SSFS5 Gilberto LOPEZ Y RIVAS – Community, Government, Systems


Community Government Systems I have been close to the Zapatista movement
since 1994 and also I was in a project of local autonomy
that studied the processes of six countries in Latin America: Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama,
Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil. So from these experiences in the Zapatista
movement and in the autonomy project I will like to introduce you to this PowerPoint. In this PowerPoint you have a kind of
two voices concert because you are going to see these with quotation marks that are notes of a course called Freedom According to the Zapatistas. So we were to classes like another student and this was called La Escuelita, small school in Spanish. So what I wanted to do here is that
you can try to think of what the Zapatistas think of themselves and
then what I am going to talk about them. So what is this indigenous government? You have to understand this
in their historical context: that we are living in Latin America,
especially in Mexico that is an occupied country by the transnationals and by neo-liberalism. So in this context the self-government is
a struggle of the original peoples to preserve and strengthen their territorial
and cultural integrity and their natural resources through organizational forms based on the
practice of a participative democracy that confronts –– by means of an anti-systemic strategy –– the rapacity and violence of capitalism in
its current transnational neoliberal phase. They are a people that reclaim their origin
and an identity that is not the national majority, but consider themselves like Mexicans, and
these people have formed as autonomous subjects in the desire to imprint a sense of community
in their lives in these times where egoism, individualism and competitivity is
aimed to displace solidarity, dignity and fraternity. Particularly, capitalism introduces young
people in our countries what I call the generation that think of themselves only. That is something that we have to deal with. The indigenous self-governments of Latin America
are conceived as political-territorial spaces where the oppressed can consolidate their
communitarian expressions of direct democracy in the local, regional and even national arenas. Based on this premise, self-governments are
considered forms of resistance and of conformation of an autonomous subject,
which is constituted as an interlocutor that negotiates with the State
when negotiation can take place. Simultaneously, if this fails,
as in the case of Mexico, de facto self-governments are then established,
not only in the Zapatistas’ case, but we have these processes going on
in other parts of the country. Hence self-governments are not granted at
all, but rather conquered through organization and awareness, and through hard-fought
uprisings and extensive mobilizations. Like this. Self-governments are not considered
“libertarian islands within the capitalist universe”. In “Read a video”,
the Zapatistas point out clearly: “Ours is not a liberated territory,
nor a utopian commune. It is not an experimental laboratory of nonsense
or a paradise of the orphaned Left.” Not at all. The indigenous people do not disseminate
an idyllic image of their movements “assuming that these groups progress by
jumping over all obstacles”, that was a critique that appears to be founded
on a lack of empirical research, many analysts talk about the Zapatistas without
being there or without knowing them, and of course they do not analyze the indigenous
autonomy in the process itself. What is this autonomous subject? Theoretically speaking, but we can find this
empirically, too: ▶ Must be representative of the shared and
general interests of the communities. ▶ Must have a defined territorial base and
a socio-ethnic identity. In the case of Zapatistas,
they are multi-ethnic processes, there are Maya but from different regions
even languages, so you have Tzozil, tzeltal, tojolabal. ▶ Must be rooted in a communal foundation
based on regional and supra-regional identities; in other words, what we call
democratic communitarianism. We talk about Rojava example, but in this
case, I mean the case of Rojava, I think it’s this democratic communitarianism. ▶ Must be constituted as a legitimate and
recognized interlocutor in negotiations with the State. The Zapatistas process covers a broad scope
in the formation of this subject, extending beyond the political-military organization. We highlight the dynamic, transformative nature
of the processes that make up the autonomous indigenous governments,
for in order to become such governments, they must modify participation
in a diversity of dimensions: for example the relationship between genders
— they have a revolutionary law for the women since before the revolt in 1994;
also this movement has changed the relation between generations,
in this case they insisted on the protagonism of women and youth —
in March, the Zapatistas had a meeting with around 8,000 women from 48 countries and it was a very interesting encounter over there; and this
process also democratises the indigenous society — it is not a society as a traditional one but as a dynamical one —
politicizing and innovating their political and socio-cultural structures. The importance of women participating in the
different levels and spaces of community and municipal life is emphasized,
particularly as concerns decision-making bodies — I think that is also characteristic of
the Rojava process — and the exercise of the indigenous self-governments
in the effort to achieve a more just and equitable society, developing concrete actions to combat
all kinds of violence against indigenous women. The study of contemporary indigenous governments
in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, from a comprehensive and comparative perspective,
reveals the transformative nature of these processes, not only in their articulation, more often than not
at odds with the existing national states, but also within the organization of
the autonomous subjects themselves. Therefore, it not only has to do with the
existence of traditional indigenous self-governments that developed in diverse forms
throughout the colony (that was called the Republic of Indians)
or in the independent life, and that continue to this day in many communities
in the Latin American geography. So what I am saying here is, that it is not
the traditional self-government that we know, it is another kind of process going on. Nor is it about the powers and attributions
established at the top, administratively or because of constitutional modifications,
floors and ceilings of models that do not correspond to the concrete realities
and that convey the limitations of a social science that lags far behind
social-ethnic processes. I am saying this because
the Zapatista movement demonstrates the limitation of anthropology for example,
and the processes were more rich than the designs themselves, so we were short
and we came late to explain these processes as happening in many places of the world. Current autonomous practices transcend further. For example, when the Zapatistas move beyond
traditional self-governments and undertake them based on the
seven principles of leading by obeying: — these principles are very important, they
are not only an ethical and moral principle, but is the principle for government,
for a good form of government — 1) to serve, not to self-serve;
2) to represent, not to replace; 3) to construct, not to destroy;
4) to obey, not to command; 5) to propose, not to impose;
6) to convince, not to defeat; 7) to work from below, not seek to rise. And in addition, we have the rotation of the
roles of authority, they are changing all the time. You can be four months in one commission and
six months in another, you can be at the level of the municipality
and then to the level of the regional government. So all the times the people are changing,
in that respect, there is no way to have a bureaucracy,
there is not a professional politician over there that knows everything,
but it’s the people themselves that everybody has a responsibility in this process. So there is no possibility of the forming
of a bureaucracy in this government. So they have planned and programmed
the participation of women and youth; the equitable and sustainable reorganization
of the economy; the adoption of anti-capitalist and anti-systemic
political identity — that is the importance of
these new forms of government — and the search for national and international alliance — for example I was telling John
the importance of the alliance between the Kurds movement and the Zapatistas movement — while transforming the indigenous peoples themselves through their regional appropriation of the territory
and the extension of power from the bottom. To govern autonomously in 30 municipal municipalities, linking them through the five
Good Government Councils established in Oventic, La Realidad, La Garucha,
Roberto Barrios and Morelia, reveals an organizational experience of government that must be taken up by pedagogically by
other indigenous peoples. The use of English is also a form of colonization
for example, we have to speak English,
instead we can talk in our language. The autonomous municipalities
and the Good Government Councils form part of the best democratic traditions
of the Mexican people today and are a required reference
when speaking of democratic governability. For example, this quotation talks about the
government destroy the schools, so we said they can
but it did not dismantle our hearts because the school can be in our hearts, in
many places, even if they destroy the school. That is the meaning of this sentence. In the case of the Zapatistas, and in most
of those studied in Latin America, we have proven that interference by political
parties of the bourgeois democratic system deteriorates autonomous governments
and even causing them to fail. The Indians said that the party cut the communities,
divided the communities. In Mexico, for many years the Indians were
a reservoir of votes that the official party (you know that we had about 70 years of
regimen of party system) imposed to the indigenous chiefdoms,
caciques as we call them in Spanish, is seriously affected by an indigenous movement
that frontally rejects the current system of the State parties
and questions the deteriorating components of a managed democracy,
imposing in its stead another collective way of carrying out politics. So we have another form of making politics. Representative democracy is
the only democracy possible when rooted in the ethnocentrism of national society
and denies all of the experience of direct democracies in the indigenous communities, which develop a political culture founded on resistance,
the bedrock of the current autonomous processes. The Zapatista experience and the experience
of other processes in Latin America show that the development of a
consolidated multi-ethnic network of autonomous governments of communities
and regions, and even of diverse peoples, is another one of the transcendent changes
in the current conditions of autonomous governments, where intra-community struggles due to secular
conflicts, boundaries or resources can be overcome to respond in a united way to the violent intrusion
of the States and capitalist corporations, counterinsurgency and organized crime. Let me tell you that in Mexico,
as in many parts of Latin America, organized crimes and government is almost the same, so we have, as in the case of Mexico, criminal states. As a matter of fact they are […]
So for one hand they have the official army forces, police, secret police and everything,
and on the other hand they have the organized crime that are political active,
defending the capitalist enterprises. We have to conceptualize organized crime as
another corporative threat to the territory. There is not another explanation for this,
there is not at all. All of the internal transformations, ruptures
and redefinitions of the communitary, regional and national
arenas are impossible without the consolidation and strengthening of the
autonomous subject, (I give enormous importance to this concept
of autonomous subjects) which makes self-governments possible, with
inward hegemonic affirmation capacities, so that they contribute to internal cohesion
through the construction of consensus. Participatory democracy, tolerance and
the overcoming of religious, ethnic and political divisions,
the fight against corruption and against cooptation attempts by the State and its agents. The subject, these autonomous subjects, incites
the mobilization of peoples and communities to defend their rights and demands, and is
supported by a legitimate outward representation. Contemporary autonomous indigenous governments
are far from the stereotypes of autarchy that their adversaries predicted as inherent
to this phenomena. On the contrary, as is observed in many Latin
American countries, the irruption of indigenous peoples into the
political events of their respective nations is an undeniable reality. The processes propose substantial changes
in the very nature of these nations as pluri-national, pluri-ethnic, pluri-cultural
and pluri-linguistic entities, and reaffirm the indigenous as political subjects
with indisputable collective rights as peoples and nationalities. The autonomous Zapatista governments are
responsible for justice, for security, for education, for health and culture, and maintain their
authority at the community, municipal and regional levels, reaffirming the value
and importance of political practices that materialize in community assemblies, roles systems and rotation systems,
the tequio that is free work for the community, and in general, community obligations and
contributions. Let me tell you that the Zapatistas, the military
organization of the Zapatistas, removed all its professional soldiers from
the governments, expressing the desire that the governments were something of the civil
society and not from the organization. It is the first case in Latin America in which
the guerrillas do not take the power for themselves, on the other way they put the power in the people. They abandoned this representation. So this emphasizes the place and on the importance
of the articulation and interaction of indigenous communities and municipalities
for the exercise of autonomy at the regional level, as guaranteed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
and also, in the San Andrés Agreements of 1996 — that was an agreement between the federal government and the Zapatistas movement. The Latautonomy project maintains
one of the hypotheses — we work with ten hypotheses and I’m not
going to tire with the details but this hypothesis — the hypothesis of the network says: the sustainability of an autonomous system
depends on its ability to link the level of local communities with a regional
structure in a horizontal and interactive manner. Through a process of integration from below,
political (self-government) and participatory economic structures must be
created that are articulated both inwardly in the multicultural autonomies and outwardly,
generating an alternative society project. This hypothesis is against any ethnocentric
localism and against the hierarchical representations that prevent the development of participatory
mechanisms in political decision-making. Equally, the hypothesis of balance of the
Latautonomy Project affirms: “In an autonomic system, which is a social
process from which a new political subject emerges, there must be a balance between
the political-judicial dimension, the cultural-intercultural dimension and the economic-ecological dimension. If an autonomic process is lacking in any
of these dimensions (or overreaching in another), there is a risk of external actors (national State,
