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?

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