Home > Free Essays > Politics & Government > Political Culture > Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Jan 1st, 2022

Anarchism is a kind of philosophy in the political world that believes that the state of government is not necessary, not desired and it is in most cases harmful and oppressive and the society should remain without a government. The doctrine seeks to have a human society which does not have authority. Human relations in this society should be in such away that they are not led by any form of government. The ideology of anarchism is in most cases considered as left wing. In general, it may be divided into four main types: Left winged anarchism ‑ anarcho-communists, and anarcho-syndicalists; right winged anarchism – anarcho-individualists-prudonists and anarcho-Nietzscheanists. In fact, there is no unity between anarchists streams, as some of sub-divisions may contradict the basics of anarchism, while the others associate anarchism with disturbances and lawlessness. On the one hand it is true, as anarchism claims that he society may be arranged without any constraint and any authority, however, a particular regime is inevitable, as refusal from marketing relations and private property will require establishment of a financial flow system. As for violence, it should be stated that Tolstoyans (representatives of Christian anarchism) deny the significance of violence as a force required for maintaining the struggle for social ideals.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the Zapatista movement (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), and the anarchic tendencies of this organization. Considering the fact that the key slogan of this army is “Democracy! Freedom! Justice!” the movement seems peaceful, however, the participants of this movement never part with their weapons, and conceal their faces.

History and Theoretic Grounds of Anarchism

Social movements which will hereby be referred to as anti-systematic and radical, emerged in the 19th century and have over a span of time for reasons best known to them grown to be movements which are always against the state as a change agent. The movements have transformed from those that were in the interest of the sate to those that are treating the sate and all other actions oriented to the state with a lot of suspicion and hatred. According to Wallerstein (2002, p. 29-30), they are not just inclusive in their ways and also democratic but tend to be grossly non-hierarchical and participatory on the basis that the “basis of participation is a common objective… and a common respect for each individual’s immediate priorities” (p.15). In this essay, there will be a consideration of the matter in that anarchism is being a reference point for the said movements. The acts are a kind of response to the state due to its failures.

As Immanuel Wallerstein (2002, p 32) stated, there is a development of the radical movements since national forms and social forms emerged as key movements earlier in the 19th century. The movements were viewed as social parties and at times like trade unions, which were bringing about a kind of social struggle within some sates against the chief management of the states.

They more than often opposed to their rivals in both the national and social realm and they did not have much cooperation without the necessary boundaries. In the first place, the movements presented themselves as those that were yearning to bring about transformation in the social areas. In the second alternative, they often talked over some kinds of strategy that diversified from the state to that which was overly individualistic and civil and often viewed the sate as an enemy against this pursuit. Lastly they visualized that the sate had immense power and so was the best to be pursued due to the influence that it commanded. It is due to this according to Wallerstein (2002, p 36-38) that they had to follow some few steps; first, they had to gain power through any means and secondly, taking advantage of that power, get involved in transforming the state.

Background of Zapatista Movement

In the first stages, they had been thought to gain immense powers though they first gained power over the state without fulfilling their transformation promise. The movements started by gaining power in both Africa and Asia and later went ahead to conquer Latin America. They came to notice that the power of the state was not as immense as they thought it was in the first place. As Chase-Dunn (1981) stipulates, there is party in any state that can enjoy absolute sovereignty, as there is none that can stand up as an autonomous unit and it is usually bound by a certain set of systems within it. On the other hand, the realities of the countries economy will often be affected and directed upon by a need to include itself in the global economy that is capitalist. The much more time that they seemed to lead their states, the more they seemingly averted from their transformation promises.

In those states which had reforms taking place, the capacity of the movements o bring about substantial and transformative change looked disillusioned. The fact remains that the movements did bring about some change though the other fact lies in that the change was not enough to be recognized. The world concluded negatively about the performance of the movements and later on, they called for more changes through revolution in some places. People lost hope in the fact that any state centric movement would ever bring about transformation. This made people lose hope in the states at the focal point of transformation (Baker 2002).

Anarchism is viewed by many as an ideology which is characterized by terror, chaos and aggression. In the real sense it is a refined ideology based on opposition to obligatory hierarchy. At the core of anarchism is the self or the individual. Human beings can be seen to have inherent moral significance, shaping the existential hub of anarchist philosophy as the teleological quest of individual autonomy. To be pressurized or inhibited in any way is to be dishonored and besmirched and thus to breach this vital principle (Jennings 1999). Through chronological surveillance, anarchists view the state as the key perpetrator of this compulsion and restraint. “Such outlooks were uttered by Leo Tolstoy, who observed the state as the primary usurper of liberty and perpetrator of violence” (Christoyannopoulos 2008, 58). Government is perceived as the focal point of this, the putting in place of the powers of the state.

The real practice of anarchism in the world today is the notion of “autonomy from the state.” In a close relation to this reference this, anarchism commands that individuals can not and therefore should not be governed by other individuals; such feat would be intrinsically be seen as coercive as public are not building their own choices (Heywood 2007). “This concern correlates with a crucial association within anarchism between ‘means and ends” (Christoyannopoulos 2008, 99). If political authority is viewed as inherently precarious, then the obligation of chain of command, however provisional, must then be viewed as the same. Once presented, power will be responsible for and oblige itself. To a radical, one must make the most of means in procession with thoughts of “liberty and autonomy” in realizing anarchist ends.

Zapatista Anarchism Assessment

In fact, it is hard to define the origins of Zapatista anarchism, however the ideological background of this movement may be analyzed from the position of libertarian practices. It should be stated that Mayan with the elements of anarchism and libertarianism is the simplified explanation of the movement. Though, in distinction with traditional anarchic movements, Zapatistas do not wish to get involved into violence:

We don’t want to impose our solutions by force, we want to create a democratic space. We don’t see armed struggle in the classic sense of previous guerrilla wars, that is as the only way and the only all-powerful truth around which everything is organized. In a war, the decisive thing is not the military confrontation but the politics at stake in the confrontation. We didn’t go to war to kill or be killed. We went to war in order to be heard. (Lorenzano. 1998, p. 331)

Closely associated with an indulgence of the state having developed through some series of struggle and also in procession with anarchist observation of political authority, the Zapatistas do not intend to overtake the power of the state, but on the other hand, circumvent it. At the same time, according to Lorenzano (1998) Zapatistas is an “armed movement which does not want to take power, as in the old revolutionary schemes”. Instead, they are “subordinate to civil society, to the point of disappearing as an alternative” (Marcos 2001). A bit alienated from the desire to take over the state authority, the Zapatistas are basically apathetic to the various political parties and also ot the state; they seek out to find a way around and live separately from its untrustworthy, negative influence. Allied with this, they are in opposition to the Marxist inspiration of a front line chief to the people in revolt, though it may be envisaged. Indeed, they have shown an unending commitment to this theory in practice, with the EZLN refusing the creation of a handy political coalition with the seditious Mexican biased lobby group, the “Popular Revolutionary Front (EPR)”, due to their diametrically opposed differences over affirmed designs on state supremacy.

The outfitted methods of spreading these democratic organizations are evidently attuned with the anarchist thoughts highlighted. If there falls about a need to be ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’ then the issue of government and chain of command arises (Graeber 2004, p 61- 65). Through the exploitation of two fundamental ideologies, the Zapatistas have revealed a stylish obligation to and indulgence of the anarchist equivalence of ways and subsequent ends. Through the primary operational standard of ‘command obeying’, the Zapatistas have sought after to destabilize hierarchy by contrasting the association between the cream of the crop and the led. In application, this has brought along the rotation of management in neighborhood councils in order to steer clear of a condition of permanent control; thus shunning the drawbacks anarchists associate with executive political authority (Jeffries 2001). The second outfitted concept of “asking we walk” chairs the weight of accountability for action on individuals, rather than definite figures or social groups lashing development towards an intangible goal. This depicts that, rather than instructing others how the social change is to be approved; one is continuously engaged in certain praxis by time after time inquiring how the social transformation is to be enhanced and by doing everyday jobs physically.

Left wing form of anarchism does not believe in hierarchy. According to this form of anarchism, property belonging o a particular set of people becomes replaced by a store in a society which does not embrace hierarchy. A right-winger on the other hand has a tendency to safeguard the hierarchies (Graeber 2004, p 69).