landowners, transnational companies, etc.) penetrating the system, subverting it from within and destroying the process.” So this is the hypothesis of balance. To think of autonomous governments and their
relationship with Latin American nation-states also implies, for indigenous and
non-indigenous movements, a theoretical and political responsibility
with a national and anti-capitalist resistance, in the case of Latin America,
to the hemispheric project that the United States and its allies, European
allies and local allies, intended to continue imposing on the continent
in the new expression of the globalization of capital. Latin America is being affected by projects,
agreements and regional programs of United States origin
such as ASPAN, the Colombia Plan, the Merida Initiative, the American Command
(the South Command and the North Command) and various free trade agreements,
as well as the corporate invasion, in its different economic, political, cultural,
military, economical modalities that form part of the new global configuration
that has brought with it transnational globalization and a huge obstacle
for the development of self-governments of indigenous peoples and citizenships. The so-called new world order that emerged,
among other factors, from the crisis of “real socialism” and Keynesian
economic models in capitalist countries, not only redefined the spheres of influence
and intervention between the countries of the north and the south
(formerly called developed and developing countries), but also between the countries of the north themselves. The European Union and its predecessor, the
European Economic Community, as well as the North America Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), emerged as paradigms of a new
regional restructuring of capital. This has undoubtedly modified, at least in
Latin America, the redefinition of the essence of the nation-states
involved. I think the national states do not disappear
at all, they change their role, today the role of the national state to be
the manager of capital, the representative of the corporations, like
in the case of Mexico, they represent for example the mining corporations,
Canadian mining corporations, Coca-cola and all these corporations, and
represent also the kind of organized corporations. Fundamental concept of the nation-states such
as sovereignty and independence have been placed on tenterhooks by the current
economic model, and indigenous peoples are contributing to
envisioning transformations and effective forms of defense of national
sovereignties. It’s a paradoxical situation in which the
Indian movements are the ones who are defending sovereignty and independence
because they fight against the American corporations. Thus, the scope and role of autonomous governments
in Latin American countries have also been affected by this global reconfiguration
of capital and its borders. In fact, the coordinates, through which current
discussions about autonomous governments must traverse,
analyze how the hemispheric domination project of the United States
–– first in its Obama and now Trump variants –– intends to obstruct and even annihilate, destroy the existence of these governments
as possible expressions of cultural, political, economic and administrative resistance. Even the intelligent organism considered the
indigenous as enemies of the United States, as you can see in global trends that formulate
what are the threats for the national American interests,
and they put the Indian movements between the enemies of the national security of the
United States. Nonetheless, in the case of Mexico, the struggle
for autonomous governments is part of a national project that has been
developing over many decades of extortion, misery and discrimination against indigenous peoples. These self-governments are part of a national
project, in which the autonomous subjects have sought integration with other sectors
of Mexican society. Specifically, the Zapatistas camp has addressed
students, peasants, workers, housewives, intellectuals, small entrepreneurs, wage earners,
professionals of all races, all religions, and all ethnic groups to form a different
nation where, as they say, “All worlds fit.” They do not vindicate self-determination to
give continuity to the structural marginalization with colonial and functional roots in the
neoliberal globalization. The demands of self-government and
self-determination are ways to achieve greater democracy, gender equality, to fight
discrimination, to become integrated into an equitable market where indigenous peoples
can freely sell their products and where they are considered citizens and
recognized as political subjects able to participate in national processes. Consequently, autonomous governments are the
expression of an alternative rethinking of national forms imposed from above by oligarchic
groups based on integrationism-assimilationism or on differentialism-segregationism, which
constituted equally provocative ethnocide policies and the denial of citizen rights to groups of indigenous peoples and communities. In this way, self-governments are
processes of democratization, national articulation and political coexistence – from below –
between heterogeneous groups in their ethnic-linguistic-cultural composition. Because of its anti-systemic nature and the
indigenous presence in territories coveted by the capital, in addition to the
characteristics of current globalization, self-governments directly or indirectly confront
the State, its institutions and repressive forces, its
counterinsurgent strategies; the political, ideological, military and intelligence
structures of imperialism; its economic corporations, including organized
crime, which seeks to open territories, occupy them, appropriate their cultural, natural
and strategic resources; and religious dominations, parties and political
mechanisms aimed at penetrating, mediating and destroying self-governments and
collective forms of decision and organization. Hence, the precariousness and constant struggle
to survive and develop, to extend its levels of intra-community, municipal,
regional and national articulation, as well as to expand the areas of international
resistance, solidarity and coordination, are characteristics of this process. It should also be noted that these autonomies
do not establish a regime or a new level of government in all cases
(with the exception of Nicaragua which the Constitution recognize this regime). They do not create corporate rights or privileges
or reservations. Nor do they identify autonomous territories
or an administrative division of specific territories in the national geography,
as in the cases of Nicaragua or the Spanish State. In the case of Mexico, specifically, the San
Andrés agreements recognize the right of the people to autonomy within
the framework of the Mexican State, and consequently,
establish the internal competencies of the indigenous authorities,
their obligations in the exercise of their competencies,
and the shared and/or exclusive obligations of the federal, state and municipal governments. However, the legal framework does not recognize
the communitary and regional levels of government. The forms of political organization of direct
democracy and self-governments arising from indigenous autonomic processes
cannot be applied as a formula for organizing national society and the State
in its multiple spheres and complexities. However, it is precisely the absence of society
and the laborer in the exercise of power and state control,
which characterized and, in part, quashed the experience of real socialism. In highlighting the participation of all the
people in local, municipal and zonal governments or Good Government Councils, as, for example,
in the case of the Zapatistas, the intention is not to generalize or idealize
these forms of self-government given their limitations and the obstacles
imposed by the counterinsurgency and the advancement of neoliberal expropriation. However, its existence in the Zapatista spaces
is a reality that must prompt an analysis to conceive forms of citizen and popular organization
and participation that can substitute the bureaucratic machinery
that ignores the mandates of the majority. In this sense, how detrimental can it be in
the struggle for the construction of socialism to defend self-organization and highlight
solidarity and communitarian values? In the case of the Zapatista, Maya Zapatistas
in particular, no apology is given for their experience nor is it proposed as a “model to follow” in the edification of the current and future
society. Indigenous self-governments do not ignore
the State nor the power that it exerts based on the monopoly of violence legalized by the legal framework “legitimized” by a class hegemony. This is the Handover. The text was written by the Subcomandante
Marcos when he died, metaphorically speaking, and he was reborn with the name of Galeano. He said what are the changes in these twenty
years that have the Zapatistas and he said that there are multiple and complex
handovers in the Zapatistas. Some as a result of the most obvious reason:
the generational. You can see in the pictures all are young,
many of them were born when the Zapatistas revolted. Now those who were very young or were born
during the uprising are the ones who are fighting and leading
the resistance. But some researchers have not noticed the
other handovers: those of class: from the enlightened middle class,
to the indigenous peasant; that means that the Meztizo middle class leadership
of the Zapatista changed and now the director of the military organization
is an indigenous and not Marcos or Galeano; and the most important: the handover of thought: from the revolutionary vanguardismo of
leading by obeying; from the taking over of power,
to the creation of power at the bottom; from professional politics, to daily politics; from the leaders, to the people; from the marginalization of gender,
to the direct participation of women; from the mockery of the other,
to the celebration of differences. It is our conviction and our practice that
we do not need leaders or warlords or messiahs or saviours to rebel and fight; we need only a bit of shame, a bit of dignity
and a lot of organization. And instead of dedicating ourselves
— Marcos said or Galeano said — to forming guerillas, soldiers and squadrons,
we prepare education and health promoters and we begin to build the bases of an autonomy
that amazes the world today. Thank you very much.

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