Where did it come from and what do the movements have in common?
The second international seminar of reflection and analysis, “Planet Earth: anti-systemic movements”, was held from the 30th of December to the 2nd of January at Cideci, the University of the Earth, situated outside San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, south-east Mexico. Hundreds of people from all over Latin America, Europe, Asia and the US gathered to listen to intellectuals and social activists, from Mexico and other parts of the world, share their reflections and experiences of the many social struggles that have erupted in different places in recent years.
The protest movements which arose during 2011 in various parts of the world, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Spain, Greece, Italy, Chile, Colombia, the United States and Greece, “reflect a sense of widespread injustice and the possibility of a global awakening which could increase these actions of collective rejection”, said Jerome Baschet, Doctor of History at the Paris School of Higher Studies in the Social Sciences. He continued, “the logic of capitalist production is leading to our losing control of our lives, and now is the time to reclaim them; this global movement has arisen as a crossroads between all our struggles: the struggles against the theft of material goods, land, ways of living, and the ability to decide. It is a movement which calls to all of those who feel dispossessed”.
The Zapatista example
The seminar was held to mark the eighteenth anniversary of the Zapatista uprising, and the role of the Zapatistas in inspiring the current movements was a common theme among all the participants. “They taught us another way of seeing the world”, said Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Paulina Fernandez, professor of Political Science at UNAM, commented, “despite efforts to silence them, hide them away, marginalize them and isolate the movement up in the mountains without media information about what they are doing, the Zapatistas are building a real alternative process on a daily basis. They are proof that this country can function in a different way”.
The poet and leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, Javier Sicilia, said “the last eighteen years since the Zapatistas have been fundamental – by revealing the negation of the indigenous world that had been going on for centuries, they also revealed the dysfunction of the State and the neoliberal system, and gave new ideas and new possibilities not only to the nation but to the entire world”.
Many participants linked the Zapatista movement to the new movements. Daniela Carrasco, from the Chilean student movement, echoed the feelings of many activists when she said “the great example that we have taken from the Zapatista movement is the assembly as a form of organization… all our members vote… knowing that they are participating and not just spectators, in an act of taking back the struggle”. Carlos Marentes, of the Union of Border Agricultural Workers, El Paso, Texas, agreed, saying “the Zapatista influence continues to grow among us, especially around the need to organize from below with other movements and the importance of pushing an alternative to the industrial model of agriculture that threatens our planet”.
Pablo González Casanova, sociologist, academic, researcher and former rector of UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) is one of Mexico’s most respected intellectuals. Unable to attend due to ill-health, he sent a message to the seminar, identifying the common features of the movements, and saying, “consider the immense mobilization of the indignados and the Occupy movement who struggle for another possible world… There has never been a [mobilization] of this magnitude, and that mobilization began in the jungles of Chiapas with the principles of inclusion and dialogue”.
The Links Between Occupy, El Barrio and the EZLN
One of the wonderful examples of people from different countries working and taking inspiration from each other that emerged at this gathering is the relationship between Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the Movement for Justice in el Barrio (MJB), both from New York, and the Zapatistas. These three struggles came together at the seminar, due to the efforts of the MJB, an autonomous immigrant movement struggling for dignity and against displacement, which is central to the Other Campaign in New York.
The Occupy movement, representing that 99 per cent of the planet, the world of the excluded, has now grown to over a thousand camps around the world, and actions have been taken in more than two thousand cities. Marlina, from the OWS movement, explained to the gathering how “North American society, often characterized by apathy and disorganization, has risen in a collective awakening, which although it still lacks form, represents the first steps for many people, who keep walking and looking for new ways of working” and that “the Zapatista resistance encourages us to keep up the struggle to build a different world…The Zapatistas have sent out very clear and inspiring messages…. the fact that these communities continue in struggle against the capitalist world is a source of strength, guidance and wisdom to those who now are now mobilizing”.
