Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Intergalactic Class #4 w/ Liner Notes

The questions we have about elections...

Gustavo Esteva's recent piece (a call to action to defend the zapatistas) in La Jornada has been translated into English... and without further ado, here is info on the concluding Intergalactic class:

CLASS #4 of

INTRO: Layout agenda for class and focus on US context

Since elections (especially presidential elections) are what the mainstream media and, relatedly, many of the folks around us are buzzing about these days, it seemed necessary to start here for our discussion of applying what we've learned in the first 3 sessions of the class to our context in the USA. The things we covered leading up to this last class are a) some history of zapatistas and global struggles, b) some world systems analysis of our current conditions, c) the zapatistas' current transnational -other campaign- and global -zezta internazional- activities and the actors involved, and d) some readings from pro-obama movement and anti-obama craze perspectives as well as some ideas for what zapatismo is looking like right now in USA. With that frame, we moved into...

Activity #1: Elections

I put up five signs around the room. Each sign said one of the following:
- "Voting for Obama"
- "Voting for a 3rd Party"
- "Voting and organizing for Obama"
- "Building an alternative that directly responds to the electoral process"
- "Not Voting"

I asked people to go and stand by the sign that most represented what they would actually be doing in the next five months related to the elections. Not what they think should be done but what they are actually going to do. After having a conversation to clarify what each of the positions means to the group -and people agreed that the options provided were sufficient-, people took their places.

Over half the group stood under the "Voting for Obama" sign and the remaining people were scattered on or between the signs for "Not Voting" and "Building an alternative that directly responds to the electoral process."

Standing in our different places, I facilitated a conversation between the participants around why this is what they were actually doing and how that relates to what we've learned in the class.

We then came back together as a whole group and discussed what we think was going to happen if Obama becomes our next president (figuring that we already had an idea of what a John McCain presidency would look like). What will happen on the day he is elected? What will happen on his first day in office? What will happen after he's been in office for 2 years? Amongst other things, this was an opportunity to talk about the different approaches and impacts of recent elections in Latin America.

Activity #2: Organizing for Radical Change

Again, I put up five signs around the room. Each sign said one of the following:
- joining or building a revolutionary organization
- building alternatives to the capitalist system
- not doing sh*t
- defending the gains of past struggles
- pressuring governments or corporations to improve conditions

Similar to the prior activity, I asked people the question, "What political work are you actually going to be doing in the next 5 months not related to the elections?" Again we clarified what each category meant and I encouraged folks to choose the sign that best represented what they will be doing (and letting them know they'll get a chance to clarify in discussion).

There were people grouped under every option. This led to another facilitated discussion around what we are doing and why. Questions such as "What do we think will make the kinds of changes we want to see?," "What are the stories that inform these thoughts?," and "What gives our work coherency and direction?" were put out to guide the conversation.


I concluded the session (and the class!) with some thoughts - I can't remember all of them but they were genius(!) and might have included some summary of observations made about:

-THE NATION-STATE: It is a "machine of machines" and we should not imagine that it is either sovereign or just one thing; We can have a nuanced approach to dealing with state power; We should contextualize state power alongside other forms of "power over" such as multinational political-economic organizations and transnational corporations; What are the differences and similarities between a movement having control of the Bolivian government and a movement in control of hundreds of thousands of acres in Chiapas?

-CHARISMATIC LEADERS: Yes, Barack Obama and Subcomandante Marcos are both charismatic leaders... what are the similarities and differences? What are the strengths and weaknesses of charismatic leaders in movements for radical democracy and people power?

