Establishing Civil Organizations for Whole Community Engagement

How to catalyze the shift to a sustainable, ethics-based, and genuinely democratic global civilization? How to inspire and facilitate the active engagement of the global community in realizing the world of common aspiration?

We present below a variety of initiatives, tactics and working models for local community self-empowerment, self-education and self-organization from around the world.

Please note that the Earth Holocracy Proposal advocates the grassroots establishment of “Holocratic People’s Assemblies” to the immediate purpose. Please see Volume Four: The Holocratic Circle – which presents the proposal’s advocated organizational model for an authentic “democratization” of society – that is, for establishing a decentralized socio-politico-economic system that is transparent, participatory, ethics-based and fundamentally egalitarian.

SPREADING PUBLIC AWARENESS and INSPIRING EFFECTIVE WHOLE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

The Example of New World Summit
Creating inspiring Public Spaces for “Alternative Parliaments”

The vision and work of New World Summit provides an inspiring model for the creation of “Alternative Parliaments”. The answers provided by NWS founder, Jonas Staal, regarding the parliament being built at the time (late 2015) in Rojava, well illustrate the organization’s approach:

Why is the New World Summit an “artistic and political organization”?

Our organization consists of artists, designers, architects and philosophers. We believe that the force of art is that of the imagination – the imaginary. To engage the ideals of a new world, we need an imagination of what that world is or could be like. New revolutionary models and practices… create the possibilities for new symbols and structures of representation. That is what art can bring to politics. As such, we have collaborated with local artists, writers and thinkers of Rojava to develop this parliament. For us, it is as much a political as an artistic gesture; the parliament takes an artistic, monumental form, but also has a direct political use: this parliament is a space where the revolutionary imaginary of art and politics co-exist.

New World Summit Editorial Staff in Kurdistan, November 20, 2015, A Parliament for the Kurdish Revolution in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava)

The Example of Madrid

In the ‘Quick Guide on Group Dynamics in People’s Assemblies’, the Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp, Madrid, specifies the types of Assembly that the M15 / Real Democracy Movement in Madrid had thus far created and used – these being:

“Working Group Assemblies, Commission Assemblies, Local Assemblies (in neighborhoods, villages and towns), General Assemblies of the Puerta de Sol Protest Camp and General Assemblies of Madrid (Puerta del Sol plus neighborhoods, villages and towns). These latter (General) Assemblies are the final deliberative or deciding bodies from which the consensuses are decided in order to articulate the different lines of Joint Action for the 15th May Movement in each city.”
Commission for Group Dynamics in Assemblies of the Puerta del Sol Protest Camp (Madrid), July 31, 2011, ‘Quick Guide on Group Dynamics in People’s Assemblies’

Occupy Wall Street Peoples Assembly

On September 17, 2011, people from all across the United States of America and the world came to protest the blatant injustices of our times perpetuated by the economic and political elites. On the 17th we as individuals rose up against political disenfranchisement and social and economic injustice. We spoke out, resisted, and successfully occupied Wall Street.

We are the 99% and we have moved to reclaim our mortgaged future.

Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted… principles of solidarity, which [include] engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy, and exercising personal and collective responsibility.

We are daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality.

‘Principles of Solidarity’, Crafted by the Working Group on Principles of Consolidation and endorsed by the New York City General Assembly on September 23rd, 2011

Manchester PA Endorses Participatory Democracy Resolution

The following motion, drafted by an Occupier in Manchester and accepted by the Manchester Peoples Assembly in January, 2014, exemplifies the spread of the idea:

MOTION TITLE:

The People’s Assembly should exercise Participatory Democracy

This conference believes:

People feel increasing disenfranchised from our political system where they feel their vote does not count and their voice is not heard.
People feel that politicians do not make decisions in the interest and well being of the people and the planet. Instead protecting the wealth and power of their friends and corporations.
The current centralized ‘system’ is undemocratic and a major factor in how those in power are able to operate.
There is an alternative, participatory democracy. The case for this is based a new way of doing politics as exemplified by Occupy & 15M.
The People’s Assembly has an opportunity to lead by example and use it as a way to strengthen and grow the movement and foster a wider engagement with politics.

This conference resolves:

To work towards incorporating participatory democracy and consensus decision-making across the PAAA.
To work towards a decentralized structure.
To establish a working group to look at the implementation of participatory democracy across the PAAA.

