Speed Democracies: The Zapatista Network


Session Title:

  • Politics, Art & Society

Presentation Title:

  • Speed Democracies: The Zapatista Network



  • Jan. 1, 1994. Ejercito Zapatista de Liberation National, the EZLN, take over San Cristobal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas and Altarmirano without firing a single shot in order to defend the rights of the indigenous communities of Chiapas. The temporal fractalization of dead capital has allowed a spasm of micro-invention to emerge and flicker in the liminal-space of the Lacandona jungle; occurring somewhere between the imaginary borders of the American hologram and the real Taco Bell power of neo-liberalism’s NAFTA: the Zapatistas. In the Lacandona, a jungle in delirium, floats a temporary construction of plant, flesh, and circuits that is attempting to play out a rhizomatic disturbance, an “antechamber” of a “revolution that will make revolution possible…”. The Zapatistas are not the first postmodern revolution, but the last; they are a vanishing mediation between the breaking mirror of production (dead capital) and the shattering of the crystal of (de)materialization (virtual capital). Chiapas is a counter-effect, an armed aporia, that has come from below and accelerated the multiplication of contestational gestures, that have now moved away from questions of reform and liberation to questions of direct action as survival and resistance. Here in the Lacandona surplus flesh gnaws at the dreams of virtual capitalism, exemplifying that,”mirrors are for cutting”, and “crystals are for shattering …and crossing to the other side”. The Zapatistas run between walls of Third World starvation and the high-speed backbone of digital culture. From the Lacandona jungle they hail us daily, using a PowerBook, a modem, and a small satellite dish. Using these three elements the EZLN have moved to the forefront of what David F. Ronfeldt, a Rand Corporation security expert, has called”netwar: This dangerous”destabilizing”force enables marginalized groups to enter into the nomadological arena by utilizing e-mail.The Rand Corporation feels this kind of power could make Mexico ungovernable, claiming that”the risk for Mexico is not an old fashioned civil war or another social revolution”, Ronfeldt notes. “The risk is social netwar” (Joel Simon, Pacific News Service, Mar.20, 1995). The Zapatistas are hybrid real/net warriors who are developing methods of electronic disturbance as a site of invention and action. The disturbance of electronic bunkers with excess communication is an important act of radical emergence. The dissolution of informatic-economies will allow cells of electronic opposition-circuits to create speed-democracies. The Winter Palace is not being stormed, it is being dematerialized — as a state in ruins — and the lines of flight lead towards liberated terminals. The Zapatistas accelerate the new possibilities of fractal politics by displacing the signature-effect of command and control. Spaces of information are being disassembled and reconstituted as replicating networks of decolonization through the linking of free civic digital spaces. These free electronic spaces are being constructed by excessive communication and unlimited counter-memories — and no longer as part of the hyper amnesiac hierarchies of information. As a memo from the Rand corporation stated: “institutions can be defeated by networks”. The Zapatistas have become highly effective speed-democracies that continue to puncture the smooth-state by whatever means necessary.