Monday, December 27, 2004

Ya Basta Subcommondante Marcos!

Frank reported that Subcommondante Marcos, the masked spokesman for the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, has turned from political philosophy towards crime writing as a new outlook for his talent for fiction.

I've had to read on the Zapatistas for my IR course, with Naomi Klein's collection , Fences and Windows being one item on the reading list. It highlights both her own faults as an analyst and journalist and the stupidity of those who think that the Zapatistas represent some major evolution that challenges the global economic and political order.

It was ten years to the day on 20th December since the sudden devaluation of the Mexican Peso launched the so-called tequilla crisis, and almost eleven (on January 1st) since the execution of the North American Free Trade Agreement that extended the US-Canada trade pact to Mexico. Ex-president Carlos Salinas, facing charges of corruption and plotting the assassination of a presidential candidate, dissappeared and was then discovered while paddling on Dolymount Strand in Dublin one fine summer's day, probably the only person, so he claimed, ever to leave Mexico behind for the sunshine and beaches of Ireland. The lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries probably had something to do with it too. The FT had a piece marking the anniversary of the crisis so, I thought it would be a good time to put some of my own thoughts down.

First, it occurred to me that she's quite cute, at least by the photo that recently appeared in the London edition of Time Out showing her Bridget Bardot-style with her bra-strap showing - and probably wouldn't mind continually arguing politics with me, although it would make for a volatile relationship, with lots of biting and scratching.

She begins by relating how a backpacking trip to Chiapas to see the revolution at first hand has become a common rite of passage among left-minded youths. This got me thinking - perhaps the whole revolution is nothing more than a tourist strategy: Las Vegas is the destination for gambling, Disneyworld for family fun, Castro's Cuba for sex tourism and Chiapas for the revolution. Maybe that's the real reason for Marcos' publicity efforts.

Irony, she says, is a key feature of the Zapatista philosophy. I like irony myself - in small doses, but too much of it quickly becomes tiresome. On the Zapatistas, Klein describes a philosophy that remains hidden, like a Japanese soldier hiding on a desert island and determined to fight on for the Emperor, unwilling to contend with either stronger and articulated ideas - be they left or right - or the mechanics of economic and political reality. There is, as yet, no alternative that they can point to, apart from North Korea, the Zapatistas themselves and some squaters in an Argentine tile factory. Oh, and don't forget Moqtada al-Sadr.

The key to the Zapatistas' popularity among all the frustrated totalitarians though is the sense that they have mobilised the new unique power challenge. Er, no. They've huffed and they've puffed and NAFTA's still there, the only effective challenge against it coming from the protectionists in the US - both nativists like Ross Perot with his "giant sucking sound" - and unions like the Teamsters, who'd probably have buried US trade negotiator Mickey Kantor under the Jersey turnpike like Jimmy Hoffa, given the chance. The rebellion, almost a year before, didn't precipitate the peso crash and Mexico, first under Zedillo and now the conservative Harvard MBA Vicente Fox has continued on its course of liberalisation, exactly as Paul Krugman predicted.

As an ethical consumer, Naomi is fortunate to live next to the local branches of Ronit Zilkha and Joseph according to one Guardian interview"I'm lucky in that I happen to live a few blocks from some great independent designers, so I actually can shop in stores where I know where stuff is produced", as well as being published by Rupert Murdoch's Flamingo imprint. The rest of us aren't quite so lucky, especially those unfortunate Mexicans who've made Wal-Mart the country's leading retailer.

The world needs more of these ineffectual left-wing rebels like the Zaps. With any luck, they'll take over the US Democratic Party and consign it to irrelevance.