The Time Has Come for Power from Below

CNI: “The Time Has Come to Dismantle Power”

By Gilberto López y Rivas

As always, the important comunicado of the National Indigenous Congress and the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (CNI–EZLN), “The time has come,” dated last May 28, went unperceived in the large communications media and particularly among the political class. Immersed in the State elections, as predictable in their fraudulent results as the frustration of those who vote in good faith, confident that “now yes, there could at least be an change,” the media as well as the politicians ignore or make invisible any reference to the resistances e political initiatives of the indigenous peoples. The autism and ego-centrism of the political class goes together with the obedience to the power of the media analysts.

María de Jesús Patricio, spokeswoman for the Indigenous Government Council for Mexico.

In their document, the CNI–EZLN announces the broad representation of indigenous peoples, communities, nations and tribes present in the constitutive assembly of the Indigenous Government Council: Apache, Amuzgo, Chatino, Chichimeca, Chinanteco, Chol, Chontal de Oaxaca, Chontal de Tabasco, Coca, Cuicateco, Mestizo, Hñähñü, Ñathö, Ñuhhü, Ikoots, Kumiai, Lakota, Mam, Matlazinca, Maya, Mayo, Mazahua, Mazateco, Me`phaa, Mixe, Mixe-Popoluca, Mixteco, Mochó, Nahua or Mexicano, Nayeri, Popoluca, Purépecha, Q´anjob´al, Rarámuri, Tének, Tepehua, Tlahuica, Tohono Odham, Tojolabal, Totonaco, Triqui, Tseltal, Tsotsil, Wixárika, Xi´iuy, Yaqui, Binniza, Zoque, Akimel O´otham and Comkaac.

The document describes in depth the capitalist full-spectrum war against the peoples throughout national territory, and the time of violence, fear, mourning and rage that is experienced, ever since: “the political class has persisted in making the State a corporation that sells the land that belongs to the original peoples, campesinos, city folk; that sells it to people as if they were merchandise that are killed and buried like raw material for the drug cartels, to sell them to the capitalist companies that exploit them until they get sick or die, for selling them in parts for the illegal organ market. The pain of the relatives of the disappeared and their decision to find their loved ones despite the fact that the governments are persistent in not finding them because by looking for them, the rot that governs this country is also appearing. That is the destiny that those above construct for us, bent on the destruction of the social fabric, of what makes us know peoples, nations, tribes, barrios, colonias, even families, it keeps us isolated and alone in our grief, while they consolidate the appropriation of entire territories, in the mountains, the valleys, the coasts and in the cities.”

Contrary to the political class that participates in electoral processes as if they were taking place in a Swiss Canton, the comunicado emphasizes: “the destruction that we have not only denounced, but also faced for 20 years and that evolve in the better part of the country into an open war waged by criminal corporations that act in brazen complicity with all the organs of the bad government, with all the political parties and institutions. All of them configure the power of above and are a cause of repugnance for millions of Mexicans of the countryside and the cities. In the midst of that repugnance they continue telling us to vote, to believe in the power of above, which continues drawing and imposing our destiny. In that direction, we only see a war that grows and on the horizon is death and the destruction of our lands, our families, our life; it is an absolute certainty that it will get worse, much worse, for everyone, for everyone.”

They reiterate that: “only in resistance and rebellion have we found the possible paths whereby we will be able to continue living, and that in them are the keys not only for surviving the war of money against humanity and against our Mother Earth, but also for being reborn together with every seed that we sow, with each dream and with each hope that is materializing in large regions in autonomous forms of security, of communication, of governments appropriate for protection and defense of territories. Therefore, there is no other path possible than the one being walked below, because above is not our path, it is theirs and we disturb them.”

The CNI–EZLN has decided “not to wait for the disaster that the capitalist killers that govern undoubtedly bring us, but rather to go on the offensive and make that hope an Indigenous Government Council for Mexico that bets on life from below and to the anticapitalist left, which will be lay and that answers to the seven principles of govern by obeying as our moral guaranty (…) we seek to snatch the destiny that they have taken away from us and, unfortunately, we seek to dismantle that rotten power that is killing our peoples and Mother Earth and the only cracks that we have encountered and that have been liberating consciences and territories, giving consolation and hope are in resistance and rebellion.”

The CNI–EZLN calls “to organize ourselves in all the corners of the country, para gather necessary elements so that the Indigenous Government Council and our spokesperson is registered as an independent candidate to the presidency of this country and yes, spoiling their party based on our death and making our own based on dignity, organization and the construction of a new country and of a new world.”

They call “to all sectors of society to be attentive to the steps the Indigenous Government Council is agreeing on and defining through our spokesperson to not surrender, not sell out, not to deviate or rest, to go carving the arrow that will carry the offensive of all the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, organized and non-organized in order to aim it at the real enemy.”

It’s clear that the time has come for constructing power from below and to the left; a power that governs by obeying starting with the seven principles: to serve and not serve yourself, to represent and not supplant, to construct and not destroy, to obey and not order, to propose and not impose, to convince and not conquer, to step down and not up.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

The Powers from Below

By Raúl Zibechi

In recent decades the political culture of the left converted elections into the principal barometer of its success or failure, of advances or setbacks. In fact, the electoral conjuncture became the axis of political action of the lefts, in most of the world.

A new political reality, since not so distant times the electoral question occupied one part of the energies and was considered a complement to the main work, which revolved around organizing the popular sectors.

What’s certain is that electoral participation was articulated as the first step in the integration into the institutions of the political system (capitalist). That process destroyed popular organizing, weakening to the extreme the ability of those below to directly resist (not through their representatives) systemic oppression.

With the years, politics from below began to turn on what the leaders decided and did. A small group of deputies and senators, assisted by dozens of functionaries paid with public monies, were displacing la participation of grass roots militants.

In my country, Uruguay, the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) achieved having before the 1973 State coup more than 500 grassroots committees just in Montevideo. There, militants gathered from the different parties that made up the coalition, but also independents and neighbors. In the first elections in which it participated (1971), one of every three or four voters was organized in those committees.

Now the reality is that almost no grassroots committees exist and everything is decided at the top, made up of people that have made a career in state institutions. Only a fistful of committees reactivated during the electoral campaign, to later be submerged in a long nap until the next election.

In parallel, the institutionalization of the lefts and of the popular movements –added to the centrality of electoral participation– ended up dispersing the popular powers that those below had erected with such determination and that were the key vault of the resistances.

In the debate over elections I believe that it’s necessary to distinguish three completely different attitudes, or strategies.

Immanuel Wallerstein has defended the first one for some time: the popular sectors must protect themselves during the systemic storm in order to survive. In that sense, he proposes that reaching the government through legal means, as well as progressive social policies, can help the popular camp both to limit the damages resulting from conservative offenses and to avoid that ultra-right forces take state power.

This point of view seems reasonable, although I don’t agree, since I consider the social policies linked to “fighting poverty” as forms of counterinsurgency, based on the experience that exists in the Southern Cone of the continent. At the same time, reaching government office almost always implies administering the policies of the IMF and the World Bank. Who today remembers the experience the Greek Syriza? What consequences do we get from a government that promised the opposite?

It’s evident that being focused on that such and so leader committed “treason,” leads the debate to a dead end street, except that one thinks that things would have gone another way with different leaders. It isn’t only about errors; it’s the system.

The second attitude is hegemonic among the global lefts. The strategy would be more or less like this: there is no organized social base; the movements are very weak and almost non-existent, so that the only way to modify the so-called “correlation of forces” is to try to arrive in the government. This situation has proven to be fatal, even in case the lefts succeed in winning, as happened in Greece and Italy (if the remains of the Communist Party can be called the left).

The case is different in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia. When Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez arrived in government through electoral means, powerful movements existed, organized and mobilized, especially in the first case. However, once in government they decided to strengthen the state apparatus and, therefore, they undertook actions to weaken the movements.

They are the most “advanced” state experiences, but today no autonomous anti-systemic movements exist in either country that maintain those governments. Those who support them, with exceptions, are social organizations coopted or created from above. On this point I propose distinguishing between movements (anchored in grassroots militancy) and organizations (bureaucracies financed by the States).

A variant of this attitude are those movements that, at a certain time, decide to enter into the electoral terrain. More often than not, and I believe that Mexico has a long experience in this direction, over the years the bases of the movements weaken, while the leaders end up imbedded in the state apparatus.

The third orientation is what the Indigenous Government Council impels, which in my opinion consists of taking advantage of the electoral process to connect with the popular sectors, for the purpose of impelling self-organization. They have said: it’s not about votes, much less positions, but rather about deepening efforts to change the world.

It seems evident to me that it’s not about an electoral campaign, or that Zapatismo has taken an electoral turn. It’s a proposal –that’s how I understand it and I can be wrong– that seeks to continue to construct in a situation of internal war, of genocide against those below, like that which Mexico has lived for almost a decade.

We’re dealing with a tactic that brings back the 20th century revolutionary experience for confronting the current storm, not using the weapons that the system offers us (polls and votes), but rather with their own weapons, like the organization of those below.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee