KPFK LAB Chairperson and Free Pacifica activist Dave Adelson was in Mexico City for the arrival of the  Zapatista Caravan. He conducted a taped interview in Spanish  with Zapatista spokesperson Javier Elorriaga.

The translation below was provided by former KPFK staff member Fernando Velasquez.


JAVIER ELORRIAGA, SPOKESPERSON FOR MEXICO'S ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (FZLN), the political wing of the EZLN, speaks about the US-based Pacifica Radio Network.
Interview conducted by: David Adelson, March 2001

DA What is your understanding of Pacifica Radio's crisis and its implications?

JE What are today's problems and in what directions are the world's struggles going, right?  Basically, its to build new ways to do politics, and not only havimg to do with doing politics in the ordinary way, as its usually done, it has something to do with  a cultural question. The way of thinking and doing things must change.

The struggle for power has to be removed from the left's thinking.  Then, that should be reflected not only in practical aspects of politics, but above all, in the political relations between human beings.  You must erradicate the idea that from above, from a certain position, one can construct and decide and do, because that idea leads people to think that the goal of the struggle is to reach that position.

You must understand that politics must change, from relations of power, to solidarity relations.   Capitalism is all about  relations of power, thats how it expreses itself at the cultural, political, ideological, economic and social levels.   We must go around that.

That's whats happening with Pacifica Radio and other media outlets that at one time, they had some degree of independence from the state institutions and large corporations, and today they're seen as a prize, as an economic or political body.

Why?  Because what they need is to destroy all collective spaces, every place that has a collective-making process, they must go in and break it. They must place the individual all alone against the state, against trade, against the bank, against the church.

Why?  Because an individual alone has no means to defend him(her)self.

What ten years ago was of no interest for them, like independent radio stations.  Pacifica is quite large, but there are some smaller ones, and you may ask yourself, what does a large network care about these little radio station?   They care because they must get to the very core of society, and break everything that is collective.   To individualize 'till they can go no more.

?What can we do to avoid that?   To strenghten the collective spaces, the collective dicision-making processes,  all forms of collective participation.   And to understand that we must create a new culture that is not based on isolating the individual  from the world, nor on the premise that we stay equal.  We must understand that we are equal because we are different, that is based in another way to concieve democracy, social and economic relations.

DA: What can anyone do when  power is centralized, like pacifica's radio transmitters, how can they be placed to the service of the community?

JE: You must try to give the control of the radio station, the programming and decion-making to the community.  There can be a Board of Directors for the conduction of administrative matters, but that Board cannot make decisions about the community.   The community is the one who must decide and have the power to appoint and remove the members of the Board at anytime   They don't have to wait for  elections as it is done every four years with the politicians.

?Why change the Directors every four years if their performance on the job is poor after the first month? Why wait four years? Yes, you need somebody to manage the finances,  to pay the electric bill, to buy CD's, right?    There are people who can do that kind of work but they must be accountable to the collective.

What  zapatismo says about "giving orders by receiving orders" it's not just a formula for politics, it's a formula that works in a school, in a neighborhood, in a factory, in a radio station.

Who does call the shots in a radio station?  The radio listeners, they are the ones that must have an option.

Why?  Capitalism says you can change the channel, if you don't like this one, dial another one, that's democratic.  That's stupid!  Democracy can be something like the people asking: why are you broadcsting that crap?   Why don't you air something in which we, the audience, are included?   There are a few places like that around the world but their number is growing.   The fight to break the monopoly in the world of communications, grows and grows and grows, and that makes them very angry.

DA: What is the relation of the spaces were power is distributed within capitalism?

JE: Well, it is a struggle, there are two models, not only political models, but two models of culture and humanity charging against one another.   Capitalism does not tolerate collectives and it does not tolerate the community.  These spaces that are being opened, these spaces fighting against capitalist enterprises and the governments at their service, are growing in number.

