Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Intergalactic Class #3

The Dymaxion Map of the Earth

Below is a description of the class we held two weeks ago - with a focus on the global organizing and theorizing that has come out of the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Keeping this in mind, La Jornada just published a piece by Gustavo Esteva that rings the alarm bell for Mexico to mobilize NOW in defense of the zapatistas or face the devastating nation-wide consequences of an armed conflict in Chiapas... here's the article in Spanish.

CLASS #3 of

INTRO: Layout agenda for class and focus on global context of struggle for today

ICEBREAKER: Who said this quote?

The Quote:
"If human beings should be discovered on Mars or Venus, we would then discuss the matter of uniting with them and forming a united front."

Class puts out possible answers or ask questions that might help them figure it out.

Answer: Mao Tse-tung (surprise!) - from his speech at the first session of the preparatory meeting for the Eighth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1956, "Strengthen Party Unity and Carry Forward Party Traditions.

Explanation of Activity: The zapatistas are often held up as a completely new way of doing politics and used as a counter-point to other left traditions. While the zapatistas are, indeed, innovating and building an other way of doing politics, they draw from and honor their past. Although they do not share some of Mao's ideas -such as the notion that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"- one of the traditions they do come out of is one that draws on the ideas of Che Guevara and Mao Tse-tung. I also chose this quote in particular to demonstrate how even some of the zapatistas seemingly more "far out" ideas are not, in fact, "new." (Thanks to Kolya for finding and sending along this quote!) It's with this in mind that we would go on to explore the homework assignment...


The homework for this class was Kolya Abramsky's "The Bamako Appeal and The Zapatista 6th Declaration: Between Creating New Worlds and Reorganizing the Existing One." Because it was a lengthy piece, I figured it would be good for us to summarize and discuss the contents of the reading as a big group.

With the chalkboard divided up into three columns (zapatistas/sixth declaration, world social forum/bamako appeal, other) we attempted to list out as a group some of the main observations made in the reading regarding the proposals for global coordination coming out of the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle as well as the Bamako Appeal coming from some people involved with the World Social Forum process. The "other" column was left for those observations made that refer to neither or both proposals, such as what may be missing from both or information on what is going on in the world that would impact any such proposal.

This resulted in a pretty lively discussion of, amongst other things, forms of power and how those forms of power are constituted today (such as power over vs power to, or the power of different nation-states today in relation to a century or even 50 years ago).


With a smaller group of participants (16) than our first two sessions (30 each), we were able to divide the class into four groups of 4. Each group was given a document from some kind of participant in this global network coming out of the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration (usually referred to as the "Zezta Internazional" -or "Sixth International"- although the "Intergalactic" also still gets thrown around a bit).

The four groups/documents (one for each group) used were:

* La Via Campesina: "What is La Via Campesina" and "Our Members"
- Representing as many as 150 million people worldwide, La Via Campesina (The Peasant Way) is arguably the world's largest independent social movement organization. Since the zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle in June of 2005, La Via Campesina has been very active in different initiatives and gatherings coming out of its international proposals. In March of 2007, La Via Campesina's Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform enthusiastically joined the World Campaign for the Defense of Autonomous Indigenous and Peasant Land and Territory in Chiapas, Mexico and the World. In July of 2007, La Via Campesina sent an extensive delegation to participate in the zapatistas' 2nd Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World - delegates from Brazil, Korea, India, the USA, Madagascar, Indonesia, Bolivia, Basque Country, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Ecuador, Thailand, Canada, Guatemala, and -of course- Mexico were scheduled to attend. Unfortunately, the one delegate from Africa (Tsirisoa Rakotonimaro, Leader of the Peasant Confederation of Madagascar) was turned away by the Mexican authorities and, thus, unable to attend the Encuentro. The 3rd Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World -aka "The Womyn's Encuentro"- held from December 28, 2007 to January 1st, 2008 was also attended by an extensive delegation of women from La Via Campesina groups around the world.

* The Encuentro of the Indigenous Peoples of América: "The Vicam Declaration"
- In October of 2007, approximately 547 First Nations delegates met at the first Encounter of the Indigenous Peoples of América, held in Sonora, Mexico. The encuentro was convoked by Mexico's National Indigenous Congress (CNI), the EZLN, and the Kumiai nation. Indigenous peoples from all over the Americas, including lands occupied by the governments of the USA, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Caribbean, Ecuador, and Paraguay participated in the Encuentro. The Vicam Declaration is the document that came out of this gathering.

* Mexico's National Forum Against Repression: "Organizational Proposal of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation for the National Instancia Against Repression"
- Recognizing the heightened forms of control being imposed on the poor of Mexico, and the connections between these forms and those being developed in the USA and forced upon the people of Iraq, the National Forum Against Repression was initiated in Mexico in June of 2007. This is just one instance of a network with concrete tasks that has surged from the Other Campaign. A product of necessity, the Forum has already yielded results - some of which have been documented at Kristen Bricker's blog "My Word is My Weapon." Although it is a "national" formation in name, it has connected with and mobilized international individuals, groups, and networks.

* Europa Zapatista: "European Caravan to Chiapas in Solidarity with Zapatista Autonomy and the Other Campaign"
- In what could be seen as the European corollary to Mexico's National Forum Against Repression, people from throughout at least 14 countries in Europe have been organizing themselves since at least February of 2008 to act in defense of the Other Campaign and the zapatistas. The European Caravan to Chiapas is one such action that this network has initiated.

After each of the four groups gets a chance to study their respective document, they put together a presentation for the whole group on what they've just learned. They also take a set of colored stars -a different color for each group- and use them to mark the places on the Dymaxion map where the struggle their presenting is taking place. The groups presenting on La Via Campesina and Europa Zapatista gave more theatrical presentations whereas the groups presenting on the Encuentro of the Indigenous Peoples of América and Mexico's National Forum Against Repression created visual aids on chart paper for their reportbacks.

HOMEWORK: 3 Short Pieces on Obama & "Be a zapatista Wherever You Are"

The first two readings are from Al Giordano's pro-Obama blog "The Field." He was predicting Obama's rise back in September of last year. He is also the founder of "The Narco News Bulletin" - and has been enthusiastically reporting on the zapatistas for years... so here are a couple posts on Obama from a zapatista inspired journalist.

#1 "No More Drama"

#2 "The Narrative is Not a Story of Technology"

The third is a left critique of Obama's voting record from Ralph Nader's
VP candidate, Matt Gonzalez:

#3 "The Obama Craze"

And lastly, something completely different - in classic professor fashion,
I assigned my own writing!

#4 "Be a zapatista Wherever You Are"

BONUS: Zapaturismo

In honor of our global look at zapatismo and for comedy relief, we explored one way that internationals engage with the zapatistas through Lonely Planet's "Zapatista Revolution" travel video...

We closed the night with a visit to the storied Julius' Bar... thanks to Scout for the find and the history lesson!

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