During the seminar, the MJB presented a declaration of support for the Zapatistas, signed by over a thousand members of the Occupy Wall Street assembly. In the pronouncement, made from Liberty Square, they denounce the attacks on the indigenous communities of San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz and demand respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the Zapatista communities. Acts of international solidarity like this are fundamental to our collective future.
For further information: http://segundoseminarioint.blogspot.com/
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova’s analysis of the seventeen key points common to the worldwide movement ‘from below and to the left’:
The movement of the indignados began in the Lacandon Jungle
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova
Read to the Seminar “planet earth: anti-systemic movements” on 1.1.12
** “The good living of some must not depend on the bad living of others”
** “The 99% are going to win”
** “The Zapatista movement walks through the whole world, not as an echo, but as the voice of the same thoughts and desires”
If we consider the knowledge and actions of a worldwide movement such as the “indignados”, we soon notice theoretical and practical problems considerably different from those raised within academia, parties or governments. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to enrich our knowledge through the questions people ask and the answers they are given.
Theories and practices that come “from below and to the left” genuinely criticize power, when it is seen as different from society, and when it is separate from society.
The new peoples’ movements propose a democracy that corresponds to the decisions of the people, and that if it becomes distant from the people, it ceases to be a democracy.
Impoverished and excluded “indignados” and “Occupy movements” formulate theories that contain strong empirical support. These consist of explanations and generalizations, based on a great quantity of experience. Knowledge, arts and techniques that correspond to the knowledge and the ways of being of the people; that knowledge which the anthropologist Andrés Aubry so exalts, in which, instead of the individualistic “I”, the Tojolabal “we” appears, that concept rescued by Carlos Lenkersdorf for the philosophy of human solidarity.
Theories and practices have much of the particular and also of the universal …And I do not exaggerate. Think of the huge “indignado” and “Occupy” mobilizations which are struggling for another possible world. Today -two admired English professors write-, the mobilization is gigantic. Never before has one of this magnitude been presented, and all the mobilizations (they add) “began in the jungles of Chiapas with the principles of inclusion and dialogue”.
Thus we see that “from below and to the left”, and from the tropical forests, a movement is arising that not only fights to defend the rights of indigenous peoples, but also for the emancipation of all human beings.
And this universal movement, amidst all its differences, faces similar difficulties. Moreover, it finds similar solutions through the creation of another world and another culture, so badly needed, which the peoples of the Andes call “living well”, whereby “the wellbeing of some does not rely on the bad living of the rest”. (el vivir bien de unos no dependa del mal vivir de otros”).
To the contributions provided by the American Indians, many more are added, corresponding to the experiences of different cultures and histories, which all make up the world history of the struggle for freedom, justice and democracy; the slogan the Zapatista movement uses walks through the whole world, not as an echo, but as the voice of the same thoughts and desires.
And there are the Greek youth fighting against the tribute of foreign debt; the movements of the Arab spring that the military cannot force to compromise; the Spanish “indignado” assemblies that articulate vital interests that the system can not satisfy; the young Americans occupying Wall Street as the centre of corporate power we all struggle against; the young Chileans who give up their lives so their schools and universities are not taken away.
In all these demonstrations there is a lot in common. All, or almost all, agree with “inclusiveness” and “dialogue” and, in increasing numbers, with the idea that corporate capitalism is the source of all the problems that affect and threaten humanity.
They also agree that the solution is democracy from everyone, for everyone, and with everyone, which is not delegated; some call it democratic socialism or the socialism of the 21st century, and others just call it democracy; and it is that and much more, it is a new way of relating to the earth and human beings … a new way of organizing life.
And it is in the midst of the richness and novelty of this global movement that a series of reflections coming from below and to the left have been understood, and a response arises seeking the triumph of the indignados and the poor of the earth.
The richness of the reflections and calls is huge; it demands attention, and a deepening study; I here list briefly some of these calls which we must now work on:
1. Above all the call to lose fear, which the Zapatista movement has highlighted as a requirement for thought and action.
2. To not only think of “what to do”, but “how we do it”.
3. Setting out with whom -we do it- in the different circumstances.
4. To clarify our internal differences with a new style for discussion and agreement.
5. The complete rejection of the logic of charity. And also the logic of paternalism, as both of them disguise manipulation. Charity and paternalism are the good side of the authoritarian culture.
6. Combining the struggle for the rights of the peoples, workers and citizens with the struggle to build an alternative society in which good government collectives practice “governing by obeying”. Give detailed examples to clarify what constitutes the practice of governing by obeying. (mandar obediciendo)
7. Take the necessary steps for the project of emancipation to be truly inclusive, and to provide a space for the respectful treatment of differences in race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion, ideology and level of education.
8. Redefine the concepts of liberty, equality, fraternity, justice, democracy … Redefine them in everyday life here and now.
9. Clarify that networks are not only networks of information. Clarify that networks of collectives and of collective systems have been and will be organized, which will: enable horizontal organizations to predominate over the market and the state, encourage cooperation and solidarity against the individualism of the market, and allow those responsible for governing by obeying to follow the guidelines set by horizontal organizations and never even for one minute to feel above them. At the same time create centralized and decentralized organizations, like the EZLN, like the police from the people of the southeast, and like the municipal autonomies.
10. Deepen and promote solidarity and cooperative systems through flows and exchanges that bring production, consumption and services closer together, eg education, health, social security.
11. Constantly update knowledge about contradictions within the emancipation movements themselves, and not only update about external contradictions.
12. Encourage respect for the dignity and identity of individuals and peoples, without falling into individualism or provincialism, and before cultivating universal emancipation.
13. Combat Manichaeism [belief in religious or philosophical dualism], and renew the type of discussions that invoke the classics to understand the here and now, and include their narratives and reflections in the creative memory of our generalizations.
14. Recognize that, in all great movements, the people – for reasons of enormous importance – do not favour violent revolution but massive peaceful occupations of society and the earth.
15. Realise that the 99 per cent of humanity is going to win this struggle, and that its triumph, and the society that will be built, will depend on the ecological creation of a sustainable land system, able to meet the vital demands of a growing population when currently hundreds of millions suffer from hunger and cold, and able to prevent the continuation of an economic and political system in which the industry of war is the main engine of the economy.
16. Identify how to fight and win peacefully in a “broad spectrum” war, as designed by the Pentagon. If one of the “spectrums” is an armed and violent war, we can fight in the others, which cover information technology and cyber war, the war on education, the war on culture, the economic war with foreign debt and derivatives, the social war which destroys the fabric of the community, family and class; the pseudo-scientific and ideological neoliberal war, cynical, re-colonizing and neo-fascist: the war that destroys the biosphere, and the war that sows terror and which accompanies the immoral war intended to co-opt, macro -corrupt and subject a human race which has given up and sold out.
17. Insist that the poor of the earth and those who are with them must challenge the broad-spectrum war in all possible peaceful spectrums: in the realm of education to think and do, in the realm of the economics of resistance that takes care of bread and water, home and hearth, services of health and security: the social fabric of family and community, and of a working class that rebuilds the essential union of regulated and unregulated workers; in the ideological struggle against the corporations, the yellow leaders and the gangs who hide their predatory war behind other no less infamous wars – like those against terrorism, drug trafficking and confusion … And to be ever more aware that the current war of intimidation and corruption seeks above all the plunder and dispossession of the communal lands, the farmers’ fields, the national lands, of the forests and mines, the oil reserves and groundwater, the soil and subsoil, the coasts and land. And not satisfied with oppressing the poorest of the poor and the inhabitants of the margins of the world, they are more and more openly impoverishing the middle class and depriving them of their rights, and the youth and children of the world of their future.
Alongside the outraged (indignados) of the earth we must stand against the new policy of the carrot and the stick, of corruption and macroeconomic repression that corporate capitalism employs, with its allies and subordinates. Against their plans of intimidation and universal corruption, we will brandish the moral struggle and the courage of the people. We will do it, we know that there are more of us all the time, and that more and more people throughout the world are now struggling for what in 1994 seemed to be only a “post-modern indigenous rebellion”, but in reality was only the beginning of a human mobilization considerably better prepared to achieve the liberty, justice and democracy we all deserve.
Declaration of Support from Liberty Plaza, New York to the Zapatistas in Mexico.
Declaration produced by the Movement for Justice in el Barrio, New York Signed by 1000 protestors from Occupy Wall Street
For over 17 years, with the public uprising of the EZLN on January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas have made enormous contributions to the social, cultural, and political struggles of those from below for another world. In doing so, they have touched the hearts of countless people of good conscience from every corner of the planet; and have proven that justice, dignity, and democracy are not simply ideas to be imagined or discussed, but realities to be lived and created.
They have successfully created spaces of true autonomy and practice genuine democracy. In their communities, they exercise self-determination and develop self-sustained community institutions, such as schools, health clinics, and cooperative farms, that reflect and embrace indigenous worldviews and cultures.
They are living proof that it is possible to create this other world that we want.
As history teaches us, for the powerful and privileged few who control our lives and plunder our world, a struggle such as this must be rejected, distorted, silenced, beaten, imprisoned, assaulted, ignored.
The Zapatista autonomy infuriates the servants of the capitalist system who make up the bad governments. In Mexico, these bad federal, state, and municipal governments – which are headed by the brutal repressor, President Felipe Calderon, and controlled by the reigning PAN, PRI, and PRD parties – systematically use their army, police forces, and paramilitary groups to attempt to destroy their autonomy and exterminate the dignified, indigenous Zapatista communities.
Over the past year, the autonomous indigenous communities of San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz have endured numerous acts of violence, harassment, and displacement. In recent months, these grave acts have intensified at alarming rates. In San Marcos Avilés, since September 2010, the population has suffered from death threats, harassment, dispossession, sexual assault (including attempted rape), forced displacement, and malnourishment, which has resulted in the deaths of at least two children. These horrific crimes have been and continue to be committed by members of the PRI, PRD, and PVEM political parties.
Similarly, last September 7, inhabitants of the San Patricio community have received constant threats of displacement and even death by a paramilitary group called, “Peace and Justice,” which desires to seize their territory. Alongside these heinous acts, the paramilitaries continue to destroy and plunder the San Patricio community’s crops, animals, and possessions – in essence, their livelihoods. Women and children have been experiencing this violence acutely, as the paramilitary group has consciously sought them out and threatened them directly.
Beginning this past October 6, community members of Rancho La Paz have suffered equally heinous attacks, such as repeated death threats involving firearms, theft and the destruction of foodstuffs, and beatings, including the physical attack of group of women with machetes. The perpetrators are government-protected residents of nearby communities.
These horrific crimes are part of a deliberate strategy to retaliate against the Zapatistas for exercising their rights to be autonomous and not allowing the bad government and its lackeys to seize what rightfully belongs to them: their ancestral territories, resources, and labor. The bad government with its corrupt political parties does this with the goal of displacing them from their land so that they can take possession of it and later construct lucrative tourist zones for the benefit of those from above.
In light of the abovementioned forms of violence targeting the Zapatista indigenous communities of San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz in Chiapas, Mexico:
We, the undersigned, participating in Occupy Wall St. in New York City, gathered at Liberty Plaza and part of the civil society of the United States, declare the following:
1. The Zapatistas are not alone in their struggle for a world of dignity, justice, and democracy. We echo and repeat their honourable “¡Ya Basta!” here in New York City.
2. We strongly condemn the violations taking place in Chiapas, Mexico, and will remain on alert for further aggression.
3. We will not let Mexico’s bad government achieve its objective of annihilating the Zapatista communities.
4. We hold the three levels of government (federal, state, and municipal) in Mexico responsible for all of the repressive acts against the Zapatista indigenous communities, who are targeted for exercising their undeniable right to autonomy and self-determination as indigenous peoples.
1. Respect for the autonomy and self-determination of the Zapatista indigenous people.
2. An end to the violent repression towards the Zapatistas, and their support communities, such as San Marcos Avilés, San Patricio, and Rancho La Paz.