Why?  Because they are a neccessity for people.  If people see that they (alternative networks) can play a role within the media, they will be interested.

Why?  Because they don't believe in the system anymore, they don't believe in the government, the press, and television.   What will they believe in?    In whatever they think is theirs, where they can have participation, where someone is speaking about what they consider, its important.

And that must be built from below, we must forget about the giant struggles and try to build that new relation from below, at the local level.

DA: Is there something that you would like to say for pacifica's listeners?

JE: Back in early 1994, we used to have a joke that said that, the land is for whoever works in it, and later we used to say, the news belong to those who work on the news.  But not in the sense that, because  we are here, we're going to sell it, but because it is us, as people, the ones who are making history.  Therefore, it is up to us to teach, to broadcast, to tell, what we're doing to others.

Today is not the time to be taking the winter's palace and the great moments of history.  Today is for understanding that we're so different from one another that we must listen to each other, to understand that the strenght of our struggle is infinite.   It is represented in a thousand forms, each individual can do something to fight against capital and against the system, but we don't know it.   why?  Because we have no control, we have no medium  to broadcast it.    So, anything that we can use, to tell others about our experience in the struggle its very important.   We may not be able to realize it today or in five years, but
its  becoming  evident that it is very important.

Why?  Because we're re-capturing the past, and we're building a collective  future.. Is not a future for someone to give us, its not just like dialing another radio station, because no matter which one you listen to is the same shit....(he laughs)....

We must build from below,  we must tell the local stories over and over, those things that seem meaninless.   You might say that your struggle is not important at the global level because it failed to drop two points in the stock exchange, but without your little struggles at the local level, there'll never be a global struggle.

So, we must put a lot of effort into it, this is one of the areas where we're gaining  more ground, in the alternative media, I think.

And you know, its very interesting, when the zapatismo came out, the internet came out and all of this.   And less than a year later, some specialists from the pentagon came out with a study called the war of zapatistas network, or something like that.

They developed a whole idea, a theory on how zapatismo used the internet and social networks, and came out with plans on how to counter this offensive, and ZAP! it jumped in Seattle, right at the heart of the empire who had made a study about how zapatismo caught them by surprise.   They got caught  right in the middle of their streets, with a horizontal communication through the internet.

Then, all of those who had theorerized all that stupidity, had no idea where all the demonstrators in Seattle came from, and later in Prague, did not know where the protestors came from.  And it will continue the same way, we don't theorize much,  we just do it.

So, we must diseminate all those experiences as much as we can, so other people can do it, so they don't wait for someone else to do it, so they don't wait and say: today its an easy day.   But only if you have the community on your side, otherwise, you're like the corporations, even if you're small and marginal, 'cause then you'll be a small and marginal corporation without the people on you side.

If people don't understand that there's something they want to communicate, if they don't understand that through that communication its going to learn something from others, its worhless.

That's what's changing.   In the 60's and 70's we used to do radio, and radio speaks to people.  But today is not about speaking to people, but speaking together with the people.   To make a collective space for dialogue, of reflexion, of experience.

That's what we intend to do in the days to come.  A place where people will come from all over the country and from other parts of  the world, where there's struggle.  For what?    So they can have the opportunity to tell each other's experiences in  struggle.

DA: Why do you think it takes so long and so much effort for people to undestand that a radio station should be part of their community.  Why are they willing to see it as something separate, outside of them?

JE: Because that's all they ever had.    What is what we know?    What it has been fed into our heads since we were children.   The other stuff is much more difficult.

Why?   Because there's the idea that you cannot participate in that. It takes a lot of money to have a radio or television station, many millions of dollars, connections with people in power, and it becomes something far away from your reality.   When you begin to produce radio programs, to make them, to broadcast them, to watch them, you discover that is not an unreachable goal.

But people don't know, they think it is very difficult, that it is for someone else, that it is part of the big corporations..   We must destroy that myth.