Monday, July 30, 2007

Turbulent Feminism

Cover for the first issue of the "journal-cum newspaper" Turbulence

With rumors of a December Womyn's Zapatista Encuentro coming from a recent attendee to the Second Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World, I thought this would be a good moment to highlight this piece by Michal Osterweil. A solid activist and intellectual who I've had the pleasure of crossing paths with on several occasions, the observations she brings forward in "Becoming-Woman?" get to the heart of some key ways that patriarchy continues to manifest within many spaces of anticapitalist struggle.

Along with many other solid organizers, Michal is just returning from the aforementioned Second Encuentro and you can look forward to seeing some of their reportbacks, and perhaps even an interview or two, here at Zapagringo in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, check out her article below, come celebrate "Zapagringo's First Birthday" and catch up at "The Rest of July in Mexico."

In theory or in practice?

by Michal Osterweil
(originally published in the premier issue of Turbulence, June 2007)

There are no shortcuts and if there are they are only “table tricks”. There is only experimentation as method and substance of the “becoming-movement”.

Theory/Practice Divide?
I think a big part of why many people have been so excited about the politics ushered in by the Zapatistas, Seattle, and Social Forums — to name just a bit of what constitutes the motley “movement of movements” many speak of— is because they embodied and posited deliberate reactions to the practical and theoretical failures of previous political approaches on the Left.

That is, Leftist movements, unions and parties clearly failed to achieve or effect change based on the parameters and theories they were working by: they did not defeat capitalism or achieve equality. But these failures were not primarily due to a thwarted strategy, a forced compromise or a political loss to another side. Rather, there were fundamental problems with the modes and political visions these leftist movements were using and basing their practices on. These included: the reproduction of oppressions and micro-fascisms within supposedly progressive organizations; an inability to deal with the differences posed by contextual (historical, geographic, cultural, personal) specificities; and an inability to articulate a sustainable form of relation between movements and everyday life or society, and between movements and the ‘political’ (i.e. the State, or other more permanent forms of political organization). Finally these movements failed to relate to human desires — for leisure, love, fun and so on.

In contrast, one of the most inspiring things about the ‘movement of movements,’ is precisely the visibility and centrality of critical and reflective practices coined perhaps most famously by the Zapatista phrase — caminar preguntando—‘to walk while questioning’. Today, almost everywhere one looks among many of the diverse movement networks, there are various attempts to think through, investigate and experiment with different political practices, imaginaries, as well as different analyses of the systems and sites in which we are struggling. Moreover, this theoretical production strives to find language and concepts adequate to the complex, messy and unexpected elements always present in the lived realities of efforts at social change.

While movements have always produced theories to help guide their action, what I find particularly notable is what seems a common tendency, among many parts of this disparate movement, in the nature of both the content of the theories, and the ways they are produced. They seem based in an ethic of partiality, specificity and open-endedness; a willingness to be revised and reworked depending on their lived effectiveness, and a sensitivity to the fact that unexpected conflicts and consequences might arise when different subjects or circumstances come into contact with them. Of no coincidence, these mirror forms of theorising and political practice that many align with feminism.

I first heard a comparison to feminism almost five years ago when I was visiting Italy in an attempt to learn about the phenomenal movement that had brought over 300,000 people to the streets of Genoa; had made Italians some of the most active participants in myriad alter-globalisation meetings and protests outside of Italy; and had seen the emergence of local social forums — where non-representative forms of government were experimented with on a regular basis — in many Italian cities. The Bologna Social Forum (BSF) was one of most active of these local forums and I am told that, at its height, it was not unusual for 500 people to attend, many of whom, were individuals not affiliated with any party, union or militant organisation. At the first meeting of the BSF I attended, one of the leaders of the then Disobbedienti, opened his remarks with a bold and strange statement. He declared, ‘Io credo che questo movimento sía una donna’ — ‘I believe that this movement is a woman’. He then went on to explain that what he meant was that this movement was female because it functioned according to different logics than previous movements. It functioned according to logics of difference, dispersion and affect: no central group or singular ideology could control it, and it was propelled by an energy, from subjects and places, that far exceeded those of traditional forms of Leftist organisation and practice. To him this was intimately tied to feminine/feminist notions of politics — and therefore to the figure of woman.

After his remarks the space was filled with silence, smirks, smiles and some hesitant nods of agreement. I shared the ambivalence. On the one hand I was intellectually intrigued and somewhat in agreement with his claim about the ‘feminine’ or minoritarian logic of this movement, but on the other, I was a bit disturbed by the comment. Besides a visceral reaction to the very use of the term ‘woman’ (by a man) to describe something as dynamic and heterogeneous as the (Italian) alter-globalisation movement, it made me uncomfortable because throughout a meeting lasting well over two hours, only two or three women had actually spoken. Moreover, when they did speak, they took less time and spoke with less authority than the many male activists. In spite of this rather blatant tension— that the movement was a woman, but the women hardly spoke—the phrase and analogy struck me quite profoundly.

Two years later, I had a conversation with another male activist, again part of the Disobbedienti network. Once again I was referred to feminism as a theoretical perspective I really ought to get familiar with if I were to make sense of the ‘movement of movements’ and its potentials. I smiled and raised my eyebrows, and so this activist, excited by my apparent interest in his own interest in feminism, jotted down a few books and essays that he believed were critical reads. I smiled again and nodded to myself, starting to make more sense of at least the cause of the ambivalence provoked by such moments:

Each time I was simultaneously compelled and disturbed by these references to feminism: excited because I too think there is something to this linking of feminism with the politics of contemporary movements. But I was disturbed because the potential was not matched in reality. I was and am continuously struck by the ways the politics and potentials of our recent movements seem to posit the possibility of a refreshingly different politics: politics that are more dynamic and sensitive, more pleasurable and immediately satisfying, better able to meld with the future worlds we would like to construct, and better equipped to theorise inadequacies. And yet, when these possibilities don’t match the reality, we seem at a loss for words.

Today, although I remain inspired by the critical openness and ethos of experimentation, the willingness to theorise, analyse and reflect upon the efficacy of our actions while remaining oriented oriented towards political transformation-traits that I believe characterize the best of our movements—I have become increasingly worried about this gap that exists between our ‘new’ and ‘better’ theories, and our lived realities.

What does it mean to see yourself as part of a movement governed by feminist and minoritarian logics when in so many of the most visible spaces, the voices and languages of women continue to be less audible? Does it matter if we have a fabulously astute and sensitive notion of what a good democratic — non-representative — politics would look like if we cannot involve more people in the conversation? Worse, is it of any use to have a great theoretical notion of the politics you want, but the very subjects you are claiming to be inspired by — that is those who have traditionally been othered, marginalised, excluded — are not present to participate in the discussion? If theoretical and reflective practice is so important to us today, even as an ethical and formal element, how do we live with such inconsistencies between our theoretical language and our experiences?

Case in Point!

If you haven’t yet noticed, the pages of Turbulence are themselves filled with pieces by men. There are very few female voices, and only one member of the editorial collective is female (me). While we can identify a lot of specific reasons this particular case of such an obvious and outrageous imbalance occurred—and even point out the fact that several women were invited and even intended to contribute articles—I think we ought to think more analytically about the issue. For despite our best intentions and the belief that we were not exclusive or biased, I don’t think that the absence of many voices, especially those of women, is a coincidental or accidental occurrence. I believe it was influenced by dynamics that have everything to do with the mostly white, male editorial board, as well as cultural-structural factors harder to articulate. Moreover, I don’t think going to press—despite these obvious lacks—was an obvious or inevitable choice. Rather it was the product of a certain rubric of value. One that placed greater value on both getting it out there, and on the time and effort we had put into publishing this journal regardless of the shortcomings, over the cost of having a journal with so many voices and perspectives missing. At this point, I am not making a judgment about whether that was a good choice—I am also torn—I am simply pointing to the fact that it was a choice.