To add on, Individualist anarchism in many times is used to highlight quite a lot of customs of deliberation within the anarchist splinter group that put weight on the personality as well as their strength of will over any variety of exterior determinants for instance society, groups and their traditions, along with ideological systems. Individualist anarchism does not comprise of a single thinking nevertheless, it highlights several a set of “individualistic philosophies” that can be diverging at times.

William Godwin one personality who has been seen at many times to be someone who can be regarded as the pioneer of anarchism wrote a book (Political Justice) which up-to-date is known to be on top of the anarchism movement. Godwin, a rational anarchist, from a utilitarian and also a rationalist basis opposed radical action and visualized a minimal state as the present “indispensable evil” that would turn out to be increasingly immaterial and immobilized by the steady spread of acquaintance. Godwin advocated for intense individualism, suggesting that all collaboration in labour be done away with on the principle that this would be mainly favorable with the common good.

The most tremendous form of individualist anarchism, which is also known as “egoism,” or egoist-anarchism, was illustrated by one of the initial and best-known advocates of individualist anarchism, called Max Stirner. A book titled “The Ego and Its Own, “which was in print in the mid 1800s, is one writing that can be checked for reference in the field of anarchism philosophy. According to him, the only restraint on the privileges of the individual is the power to get hold of what they wish for, without view for God, the state, or even morality. To Stirner, human rights were “spooks” in the brain, and he apprehended that the society does not survive but “the folks are its authenticity”.


Finally, it should be emphasized that Zapatista anarchic movement may be regarded as the unique phenomena among national movements. In general, the actual importance of anarchism for national movements is explained by the fact that Zapatistas wish to struggle for their rights without resorting to violence. However, they are ready to defend their interests with weapons, if it is needed. As for the theoretic background o their anarchism, it should be emphasized that Mayan practices do not fit the existing regime properly, consequently, Zapatistas had to modify them by using libertarian views. Tolstoyan features are also observed, as they do not wish to spill innocent blood, and are eager to resort to weapons only if they will have to defend.


Baker, G (2002) Civil Society and Democratic Theory: Alternative Voices. Routledge, London.

Chase-Dunn, C (1981)’Interstate System and Capitalist World-Economy: One Logic or Two?’ International Studies Quarterly. Vol. 25, No. 1. Pp. 19-42.

Christoyannopoulos, A, J, M, E (2008). ‘Tolstoy’s Anarchist Denunciation of State Violence and Deception’ in Anti-Democratic Thought. Ed. Kofmel, E. Imprint Academic, Charlottesville.

De Angelis, M (2000). ‘Globalization, New Internationalism and the Zapatistas’, Capital and Class. Vol. 70, No. 9. Pp. 9-35.

Franks, B (2006) Rebel Alliances: The Means and Ends of Contemporary British Anarchisms. AK Press, Edinburgh.

Graeber, D (2002) ‘The New Anarchists’, New Left Review. Vol. 13, No. 6. Pp. 61-73.

Heywood, A (2007) Political Ideologies: An Introduction. Palgrave MacMillan, New York.

Jeffries, F (2001) ‘Zapatismo and the Intergalactic Age’ in Globalization and Postmodern Politics. Eds. Burbach, R, Jeffries, F and Robinson, W, I. Pluto Press, London.

Jennings, J (1999) ‘Anarchism’ in Contemporary Political Ideologies: Second Edition. Eds. Eatwell, R and Wright, A. Continuum International Publishing Group, New York.

Lorenzano, L (1998). ‘Zapatismo: Recomposition of Labour, Radical Democracy and Revolutionary Project’ in Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico.Eds. Holloway, J and Pelaez, E. Pluto Press, London.

Marcos (1993) EZLN’s Declaration of War: Today We Say Enough Is Enough (Ya Basta!). General Command of the EZLN, Chiapas.

Rocker, R (1938) Anarchosyndicalism. Secker and Warburg, London.

Wallerstein, I (2002) ‘New Revolts Against the System’, New Left Review. Vol.18. Nov/Dec. Pp. 29-39.

This essay on Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2022, January 1). Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation. https://ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/


IvyPanda. (2022, January 1). Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/

Work Cited

"Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation." IvyPanda, 1 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/.

1. IvyPanda. "Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/.


IvyPanda. "Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/anarchism-zapatista-army-of-national-liberation/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Anarchism. Zapatista Army of National Liberation'. 1 January.

Powered by CiteTotal, online essay bibliography generator
More related papers