Peoples Charter, to be held under the banner of the Peoples Assembly,
and designed to pull together a common statement on economic and
social reform to counter austerity.
The Peoples Charter EC
30 November 2013
The Peoples Charter EC
27 November 2013
“What can we do to change things?” It’s hard to avoid this issue when considering the sad state of our societies …
Let us quickly recall some elements in explaining the genealogy of this political crisis.
Poverty proceeds from a dialectic that Marx revealed diligently: a minority monopolizes wealth at the expense of a majority that neverthelessembodies the lifeblood of a society. This majority progressively structured by the aggregate of individual interests, becomes powerless before the interpenetration of financial monopolies.
And yet if there is a way out of this debacle, it is in our collective strength, particularly when arranged in a synergistic manner.
This is what we think.
Some people think that the spread of their revolution will happen. But many have no contact with the reality of a struggle on the ground. They speculate and do not experiment.
How can we hope for a practical solution, if we are not even able to organize ourselves us in a small group or in a small organization? How can we solve problems on a large scale, when we do not even know how to adjust to a smaller scale?
One should also be aware of the difference between the popular support of ” I encourage you” and the popular mobilization of “I want to be by your side .” Popular support is an important factor in the revolutionary forces, but it is useless and vain too hope that all will rally to our side.
It is important to rely primarily on its own strength, be adaptive to the environment and be close to the people. These are basic strategic rules have been understood by all revolutionaries who have been able to achieve real change.
We could explain in a few words the often ignored non-Western origins of democracy, and at the same time, show an extraordinary approach to make better decisions together. On the other hand, human beings adapt to their environment and develop individualism above all because it is based on a system of the competition of individuals amongst each other. Given no better alternative, the community defers to those who already have the most.
Let us now turn to the heart of the matter:
When Gutenberg invented the printing press the deployment of knowledge outside of the clergy and nobility quickly caused problems in the institutions of the feudal system; the decline of feudalism significantly expanded science and the university, and radically changed the world and its operations to lead us to the industrial era.
In general, our communication tools are levers that can radically change the way we work, encouraging us to deploy more “collective intelligence”.
Similarly, the internet today has produced a “crisis of conscience” about the reality of political decisions and help in the deployment of a new world of open – source , collaborative company management, participatory media, the 15M movement, Occupy Wall Street, leading to new kinds of revolts as in Tunisia and Egypt.
Although the internet is not going to solve all our problems by itself, such a tool will necessarily involve a major change in our society. One can even argue that it will allow us to establish a way of life more “human” and more equitable among all.
Unfortunately, the overall vision of what can make a tool such as the internet is often limited to a simple appeal to the “democratic” , where in reality it is our democratic vision that will revolutionize the internet. For the internet offers us the ability to share real- time information with everyone else. Among specialists in collective intelligence, we speak of ” holopticism.” Schematically holopticism is the ability for all members of an organization to collect in real-time everything that is going on. This is key when you understand how information is vital in order to participate equally in a decision.
Understanding collective decisions and synergy
Some have claimed that there is a natural selfishness in humankind and a need for leaders. Nonetheless, monarchies and republics, even with their leaders, have not yet, with few exceptions, avoided crises , revolutions and chaos.
Paradoxically, the greatest remedy to this selfishness was found in the collective decision-making . The idea of popular power is not a Greek invention, it is found to the origins of the human species : for example, even prehistoric tribes of hunter gatherers followed collective decision-making, and did not have a hierarchical structure.
Similarly, in nature, among dolphins , for example, one finds ways of living without hierarchy, where leadership changes from one individual to another at any time , and where individual freedom is extraordinary despite a strong spirit.
In humans, the method of decision-making that seems most prevalent historically is not dictatorship, nor a majority vote, nor “anarchy.”
This is a decision that involves a form of unanimity in the group, as evidenced by the exciting work of our ethnologists.
From “the apparent consensus decision” by Philippe Urfalino .
The Navajo do not have the concept of representative government. They are used to deciding any issue in meetings of all concerned … Traditionally, they make a decision after having discussed until consensus is met, or until the opposition concedes that it is impractical to continue.
This way of taking collective decisions, described in 1946 by Clyde and Dorothea Kluckhon Leughton for Navajo Indians, seems to have been the most widespread form of social organization.
