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Zapatistas and Ukraine

12 March 2022

The Zapatistas are one of the few Latin American political groups to have not taken the side of either nation in the Ukrainian conflict. Not to say they haven’t take a side, but just not with either the Russian, nor Ukrainian states.

The communique, “No habrá paisaje después de la batalla” (2 March 2022) [roughly, “No land after the battle”] supports resistance not to Russian aggression as much as to capitalist nation-states dictating the terms of people’s lives. While decrying the Russian rationale that they are clearing out Nazis, the Zapatistas are not supporting Nazism, so much as denying it can be “defeated from above”. As it is, the Zapatistas — rejecting nations, states, borders altogether — see no reason to support either government, only those who resist any government with their “profit and loss” calculations when it comes to control over the people within a territory.

For the rest of us… it’s complicated. Rightists in Latin America naturally gravitate towards support for Ukraine, as one might expect. While a ridiculous knee-jerk anti-Communism comes into it (forgetting Russia is about as Capitalist a capitalist hell-hole as one can image), Ukraine also has the “advantage” in some quarters of being the more openly Fascist of the two. Yes, I know the Ukrainian president is Jewish (at least by ethnicity), but then too, it makes heroes of its Great Patriotic War (as it’s called over there) Nazi collaborators and includes fascist parties within its government and Nazi-inspired units within its military [see Ángel Guerra Cabrera, “Zelensky, los neonazis y la guerra olvidada” (Jornada, 10 March 2022)].

Fascist sympathizers are (one hopes) a minority, and perhaps those buying into the absurdly retro “better dead than red” memes are too (though, given the popularity of labeling anyone who questions the Ukrainian cause a “comrade” or “Boris” in comments on on-line discussions makes me wonder) and most forget this is just a fight between two oligarchy capitalist countries (neither particularly wealthy, though Russia has nukes an a much larger military… and is the aggressor) simply because the Ukrainian state is looking westward… towards NATO and the European Union. And, the Latin American right trusts the United States.

Which the left never does. Some on the left are just reversing the stupid “better dead than red” argument… “better red than dead” and nostalgic for the Soviet Union (forgetting that the formal Communist Parties around the world … including those in Russia and Ukraine … strenuously oppose the war), but more is just a simple fact. Russia was never an imperial power in this part of the world, nor over the last two centuries have the Russians been involved in any real sense with subverting and murdering leftist movements and leaders. The “west”… what’s now the NATO-EU-USA axis of annoyance has backed any number of coups, counter-revolutions, and even outright Fascist dictatorships in this part of the world. Other than the open support the Soviet Union gave Cuba , what support of leftist and progressive movements from the Soviets has largely just been indirect and aimed at groups looking to liberate states from oligarchies and oppressive regimes, rather than support them.

And, Russia … an oppressive oligarchy to be sure… is far, far away and not seeking all that much from anywhere here… the Americans, the Canadians, the British, the Spanish have been our exploiters, not the Ruskies.

So… while the Zapatistas no doubt have it right, the nation-states … which obviously aren’t going to support the ultimate Zapatista goal of going out of business… are taking the most logical path: staying out of the whole thing as much as possible.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rebecca Ore permalink
    12 March 2022 1:37 pm

    I was gratified to see that the Latin American countries that “everyone” (US Media and the right wingers in Managua and Miami) thought would support Russia in the UN voted to abstain. Enough people from here spent time in Russia and Cuba during the struggle against the Somozas to have an opinion. One friend of mine got his Russian-born son out of Russia to Sweden, which that family of Sandinistas finds a whole lot better a model than either Cuba or Russia. Possibly a similar sentiment to the Zapatistas — neither side has much in common with Latin American countries with mixed economies (which is now all of them).

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