Friday, July 28, 2006

July 26th Intergalactic Communiqué

July 26th 2006 Communiqué
from the Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
Translation El Kilombo Intergaláctico

July, 2006

Compañeros and compañeras adherents of the Zezta Internazional, Brother and Sisters of Planet Earth:

This is Insurgent Lieutenant Colonel Moisés writing to share with you the results of more than seven months of consultation on the next Intergalactic Encounter. As we said in our November 2005 communiqué, the objective of the Intergalactic is that it is really up to all of you to determine how we organize this Encounter.

We truly want all adherents to participate in its organization, that the Intergalactic not be a decision of the EZLN. In the seven months of consultation that have passed since December 1st, 2005, there have been preparatory meetings in different countries, as well as cybernetic consultations. From these meetings we have received proposals for the Intercontinental, on themes to be discussed as well as the date and place for the Encounter.

Like we said above, here we want to report on how the consultations have gone up until now, and the proposals and discussions that have come up. You should let us know if we are missing something and what it is that we are missing. We will be here working, and pending your input.

For our part, our opinion is that we continue with more discussion and more proposals. We think it is necessary to continue thinking and accumulating ideas before coming together in the Encounter, seeing as it’s a fact that we’re going to have the Intergalactic, and that it will belong to all of us that create it.

The report that we have made for you in order to continue the discussion is the following.

Summary of the adherents and the international consultation for the organization of the Intergalactic Encounter:

I. Adherents: The total number of adherents to the Zezta Internazional registered on the webpage from December 1st, 2005 through July 25, 2006 is the following:

Total adherents in the world: 2,173 from 61 countries on 5 continents

By continent:
America: 1,301 adherents from 23 countries
Europe: 848 adherents from 25 countries
Asia: 8 adherents from 6 countries
Oceana: 10 adherents de 2 countries
Africa: 6 adherents from 5 countries

The countries in which there are adherents are the following:

America: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Martinique, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela

Europe: Germany, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, the Spanish State, Russian Federation, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Basque Country, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Serbia and Montenegro, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.

Asia: China, India, Japan, Palestine, Israel, y Uzbekistan.

Oceana: Australia and New Zealand

Africa: Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leon y Morocco

Information on the adherents in each country can be found on the Zezta Internazional webpage.

II. Proposals for place, date, and themes to be discussed

1. Place

We have received the following proposals for where to hold the next Intergalactic Encounter. We should mention that while some of the places were repeated in various proposals, we only list them here once each.

a) One of the Caracoles in Zapatista territory. Chiapas, México
b) San Cristóbal de las Casas. Chiapas, México
c) Cancún, México
d) Teotihuacan, México
e) In a border zone between Mexico and the United States
f) Quito, Ecuador
g) Bolivia
h) Miami, United States
i) New York, Estados Unidos
j) Venezuela
k) Barcelona

2. Dates

The proposals for dates on which the Encounter would be held that have thus far been sent to the Zezta Internazional webpage are the following:

a) Summer of 2006
b) Fall of 2006
c) December of 2006
d) January of 2007

3. Themes to be discussed

This list of proposed themes to be discussed in the next Intergalactic Encounter is long. The proposals came from many parts of the world, and we have here systematized them, for the purpose of this report, in the following manner:

1. Strategies of struggle against transnational industries that plunder and exploit the environment of poor countries.

2. Young people and their issues/problems.

3. International solidarity, what is it and what could it be?

4. The experiences of successful struggles in each country, so that at the end of the Encounter everyone returns to their home with a report on possible actions that have worked in other places.

5. Debate on the necessity of constructing a space of articulation, that would not be yet another electoral referent, but rather the development of a strategy for the accumulation of conscientious social force that would be a tool for those from below.

6. Reflection on the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondón Jungle and the possibility of contributing to it.

7. Neoliberalism and energy policies (struggles related to oil, gas, electricity, against privatization, for example).

8. Water and neoliberalism (struggles related to potable water access, against water privatization, for example).

9. The closing of unprofitable companies (the occupying of factories that were closed by their owners because they were “unprofitable,” and the formation of production cooperatives).

10. Gender and sexual orientation (struggles related to gender equality, the human rights of women, gay and lesbian people, and sex workers).

11. Protection of nature and the environment (struggles against the contamination of rivers, the cutting down of trees by large consortiums, struggles against the “double edge” of so-called “sustainable development,” the appropriation of “biodiversity” by transnational companies).

12. Organizational models and grassroots democracy

13. Democratization of knowledge and of information (struggles against the power of the media consortiums, for the horizontal circulation of information, the creation of alternative media, people’s universities, etc.)

14. Struggles against police and military repression. Debate on “security” as a repressive concept...what type of security do we want?

15. Global autonomous direct actions, and circuits of global autonomous cooperation

16. The struggle against capitalist globalization

17. How to support each other across international borders

18. Actions for the improvement of our communities through sustainable development

19. The creation of open networks against the system

20. The Free Trade Treaties and the unification of Latin America

III. Proposals for the preliminary organization of the Intergalactic Encounter

a) That there be more than one Intergalactic Encounter
b) That the Intergalactic Encounter be an collection of Encounters all over the world
c) That there be preliminary encounters at country and continental levels
d) That an internet chat be opened so that those who cannot attend can participate in the dialogue through cyber-tables with moderators
e) That the Encounter be named after Comandanta Ramona

IV. On the Participants in the Intergalactic Encounter

a) That the participation of those from below be promoted
b) That economic support networks be formed so that people from movements from below (principally in America, Asia, and Africa) that do not have resources can attend
c) That the political parties in Latin America that be convoked
Que se convoque a los partidos políticos de América Latina que reivindican el socialismo.
d) That participative priority be given to indigenous peoples
e) That young people’s movements and networks be taken into account

V. Proposals by Country or Continent

1. Hold various European encounters during the summer of 2006.

2. Interchange of experiences between women of Bolivia with compañeras of the EZLN.

3. Organize meetings of commissions to prepare proposals on a regional level throughout the American Continent

4. Hold an encounter in Costa Rica to discuss an ideology of “below and to the left”

5. Proposal for meetings in Chicago

6. Proposal to create an email list of Chilean adherents of the Zezta that want to participate in the discussion and diffusion of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondón Jungle

VI. On Activities and Meetings preliminary to the Intergalactic

Although the EZLN communiqué on the Intergalactic came out in November of 2005, international activities were going on as of July of the same year, just days after the publication of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondón Jungle.

From July 2005 through July 2006, 19 preliminary activities to the Intergalactic Encounter have been registered, in 16 cities in 9 countries around the world. Of those 9 countries, 6 are in the Americas and 3 in Europe.

The encounters were held in Barcelona, the Spanish State (July 2005); Bisegna, Italy (September 2005); Buenos Aires, Argentina (December de 2005); Germany (January 2006); Madrid, the Spanish State (February 2006); Buenos Aires, Argentina (February 2006); Barcelona, Spanish State (February 2006); Vancouver, Canada (February 2006); Paraná, Argentina (February 2006); San Salvador, El Salvador (February-March 2006); Los Angeles, United States (March 2006); Cosenza, Italy (March 2006); Chicago, United States (March 2006); Paraná, Argentina (April 2006); Rosario, Argentina (April 2006); La Garriga, Spanish State (May 2006); Brasilia, Brazil (June 2006); Montevideo, Uruguay (June 2006).

Reports from each of these activities can be found on the Zezta Internazional webpage.

Important note: There are surely omissions in this and previous lists. We apologize for this and we invite you to send information about any encounters, proposals, and adherents not here reported.

Compañeros y compañeras,

This is the report that we wanted to present to you on the Consultation that has been held over these months. The Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN, through the Zezta Internazional webpage and the listserves of adherents, will continue informing you about the proposals that we receive, until there is an idea of what it is that we want and how we are going to do it.

Keep working compañeros y compañeros! Let your voice be heard, don’t let it be left out of the next Intergalactic Encounter!

We also want to comment, brothers and sisters, that we are aware of all the actions that have been organized internationally to demand the liberation of our brothers and sisters of Atenco. You have held 209 mobilizations in 77 cities in 30 countries around the world. All have been good, but of course we say we must keep mobilizing because our compañer@s are still being held unjustly in prison, while those responsible for the repression are free in the streets.

What’s more, this is not the only injustice. We know that there are many more injustices in the world, like that suffered by our compañer@s farmers of South Central Farm in Los Angeles, who were evicted from their land where they lived and worked collectively. We have to support these brother and sisters so that they continue their struggle and do not give up.

There is also the injustice of the imprisonment of our Mapuche brothers and sisters in Chile. We have to tell them that we keep them present in our minds and hearts, that we know that how the bad government of Chile is, that it doesn’t think about the poor people from below, but rather is only interested in those of above, as usual.

We have to get used to struggling and we have to get used to organizing ourselves better. We have to accustom ourselves to seeing those from below and to struggling for what is a true LIBERTY, DEMOCRACY, AND JUSTICE.

The hour is upon us, it's time.
Onward compañer@s!

From the mountains of the Lacondón Jungle

Insurgent Lieutenant Colonel Moisés
Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thoughts on Marcos and Leadership

(Part 2 of 3 for Left Turn's "Stories from the Other Campaign"--i'm republishing here to add some hyperlinks for folks to have more info...also makes a timely read as the zaps have just announced that comandantes will be leaving Chiapas to join the struggle to free Atenco's 30 remaining political prisoners...)

*With Subcomandante Marcos currently the most visible face of the Other Campaign, I figured it would be important to discuss him a bit before moving into a discussion of the “intergalactic” aspects of the Zapatistas and their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which we’ll get into next week in Part 3…*

On February 9th, my last night in Mexico, Marcos came to speak in the Zócalo (city center) of Oaxaca City. It was a moment for which organizers and activists throughout the state had been preparing for over a month. Oaxaca’s corrupt and repressive Governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, had, since assuming office amidst charges of electoral fraud the year prior, moved the seat of executive power out of Oaxaca City and outlawed demonstration or protest in the Zócalo. The organizers’ decision to hold Marcos’ public address there was bold…and up to that point, being the most popular leader in Mexico, government forces had been afraid to touch him. The Oaxacan movements were employing Marcos’ visibility to reclaim this most important and public space of resistance.

I didn’t know what to expect that afternoon as I walked towards the Zócalo. I wondered, “Will it be as big as the rally that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (leading presidential candidate in the upcoming elections) had held several weeks earlier in the city? Or will it be just the same 60 organizers from the city plus all those activists and organizers coming in from around the state?” Being my last night in the city and having spent the last month of my life documenting the process here, I was anxious, nervous. Different groups had wheat-pasted posters of the event around the city for the past week and a half and were presumably doing popular outreach as well as mobilizing their own bases for the event…but, really, who would be in the crowd? What I saw blew me away.

The Zócalo was packed. Marcos was going to be arriving very late for the event as the local organizers had him stopping at four or five different locations that day to listen to different groups of adherents. In the meantime, an indigenous dance troupe performed as part of the entertainment organized by the massive Oaxacan teacher’s union and radical musicians and actors taught the audience songs and poems of resistance.

When the van carrying Marcos finally arrived, it further confirmed my understanding of his rock star status in Mexico. I had already seen his arrival at the massive opening march in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas on News Years Day when not only the independent media, internationals and other Mexicans mobbed him—but many Zapatistas as well rushed to get a look. Marcos’ reception in Oaxaca showed me that his mass appeal truly extends beyond Chiapas. The crowd dwarfed that of leading presidential candidate López Obrador…the Other Campaign was the biggest show in town. The crowd stayed for hours as indigenous, worker, and student leaders (and the one that stole the show, Tlahui) spoke from the plaza. Marcos, as usual, was the last to go on and it was clear that he was the one everyone had come to see. I wondered how many of the attendees would go on to publicly adhere to the Other Campaign. I wondered if this crowd would have formed for any Zapatista. I know that Comandanta Ramona drew massive crowds when she traveled to Mexico City in 1996…and yet still I wondered.

Compañera and fellow journalist, Daniela Lima (who works with a Xavante indigenous community building autonomy in her home country of Brazil) was extremely impressed with the successes of the Zapatistas but dismayed to see the central icon of the movement is a non-indigenous man. My political formation here in the USA had also sensitized me to this dynamic within the Zapatista movement. Identifying this as a key question of ours from the beginning, we incorporated questions regarding the role of Marcos into our interviews with organizers and adherents to the Other Campaign.

There are plenty of stories floating around about Marcos, from government disinformation to the anecdotes of people inside the movements. Over and over, however, in discussing the figure of Marcos, those in the movements stressed the historical context of their country, of the Zapatistas in particular, and of the utilitarian role of Marcos. An early clash between the Mexican government and Mexican civil society around Marcos highlights one aspect of how he is seen in the popular conscience.

The Mexican government says that Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (now Delegado Zero), is Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, 48, a former professor who grew up in the state of Tamaulipas where he went to Jesuit school and eventually went on to earn a master’s degree in philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. Using a picture of Guillén and a transparent ski mask overlay, the Mexican government symbolically unmasked Marcos on national television in 1995 and sent troops into the jungle to arrest him and the indigenous leadership of the Zapatista Army (EZLN).

For a Mexican audience, the televised unmasking of Marcos was not only a revealing of his alleged identity but also, in its cultural context, a representation of his defeat by the Mexican government. There is a history of masked rebels in Mexico and masked figures are, of course, the norm in Mexican wrestling, popularly known as “lucha libre” (in the 80’s, these two were combined by the activist Super Barrio). In response to this televised unmasking, tens of thousands of Mexicans demonstrated in the streets of Mexico City and elsewhere under the banner of “Todos Somos Marcos” (“We Are All Marcos”). The message, clearly stated, was that it does not matter who the person behind the mask is but, rather, what “Marcos” fights for…that anyone who struggles could be Marcos.

When discussing Marcos, it is important to recognize that within the EZLN, he is subordinate to its general command, which is the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee (CCRI-CG). The EZLN is as hierarchical as most political-military organizations. This is why they have taken great steps to separate the structure of the army from the highly democratic structures of the Zapatista communities. And although Marcos is subordinate to the CCRI-CG as spokesperson of the EZLN, he has, in many ways, become the primary face and icon of the movement—something that the Zapatistas, themselves, have identified as a problem (See "EZLN 20 & 10, Fire and Word" by Gloria Muñoz Ramírez). As Gustavo Esteva, founder of Universidad de la Tierra, has pointed out, however, even detractors of the Zapatista movement, such as author Octavio Paz, recognize Marcos to be one of the great literary figures of Latin America. In this respect, Marcos is also an incredible asset to the movement. With characters such as Don Durito (a Quixote-like beetle to whom Marcos plays Sancho Panza) and Pingüino (a penguin, of course…), he succeeds in communicating the complex and serious with humor and poetry. And sometimes Marcos simply retells the stories of his indigenous mentors such as this one from Old Don Antonio (who may be real, fictional, or a composite character):

In the old times, the sword fought with the stone, the tree and the water. The tree said it was stronger, until it was cut down by the sword. The stone and sword fought 'til they both cried and one was dissolved to pieces and the other made dull. But water did not boast. It just let the sword thrash until it settled in water's recesses, and rusted and dulled to stillness.

Omar Olivera Espinosa, a member of the Oaxacan teacher's union and co-coordinator of Radio Plantón, explained to us the role of Marcos (by the way, this conversation is especially funny in Spanish in which the word “frame” is “marco”…):

Marcos is like the frame of a window that allows the Zapatista indigenous to see through to the Western world and through which that Western world can see their indigenous world. This is the first thing I’ll tell you. Also, in Mexico, there is a tradition of the caudillo [strong, male leader], of figures that have existed since pre-Columbian times, figures in the war for independence, in the war of reform, in the revolution, up to the presidentialism that continues to today. Therefore, this is the specter that Marcos fills and has been very well used by zapatismo. For example, if I ask you what you know about zapatismo you will reply Marcos, his writings his poems…In the moment that this frame doesn’t work it will simply be a frame on a wall…for a picture of Marcos! (laughing)

There is still more to explaining how the Zapatistas, an indigenous movement with a strong female presence throughout its structure (from leadership to base), ended up with a non-indigenous, male professor as their spokesperson. In discussions with Dul Santamaria, an activist, mother and writer with the Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade from Mexico City, she also pointed to endemic patriarchy and internalized notions of indigenous inferiority as reasons why many people throughout Mexico focus so heavily on Marcos. In addition to an understanding of his talent in functioning as a “window frame” or in the structural oppression within Mexican society that elevates his image, it is also important to understand the particular historical development of the Zapatistas…

While walking the side of a mountain on the edges of Oaxaca City, an activist from the “bridge to hope” collective (a member organization of the Oaxacan Zapatista Network) recounted for me the beginnings of the EZLN. Being an indigenous Zapotec man who still lives at the foot of the mountain we were climbing, he refused to the pay the fee now charged by the Mexican government to enter the sacred ruins of his ancestors, known as Monte Alban. We were climbing this mountain to take the “back entrance” to these ruins currently being marketed to European and Japanese investors and developers.

“The enlightened revolutionaries,” he said with a dry sarcasm, “who came to the jungles of Chiapas were from the Generation of ’68…after the massacre of student protestors during the1968 Olympics in Mexico many revolutionaries chose to go underground inspired by, amongst other things, the guerrilla “foco” theory of (Che) Guevara . They would eventually become the Forces of National Liberation (FLN). They were Marxist-Leninists trained in the science of dialectical, historical materialism. It was six members of the FLN who later joined with three indigenous in the mountains of Chiapas that were the beginnings of what would be the EZLN in the early 1980s.”

I had heard some of this story before but not with such a frank discussion of ideology:

Within a few years, the revolutionaries who had come from the city to lead an army of indigenous peasants were faced with a crisis…some of them protested that the practice and strategy they were building with their indigenous counterparts was differing too greatly from their scientific, Leninist training in how to make a communist revolution…this is why the EZLN sometimes joke that they lost their first battle…that is, that the enlightened revolutionaries lost their vanguard position with respect to their indigenous base…and so some of those enlightened revolutionaries decided to leave.

After our trip through the ruins, we returned to the home he is building (now just one room with a hammock and lantern) where he showed me a copy of an old, Russian text on historical materialism that he was reading. He affirmed that there was much to learn from such diverse sources as European left traditions, Eastern philosophies, Mexican history and the indigenous teachings of his community. This undogmatic willingness to listen and respect the insights of others is central to what some call zapatismo.

Marcos was not actually amongst those first FLN revolutionaries who came to the mountains of Chiapas in 1983; two years passed before he arrived. And they say that it was in 1989 when the ideological conflict within the group reached a head. With the departure of those non-indigenous or mestizo members that felt the organization was veering too far from Leninist methodology, the indigenous leadership body, the CCRI-CG, was formed. Those former FLN revolutionaries who decided to stay, Marcos among them, learned the art of listening as a form of building social organization and consensus. It was at this point that the membership of the EZLN began to grow rapidly. The gutting of article 27 of the Mexican constitution (the legal foundation for communal landholdings) in1992 was the spark that drove the Zapatistas to rise up in arms two years later.

With the uprising on New Years Day of 1994, Marcos, whose early training was much more literary than military, emerged as a capable spokesperson to communicate the Zapatista message to the Westernized world. Soon, however, his image in the public, and that of the Zapatistas in general, began to take on forms they were not comfortable with, such as when Marcos and Zapatista dolls began to be sold all over the streets of Chiapas and elsewhere. Initially thinking they would ask for the doll-selling to stop, the Zapatistas eventually decided against this realizing that the dolls were providing a vital source of income to mainly indigent, indigenous women struggling to survive in the city.

Thus, the figure of Marcos is parts rebel, window frame, caudillo, servant, and toy doll…all at the same time. In this first phase of the Other Campaign, the Zapatistas have placed him at the center of attention while at the same time sowing the seeds of something much different…it is difficult to say what will emerge but there are some things that can be inferred. It seems apparent that, with respect to the question of Marcos and leadership in general:

- The Zapatistas are not placing the life of Marcos, as Delegate Zero, above that of anyone else in the Other Campaign (see communiqué “SubDelegado Zero on Security Issues”).

- They are prepared to continue their movement even if they lose Marcos as well as all of their publicly known current leadership (See communiqué “Final Reorganization of the EZLN”).

- The Sixth Commission (that section of the EZLN that is responsible for participating in the national work of the Sixth Declaration) does not seek to attain any position of state power much less be the vanguard of the Other Campaign (See end of article “Marcos in Zapata’s Morelos”).

All of this being said, Marcos currently exercises a great deal of leadership within the Other Campaign. With the mandate of the Sixth Commission and the guidance of the Sixth Declaration, he is playing a major role with his tour in setting the tone of the Other Campaign. His style of leadership as exemplified by some of the points above, comes from his formation within the Zapatista movement. In addition to their radical respect for difference (which is pushing everyone in the Other Campaign to work together across their different beliefs, organizational structures and histories), the Zapatista’s have a concept of leadership embodied in the saying “Command by obeying.”

And so Marcos is touring the country. Part of the time, using his fame to draw large crowds to hear him speak about the Other Campaign but then flipping the script a bit by telling attendees that they must all create the Other Campaign together, that he is no more important than them, and that everyone needs to defend everyone else equally. But most of the time, Marcos is not speaking to a crowd but, rather, sitting and listening, taking notes while the “simple and humble people who fight” in Mexico speak to him and to each other. His role is not to give orders but rather to facilitate the unification of stories and struggles.

He is setting the tone not just through listening but also with respect to the manner and pace with which he carries out his work. Something he stressed in his first meeting with adherents on this tour (in Los Altos of Chiapas) was that people should be able to recognize in an adherents actions that they are doing something different, something truly “other”…that their politics not just be rhetorical but evident as well in their daily actions and demeanor.

What Marcos is also making sure people know is that he is just the first of many Zapatistas who will be coming out of their territories to build the Other Campaign. Those that come after him will most certainly be those members of the indigenous comandancia of the EZLN that are currently a part of the Sixth Commission. And so in less than a year, we will perhaps see a transition from a Marcos-centered Zapatista presence within the Other Campaign to something decentered, indigenous, and multi-gendered (just as they have self-critiqued the ways that the hierarchy of the EZLN has hindered the development of their democratic political structures within their communities, they also identify that the place of women within leadership positions is not yet where they would like it to be)…

Whatever the Zapatistas decide to do will, ultimately, be a product of their own process and logic. A powerful element already informing the “other way of doing politics” that is being created as part of the Other Campaign is a radical respect for each group’s or individual’s autonomy—including their choice and forms of leadership. From individuals to families, neighborhoods, and communities, from non-hierarchical collectives to Left parties, the Other Campaign looks less like a new organization and more like an intercommunal movement with many leaders and forms of leadership.

As I mentioned in Part 1, there are six main themes being discussed by participants in the Other Campaign regarding the “other way of doing politics.” One of them is the question, “Who is welcome to join [the Other Campaign] and who is not?” As reported by Al Giordano of The Narco News Bulletin, during one of the meetings last year in Chiapas, the Anarchist Feminist Coordinator proposed that “political parties and organizations that seek power, or that are authoritarian, or hierarchical, or that have exercised any kind of violence against women” should be excluded from the Other Campaign. In his notes, Marcos replied, “That would leave us (the Zapatista army) outside, because we are hierarchical.” And this draws out one of the paradoxes of being a spokesperson for a hierarchical organization that fights for radical democracy and which has inspired an often anti-hierarchical movement.

In discussing Marcos and the Zapatistas (or any person, group or movement for that matter), it is important to not just examine where they are today but also where they have come from and where they are going. This sort of knowledge can only come through listening…and it is with this listening that we create the understanding and mutual respect that is foundational for working together, unifying struggles. I am writing all of this about Marcos, the Zapatistas and the Other Campaign not as some sort of anthropological exercise but rather because they are coming out of Chiapas to join with other struggles not only in Mexico but throughout the world. I figured all of these stories might add to our collective understanding here in the US of a process that has so far been handled terribly by the corporate-created media and little reported on even in the independent media. I’m writing because I think our movements could grow, learn and share a lot through relationships with the Zapatistas, the Other Campaign and those other groups around the world who identify with the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle.

The Zapatistas stress over and over that they are not a model for revolution but rather a mirror with which we might see ourselves. So who are we and what are we doing? What are our leadership structures? How do we deal with our contradictions? What is our response to the Sixth Declaration here in the USA? If the Other Campaign is the national expression of the Sixth than what is its international or “intergalactic” expression? These questions and more are what Part 3 is for…
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Monday, July 24, 2006

The Other Campaign

From Below and to the Left...
The Zapatistas Build a Different Way of Doing Politics
by RJ Maccani
(Originally appeared in print in Left Turn Magazine's fifth anniversary issue)

The Zapatista rebels of Mexico’s Southeastern state of Chiapas are taking their boldest step since they rose up in arms twelve years ago. Continuing a twenty-two year journey of growth and transformation, they are spreading out beyond their autonomous communities to join with and build a Mexican and global movement for democracy, freedom, and justice.

Following an internal consultation with the over 200,000 members of the Zapatista communities in June of 2005, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. The declaration is essential reading as it tells their story in their own words and will be the guiding document for their future work. Also an invitation to publicly join the EZLN in building a movement against capitalism “from below and to the left,” it can be found on-line in at least eight languages.

Although the Zapatistas have been the most popular reference point for the radical Left in the past decade, and in spite of their being hundreds of books and hundreds of thousands of articles and essays written and translated into dozens of languages by and about them, they have often been misunderstood. One reason for this is that they have been practicing a way of doing politics quite distinct from the one to which the westernized world is accustomed. Since their emergence in the public eye on New Years Day of 1994, the Zapatistas have unfailingly put into practice the principle that leadership is a position of service, they have prioritized listening, accountability, and consensus-building, and they have put ethics before pragmatism, moving “at the pace of the slowest.” And it is because of this that the Zapatistas enjoy a nearly unrivaled level of moral authority in Mexico and the world.

In launching the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, they are putting this moral authority, as well as the lives of their leadership, at risk. The Sixth Declaration is distinct from the five that precede it because this time the Zapatistas don’t just intend to inspire or convene those fighting for humanity and against capitalism, but to defy arrest warrants and death threats by leaving their autonomous territories and literally joining with “the humble and simple people who struggle” in Mexico and throughout the world. The moral authority of the EZLN will soon be held not just in their own hands, but also in the hands of all those who build new initiatives with them.

That being said, the EZLN is remaining accountable to their Mayan indigenous support base and the majority of the army will remain in Chiapas and continue to defend the over 1,100 Zapatista communities which are grouped into 29 autonomous municipalities and five regions known as “caracoles.” With massive support and solidarity from Mexican and international civil society, these Zapatista communities are innovating with political and judicial structures and educational, health, communication and economic development programs that put the Mexican government to shame. They have accomplished all of this while being surrounded by 50 to 60 thousand troops—roughly one third to one fourth of the Mexican military.

Two new groups have recently formed out of the EZLN: the Sixth Commission and the Intergalactic Commission. The Sixth Commission is composed of fifteen indigenous comandantes of the EZLN and its iconic mestizo spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos, and is responsible for carrying out the national objectives of the Sixth Declaration. These objectives are to join with Mexican civil society to create or recreate another way of doing politics “from below and to the left,” to build an anticapitalist national plan of struggle, and to form a new Mexican constitution.

The Intergalactic Commission is currently headed by Lieutenant Colonel Moisés and is concerned with building closer links with movements around the world, including sending material aid to groups in resistance and participating in the creation of more convergences such as the legendary “Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism” convened by the Zapatistas in 1996, which laid the groundwork for what would become known as the Global Justice Movement.

In August of 2005, less than two months after releasing the Sixth Declaration, the Sixth Commission began convening meetings to build a national political force beyond the electoral parties. Over consecutive weekends, Mexican civil society came to the Zapatista territories of Chiapas in sectors: first—political organizations of the left, second—indigenous peoples and organizations, third—social organizations, fourth—collectives, non-governmental and artistic organizations, and fifth—families, communities and individuals with no organizational affiliation. A sixth meeting was held for all those who could not attend the previous meetings. Each meeting was a listening party in which everyone who came and publicly adhered to the Sixth Declaration was encouraged to speak for as long as they liked about their lives, struggles, and wishes for the new movement that they were building together. For six weekends in a row, the Sixth Commission listened and took notes while their new compañeros introduced themselves. Subcomandante Marcos played mediator and his opening and closing remarks generally framed each weekend.

At the conclusion of these six meetings, in the middle of September, all the adherents from the previous meetings were invited back to Chiapas for a plenary in which they launched what is being called “The Other Campaign”. They discussed in depth what it means to practice another way of doing politics and build a national plan of struggle. This discussion is being structured around six points or themes: 1. Characteristics, 2. Who is invited?, 3. Structure, 4. Treatment of differences, 5. Other forces, and 6. Work.

One aspect of this other way of doing politics is that these six points are intended to be discussed by all adherents not so that some people’s positions will eventually dominate others, or that there will be winners and losers, but so that adherents will begin a process of communication that allows them to create a movement together, understanding each others’ perspectives while respecting the autonomy of each organization and individual. It is understood by most that it will be the shared work more so than these discussions that will ultimately reveal the face and nature of the Other Campaign.

“The Other Campaign” is a clever title for this new initiative when put into the context of the June 2006 Mexican presidential elections and the massive electoral campaigns being launched by the three dominant political parties: the Institutional Revolutionary Party (the “PRI” whose over 70 years of one party rule was finally broken in the 2000 elections), the National Action Party (the “PAN” whose candidate, Vicente Fox, won the presidency in 2000 as “the candidate of change” and then followed in the footsteps of the PRI) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (the “PRD”, founded in 1989 as a party of the left, whose candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador—known simply as “AMLO”—is expected to win the presidency this year).

What has perhaps made the Other Campaign most challenging for Mexican civil society are the blistering verbal attacks Subcomandante Marcos has been directing towards the PRD and their candidate, AMLO. What is most concerning for AMLO and the PRD is that a great deal of their base listens to and highly respects the words of the EZLN. While some on the Mexican and international left have scoffed at the Zapatistas for publicly attacking a left candidate poised to win the presidency, it should be understood that the PRD and AMLO have justly earned the Zapatistas’ suspicion and disdain.

After working beside each other in prior years, the PRD stabbed the Zapatistas in the back in 2001 by joining the PAN and PRI in ratifying a mutilated version of the Law for Indigenous Rights and Culture. The constitutional amendment they passed, which was later upheld by the Mexican judiciary, closed the door on the hopes of Mexico’s indigenous for achieving justice through the existing political structure. AMLO has continued to surround himself with former members of the PRI and even signaled that he does not have substantive objections to the Pact of Chapultepec, which was created by Carlos Slim (the richest man in Mexico and, according to Forbes, the fourth richest man in the world) to secure the commitment of all three leading candidates to continue pursuing neoliberal economic policy. Meanwhile, members of the Zapatista Front have been spending time in Brazil documenting the devastating effects that popular “left” president Lula’s tenure has had on that country’s social movements and people.

The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and the Other Campaign partially arrive as the culmination of various experiences in which the political class of Mexico has attacked, lied to, and betrayed the Zapatistas. The EZLN have broken all dialogue and relationships with the political class and are successfully organizing to bring the vast majority of Mexicans with them. For the first time in their history, at the beginning of 2006, the Zapatistas celebrated New Years Day not with “Long Live the Zapatistas” but with “Long Live the Other Campaign.” And they celebrated by taking over the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas just as they had done twelve years earlier but this time they were not two thousand armed rebels but rather tens of thousands of unarmed indigenous and mestizo Mexicans poised to launch a peaceful, civil movement to, in the words of Subcomandante Marcos, “… shake this country up from below, lift it up, and stand it on its head.”

And so, on New Years Day 2006, at the center of San Cristobal de las Casas, the indigenous comandancia who comprise the Sixth Commission handed over Subcomandante Marcos to tour the Mexican Republic promoting the Other Campaign and, most importantly, to meet, listen to and speak with those adherents to the Sixth Declaration who could not make it to last years’ meetings in Chiapas. Unarmed and with the civilian title of “Delegate Zero,” the safety of Subcomandante Marcos is in the hands of those adherents who are hosting him in each of the 31 states of Mexico, in Mexico City, and at the border. He will conclude the six-month tour with an informational plenary in Mexico City at the end of June before returning to Zapatista territory just days before the country’s July 2nd elections. In September, the next delegates of the Sixth Commission—members of the indigenous comandancia—are scheduled to fan out across Mexico, taking up more long-term residencies, each in their own state or region, and join, in person, the building of the Other Campaign.

Delegate Zero has just completed his tour of Puebla—the eighth state in his route—and so far over 1,000 political organizations of the left, indigenous groups and organizations, social, non-governmental and artistic organizations and collectives have publicly joined the Sixth Commission to build the Other Campaign for another way of doing politics, an anticapitalist national plan of struggle, and a new constitution. In the backyard of our overextended empire, a revolution, from below and to the left, has already begun.

Go to to read and adhere to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and to communicate directly with the Sixth and Intergalactic Commissions of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

This article is dedicated to Comandante Ramona who passed away on January 6th of this year after a ten-year struggle with kidney cancer. A fierce organizer for women’s rights within the Zapatistas, Ramona led the EZLN fighters in taking San Cristobal de las Casas in 1994. Two years later, she broke the military encirclement of her communities and defied the arrest warrant issued against her to be the first Zapatista leader to leave Chiapas to speak with her Mexican brothers and sisters. On that visit, Comandante Ramona promised to them that she was just the first of many more to come. As usual, the Zapatistas are keeping their word.

Want More?! Go to to read “Stories from the Other Campaign

-Part 1 of the on-line series is "Outlines of a Mexican Rebellion" and continues telling the story of the national movement up to April '06.

-Part 2 is "Thoughts on Marcos and Leadership" and will appear (now with hyperlinks) here at Zapagringo by the end of the week.

-Part 3 will be called "Enter the Intergalactic" and focus on the global or "intergalactic" nature of the Zapatista movement-it will be posted next week...

RJ sends thanks to the Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade and the whole Narco News team, to Ra for the edits and to everyone he interviewed in Oaxaca: Omar Olivera Espinosa, Heidy and Chucho, Gilberto Canseco, Elena, Alejandro Cruz, Laloó, Gustavo Esteva, Donaciana Antonio Almaráz and the whole Oaxacan State Coordination of the Other Campaign. He sends a special thanks to Steve Ankrom—without whose support he would’ve never made it to Oaxaca.
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog Intro...

Who Am I and Why Do You Want to Read This?!

How about we start with a game? It’s a bit of a twist on an old familiar one - we’ll call this version “Where’s RJ?”

You should be able to find me in this photo rockin' my trademark undershirt look... There ya go!

I've been thinking about and organizing towards radical change in the USA and the world since the late 90s. As the title of the blog suggests, the Zapatistas of Southern Mexico have been a big inspiration and reference point for me during much of this time.

This blog is for people who want to stay informed and dialogue on what's going on with the Zapatistas and the national and "intergalactic" initiatives they are building - especially in terms of how these things relate to what we're doing in New York City and, more generally, in the USA. A bunch of different people have said that they need a space of information and conversation regarding this and so here it is.

If you want to know more about where I'm coming from, a good starting place is an article that my partner and I wrote a couple years ago for Left Turn called Global Justice Movement: Beyond the Summits. If you want to know who the Zapatistas are, what they’ve been up to, how they see the world, and what they plan to do in the future, check out their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. And if you want to catch up on the Other Campaign - the national initiative that has grown out of the Sixth Declaration - then check out this recent interview Mary Ann Tenuto-Sanchez and I did on Against the Grain.

I’ve been doing a lot more writing since the Zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration a year ago. As part of the Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade, I lived in Oaxaca, Mexico at the beginning of the year to report for Narco News on the Other Campaign.

Since returning to Brooklyn, I’ve continued with the usual work to pay the bills and with local organizing work. I've continued to write on the Zapatistas as well, mainly for Left Turn's magazine and web site, and also for Narco News and Critical Resistance Oakland's The Abolitionist.

I've received alot of amazing response on previous pieces and would love for those dialogues to happen more publicly. I'll update weekly and respond to comments as they come along... although I'm not gonna waste alot of time with the haters (especially if you're anonymous).

This is one more space for information and dialogue as the Zapatistas make their biggest moves since rising up over 12 years ago... and invite us to join with them.

Bare minimum, "zapagringo" will be a way for family and friends to keep track of me :-)
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