The presence on all continents of this mode of decision-making sometimes described as “consensus”, sometimes as “unanimous” is evidenced by the work of anthropologists and historians. This is the only mode decision found among hunter-gatherer societies ( Baechler [1994 ] Silberbauer  ) and was also the only legitimate form of collective decision in village communities in Kabylia (Mahé  ) and in Black Africa ( Abeles [2003 ] Terray  ) and Asia ( Popkin  , Smith  ).
European village communities of the Middle Ages also used deliberative assemblies, concluding their decisions without a vote, particularly in central and northern Europe: Otto Gierke ( Cited by Dumont , p 99) noted the prevalence of unanimity for Germanic Europe. The Assembly of heads of clans Iceland, Althing, probably worked the same way (Byock ). Consensus still prevailed in the decisions in some Scandinavian villages [as recently as thirty or fifty years ago?] (Yngvesson  for Sweden, Barnes  for Norway).
When we point out these examples, our interlocutor often stops us immediately: “You speak of prehistoric tribes? You mean to say that we should engage in direct democracy? These modes of operations also saw tribal wars, plus they were in small groups and on a large scale this organization is impossible. It is already hard to hear in a small group , and then how to decide unanimously on the scale of a country? Anyway, they had the same problems as us, etc. “
It is then necessary to establish simple elements:
- No, we’re not talking about direct democracy as commonly understood, but a more complex form of organization that includes other ways of deciding sets.
- These are recent discoveries, and few are those who know exactly what decision-making process were used to achieve unanimity, let alone their exact mechanisms.
- Similar processes are used today in many commission of experts, assembly of eminent persons, or the Italian Constitutional Court , because we consider that it is the most effective methods to get the best decision.
- In addition, we know exactly why these modes of natural organizations are not found in large numbers?
Their mechanisms are generally misunderstood. They reside in both the means for sharing information in the time allocated to adaptation decisions, but also in the differentiation between the general consensus view, and that of consent.
We can represent the difference thus: one is a case of “everyone says yes,” and the other “no one says no.”
Let us dwell for a moment on this important concept. The consensus decision involves equality: it is the principle 1 vote = 1 vote. This is the method we use today in our Western democracies seeking what is called a majority consensus (51% of votes). This is a binary pattern of “for” or “against.” It is an aggregation of individual preferences, a bit silly without allowing for differences in strength of preference or conviction.
Sometimes we have simple preferences, while at other times, we are strongly opposed to a proposal as presented, or one of its implications.
Consent will generally involve consideration for the requirements to the decision: decisions will be made through firm opinion and reasoned objections will face priority over simple preferences. In trying to resolve these conditions, the final decisions will satisfy a much larger number of participants, and will also be better. It is also the only known way to successfully achieve unanimity
For example, if we are three friends and we must choose between two containers of ice cream, if two of us prefer vanilla but the third is allergic, we will choose other so that everyone can eat. The firm argued objection will carry more weight than the aggregate preferences.
Understanding these natural phenomena is now a key to better decide as a group. However, they have two main limitations: the need to communicate effectively and the time required to make decisions.
Do we know exactly why these modes of organizations that seem so natural are not found in large numbers?
With our current democracies, it is assumed that everyone has or can participate in decisions as if they were equal to everyone else!
This is a big mistake. Imagine a chess game where your opponent could see the whole board, and on your side, you can see only a part. Even if you have an incredible intelligence, and are more talented than him, you will definitely lose this game: you cannot effectively analyze the best move to play because you do not see all the parts of the board.
The need to have enough useful information related to a decision is the first thing that pushed humanity to function in pyramidal structures, i.e , with a hierarchy, a leader who decides what is best for us.
With the growth of major cities it became impossible for every member of our community to have sufficient knowledge of what was happening. In order to make a decision within a large organization, one needs enough general information. And the only way to allow someone to have this information is through the “centralization of information”: information passes to a higher level, and this in turn does the same, until the information arrives at the “head” of the organization, which has privileged access .
It’s called the panopticon: schematically, if you’re at the bottom of a mountain, you can see a small shrub near you but not what there is on the other side of the mountain. If you are at the top of the mountain, you will see the entirety of the mountain, but not the details.
You know more than the boss about what is happening in your business, but you know less than he or she does concerning what happens in other sectors.
Thus, we understand the concept of “information field” is an essential element for making good decisions, and that, without any skill. By virtue of having more information, you can make a better decision whatever your intelligence, your experience or your talent on the subject.
In a small group , we can easily share all relevant information , and thus move towards greater equity decision . But in a large organization , it was impossible and unimaginable until now.
