Ch. 11 – The Other Campaign, or Politics from Below

The dual dynamic of the Zapatista movement is the daily construction of local autonomy and the national and international struggle to change the balance of power. Are there people involved in both dynamics in the US, or do they tend to focus on one side or the other? Is political autonomy in the US possible without material autonomy? Vice-versa?

On December 8, 1994 the EZLN created 30 autonomous municipalities in the Peace with Justice and Dignity for Indigenous People’s campaign. If the US Constitution’s 2nd amendment truly did allow for a “well-regulated militia,” could we do the same? Is that what the Zapatista army is, a well-regulated militia for the expulsion of state power?

If we in the States had Good Government Councils, would they obey the US Constitution of 1787, the Articles of Confederation of 1777, or write a new Constitution as Iceland has done? The Caracoles have taken education, health and agricultural production into their own hands. Would this violate the terms of the US Constitution?

How does the Zapatista health network compare with Medicare in the US? Do we allow people to be active decision-makers in their own health rather than patients? What resistance would there be to this model? Healing in Zapatismo is a collective and community-based process – recovering control of their physical bodies and social bodies. Could US neighborhoods choose health promoters and – if they agreed – train them to be health activists? Are US citizens willing to be agents of their own healing?

The educational principles are: nobody educates anybody else, nobody is educated alone; educate while producing; and educate while learning. What would this look like in the US? Could neighborhoods feed, clothe and shelter teachers without paying them? Could tuition be paid in chickens? Is the goal of US education the avoidance of manual labor? How could that be reconciled with ‘educate while producing?’

Members of the Good Government Councils are elected by their assemblies but those in session rotate every eight days so the rest go back to their communities and livelihoods until it’s their turn again. The Other Game: How Life is Played in a Oaxacan Village, tells how people save for years in order to take a year off and govern. Likewise, New Hampshire has more representatives per capita in their State Assembly (and more women) than any other state, but they only receive travel stipends. What do you think of unpaid governments?

The Other Campaign, started in 2001 when all the parties rejected indigenous rights, is a politics of listening. The Zapatistas are traveling the length and breadth of Mexico despite the danger. What would a campaign of listening look like in the US? Where would it go? Can we create “a common language…among those who… could not engage with one another?”

Did it surprise you to learn that Lula’s Brazil, Kirchner’s Argentina, Gutierrez’ Ecuador and Vazquez’ Uruguay were submissive to bankers and didn’t address universal rights? How does the co-optation of the left and the adoption of right ideology fit Obama? Do we see this “progressivism” that curries favor through poverty eradication programs but doesn’t deal with combative movements or land rights?

What is the role of NGOs in the US? Do they also increase bureaucracy and change the struggle into one of survival for the institution, rather than whatever it was? Could this be gotten around through “deputizing” trained volunteers and giving them real responsibility?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Leave a comment

Ch. 10 – Landless Workers Movement: The Difficult Construction of a New World

The agrovila groups together fifteen to twenty families with the land divided into triangles with the vertex of each coming together in a central area. What do you think of this design?

They have used their organic rice to supply school lunches and their conventional rice for the market. Compare this to the US.

“Preparing the land with ducks” is a philosophy in agro-ecology that allows nature to do the heavy lifting. Do you know what it’s called?

Voltaire called the Guarani Reductions “a triumph of humanity” for their cooperative living and artistic endeavors such a music, book publishing, and development of astronomy and meteorology before they were destroyed in 1756. Had you heard of them?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 9 – Chile: The Long Mapuche March

“In Chile, small landowners only own 7.5% of timberland, while 66% belongs to large owners with at least 2,500 acres.” In How the Other Half Dies, Susan George writes, “The most pressing cause of the abject poverty which millions of people in the world endure is that a mere 2.5% of landowners with more than 100 hectares control nearly three quarters of all the land in the world – with the top 0.23% controlling over half.” Does defense of the land fall under the same category as self-defense? Is there a right of armed resistance to land monopoly?

Did it surprise you to find that the Mapuche had resisted colonization for 260 years? This is explained by citing their non-hierarchical social structure, in contrast to the Incas and Aztecs with centralized governments. With the Mapuche “subjugation would entail conquering thousands of independent families.” Do you think that there can be more safety in dispersed numbers than in unity?

Under Pinochet over a million acres of communal indigenous lands were broken up and replaced with the concept of private property. How does this compare with what’s happening in Chiapas under the new president, according to the Zapatistas?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 8 – Another World is Possible: Zanon Ceramics

What did you think about the Zanon story? What struck you as hopeful or realistic or interesting? Do you think that the “factory without owner” model can last or even spread through Argentina or Latin Am.? Could this model be adopted in a place like Detroit?

Watch the Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein video The Take. Was the discussion of left/right politics in the movie consistent with the book? Does it ring true for the US with Obama?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 7 – Recuperated Factories: From Survival to Self-Management

Zibechi cites that 71% of worker-run factories distribute income in an egalitarian manner where janitors earn the same as more highly-skilled workers. Would you design a school the same way? Would you differentiate between levels of experience but not what the experience is in? Would there be janitors or would everyone clean toilets?

Are there empty commercial spaces in our vicinity? If the city owned these spaces, how would you suggest they use them? Should they be used on a “need” basis or on a “potential for good” basis? How should we define “good”?

In Brazil barter networks involved 2-5 million people at one point. What are some obstacles to creating a barter network here?

In Argentina a common trait of recuperated production is that it tends to be for their own needs and blur the line between producer and consumer. What percentage of food, goods and energy consumed in our vicinity is produced locally, would you guess? What percentage of local production is shipped elsewhere?

Argentina has moved beyond the barter network and alternative currency to creating venues that put producers and consumers in face-to-face contact with fair-trade markets, direct distribution and community purchasing. Could (or is) the same thing work(ing) here? What are obstacles and are there ways around them? Does cash hold any advantages over an alternative currency?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 6 – Subterranean Echoes: Political Resistance from Below

In the US the left associates itself with the unions and citizenship movement. Latin America, when capital flight left devastation in its wake, abandoned these interests and pursued a path of independence. Do you think the same thing could happen here? Are unions and citizenship carrots dangled by the capitalist state? What do you think about the teachers’ union and the Seattle boycott of standardized tests?

In El Alto there are 400 to 550 neighborhood councils, with one for every 1,000 inhabitants. In Santa Cruz County there are around 220,000 adults with 50,000 in the City of SC. This would be 220 neighborhood councils in the county and 50 in the city. Is this too many, not enough, or the right amount? Each neighborhood council is made up of several neighborhoods with several blocks per neighborhood. Would it be helpful for us to organize this way? Could it be done?

In the US, in my experience, people rarely like their neighbors and even more rarely like their families. Why is this? Has capitalism broken our “tools for conviviality” as Ivan Illich calls them. Do we have families and neighborhoods anymore or just places where people live in proximity?

Zibechi sees representation as a “structure of domination.” He juxtaposes it to expression: “Whereas the logic of representation is separation and transcendence, that of expression is one of experience and immanence. So the key categories of representation are: consensus, articulation, opinion, explicit networks, communication and agreement. Those of expression are encounters, composition, disarticulation, resonances, and diffuse webs.” At what size would direct democracy work without representation?

Are the welfare state and the warfare state tied, as Zibechi implies? If the Republicans in Congress destroy the welfare state will they also “weaken their ability to maintain their hegemony” and “weaken the state’s hold over the oppressed and exploited, which facilitates the cooptation or neutralization of the dangerous classes?” Would that be a good thing?

Is sovereignty a human right? Does it necessarily include land? Is it the only positive human right (as opposed to a right to not be tortured, imprisoned w/o trial, etc.) Why is it not included in the UN list? Are the others rights or someone else’s obligation?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 5 – Collective De-alienations

Zibechi writes that “Emancipation is not an objective but a way of life.” He also states that “Understanding is a creative act” and one only understands what one lives. Do you agree with this?

The emancipatory climate is made up of social relations that facilitate learning, healing and production without reproducing the molds of the system. To remember is the opposite of ‘dismember’ – it puts the pieces back together. Are these social relations – learning, healing and production – dismembered in our society? Can we reintegrate them with family/neighborhood life?

Listen to the first hour of the Unwelcome Guests episode, Army of Dreamers (Understanding the Resistance to Corporate Rule), where Canadian journalist Naomi Klein speaks on “Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Globalization Debate”. How does this inform our discussion of de-alienation?

