Saturday, February 3, 2001


Staughton Lynd, McMaster University, Feb. 3, 2001

A visitor from the imperialist heartland should be hesitant to pontificate about globalization and resistance.
Lynd, photo by Madeleine Kay (age3)
In so many ways, Canada is a more civilized and a more developed society than the United States. In the 1960s, young men subject to the draft or already members of the Armed Forces of the United States fled to Canada. When my passport was taken away for traveling to Hanoi during wartime, I made a point of visiting Canada, for which a passport was not required, I hope that my words on those occasions may have added something to your resolve to provide sanctuary to war resisters from the States.
In that same decade, both of my older children attended the Everdale Place, an experimental school not too distant from where we meet tonight. Later, your public health system gave heart not only to health care advocates in the States, but also to those of us who as Legal Services lawyers or Headstart teachers were trying to provide a public service administered in a decentralized and democratic manner. Less than two months ago, Canada's finance Minister announced a moratorium on $700 million of the $1.1 billion debt owed to Canada by heavily indebted poor countries, so that those countries could spend that money "on urgent social priorities such as health care, education and poverty reduction." You have, I believe, a far more comprehensive and respectful approach to the self-determination of indigenous peoples than do we in the States. And you have abolished the death penalty.
My deepest sense of obligation is to individual comrades like Margaret Keith and Jim Brophy in their industrial health and safety work, or to Bruce Allen, who under his nom de web Praxis 1871 makes me sensitive to things I need to know about not only in Canada, but in the States as well, and indeed around the world.
For all of the foregoing, thank you, Canada.
At the same time, I believe you will join me in recognizing that Canada is still a capitalist economy, deeply enmeshed in the globalization that is our subject tonight. From this standpoint you in Canada and we in the United States are all in the same soup, or perhaps more precisely, all under the treads of the same neo-liberal juggernaut. Because of this common predicament that we share I venture to share some thoughts about globalization and resistance.
What should be the principles of our common resistance to globalization?
I am going to suggest certain principles, but I am concerned that the moment I do so, we will become lost in a discussion of labels. So let me begin in a different way by holding up as a model or mantra the activity of the resistance movement in the third society subject to NAFTA -- and of course, more grievously subject to it than either the United States of Canada -- namely, Mexico.
The Zapatista movement in Chiapas seems to me extraordinary in at least the following ways:
  1. Without participating in electoral politics, the Zapatistas have ended 71 years of uninterrupted government by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. How have they done this? One critical component is a vast effort at popular education. Mayan peasants, who had never before left their native villages, traveled all over Mexico meeting with popular organizations such as the rebelling students at the national university.
  2. Of course the Zapatistas are not nonviolent in any traditional sense. But neither are they a traditional Latin American guerrilla movement. Without giving up either their arms or the principle of armed struggle, they have carried on for the last five years an essentially nonviolent resistance. For example, the Mexican government has sought to build roads into the Lancandon jungle that is the Zapatista stronghold, The government claimed that this was to help farmers get their produce to market. The real reason, obviously, was to be able to move soldiers and military gear into the area. At the western edge of the jungle is a village named Amador. During the summer and fall of 1999, the soldiers seeking to build the road were met each day by a cordon (a picket line) of women from Amador. Since many of the soldiers were indigenous, the women appealed to them to recognize their true interests and to put down their weapons. To prevent this dialogue the government played music through loud speakers, I lost track of this encounter for about a year. Then I noticed that after Vicente Fox became president, he announced the abandonment of a number of military bases in Chiapas. The first base to be abandoned was at Amador.
  3. When my wife and I briefly visited San Cristobal in 1999, we talked with a woman who for years has worked with indigenous communities in the area. She was completing a book of interviews subtitled "Voices from Mayan Communities in Rebellion in Chiapas." She told us: