Monday, December 22, 2008

Gathering Our Dignified Rage

This is visionary stuff --> both a primer on the organizing that has taken place over the past three and a half years since the Zapatistas released their Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle and a proposal on where we need to head in the context of our global crises... a rewrite of an earlier piece updated for the current context and in preparation for the First Global Festival of Dignified Rage, which begins in Mexico City at the end of this week. Enjoy!

Gathering Our Dignified Rage
Building New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihood and Exchange
by Kolya Abramsky

Up there, they intend to repeat their history.

They once again want to impose on us their calendar of death, their geography of destruction.

Down here we are being left with nothing.

Except rage.

And dignity.

There is no ear for our pain, except that of the people like us.

We are no one.

We are alone, and just with our dignity and our rage.

Rage and dignity are our bridges, our languages.

Let us listen to each other then, let us know each other.

Let our rage grow and become hope.

Let our dignity take root again and breed another world.

If this world doesn’t have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no other tool than our rage, no other material than our dignity

- Communique announcing the World’s First Festival for Dignified Rage, 15th/16th September 2008

It has been three and a half years since the Zapatistas(1) issued their 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle(2). The declaration, issued through collective discussion in the Zapatista communities in the summer of 2005, calls for a Third Intergalactica to take place, “from below and to the left”. Since the declaration was issued, much has happened. The developments of both global capitalism and global resistance described so eloquently and humourously in the call have come into clearer definition. Dynamics have accelerated, and the stakes have increased. And, now, with the capitalist world-economy seemingly unravelling before our eyes, the Zapatistas are seeking to usher in the next stage in the process. People in struggle throughout the world have been invited to Mexico to participate in the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, which will take place at the end of 2008(3). Let us dare to seize this glimmer of hope that has been so generously and boldly offered, in order to come together in such a way as to collectively shape the world which emerges from the current crisis, ensuring that it is centred around respect and nourishment of human life, and not destruction, suffering and despair. Time is ticking fast. The abyss is near, and the moment is ripe for action, for hope and for long term strategic visions.


The call for a Third Intergalactica followed two previous Zapatista Intergalacticas, self-organized international gatherings of several thousand people aimed at weaving a global network of grassroots struggles. The invitations to participate in these meetings were humorously extended to participants throughout the galaxy, hence the name. The first took place in 1996 in Chiapas, and the second in the Spanish state the following year. The first two Intergalacticas had a profound effect on inspiring, galvanizing and even giving some organizational form to a major new circulation of global struggles, which we have witnessed in the last decade. There are many good reasons to believe that the new process of global convergence and resistance called for by the 6th Declaration could have a similarly important inspirational and catalytic effect in creating a space in which the next stages of global resistance can take shape and collectively organize themselves.

The call came at a moment in which it was urgently needed, and highly suited to the moment. In a nutshell, it came at a moment when existing global processes of struggle were beginning to run up against their own limitations. After a rapid and far-reaching success, they were starting to get stuck in the difficult process of collectively defining and moving into the next phase of resistance.

Let us first briefly describe these global processes and recap on their stunning success. The 10 years preceding the call had seen a marked rise in the global networking of struggles. A number of highly active, imaginative, visible and above all effective, organizational processes came into existence. In particular, the following organizational processes stand out: Peoples’ Global Action, the World Social Forum, the Via Campesina and Indymedia, though these are merely the tip of the organizational iceberg. These initiatives had a very rapid and far reaching two-fold success. On the one hand, they played an enormous role in strengthening communication and the process of building common political perspectives between large numbers of different and fragmented social struggles in many different countries. There has been a great flourishing of self organized efforts to question and resist power structures, frequently based on a confrontational approach to capitalism, rather than lobbying. Importantly, great attention is paid to principles of autonomy, diversity and non-hierarchical organizing. At times, global networks have worked extraordinarily well. In a remarkably short time period these networks have become excellent at organizing large global meetings, conferences, global days of action on common themes, calling for emergency solidarity actions in support of particular local struggles, as well as translating and circulating up-to-date and accurate information and news throughout the world in a short space of time. Indeed, these communication flows, which simply did not exist fifteen years ago, have become so regular that they are frequently taken for granted, and hardly noticed.

And, on the other hand, these global networks did the seemingly impossible. In the midst of a triumphalist, post-Cold War capitalist rhetoric, they dared to denounce capitalism, and were so successful, that they rapidly plunged the system and its major global institutions into a legitimacy crisis. Institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, World Economic Forum, or G8 are increasingly unable to hold their summits without facing major protests and riots, immense security costs, and harsh media critique. Similarly, with summits relating to multilateral and bilateral free-trade agreements. These institutions are not just facing a crisis of legitimacy, but also deep existential crises. Frequently negotiations are stalled (most notably the World Trade Organization and Free Trade Area of the Americas), as conflicts of interest have shifted from the protests in the streets into the negotiating corridors themselves. And, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are increasingly unable to meet their budgetary requirements, nor to maintain their clients. And, when the USA launched its War on Terror, the global networks were able to respond in such a way as to plunge the US state and its military apparatus in legitimacy crisis too, both beyond and within the US itself. And, while nation states still retain considerable legitimacy, there has nonetheless been a profound questioning of states, their electoral systems and political parties. Many of these developments were, seemingly, unthinkable just 15 years before. Global movements had become incredibly strong.

And yet, this global convergence process between different struggles also had major limitations and had reached an impasse that was making it very difficult to move forwards. Let us consider this now. Despite their immense success in certain areas (namely denunciation, delegitimation and building communication channels between struggles), they were seemingly incapable of actually slowing and reversing the rapid lurch towards an authoritarian global politics based on fear, coercion, militarism, racism and religious fundamentalism. And, perhaps even more worrying, such political developments cannot be attributed simply to the whims of maniacal leaders the world over, but rather to their undeniable mass appeal to large numbers of people. Importantly, such mass politics is at the expense of and in direct competition with the mass appeal of the more emancipatory visions of social change based on autonomy, diversity and self-organization that global resistance networks are based on. And, faced with this, it seems as if a form of at least temporary paralysis, and also routinization have set in with the existing global processes, mentioned above, which had until then been important. This was true both in terms of immediate visible activities at the global level, and also in terms of being able to open up wider long-term strategic approaches.

It was on the lips of many, but few dared to say it explicitly. Movements seem to have reached an impasse, and were unable to build on their success in order to deepen and expand existing networks so as to make them functional enough to be able to create alternative social relations rather than just denouncing existing relations of power. The 6th Declaration implicitly recognised the potential of these struggles, but also of their extreme impasse and dared to seek to offer a potential way out, or at least an invitation for people to collectively explore and chart new paths in this direction.


For years the brutality of the global financial regime has been apparent to all who bore its brunt, and for the rest who cared to look. And now, surprisingly or not, depending on how you may view these things, its sheer fragility has also been revealed in no uncertain terms to people throughout the world. It is no longer possible to label the critics as doomsayers, since now it is major banks, markets and car companies themselves who are hurtling into the void. Governments around the world have responded as headless chickens before a crisis of their own making. Now, the very policy makers who led the world to the abyss are claiming to be its saviours in the making. With bail outs galore, governments have been quick to attempt to rescue failing financial infrastructures and also industrial sectors. They have produced vast quantities of money seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps pulling it from out of their arses, in a move that literally mortgages the futures of several generations of waged and unwaged workers throughout the world. Yet, the bailouts are far from “working”, even in their own terms. Markets stabilize for some days, then plunge again. And, while there is much talk of “all pulling together”, “unity in the face of crisis”, “common sacrifice” and above all of “bi-partisan” solutions, it is crystal clear that infact important interstate tensions are emerging, especially between the EU, China and USA, and also within the EU itself, as economic and political forces pull Germany in one direction and Britain, France and Italy in another. The US political system has been heavily divided internally, first over the large bail out of the banks and more recently (and ongoing as this article is being written), over the bail out of the historic Detroit car industry.

And, on the other hand, in a state of confused semi-incredulity at the demand that they and their as yet unborn children should shoulder the burden of crisis, people throughout the world are slowly but surely breaking out from the constraints imposed by the appeals to trust the world’s leaders in sailing a bi-partisan-ship to the distant shores of salvation.

In the USA, there is a slowly reawakening resistance on foreclosures, ranging from political lobbying, to collectively negotiating rescheduling of bank loans, to direct action and community based resistance to eviction, to squatting of buildings. While nowhere near the scale of anti-eviction resistance during the 1930s Great Depression, there are nonetheless encouraging signs underway(4). And, of great significance, is the grassroots, predominantly Latin@ worker occupation of the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago over the issue of receiving severance pay and other benefits owed to them by Bank of America in the face of being laid off due to the factory suddenly being closed down. The occupation took place under the leadership of Local 1110 of UE (the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America), a union with a history of important struggles including being one of 11 trade unions which during the early days of the Cold War were persecuted and thrown out of the major US labor federation at the time, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, for their unwillingness to persecute radicals within these unions. The factory occupation, which lasted six days, was supported by solidarity actions in numerous cities throughout the US and around the world, and ultimately was victorious. An important victory in the US, showing once again people’s determination and creativity in times of crisis. A week of action calling for a “People’s Bailout” has been called by Jobs With Justice, for December.

People in Europe have responded particularly strongly and fast to the crisis, especially in its Southern peripheries, Italy, Spain and Greece. In Italy repeated waves of strikes, tending towards general strikes, have mobilized literally millions of workers throughout the country. In Spain, a country where the speculative housing and construction boom is rapidly unraveling causing great social dislocation, there was a major day of protest in many places throughout the country on November 15th in response to the G20 meeting which took place in Washington with the aim of shoring up the international financial system. Bank workers have also staged an occupation of the main branch of the BBVA Bank. And, within days of Lehman Brothers going under, “Robin-Bank” announced that he had stolen close to half a million euros from 38 Spanish Banks in order to give the money to emancipatory social movements. In Greece, mass riots and protests were triggered by the police murder of a teenager, but also coincided with a strike that had been called previously by two major unions, and has turned into a many day major social uprising, in a country where youth unemployment is as high as 70% in some places, even prior to the effects of the world-economic crisis being felt. Importantly, in all three of these countries, a common slogan has emerged in a very short space of time: “We will not pay for your crisis”.

On the other hand, processes of globally coordinated resistance in the face of crisis have been slow to emerge. Nonetheless, a number of interesting, if entirely embryonic, initiatives are underway. A wide-ranging statement combining demands and a program of action for a “transitional programme for radical economic transformation” to a radical economy was issued by participants in an international meeting of social movements which took place at the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Beijing in October 2008. There were some attempts to have globally coordinated protests during the November 15th G20 meeting, including a meeting of the Latin American Continental Social Alliance which took place in Ecuador, though this emergency G20 meeting was held so swiftly that it was impossible for any major global coordination of protests to occur. One interesting feature, was a statement put out by ALBA countries saying that the G20 was not the appropriate space to resolve the crisis. It is expected that preparation for protests during the next G20 meeting which will take place in April in London might be more impacting. And an international NGO meeting to discuss the crisis and responses has been called for to take place in Paris in January 2009. On the level of direct action, groups in Spain and in the USA have come together to call for a global debtors strike and boycott of banks. As a side note, it is also worth mentioning two other global processes of resistance, neither of which are explicitly connected to the financial crisis itself, but are none the less intimately related. The first are the food and fuel riots which rocked more than 30 countries earlier this year, a rapid and spontaneous reaction to food and fuel inflation. These took place even before the banking crisis became fully developed. The bailouts are likely to generate a period of major inflation, thus making such protests and riots increasingly common occurrences. The second important process is the international mobilizations which are underway to protest the Copenhagen UNFCCC climate change talks which will take place in December 2009, exactly 10 years to the day since the WTO was routed in Seattle in 1999.

Yet, while offering some hope, all of these responses are still very much embryonic, and there is a long way to go before we will be collectively strong enough to change the course through which the crisis is to be resolved.

And so, in the face of crisis, an extension of the permanent crises which many throughout the world have already been living through for centuries, it perhaps is becoming increasingly clear which tasks are lying ahead of us. And, also increasingly daunting. Furthermore, if we are to avoid further great human suffering and barbarities, we are faced with a paradox. While we need to take the time to do it right, we also need to speed up and do it right all at the same time, since doing it wrong, or doing it slow is not an option either. And, while, now is a time for discussing it is not a time for empty chit-chat, but for discussion through which we can collectively transform ourselves and our ability to create something new together. Yes, let’s take the time for taking a deep, and celebratory, breath at the fact that the George Bush Presidency is in its last days, and to celebrate the first African-American to enter the White House, proudly acknowledging within minutes of his victory that “Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” had contributed to his win. And, while voting for Obama may or may not have been the answer, history alone can judge, his victory surely represents more than a victory of one particular politician, but rather reflects a deep-mass based process that is deeply yearning and searching for a profound change of direction in the face of deep crisis. Again, another point to celebrate. And for sure, it is hard not to be happy on hearing Obama speak out in favour of the Chicago factory occupiers. Yet, despite all this, are we really to believe that Obama represents more than a concerted effort to shore up capitalism in its disastrous entry into the twenty-first century, the West’s belated answer to Mikhail Gorbachev who history bestowed with a correspondingly unfortunate task of shoring up a failing state communist model in its moment of terminal crisis? And, is there not a certain ironic ring to the rallying call "Let's turn Obama into the West's Gorbachev!"?
Above all, now is not a moment for complacency, but one for seizing in order to win strong reforms in the immediate term, avoiding cooptation, and preparing seriously for revolution in the medium term... It is a moment for gathering the combined powers of our Dignified Rage.


Dignified and Undignified Ways Out of a Crisis: Negotiating the Space Between Repression, Divisions and Cooptation

Not to be outsmarted or left behind by global dynamics in the financial sphere, the same day that Lehman Brothers, one of the world’s largest investment banks, went under, the Zapatistas issued their invitation to the wonderfully named “World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage”. The timing may or may not have been coincidence, it does not matter in the slightest. The current moment is both a time of great urgency, and also one of great possibility and openness to major changes in social relations. It is vitally important that the potential of this moment is not lost. And, above all is crucial that we keep at the forefront of our minds the importance of the prescience of the call’s emphasis on Dignified Rage. For, the dangers which almost certainly lie ahead should we follow a path of each-to-their-own Undignified rage, as demonstrated in the recent horrendous multiple attacks in Bombay, are almost unimaginable. The Nazi holocaust is a clear reminder of the extents of horror which can be unleashed by undignified rage in the face of a world-wide financial crisis.

The current situation is likely to open up all kinds of calls for financial and monetary reform, some new, some rehashes of old schemes. The Tobin Tax, designed as an international mechanism to simultaneously curb financial flows and also raise revenue for desirable purposes is one such example. Already much of the mainline press in the USA and western Europe are quick to condemn “greedy finance capital” and call for its regulation, while simultaneously celebrating and attempting to prop up the “good industrial capitalism”. Noble “Main Street” is pitted against heinous “Wall Street.” However, the debate about monetary and financial reform, and the extent to which it is either possible or desirable, is not a new debate. It is one that has surfaced repeatedly, with more or less energy, at different moments of financial crisis. The debate was central to the development of the 1848 European (and elsewhere) revolutions which followed close on the heels of a major financial crisis in 1847, forming the central component of Marx’s critique of different proposed “alternatives”, famously debated with the French anarchist, Proudhon in The Poverty of Philosophy. More recently, the attempt to curb “finance capitalism” while shoring up “industrial productive capitalism” was closely related to the rise of corporatism, fascism and Hitler in the Great Depression of the 1930s. On the other hand, in 2001, when Argentina’s banks went under, a twin process of factory occupation and the creation of local alternative currencies which for a period sustained literally millions of people who simply could not affort to use the existing official currency.

Yet, an oversimplistic focus on reforming the monetary and financial system in isolation presents an enormous threat to current emancipatory struggles. On the one hand it is likely to be largely ineffective, while on the other it may open up a very big space for scapegoating and also ensuring the conditions for a renewed round of capitalist accumulation. Such a focus attempts to solve problems on one level, namely the financial and monetary, while in fact these problems originate in another level, namely at the level of the existing world-wide relations of production and reproduction. As such, the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage is one more step towards creating a global process of resistance and construction of alternative relations that is called for in the 6th Declaration in 2005, and which the proposed Intergalactica would seek to contribute to. It remains unclear what form the Intergalactica will take, should it indeed occur, and whether it will be a one off international event or an ongoing long term process of constructing alternatives. And, for that matter, it also remains an open question whether what emerges is actually called the Intergalactica, as was proposed in the 6th Declaration, or whether it goes by another name. However, for the moment, and for the purposes of this text, I will assume that something called an “Intergalactica” is still on the agenda. If in the end a global process emerges which does not actually go under the name Intergalactica, but under some other name, well, the name itself is not the most important thing.

What is important is that the process of resistance and transformation which emerges is based on a broad and meaningful participation from many different struggles from around the world, with a clear view towards building on the big successes of globally networked struggles in order to overcome their limits and effectively move into a higher phase of struggle. Despite certain very important successes, these global processes are still very limited, and it is important to acknowledge and confront these limitations head on. It is one thing to bring activists from many different countries and struggles together for a face-to-face meeting or protest that takes place over a very short and specific time period, normally lasting a few days only. However, it is quite another thing to actually build long term deep social relations between struggles at the global level, relations that create fundamentally different relations of production, reproduction of livelihoods and exchange and that go beyond the nation state and market as forms of organizing social relations. Until now, most global relations between struggles in different parts of the world have been quite ephemeral and highly superficial, often relying on small numbers of specific individuals rather than being appropriated by larger numbers in the respective movements. At this stage in the young networks, this state of affairs is not especially surprising, due to many different barriers including access to resources for travel and regular computer based communication, foreign language skills, detailed knowledge of the world-economy, the ability to take time away from local struggles and immediate day-to-day concerns, etc. And, while these limitations have not presented a major barrier to networking, protest and denunciation, they do seem to present a major bottleneck to the far bigger task of collectively creating lasting new social relations based on diversity, autonomy and decentralization.

This bottleneck, though not often acknowledged openly and collectively, has meant that global networking processes are not nearly decentralized enough, especially in relation to their own rhetoric of extreme decentralization; nor are they deep enough in terms of their ability to sustain meaningful exchange and mutual support processes, especially between movements in Southern countries. Furthermore, their reliance on small numbers of individuals makes them extremely vulnerable, both to the inactivity of specific individuals and to cooptation and repression (individuals are easier to kill, imprison and buy off than broader collective processes). Above all, global movements are still a very long way from constructing social relations that go beyond both the nation state and world- market, and in many cases (especially in the imperialist countries with a strong social-welfare state), there is still great dependency on state structures, and as the current crisis has shown clearly, financial structures such as the banking and pension systems.

While the construction of alternative relations of production, reproduction of livelihoods and exchange are frequently at the centre of specific local struggles (especially land related struggles in Southern countries), these relations almost never extend to the regional or global level, and where they do (such as direct exchange coffee or the occasional solidarity project related to building infrastructure such as health clinics or renewable energy installations) they still have a very small reach and are limited to specific products (often artesanal). In general, global resistance networks are still far better at spreading news and coordinating protests in different parts of the world than they are at spreading products, people, skills, financial and technical support. (Though these latter set of activities do occur frequently, for the most part it occurs within the context of fairly paternalistic NGO activity that is based around the premise of reform and integration into existing power relations rather than in a horizontal politics based on autonomy, solidarity, diversity and a confrontational approach to power). At the level of “resisting states” there have been important regional integration processes in Latin America, most notably the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) which has been spearheaded by Chavez, or the Hemispheric Integration of the Peoples, spearheaded by Evo Morales. These states have been able to embark on more extensive and long term cooperation processes, such as in health, energy, communication and finance. However, for the most part, such cooperation has taken place within the framework of nation states, rather than building direct movement-movement relationships. Overcoming these bottlenecks in global networking processes would take horizontal autonomous self-organization to new levels in terms of their collective ability to build far-reaching and lasting global alternatives that go beyond both the nation state and the market. There is an urgent need for movements to tackle these difficult tasks. If these bottlenecks are not overcome very rapidly, enabling a serious and accelerated world-wide process of constructing alternative relations, there is a danger that everything that has been built up in the last years will be lost.

It is in this context that the Zapatista call for another Intergalactica must be understood. For the Intergalactica to contribute to a long term process of building new social relations at the global level, it will be important that it is a participatory process, driven forward by struggles across the world, constructed through a process of dialogue and exchange. The Zapatistas have set the ball rolling, with a directed invitation. This invitation is based on the Zapatistas’ own awareness that they themselves have fought a long social struggle that has spent many years in the laborious and painstaking process of constructing long term autonomous social relations. This process has been based on collectively taking over land, one of the fundamental means of production and reproduction of people’s livelihoods. However, the Intergalactica is not just the responsibility of the Zapatistas but of all those who identify with it throughout the world. Active rather than passive participation from these different struggles will be what gives the process real depth and meaning. This includes the need for a collective global discussion process, based in decentralization and autonomous self-organization, to define what kind of a process the Intergalactica should be. What are its goals, contents and methods, who will participate in it, through what kind of process and which forms of participation? And, if it is to involve particular large international meetings or encuentros along the way, where would they take place and when? However, before discussing possible ways forward for creating such a global process, let us first take a look more closely at the undignified way of resolving crisis.

Undignified Paths in the Face of Resistance

Historically, capital and state power have responded to popular resistance through the combined use of 3 major strategies: dividing struggles, integrating them through partial reforms, and repression. These three strategies have not been employed in isolation from one another, but in careful combination. They have been implemented with varying degrees of success (from the point of view of capital and state power), and never permanently. In the current context of global resistance we are already in the whirlwind of these three responses. Having slowly brewed over the last several years, these dynamics are likely to be greatly intensified and accelerated by the current economic crisis and the Obama election. The degree to which we are able to anticipate, prepare for and confront this three-pronged response will greatly determine how successful movements are in defining the terms of debate and terrain of struggle in order to expand the space from which to go about building viable long term emancipatory social relations and moving beyond their current impasse. It will also be crucially important not to lose sight of history. Let us look at the three prongs – division, integration, and repression – one by one.

The continued existence of the capitalist world-economy has relied on its ability to divide populations from one another, both within countries and between countries, in order to prevent unity of struggle within the world-wide division of labour. Especially important has been capital’s ability to prevent global circulation of struggles by maintaining a world-system divided into nation states. The world-wide division of labor has been hierarchically structured, based on imposed (and continually reimposed) divisions based around (especially, but not exclusively) race, ethnicity and gender hierarchies, as well as those between waged and unwaged labor. When considering the global division of labor, certain (minority) sections of the world’s population have been implicated in the exploitation and discrimination of certain other (majority) sections of the world’s population, due to gaining direct or indirect material rewards from their position in the hierarchy. In particular, the imperial expansion of the late 19th Century (“Scramble for Africa”, etc), and the consequent subjugation of workers in the colonies, enabled often quite substantial partial reforms to be granted in response to the growing strength of workers’ struggles in capitals core, Europe and the USA. Another crucial divide throughout history has been the citizen/non-citizen divide, or, taken to its worst racist extremes, the “human”/”non-human” divide, as epitomized in the 20th Century by the genocidal social deal offered to “pure German” workers in Germany in the Hitler period. And, last but not least, let us not forget the so-called post-World War II “welfare state” model which has provided large sections of the populations in the capitalist center (especially, but not exclusively, white male unionized workers) with greatly improved material standards of living and political freedoms at the expense of the great majority in peripheral countries, as well as people of color and unwaged (especially women) workers within the core countries themselves.

The second major strategy employed in response to social struggle has been cooptation that has integrated struggles, by partially giving in to certain demands for social, economic and political reforms while not substantially challenging private ownership and profit relations, political decision making, and labor control mechanisms that have defined capitalist (and imperialist, patriarchal, racist…) social relations. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Keynesian welfare state was widely introduced in core capitalist countries, in response to the fear of the Russian Revolution inspiring and supporting similar processes throughout the world. In the second half of the century, in response to the 1949 triumph of the Chinese Revolution, developmentalism combined with formal political independence was introduced into the colonies. The Keynesian deal which linked productivity to high wages was so ingenious that not only was it able to buy off social struggle, but also to actually harness it to such an extent that, safely channeled, demands for higher wages actually contributed to economic growth.

Last, but not least, has been state repression. Those resistances which could not easily be integrated or bought off with reform have simply been crushed and intimidated out of existence, involving mass imprisonments, torture, and political murder, as well as war. Of crucial importance in terms of developments in the 20th Century was the repression of the revolutionary wave which circulated much of the world in the wake of World War One and the Russian Revolution, the fascist destruction of movements in Europe, Stalin’s repression on worker resistance in both the USSR and satellite states, repression by the US and its allies in third world countries, such as Vietnam or Indonesia, and the fierce repression of African American struggles in the USA, especially in the late 60s and 70s, amongst many other examples.

World-wide Unity Against Division: an Indispensable Basis for a Dignified Way Out of the Crisis

Bearing this in mind, perhaps one of the most important tasks facing emancipatory struggles in the coming years will be to maintain and deepen the levels of internationalism and inclusivity of global networks across the hierarchies, old and new, which divide people from one another. The inclusive nature of the term “Intergalactic” (fortunately, broad enough to include “aliens”…) is vital. Unity is understood here to be a decentralized unity based on a diversity of autonomous forms of self-organization from which different struggles within the world-wide division of labour can communicate and cooperate with each other in their particular struggles to break free from the domination of capital over their lives, but at the same time are able to struggle amongst themselves to break down hierarchies and divisions which exist within the division of labour itself. In order for the Intergalactica to really move in this direction, it is of central importance that relevant movements and struggles are aware of the Intergalactica process and are actively participating in giving it shape.

A key question that needs to be addressed before addressing any other question is who will take part in the process of building the Intergalactica and on what basis. For a long-term and transformatory global process such as the Intergalactica to come to fruition, it is especially important that people from as many countries and as many different struggles of exploited, oppressed and marginal social groupings as possible are able to participate in its construction. Yet, beyond such general and vague niceties, is the particular need of overcoming divisions that are currently being fostered within the world-economy itself, as well as of course transcending hierarchies and divisions which have been built up over centuries of colonial history. Unless intentionally addressed by emancipatory struggles these divisions are likely to be reproduced within global networks themselves. In particular 4 types of “global” divisions currently stand out, divisions which are likely to become much deeper and more damaging in the near the future:
  • The so-called “Clash of Civilizations” is a process which could turn out to have similar divisive effects on global struggle as the Cold War did, in which (on a greatly uneven and hierarchical basis) people from “the west” and “the Arab world” are trained to fear, distrust and hate one another, divided by ignorance and encouraged to align themselves to one or the other side of absolute religious and cultural divides based around “good” and “evil”. The recent horrific terror attacks in Bombay, together with Obama’s insistence on maintaining and strengthening a hardline-approach to the war in Afghanistan (despite using an obviously calmer and less hysterical rhetoric than Bush uses), do not bode well for easing this situation in the near future. Crucially, until now, “the Arab world” has hardly been involved in the (contemporary) secular global networks of anti-capitalist struggles mentioned above. Furthermore, these global networks still remain largely ignorant of and isolated from struggles in the Arab world, though the situation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan is changing this slowly and some interesting links between movements have been made, such as the International Solidarity Movement in relation to Palestine, and links made with migrant worker struggles in the USA and UK with Iraqi oil workers unions. Most recently is the amazingly successful and hope-inspiring efforts of the Free Gaza Movement to break the Israeli siege of Gaza by entering the territory in ships. Especially as energy and climate change becomes increasingly central to world political and economic debates, there is great need for global movements to be wide enough to include on their own terms the important struggles of oil workers in Arab countries. As people sitting on some of the most important energy reserves in the world, they surely have an invaluable contribution to make in the imagining and building of a new world.
  • Africa has been exploited and marginalized at the lowest levels of the hierarchical world-economy. Unfortunately, sometimes in global anti-capitalist networking processes, these processes of marginalization have also been reproduced. And, as the world-economy becomes increasingly multipolar, a process surely greatly advanced by the current crisis, Africa will almost certainly have even less of a share of the global surplus than it had in the last years. Food and energy inflation are likely to have a particularly strong impact on Africa, especially hitting women, young and elderly particularly hard. It is not unlikely that Zimbabwe, a country with seemingly limitless skyrocketing inflation and fierce internal political struggle and repression, presents a foreboding warning of things to come. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that struggles over control of Africa’s oil are going to have major global impact. The fact that the last two World Social Forums have taken place in Africa (Nairobi and Bamako, the latter as part of the 2006 Polycentric Forum) and that the Forum for Food Sovereignty also took place in Mali last year has perhaps slightly improved this situation. However, African struggles are still highly marginalized within many global anti-capitalist networking processes. The multiple wars in Africa have had very little prominence within global networks, a discussion of reparations for slavery for Africans and their Diaspora is still very low on the agenda of most global networks, and most discussion around debt is still based in the language of pleading for “debt forgiveness” rather than demanding non-payment of illegitimate debts. These discussions, especially in relation to reparations, need to be central in any global debate on resistance in the face of crisis.
  • The Citizen/non-citizen divide, despite sparking a vast amount of self-organized struggles throughout the world, especially in North America and Western Europe, makes it incredibly difficult if not impossible for undocumented migrants to travel to international meetings, gatherings, and protests and to make any form of direct exchanges with movements in other countries. Any form of contact with struggles in other countries must, by necessity, always be indirect, either through web, texts, videos, radio etc, or through intermediary (documented) supporters, who may or may not be mandated by the undocumented people concerned. This reliance on indirect and mediated communication presents profound challenges to self-organization and unmediated self-representation. Movements will have to think of creative ways to overcome this division itself.
  • Rival power/imperialist blocs. Rivalries between regional power blocs have increased in recent years, and are likely to continue doing so in the future, especially along the lines of tensions between USA, China and EU countries, but also other countries including India, Brazil, Russia, Japan and the Koreas and the alignments that these latter countries’ governments and their capitals choose in relation to the former countries. Currently it is still fairly easily for information and people to circulate between these regions, however, regional and national protectionisms (as well as military tensions) could emerge which make such contact more difficult in the future. Importantly, until now, Chinese struggles, which are accelerating rapidly in parallel to China’s growth as an economic power, have been more or less entirely absent from global anti-capitalist networking process. However, in recent years there have been some intentional contact making processes outreaching towards Chinese struggles driven by people active in a range of different global networks, the most prominently the World Social Forum, and most recently the Asia-Europe People's Forum in Beijing in October 2008. The fact that the last major WTO summit took place in Hong Kong also provided an important moment for connections to be made between different struggles, but there is still a great deal of work to be done in this area. The world-economic crisis makes this task even more urgent. The US bailout effectively mortgages generations of workers, and in particular, Chinese workers, since the Chinese economy is the only real guarantee of these loans. In other words, the bail out is based on the highly spurious assumption that workers in China will actually be prepared to shoulder the burden of propping up the world-economy. The crisis is hitting Chinese export factories particularly hard, especially migrant workers, and it remains to be seen what type of responses emerge. There is great danger that interstate competition, rivalry and conflict can increase as different powerful states seek to find “national” solutions to the crisis through offering protections to workers in these countries. And, while history does not repeat itself, the responses to the breakdown of the world-market which preceded World War Two nonetheless serve as an ugly historical reminder of what undignified “solutions” look like.
Global resistance efforts, such as the Intergalactica, or whatever global process emerges from the international process kickstarted by the Zapastistas, will have to acknowledge, anticipate and overcome these divisions to the extent that is possible in order to strengthen global unity of emancipatory struggles. The attempts from capital and state power to divide the global circulations of struggles and the people involved in them is almost certain to intensify in the coming years. However, high levels of participation in the Intergalactica from these regions, countries and sectors are very unlikely to happen spontaneously, and may in fact require an intentional and targeted preparation process that seeks out contacts and collaboration with struggles in these parts of the world, not just relying on existing contacts but rather trying to build new relationships where none currently exist. There are many obstacles that will have to be overcome in this process, not least of all language and access to funds.
Building the Intergalactica Slowly but Surely: A Review of Events from the 6th Declaration to the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage

Until now, the global process outlined in the 6th Declaration has got off to a seemingly solid start. Since 2005, the Zapatistas have convened three large scale international gatherings, or encuentros, a continental meeting (convened together with other organizations), and an international caravan. A fourth international gathering, the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, is about to take place as this article is being written. So far, the process has been predominantly driven forward by the Zapatistas, with a strong response coming from different groups around the world. The fact that the Intergalactica itself has been slow to take shape (and in fact has scarcely been mentioned in Zapatista communiqués since the 6th Declaration was issued) does not detract from the fact than an important international process is slowly getting underway. Arguably, given that it will be desirable to build a deep long term process rather than simply a superficial one off glitzy meeting, the slow pace of building the Intergalactica itself is in fact a wise move, and is hopefully laying a sound basis for accelerating the process in the near future.

To date, the process outlined in the 6th Declaration has passed through a number of stages(5). The Other Campaign within Mexico itself, an initiative aimed at building a strong country-wide non-electoral political process from below and to the left, has gone through various phases(6); the first and second Encuentros of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World (December 2006/January 2007 and July 2007), paralleled by a period of consultation in which struggles around the world were able to make proposals for the Intergalactica. In October 2007 an Encuentro of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas was convened by eight indigenous organizations, including the Zapatistas, in Sonora, Mexico. In December 2007/January 2008, there was an international women’s Encuentro, dedicated to Comandanta Ramona who died in 2006. In response to the ongoing escalation of repression directed against the Zapatistas, an international Observation and Solidarity Caravan took place in Zapatista territories, Chiapas, in the summer of 2008. All of these events have been important events in their own right. However, none of them are the Intergalactica proposed in the 6th Declaration. Rather, they can all be understood as steps along the way to building an ongoing and long term global process, one that may take the name Intergalactica, or perhaps some other name. And now, the Zapatistas are marking their 25th anniversary by holding the next stop along the way, the World’s First Festival for Dignified Rage(7).

Let us briefly review the international aspects of this process. Narconews, one of the main English language website following developments since the Sixth Declaration was issued, has links to Other Campaign related materials in 8 languages, interestingly, including Farsi. Already, before the first Encuentro of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World took place in Chiapas last December/January, a decentralized process of preparatory meetings and other activities had taken shape throughout much of Europe, South, Central and North America in response to the Zapatista call. Between July 2005 and July 2006 (the period of consultation), 19 different activities were reported in 16 cities from 9 countries. Importantly, this included several within the USA, involving close overlap with those involved in the powerful migrant struggles that are erupting there. Many of them are Chican@s (Mexican Americans) and Mexican migrants involved in the Other Campaign from within the USA, what has been dubbed “the Other Campaign on the Other Side”. Whilst most of these meeting and initiatives have been fairly conventional processes of one-way solidarity to what is occurring in Mexico, some of them have gone further, employing the language and perspectives of the Other Campaign to engage in activities relating to local issues. Three important examples of this have been the local struggles organized by an immigrant organization Movement for Justice in El Barrio, in Spanish Harlem, New York and two different border camps against the US and Mexican border, as well as the complementary, although not explicitly linked, “Another Politics is Possible” track, which took place at the US Social Forum in Atlanta. From these meetings and activities, a number of proposals have emerged for how the future Intergalactic Encuentro should be organized and what its contents should be, which will be addressed later in this article. Although not without its limitations, which will be addressed later in this article, it is clear that there is a strong international process emerging around the Intergalactica.

The two Encuentros Between the Zapatista Peoples and the Peoples of the World drew several thousand people to the autonomous Zapatista Caracoles(8) in Chiapas, about half from Mexico and the other half from close to fifty countries from around the world. The first meeting was held in one of the Caracoles, Oventic, over four days, and the second held in 3 Caracoles (Oventic, La Morelia and La Realidad) over nine days. The two meetings were opportunities for the Zapatistas to present their grassroots achievements of autonomy and self-government to people in struggle from different parts of the world, as well as for the Zapatistas to learn about struggles in other countries.

In the first Encuentro, members of the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Councils) presented Zapatista experiences in the following areas: autonomy and other forms of government; the other education; the other health; women; communication, art, culture and the other commerce; and land and territory. The final session of the first Encuentro was devoted to hearing proposals from around the world as to how, when and where to build the Intergalactic Encuentro, proposals which had emerged from the period of international consultation opened by the Zapatistas. Interestingly, the strongest participation from outside Mexico probably came from the USA and Canada, including a large number of Indigenous and First Nations organizations from these countries, as well as organizations active in the Other Campaign on the Other Side.

The second Encuentro built on the first Encuentro, going into greater depth about the nuts and bolts of autonomous organizing, with presentations by promoters and other community activists from each municipality around the themes of autonomy, collective work, health, education, and women. A very impressive delegation of Via Campesina representatives from major peasant organizations worldwide participated in this Encuentro, from: Brazil, Bolivia, Honduras, Dominican Republic, USA, Canada, Quebec, Basque Country, India, Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia. Unfortunately the one African representative, from Madagascar, was denied a visa. One day was devoted to speeches from most of the Via Campesina delegates. The second Encuentro did not have a session devoted to the Intergalactica, and in fact there was almost no mention of the Intergalactica, clearly a deliberate decision on the part of the Zapatistas. On the other hand, there was an important unofficial, and self-organized, side meeting which involved around 50 people living in the US, and one of the major themes of the discussion in this meeting was the need to have a similar process to the Other Campaign within the USA itself, which rather than focusing on supporting and participating in the process within Mexico (itself a very important task), would aim to start a long term process to building a form of grassroots political process that goes beyond electoral politics within the USA itself. Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike were proposing this.

In a number of ways the second Encuentro built on the first, slowly deepening the global process that these Encuentros aim to be constructing. In addition to a more in depth presentation of how the Zapatistas have organized over the last years, the second Encuentro was a space for greater participation from different Zapatista communities, with people from each municipality presenting, and in three different Caracoles instead of only one. This was an important space to give large numbers of Zapatistas direct experience with international meetings, with the many different forms of participation that this involved, from speaking on a panel before thousands of people, to preparing cultural events, to organizing the logistical side of large international gatherings, to international “baile popular” (popular dance). Perhaps the most important deepening of the process could be seen in the Via Campesina participation, giving the Encuentro the international scope and presence of mass-based grass roots organizations that the first Encuentro had lacked to a degree (in the first Encuentro there were few, if any, participants from Asia and none from Africa). This process of building specific sectoral alliances along the road to the Intergalactica had been building over time, with Via Campesina having distributed Zapatista corn at the World Forum on Food Sovereignty which took place in Mali earlier this year. The decision to hold the indigenous peoples Encuentro and a women’s Encuentro later in the same year was a further step to building important sectoral links, taking the time necessary to ensure that the process being built is firmly anchored in real struggles before moving on to the Intergalactica itself.

The Third Encounter for the Zapatista Peoples With the Peoples of the World took place from December 28th 2007 to January 1st 08. It was a women’s encounter, of Zapatista Women, with Women of the World. Why a women's encounter? ¨Because it was time,¨ repeated the Zapatista voices, Zapatistas who had implemented the Revolutionary Law for Women in the very early stages of the Zapatista uprising. Over 3,000 people came together to listen, observe, celebrate, and build stronger resistances with these rebellious Tzetzal, Tzotzil, Chol, and Tojolabal Zapatista women. The days were filled with talk of the concrete measures Zapatista women and girls have taken to organize for self-determination, liberty, democracy and justice in their own communities. Through a long process of struggle, Zapatista women have gained many advances in their communities, ranging from the outlawing of alcohol and drugs to curb domestic violence, to taking ever more positions of representation and responsibility, as education and health promoters, in the Good Government Councils, as comandantas of the EZLN, and in artisan cooperatives, to choosing their own partners. And, for the days of the encuentro , men were given a secondary role. They were not allowed to represent or translate, nor sit inside the auditorium. Signs had been hung around the Caracol reading "In this gathering, men cannot participate as note-takers, translators, presenters, spokesmen, or representatives [of an organization]. Men can only work making food, sweeping and cleaning the Caracol and the latrines, taking care of the children, and carrying firewood." By having a women's encuentro, women’s voices were heard directly and not spoken over or marginalized, while at the same time, they emphasized that the movement included their brothers, husbands, children, elders... everyone in the community.

The First American Indigenous Peoples’ Encuentro was held in Yaqui tribal territory from the 11-12 October, 2007, in Vicam, Sonora, Mexico. The gathering brought together indigenous groups from all over the continent, communities in resistance for 515 years, to tell their stories of “pain and dignified rebellion” and to share “experience and wisdom” in order for “the continent to recover its voice.” In particular there was strong participation from the settler countries known throughout the world as “Canada” and “United States”, including from the Kanion’ke:haka/Mohawk, the Mik’maq, the Denen nations, the Hawdenaw swee nation, and the Anishanabe. A number of years ago, the CIA issued a report saying its greatest fear was that the continents indigenous people could form an alliance of resistance. Well… it seems that this is indeed happening.

And now, the latest event in this marathon process of globally orientated resistance is the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, which will take place at the end of December 2008. The Zapatistas are hosting this festival on the basis of their listening and reading of the different proposals and discussions generated in the course of the events described above which have occurred in the three years since the 6th Declaration was issued, both within Mexico and globally. The festival will consist of different thematic exhibitions and discussions in which invited organizations, collectives and individuals will present themselves in their own terms. After a strong process in which the Zapatistas have used the international gatherings to present in great detail their experiences at transforming social relations in Chiapas to people from around, the Festival now offers a space for people from around the world to learn from one another. Importantly, the list of participating organizations includes workers organizations from Iran.

An important feature of this whole process has been the progressive deepening of the revolutionary discourse and how this is markedly different from most other international networking processes. In the first Encuentro the speeches repeatedly stressed the need for resistance to find ways of self organizing in order to come together in common struggle. An emphasis was on the need to organize resistance which is already occurring throughout the world. The second Encuentro started with a pre-Encuentro event the night before the Encuentro itself at the indigenous training center, University of the Land in Chiapas in San Cristobal, which in no uncertain terms laid out the terms of struggle, setting the scene for the main Encuentro. The Zapatistas recognize that there are three main ways of embarking on anti-capitalist struggle: establishing alternative consumption patterns, establishing alternative trade patterns or establishing alternative production relations. They have decided to go for establishing alternative production relations, namely collectively taking over the means of production. Having taken over the land, they stressed the importance of rural and urban unity in struggle, so that in addition to taking over land, it will become possible to take over factories in the future. Whilst respectful of the other methods of trying to create non-capitalist relations, taking over the means of production is, in their opinion, the most direct way of struggling against capitalism and creating alternative social relations. Related to this, is their experience of basing autonomy on a process of disengaging from reliance on the state, creating their own self-managed systems in replace of the very limited and distorted state health, education and other state support systems and mechanisms. For an Intergalactica coming “from below and to the left”, such a shift in rhetoric is a very important challenge to global movements who seem very timid around discussing (and above all acting on) the question of means of production. It is an especially challenging discourse for struggles in the capitalist core countries, where that idea was largely abandoned years ago in favor of some form of social-democratic welfarism. Another important challenge that has been thrown out, if not explicitly, then at least through the language used by the Zapatistas, is the need to fundamentally challenge the concept of expanded citizenship as an emancipatory route. Neither the 6th Declaration nor the spoken Zapatista word at the Encuentros themselves have contained any trace of lobbying about them, nor of defining people in relation to the state. The word “citizen” is refreshingly completely absent. Citizens have always existed throughout history only in relation to non-citizens, people defined to be of unequal status to those defined as citizens. The concept of citizenship is intimately bound up with the concept of the nation state, and the struggle for alternatives that go beyond the nation state also point to a conception of the human being that goes beyond citizens and citizenship.

No Time to Lose! – Accelerating the Construction of New Autonomous Global Relations of Production, Livelihoods and Exchange

And, so, what are the long term strategic and short term organizational concerns that lie ahead? In a nutshell, there is a need for a global process that seeks to both expand and deepen global networks, on the one hand to include geographical (as well as sectoral) areas that are scarcely part of global networks and avoid “national” solutions to the crisis, and on the other hand increasing the functional strength of existing networks, so that they can move beyond exchange of information and coordination of protest towards an accelerated process of building long term autonomous and decentralized livelihoods based on collective relations of production, exchange and consumption that are based on dignified livelihoods.

Expanding the geographical and sectoral reach of global networks will entail a particular effort to reach out to struggles in Arab countries, China and Africa, so that these struggles can participate actively in defining the global process of struggle that develops in the future. This is likely to require going beyond existing contacts, making special efforts at both linguistic and political/cultural translation. It will also be important to continue developing creative ways that allow for as unmediated and direct a participation as possible of migrant struggles, many of who lack the legal (let alone financial) possibility to travel internationally, making it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate directly in international meetings, protests and exchanges. Crucially, this is not just about expanding networks for the hell of it, but to keep struggles internationalist and not nationalist in orientation, to ensure that our struggles do not inadvertently result in one section of the world’s population winning reforms that can only be offered on the backs of another section of the world’s population, as was the case with the nationally orientated reforms offered by Keynesianism. This is especially crucial when it comes to maintaining and expanding the western welfares states. Particularly challenging in this regard is how to meet the demands of refugee and migrant populations in these countries in such a way that avoids integrating them as new privileged layers into an already highly unequal and hierarchically organized world-wide division of labour, whilst simultaneously maintaining and, in all probability, actually exacerbating that hierarchy. It will be important to find ways of meeting these demands while simultaneously undermining the global hierarchy.

Deepening the functionality of global networks will entail strengthening the capacity of direct exchanges between movements (especially South-South), so that they are really able to learn from each other and to dialogue with one another in order to build common analyses, perspectives and above all common agendas for creative and constructive actions, both short and long term. In particular, this might include exchange of experience on how to avoid, prepare for and respond to repression; exchange of experiences on how to avoid cooptation – especially new forms of protectionism and racist deals, dangers of regional integration, reforms that grant reforms but do not challenge global market, etc; exchange of experience about differing approaches to the state in order to avoid falling into dogmatic approaches towards taking state power or not, but about a discussion process about what actually works, how organizations make decisions in terms of how to approach the state, factors to take into account, compromises to make, etc. It could also include very practical exchanges on all the concrete skills and knowledges necessary for autonomous self-management, such as language training, exchanges on agricultural techniques, renewable energies, self managed health, to name but a very few examples. Importantly, it would be important to build up such a participatory process on the basis of the delegates mandated from organizations and movements, not just individuals, and it would need a financial basis to make these expensive processes viable.

These are all some short term activities that could provide a basis for long term strategies that seek to fundamentally change the global social relations which currently exist. The financial crisis reveals the urgently necessarily, but enormously difficult, task of massively reducing people's dependence on the money economy and financial institutions, so that we can collectively disengage from them and leave them behind. This is an especially difficult task in the core capitalist countries, where people’s daily lives are so intertwined with this world. It will only be possible to break our dependence if we are able to build major capacity in the non-commercial and mutual support-based provision for key areas of satisfying our basic needs (e.g. food, shelter, energy, health, education pensions, etc.), in order to reduce our dependency on waged labour. It will be necessary to reach a far greater capacity than currently exists. Paradoxically, for this to happen movements will have to be able to access larges sums of money, infrastructure, skills and knowledge, as well as many other sources of wealth, again on a far greater scale than movements are currently able to muster. It will require a concerted world-wide effort to acquire key means of generating wealth and sustaining life.

Faced with a worsening world-economic crisis, a twin-pronged approach is called for. On the one hand, there is the need to demand vast sums of money from the state, in the form of public funds and an increasing share of public wealth, access to interest free and unconditional loans which could enable movements to buy collectively controlled and non-commercial sources of wealth generation such as those described above. It will be necessary to create levels of mobilization and pressure on national governments and international institutions so they are unable to avoid making these concessions, especially in relation to the new Obama government, while at the same time maintaining autonomy and avoiding cooptation.

And, on the other hand, it will be necessary to once again place the seizure without compensation of the key means of production (and reproduction) at the heart of revolutionary strategies. Again, this is a monumental task, one that will not occur without strong social mobilization and struggle, but it is a process made much more possible and realistic to imagine by the massive bankruptcies and devaluation of capital that the crisis entails, leaving a trail of abandoned buildings, companies and other pools of social wealth that are deemed “non-competitive” and hence useless. And, crucially, if they are not taken over and collectivized, they will be bought up on the cheap and will fuel a new round of socially and ecologically disastrous capital accumulation. Entire regions or even countries are simply waiting to be taken over and collectivized and defended for common use outside of the realm of profit, not least General Motors, Ford and the USA itself!

And so, the Zapatistas have invited people throughout the world:
Let our dignity take root again and breed another world.

If this world doesn’t have a place for us, then another world must be made.

With no other tool than our rage, no other material than our dignity
1 It is important to stress that that this article deals with the global resistance process the Zapatistas have launched with their 6th Declaration. However, it is not a discussion about the Zapatistas themselves, nor is it an attempt at analyzing the internal political developments within Chiapas or Mexico. On the one hand, this is not the purpose of the article, and on the other, I am in no way qualified to write such an article.

2 For a detailed discussion of the global dimensions of the Zapatistas’ 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, and for a comprehensive reference to related links etc, see : Kolya Abramsky, August 2008 [April 2007] – ‘The Bamako Appeal and the Zapatista 6th Declaration - From Reorganizing the Existing World to Creating New Ones’. CE1 in the Critical Engagement series from CACIM. Available also at

3 The invitation to the World’s First Festival of Dignified Rage, together with information about participants and programme, can be found at

4 An interesting organization to have emerged in this respect is Take Back the Land.

5 Information and footage from these events and processes can be found at and also

6 A discussion about The Other Campaign is beyond the scope of this article, and, in any case, the author is in no-way qualified to write such a piece.

7 The author attended the First and Second Encuentros of the Zapatista Peoples with the Peoples of the World. The observations which follow about these gatherings are based on this direct experience. However, the descriptions of the other events, which he did not attend, are based on second hand readings, from the Zapatista websites, other related sites and personal conversations with people who did attend, and consequently may be slightly less accurate, updated and detailed.

8 Caracol is the most important organ of self-governance in the Zapatista construction of autonomy. It literal translation in English is “snail”, though the word “conch” is also frequently used.


Anonymous said...

REPORT on International Human Rights Day Delegations

More than 800 representatives from organizations throughout the Americas made their way to the northern city of La Esperanza, Honduras to take a strong stand against the militarization of their nations and communities. Following three days of workshops, the participants read their final declaration in front of the gates of the U.S. Army Base at Palmerola, Honduras, just hours from the conference site. The first demand on the list was to close down this and all U.S. military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean. By the end of the demonstration, the walls of the base sported hundreds of spray-painted messages and demands that contrasted sharply with their prison-like austerity.

Palmerola, formally called the Soto Cano Air Base, brought back some very bad memories among the hundreds of Central American participants. The U.S. government installed the base in 1981 and used it to launch the illegal contra operations against the Nicaraguan government. The base was also used to airlift support to counterinsurgency operations in Guatemala and El Salvador and train U.S. forces in counterinsurgency techniques during the dirty wars that left over 100,000 dead, and is now used as a base for the U.S.-sponsored "war on drugs."

The demilitarization conference also called for an immediate halt to the recently launched "Merida Initiative," the Bush administration's new Trojan horse for remilitarization of the region. The resolution asserts that the measure "expands U.S. military intervention and contributes to the militarization of our countries" and representatives from the Central American nations and Mexico included in the military aid package committed to a process of monitoring the funds and defeating further appropriations.

The Merida Initiative was announced by President Bush as a "counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and border security" cooperation initiative in October 2007. The model extends the Bush administration's infamous national security strategy of 2002 to impose it as the U.S.-led security model for the hemisphere. The approach relies on huge defense contracts to U.S. corporations, and military and police deployment to deal with issues ranging from drug trafficking to illegal immigration and seeks to extend U.S. military hegemony in foreign lands. It has been proven in Colombia and other areas where it has been applied to have the effect of increasing violence, failing to decrease drug flows, and leading to extensive human rights violations.

Thanks for all your great work!

Last week, your actions and those of a number of organizations aligned with the global network against the Merida Initiative (aka Plan Mexico) made International Human Rights Day an unqualified success.

If you would like to skip the REPORT BACK and go straight to the NEXT STEPS we're taking, please go to the end of this note.


We acted together to again issue a warning about the militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean under Plan Mexico. We explained what even Mexican commentator Jorge Chabat recognizes, even though less than a year ago he was heralding Plan Mexico as a sign of the end of the "historical lack of trust in Mexican police forces coming from the U.S." Chabat typically adopts a cautious tone so his assessment of the results of Calderon's militarized 'solution' to the "war on drugs" is noteworthy. He writes: "if there's one thing worse than a corrupt and poorly equipped police corps its a corrupt and well equipped police corps."

Indeed, the drug cartels' penetration of Mexican law enforcement and government at virtually all levels is legendary.

Although we didn't reach the 100 Congress member target we had set for ourselves we did - between our delegations which lobbied in D.C. and those in our networks who met with Congressional staffers in their home state offices - reach 69 legislators total.

We reached Congress people representing districts and states from Maine to Minessota to Texas, from Arizona and California to Illinois and New York . . . and many points in between.

Legislators and staffers we spoke with encouraged us to continue our efforts, saying that we were getting our perspective across and being heard.

One delegation to the Capitol visited offices with Gustavo Vilchis, the talented Mexican photographer and one of the witnesses to Brad Will's murder. His powerful photographs document the teachers' strike, the non-violent anti-corruption movement which which blossomed around it, and the violent repression by the Mexican government show a people standing strong for their human rights.

And you all are standing in solidarity with them, the people of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, Atenco, D.F. and throughout Mexico who are opposing corruption and militarization in the name of democracy, transparency, and economic opportunity for all.

You have reached out to Representatives and Senators and demanded that your tax dollars - and the government acting in your name - not be used to trample on the dreams of a better life of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, targeted under the Merida Initiative.


In the days, weeks, and months ahead, it is critical that you continue to let the Congress people know what you want (and keep letting us know what they say).


We are urging Congress people to do the following FOUR tasks:

1. Sign the Dear Colleague letter circulated by Representative Manzullo (below) which mentions reporter's murders and the Merida Initiative and rally their state Congressional delegations and Senators to sign on as well;

2. Sign the Dear Colleague letter to be circulated soon demanding the end of scapegoating of witnesses, activists, journalists, and other innocents by Mexican Federal and State Attorneys General for Brad Will's murder and rally their state Congressional delegations and Senators to sign on as well;

3. Demand a stand alone bill be introduced for round two of funding and that new hearings allow opponents of Plan Mexico to be heard;

4. Ask Congress people to discover and publicize a) how USAID is funding the programs that are Merida-like but not Merida; and b) who is pushing these bills and why leadership thinks they are worthy of support (i.e. need all supportive documentation etc to counter).

As many organizations have come to recognize, Plan Mexico is a dangerous Bush security initiative, being proposed under the rubric of the "war on drugs" despite the abject failure of similar strategies to combat narco-trafficking in Colombia. The hastily assembled initiative risks having U.S.-supplied lethal aid turned against labor activists, dissenters and political opposition in Mexico and throughout Latin America, at a time when mobilization against neo-liberal trade policy is occurring in unprecedented numbers.

Please continue to reach out to church and labor organizations, peace and justice organizations, human rights groups etc. to ask them to issue statements against Plan Mexico.

There's also more information on the Merida Initiative here> .

The Dear Colleague letter below being circulated by Representative Manzullo insists that Mexican security forces and government to which our government would send US taxpayers' hard earned money under the Merida Initiative be held accountable for murder and its subsequent cover-up before any money is invested in non-existent law enforcement cooperation. Again please urge your representatives to sign onto this letter and to urge all members of their state Congressional delegation to do so as well.

Mexican President Calderon has appointed to the highest Cabinet posts of his government members of the extreme right-wing anti-semitic and anti-women's rights movement known as El Yunque. These forces should not be further empowered using U.S. taxpayer-donated lethal aid. Please see the investigative piece mentioned in this link> for more about El Yunque.

Your work is paying off. Now, in solidarity with activists like you who are being targeted by Mexican federal and state prosecutors and police, let's keep moving forward until we win this one!

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