The “movement of movements” that this site’s Vital Conversations are held to further is a movement aimed at achieving sustainability and establishing real democracy – that is, a new, decentralized system founded upon active citizenship and local self determination.

This Conversation is about how to inspire and facilitate whole community engagement in achieving its own self-organization? As always with this site’s conversations, we are not just brainstorming out of thin air here: not at all. For this conversation, we have a bounty of inspiring examples to guide us. The Earth Holocracy Proposal’s Volume Three presents a number of the world’s currently operating participatory democracies, exploring successes, challenges, lessons, and the fruits of radical democratization.

To seed this conversation, we reproduce below extracts from Volume Three: People’s Assemblies and the era of Direct Democracy

Learning by Example

The following quotes are extracted from various articles contained within the Earth Holocracy Proposal’s Volume Three: People’s Assemblies and the Era of Direct Democracy.

Learning from Venezuela

Note. Despite the propaganda bellowings and viscious ‘economic warfare’ waged by neoliberal apologists against Venezuela aimed at ‘breaking the back’ of popular support for pursuing an alternative to neoliberalism, the massive public turn-out of 8 million Venezuelan voters in support of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) on July 30, 2017, (41% of the electorate and the largest turn-out on record) loudly dispels neoliberal claims that the democratic ideals of Venezuela’s “Chavismo” had lost their grassroots popularity and appeal.

GREEN LEFT WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH MARTA HARNECKER:

The government of Hugo Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, helped lead the Bolivarian revolutionary process that made impressive social gains by redistributing oil wealth and promoting participatory democracy. Since Chavez’s death in 2013, the Bolivarian government led by President Nicolas Maduro has faced mounting problems. Marta Harnecker is a Chilean-born socialist activist who has worked in Venezuela as an advisor to Chavez and has experienced the revolution firsthand. Below, she looks at the context of Venezuela’s problems and assesses the role of the economic war and government mistakes.

– MARTA HARNECKER:

When Chavez triumphed in the presidential elections of 1998, the neoliberal capitalist model was already falling apart. The dilemma was to either reform the neoliberal capitalist model, with changes such as a greater concern for social issues, but still oriented towards the same profit seeking motive, or to seek to build another model.

Chavez chose the latter option. He decided to rescue the word socialism, despite its historical negative connotations. He called it socialism of the 21st century to differentiate it from the Soviet socialism of the 20th century. He warned it must not “make the same errors of the past”; the “Stalinist deviation” that had bureaucratised the Soviet Union or the “state capitalism” that emphasised state property and not the participation of the workers in directing enterprises.

Chavez conceived of socialism as an economic system centred on the human being and not profit, with a diverse, anti-consumerist culture. Such socialism would be endowed with a real and profound democracy, where the people assume an active role.

This characteristic distances it from other proposals for democratic socialism. For Chavez, the participation of the people in all spheres was what would allow them to develop as human beings.

However, this would have remained as mere words had he not promoted the creation of adequate spaces where participatory processes could develop. That is why his initiative to create the communal councils (small self-managed territories), the workers’ councils, the student councils and the campesino rural workers councils was so important. These sought to progressively build a genuine collective structure that could create a new form of decentralised state, with the communes as its fundamental cells.

Chavez sought to win the people’s hearts and minds to the new project for society. He was clear that this objective would not be achieved through words, but practice: by creating opportunities for people to progressively deepen their knowledge of the project through their participation in building it.

This is why he warned: “Beware of sectarianism, there are people … who don’t participate in politics, that don’t belong to any party, well, that doesn’t matter, welcome aboard. In fact, if anyone from the opposition lives there, call them up. Let them work and be useful. The homeland belongs to everyone, it is necessary to open up spaces for people, and you yourselves will see how people start to transform themselves through their practice…”

One of the historic achievements of the Bolivarian revolutionary process was to call a Constituent Assembly and approve a new constitution that changed the rules of the political game, putting obstacles in the way of neoliberalism. It opposed the large-landed estates and the privatisation of Venezuela’s state oil company, in favour of the small-scale fisher-people weakened by transnational fishing companies and the propagation of micro-credit cooperatives. It opposed the privatisation of education in favour of free education, and opposed the privatisation of social security.

The constitution also advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples, the right to free access to information, and defends a participatory model.

For Chavez, the art of politics was to make the impossible possible, but not through sheer voluntarism. By taking reality as his starting point, he sought to create the conditions for changing reality itself, through building a correlation of forces favourable for change.
Chavez understood that to make possible what seemed impossible, it was also necessary to alter the correlation of forces internationally.

