on ethics, but rather based on conveniences and interests.

The most serious thing is that it sets aside the human beings of flesh and bone who resist, below and to the left, any oppression, from wherever it may come. They will say that those who resist in Ukraine and in Russia are a minority and that they play the game of the right, as the defenders of progressivism usually say.

For one thing, dignity and ethics are not measured in numbers. These days, news is starting to appear about collectives and people who resist in Ukrainian cities and that the big media don’t reflect (https://bit.ly/35Ywwye). It’s those people and those collectives that we must support, without counting, without thinking about how many there are, because what guides us is not whether they appear on television news, but only and simply the ethics.

Regarding the argument of “playing the game of the right,” is about the most vulgar and abject idea of the many and perverse ones that circulate in the world. It means, neither more nor less, that all human action must adhere to calculations of expected profits andpossible losses. Is this not, perhaps, a profoundly capitalist way of looking at life?

To the contrary, the policy of defending life and supporting those who defend it, setting aside any calculation of interests; being guided by ethics, and nothing more than that, challenges the system because it doesn’t enter the profit/loss game, which is one of the principal tentacles of the capitalist hydra.

A politics guided by ethics can condemn us to loneliness. But if we trust in the nobility of the common people, we will achieve the energy and courage necessary to continue sailing against the current.

 

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, March 11, 2022, and Re-published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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