The Another Politics is Possible Session at the USSF
UPDATE (7/18/07): Movement for Justice in El Barrio has just released a reportback.
As the US Social Forum (USSF) reportbacks roll in (Uhlenbeck, Rebick, Tiny, Berger), I'm feeling lucky to be able to learn about aspects of the forum in which I didn't directly participate (as well as read about someone's experience of events that I did help to organize!).
Especially sad for this zapagringo, though, was having to miss a series of events that were recently reported on a document entitled "Abriendo Caminos: La Otra U.S. @ United States Social Forum 2007", which covered events for US-based adherents to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. In brief, the document describes three gatherings: Movement for Justice in El Barrio's workshop, a gathering of Sixth Declaration adherents immediately following the workshop, and another gathering of adherents the following day. Folks from Los Angeles, San Diego, Humboldt, and Santa Barbara, California; Minnesota; the US/Mexico border; Olympia, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; Washington D.C. and New York City were in attendance.
The reportback on "La Otra U.S. @ USSF" raised for me a series of questions that have come up again and again since the Zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle just over two years ago:
1) What is the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle?,
2) What is the Other Campaign?,
3) What is the Zezta Internazional/Intergalactic?
4) What is the work of gringo adherents to the Sixth Declaration?
With the first ever US Social Forum a little more than a week behind us and the Second Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World a little more than a week away, here are my definitions and understandings for the first three questions as well as my personal reflection on the fourth...
1) What is the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle?
If the Zapatista struggle, historically and currently, is something you want to know about, than you need to read the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Released in June of 2005, it is the defining document of the Zapatista struggle today. Often referred to simply as "the sixth declaration" or "la sexta", Concepción Villafuerte's piece "What is the Sixth Zapatista Declaration" helps to put it in context of the previous five Zapatista Declarations.
The Sixth Declaration lays out a history of the Zapatista struggle, their current analysis of Mexico and the World, and what they intend to do in Mexico and the World. It's a must-read as it lays out a plan to build a national and a global movement. People are invited to join the Zapatistas in building these movements and the first step in doing so is to "adhere" to the Sixth Declaration. This means publicly signing on to the Sixth Declaration and those that do so are referred to as "adherents" or "adherentes." Seperate adherence mechanisms were set up for Mexicans and internationals.
2) What is the Other Campaign?
The Other Campaign is a non-electoral and anti-capitalist movement of, by, and for Mexicans (including Mexican@s "on the other side", Chican@s, and Mexican-Americans) to liberate Mexico "from below and to the left." Broadly outlined in the Sixth Declaration, it was officially named and launched through a series of gatherings in August and September of 2005 in the Zapatista territories of Chiapas.
It is possible that you were a Mexican adherent to the Sixth Declaration after it came out in June 2005 but then you decided not to be a part of the Other Campaign and so that is why you will see "adherents to the Other Campaign" specifically shouted out in Zapatista communiques.
Contrary to how you might hear it spoken of, the Other Campaign IS NOT whatever the Zapatistas happen to be up to at the moment. The Other Campaign is a national movement of all the groups that compose it and the Zapatistas participate in it through their "Sixth Commission," currently led by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (aka "Delegate Zero").
3) What is the Zezta Internazional/Intergalactic?
The Zezta Internazional is the global movement inspired by the Sixth Declaration. International adherents to the Sixth Declaration can adhere to the Zezta Internazional just as Mexicans can adhere to the Other Campaign. This movement has a rich historical precedent that I describe in an essay called "Enter the Intergalactic." The Zapatistas participate in the Zezta Internazional through their "Intergalactic Commission," currently led by Teniente Colonel Insurgente Moisés.
The Sixth Declaration makes reference to building a new "Intergalactic," referring to an intercontinental gathering such as the original "Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism" held in Chiapas in 1996 - or it's sequel held the following year in Spain, which led to that engine of the early Global Justice Movement known as "Peoples' Global Action." This new Intergalactic has still not been called for, although preparatory gatherings have been held throughout the Americas and Europe.
The Intergalactic IS NOT the Second Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World...although I have seen this stated in many places. Rather, these encounters are a space for the Zapatistas to share their autonomy building with others from around Mexico and the world and to listen to what folks in other places have been doing. Discussion of organizing the Intergalactic took place at the first encounter and will no doubt take place at this second encounter as well. I think we can keep our eyes out for some definitive announcements regarding the Intergalactic later this summer!
4) What is the work of gringo adherents to the Sixth Declaration (a personal reflection)?
For the purposes of this question, gringo means those of us in the USA who are not Mexican@s or Chican@s...as a male US citizen with white skin privilege, I think the label is ESPECIALLY appropriate for me.
For everyone that is not in the Other Campaign and is an international adherent to the Sixth Declaration, there is the Zezta Internazional. We share in the work of building a non-electoral, anti-capitalist global movement surging "from below and to the left"...a movement that need not be about liberating a particular country, although it may be found useful to organize -or organize with- struggles that have a national character and focus.
To this end, through Regeneración Childcare NYC, I've been part of a study group in NYC called "Another Politics is Possible" (APP) that was part of convening a delegation from NYC to the US Social Forum under the same banner. The politics of the APP delegation vibe very much with Zapatismo although none of the participating groups are adherents to the Sixth Declaration and most of the participants would not take the Zapatistas as their primary point of reference.
This delegation led into a larger track at the USSF again under the "Another Politics is Possible" banner -- in this case, the participation of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) meant that there was one sexta adherent group in the mix...and thanks to the CIW and their Student/Farmworker Alliance, here is an audio recording of the unifying session of our track.
In my experience working in NYC (and perhaps this extends much further), it has made sense so far to not actively organize an explicit "zezta internazional" formation because this would limit my affiliation to only other folks that are taking the Sixth Declaration as a reference point...and right now that is EXTREMELY LIMITING. It doesn't mean that we don't talk about the Zapatistas in APP, but it just means that we focus on building an effective movement HERE with ALL the reference points folks bring to the table...and sometimes we recognize the many ways in which it is resonating with the Zapatistas or the Other Campaign, for example. This resonance may result in active participation when a date and place for the Intergalactic are announced.
Also, as Zezta Internazional and/or Sixth Declaration adherents in the USA, I think we have a special responsibility to do ally work with the Other Campaign simply because it will so greatly impact us as Mexico is also "here"...but, again, this is ally work...the Other Campaign is a Mexican movement and I think it only weakens folks' morale to have to worry about whether a bunch of gringos are gonna try to speak in its name or carry its banner.
That the Other Campaign is a Mexican movement doesn't mean that Zapatismo isn't open for all of us...what it DOES mean, though, is that, just as we have not been invited to join the Zapatista Army of National Liberation itself, we are also not invited in the Other Campaign...us gringos have our own work to do and it's not in Mexico, much less the Selva Lacandona...although we still may need to keep commitments we've made to do work in those places.