He worked to achieve this, understanding that agreements among the top leadership were insufficient for building political strength and that the main goal was to build social strength.

… it is clear that there are opposing interests between the different sectors of Venezuelan capitalists and that is reflected politically. … there are sectors with whom it would be possible to reach an agreement if the correct tactics were used — [with] those who are prepared to prioritise the interests of the country.

We should be skilful… to advance a coherent process of dialogue… to search for solutions…

We need to analyse what we did not do well and what we should not repeat. Many errors are understandable, given that there were no ready-made models and it was necessary “to invent in order not to err” — as Simon Rodriguez, the tutor of South American liberation hero Simon Bolivar, used to say.

Venezuela’s revolutionary process was the start of a cycle of change in Latin America. It was the rebirth of hope, it was governing to resolve the problems of the disadvantaged, understanding that it is impossible to resolve the problem of poverty without giving power to the poor.

To conclude, I believe we can be optimistic. Without a doubt, what Chavez sowed has marked his people, the revolution has made them mature, as I can testify from the years I lived in the country. I believe that people given the chance to study, think, participate, build and make decisions, who grew enormously in their self-esteem and matured as human beings, will defend the process.

We should measure the Venezuelan revolutionary process, not by the transformational measures adopted — of which there are many — but rather by the growth of the revolutionary subject. The process may have committed errors and have many weaknesses, but what Chavez achieved with his people, that is something nobody can ever erase.

Marta Harnecker, Monday, December 5, 2016, Venezuela: Economic war or government errors? Translated by Rachael Boothroyd, abridged from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Chilean scholar Marta Harnecker – talking Marxism, Venezuela and the Latin American Left with Greek journalist Tassos Tsakiroglou during her early 2017 visit to Athens – raised key issues:

Neoliberalism and its horror – the extension of hunger and misery, increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, destruction of nature, increasing loss of sovereignty – created a situation where people reacted, resisting at first and then going on the offensive to make possible the election of left-wing presidential candidate with anti-neoliberal programs.

What Chavez sowed has marked many people from the popular sectors and it has made them mature, as I could testify in person during the years I lived in Venezuela.

I believe that all those people who were given the opportunity to study, to think, to participate, to build, and to make decisions, that grew enormously in their self-esteem and matured as human beings, will defend the process.

The process may have committed errors… but nobody can deny that a new revolutionary subject has been created in Venezuela.

Marta Harnecker, in dialogue, February 1, 2017, “A New Revolutionary Subject has Been Created in Venezuela”, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Learning from Bunge la Mwananchi – The People’s Parliaments in Kenya

MR. KIPTOO JOHN, PRESIDENT, BUNGE LA MWANANCHI:

In the heart of Nairobi, members of Bunge la Mwananchi, which means “the people’s parliament” in Swahili, meet routinely/almost religiously every day.

Bunge la Mwananchi – one of the most vocal grassroots organizations in Nairobi and across Kenya, having managed to establish Peoples Assemblies across every major town in all 47 counties across the country – is a grand idea/ideology built on the theory of people’s power, self-organizing, and giving voice and visibility to the People. The main goal of the movement is to transform the lives of the many ordinary poor Kenyans by redefining the agenda and body politic of the nation. This is achieved by making claim to article 1 of the constitution which states that; All sovereign authority belong to the people of Kenya….and through this constitutional provision the movement further makes claim to the Bill of rights …The Right to freedom of expression and the Right to freedom of Assembly to create discussion/debate platforms or spaces where Kenyans can come together regularly to dialogue around their “real life challenges”, investigate their interconnection to government or global policies and political accountability; and consolidate their power to push for change.
Mr. Kiptoo John, President, Bunge La Mwananchi

Learning from Rojava’s Experience

GREEN LEFT WEEKLY – INTERVIEW WITH HAWZHIN AZZEZ:

In Rojava, a profoundly democratic and revolutionary experiment is underway. A multi-ethnic, feminist and socialist-oriented society is being built from the ground up, organised around communes and other bodies of participatory democracy.

The experiment began with an insurrection in 2012 that freed the area from the Assad regime and established a “liberated zone”. Rojava’s revolutionary forces have also fought off the genocidal terror gangs of ISIS to survive as a democratic model and inspiration for the war-torn region.

Hawzhin Azeez is member of Kobane Reconstruction Board in the largely Kurdish area of northern Syria and a former politics lecturer at Newcastle university.

Jacob Andrewartha and Zane Alcorn, from 3CR’s Green Left Radio show, spoke to Azeez on August 12 about the revolution’s gains and how to support Rojava’s reconstruction.

Can you give us the background on what’s happening in Rojava and the Kurdish revolution?

In northern Syria, which is a strip of Kurdistan we call Rojava, we were attacked by ISIS — who we call Daesh — and so the Kurdish people were forced to defend themselves against these invading forces.

As a result, we created the Peoples Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). We also had to discuss a lot of things about how to coexist with one another, because northern Syria is actually really multicultural. We have so many different ethnic and religious groups.

So in this process, we’ve been trying to build a radical democracy, a democracy based on three major ideas. The first is that we want to be multicultural and democratic. Secondly, we want to have a gender liberated society where men and women are equal — a very radical idea for the Middle East. Thirdly, we want an ecologically sound society.

So what we’ve been trying to do since the 2011 uprising [across Syria against the Assad regime] and the civil war is try to engage in this democratisation process in north Syria. We’ve faced a lot of challenges but at the same time we’ve actually achieved a lot of successes.

I have had the pleasure of being in [Rojavan city of] Kobane for about nine months helping with its rebuilding after ISIS attacked it. There are different communes, cooperatives, neighborhood and city councils, which are being formed in order to create the forms for radical democracy.

This sort of democracy is very much based on the idea of reducing the power and influence of the state. It brings democracy back down to the grassroots level, where you try to democratise society and community and get the community to actually make the decisions for themselves.

This process involves a lot of education about civic responsibilities, what freedom actually means and involves, and about genuine democracy. So it’s an incredible revolution at the moment that’s happening in northern Syria, it’s absolutely brilliant.

Green Left Weekly, August 21, 2016, ‘Rojava sets democratic revolutionary example’ – interview with Hawzhin Azeez’

RAHILA GUPTA:

For the purpose of raising awareness of their ideas in the general population, Kongira Star carries on a tradition of the ‘comrades’ of PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) immersing themselves into the community. Both men and women go from house to house, spending one night in each home…

In less than four years, the women’s umbrella organisation, Kongira Star, has set up an autonomous, grassroots, democratic structure…

Kongira Star’s organisational network is deeply embedded across Rojavan society although they were only formally established in 2012. Their structure mirrors the Tev-Dem, the Movement for a Democratic Society, which includes all ethnicities and religions, and is an exercise in direct grassroots democracy.

At the neighbourhood level, they have set up communes ranging in size from 7 to 300 families depending on whether they are based in villages or cities. All the members elect a man and a woman under the co-presidentship rule to manage the work and to represent their interests at the next level, the House of the People (Mala Gel), a kind of regional council. The commune also elects members of specialist committees like health, education, services or conflict resolution which will be led by co-presidents. The same structure is reflected in the next level up in city assemblies. Only problems that cannot be resolved at commune level make their way up the structure.

Rahila Gupta, 26 April 2016, Rojava revolution: It’s raining women

Green Left Weekly in Interview with Hawzhin Azeez:

It has been described as a feminist revolution, can you tell us a bit about the sort of changes that are occurring in Rojava?

Rojava really came to international attention when it was defending itself in 2014 against the invading ISIS terrorists. It really came to attention because of the Kurdish women who were picking up guns and going to the front lines. They have formed their own military units and were defending themselves very, very successfully against ISIS — a well-armed terrorist group.

But this feminist revolution is actually more than a military thing. It means more than just women picking up guns and defending themselves and their community.

What it really means is a revolution in the way that society is organised, a revolution in the way we understand freedom, a revolution in the way we understand gender equality and relations.

When I was in Kobane, there was the Kongira Star, which is an umbrella women’s group that was really engaging a lot of education, actively trying to educate society, men and women, about their relationships with one another and their roles within society. What they’ve tried to do is bring women out of the private sphere, out of the home, and into the public area.

So we have women in all areas of public and political administration. In every place, every political party, organisation, NGO and civil society group, we have a gender quota which is at 40% women. We also have the co-chair system, which means that we have to have one male and one female in positions of authority, so that it’s not just men dominating all the time.

Like in the Western world it has been very difficult for a woman get into positions of power. So we are really reordering and restructuring society and women are actively taking part in the revolution, actively taking part in reorganisation of the society.

Women are at the forefront of this revolution on the social, political and economic level. Women are creating the cooperatives and communes that are the backbone of the economy and this new society. The women are leading the way.

You talk about the democratisation of Rojava. Considering you are from Australia yourself, I’d like to know how does Rojava differ from say, the liberal democracy we have in Australia right now? How have things been done in Rojava compared to Australia or other liberal democracies?

That’s actually a really good question. The difference is that when we live in the Western world, there is a propaganda process that encourages apathy towards the political process. There is this idea that being involved, being political, being an activist, is a really lowly thing to do.

Why would you want to do that when you have this incredibly wealthy rich country where you can go and be wealthy, make money and be apathetic and ignorant of the political processes? In Australia, we are not encouraged to be more humane, not encouraged to learn about what is going on in Syria, Turkey, Africa, Asia, in places and in countries and in groups and people that have no impact on us.

Rojava, on the other hand, encourages democratisation at the local level. What that means in practice is that at the street level we have councils, every couple of streets, you have one council. Then let’s imagine in a neighbourhood there’s 20 of these small councils, they come together and they have one neighbourhood-level council. Then in a city like Kobane, a rather small city, there’s about 14 neighbourhood councils. All the local neighbourhood councils come together and form the city council.

So, it is levels and layers of democratisation. It is not about having an election once every four years where you’re encouraged to vote for one of two political parties that have similar political ideologies that make absolutely no difference. No, it encourages people to be part of making decisions. People are making daily decisions about their community, their lives, the policy and decisions that impact them.

But this is not an easy process. Parallel to this we have a reorganisation of society through education. There is education happening at all levels. At the school levels, we have 89-year-olds going to these education classes to learn about what democracy means, learning about their civic responsibility. We have everybody engaging in learning what their responsibilities are, what it really means to live democratically and what they actually have to do, and this is an important thing.

To live democratically, to live freely, it involves responsibility, it means acting, it means being knowledgeable. It means if I am going to live in a free society, I actually have to do something contrary to other so-called democracies where there is always a centralisation of authority and power at the government level.

So in a place like Turkey, for example, the Erdogan government is centralising more and more power and authority in the hands of a few political elites. This is the complete opposite of our radical democracy, where we encourage everybody in the community to contribute to the decision-making processes in their communities.

This is why it is a truly radical, truly new democratic system in Rojava.

Green Left Weekly, ‘Rojava sets democratic revolutionary example, Interview with Hawzhin Azeez, August 21, 2016

GREEN LEFT WEEKLY – INTERVIEW WITH SALEH MUSLIM MOHAMED:

Saleh Muslim Mohamed is co-president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), representing the independent communities of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and its armed wings, the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ).

Saleh Muslim Mohamed speaks with Jonas Staal about the fight of Rojava against the Islamic State (IS) and the development of democratic autonomy during the Rojava revolution.
– SALEH MUSLIM MOHAMED:

We have created, in the middle of the civil war in Syria, three independent cantons in the Rojava region that function by democratic, autonomous rule.

Together with the ethnic and religious minorities of the region – Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians, Christians, Kurds – we have written a collective political structure for these autonomous cantons: our social contract.

We have established a people’s council including 101 representatives from all cooperatives, committees and assemblies running each of our cantons.

And we established a model of co-presidency – each political entity always has both a female and a male president – and a quota of 40% gender representation in order to enforce gender equality throughout all forms of public life and political representation.

We have, in essence, developed a democracy without the state… Another way of referring to this concept of democratic confederalism or democratic autonomy is radical democracy: to mobilise people to organise themselves…

We are practicing this model of self-rule and self-organisation without the state as we speak. Other people will speak of self-rule in theory, but for us, this search for self-rule is our daily revolution.

Women, men, all strands of our society are now organised. The reason why Kobane still stands is because we have built these structures.

Democratic autonomy is about the long term. It is about people understanding and exercising their rights. To get society to become politicised: that is the core of building democratic autonomy.

In Europe, you will find a society that is not politicised. Political parties are only about persuasion and individual benefits, not about actual emancipation and politicisation. Real democracy is based on a politicised society.

If you now go to Kobane and you meet the fighters of the YPG and the YPJ you will find that they know exactly why they are fighting and what they are fighting for. They are not there for money or interests. They are there for elementary values, which they practise at the same time.

There is no difference between what they do and what they represent.

So how do you politicise a society to that level of political consciousness?

You have to educate, 24-hours-a-day, to learn how to discuss, to learn how to decide collectively. You have to reject the idea that you have to wait for some leader to come and tell the people what to do, and instead learn to exercise self-rule as a collective practice.

In dealing with daily matters that concern us all: these have to be explained, criticised and shared collectively. From the geopolitics of the region to basic humanitarian values, these matters are discussed communally. There has to be collective education so we know who we are, why we are facing certain enemies and what it is we are fighting for.

In a community that is at war and facing humanitarian crisis, who is the educator?

The peoples themselves educate each other. When you put 10 people together and ask them for a solution to a problem or propose them a question, they collectively look for an answer. I believe in this way they will find the right one. This collective discussion will make them politicised.

What you are describing as the heart of democratic autonomy is in essence the model of the assembly.

Yes, we have assemblies, committees; we have every possible structure to exercise self-rule throughout all strands of our society.

Democratic autonomy is not an idea to be realised in a day; it is an approach, a process that takes explaining, education: it’s a revolution that takes all of our lives.

Green Left Weekly, November 16, 2014, Rojava revolution pushes radical democracy – Jonas Staal in interview with Saleh Muslim Mohamed

Learning from the Example of the Zapatistas of the Mexican Chiapas

WIKIPEDIA, THE FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA – ON THE ZAPATISTA ARMY OF NATIONAL LIBERATION:

The Zapatistas – the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN [Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional] – was founded on November 17, 1983 in Chiapas, Mexico by indigenous and non-indigenous resistance movements. Over the years, the group slowly grew, building on social relations among the indigenous base and making use of an organizational infrastructure created by peasant organizations and Liberation theologians in the Mexican branches of the Catholic church.

The EZLN did not demand independence from Mexico, but rather autonomy in the forms of land access and use of natural resources normally extracted from Chiapas, as well as protection from despotic violence and political inclusion of Chiapas’ indigenous communities.

Ideology

The ideology of the Zapatista movement, Neozapatismo, synthesizes traditional Mayan practices with elements of libertarian socialism, anarchism and Marxism. The historical influence of Mexican Anarchists and various Latin American socialists is apparent in Neozapatismo.

The EZLN opposes economic globalization, arguing that it severely and negatively affects the peasant life of its indigenous support base and oppressed people worldwide.

Another key element of the Zapatistas’ ideology is their aspiration to do politics in a new, participatory way, from the “bottom up” instead of “top down”.

Since December 1994, the Zapatistas had been gradually forming several autonomous municipalities, called Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ). In these municipalities, an assembly of local representatives forms the Juntas de Buen Gobierno or Councils of Good Government (JBGs), would (although unrecognized by the federal or state governments) nonetheless oversee local community programs on food, health, education, and taxation.

Derived from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – on the Zapatistas

MEXICO-US SOLIDARITY NETWORK – ON ZAPATISMO:

Juntas of Good Government – extra-constitutional governing structures – carry out all the functions of local and regional constitutional governments… including economic decisions, law enforcement and an effective judiciary. An oversight committee watches for abuse of power. The Juntas govern under the mandate “mandar obedeciendo” (lead by obeying). They represent an experiment in devolution of power to the community level, and they are rapidly gaining the reputation among Zapatista and non-Zapatista communities alike for honest and transparent government.

The concept of autonomy is central to Zapatismo. Autonomy is understood as building a world in which all worlds have a place. It means respect for traditions and customs (usos y costumbres) with decentralization of power to the community level. A central element in the Zapatista concept of autonomy is the rejection of the “mal gobierno” (bad government), and this includes rejecting financial assistance from the government. However, the Zapatistas are adamant and patriotic about being Mexican, and have no desire to form an independent state.

The Zapatista project is constructed on three foundations: education, health care and collective development.

The education system centers around the training of indigenous education promoters who teach primary school in their native languages as well as Spanish.

Likewise, the health care system is centered around the training of indigenous health care promoters who practice a combination of western medicine and traditional healing. Regional clinics are situated in the Juntas of Good Government, while local clinics provide preventive and emergency care.

Economic development is built collectively using the cooperative model. Today the most important coops are found in coffee production and artisanry. Decisions in the coops are made by the members and income is distributed equitably, while international export is largely conducted through the fair trade market. cultures unique to Chiapas, the Zapatista movement offers inspiration for millions of people around the world who are building their own local alternatives to neoliberalism.

The Mexico-US Solidarity Network, Zapatismo

Learning from Catalonia

Green Left Weekly’s Dick Nichols and Denis Rogatyuk spoke to Quim Arrufat, a joint national spokesperson for the People’s Unity List (CUP), about the referendum and the broader struggle for Catalan independence. The CUP is a Catalan based organisation committed to independence and socialism.

DICK NICHOLS and DENIS ROGATYUK IN INTERVIEW WITH CUP SPOKESPERSON QUIM ARRUFAT:

So where is the democratic option for change?

The opportunity to build something different lies in Catalonia, where a majority exists based on the mix of people’s movements, nationalist movements and many other forces: this majority delegitimises the rule of Spanish state institutions.

We see here the opening of an historical opportunity, a chance for a decisive battle, that could be won or lost — it depends on whether we are active enough, able to build our own specific agenda within the independence process and able to create enough majorities for change. If not, we will end up with a neoliberal Catalonia…

Catalonia has 150,000 workers in cooperatives, with over 10,000 cooperatives based here, active and successful in many fields. Hence, the idea of building a mixed economic system based on a very strong public sector is possible in Catalonia.

Now, seeing their social and political support bases and activists demonstrating for independence, this bourgeoisie (the Catalan business community) has no other alternative but to say: “Let’s take this decision to be independent, otherwise in 20 years we will be the same as the bourgeoisie of Murcia”, namely with an economy fuelled by speculation and with no real productive capacity. The Catalan bourgeoisie has seen an end to their cooperation with the Spanish state, provoked by the actions of that state.

Dick Nichols and Denis Rogatyuk, August 26, 2017, Showdown in Catalonia, Green Left Weekly

GREEN LEFT WEEKLY:

In this interview conducted by Green Left Weekly’s Dick Nichols and Denis Rogatyuk, Quim Arrufat, spokesperson for the People’s Unity List (CUP), speaks about the origins and nature of the CUP and its relationship with the Catalan government.

What features of Catalan society gave rise to the CUP?

It has a lot to do with the political history of Catalonia, with its strong movements of anarchist and cooperativist tendencies, and grassroots social movements that have always defended a program of emancipation for Catalan society.

Over many years this tradition was not represented in official politics, but it has always existed in Catalan society. It always considered that being outside the parliament was much more effective than being inside elected institutions.

That stance allowed the traditional political parties to operate within the institutions while keeping the street and various networks as the space for the social movements to organise their demands — and in a very effective way.

However, with the beginning of the crisis in 2008 the whole political system started to break down. The legitimacy of the political parties came into question, such that many people and movements saw that there was a need to bring their message and their way of doing politics from the street into parliament.

The CUP was one of the political instruments that had been operating on a local basis, making it possible to combine the struggle on the street with the struggle in the institutions.

We in the CUP also worked to build up institutions of counter-power.

These included cultural centres, social centres, cooperatives, local alternative media etc.

Within the CUP, the practical experience of combining these struggles and the circumstances of the crisis convinced a majority of the people in the social movements of the need to break into the institutional scene. That is why the CUP is now in the Catalan parliament.
The CUP doesn’t consider itself part of the state. You have parties — political actors — that represent a part of society within the state, and you have the CUP, which is clearly coming from within society, with the goal of abolishing the capitalist state and creating another kind of democratic power.
Nor does the CUP consider itself to be permanently tied to parliament. We are there to drive further change at this particular political moment, but if we are not successful we will rethink what we are doing in the parliamentary arena.

The Catalan pro-independence left has historically been divided among many different currents. How did unity among them in the framework of the CUP come about?

The key was our local orientation. The current period of the CUP can be traced back to about 15 years ago, with the emergence of a new generation of militants who undertook to revive the municipalist project of the CUP, which had existed previously but was very weak. We consistently rejected the notion of building a national organisation until we’d accumulated some political power in the municipalities.

We sought to work together on practical matters to see how to manage power, how to manage social movements, how to organise people on a local basis, and only then build a national organisation.

Our method has allowed us to confront testing issues without creating serious splits and with less risk of division than in other organisations.
Meanwhile, at the local level, everyone is united, the project is working and growing, and this doesn’t depend on the leadership of the national organisation, even if there is some connection. If the national project of the CUP were one day destroyed because we became divided or lost elections, the local projects would be 100% secure and could survive without the national project.

Green Left Weekly, August 11, 2017, Inside Catalonia’s ‘urban Zapatistas’: An interview with People’s Unity List (CUP) spokesperson Quim Arrufat