While these absences are disheartening and politically very problematic, I want to see if it is possible to turn them into a useful moment to enlist those theoretico-practical capacities to engage this persistent, yet difficult to adequately define, problem within our movements. Personally, I have been struggling over how to both put into words and address concerns about the continuing dominance of male activists and masculinist politics. (Conditions that seem to be worsening-- if not in a quantitative sense, then certainly in a qualitative one, because we should know better by now.) This dominance is quite obvious in the disproportionate visibility and audibility of men in many movement spaces and, more subtly, in a political modality that, despite the proclaimed absence of formulas and ideologies, remains unable to deal with specific problems and inequalities that inevitably arise in the course of collective endeavours. Not only the relative absence of female and other voices in this issue of Turbulence, but also the lack of women speaking at the BSF in Italy, for example. While I do not want to argue for a simplistic politics of representation, as if the mere presence of more women and more people from the global South would immediately or necessarily correspond to a better politics, I do believe that really prioritising more diversity could give us a better chance of producing such a politics!

I am also concerned that this problem is particularly insidious in the ‘autonomous’ or horizontalist area of the movement’ that most of us on the editorial collective identify with. ‘Particularly insidious’ because ‘we’ have been so critical of NGOs, ‘reformists’, parties and so many others for not being more politically consistent and for failing to recognise their complicity in maintaining and even reproducing the very things our movements contest. We have touted our ‘more democratic’ forms of organisation, our horizontality, our lack of hierarchy, our fluid, dynamic and affinity-based organisations, while we ourselves are guilty.

Could it be that, at least in part, our inability to address these imbalances and absences is an unintended consequence of the supposedly ‘new’ political theories that tend to see affinity, fluidity, horizontality and lack of identity as their defining logics? Could it be that this failure has everything to do with the language and theoretical approaches of feminist and other subaltern positions we have turned to using, but without having had the experiences that produced those theoretical and practical insights in the first place? Perhaps we’ve misinterpreted many of these new logics—we’ve read them devoid of their situational contexts, forgeting what they are a reaction against, and without recognising the fact that the logics themselves are overdetermined by a sensibility that goes against any form of theorising or theoretical language that is abstracted from the messy particularities of specific situations.

Experiential vs. Abstract conflict and theory

Last fall I attended a four-day gathering in the north of Spain. The space was beautiful: an old Spanish Church with a great deal of unused land, now home to Escanda, a live experiment in sustainable collective living. The aim of the space is to turn the principles and insights that have been promoted and experimented with at various counter-summits, social forums, encuentros and myriad other sites of our anti-capitalist activist networks, into a lasting and ongoing project where the difficulties and complexities of actually living such a politics on a day-to-day basis would be confronted. It seems fitting then that true to this spirit of taking on the challenges and difficulties we still face despite even our best-intentioned activist efforts, several women decided to organize a women-only radical (anti-capitalist) gathering. It was, to my knowledge, the first gathering of its kind: a space organised specifically and deliberately to address the ‘gender problem’ in the radical areas of our movements. In contrast to most women-only or feminist meetings, the gathering, also known as ‘Booty Camp’ self-identified first as part of the anti-capitalist/anti-authoritarian/radical-environmental networks that had been quite active in Europe for about a decade, and only secondarily as feminist. In fact, many of us arrived very critical of separatism and the exclusion of men—both in terms of whether that was good politically, and whether we would like it personally.

Despite my own concern to this end, the gathering turned out to be one of the most significant experiences I had had in years—both on a political and on a human level. The event changed me and I have not been able to engage with my political projects (or the world) in the same way since. This might sound a bit dramatic, like a cheesy harking back to the consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s where many of our mothers became empowered and from which many a legend about mirrors and masturbation come. I too felt a little overcome by how strongly I reacted to it. But in spite of the fact that I might be accused of promoting a romanticised nostalgia for a feminist movement of days gone-by, I think the parallel might be worth something, not only because of the feminist movement’s widespread effects, but also because of how and why it has been so effective and how it has changed over time.

For who can deny the transformative and lasting effects of feminism? No, it hasn’t ushered in an age of equality or the end of patriarchy, machismo, or capitalism, but it has profoundly transformed our social relations, our cultural norms, our very ways of being and seeing in the world. Whatever our gripes with its multi-generational manifestations—and believe me there are many—there was/is something about the feminist movement that has made it effective in truly widespread, durable and still dynamic ways: becoming a part of the ‘common sense’ (at least in the global North). I am not claiming that other movements like civil rights, labour, environmental and others haven’t had important effects, but I do think feminism-as-movement-- as an ethic and sensibility that forces people to consciously and continuously challenge dominant norms is quite special.

Yes, feminism has certainly been rife with conflicts, rifts and problems. Open conflicts have taken place between and among women from different economic and cultural backgrounds, of different sexual and gender identities, and from and within different global regions: it is/was continuously the object of critique. However understanding these conflicts as wholly negative is in part a problem of how we read conflict and critique. For I believe that one of the reasons feminism has been so significant despite its most problematic manifestations, is precisely because it has managed (or been forced) to really engage the conflicts and complexities that have traversed it throughout its history: conflicts between universalism and difference, cultural values and rights, North and South, etc. And because the multiple and at times contradictory elements that comprised it have subsequently worked to transform the discursive and lived spaces of feminist articulation to life and politics. Some of the most important insights about organising across differences came as a result of the fact that women of colour, queer women, anarchist women and women from the global South (among others) critiqued, seceded and worked to change what was perceived as a hegemonic feminism. While there is no doubt that the critiques must continue and the conflicts still exist, it is also undeniable that they have been extremely productive, if not constitutive of some of feminism’s most important contributions and insights into the nature of power and social change. This ethos and ability--the experience-- of engaging the intersectional complexities of life despite, or even with and through, conflicts and differences without falling apart or disbanding was part of what made the Escanda gathering so powerful.

Concluding Thoughts

I think that at their best our recent movements have the potential to have similar lived lessons emerge from encounters and even clashes among our different elements. It is that potential people were sensing when they referred to the movement as woman, as new, as exciting. However, while the language of networks, affinity groups and difference have been critical additions to our political vocabularies, they can also quite easily justify a level of complacency and comfort about remaining within our differences-- as separate groups. Moreover, while we have imagined and deployed this discourse and rhetoric of difference, becoming and affect, I fear we have forgotten about the lived and messy level of experienced conflict, as well as the time and effort it takes to work through them productively. Recognising irreducible differences, attempting to work with forms of organisation that are more fluid, dynamic and based on affect and pleasure, rather than structure and strategy, are key and important elements of the ‘new politics’, but they are not sufficient. Nor, I would add, is theorising and calling them part of a new post-representational political logic.

Ultimately one of the most important lessons of feminism, as well as of Zapatismo and other sources of inspiration for our new politics, is that the most important insights come from lived and unexpected experiences, including lived encounters with difference and lived experiences of the limitations of certain political models and ideologies. If we only talk and theorise amongst ourselves we are very unlikely to come across encounters that disrupt our ways of doing and thinking. So it is not sufficient to come up with a new narrative of social change: the terms and modality of the conversation must be recast as well. However, we need more people talking, arguing even, to truly change the terms of the conversation. That is why despite my serious reservations about the choice to publish this issue of Turbulence, I feel that it may be OK. Or rather I hope that throught its attempt at opening up an ongoing space and project of interrogation and reflection--where it may itself be an experienced object of critique-- without trying to definitively capture a snapshot of, or define absolutely an adequate politics for our movements, it could turn out to be a good thing. But only if people engage with it, argue with it, add to it…

I know that I have generalized about the “Movement of Movements” and in the process obscured important differences and the fact that many groups continue to act like the older left characterized briefly at the outset. I have chosen to do so to highlight trends that while certainly less valid among certain groups, still characterize a general tendency among many.

The opening quotation is from Global Project. For more on the links between feminism and the politics of the movement of movements, see J.K. Gibson-Graham’s A Postcapitalist Politics, and Michal Osterweil lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, teaching and studying at UNC-Chapel Hill while working on various community projects. In addition to Turbulence, she has been active in trying to create spaces for integrating movement work with research/intellectual-theoretical production, locally and beyond. She can be contacted at mosterweil[at]

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Zapagringo's First Birthday!

Awww...lil zappy is growin' up!

Zapagringo '06-'07 Year-In-Review

More than anything, I started this blog to get out to an english-reading audience so many of the things that are going on in this new phase of zapatismo that began with the release of the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle in June '05.

Having assembled a team of Mexican, gringo, French, and Brazilian (amateur/authentic) journalists in the first month-and-a-half of '06 to report for The Narco News Bulletin on the early days of the Other Campaign in Oaxaca, Mexico, I returned to Brooklyn with so many things I wanted to talk about and reflect on with my people here. Unfortunately, the word hadn't really got out seemed like there was a lot of explaining to do, and I didn't really see enough people doing it. So I wrote a piece on the Other Campaign for Left Turn Magazine, kept writing about the Other Campaign (on the Other Side) for Narco News, and started this blog...

Then came the Stories from the Other Campaign for the Left Turn website: Part 1 going deeper into the Other Campaign; Part 2 contemplating leadership and the role of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos within the Zapatistas and, now, the Other Campaign; and Part 3 being the transition piece towards really talking about what we are doing here, as the Zapatistas say, "in the brain of the monster" - this was the place I really had wanted to get to all along. Figuring I know mad people who don't read long sh*t on the Internet, I wanted to get the ideas out there so I even got some friends to help me turn "Enter the Intergalactic" (Part 3) into a pamphlet.

Well, the word got out and the rest is zapagringo history...for its first birthday I updated the blog's template and cleaned up a bit. All stories are now broken down into one or more of the following themes:

* Zezta Internazional - The most common theme, these posts have to do directly with those of us who are trying to build a global movement inspired by the Sixth you'll find some Zapatista and Cucapá communiqués directed to internationals 1,2,3,4,5; Posts on the work of internationals who have adhered to the Sixth Declaration 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8; as well as general updates from time-to-time 1,2,3,4,5 and speculations on global struggle 1,2,3,4,5.

* Intersections - Lines are often blurry, and this is especially true for this theme. These posts generally pertain to the places where resonance can be found between the Zapatistas and the activities of folks who are not necessarily adherents to their Sixth Declaration. Here you'll find connections with Palestinians 1,2; Americans 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9; Prisoners 1,2; Childcare providers 1,2; Queer folks, as well as some great essays written by other organizers that I've had the pleasure of debuting on-line 1,2,3 ...this is also where I've included all things that fall under the banner of "Another Politics is Possible" 1,2,3.

* Other Campaign - Even as we venture out and build a global struggle, it is important to stay abreast of the national organizing taking place throughout Mexico and beyond that falls under the banner of the Other Campaign. Here we find some foundational pieces 1,2; the Other Campaign in Mexico 1,2; the Other Campaign on the Other Side 1,2,3,4,5,6; Zapatista and Cucapá communiqués 1,2,3,4; updates 1,2,3,4; some historical perspective and Gustavo Esteva!

* Oaxaca - Last but not least, the Oaxacan struggle continues! I haven't written much about it lately since there are other people (El Enemigo Común and Narco News!) who are doing it so well...but the struggle remains close to my heart as I receive e-mails and announcements from many of the folks I built with during my stay there working for Narco News. In this theme you'll find updates on the struggle 1,2,3,4,5; the words of Oaxaqueños 1,2,3; and posts from the local, national, and international struggle against the repression of their struggles 1,2,3,4,5,6.

There it is -the zapagringo blog's first year- thank you for being a part of this multi-colored web of resistance - see you in the year ahead...

Viva La Otra Campaña!
Viva La Zezta Internazional!
All Zapagringos in the Struggle!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Rest of July in Mexico

Not me, of course, but there's alot happening in the next couple of weeks in Mexico so I'll be covering it here. Especially exciting, as you'll see below and in their recent communiqué, is the active collaboration of the Zapatistas with peasant movement representatives from Brazil, Korea, Madagascar (refused entrance to Mexico due to "visa problems"), India, the USA, the rest of Mexico, and many other places throughout the Americas, Asia, and Europe. I'll be linking to audio from the roundtables as it emerges and will be fleshing out happenings of the Second Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World at this post as well - so stay tuned!

Oaxaqueños are in the streets again...and being brutally repressed
--> Let's Mobilize!<--

Encuentro Anark@galactico
-July 15-18 at CIDECI (Centro Indígena de Capacitación Integral) in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas-

Alongside some nuts-and-bolts organizing to build a global network of anarchist adherents to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, specific discussions regarding political prisoners, borders, the Other Campaign, and appropriate technology are scheduled to take place.

The Popular Guelaguetza 2007
-July 16 in Oaxaca City-

UPDATE: Oaxaca mobilizes to defend itself...let's join them! Pictures from the Popular Guelaguetza: 1, 2, 3

"Guelaguetza" is a Zapotec word meaning something like "reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services"...a concept that the Oaxacan government has reduced to an annual event where indigenous oaxaqueños dance around for tourists. The struggle of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Oaxacan Teachers Union (Section 22) succesfully stopped last years state-sponsored event and held their own massive celebration...they seek to do so again this year.

"Latin America Seen from the Other Politics"
-July 16 at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City-

A roundtable featuring the current leader of the Zapatistas' Sixth Commission, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (aka Delegate Zero), as well as Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas (founder and director of Contrahistorias Magazine and the Immanuel Wallerstein Center in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas), Sergio Rodríguez Lascano (director of Revista Rebeldía), and Marcos Roitman (author and sociologist).

Facing Capitalist Dispossesion: The Defense of Land and Territory
-July 17 at the Club of Journalists in Mexico City-

A roundtable featuring Delegate Zero as well as representatives from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, the Korean Peasants League, the Bharatiya Kisan Union of India and Mexico's National Indigenous Congress.

International Day(s) of Action Against Repression in Mexico
-July 18/19-

UPDATE: Movement for Justice in El Barrio's reportback

Movement for Justice in El Barrio has helped to organize an international component to this action being taken by the recently created National Forum Against Repression as a response to the violence visited upon the Other Campaign, and to the "Mexico of Below" in general. Called for the 18th of July, the organizers for this day of action in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas have moved their action to the 19th to give people who are traveling to join the Second Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World a chance to participate.

"Facing Capitalist Dispossesion: The Defense of Land and Territory"
-July 19 at CIDECI in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas-

Same as the roundtable taking place in Mexico City on the 17th, but this time Delegate Zero is joined by a representatives from the USA's National Family Farm Coalition along with the delegates from Korea and Brazil.

In addition to the title link, check this one out for interventions from Tacho and Moisés.

Second Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World
-July 20-28 in the Zapatista Caracoles of Oventik, Morelia, and La Realidad in Chiapas-

Coverage in English (text) -- Narcos News 1,2,3,4; CounterPunch, Inter-County Leader

Coverage in Spanish (text, audio & video) -- Chiapas Indymedia, Free Media Center-Mexico City, Narco News, De Tod@s Para Tod@s

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

La Otra U.S. at USSF & 3 Definitions Plus

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 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 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.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

2nd Encounter of Zap Communities & World

Second Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World

-UPDATE: Find coverage of the Encuentro at the bottom of "The Rest of July in Mexico"-

Communiqué of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Sixth Commission and Intergalactic Commission of the EZLN.

June of 2007

To the People of Mexico:
To the Peoples of the World:
To the Adherents of the Zexta Internazional:
To the Adherents of the Sixth Declaration:

Compañeros and Compañeras:
Brothers and Sisters:

As was announced at the First Encounter of Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World (held in January of this year), the Second Encounter will be held in the coming month of July. The objective of this encounter is that persons, groups, collectives, and organizations that struggle against neoliberalism, in Mexico and all over the world, hear directly the word of the EZLN’s bases of support on the process of the construction of autonomy in the Zapatista indigenous communities of Chiapas. For this reason, the EZLN, through its Intergalactic and Sixth Commissions, convokes:

The Second Encounter of Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World.

To be held in Zapatista territory July 20 through 28 of the year 2007, with the following characteristics:

First. Taking into account the difficulties that the rainy season provokes at this time in the state of Chiapas, the locations of the Encounter will not be the 5 caracoles (as was previously announced), but rather 3 caracoles (Oventik, Morelia, and La Realidad), following the schedule that we here detail:

Friday, July 20: Caracol of Oventik, Zona Altos [Highlands Zone] of Chiapas. Welcome and Inauguration.

Saturday, July 21: Caracol of Oventik, Zona Altos of Chiapas. Plenary roundtables with presentations by the Zapatista bases of support of the Autonomous Municipalities of the Altos of Chiapas, and sessions for questions, observations, and proposals by attendees.

Sunday July 22: Transfer to the Caracol of Morelia, Zona Tzotz Choj. Welcome.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, July 23, 24, and 25: Caracol of Morelia, Zona Tzotz Choj. Plenary roundtables with presentations by the Zapatista bases of support of the Autonomous Municipalities of the Tzotz Choj Zone (Caracol of Morelia), the Northern Zone of Chiapas (Caracol of Roberto Barrios), and the Selva [Jungle] Tzeltal Zone (Caracol of La Garrucha), and sessions for questions, observations, and proposals by attendees.

Thursday, July 26: Transfer to the Caracol of La Realidad, Zona Selva Fronteriza [Jungle/Border Zone]. Welcome.

Friday, July 27: Caracol of La Realidad, Zona Selva Fronteriza. Plenary roundtables with presentations by Zapatista bases of support of the Autonomous Municipalities of the Zona Selva Fronteriza, and sessions for questions, observations, and proposals by attendees.

Saturday, July 28: Caracol of La Realidad, Zona Selva Fronteriza. Final Plenary and Closing.

Sunday, July 29: Return.

Second. The themes of the plenary roundtables are:

HEALTH: Presentation given by the Health Promoters of the Zapatista communities.

EDUCATION: Presentation given by the Education Promoters.

ORGANIZATION OF THE COMMUNITIES: Presentation given by the municipal commissioners and officials.

COLLECTIVE WORK: Presentation given by the local, regional, and municipal collectives and coordinators of each zone.

THE STRUGGLE OF WOMEN: Presentation given by the women of the bases of support on their forms of organization at different levels, as “the women that we are.”

AUTONOMY: Presentation given by the autonomous authorities on the struggles and problems faced in the areas of work, health, education, trade, civil registry, justice, projects, etc.

GOOD GOVERNMENT: Presentation given by members of the Good Government Councils on their function in the construction of autonomy.

EVALUATION OF THE PROCESS OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF AUTONOMY: Presentation given by members of the political directive of the EZLN (CCRI) on advances and problems in the 13 years of existence of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion (MAREZ) and the 4 years of the Good Government Councils (JBG).

Third. The method of work in the plenary roundtables will be: Presentation of the theme, followed by a session of observations, questions, and answers.

Fourth. In this Second Encounter the EZLN will have as special invitees the compañeros and compañeras of the Landless Movement in Brazil, of the Campesino Movement of Korea, of the Campesino Movement of Madagascar, of the Campesino Movement of the United States, and of other compas of the “Via Campesina” organization in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Given this, there will be a special space for the participation of these compañer@s.

The compañer@s of "Via Campesina" that have confirmed their attendance, among others, are:

1) Soraia SORIANO, Brazil. Member of the National Directive of the Landless Movement (MST).
2) Tsirisoa RAKOTONIMARO, Madagascar, Africa. Leader of the Peasant Confederation of Madagascar (CPM).
3) Dong Uk MIN: South Korea. Coordinator of International Relations, Peasant League of Korea (KPL).
4) George NAYLOR, United States. President of the National Coalition of Family Farmers (NFFC).
5) Henry SARAGIH, Indonesia. World Coordinator of Vía Campesina (VC), Secretary General of the Federation of Peasant Unions of Indonesia (FSPI).
6) Nemesia ACHACOLLO, Bolivia. Leader of the National Confederation of Campesina Women "Bartolina Sisa" and Representative of the MAS (Evo's party), member of the International Coordinating Committee (CCI) of Via Campesina.
7) Paul NICHOLSON, País Vasco. Leader of the Peasant Union of País Vasco (EHNE), member of the International Coordinating Committee (CCI) of Via Campesina.
8) Juana FERRER, Dominican Republic. Continental Coordinator of the Latin American Coordination of Organizations of Countryside (CLOC), Secretary General of the National Confederation of Women of the Countryside (CONAMUCA), Dominican Republic, member of the International Coordinating Committee (CCI) of Via Campesina.
9) Rafael ALEGRIA, Honduras. Coordinator of Via Campesina-Central America, Member of the International Coordinating Committee (CCI) of Via Campesina, Coordinator of the World Campaign for Agrarian Reform of Via Campesina.
10) Blanca CHANCOSO, Quito, Ecuador. Leader of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) (allies of Via Campesina), member of the Continental Commission of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities.
11) Yudhvir SINGH, India. Leader of the Peasant Union "Bhartiya Kissan," India.
12, 13, 14) Uthai SA-ARTCHOP, Patiphan WIRIYAWANA, and Banbita YANGDEE, Thailand. Members of the Assembly of the Poor (AOP), Thailand.
15) Carlos MARENTES, United States. President of Agricultural Workers of the Border, United States.
16) Kalissa REGIER, Saskatoon, Canada. Leader of the National Agricultural Union (NFU), Canada.
17 y 18) Rodolfo POCOP and Juan TINEY, Guatemala. Leaders of the National Indigenous and Campesino Coordination (CONIC), members of the Continental Commission of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities.
19) Alberto GOMEZ, Mexico. Leader of the UNORCA, Coordinator of Vía Campesina-North America, member of the International Coordinating Committee (CCI) of Via Campesina.

Fifth. Inscriptions and accreditations will begin by internet on July 2, 2007, at the following webpages: and

Accreditations will be distributed starting Monday, July 16, 2007, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, at:

The office of Enlace Zapatista: Avenida Ignacio Allende 22-A, Barrio de San Antonio, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
Telephone: (01) 967 6781013

Additionally, there will be a place for inscription and accreditation in each of the caracoles where the plenaries will be held.

Sixth. It is recommended that those attending bring the necessary items to spend the night. In the caracoles there will be affordable food stands, but attendees can also bring their own food.

We invite all honest, noble, and committed persons of Mexico and the World to attend.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Sixth Commission.

Teniente Coronel Insurgente Moisés.
Intergalactic Commission.

Mexico, June of 2007.

(Thanks to El Kilombo Intergaláctico for the translation)

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