Deriving their inspiration from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata’s Liberation Army of the South (Ejército Libertador del Sur—ELS), the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional—ELZN) was founded in 1983, though it did not come to prominence until 1994.
   The ELS had achieved brief popularity in Mexico between 1910 and 1919, rallying the peasantry behind its campaign for the redistribution of agricultural land. The ELZN brought these ideas to a new generation, and on New Year’s Day 1994 burst forth in a popular uprising in the impoverished southern Mexican region of Chiapas. Calling for agrarian and social reform, it seized a number of regional municipalities and entered into an armed battle with government troops that came to a nervy ceasefire at the end of January. The Zapatistas soon renounced violence as a means of achieving their goals, namely to promote the cause of the indigenous population through eradicating poverty and installing health and education systems, and opposing wider neo-liberal political and economic systems. By 2003 the ELZN was able to claim that so successfully had it constructed its own “state within a state” in Chiapas, that it now boasted a communitarian system of food production, successful state-autonomous education and health programs, and transparent, frequently rotating “Committees of Good Government,” whose scrutiny guaranteed the corruption-free administration of affairs.
   In its strongly worded writings against neo-liberalism, the ELZN asserted that privatization acts as an exploitative agent against the vulnerable, and in its championing of universal healthcare and education, the ELZN has displayed Marxist credentials. However, the Zapatistas have never openly advocated Marxism. Their rejection of orthodox Marxian concepts such as the dictatorship of the proletariat has been reflected in their reluctance to aim for total power, as they have preferred instead to build equality in their own Chiapas region while simultaneously calling for localized resistance to globalization in the wider world. In transforming socialist and Marxist ideas onto “Indianist” (the prioritizing of the local indigenous population over one particular social class) notions informed by guerrilla army tactics, the ELZN has offered a post-modernist take on Marxism. In addition, its reluctance to pursue the Leninist concept of total power and instead a preference to construct a communitarian pocket within a wider state offers a form of neo-communist governing system that is largely untried.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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