Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Intergalactic Class #2 w/ Q&A

lead by obeying = class outside!

Below is the agenda we used for session #2 - just as session #1 had the 4WW/zapatista timeline, make sure to check out this week's Q & A section attached here below the agenda!

In other news, La Jornada's Luis Hernández Navarro brings us an excellent piece this week on how once again the "War on Drugs" is being wielded against the dry and drug-free zapatista communities. And speaking of the bogus "War on Drugs," word on the street in Mexico is that we can still beat Plan Mexico! Thanks to Kristen Bricker for translating the former piece and reposting the latter - check out her excellent blog, My Word is My Weapon.

CLASS #2 of


A) What we've done so far - see previous post

B) Explain that we will not be going through why capitalism is bad in this class. For those that want to brush up on this, check out the Brecht Forum's 3-Day Intensive Introduction to Marxism - from July 11th through 13th, this year's intensive will be focusing on the global food crisis.

C) Give a layout for the rest of the classes: session #3 will focus heavily on global context and zapatista proposal in light of this and session #4 is where we get down to how we in the class might each best be involved in the "intergalactic."

D) Explain agenda for today

TWO BIG GROUPS - Responses to the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle

Class is broken up into two groups of 13 to 15 people that sit in a circle. A facilitator for each group informs them that we are going to each give a two minute response to one of the three questions posed for our homework reading of the Sixth Declaration. Again, the questions are:

a) Why do you think the zapatistas wrote this declaration the way they did?
b) What do the zapatistas think is wrong with the world? What do you think of their assessment?
c) How do the zapatistas propose to change the world? What do you think of their proposal?

The sharing happens "popcorn-style," with people electing to go when they feel ready. The facilitator makes sure everyone goes be the end of the go-around.

FOUR MEDIUM GROUPS - Gathering questions
(in the future I think I might just keep the two big groups above together and gather questions this way so as to save time...)

We split each of our two big groups in half so that we now have four groups of 6 to 8 people. In these medium-size groups, people brainstorm the questions they have regarding both of the homework readings as well as any other questions they may have. People in the groups try to respond to questions that have been raised that they feel they can answer. From those questions that remain unanswered, some questions are selected that the group wants to prioritize.

WHOLE GROUP - Question & Answer

We bring everyone back together and a representative from each of the four previous groups shares the questions they've prioritized for getting answered. The class facilitator (me in this case) collects all of the questions on a chalkboard. When everyone is ready and feels content that some key questions have been raised, I give an animated lecture attempting to respond to as many of the questions raised as possible. CHECK OUT THE Q & A SECTION BELOW!

CLOSING (my friends Ily and Radhika came up with this!)

We ask everyone to wander around until the facilitators shout out a number. Whatever the number is, that's the number of people that need to get into a group. For example, if we shout out "3," than groups of 3 should form. When the groups are formed, the facilitators ask a question - each person has a chance to respond to the question with other people in their group. When everyone has responded we do it again. We did several rounds of this activity and here were a couple of the questions:
- What was one thing you learned today that surprised you?
- What is one way you are planning to share something you've learned today with someone else? With your mother, for example.

Finally, we end by forming a big circle and hold hands. One person in the circle begins to roll towards a person next to them and the whole group rolls up into the shape of a spiral (or caracol) and then we roll back out!

We ended with a bonus viewing of last year's opening video for the Allied Media Conference and a video recap of that year's conference, followed by a plug for folks to get on the bus and go this year.

Afterwards we meandered a bit before settling on some food and drink at the Belgian Beer Bar :-)

Homework: Read Kolya Abramsky's "The Bamako Appeal and The Zapatista 6th Declaration: Between Creating New Worlds and Reorganizing the Existing One" - and don't sweat it if it leaves you feeling a little confused :-)

(I'm in no way a representative of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation [EZLN] or any part of the zapatistas - this is just my attempt to convey or connect folks to information that might be helpful to them in understanding the zapatista movement)

Q: How have health, education, etc. improved compared to government programs?
A: Check out Part II (“A Society to Create”) of El Kilombo Intergaláctico’s “ Feliz Año Cabrones: On the Continued Centrality of the Zapatista Movement after 14 years.”

Q: How are the words and actions of Subcomandante Marcos held accountable to the desires of the EZLN and the zapatista communities? What is the zapatistas’ process of self-reflection, of assessing their challenges and the distance between their visions and their reality?
A: The short answer to the first part of this question is that Subcomandante Marcos gets his charge and is accountable to the Indigenous Clandestine Revolutionary Committee (CCRI). The CCRI is an elected group of individuals representing the zapatista communities. These representatives command the military structure and are, in turn, controlled by their communal assemblies. For more info, you may be interested in checking out this piece "The Origins of the Zapatista National Liberation Army" as it offers a peek behind how the EZLN became a bit of a different kind of political-military organization. I think I can only answer the second part of this question by referring to the structure of the communities. This stuff gets hashed out in community assemblies where stories are told, problems discussed, decisions taken, etc. – these assemblies can last for days if they need to.

Q: What does unity or coalition mean to the zapatistas? How does it work with people coming from different places?
A: One interesting response to this comes from Al Giordano’s response to John Ross’ question, “Is the Other Campaign really a collective endeavor?,” which is part of the piece “John Ross’ Twenty Questions for Big Al, the Other Campaign, and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

Q: What do the zapatistas want from me?
A: I recently wrote a piece called “Zapatismo and Solidarity,” might be a good place to start.

Q: What is the pace of what we’re doing?
A: What is the speed of dreams?

Q: What is the history of the drama between the zapatistas and the PRD (“center-left” party in Mexico)?
A: Short version – PRD and zapatistas worked “side by side” after the zapatistas’ 1994 uprising but by 2001 the PRD had collaborated with the other political parties in passing what the zapatistas refer to as racist and neoliberal changes to the Mexican Constitution restricting indigenous rights. This is instead of the set of agreements on indigenous rights and culture (San Andres Accords and COCOPA) to which the Mexican government and the zapatistas had signed many years earlier. In 2004, the PRD government of the Zinacantán municipality in Chiapas cut off water to zapatistas living there. While neighboring zapatistas traveled to bring their compañeros water, they were shot at by PRD members… eventually we get to the 2006 elections with the PRD’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) favored to win the presidency. AMLO’s campaign team was chock full of people from the former ruling party (PRI) and this was one of many things that the zapatistas pointed out before and during the election cycle. They didn’t tell people not to vote but rather talked about what the candidates were really about and encouraged them to join with the zapatistas in building another movement (the Other Campaign). Today the PRD controlled government of Chiapas is enthusiastically helping to build what may be the largest counter-insurgency effort yet against the zapatistas.

Q: How genuine is the simplicity of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle? Is content lost in this simplicity?
A: Don’t really know where to go with this one…

Q: Why do the zapatistas talk about defending the “Patria” (Homeland)?
A: The Other Campaign is a movement to liberate Mexico “from below and to the left.” That being said, the zapatistas are very clear that they are talking about a Mexico where many worlds fit – including, for example, all the different indigenous peoples and their respective forms of organization. So, whereas Mexican national identity and culture provides a set of stories, identifications, etc. that is powerful and useful to engage with in building a movement against the imposed monoculture of global capitalism, the Other Campaign is not set out to reinforce the sort of narrow nationalism we are used to in the USA. In fact, the Other Campaign is itself transnational. Think of it as queering nationalism… also check out Ashanti Alston’s “Beyond Nationalism But Not Without It.”

Q: What is up with 2010 and 2012? How important are these dates to the Zapatistas? Where is the spirituality of the zapatistas and what kind is it?
A: 2010 is the 100 year anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and the 200 year anniversary of Mexican Independence. Thus it becomes a powerful reminder and proof to the Mexican people that their destiny can be in their own hands if they seize it. The zapatistas are asking people what they are planning to do in 2010 – it’s pretty clear that they would like to see a national uprising in which people directly seize the means of production. It’s less clear what importance 2012 has within the zapatista movement although the mayan calendar does seem to play an important role in when certain actions are taken and/or how actions are communicated. Although the EZLN itself is secular, many zapatistas identify as Catholic or Protestant Christians. There also seems to be a whole lot of other stuff going on too.

Q: How are documents written?
A: I'm inclined to say that whoever signed it, wrote it. The stuff Subcomandante Marcos is writing or saying is driven by the mandate he’s being given by the Indigenous Clandestine Revolutionary Committee (CCRI) – he is recallable by this body as well. The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle was written by the CCRI and adhered to by over 98% of the zapatista community-members.

Q: How did LGBTQ struggles become so connected to the zapatista struggle?
A: Check out a post I wrote a little over a year back called “Zapatismo and Queer Struggles.”

Q: What are the national structures of solidarity between the Other Campaign, the EPR (Ejercito Popular Revolucionaria), the Oaxacan struggle, etc?
A: The Other Campaign is, itself, a national structure of solidarity. Many within the Oaxacan struggle, for example, are also a part of the Other Campaign. Relatedly, there is the National Forum Against Repression – check out the EZLN’s organizational proposal for this ongoing initiative. The EZLN and EPR have had a strained relationship for a long time now but recently there was some verbal support from the EZLN of EPR demands for the freedom of two of their political prisoners. The Other Campaign and the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), which also includes Oaxacan-based adherents to the Other Campaign, have coordinated actions together.

Q: How do we fight for autonomy in a globalized world?
A: Get a copy of El Kilombo Intergaláctico’s book “Beyond Resistance: Everything” and check out the Introduction called “Zapatismo: A Brief Manual on How to Change the World Today.”

Q: What options do we have within the USA for alternative lifestyles?
A: I think the book I mentioned in the previous question, “Beyond Resistance: Everything” by El Kilombo Intergaláctico really best gets at this question.

1 comment:

marc said...

A bit late, but... nice shirt.