Zapatistas aren't selling their coffee to Trump
Organized Coffee Against the Wall
Good afternoon or good morning to those who are listening to us around the world.
What I’m going to talk about, compañeros, compañeras, brothers and sisters who are present here and those who watch us from elsewhere… what I’m going to talk to you about is not what I think, but rather what the compañeras and compañeras who make up the Zapatista Army for National Liberation bases of support think.
We compañeras and compañeras here in front [members of the EZLN comandancia] understand that we serve as support for the thousands of compañeras who are bases of support; we support the thousands of compañeros who are bases of support. That’s how we’ve defined it lately because we pass along to them what we see, what we hear, what we come to know. And what is it that we have come to know or hear about? Trump’s wall.
When we started hearing about this, when we began to understand what was going on, we met with the compañeras and compañeros of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee [CCRI] and began to discuss what is happening to our migrant brothers and sisters who are in the United States.
As always, the compañeras and compañeros who are comandantas and comandantes said, “we are part of them.” That’s what they said: “they are the same as us.” But what’s going to happen to them is really fucked up, because these migrant brothers and sisters didn’t leave and go there because they wanted to, they went because life in their communities or on the plantations (as not to call them countries anymore) where they were before was crushing them.
So now they have nothing. If they had anything to begin with, they had to sell it or pawn it in order to have money to be able to go to the United States, because it is assumed that there is work there.
So they’re already there and now they’re being chased out. How will they go back to the plantation if they have nothing left? So that’s where, through talking, discussing, thinking, studying, and analyzing, we determined that it’s the same as it was before, hundreds of years ago, it’s just like what happened to our great-grandparents. Then the landowners had the best lands. They took them from us, they evicted us, and they sent us to the hills. Now they want to take the hills away from us. Before they didn’t want them, and now they do: there’s something there they want. So now where will we go, those of us who are still living on our land? But [our migrant brothers and sisters] aren’t on their land anymore. They left it behind, they sold it, or they undersold it. So now they have nowhere to go.
So one compañero from the CCRI said: “yes, it’s true,” and gave the example of the Ford factory. That crazy Trump is taking that company back so that the factory is in the United States. Once again, here in Mexico those who were working there will be out of work. The factory will go there and there will be work there. There will be work for those who are from there, but for the migrants there will be no work.
So from there our question was “what are we going to do?” And we said: “we have to support them.” We have to tell them to struggle there because they have nowhere to go.
So we started to remember the year 1994, 1995… at that time we asked civil society, in Mexico and around the world to help us. So we started to say: we think that now it’s our turn, that we have to support them, just like the people in solidarity who helped us because they saw we were in struggle. It’s also up to us to support these communities, to tell them to struggle with resistance and rebellion. Because they have no other option.
So we began to shake out our pockets: we don’t have euros, we don’t have dollars, we don’t have anything. But we discovered that we do have the results of the collective work of the communities, of the regions, of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion, and of the zones, where the Juntas de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Councils] work.
We said: yes, there are plantains, there’s yucca, there’s sweet potato…but all that will rot, what are we going to do? Then the idea was born, just like the compa said. The compañero Dr. Raymundo is here, he now has in his hands over three-thousand kilos of coffee, already here, ready to be prepared, ready to drink.
So we said that’s how we can help. As a first effort, our brothers and sisters there can organize themselves to sell it, to turn it into dollars, to transform it into struggle, into resistance and rebellion there where they are. Then we said: but we’ll need pretty good coffee, because the thought came up that we might not be able to collect it all so quickly. So then it was a matter of talking with the bases of support to explain what this was about, why and for what, just like whose who helped us during those years when we were in need had done.
But then the concern came up that “the coffee will be varied, some really light because it was just roasted golden, some really black because it’s roasted until its almost burnt.” All of the coffee is different. So we decided it was better to think about it collectively. The compañeros and compañeras comandantes and comandantas went back to their zones and explained it, and the compañeros there said: Yes!
There are compañeros and compañeras in the communities who grow coffee and others who don’t. So the compañeros said: since we’re organized in a collective, instead of the compañeros or compañeras who grow coffee selling it somewhere else, we’ll buy it from them and use the funds from collective work in the community to pay for it. Others thought that this should be done at the level of the region— what we call a region is composed of 20, 30, 40 communities. These compañeros said: let’s buy our own coffee from what we have already, and the payment will come from the collective work of the region. In some zones they thought we should do it like that. Other zones said: the compañeros and compañeras who are authorities of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion should be in charge of it. The money should come out of the funds generated by collective work and they should buy coffee from the compañeros, and also from our brothers and sisters if we don’t have enough, depending on the situation of each zone. Others said: we already have collective work at the level of each zone, that is, in the Junta de Buen Gobierno. So we just need the assembly of authorities, women and men, to reach an agreement and then the Junta de Buen Gobierno will be responsible for buying the coffee from the compañeros and compañeras. That’s how we managed to get it all together within days.
From there, as I told you, we thought that the coffee should be pretty high quality. So we sent the 5,000 kilos of coffee that we had gathered, still as coffee beans in the husk, to the collectives of compañeros in the zone where there is a machine to roast it, a machine to grind the coffee. Now there are 3,791.5 kilos of ground coffee that came from the 5,000 kilos of beans.
We were confident then that it was just up to the machine to roast it and grind it. So the zones got organized to figure out how many workers would go to help run the machine, including compañeras who know how to grind the coffee. We were really happy because at that point it was just up to the machine, and on the first day, the machine fucking broke. The compañeros who were there were saying: “someone sabotaged it.” Other said: “What? No, no it wasn’t sabotage.” We had to see how we were going to fix it.
An insurgent compañero, Sergio, was around, so they called him. “Do you think you could help us out? To see what’s going on.” So the insurgent compañero went to check it out. It turned out that one of the ball bearings was locked. But it wasn’t capitalism’s fault. So then we began to explain: it’s not capitalism’s fault; it’s not the mafia of power. This is our own problem because we didn’t do upkeep on the machine. Then a compañero who was there said: there’s grease here, we have cebo (fat from livestock; without salt, it’s used as grease), so we don’t need to buy grease. The only thing lacking was a good cleaning, regular maintenance.
In sum, that’s what we needed to to do for the work to come out well.
So we started coordinating, because all the compañeros who were in charge of roasting were already there; the compañera was already there waiting, because the work is organized by days. The compañeros who are the drivers were there too, waiting to load and transport the product. The compañeros who were to bag and seal everything were there. But everything was stalled because the machine sabotaged itself. So that’s when the organization started. There’s a group of compañeros and compañeras from the city who help out, and we had to ask if they could get us another ball bearing and bring it part of the way and we would send a compañero to go pick it up from them.
When we organize and coordinate collectively, it’s like a wheel: it turns evenly. That’s how we immediately resolved this, because everything had been stalled. The insurgent compañero took out the ball bearing and put in the new one…and we got back to work. So, now we have the coffee.
The idea is that this is for the compañeros, compañeras, migrant brothers and sisters in the United States. It’s to support their struggle. It’s how we say to them: it’s necessary for you to organize yourselves where you are and to resist and rebel. How? That’s what they have to think about.
The support we’re offering is unconditional, just like how we supported our brothers and sisters who are teachers here in Chiapas. We supported them not so that they would become our bases of support or so that we could say “this is what you have to do.” They’re the ones who have to decide that for themselves. We learned from what we were taught in the years ‘94 and ‘95. We saw and discovered how resistance and rebellion are weapons of struggle.
This is what we figured out with the compañeros and compañeras who are comandantes and comandantas. We asked ourselves: what if in ’94 we hadn’t listened to the idea of the compañeras and compañeros bases of support, because they said then that as bases of support they had to fight too, but not with weapons like those of the compañeros and compañeras milicianas, milicianos, and insurgentes and insurgentas. Rather, we’re against the government—that’s what they said—and therefore we can’t sell out, we can’t give up, we can’t stray off course. We have to reject their handouts, their leftovers, their crumbs. We understood that and we started to think about how to do it. And thanks to that we’re here speaking today, because we’ve been fighting for 23 years with that weapon called resistance and rebellion.
So, we made this comparison with the compañeros and compañeras who are comandantes and comandantas: if there had been 23 years of shootings, bombings, and ambushes, there would be no Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion. There would be no Juntas de Buen Gobierno. There would be no education, that is Zapatista schools. There would be no Zapatista clinics or hospitals. All the encuentros [encounters or gatherings] we’ve held wouldn’t have happened because there wouldn’t have been time. What there would have been was 23 years of gunshots.
But that weapon that we discovered is what has made us who we are today. And in order to use that weapon of struggle, resistance and rebellion, of course we had to organize ourselves. And that’s what has made it possible for us to construct a small world with a new system of government.
Everyone has to decide for themselves, but we’ve seen that with this weapon of struggle, with resistance and rebellion, it can be done. And it’s not that we’re rejecting that other tool that we have—we call our firearms tools. For us, they are one more tool among others, like having machetes, chainsaws, axes; it’s like having many kinds of tools, among which we include our firearms—that is, guns. And when it’s necessary you have to use it, but you have to know how to use it.
Because as we’ve already heard here, the capitalist enemy is not going to leave us alone. They’re not going to accept that now the people, women and men, are going to rule. They’ll never allow us do it. They’re not going negotiate or dialogue about their forms of exploitation. They’re not going to say: “okay well, I’m just going to halfway exploit you now.” That’s not going to happen. They’re not going to say: “ah, okay, I’m going to renounce exploitation.” That won’t happen either. The only thing to do is for the people, women and men, to organize themselves.
So, collective work sounds really nice, really lovely. It’s one thing to talk about it in theory, that is, by explaining; it’s another to do it in practice. But theory helps us understand its great importance, the necessity and the why and for what. So when something doesn’t come out right, like it does in theory, you shouldn’t be discouraged by that, because theoretically you know the why, the for what, the from what, and you know its great importance.
Everyone has to do it for themselves. Collective work is an example. I don’t know how the teachers should do collective work. I don’t know how other workers will do collective work. Everyone, wherever they are, will have to invent it, create it; they’ll have to imagine it and study it, decide on it and put it into practice.
But there is indeed strength in collectivism. And we’ve understood that collectivism isn’t just… we call working the land specifically “collective work,” but there should also be collectivism in how we imagine good health, good education, and the rest of the thirteen demands we’ve put forth. How do we want these things to be? We have to decide as a collective how we want the laws to be where we live. Not for someone who “knows” how to make law to fuck it up and then it’s the people who have to pay.
So, that’s what we mean when we say that collectivism isn’t just about how to work the land. It moves through everything. So this collective work, in this case a specific product—we have it here, the compañero Doctor Raymundo has it—we hope collectively we can figure out how we’re going to deliver it to the migrant brothers, sisters, compañeros, compañeras there in the United States.
So we think that, given how we’re understanding the great importance of struggle, that we have to struggle against capitalism, that we should come up with other things we can do to support the brothers and sisters, the compañeras and compañeros there in the United States. Because they need support, but we think that this support should be unconditional. Because if we make it conditional it will go off in another direction. We need to support each other so that we can demonstrate that we don’t need those others who want to give support, but with conditions.
So the coffee is here. Now we have to see who will say “I’ll take it and deliver it.” It’s not for us to sell, but rather that we want to send it to the United States and for the brothers and sisters there to organize themselves to sell it. Because organization is necessary. Today more than ever we see that we need to organize ourselves against capitalism. To struggle and work.
Once we’ve walked the path that we’ve created through organization, we’re going to realize that we need to reorganize ourselves again. We’ll even have to reeducate ourselves, which is what we’re seeing now, we’re reeducating ourselves. We’re reorganizing what we thought was already organized.
That’s why it’s so important to organize. What does this word—organize—imply? What does it contain? Maybe it has garlic, maybe oil, maybe condiments. That’s what you’ll have to see. What kind of organization? What is this organization about? What is this organization for? That’s up to each of us.
Of course we can’t let ourselves stray off course or sell out or give up. Because this is what is asked of those of us who are against capitalism. Because then you would stop struggling. You can’t say that you don’t want to struggle anymore; you can’t say: “I don’t want poverty and misery anymore.” You can’t: if you stop struggling, the misery will get worse.
These are the things we have to think about. And everyone has to construct what they want to construct, with their struggle, with their organization.
So we offer this coffee to you here so that you can say who is ready and available—understanding that we’re saying that it’s for those brothers and sisters—and so that you all organize to sell it. And we’re thinking we’re going to have to send even more support, but you all have to be resisting there, because if not, we’re not going to send Trump the coffee. We need the migrant people in the United States to be organizing themselves for when we send them coffee from the next harvest.
We hope you’ll accompany us in supporting these brothers and sisters however you are able. You’ll have to see how to do that for yourselves.