Should we be an alien nation, in other words, a nation where everyone is alien and therefore no one is?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 4 – Recreating the Social Tie: The Revolution of Our Days

Zibechi emphasizes the importance of non-capitalist forms of relation with no division between intellectual and manual work or between those who give and those who obey orders. Compare our social relations to these characteristics of the movements:

  • They have become producers, taking the everyday life of the people into their own hands.
  • They have adopted organizational forms based on the family with new, stable and complex forms of extended family relationships.
  • Not only is patriarchy breaking down but there is a feminization of the movement – not just women in men’s roles. In Bolivia “the political exists not so much in the streets but in the more intimate sphere of markets and households, spaces in which women undoubtedly dominate.”
  • ‘It is not only teachers who teach but… the whole movement itself is an educating space.’
  • In production they seek self-sufficiency and diversification of products, distribution venues, skills and roles within the process.
  • Health movements are recovering lost knowledge and eliminating the passive, dependent “patient” relationship.

This article gives an interesting perspective. Read it and respond by applying the information in the book:

Reclaiming Our Imaginations from ‘There Is No Alternative’

We live in a time of heavy fog. A time when, though many of us dissent and resist, humanity seems committed to a course of collective suicide in the name of preserving an economic system that generates scarcity no matter how much is actually produced. To demand that all have enough to eat on a planet that grows enough food, that absurd numbers of people do not die from preventable disease, that utter human deprivation amongst plenty is not tolerated, or that we put the natural laws of the biosphere above socially constructed economic “laws” — is presented as unrealistic, as the fantasy of idealists or those who are naive to the “complexity” of the world’s problems. If we create and recreate the world everyday, then how has it become so supposedly absurd to believe we might actually create a world that is honestly making the possibilities of egalitarianism, justice and democracy?

continue here…

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 3 – The Healing Power of the Community

Indigenous peoples are combining ancestral knowledge with modern medicine. Their first step in community healthcare is constructing a local dispensary for emergencies that cause the highest mortality rates. Could we do the same here at a fraction of medicare costs? Should our only socialized medicine be at the end of life?

In the indigenous cosmovision the health of individuals depends on the health of the community. What would that say about health in our society? Is our health affected by U.S. foreign policy? Would spaces for “harmoniously liberating the subconscious, both of the individual and the collective” help our mental health crisis?

The Zapatista health centers employ community volunteers who receive no salary but get food, travel expenses, footwear and clothes. If it weren’t for liability, could we do the same but provide vouchers for rent, mortgages, or farmer’s markets? What else could we do if there were no liability? Would a free school for herbalists, midwives and bonesetters be successful in our society?

What do you think about the “reflection groups” for personal problems and the idea that “fear is a sickness?” Do you believe “verticality induces sickness?” Could this explain the prevalence of anti-depressants in the U.S.? Should the U.S. have more peer counseling and “life-coaches” or is our culture psychopathic?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ch. 2 – Social Movements as Spaces of Learning

In Latin America schools are often the only state presence, teaching the individualistic values of neo-liberalism. The landless movement in Brazil has started 2000 self-managed schools in which families are involved in planning and administration. Movement education has three goals:

developing critical awareness through studies that “lead to reflection and the acquisition of a broader world view, differentiated from official discourse.”
the “understanding of the history and meaning of the struggle for land and agrarian reform that led to the creation of the settlement.”
“practical exercises in arenas of knowledge needed for the development of the settlement.”

Do schools here teach the individualistic values of neoliberalism? What might a localized curriculum look like in the U.S.? Should families run the schools? What practical knowledge is needed in our “settlements?” Is homeschooling a form of self-managed school or neo-liberal individualism? How might the homeschooling movement be affected by the Newtown school murders?

“Productive work is educational if it is transformative.” Zibechi asks, “how can we organize ourselves to work and produce so that we can establish pedagogical relations?” Well?

In our neighborhoods, can we “de-institutionalize space” by “generating communal and flexible places” and integrate time by dissolving the divide between working time, leisure time, school time and domestic time? Has that been done by the home-office, with the result that families now grow up in workplaces where the kids need to stay quiet and the parents are accessible to work 24/7?

In our society what is the goal of higher education – the real goal, in your opinion? Is it worth the money? Does it depend on whether the student needs to take out loans or whether the parents can pay? In Nigeria a student can be given a scholarship to attend school for $67 per year. For the same price as a $20,000/yr university, 300 Nigerian youth could attend school. The University of San Francisco, which boast a “passion for justice” and a “global perspective,” cost $38,500 before room and board, books and fees. Is it ethical for a parent to spend on their own child what would educate 575 Nigerians, in order to teach them about global justice? Do they owe this to their child, if they have the money?

Posted in Territories in Resistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment