(El Kilombo Intergalactico, people of color collective made up of students, migrants, and other community members in Durham, North Carolina, “Beyond Resistance Everything: An Interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos” DM)
The following lines are the product of intense collective discussions that took place within what is today El Kilombo Intergaláctico during much of 2003 and 2004. These discussions occurred during the advent of the Iraq War and our efforts (though ultimately ineffective) to stop it. During those months it became very clear to us that the Left in the United States was at a crossroads, and much of what we had participated in under the banner of “activism” no longer provided an adequate response to our current conditions. In our efforts to forge a new path, we found that an old friend—the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacio- nal (Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN)—was already taking enormous strides to move toward a politics adequate to our time, and that it was thus necessary to attempt an evaluation of Zapatismo that would in turn be adequate to the real ‘event’ of their appearance. That is, despite the fresh air that the Zapatista uprising had blown into the US political scene since 1994, we began to feel that even the inspiration of Zapatismo had been quickly con- tained through its insertion into a well-worn and untenable narrative: Zapatismo was another of many faceless and indifferent “third world” movements that demanded and deserved solidarity from leftists in the “global north.” From our position as an organization composed in large part by people of color in the United States, we viewed this focus on “solidarity” as the foreign policy equivalent of “white guilt,” quite distinct from any authentic impulse toward, or recognition of, the necessity for radical social change. The notion of “solidarity” that still pervades much of the Left in the U.S. has continually served an intensely conservative political agenda that dresses itself in the radical rhetoric of the latest rebellion in the “darker nations” while carefully maintaining political action at a distance from our own daily lives, thus producing a political subject (the solidarity provider) that more closely resembles a spectator or voyeur (to the suffering of others) than a participant or active agent, while simultaneously working to reduce the solidarity recipient to a mere object (of our pity and mismatched socks). At both ends of this relationship, the process of solidarity ensures that subjects and political action never meet; in this way it serves to make change an a priori impossibility. In other words, this practice of solidarity urges us to participate in its perverse logic by accepting the narrative that power tells us about itself: that those who could make change don’t need it and that those who need change can’t make it. To the extent that human solidarity has a future, this logic and practice do not! For us, Zapatismo was (and continues to be) unique exactly because it has provided us with the elements to shatter this tired schema. It has inspired in us the ability, and impressed upon us the necessity, of always viewing our- selves as dignified political subjects with desires, needs, and projects worthy of struggle. With the publication of The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in June of 2005, the Zapatistas have made it even clearer that we must move be- yond appeals to this stunted form of solidarity, and they present us with a far more difficult challenge: that wherever in the world we may be located, we must become “companer@s” (neither followers nor leaders) in a truly global struggle to change the world. As a direct response to this call, this analysis is our attempt to read Zapatismo as providing us with the rough draft of a manual for contemporary political action that eventually must be written by us all.
The black body is the site of social death par excellence, having become dead by a 700-year injunction barring its subjectivity. Social death is a condition of existence and not some avoidable impact—how we relate to this condition is all that is important.