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 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.


Peter Brogan said...

As usual Rj I find your analysis illuminating and offering us clarity on the Zapatistas and struggles in Mexico more generally. I'm wondering if you could offer a bit more clarity on solidarity work.

Specifically, can you elaborate on what you have in mind when by ally work with the "other" campaign and why it should take priority for settler revolutionaries in this part of Turtle Island?

RJ Maccani said...

Hey Peter,

Thanks for the compliment and the question...I'll respond in reverse order!

As W.E.B. DuBois once said, "As goes the South, so goes the nation." At the time he was, of course, referring to the Southern "slave states" of the USA and the fact that change there would drive change throughout the country. I believe DuBois' statement still rings true but that we must today understand "the [US] South" as Mexico...what happens "there" will happen "here."

Gringo revolutionaries have plenty of work to do so I'm not advocating that everyone prioritize solidarity with the Other Campaign. Speaking directly to those of us who are adherents to the Zapatistas' Sixth Declaration, though, I AM advocating figuring out how to provide active solidarity with the Other Campaign for the reason described above with the Dubois' quote. What form that solidarity takes will probably depend on the particularities...

In my case, for example, this has primarily been in the realm of information circulation and creation. Reporting on the Other Campaign from Oaxaca and New York City. Distributing communiques from Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) and the Zapatistas' Sixth Commission. Printing 10,000 copies of the Sixth Declaration -- many of which went to MJB and even more to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

More important than this ally work, though, is us continuing the work of creating a radically transformative movement that appeals to and is generated by the activity of masses of people who identify the USA as "their country"...but the borders are fuzzy at best and lethal at there worst, so neither of these pieces of work are mutually exclusive for us.

What do you think?

Peter Brogan said...

I have to respectively disagree with your taking up of Debois' as flipped to say that today we should understand change in Mexico (and we could extend this to the Global South more broadly) determines change here in the "brain of the beast."

The very fact that the US state is the premier power in global capitalism and has constructed an empire like no other in history is what makes the work we gringo revolutionaries do here so pivotal.

We should remember that the capitalist restructing we now call neoliberalism or corporate globalization began in New York City in the 1970s, only to be injected into the economies in the Global South transnationally oriented capialists in the US and countries like Mexico and Chile.

Yes we're dealing with a global capitalist imperialism and like the Zapatistas have stressed from the begining we must match it with a global resistance. But power in the global capitalist economy remains centralized in Washington D.C. and Wall Street.

I've drawn lots of inspiration and concrete lessons from the struggles in Mexico, particularly from the Zapatistas. And along with dissemanting information (what you've prioritied and done quite effectively) about their struggles and buidling concrete relationships with them, like is being done by the Movement for Justice in El Barrio in Harlem, the most concrete form of solidarity work is organizing ourselves here in such a way that we can both effectively fight the central nodes of capital in the US as well as coordinate cross border campaigns of resistance.

I continue to believe that the working class (broadly conceived) holds a strategically important place in global capitalism and US society (especially given the level of economic integration in North America and how production has been restructured).

Consequently, in building a truly radically transformative and revolutionary mass movement (of which we're both in agreement on and involved in) we should not abandon a class analysis and need to continue to think seriously and strategically about socio-economic structures in North America and globally, and what the colletive transformation of these structures and the culture of neoliberal capitalism, built on a settler-colonialism with all the trimmings of white supremacy and heteropatriarcy, entails.

I think this will mean getting beyond a "network politics" and building a more solid infrastructure of dissent and different forms of revolutionary organization in North America.

We should learn not only from the failings and successes of the more hierarchical vanguardist organizing of the old left but also of the failings of the "new new left" of the global justice movement, whose forms of organization and decision making processes (embodied preeminently in consensus based decision making and Peoples Global Action) have often been held up as a new model for social change with the least bit of criticism and self-reflexivity.

This is a long way of saying, we agree on some fundamentals but need to push the discussion (within and amongst movements as well as well as our blogs) to get into more details and talk concretely about organization, strategy, and what things like solidarity can mean in different places, spaces, and times.
In solidarity,

RJ Maccani said...

Hmmm...I'm not sure we disagree that much...but perhaps I have failed to represent myself well, so I'm gonna try and be more explicit here:

I agree with you that our work here in "the brain of the beast" is pivotal and that "the working class (broadly conceived) holds a strategically important place in global capitalism and US society..." I believe that I have stressed over and over on this blog that building a movement here in this country is the key piece of work we do. One of my arguments, and this is related to my application of the DuBois quote, is that Mexicans make up a large and critical piece of the US working class...this is why the Other Campaign is particularly relevant to Zezta Internazional adherents living in the US...that it is not "our struggle" doesn't mean that we shouldn't pay attention to it or that it won't GREATLY impact us.

I also agree with you with regards to creating new vehicles of struggle that respond to the problems with "hierarchical, vanguardist organizing" as well as the many weaknesses of network forms such as Peoples' Global Action (PGA).

I understand my reference to PGA in this post to be more a statement of fact than an endorsement. In "Enter the Intergalactic" I get deep into this history and context and draw out some of PGA's failings. I do also highlight the network form of organization and go into a little bit of detail as to what it requires--I think this is key as many people make reference to this "new form" although there doesn't seem to often be a clear methodology presented as well. Perhaps you'll see in my explanation that the network model requires much more than a listserve and some communiques to be useful!

That being said, I am inspired by the intentional, deliberate work of responding to these tough questions that is happening within the Autonomy and Solidarity Network and it's journal, Upping the Anti.

Also, within our own Another Politics is Possible spaces here in NYC, we are very much not settled in our responses to these questions of organization and are actively exploring them within the context of our work and study.

Thanks for pushing this discussion forward, Peter, and for pushing me to be more explicit!