organising from below in Mexico: a world where many worlds fit
a coming of age story
In Oct 2016, during the National Indigenous Congress’s (NIC) 20th anniversary celebration, the NIC and the Zapatistas announced in a communique, ‘May the earth tremble at its core’, the formation of an autonomous Indigenous Government Council. Communities are still consulting on the details of how the IGC will work. But it was announced that in May 2017, the IGC spokesperson will be introduced, and this representative will an indigenous woman, and she will also run in the 2018 presidential elections.
Many in the mainstream have focused on the election and the individual, and once again largely overlooked or misunderstood the collective power of this initiative. The IGC proposes to unite communities, projects, and collectives from all over Mexico who are living, working, and existing in alternative, anti-capitalist systems every single day.
Let it be clear: the IGC is not a political party, nor is it interested in forming any alliances or relationships with political parties. ‘Our struggle is not for power, we don’t seek it. [It is] to initiate a consultation in each one of our towns to dismantle from below the power that those from above impose on us … we call on the original peoples and on civil society to organise in order to stop this destruction, to get stronger in our resistances and rebellions, in other words in defense of the life of every person, family, collective, community or barrio.’
The IGC and the candidacy are ways to bring the country’s problems of dispossession, impunity, violence and repression to the spotlight, alongside the alternatives of autonomous systems of self-governance. The bold initiative aims to bring together ordinary, extraordinary Mexicans who are creating their own narrative and version of history; and it is about facilitating and strengthening the growth of these new world, and not inventing them.
Also let it be clear: neither the Zapatistas, nor the NIC or the IGC will be authority figures or organisers. Each sector must organise itself as it wishes and is able. ‘Support is respect and not direction or command’.
zapatista play with words and reality
In 2012, the year of the last Mexican Presidential elections, on 21 December, the day according to the Mayan Calendar, one calendar cycle ended and a new one began 50,000 Zapatistas orderly filed out of their autonomous communities to march in absolute silence in 5 towns in Chiapas (link to excellent 4 minute film). A simple communique appeared on their website at the end of the day. It was a question, a protest, and an expectation:
Did you hear it?
It is the sound of your world crumbling.
It is the sound of our world resurging.
The day that was day, was night.
And night shall be the day that will be day.
From the Mountains of Southeastern Mexico
For the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee — General Command of the EZLN
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, Mexico, December 2012
In the previous presidential election year, 2006, the Zapatista held ‘the Other Campaign’ visiting communities, projects, collectives, groups living out resistance and an alternative. The campaign made allies across Mexico, and infuriated the traditional political Left.
1 January 1994 to present – the brewing storm and critical thinking in the face of the capitalist hydra
The Zapatista armed uprising on 1 January 1994 was a tactic to not die in oblivion and abandonment, and ever since their words, tactics and vision challenge the mainstream’s grip on reality. In a communique following New Year’s day they explained ‘We went to war not to kill or be killed, but to be heard.’
Following the government’s disappointing betrayal to implement the San Andres Peace Accords in 1996, the Zapatistas deprioritised pressuring formal institutions and simply began to build power from below and implemented the concepts embodied in the agreement themselves. One of these was the National Indigenous Congress, an initiative to unite and demonstrate that the Zapatista demands are widely shared by Mexico’s original communities.
In Zapatista territory Councils of Good Government emerged, with local, rotating representatives and officials; political parties and government programmes are banned; food is produced by the community; decisions are made collectively; and each community learns to govern themselves according to their own ways of thinking and living.
In 2013 and 2014 Zapatistas opened their communities to thousands of visitors who came to study in the Zapatista Little School of Freedom, where unlike any other government in history, they shared their success stories and mistakes as well.
In 2015 the Zapatistas hosted a seminar “Critical Thinking in the Face of the Capitalist Hydra” where they discussed with their local and global solidarity family the organisation and construction of a world free from the capitalist system. More recently, in 2016 and 2017 they hosted the ‘Comparte Festival for Arts and Sciences, bringing together artists and scientist to discuss and creative solutions for the crisis we face and the new world under construction.
success or … success?
The current aim is to make the dominant political classes tremble, provoking a political tusnami capable of breaking the bank of the dominant classes. The candidacy intends to further demonstrate the crisis of the capitalist system, its reality and violence against the people. The IGC intends to demonstrate how the power from below, that has kept the original peoples alive for centuries, can also be used to dismantle the power of above which only knows to destroy and kill.