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The Political-Philosophical Currents of the 1970s in the Discourse of Subcommander Marcos. Review of Nick Henck, Insurgent Marcos: The Political-Philosophical Formation of the Zapatista Subcommander. Raleigh, NC: A Contracorriente, 2017.

The Political-Philosophical Currents of the 1970s in the Discourse of Subcommander Marcos. Review of Nick Henck, Insurgent Marcos: The Political-Philosophical Formation of the Zapatista Subcommander. Raleigh, NC: A Contracorriente, 2017.
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  LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 223, Vol. 45 No. 6, November 2018, 185–187DOI: 10.1177/0094582X18787477© 2018 Latin American Perspectives 185 Book ReviewThe Political-Philosophical Currents of the 1970s in the Discourse of Subcommander Marcos by Adela Cedillo Nick Henck   Insurgent Marcos: The Political-Philosophical Formation of the Zapatista Subcommander . Raleigh, NC: A Contracorriente, 2017.The most recent book by Nick Henck can be seen as a second part of his Subcommander  Marcos: The Man and the Mask   (2007). In Insurgent Marcos , Henck renders an intellectual  biography of Subcommander Marcos (Rafael Guillén Vicente), the spokesperson for the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation—EZLN) until 2013 and the most popular Latin American guerrilla icon after Che Guevara. Henck argues that although Marcos’s ideology is inseparable from Neozapatista discourse, scholars who have studied the latter such as Le Bot (1997), Holloway and Peláez (1998), and Khasnabish (2010) have neglected to discuss Marcos’s political-philosophical development. This problem is of the utmost importance for explaining the exceptional case of a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla force that turned into an indigenous armed social movement with a postmodern-leftist discourse. Henck con-vincingly demonstrates that Marcos has been more than a spokesperson, translator, and mediator for indigenous communities, since his evolving ideas from youth to the pres-ent day are part of the fabric of Neozapatismo. Thus Insurgent Marcos  adds a new piece to the puzzle of the political genealogy of the EZLN traced by Harvey (1998), Cedillo (2012), and Gunderson (2017), among others.Henck delves into three issues: Guillén’s intellectual upbringing, the factors under-lying his ideological transformation into the Subcommander, and the elements of his development that persisted in the Subcommander’s discourse. Textual analysis of Guillén’s graduation thesis and the Subcommander’s writings, speeches, and inter-views leads to some srcinal conclusions. Henck argues that Guillén learned to under-stand the world through the prism of literature and that this was his most striking legacy to Marcos. As a student of philosophy, he was indebted to Althusserian Marxism, Foucauldian structuralism, and post-Marxism. The Subcommander’s analysis of capi-talism, neoliberalism, and globalization hint at Marxist influences although replacing most of the Marxist terminology. For instance, Marcos maintains the theory of the exploitation of labor but declines to talk about proletarians, speaking instead of los de abajo  (those from below). He also rejects “revolution” in favor of “revolt” and “rebel-lion.” Nevertheless, Henck sees a certain “conceptual continuity or at least the persis-tence of political-philosophical preoccupations” (248) that place Marcos within Marxism  broadly speaking. Whatever it means to be a Marxist today, Henck refutes attempts to demonstrate that Neozapatismo is largely independent of Marxism. Adela Cedillo is a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and coeditor (with Fernando Herrera Calderón) of Challenging Authoritarianism in  Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964–1982  (2012). LAP   XX   X   10.1177/0094582X18787477LatinAmericanPerspectives Cedillo /BookReview book-review   2018  186 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES According to Henck, the eclectic and unorthodox way in which Guillén blended dif-ferent currents of thinking fostered in Marcos a flexibility of mind that led him to reject Marxist-Leninist postulates such as the centrality of the proletariat as a historical agent and the dictatorship of the proletariat when he arrived in the Lacandón jungle in the early 1980s. Thus, whereas the indigenous worldview was a culture shock to urban guerrillas, Marcos sought to understand the Mayan Indians in their own terms and incorporated some of their views into his ideological corpus. As Henck underscores, the fact that the Fuerzas de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Forces—FLN), the organization that founded the EZLN, did not pursue ideological purity allowed Marcos to combine not only different theoretical currents but also different worldviews. This transformation did not occur in other indigenous societies penetrated by guerrilla orga-nizations