New Internationalist

The diverse, the multiple, the different

Issue 400

A no-nonsense statement of resistance from the indigenous people of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Neither independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1821 nor the Revolution that began in 1910 spared the indigenous people of Mexico – numbering more than 10 million today – from continuing, often systematic, abuse. But their resistance has never been crushed. The Zapatista uprising in the southern state of Chiapas in 1994 served as an inspiration for indigenous communities elsewhere in the country and across Latin America.

More recently, in neighbouring Oaxaca, indigenous communities – more than a third of the population – have faced increased repression from a corrupt and discredited local state bureaucracy.

In May 2006 a teachers’ strike against low pay and a neglected education system led to the occupation of many public buildings and streets in the capital city, also called Oaxaca. By October, tens of thousands of supporters had come together under the umbrella of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), calling for the resignation of the despised Governor, Ulises Ruíz Ortíz. On 27 October paramilitary forces fired on a crowd of protesters, killing three. Two days later police and military used bulldozers, water cannon and teargas to retake the Town Hall. The death toll rose to more than a dozen. On 2 November, the date of Mexico’s annual Day of the Dead holiday, police dropped gas canisters from helicopters during a pitched battle at the local university.

Demonstrations, passive resistance, disappearances, death threats and torture have persisted ever since. Prominent members of the movement, like Raúl Gatica, have been forced into exile. Ulises Ruíz Ortíz is still Governor.

Unlike the Zapatistas, and despite the violence, the indigenous people of Oaxaca have thus far refrained from armed resistance, preferring creative forms of peaceful protest and reasoned argument.

Here is how one of these organizations, Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca ‘Ricardo Flores Magon’ (CIPO-RFM), sees the world.

Our Road

‘Until now the rulers of the world have placed us at the mercy of individualism and competition, which confuse and dominate us, making us seek or follow ‘the best’, or ‘the top 10’, so that often we fall to conflict among ourselves. They want us to go about the world like toffs or sectarians. They have filled us with soporific thoughts: denial and pragmatism. On one hand, people say that nothing about ‘the top 10’ matters to them, nothing is of any interest to them except their own lives. They say things like: ‘I don’t give a damn who wins or loses’; ‘It’s all the same to me’; ‘I’m not bothered’; ‘I’m not interested’. The second perspective is that business is everything, there always has to be something to gain or to cash in on: ‘How much will I make if I do that?’ ‘What benefit will I obtain?’ The 10 most important things are to win and to win again, without recognizing that to win is also to lose, since one loses dignity if the planet is destroyed.

In this panorama the forces of resistance remain diverse and dispersed. Many collectives of solidarity and co-operation, non-governmental organizations and the like, have pawned their autonomy for petty sources of assistance and finance. Others, lacking any insight, continue to squabble among themselves, or prescribe aspirin to relieve the deep pain and suffering of the people. Meawhile, traditional political parties co-operate with the rulers, making exploitation more ‘humane’.

Despite all this, multiple and diverse forms of resistance and mobilization are developing against the high and mighty rulers of the world. We see rebellion even in the rich countries. The Europeans and the gringos feel every day that they have more problems: with going to school or finding work, with staying alive and affording the good life. The advance of the global movement of resistance has been evident in Davos, Seattle, Prague, Genoa and Göteborg. In Latin America we’re seeing growing opposition in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia.

Let’s be clear: all of us who in some way oppose globalization have told ourselves that the rulers of the world are out to turn everything that moves or is quiet into merchandise. We intend to stop the world becoming the shopfront of the G8, a branch of the World Bank.

From our own experience we recognize that there’s not just one alternative, but many. We must weave a spider’s web to trap and destroy the body and the spirit of neoliberalism, its institutional structures, its way of thinking and acting. The only durable way of organizing ourselves is to create networks that never abandon struggles or leave them on their own, that don’t present magic solutions or argue that everything has just one cause and therefore only one solution…

Our belief is that we must destroy indoctrination and dogmatism, of whatever colour, which denies the diverse, the multiple, the different…’

  1. www.nodo50.org/cipo/ http://live.newint.org/columns/makingwaves/2002/12/01/raul-gatica/index.php for the NI’s 2002 interview with Raúl Gatica. Translated by David Ransom.

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