-POLITICS: In their pamphlet Feliz Año Cabrones, El Kilombo Intergaláctico make this observation on what the zapatistas have taught us about politics:
Perhaps one of the most important things the Zapatistas have taught us is that holding a position or having an opinion is not doing politics. Part of what has been considered the EZLN’s talent for innovation and infinite ability to surprise us is their drive to constantly abolish themselves and become something else. They never build a fort around what they have won or established, but instead open it up, expose it to the eyes and opinions of the world around them, and allow it to transform once again through that contact and connection to a diverse reality. They never stay the same, never allow their practices to become static, and in that sense, never allow power to accumulate or isolate or sit in one place. That movement, that constant transformation, is a commitment to politics—politics as movement that constantly reopens the decision-making power of the community and the possibility for acting on one’s own collective life. They have taught the left that that dogmatism of idea and practice, the insistence on an ideology or model that transcends history and the decision of those in the present, always accompanied by a refusal to move, re-analyze, change, adapt, transform, is, in fact, a conservatism.

-PRACTICE: The folks from El Kilombo also lay out a four-step process for changing the world today in the Introduction essay to their self-published book "Beyond Resistance: Everything." The steps are:
  1. Encounter
  2. Assemble
  3. Create
  4. Rebel
Many of us jump to steps 3 and 4 without recognizing the importance of steps 1 and 2. The ENCOUNTER is the practice of opening up oneself, and a groups experience, to come in contact with other people and other collective experiences. It is through this process that we form the social fabric necessary for collective action. To ASSEMBLE is to build those mechanisms through which a group can discuss, make decisions, and take collective action... which leads us to steps 3 and 4!

I concluded by flipping the well known June Jordan quote "We are the ones we have been waiting for" and posing the question to the group, "Are we going to become the ones we've been waiting for?"


#1 - Information & Knowledge (this was links to how people could continue getting zap info)

EZLN Intergalactic Commission (Spanish)

EZLN Sixth Commission (Spanish)

The Narco News Bulletin (7 Languages)

EZLN Communiques (English/Spanish)

Chiapas Indymedia (English/Spanish)

De Tod@s Para Tod@s (English/Spanish)

Zapagringo (RJ’s Blog)
zapatista-inspired rebellion on Turtle Island and throughout the galaxy…

Radio Insurgente | la voz de los sin voz, voz del EZLN (Spanish)

Regeneración Radio (Spanish)

Palabra EZLN (Spanish)

Mujeres y La Sexta (Spanish)

La Otra para Nin@s (Spanish)

#2 - List of Adherents (Who is involved in this Zezta Internazional?)

Some Sixth Declaration Adherents in the USA

Coalition of Immokalee Workers
-Immokalee, Florida-

El Kilombo Intergaláctico
-Durham, North Carolina-

La Otra Chicago
-Chicago, Illinois-

L.A. Otra Campaña
-Los Angeles, California-

Movement for Justice in El Barrio
-East Harlem, New York City-

South Central Farmers
-Los Angeles, California-

Some International Adherents and Affiliated Struggles

La Via Campesina (English/Spanish/French)

MST – Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement of Brazil (English)

Indigenous Encuentro of the Americas (Spanish) (Vicam Declaration in English)

Womyn’s Encuentro (links to 3 reportbacks in English)

Europa Zapatista (many languages)

International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio (English)

#3 - Statement in Solidarity with the Zapatistas

#4 - Class evaluation
1. How did you hear about this class?
2. Did the class meet your expectations?
3. If you answered no to question 2, in what ways did it not meet your expectations?
4. What did you learn?
5. How will what you learned in this class help you/us?
6. If you could teach this class in the future, what would you leave the same? What would you change? What would you add or delete?

Mix CD - And here, finally, are the liner notes!

1) Mano Negra/Viva Zapata

Mano Negra is a seminal band that blended a variety of sounds into something they called patchanka. Manu Chao headed up the outfit until they disbanded after a legendary tour hopping trains through Colombia. La Mano Negra was also the name of an alleged anarchist organization said to have been born in the mountains of Southern Spain in late 1800's.

This song "Viva Zapata" opens Mano Negra's final studio album, "Casa Babylon," released in 1994 (the same year as the Zapatista uprising). Manu Chao has been a supporter of the zapatistas ever since... in classic intergalactic fashion, this song features lyrics in french, spanish, and english... and i'm pretty sure the English voice is that of Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame!

2) King Mafrundi/Hasta Siempre

Label mates of Mano Negra, King Mafrundi lent this cover of Carlos Puebla's 1965 classic to a fundraiser album for the zapatistas called "Detras de Nosotros, Estamos Ustedes" ("Behind Us, We Are You"). A lot of King Mafrundi's other work is sung in Wolof, a West African language.

Aside from it being on a zapatista benefit album, I also thought it fitting to include here a song dedicated to that figure that inspired so many in the last great wave of uprisings throughout the planet... And just as the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration says that "sometimes the people take up a name in order to say they are taking up a flag", some people simply say "'68" when referring to that great global circulation of struggles that Che helped to ignite. Here are the lyrics, in their original Spanish as well as a score of other languages including English.

3) Manu Chao/Luna Y Sol

The first of two songs here from Manu Chao. Back to back, "Luna Y Sol" and "Por El Suelo" are bridged by the voice of neo-zapatista spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos reading the words of Emiliano Zapata from his "Zapatista Manifesto in Náhuatl." These words also formed the introduction to the neo-zapatistas' Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which was released in January of 1996. Here is an English translation of that manifesto and declaration.

The zapatistas' Fourth Declaration announced the formation of the Zapatista Front of National Liberation, or FZLN, which was a national, civilian formation which lasted from 1996 until 2005 when it was dissolved to become part of the Other Campaign. It was the FZLN that was at the 1998 founding of the Peoples' Global Action network. With the release of their Sixth Declaration in the summer of 2005, the zapatistas proposed the launch of a new process of global organization and coordination that has since then been dubbed the Zezta Internazional.

Here are the lyrics to "Luna Y Sol" in Spanish and English.

4) Manu Chao/Por el suelo

Here are the lyrics to "Por el suelo" in Spanish and English and it speaks for itself. Although born in France, Manu Chao is of Galician and Basque heritage (regions within the Spanish State). His parents fled to Paris during the fascist regime of Franco. Manu is a friend to people struggling for freedom world-wide and there are many, many stories...

I can remember seeing images of Manu Chao performing in the middle of street-fighting People's Global Action protests in Brazil. I also remember when some friends of mine hung out with him after a concert here in Brooklyn, NY. He and his band mates treated them with respect and humility. Manu Chao has offered his support to Sista II Sista and Movement for Justice in El Barrio, two groups here in New York City.

5) Rage Against the Machine/War Within a Breath

Here in the USA, the biggest music group to carry the zapatista flag has gotta be Rage Against the Machine. Even at their Coachella reunion earlier this year, the black flag with the red star was hanging behind them. This song brings the rage, of course, of the January 1st, 1994 uprising.

6) Flor del Fango/Himno Zapatista

This is the official anthem of the zapatistas, performed by a band based -surprisingly- in Switzerland. Here are the lyrics in Spanish and English.

7) Lila Downs/Smog

While reporting on the Other Campaign from Oaxaca City in the first days of 2006, I couldn't help but notice the public buses with huge advertisements for an upcoming Lila Downs concert. She is another artist that has consistently supported struggles in Oaxaca, Chiapas and elsewhere. I have been told that this song is a response to the 1997 massacre of 45 members (mostly women and children) of the indigenous Catholic pacifist organization "Las Abejas" at Acteal. Referred to as the Acteal Massacre, they were murdered by paramilitaries who targeted them because of their support for the zapatistas. The massacre became a rallying point in mobilizations to defend the zapatistas.

8) Quetzal/Todos Somos Ramona

This song flips the 1995 rallying cry of "Todos Somos Marcos" ("We Are All Marcos"), which was used during the mobilizations to stop the Mexican governments invasion of zapatista territories after simulating an "unmasking" of Subcomandante Marcos on national television. Here we get a song lifting up the name of Comandanta Ramona, one of the most well know zapatistas who led the struggle for the Zapatista Revolutionary Law for Women (which was passed in 1993) as well as the charge on San Cristobal de Las Casas on January 1st, 1994. She was also the first zapatista leader to appear publicly outside of Chiapas, traveling to the founding meeting of the National Indigenous Congress in Mexico City in October of 1996 (check out this video to see the reception she got as well as footage of her from many other occasions). After a decade-long struggle against kidney cancer, she passed away on January 6, 2006.

Quetzal is a prominent chicano band from East L.A. that actively engages in struggles for social justice. "Todos Somos Ramona" was released on their first album from 1998.

9) Olmeca/Labios Del 6xto Sol

Following in the footsteps of Rage Against the Machine and Quetzal, Olmeca is yet another artist from the Los Angeles music scene to carry the zapatista flag. Although not as well known as the album single "Batalla" (peep the video here to see the fantastic music video), "Labios Del 6xto Sol" starts off Olmeca's first solo album with zapatista music and voice...

Olmeca also kicks off a line of artists here (Rebel Diaz, Spiritchild, and Ashanti Alston) who are or have been affiliated with Estación Libre, a US-based people of color network in solidarity with the zapatistas.

10) Rebel Diaz/Otr@ Guerriller@

There's a lot to say about Rebel Diaz and I'm not sure where to start. Maybe you can just listen to this song and check out their website. Heroes in Chicago and the Bronx, Rebel Diaz are truly engaged artists. Two members, G1 and Rodstarz, were arrested while doing a little impromptu Copwatch in the Bronx on the day Intergalactic Class #3 was being held... Elliott Liu has written up an analysis of the wave of repression hitting radical activists of color who are directly addressing the police violence in their communities.

11) Spiritchild/track #6 from Zapatistas EP

Spiritchild is another tireless artist and organizer living in the Bronx. Again, I don't even know where to start... check him out!

12) Fermin Muguruza/Brigadistak

Most people in the states don't know who Fermin Muguruza is, but he's huge in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere. I first picked up a tape of his in 2002 in Mexico City at the "Rincon Zapatista", a store ran by supporters of the zapatistas - the office of the FZLN was upstairs. "Brigadistak" was the title track to what a found to be a great album. Performed almost entirely in Euskara, the language of the Basque people, one can still somehow get an idea of what the music is about. The pictures above each track on the cassette tape packaging helped too... this song opens with a zapatista call for internationals to continue coming to stay with them in their communities.

A close friend of Manu Chao, Fermin Muguruza has been persecuted in Spain for his active support of the Basque struggle for independence. There has been massive support for the zapatista struggle from "Euskal Herria" (or "Basque Country")... in late 2002, Subcomandante Marcos engaged in an unfortunate initiative and exchange with the Basque struggle and related actors that I will detail in a later post...

I met Fermin Muguruza earlier this year when I came home to find him sitting in my living room! He had come in to town to visit his friends Mahmoud, Suhell and Tamer of DAM, a featured group in Slingshot Hip Hop - the film about Palestinian Hip Hop that our housemate Jackie Reem Salloum made and that we all worked on (check out the new trailer). Needless to say, we had some good talks about the zaps and the Other Campaign...

13) Ashanti Alston/track #2 from Zapatistas EP

There's not a lot I can say about Ashanti that I haven't already said... check out these two posts 1,2... and listen here to what he has to say! This track comes from the Zapatistas EP, a project of Movement in Motion and Estación Libre that includes the Spiritchild song featured on this mix, as well as music from Rodstarz of Rebel Diaz, an interview with Karl Jagbandhansingh, and a bunch of other folks I can't remember right now...

14) Mayor Anamaria Y P18/La Lucha Sigue

Just as this mix opens with a frenetic track from Mano Negra evoking the spirit of Emiliano Zapata, I figured it would be appropriate to end with this track featuring zapatista Major Ana Maria's opening address to the 1996 Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism (the first Intergalactic!). Even more appropriate because the song is arranged by "P18," a collaboration between former members of Mano Negra, a Parisian DJ, and a family of musicians from Cuba...

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