such as those of Guatemala and Peru. Several scholars have analyzed the contrast between the EZLN and the preceding Latin American guerrilla organizations, emphasizing the conjuncture in which Neozapatismo emerged, marked by the end of the Cold War, neoliberal expansion on a global scale, and the decline of Marxism as the ideology of the left. Without overlooking this context, Henck reveals that Marcos’s development and discourse are fundamental for clarifying why the EZLN became the first postmodern-leftist guerrilla army in history.In Chapter 1 Henck discusses the literary formation of Rafael Guillén and its traces in the production of Marcos, showing that poetry and literature were his primary style of communication. Henck believes that this was not a calculated strategy but the pre-dominant framework in terms of which Guillén and therefore Marcos looked at the world. In Chapter 2 Henck deals with Guillén’s Marxist development, arguing that antihumanist and structuralist Althusserian Marxism had a major influence on both his ideas and his political commitment. Although Marcos stopped being an Althusserian, he preserved Althusser’s interpretation of ideology and concern with the relationship between theory and praxis. Henck observes that the ideas of the phi-losopher Nicos Poulantzas lay dormant within Guillén as “latent legacies” that would later influence Marcos’s attempts at forging links with a variety of social movements. Therefore, when Marcos addressed gender, ethnic, and environmental struggles in relation to the anticapitalist struggle, he posited that there was no hierarchy among them. In Chapter 3, Henck demonstrates that Guillén was acquainted with Foucault’s work and identifies certain ideas of the French philosopher as further “latent legacies” in the Subcommander’s writings and speech. These influences are chiefly related to the adoption of a genealogical approach, an attack on grand narratives, and the pro-motion of LGBT rights. Regarding the latter, Henck seems to overlook the fact that convergence of ideas does not reveal a causal connection and that Marcos likely embraced LGBT demands through his contact with gay activists after 1994. In Chapter 4 Henck questions the absence of Gramscian elements in Guillén’s thought despite Gramsci’s influence in Latin America during the 1980s and suggests that Guillén shunned humanist Marxists in general and that his isolation in the Lacandón jungle shielded him from the Gramsci boom. In appendices Henck provides translations of key documents to facilitate comparison of Guillén’s and Marcos’s ideas.Given the scarcity of sources for analyzing Guillén’s thought, some of Henck’s con-clusions are speculative. It is clear that Guillén/Marcos was also influenced by writers who are not mentioned in the available sources. New evidence such as the FLN’s clan-destine magazines, stored in the archive of La Casa de Todas y Todos, and the testimo-nies of other FLN cadres could confirm or refute the degree of influence of particular Marxist and post-Marxist writers on Guillén/Marcos’s ideology. Moreover, it is docu-mented that the FLN/EZLN cadres read Maoist, Vietnamese Marxist, and liberation theology texts, and the fact that Marcos did not cite them in his communiqués does not indicate that he was not acquainted with those currents. Finally, Henck asserts that  Cedillo / BOOK REVIEW 187 scholars who have declined to identify Marcos as Guillén have done so to distance themselves from the right-wing writers who maintain that Marcos was a secret com-munist and to stress the collective contribution of the EZLN. However, he fails to men-tion that Marcos has denied being Rafael Guillén ever since the Mexican government “unmasked” him in 1995. Only those who do not accept that denial will be able to rec-ognize Henck’s work as a contribution to the intellectual history of Neozapatismo. REFERENCES Cedillo, Adela 2012 “Armed struggle without revolution: the organizing process of the National Liberation Forces (FLN) and the genesis of Neo-Zapatism (1969–1983),” pp. 148–166 in Fernando Herrera Calderón and Adela Cedillo (eds.), Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggle and the Dirty War, 1964–1982 . New York: Routledge.Gunderson, Christopher 2017 “The communist roots of Zapatismo and the Zapatista Uprising.” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology  16 (1–3): 167–179.Harvey, Neil 1998 The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy . Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Henck, Nick 2007 Subcommander Marcos: The Man and the Mask  . Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Holloway, John and Eloína Peláez (eds.). 1998 Zapatista! Reinventing Revolution in Mexico . London: Pluto Press.Khasnabish, Alex 2010 Zapatistas: Rebellion from the Grassroots to the Global . London: Zed Books.Le Bot, Yvon 1997 El sueño zapatista . Barcelona: Plaza & Janés Editores.
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