Volume 18, 20

Reports from Planet Earth: Anti-Systemic Movements 2011

Marcela Salas Cassani; Radio Regeneracion


The Zapatista Communities can be a Good Starting Point
Another world is possible - from Chile to New York
Another Way of Seeing the World
      Zapatistas:  18 Years of Rebellion and Resistance
      New Movements and the Zapatistas
      Intellectuals Weigh In


By Movement for Justice in El Barrio

From December 30, 2011 through January 2, 2012, the CIDECI-Universidad de La Tierra (Center of Comprehensive Indigenous Training-University of the Earth) hosted the "Second Seminar of Reflection and Analysis-Planet Earth: Anti-systemic Movements" in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Alongside renowned organizers, activists, and intellectuals from around the world, this multi-day, international forum sought to serve as a point of convergence for extended analysis and reflection on the current conditions and trajectories of anti-systemic movements from around the globe that are fighting against the most egregious ravages of neoliberal globalization and in doing so, constructing blueprints for a new world.

Among those in attendance, included intellectuals such as Sylvia Marcos, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Julieta Paredes, and Jean Robert, among others; community-based organizations, such as Movement for Justice in El Barrio (East Harlem, New York); representatives from the nascent Occupy Wall St. mobilizations; and indigenous activists from across Mexico and Latin America.

Organized to coincide with the 18 anniversary of the Zapatista uprising of January 1, 1994, the general tenor of the seminar reflected on the enormous epistemic, cultural, social, spiritual, and political contributions of the Zapatistas to social movements on an international scale. Many emphasized the importance of the innovating organizing strategies, political ideas, and decision-making structures of the indigenous Zapatistas. The following articles takes this as a point of departure and captures the essence of the ideas and experiences discussed at the historic international gathering.

The Zapatista Communities can be a Good Starting Point for Men and Women to Experience the Construction of Another World Based on Solidarity Rather than Exploitation

By Marcela Salas Cassani, Desinformemonos

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The movements of protest and insubordination which have arisen during 2011 in various parts of the world, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Spain, Greece, Italy, Chile, Colombia, the United States and Greece "reflect a sense of widespread injustice and the possibility of an awakening which could increase the actions of collective rejection that we've seen up to now, "said Jerome Baschet, Doctor of History at the School of Higher Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, during the first day of the second international seminar of reflection and analysis, "Planet Earth: anti-systemic movements", which is being held from the 30th of December to the 2nd of January at the University of the Earth, outside San Cristobal.

"The logic of capitalist production is leading to us losing control of our lives, and now is the time to reclaim them", continued Baschet. "The global movement has arisen as a point of contact between all the struggles: the struggle against the theft of material goods, land, ways of living, the ability to decide. It is a movement which calls to all of those who feel dispossessed. "

In her turn, feminist anthropologist Mercedes Olivera said that those outside the logic of the market, like the zapatista communities, can be a viable starting point for "men and women to experience the construction of another civilization, based on solidarity and not on exploitation, to try to recreate the meaning of human existence, to restore the understanding of thje essential nature of the land and sustainability of production for consumption, to be able to test new ways of using and conserving natural resources, so we can change and guide our strategies towards the construction of a new paradigm of development and to attempt a civilizing process based on life and not on destruction, as the Zapatistas do through the process of autonomy".

Coming from various cities in Mexico, indigenous communities in Chiapas and the rest of the country, and from countries such as Argentina, Italy, Germany, France, Austria, Yugoslavia, the UK, Puerto Rico and Chile, hundreds of attendees gathered at the Indigenous Comprehensive Training Centre (CIDECI) to hear the thoughts expressed by intellectuals and researchers into anti-systemic movements from around the world.

During the morning session of the first day, the book 'La Potencia de los Pobres', (the Potency of the Poor), by Jean Robert and Majid Rahnema, was presented. It was reviewed by Ana Valadez, Xuno Lopez, Carlos Manzo and Rafael Landerreche, who discussed in turn the true epistemiological meaning of poverty and wealth.

" 'La Potencia de los Pobres' is a book which cannot leave us feeling indifferent, and that makes us think about the difference between a man of power (poder) and a human being with potency (potencia). Power corrupts, but the lack of power (understood as the revolutionary potential possessed by every human being) corrupts even more", said Rafael Landerreche during his participation.

Later, in the afternoon session, Mercedes Olivera, Xochitl Leyva and Jérome Baschet reflected in turn on the importance of the Zapatista movement and the consequences that repression and the low intensity war have had on the development of the autonomy of the indigenous peoples, and on how capitalist production policies have led to uprisings in Europe, Latin America and Arab countries during 2011.

The seminar on anti-systemic movements is being held in the context of the 18th anniversary of the uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). On this occasion, as well as representatives of social movements, intellectuals and researchers such as Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, Boaventura de Souza, Fernanda Navarro, Javier Sicila, Jean Robert, Paulina Fernandez and Gustavo Esteva, among others, are also attending.

The meeting will continue on December 31st with the theme of the 'indignado' movement in the world, and different experiences of resistance in Latin America, with the participation of Paulo Olivares from Chile, Danay Quintana and Boris Nerey from Cuba; Julieta Paredes from Bolivia, Luis Andrango of Ecuador, the Occupy Wall Street movement, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, and Marvish Ahmad from Pakistan.


Another world is possible - from Chile to New York

By Radio Regeneracion

Monday, 2nd January 2012

On December 31st, the second day of the international seminar: "Planet Earth: Anti-Sistemic Movements", there were presentations from various social struggles such as the student movement in Chile, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Movement for Justice in El Barrio from New York, the Martin Luther King Memorial Center from Cuba and from Luis Andrango, an indigenous Quechua from Ecuador involved in several organizations, including the National Federation of Campesino, Indigenous and Black Organizations of Ecuador (Fenocin) and Via Campesina, among others.

The companeras from Chile shared the sentiments and the methods of the student struggle in 2011, the year when this assembly-based movement arose to challenge the measures the government had taken concerning higher education.

This movement has shown itself repeatedly to be spontaneous, non-political, and yet written off as a teenage phase. But it (the movement) has shown another reality: from a non-party position the students took to the streets, overcoming the fear that exists in a country that has suffered under a dictatorship, a country whose constitution was tied up with that dictatorship to ensure a right-wing neoliberal system, so it is admirable that this student movement has spread to many people, who have joined the street protests.

The protests, which have included marches, nocturnal caceroladas (a form of demonstration involving the beating of saucepans), hunger strikes, occupations of facilities, strikes and barricades, have highlighted certain demands, such as the reform of the system of access to universities, an increase in public spending for universities, and the democratization of the higher education system.

This was followed by Danay Quintana and Boris Nerey, from the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in Cuba (CMMLK), who shared the work they do with that organization.

The CMMLK is an organization which has spent 25 years working in 2 areas: socialist theory and popular education, through which they seek to promote a horizontal form of education, with a network of popular educators working in communities and state enterprises to increase political participation and popular control, and thus achieve a change in the mentality and practices at a social and spiritual level, as a means to find other ways of living in order to re-establish socialism in Cuba.

But, they ask, how do you build socialism without reproducing capitalism, in a small country without natural resources and with the U.S. against them? For them, socialism is a process of anti-capitalist resistance. It is a process that does not culminate in the seizure of political power, but is permanently in construction.

The answer to the question of how to rebuild socialism is a wide one. They look at it from an economic and production-based perspective, insisting that a system of salaried labour produces a power structure which must be subverted by talk of socialism, and the promotion of community capacity, based on self-management.

They emphasise that capitalism is a great thief of time, so socialism must take into account the social cost of people's time, fostering a relationship with nature that makes social production and consumption sustainable, which means producing items for genuine needs and not for the unnecessary consumption promoted by capital.

The overflowing CIDECI auditorium gave an emotional response and resounding applause to the presentation from the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a movement formed by Mexican immigrants living in New York. Their presentation consisted of a video showing their neighborhood (barrio) fight against the bad governments and the neoliberal capitalist system which deprived them of their native homes in Mexico.

The video showed how, after having suffered displacement in Mexico, they endured the same experience again, being stripped of their homes by wealthy speculators who wanted to build luxury apartments.

Their struggle is for dignity, against displacement, for the liberation of women, migrants, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, and indigenous peoples. "We are the Other Campaign", they say, "because the Other Campaign proposes organizing against oppression".

Their struggle is against political parties, who ensure that borders are open for money, but closed to people. Their struggle is against the capitalist system which marginalizes indigenous and immigrant communities.

"We as a community have the power, no matter how rich they are"

"What we want is for the people to have power"

They declare themselves autonomous because they believe in self-representation, without leaders or presidents. Without any doubt, their work and inspiration derives from the way of working of the Zapatista autonomous communities.

The Movement for Justice in El Barrio also works with Occupy Wall Street, sharing the ways of their Zapatista sisters and brothers, and also spreading awareness of the current situation of the Zapatista support bases, who are being repressed by the governments of Sabines and Calderon.

Marlina, from Occupy Wall Street, told us more about this movement which has managed to awaken thousands of people who want to address global issues, such as the the housing crisis and the growing debt. The Arab spring, Marlina said, was a great inspiration to the occupy movement, with the result that North American society, often characterized by apathy and disorganization, has risen in a collective awakening, which although it still lacks form, represents the first steps for many people, who keep walking and looking for new ways of working.

This movement, which has now grown to over a thousand camps around the world, and more than two thousand cities where actions have been taken, is now in the process of reorganization, as a result of government repression, which has managed to evict most of the camps.

It has also been a movement which has promoted solidarity gatherings, already about 20 organizations are working around the theme of women, which has led to them to organising a meeting in March.

Luis Andrango, indigenous Quechua from Ecuador, began by congratulating the EZLN on their 18th anniversary, and then went on to share some reflections on the question of land in this capitalist system.

The consequences of capitalism affect the countryside in various ways, including the criminalization of social struggle and protest, and the militarization of areas of conflict, leading to war and destruction.

All the native peoples of Ecuador are living through a phase of financial capitalism that uses strategies of domination, exploitation, looting and the commercialization of agriculture, and these strategies arise from the union of large transnational corporations, businesses, and the bourgeoisie, who are promoting agribusiness and agro-industry, causing death and misery in the countryside.

These agrobusinesses, as Luis Andrango calls them, are characterized by a worsening of the climate crisis and global warming; the commodification of food; the hoarding of land in the hands of transnational corporations, which are buying land in Ecuador for the purpose of speculating to promote what the companies called biofuels; the exploitation of those who work on the land, turning them into agricultural workers, which is the only way that this system can be profitable; and finally agrofuels require a package of agrochemicals which make the soil infertile and dependent on more agrochemicals.

The Via Campesina organization, founded in 1993, consists of 150 organizations in 70 countries worldwide, representing a huge global peasant movement, based on social struggles and international actions, as well as the worldwide campesino struggle for food sovereignty.

Their main work is focused on campaigns for agrarian reform, they also struggle against violence against women in the countryside, to preserve their native seeds, in defence of rural migrants and for food sovereignty, for which reason they plan to regain their capacity for autonomous organization. .

Finally, he said that to put an end to capitalism, it is necessary to build a political alliance between the countryside and the city, so as to enable organization and the realisation of "globalising the struggle, globalising hope"

We would also like to share the comments from Raquel Gutierrez, who was unable to come to the seminar but did send some thoughts about progressive government policies, the policies of the left, which she equates with the Mexican right, since they promote megaprojects and displacement to "encourage progress." So she called for organization from a base of autonomy, for collective and community involvement to fight in order to set limits and to boycott the transnational appropriation of the land, the time and the strength of the people.

Raquel Gutierrez referred to the evils of patriarchy and the system of domination and power relations, an issue that often seems not to get into the lists of priorities, yet without such reflection and subsequent work it is hard to imagine that this new world can be built. Because, as the compa from Ecuador said, without feminism, there is no socialism.


Another Way of Seeing the World

by Marcela Salas Cassani

Zapatistas:  18 Years of Rebellion and Resistance

Hundreds of activists and academics from around the world gathered at the International Seminar “Planet Earth: Anti-Systemic Movements” to discuss the importance of the 1994 Zapatista uprising on its 18th anniversary. In the context of the popular insurrections that have emerged this year across the globe, the seminar held from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2 in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, concluded, with Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, that seen in retrospect Zapatista influence has been so strong that “one cannot view the left or the struggle against capitalism without this point of reference.”

De Sousa Santos stated that the explosion of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) on the scene January 1, 1994 was the first major moment of global resistance to neoliberalism. The uprising gave visibility to indigenous struggles that had been growing since the eighties in Latin America and soon became the precursor to other movements.

“They taught us another way of seeing the world. They broke with Marxist orthodoxy by developing a new discourse, a new semantics and new ideas. They taught us a new organizational logic that had a fundamental influence on the whole world,” De Sousa Santos said in an interview.

Paulina Fernandez, a professor of Political Science at UNAM who has followed the Zapatista movement since its inception, spoke to Desinformemonos about the transcendence of the Zapatistas. “It is still not possible to see clearly the magnitude of the importance of the Zapatista uprising. I track the news on Internet everyday and the EZLN is cited all over for one reason or another—it is a permanent reference.”

“Despite efforts to silence them, hide them away, marginalize them and isolate the movement up in the mountains, and without media information about what they are doing, the Zapatistas are building a real alternative process on a daily basis. They are proof that this country can function in a different way when its people are committed and they do it without the intervention of laws, institutions, parties, politicians and the vices and practices that official institutions are the ones guilty of the corruption of this country,” added Fernandez.

Representatives of indigenous peoples, among them Salvador Campanur, Purhépecha from Cherán, Michoacán and Santos de la Cruz, Wixárika from Bancos de San Hipólito, Durango, agreed that “in all the processes that we have experienced as indigenous peoples, the Zapatistas have been very important. Before, indigenous struggles were isolated and not linked up, but since 1994 we began to realize that we suffered from a common problem and we began to interact and develop solidarity between peoples, not only in Mexico but in the world.”

Campanur noted “Although the words ‘dignity’, ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ already existed it was the Zapatista brothers and sisters who in 1994 taught us to use them in each one of our struggles.”

Javier Sicilia, poet and leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, said in an interview that “the last 18 years have been fundamental since the Zapatistas–by revealing the negation of the indigenous world that had been going on for centuries–also revealed the dysfunction of the State and the neoliberal system, and gave new content and new possibilities not only to the nation but to the entire world.”

New Movements and the Zapatistas

Many participants linked the Zapatista movement to the new movements in Spain, Greece, the United States, Tunis, Egypt, Yemen and others. French historian Jerome Baschet stated that, “The logic of capitalism is causing us to lose control of our lives and it is time to recuperate that control. The world movement has arisen as a crossroads of all struggles: the struggle against the looting of material goods, of land, of ways of life, of the capacity to decide. It is a movement that calls on everyone who feels dispossessed.” He added that the latest uprisings “reflect a general sense of injustice and the possibility that a collective awakening could intensify the reactions of rejection that we’ve seen so far.”

Feminist anthropologist Mercedes Olivera observed that the Zapatista communities have developed outside the mercantilist logic, which can be a viable point of departure for “men and women to dare to experience the construction of another civilization based on solidarity not exploitation, to try to recreate the human sense of existence, recover the vital sense of the land and the sustainability of production for consumption, to be able to practice new forms of using and caring for natural resources, and in this way we can change and reorient our strategies toward building a new paradigm of development and attempt a civilizing process based on life and not on destruction, like the Zapatistas do in their autonomy.”

In the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States that has spread to cities throughout that country and the rest of the world “there are many people who have been strongly influenced by the Zapatista struggle”, says Marlina regarding the Movimiento por la Justicia en el Barrio (Movement for Justice in the Barrio), a Latino collective that forms part of the Other Campaign in New York City.

Marlina asserts that “what many people of the Occupy movement are trying to do is break the relationship between capital and humanity”, noting that the Zapatistas have provided clear and inspiring messages for people in the United States. “The Zapatista resistance encourages us to keep up the struggle to build a different world,” Marlina concluded.

She recounted that “women from the movement for justice came one night to Liberty Plaza and instead of talking about economic policies and political struggles, they talked about what it means to be a woman, a mother and a mestiza in the United States. They talked about their families and their dignity, and I cried during the talk because for me the discourse on “right living” or “vivir bien” was something really different from the fancy discourse on economic policies. And I believe that the power of the Movement for Justice in the Barrio is to talk about the truth of human experience and the truth of the devastation of the earth, and that’s a discourse that cannot necessarily be understood in capitalist terms.”

Daniela Carrasco attended the seminar in representation of one of the most important movements of 2011: the Chilean student movement. A Chilean student from the collective Tendencia Estudiantil Revolucionaria, Carrasco reflected on the lessons of the Zapatistas for the Latin America student movement.

“The great example that we have taken from the Zapatista movement is the assembly as a from of organization. For many years, the Chilean movement was characterized as very bureaucratic and personalist, its was focused on certain presidents that ended up negotiating with the government and often betraying the movement. This year this logic was broken, the rightwing that formed part of the Confederation of Students was kicked out and the assembly was adopted as the method of validating all decisions we make. We got to the point where we even voted on building a barricade—yes or no—in an assembly and this has been really satisfying. All our members vote raising their hands, knowing that they are participating and not just spectators, in an act of taking back the struggle in the streets.”

“For a long time, it was said that students didn’t participate, that they didn’t have political training, that they weren’t involved in almost anything, that they didn’t care what happened in society. But this year, the panel members of the seminar agreed, “has shown the opposite in Latin American, in the United States, in Arab countries and in Europe, where youth—sick of a system that produces inequality, poverty, unemployment and hopelessness—are questioning what is happening and are going beyond protest,” said Carrasco. “We built a Chilean movement that is expanding into a ‘student spring’– in Colombia, in Costa Rica, in Mexico…”

Carlos Marentes, of the Unión de Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos (Union of Border Agricultural Workers) of El Paso, Texas, told the crowd, “the Zapatista influence continues to extend among us, especially around the need to organize from below with other movements and the importance of pushing an alternative to the industrial model of agriculture that threatens our planet.”

Intellectuals Weigh In

Fernanda Navarro, doctor in Philosophy who has followed the Zapatista movement since 1994, spoke at the afternoon panel the last day of the seminar. She told Desinformémonos that the main challenges facing the Zapatistas “are to continue to build autonomy, strengthening themselves and to prove that bad governments and corruption and violence cannot uproot the seeds that have been planted and what is growing in the Chiapan mountains.”

The Zapatista movement “was a totally new political phenomenon that broke the mold and that’s why it has become a point of reference for many movements for social justice for women, small farmers, workers, people who live on the margins, due to their innovative ways of existing that broke with class Marxism,” Sylvia Marcos, professor and researcher on gender issues, told Desinformémonos.

Julieta Paredes, of the Bolivian organization Women Creating Community condemned the way in which social movements usually see women as “just another sector” and women’s issues “as just one among many issues of the left.”

“But women are half of all sectors and half of all issues, and community feminism-a category of analysis that represents the movement she forms part of–locates patriarchy as a system that articulates all oppressions, historically built on the oppression of women. In this sense through the defeat of patriarchy, “the community can encompass the entire social body to be able to build relationships of freedom.”

Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, a prominent Mexican intellectual, was unable to attend but sent a message to the seminar stating, “Just consider the immense mobilization of the indignados and the Occupy movement that struggle for the another possible world… There has never been a [mobilization] of this magnitude, and the mobilization began in the jungles of Chiapas with the principles of inclusion and dialogue.” Gonzalez Casanova added “increasingly throughout the world people are struggling for what in 1994 seemed only ‘a post-modern indigenous rebellion.’”

Marcela Salas Cassani writes for, an “autonomous, global communications project” and sister organization to the Americas Program, that covers grassroots movements throughout the world and the ideas and aspirations behind them. Its team has been in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas reporting on an international seminar there to commemorate and reflect on the 18th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising.