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Lights of rebellion shine at the Zapatista resistance festival

Giovanni Cattaruzza

Post image for Lights of rebellion shine at the Zapatista resistance festivalLast month, the Zapatistas organized the first World Festival of Rebellion and Resistance Against Capitalism. One participant shares his impressions.

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas

The mountains of Xochicuautla, which are waiting for the snow and for yet another Christmas here in Mexico, don’t know anything about us.

They don’t know anything about the thousands of people from all over the world who climbed up here in the cold.

The mountains of Xochicuautla ignore what democracy looks like, where Palestine or Valle di Susa is, what sort of thing an international airport is, or what so-called “sustainable capitalism” looks like.

They don’t know anything about mega-development projects, highways, garbage dumps, mines, GMO’s, transnational companies, militarization, and progress.

They are only mountains, they speak Nahuatl, and it’s kind of complicated to have a conversation with a mountain.

Rebuilding from below

On December 21, the first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism — “Where those from above destroy, those from below rebuild” — organized by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), was inaugurated in the San Francisco Xochicuautla community, municipality of Lerma, in the state of Mexico.

More than 2.000 Mexican activists, 500 international comrades from 48 different countries, and hundreds upon hundreds of indigenous community representatives started their journey throughout the country from these mountains.

The EZLN and the CNI invited all the people of the world here in Mexico in order to travel together to the southern-most point of the country and to discover the histories and struggles of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, and the challenges faced by all the political organizations that take the Zapatistas as a point of reference — from the anarchists of the Z.A.D. of Nantes, to the Sem Tierra of Brazil, on to the teachers of Oaxaca.

Once again, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation together with the indigenous communities of Chiapas decided to build a common project in cooperation with the anti-capitalist movements of the planet.

Once again, from the jungles of the south-east of Mexico, they thought globally. Inviting the people from all over the world to Chiapas in order to fight against capitalism together. According to the Zapatistas, global capitalism in the year 2015 reveals itself most clearly through mega-development projects and violent attacks to Mother Nature all over the world.

This journey can be summarized in one line: preguntando caminamos (“asking while walking”), as the Zapatistas say. It is a time to learn and to doubt ourselves.

We walked and dreamed together from Mexico City to the tropical rains of the State of Campeche, on to to the cold altiplano of the Caracol of Oventik, sharing political practices of resistance, knowing that, as Subcomandante Insurgente Moises said:

There is no single answer. There is no manual. There is no dogma. There is no creed. There are many answers, many ways, many forms. And each of us will see what we are able to do and learn from our own struggle and from other struggles.

“We give you 43 embraces”

During the so called “sharings” in Xochicuatla, Monclova and in the University of the Land (CIDECI) in San Cristobal de las Casas, we listened to hundreds of languages and political experiences of resistance, but most importantly we listened to the voices of the families of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa to whom the EZLN gave its own seat during the festival.

We cried together and we embraced each other under the cold rain of Oventik, looking at the members of the Comandancia of the EZLN hugging one by one the fathers and the mothers of the 43, after hearing the voice of Subcomandante Moises pronouncing the following words:

And so, when this day or night comes, your missing ones will give you the same embrace that we Zapatistas now give to you. It is an embrace of caring, respect, and admiration. In addition, we give you 43 embraces, one for each of those who are absent from your lives.

In the next weeks the EZLN will communicate in detail some actions and proposals to the world.

According to the Zapatistas and to the individuals and organizations that attended this first World Festival of Resistance and Rebellion Against Capitalism, there is no more time to waste. The henchmen of global capitalism — big business, national governments and international organizations — are quelling all voices of dissent, attempting to destroy all forms of resistance wherever it pops up. Ayotzinapa is just another example of this mechanism that kills everyone who chooses to resist, from Turkey and Ferguson to Mexico.

Today is the time for unity of all those who want to fight capitalism and who do not recognize themselves in any political party.

The lights of rebellion and resistance

The night is dark as only the nights in Chiapas can be, here in the Caracol of Oventik. It is December 31, 2014, 21 years after the Zapatista uprising.

Deaths, disappearances, repression and the threat of imprisonment will continue to challenge los de abajo also in the year we are entering. 2015 will be tough for them — but in the extreme darkness of the night, in the black hole of the capital in which we’re living, there are some lights of resistance.

The thousands of people who arrived here, in the mountains of Southeast Mexico, are here to share some of these little lights.

It’s funny to look at these little lights, here in Oventik, where the words of the EZLN — reaching us through the voice of Subcomandante Insurgente Moises — echo in the mountains:

Darkness becomes longer and heavier across the world, touching everyone. We knew it would be like this. We know it will be like this. We spent years, decades, centuries preparing ourselves. Our gaze is not limited to what is close-by. It does not see only today, nor only our own lands. Our gaze extends far in time and geography, and that determines how we think.

Each time something happens, it unites us in pain, but also in rage. Because now, as for some time already, we see lights being lit in many corners. They are lights of rebellion and resistance. Sometimes they are small, like ours. Sometimes they are big. Sometimes they take awhile. Sometimes they are only a spark that quickly goes out. Sometimes they go on and on without losing their glow in our memory.

And in all of these lights there is a bet that tomorrow will be very different.

The night is ours.

Giovanni Cattaruzza lives in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. He collaborates with the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolomè de las Casas-FrayBa and is a graduate of Latin American Studies at Leiden University. A great supporter of Genoa C.F.C, proudly NO-TAV, and in love with the continent of Pancho Villa, he writes articles about the struggles of indigenous communities and social movements in Latin America.

http://roarmag.org/2015/01/zapatista-festival-rebellion-resistance-capitalism/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Video from “Creating Strategies for Revolution” Panel talk

About the Event

Industrial civilization and capitalism are currently harming or killing billions of humans and countless nonhumans, and threaten to destroy all life on our planet. On August 27, Deep Green Resistance New York held a discussion on an appropriate and even necessary response: revolution. About fifty people attended to hear panelists including Jen Bilek & Frank Coughlin of DGR NY, Chris Hedges, Ted Rall, David Valle of OWS Zapatista Solidarity, Kiki Makandal of One Struggle NY, and Itzy Ramirez & Javier of Associated Indigenous Movement. The speakers addressed many aspects of revolution:

  • What Is Revolution?
  • The Role of Women in a Revolution
  • What Is a Culture of Resistance?
  • Destruction of and Role of Indigenous Cultures in a Revolution
  • How a Revolution Happens

Highlights

We need systemic change, not regime change. Many historically momentous events, such as the Indian independence movement and the success of the ANC in South Africa, are incorrectly termed revolutions even though the classes dominating and dominated didn’t actually change. For true revolution to occur, dominated classes need to overthrow the dominating classes and restructure society to eliminate exploitation.

We need to avoid sectarian interfeuding with those who could be allies. Many individuals and groups with different approaches or philosophies on some points can still work side by side to take down capitalism and civilization. We can sort out our differences after we defeat our common enemy and defuse the immediate threats of catastrophe. There are, of course, groups with whom we’ll decide we can’t work, but we should base those decisions on rational analysis of where we have fundamental differences vs where we can agree to disagree. We do have to be careful to avoid a neoliberal approach of hyperinclusivity and hyperindividualism. We should deliberately build anti-individualism, countering the dominant trend of privileging individual autonomy and identity at the expense of the group. It’s crucial to say “It is inappropriate to do certain things, regardless of your politics.”

Along those lines, a common pitfall for militant resistance movements is to embrace machismo and hypermasculinity. We must emulate the Zapatistas, consciously putting women in positions of power, challenging internal patriarchy, and changing deeply held cultural paterns and behaviors to increase participation of women. Deep Green Resistance, thanks to its code of conduct and interview process, is an example of a radical feminist organization creating safety for women to work alongside male allies.

The actual mechanics of revolution depend on a long process of building both non-violent and violent capacity. Ted Rall points out that true revolutions have, historically, always included violence because people with power and prividlege do not give it up voluntarily. Chris Hedges focuses on the final stage of successful revolutions, which typically depends on the foot soldiers of a regime refusing to protect the elite any longer, or to carry out their orders for repression. This non-violent non-participation is critical.

See more

Leigha Cohen edited video footage of the event into “A Progressive Voice.” Watch it below, and visit the Deep Green Resistance Youtube Channel for more videos from other DGR events.

We All Must Become Zapatistas

By Chris Hedges

Heart of Zapatismo Event

“Yes, Marcos is gay. Marcos is gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, an Asian in Europe, a Chicano in San Ysidro, an anarchist in Spain, a Palestinian in Israel, a Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, a Jew in Germany, a Gypsy in Poland, a Mohawk in Quebec, a pacifist in Bosnia, a single woman on the Metro at 10pm, a peasant without land, a gang member in the slums, an unemployed worker, an unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains.” ―Subcomandante Marcos

With ski masks, simple arms, and shouts of “Ya basta!” (“Enough is enough”) the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) began their march into public memory. As a movement of mostly rural indigenous peoples in the south of Mexico, they shocked the world on January 1st, 1994, the date of implementation of the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement.

They fought in the cities and mountains of Mexico to create a new, autonomous society, free from the “Empire of Money” quickly advancing over the world through globalization and neo-liberal policies. Using a wide variety of tactics, including armed resistance, education, media outreach, non-violent direct action, and the creation of autonomous communities, they have been able to preserve thousands of hectacres of land, free from national governmental intrusion. Having almost no access to material resources, they have successfully built healthcare systems, sustainable ways of feeding their populations, schools, and “bottom-driven” forms of self-government. Now they have opened up their homes to teach their history and tactics.

On Monday, October 14th, hear from one member of the EZLN’s “Little Schools”, who attended the first school in August and has been working to spread the “heart of Zapatismo” in the US. Come learn as we discuss how to create the culture of resistance necessary to put meaning behind the call for international solidarity and fight with those who struggle against oppression around the world.

For more information, please read “Practice First, Then Theory”. Please feel free to join us – the meeting is free and open to the public.

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Monday, October 14th
8pm – 9pm

Bellevue Hospital: Room A-342
462 1st Avenue
(between East 26th/28th)

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Join our celly group by texting @dgrnyc to 23559 to receive up to date information about meetings and other events. If you need any further directions or have any questions, please contact us.

Practice First, Then Theory: The Zapatista Little School

By Kristin Bricker / CIP Americas Program

By Kristin Bricker / CIP Americas Program

The first night of my homestay during the Zapatista Little School, my guardian and her husband asked if their students had any questions.  My classmate and I both had experience working with the Zapatistas, so we politely limited ourselves to the safe questions that are generally acceptable when visiting rebel territory: questions about livestock, crops, local swimming holes, and anything else that doesn’t touch on sensitive information about the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

My guardian’s husband patiently answered our mundane questions. Then he said, “Look, we entered into clandestinity in 1983, when the organization was just being formed. We walked hours at night to organize other towns, always at night so that the plantation owners wouldn’t get suspicious, and we went into the brush to train. My wife risked her life walking at night to bring bags of tostadas to the camps so that the insurgents would have food to eat during training. Now, do you have any other questions?”

My classmate and I looked at each other, our eyes seeming to say the same thing: “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be at the Zapatista Little School.” Then our questions began in earnest, and our guardians and their neighbors enthusiastically answered every single one.

Setting the Record Straight

The Zapatistas made the decision to open up their homes to their long-time supporters and teach them about their past, present, errors, victories, and advances for several reasons. During the Little School, Zapatistas repeatedly said that they hoped their supporters could learn from their experiences.

“Self-governance… is possible. If we achieved it with just a few compañeros and compañeras, why not with thousands or millions?” asked a Zapatista woman from Oventik. “We hope you’ll tell us if our practice, our experience with self-governance is in some way useful for you.”

“Many people think that what we’re doing, our form of governance, is a utopia, a dream,” said another Zapatista in Oventik. “For us Zapatistas, it is a reality because we’ve been doing it… through daily practice over the past 19 years. And that is why we think that if we join together with millions of Mexicans, we can form our own governments.”

Years ago, a Zapatista told me that they often learn more from their mistakes than from their victories. In that spirit, the Little School curriculum includes brutally honest discussions about errors the Zapatistas have committed over the years. For example, the textbooks include a frank discussion about the demise of the Mut Vitz coffee cooperative in 2007. Even though the cooperative’s sudden, unexplained closure was felt throughout the United States and Europe when roasters suddenly found themselves without a source of Zapatista coffee, the Zapatistas had not explained the reasons for Mut Vitz’s downfall until now.

In the Little School textbooks, Roque, a former member of the cooperative and current member of the San Juan de la Libertad Autonomous Municipal Council in Oventik, reveals that mismanagement and corruption ultimately lead to Mut Vitz’s demise. The cooperative had hired an outside accountant who, for reasons unknown to the cooperative members, did not accurately declare Mut Vitz’s assets to Mexico’s tax agency, which allowed the government to freeze their bank account. As Mut Vitz underwent an internal audit to determine what money the cooperative had left outside of the frozen account to pay producers who had supplied coffee on credit pending its sale, the Oventik Good Government Council discovered that members of the Mut Vitz board of directors were stealing money from the cooperative. The Council issued an order to arrest the guilty parties and seized some of their assets to replace the money they had stolen.

The Zapatistas also hoped to use the Little School to set the record straight about the state of their movement. They read the news, and they told students that they know the corporate media reports that Zapatismo is a dying movement, that the Zapatistas have turned their guns over to the government, that Subcomandante Marcos died of lung cancer or was fired, that the Comandancia (the Zapatista military leadership) meets secretly with the “bad government” and accepts millions of pesos from it, and that the Zapatistas are closet communists, amongst other baseless claims.

Furthermore, the Zapatistas admit that there have been traitors, compañeros who left the organization and collaborated with the government. As one European activist said at the end of the Little School, “I think they realized that it had gotten to the point where Mexico’s security agencies knew more about how the Zapatistas’ government works than their own civil society supporters did, so they decided to let us in on what they’ve been up to.”

The Zapatistas’ civilian government is, after all, not clandestine, and non-Zapatista indigenous people routinely use its clinics, justice system, public transportation permits, and other services that they can’t seem to obtain through the Mexican government. Moreover, any non-Zapatista—be it the bad government or another indigenous organization—that wants to develop an infrastructure project that passes through Zapatista territory (roads or electricity, for example) must negotiate with the Zapatistas’ “good government” and therefore understands how it is structured. With the Little School, the Zapatistas have officially and for the record explained exactly how their government works.

Perhaps one of the Little School’s most important benefits for the Zapatistas occurred during its preparation. The Little School’s four textbooks, Autonomous Government part I and II, Women’s Participation in the Autonomous Government, and Autonomous Resistance, as well as the two DVDs that accompany the books, were all created by Zapatistas themselves. The textbooks are the result of Zapatistas from all five caracoles (Zapatista government centers) traveling to regions other than their own to collect testimonies and interview fellow Zapatistas about how they self-govern.

The Zapatistas’ bottom-up approach to government means that while all of the caracoles operate under the same basic principles and towards the same goals, their day-to-day operations sometimes differ drastically. For example, every caracol has a Good Government Board, the maximum governing body in the region. However, each caracol’s Board is structured differently. Many of the Zapatistas’ questions to their compañeros from other caracoles in the interview portion of the textbooks revolved around their experiences and what has worked and what has not.

For example, a Board member from Oventik asked former Board members from Morelia, “Are the twelve members of the [Morelia] Board able to do all of their work? Because in Caracol II [Oventik] there’s 28 of us, and sometimes we feel overwhelmed.” The Morelia Zapatistas’ response was that they, too, are overwhelmed, and they feel the need to restructure the Board, but they have been unable to come up with a better proposal thus far.

Governing from Below

When the Zapatistas rose up in arms in Chiapas on January 1, 1994, they knew they wanted freedom and autonomy. “But we didn’t have a guide or a plan to tell us how to do it,” a Zapatista education promoter explained to me. “For us, it’s practice first, then theory.”

While part of the EZLN drove rich landowners off of their plantations in the Chiapan countryside in the pre-dawn hours of New Year’s day, other contingents took seven major cities around the state. “All that we’ve accomplished was thanks to our weapons that opened up the path that we are walking down today,” explains a Zapatista from Oventik on a Little School DVD. “[Since then] everything that we have achieved, we have achieved without firing a single shot.”

Immediately following the uprising, the Zapatistas implemented autonomous government at the town level. Each town named its local authorities and formed an assembly. “But since we were at war, we kept losing local authorities,” explains Lorena, a health promoter from San Pedro de Michoacán in La Realidad. “There was disorder in the communities.” As a stopgap measure, the EZLN’s military leadership had to step up and fulfill roles that civilian authorities were unable to carry out during the chaos of the war.

The military leadership held consultations with civilian authorities, and together they decided to create autonomous municipalities in order to bring order and civilian governance to the rebel territory. In December 1994, the Zapatistas inaugurated 38 autonomous municipalities comprised of an undisclosed number of towns. Each autonomous municipality had its own municipal council named by the towns, allowing for increased coordination between towns and more formal organization of civilian affairs.

As solidarity activists began to arrive in Zapatista territory to donate money and labor, the EZLN’s command realized that some municipalities were receiving more support than other, more isolated ones. “At [the command’s] urging, the municipal councils met and began to hold assemblies to start to see how each municipality was doing, what support each was receiving, what projects were being carried out,” explains Doroteo, a former member of La Realidad’s Good Government Board.

In 1997, the Zapatistas formalized the assemblies of municipal councils by creating the Association of Autonomous Municipalities, comprised of representatives from each autonomous municipality. “With the association of municipalities, tasks and work in health, education, and commerce were overseen,” recalls Doroteo. “During that time a dry goods warehouse was created… with the idea of [economically] supporting the full-time workers in the [Zapatista] hospital in San José del Río.”

During the creation of the Association of Autonomous Municipalities, the Zapatistas formally redistributed the land they had taken over in the 1994 uprising. Landless Zapatistas left the communities in which they were born to settle on recuperated land they could finally call their own, fulfilling revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata’s creed, “The land belongs to those who work it.”

In 2003, the Zapatistas inaugurated the third level of their autonomous government, the five Good Government Boards, located in La Realidad, Oventik, La Garrucha, Morelia, and Roberto Barrios. However, the organization of higher levels of government does not mean that the Zapatistas are moving further away from direct democracy through local assemblies. On the contrary, all proposals must be approved by town assemblies.

Proposals can originate in town assemblies and work their way up the different levels of autonomous government if they affect more than just the town in which they originated. The proposals pass through the municipal councils, which then brings approved proposals to the Good Government Council, which then runs them by the command, which then sends the proposals back down through the five Good Government Boards, which send them to the municipal councils, which in turn send the proposals to the people at the town level for consultation and implementation.

The command can also create its own proposals and send them down through the three levels of civilian government to the town assemblies for consultation and approval. Therefore, even though the Good Government Boards are the highest level of the autonomous government, they have no authority to create laws. The Boards are limited to two main roles: to coordinate and promote work in their regions and to enforce and carry out Zapatista laws and mandates that have already been approved by the people.

Because the Zapatistas constructed their government from the bottom up, with people organizing themselves into community assemblies, which in turn organized municipal councils, which in turn organized the five Good Government Boards, every Caracol is different. All work to implement the Zapatistas’ demands: land, housing, health, education, work, food, justice, democracy, culture, independence, freedom, and peace. However, the Zapatistas’ progress in implementing those demands varies from Caracol to Caracol. Some Caracols, such as La Garrucha, have collective economic projects such as stores or cattle to fund political activities at each of the three levels of government; other Caracols like Oventik only have collective economic projects in some towns.

Likewise, methods and success in implementing the Zapatistas’ Revolutionary Women’s Law varies. Morelia, for example, struggles to find ways to promote women’s participation in the higher levels of autonomous government. However, Morelia is unique amongst the Caracols because its Honor and Justice Commission (the judicial system) has a special plan for dealing with rape that aims to reduce re-victimization and encourage women to report crimes.

Constant Progress

Many have referred to recent Zapatista mobilizations such as their December 21, 2012, silent march and the creation of the Little School as a Zapatista “resurgence.” The Little School left one thing very clear: this is not a resurgence, because the Zapatistas never went away. During the school, students learned about the seemingly endless new cooperatives, the Zapatistas’ experiments in collective governance that are always being fine-tuned, and how donations from supporters were invested in livestock and warehouses so that they would pay dividends that would provide a steady long-term budget for hospitals and clinics.

The Little School’s lesson is clear: if the Zapatistas aren’t talking to the press, don’t commit the error of thinking that they are losing steam or have faded away. They are simply working extremely hard to advance their autonomy, and are too busy to get bogged down in countering the naysayers.

After all, their success is measured in their achievements and not their rhetoric. As one Zapatista man said at the end of a Little School class in Oventik, “We are demonstrating to the bad government that we don’t want it and we don’t need it, and it’s not necessary, for us to provide for ourselves.”

Kristin Bricker is a reporter in Mexico. She is a contributor to the CIP Americas Program www.cipamericas.org.

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Originally posted by CIP Americas here.