You will then respond: “Yes, you could still share the information! It was enough to re-share the same way in the other direction!”
Again, it’s hard to understand a fundamental element: the time factor. When deciding something, we still have a limited time to make this decision.
If you are a general and an army is in front of you attacking, you will not take the time to share with all members of your army useful information and cheerfully discuss what seems wiser. You have a limited time to make the decision more just to avoid getting slaughtered.
The time required for the decision depends on the decision to make, and when we realize that we have a limited time to make a decision, it also includes the ability to share real -time information that will give us precious time to arrive at the best decision all together.
These are key elements to understand:
- You cannot make a decision unless you collectively share enough information related to the decision.
- The way you make a decision depends on the time you have to make it.
It is follows that having sufficient information and time are necessary to decide effectively. In turn improved decision making begins the instant everyone has information.
We often say, “Human beings are selfish and they only think about themselves in the end, and that’s the problem.”
The human being is not an exploitive, selfish monster, as Marx explained to us. Although his contribution to the mechanisms of capitalism is more precious, even prophetic, his comprehension of human nature is most ridiculous and devoid of real analysis of the context that can bring these human behaviors.
This is the system that pushes us to be individualistic, and there is evidence to certify:
” Anthropologists stress that the practice of what might be called palaver is exercised
in a normative context where political individualism is absent ( Terray [ 1987 -
89 ] Abeles [2003 ] ) . “
Do you realize the significance of this simple sentence? A context where political individualism is absent? But if human beings are fundamentally individualistic then how can there be so many societies where political individualism does not exist?
But especially the most basic question: in what parameters is political individualism absent?
The answer lies in the concept of synergy, we can do more together than the sum of what can be done separately. A tribe of hunter-gatherers will be able to drive a huge mammoth work together and provide meat in abundance for all, where the individual acting alone could never do so.
The problem is that we do not understand that if we can act synergistically then what we produce together is strictly greater than the sum ofwhat can be produced separately, and if we always allocate equitably the fruits of this collective work, then self-interest and public interestcoincide.
In other words, your interest is to help the group or community, because the more it will earn, the more you earn in return. This is not true in our society today for two reasons: synergy is ignored, and there is an inequitable distribution of wealth. If you give to your country, you will only make the rich richer and the poor continue to be poor.
Mutual support, sharing and love of one’s neighbor are erased when we are placed us in an environment where protecting the interests of those we love means confronting others. If man is placed in an environment where helping others benefits everyone, including his family, then all are much better off.
You may say, “But in this case, humanity would have chosen to be less effective in establishing the pyramid scheme? It does not make sense!”
Of course, we have continued to evolve. A small group is more effective in conducting its affairs horizontally, but this ability is lost in large numbers. The synergy of a horizontal system is impossible without holopticism. The pyramid scheme makes sense for one simple reason: quantity may outweigh quality.
When a small group of 50 people working more effectively in a horizontal system is faced with an army of 5,000 individuals with a great leader, even if the small group deploys more intelligence proportionate to the number of individuals, it cannot resist the “strength in numbers”.
The pyramid scheme therefore made sense in a world where information could not be shared with all instantly. But the question that remains is whether this is still the case today.
“But how to create a world where giving to the community will save at all?”
The solution to our problem lies in how we make our decisions, in the analysis of the decision with the consent of all and of the structure [organization?], in the understanding of the concept of information field, and the parameters of the synergy.
Because in reality all these elements are not or little studied and remain completely unknown to the general public. We never tried to understand these mechanisms and discoveries are very recent.
In addition, the use of large-scale internet brings the possibility to have equal access to relevant information in very large structures is also a new element historically. Without this tool, it is impossible to have a fair [understanding?] about the possibility of participating in general decisions.
It is these elements that are key to understanding the great challenges of the 21st century.
Even when we look to the past, discussions and debate about how we make decisions collectively are very numerous, and have led us to other voting methods, and exciting proposition that is deliberative democracy, too often ignored.
It is natural anyway that we redirect our attention to the traditional ways of making decisions on a larger scale, thanks to new technology that will bring us something we had lost large numbers: the holopticism.
Just because humans love their neighbor and love to be effective. These modes can be more effective and are also are used in many large companies that tend to reduce levels of the hierarchy, or remove them, as in the open-source movement and new forms of rebellion or social movements worldwide. The examples are endless.
The structure of these modes of decision making called unanimously palaver apparent consensus decision or decision to consent of all, is not really understood or applied on a large scale . Specialists discovered just this unexplored continent and it remains totally unknown to the general public.
More broadly, these implications are equally ignored. They bring to the work of researchers in collective intelligence: living architecture, holopticism, gift economy, self-learning …
Researchers who themselves have failed to understand the structure of the natural decision in a small group: the differences between consensus and consent.
We have a new ability, another way to decide, with a lot of success than those methods used in our political system, but this time spread out in businesses, communities, etc.
These functions allow us to adapt, learn from our mistakes, and evolve our operations . The rules governing the 15M movement or Occupy in their beginnings are different from those that govern today. The very fact of having to take into account what is important for each shoot to evolve.
The characteristics of a large-scale system that will seek the consent of all will involve other elements that are inter -dependent. Just as we cannot decide without the consent of all holopticism, we cannot accept what is essential for everyone by refusing to evolve, as it can effectively decide the consent of all in a centralized system, etc.
If you must share generally the true solution of a fair system radically different from the existing it will mention five characteristics:
Research the consent of all: the most common operation in the history of mankind which is by far the most effective, and which suppresses political individualism.
The need to seek maximum holopticism: the total transparency in real -time, minimum, information related to decisions that affect you, which cannot be ruled out a search with the consent of all, greatly reducing corruption and manipulations.
An evolving system as we change, the world changes, and that future generations do not have to be limited by our vision today .
A living architecture that allows everyone to go assist and participate in various locations to form multiple experiences, and a natural authority to put in place, which varies from one individual to another depending on what we are doing .
A decentralization required for each master is what concerns having the last word which does not look at the others, while the other to decide when the decision affects.
Such a system is possible and it would permit us to proceed step by step in solving our problems, never stop evolving in itself: a constitution,for example, written all together (it is quite possible when we understand the mechanisms of these decision-making processes); it will bebetter, and written in a more limited in time! It will be reviewed regularly under similar conditions so that the following generations are masters of their society, and not governed by the laws that previous generations have seen best in conditions so very different.
Most important is that such a system can and should be applied today, among ourselves, with our own internal economy, and testing these methods to prove their superior efficiency.
We can organize ourselves today by showing the world that the human being is not what some would have us believe.
The Occupy movement and the Indignatos strive to rediscover such approaches often without realizing it, because it is indeed a natural function of people who have now have acquired the power to share real-time information on a large scale.
These movements are too centralized and need to share their experiences and complete decision making, test methods comparable decision-making very large scale to provide more concrete alternatives to the people , and learn to accept a new form of leadership while continuing to deny the static hierarchy, ie refuse a great leader : we can be in the same group all leaders on specific functions, for a specified period.
But they never fail to evolve and they are only just beginning! We naively believe that we can have everything overnight, for a mass mobilization, even hope in the persistence of individuals who overcome their difficulties by relying on their own strength, determination, and lifelong learning.
Then there is the response, “Okay, even if this system is possible and we can make better decisions together and have synergy and a better world , anyway , we do not have the power to establish it! “
Again, we often think of a miraculous process, everyone should be aware and act, or a major campaign of mass communication should change everything in itself. And if that does not work it is just that people are too stupid.
This is another big mistake. First, not everyone can be a full-time or even part time activist today. Many of us have responsibilities and cannot engage in a difficult struggle while providing for their families. The degree of conviction varies among people, or they have other priorities.
It is also for these reasons that we must offer concrete alternatives to people, respecting those who cannot invest as much as we in thischange.
For example, we can create a system within the system, using our own money, and if we collectively manage our resources effectively, we will gain strength every day, starting to now. As a linux system is more efficient than windows system, a horizontal well managed system ismore efficient than a pyramid scheme in the Internet era.
There are many means to act, working practically, evolving and progressing every day. The creation of a small group of trusted colleaguescan change things enormously, especially by adopting similar horizontal operations that allow them to combine very easily and very effectively.
Our role is to learn to work together in all fairness, actually, today. We should be closer to the people, with specific objectives and recognizing our successes as our failures.
The establishment of a small horizontal movement will connect with others, and here tools that are related to networking are very important. We need to facilitate links between people who understand this global perspective, and allow them to all be in direct contact with each other, while continuing to develop our specific projects and assistance.
Many tools exist today: Mumble , PADS, crowd -funding , collaborative platforms …
Wherever you are and whoever you are, a great and important task awaits you . We do not ask you simply to “talk around you,” there will be no leader , we do not draw lots for a great leader either! Together we make the decisions that affect us all, and we help each other while allowing complete freedom for everyone.
However, starting from scratch to learn these methods is difficult and can result in errors: a from a spokesman acquiring too much power to a misunderstanding of the difference between equality and equity decision, between consensus and consent, between methods that work and those that don’t, not to mention making changes based on the parameters of the decision to take, etc.
Your mission, should you accept it, is to make contact the self-managed groups around you and connect with others. To accept differences and understand others. Adopt effective strategies on the ground, enact systemic, concrete alternatives : free currencies , food self -sufficiency, a culture of commitment, etc. .
We must learn from each other and adopt methods that allow us to grow every day.
And we well remember an important element; if we cannot agree amongst ourselves in a fair system today, how can we hope to do throughout the world?
This system exists. And you can test it today in your own groups and especially improve since it is ultimately a proposal that everyone should own, and which is scalable. We can all help each other and decide together the world in which we live and immediately develop strategies to take back what is rightfully ours and become stronger every day until that time.
Horizontalism was born naturally in our society and we have not yet precisely defined it. It is time that everyone appropriates and applies this model.
If you need any help , contact the mailing list: http://lists.occupy.net/lists/
One french book called “Horizontal hope” exists where you can see detailed proposals for comprehensive methods and learn more about these. It seeks translators, ”Horizontal Hope” available free at: http://www.horizontality.org/
16 November 2013
MARCH AGAINST MAINSTREAM MEDIA is global event on Nov 16th happening in over 100 locations world wide.
This Saturday, please support this call for a more responsible media.
Because issues that deeply affect the public are either under reported or not reported at all, such as:
In the UK in September 60,000 people marched TO SAVE THE NHS (from corporate take over), in Manchester. It was placed as local news, while the small Tory conference was televised, and the issue was not covered.
The #MillionMaskMarch occurred in 400 locations around the world, but was deemed “too small” to report.
LOCATIONS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
MARCH AGAINST MAIN STREAM MEDIA GLOBAL SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER
LONDON – https://www.facebook.com/events/211755219006456/
BBC MEDIA CITY SALFORD , MANCHESTER
MANCHESTER – https://www.facebook.com/events/576695935730752/
SOUTHAMPTON – https://www.facebook.com/events/722334277794768/
HULL – https://www.facebook.com/events/562573580483603/
BIRMINGHAM – https://www.facebook.com/events/540107232743945/
BBC Scotland Pacific Quay Pacific Drive Glasgow G51 1DA
GLASGOW – https://www.facebook.com/events/388343207963053/
BRISTOL – https://www.facebook.com/events/1394011987504779/
MIDDLESBOROUGH – https://www.facebook.com/events/211057479073935/
Cardiff event OpBBC
LOCATIONS IN THE USA.
This event will be live video streamed via this channel:
Find more info, videos FB links etc at Occupy London site
16 November 2013
Invitation to a European strategy meeting for civil society organisations
For more information on the TTIP go here
And also in the Guardian
And on the ‘secret chapter’ in Wikileaks
Brussels 12-13 December
Venue: Avenue de Cortenbergh, 1040, Brussels
The proposed EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP/TAFTA), is one of the
most ambitious projects of the European Commission. It may strongly affect social, labour and
environmental rights on both sides of the Atlantic and deepen global trade and investment
liberalization. Indeed, elites from both sides explicitly aim at greater “transatlantic regulatory
convergence and harmonization” of future regulations between the EU and the US, in the only
interests of transnational corporations and financial industry.
The objective of the meeting is to bring together representatives of civil society organisations and social movements from across Europe that want to better understand the threats posed by the TTIP and want to work in a coordinated way to build a common strategy facing the proposed deal.
Meeting starts at 14.30 on 12 December and finishes at 15.30 on 13 December
A detailed Agenda and details about the venue will be circulated to registered.
Please register by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your full name, the
organisation you are representing, your arrival and departure time.
Deadline for registration: 6th December
2 November 2013
Much of the content included here is taken with thanks from Occupy London..
Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?
The US/EU Bi-Lateral Trade Agreement talk on the 28th October 2013 with Linda Kaucher and Tom Lines was a runaway success. Here is a loosely edited video of the talk. About 30 people turned up which was the perfect number for a full house at the London Action Resource Center in Whitechapel. About 40 people watched the livestream of the event. At the end of the evening an email list of 16 signatures was gathered from mostly new sign ups to Occupy to start a group to combat this legislation. This is a wonderful income and we hope to keep up the vibrant urgency and motivation we created on the night.
Much was learnt and it could not be more concisely summarised than through the latest contribution by a visitor at LARC yesterday who wishes to remain anonymous.
A response from one of the attendees who wishes to remain anonymous.
EU-US Trade Deal. Meeting in Whitechapel, 28/10/13
“Thank you” very much to you and to the other organisers at Occupy for arranging last night. It was great and very informative. I learnt a lot and have hope that we can do something about all this. Whether we have success is another matter though:
Overall, this was really a very depressing meeting, although it was also very informative and taught me an awful lot about what is actually going on with the EU-US Trade Deal.
1. The reason why the US is so keen to get involved in trade deals is because it feels it is losing its dominance in the global market. The biggest threat to the US dominance is China. The thinking behind such trade deals is that, by the time the Chinese economy reaches dominance, the US will have safely locked in so many other countries into trade deals with it, that China will have to play by America’s rules and not vice versa.
2. The way that trade deals come about is that representatives (not govts) do the negotiating. Obviously these are not democratically nominated representatives and they represent the concerns of Big Business, *not* the citizens of the individual countries involved. i.e. we are living in a time of Corporate Fascism (Fascism Lite). A film was recommended to watch which demonstrates how this works in the EU. The film is called “The Brussels Business” and is available on youtube.
3. Part of the Trade Deal with the US will involve the harmonising of regulations. This will impact on just about everything to do with how we live our lives and will include issues such as: the environment, fracking, food standards, health matters, GMOs. An example was given of the govt’s seeming U-Turn on plain tobacco packaging, but a case has already been fought (and lost) in Australia where tobacco companies were successfully able to argue that it infringed upon their ability to distinguish one brand from another.
4. The NHS and other public services. This is the worst bit of the lot, IMO Unless the NHS is exempted from this deal, there will be NO WAY BACK. Even if Labour repeals the NHS Privatisation Act, we will still be liable to be sued under competition laws if American Healthcare Companies, many of whom have been convicted of fraud, get a foothold in the market through the EU-US Trade Deal.
5. The time frame we are looking at is that they expect to complete negotiations by the end of next year. This particular trade deal is progressing at break-neck speed. The reason it is able to do so is because it is shrouded in secrecy. People do not know what is going on. We are looking at things like the Balcombe anti-fracking protests being completely and utterly useless because a firm like Cuadrilla can potentially sue us for not accepting their business. The only hope for our NHS is for it to be exempted. However, this govt would be clearly be more than happy for it to be sold off. If the NHS is tangled up in this, that’s it. Game over.
Documents “released in error” relating to the deal: http://corporateeurope.org/trade/2013/10/ttip-documents-released-european-commission
And leaked documents relating to the mandate to set up this Trade Deal which none of us voted for:
Stateless Power: http://freecriticalthinking.org/daily-pickings/719-stateless-power
The Poverty of Capitalism by John Hilary
Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World Book by Nicholas Shaxson
THE BRUSSELS BUSINESS DOCUMENTARY. The Lobby Industry. Published on 15 Jun 2013.
Documentary on the issue of lobbying around the European institutions in Brussels. Watch it here
Here are some other personal responses and a useful link sent in response to the event / topic:
A) Web of Power related info at
B) The proposed agreement being very similar in many aspects to the MAI Multilateral Agreement on Investments which was defeated by the alter-globalisation movement by way of mass mobilisation in Vancouver during the APEC Asia Pacific Economic Community trade meeting (held in part on a university campus, can you imagine them trying that today?!) in 1997.
The MAI would have allowed sovereign governments to be sued by corporations if they made laws to protect labour rights or the environment which impinged on corporate profits.
I was fortunate to be at that creative week of demonstrations which featured a Goddess of Democracy, Dictator-Free Zone, Grannies singing for Democracy, devils on stilts with little red placards saying ‘I heart the MAI’, a girl with a paper mache gun on her head dancing an Irish jig with a real police officer, fences near to the Lunch with Dictators being pulled down, rumours of snipers on the roof at the University of British Columbia but also an amazing tented village on the campus there too, and much more. People from all over the world including the Zapatistan and many other indigenous communities were present.
This was a pre-cursor to the Battle of Seattle, and it inspired and changed my life both in its creative and democratic content, global consciousness in solidarity and also of course the fact that it won!
The issues the MAI raised were profound and they need to be re-visited (along with all the other additional / different nasties it contains) in a big way and into the MSM if we are to stop it.
Are there any key dates or global meetings coming up when the negotiators are going to be in the public spotlight?
C) in response to A):
NB. – we have been advised that UK unions RMT and Unite are committed to fighting a the US-EU Free Trade Agreement.
28 October 2013
Backlash against Brand shows he got it right
Be worried. Be very worried. The “revolution” word got top billing on the BBC’s Newsnight. And, God forbid, the word “profit” was called “filthy” by a comedian, actor, radio host and author who has over seven million followers on Twitter. No wonder the media – right across the spectrum – is working overtime to give Russell Brand a thumping.
He challenges the notion that our present Tweedledee and Tweedledum parliamentary system is the only form that democracy can possibly take. He makes a strong claim that there is a revolutionary alternative.
From the Spectator’s James Bloodworth to the Daily Mail’s Janet Street-Porter to the Independent’s Joan Smith, Brand is being tarred and feathered. Accusations range from that of “being a narcissist”, “spurning a right that people died for” (Spectator) to indulging “adolescent waffle about ‘revolution’”.
It has also enraged Tom Watson, Labour’s former deputy chair, who for example, wrote in the Daily Mirror: “That vote which Mr Brand thinks is worthless is all the little guys have got left. In 2015, millions of us can send the bankers and hedge fund bosses that fund the greedy Tories packing.”
How? By voting for Ed – let’s have responsible capitalism – Miliband? Surely, you are not serious Mr Watson.
Defenders of the status quo all around are outraged that Brand dared to say what millions think: the parliamentary system is neither representative nor truly democratic.
His attack on the political system and call for a revolutionary change touched a raw nerve because he points to the fact that the democratic emperor really has only a few tatters for clothes.
“I have never voted,” Brand writes. “Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.”
Yes, his and Jonathan Ross’s prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs back in 2008 were unpleasant. But that was some five years ago and Brand has come a long way since, politically speaking.
In 2009 he co-signed a letter from the Hoping Foundation to the Independent calling for an end to the Israeli attack on Gaza and attended the anti-G20 protests in London. Brandt remains a vocal supporter of the Occupy movement.
In June this year he took part in a video backing US whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Last month he was ejected from the GQ awards for hilariously but seriously accusing sponsors Hugo Boss of being “Nazi tailors”, thus biting the very hand that fed him.
Brand’s chief crime is that he calls for a revolutionary alternative. Not only that, but a socialist and inclusive one which is not dour and dogmatic but which links Britain’s legacy from Pagan times, to the English revolution, the Tolpuddle martyrs and the immediacy of the ecological crisis.
Jibes that Brand’s call to arms are just “banalities about revolution”, that “wild emotions are all very well” and “where’s your programme?” are just that – cheap and nasty jibes by defenders of the status quo. They emanate to use Brand’s eloquent words, from “people who have never struggled, who are a dusty oak-brown echo of a system dreamed up by Whigs and old Dutch racists”.
The Observer’s Nick Cohen makes the most insidious and hurtful accusation by comparing Brand to Mussolini, claiming that chiefly the far right would benefit from a revolution. But he also lets the cat out of the bag. “Now, as in the 1920s and 1930s,” he notes, “many inhabitants of most European countries agree with Brand’s slogans that all politicians are crooks and democracy is a sham. Today’s crisis has left Europe in a pre-revolutionary situation.”
The furore that Brand’s remarks have caused shows the established commentariat in their true colours, dismissing the idea of a revolutionary change while clinging on to their own privileges and positions. They are the ones living in the past while Brand looks to the future. We’re with him all the way.
A World to Win secretary
28 October 2013
See more at: A World to Win
14 August 2013
Two years ago [.. ] Adbusters published the original OWS blog post, and the first operational OWS campaign site was set up on reddit.com. Two years ago we began a campaign to announce that the people of the world were directly entering the global political narrative and that we have no intention of ever leaving. We are still here – battered & scarred we may be, but ‘Occupy!’ is still a vibrant global call for an exploited humanity. The time is ripe for revolution.
Greetings world. We are anonymous. We are the people.
Governments of the world: take this message as your last will and testament. The game is officially over. Social media has given birth to something new. Now it’s time to set the record straight. This video is intended as that spark that gets delivered straight into the hearts and minds of the world. This video is an idea – a shared idea – so listen very carefully and make sure you are sitting down.
On the 5th of November 2013, Anonymous call for a day of global civil disobedience. This time we target all government facilities across the globe.Calling all free thinkers: the time for civil disobedience is now. This time it also seems unions from around the world are supporting this action. The lion sleeps no more. Ask yourself this: where will you be when we make history? November 5th, 2013. Worldwide. Now it’s a vendetta. Now it’s personal. Now it’s time to occupy everywhere. It’s time to throw everything we have at November 5th. It’s time to relight the flame of protest until our demands are met. Now it’s time for our brothers and sisters of the awakening to take to the streets. Austerity means war.
Here’s to the dreamers, the one’s that stand for human freedom, the Occupiers, the people that change things. It’s about solidarity, but more than that, it’s about the people, the people we meet, the people of the world standing together for a common goal. Concerned by numerous ecological and social problems, we stand united. As long as there are young and idealist people that share the views of ultimate human freedom, there will always be hope for the world.
We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. On November 5th, 2013: EXPECT US.
10 August 2013
by Mark Barrett
Democracy and Decision-making – fixing our broken political system
Interim Report from the Peoples Assembly against Austerity
On 22 June 4,000 people gathered at the ‘People’s Assembly Against Austerity’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Over five hundred activists attended this dynamic and participatory workshop. The session’s starting point was that if we want social, economic and environmental justice then we will need to build a functional democracy.
This is a topic which is often ignored by the traditional Left in Britain, however there is an increasing realization that we have a democratic crisis – millions of people no longer vote and our institutions often seem to represent the 1% and corporations, rather than people.
The session had two themes, firstly; what reforms are needed to fix our broken political system and secondly; how can grassroots people’s assemblies and participatory movements bring them about.
To answer these questions, eight speakers briefly presented on their area of interest before facilitating an interactive discussion on the crisis of democracy and how to tackle the democratic deficit.
Here is a list of the organisations and topics discussed, and you can find a full summary of the workshops they facilitated below.
(1) Corinna Lotz : Agreement of the People http://agreementofthepeople.
Mobilizing for a democratic constitution based on political, social, economic, human and ecological rights
(2) Natalie Bennett – Green Party : Localism, Voting and Electoral Reform
(3) David Bovill
Real time meetings, streamed, recorded and legally constituted as part of a globally distributed network
(4) Naomi Colvin : City Reform Group
The City Reform Group is a group of citizens who are coming together to help ensure that the City of London is governed to the highest standards
(5) Bill Greenshields : The People’s Charter
Representation and voice for working people in constructing the alternative
(6) James Holland :Community Organising where you live
(7) Richard Bagley , Morning Star : Media Reform
(8) Loz Kaye, Pirate Party : Transparency and Liquid Democracy
Whilst we could not possibly do justice to the topic in the time allotted, and a number of key issues were not addressed – in particular the England, Scotland and Wales question, reforming global finance and other institutions and questions around use of referenda and citizens initiative e.t.c. Nevertheless overall there was considerable support for a range of proposals. In particular many people at the workshop wanted to develop alternatives and to make demands for systemic change to the way our institutions are governed, and more radically to build a new politics based on participatory democracy and people’s assemblies.
We hope that participants will feel as we do (as facilitators and presenters) that it is important to take the ideas discussed at the workshop and support their inclusion (and crucially the new way of making decisions they herald) into the anti-austerity movement.
Below are set out a draft summary of each presentation and the short workshop that followed. Also the whole session was recorded on live-stream and key points were recorded and fed back to the whole room, this was also live-streamed at http://occupylondon.org.uk/
(1) Corinna Lotz : The Agreement of the People for the 21st century
Developed by the Campaign for a 20th Century Constitution, Real Democracy Working Group of Occupy and A World to Win. Supported by 14 organisations. Its name is inspired by the Leveller movement of the English revolution of 1640.
The system is broken – global capitalism is in a worsening crisis, as shown in Brazil, Turkey, Greece, Spain. All the main parties are facilitating the rule of the corporations and banks. Our votes hardly count.
That makes the state and political system democratic in name only.
This system cannot be fixed by reforms. Thus, we need to develop a grassroots constitution from below.
The Agreement is a draft framework for this, open to development. It can be discussed and implemented through a network of permanent People’s Assemblies. In this way Assemblies become the basis for an alternative to the existing state.
If we are to end austerity and build a truly democratic country, we have to do it ourselves. Please support the campaign for the Agreement.
Points made in working group:
Power: is it right to seize power? What do we need power for? People need power to get services, such as the Barnet Alliance.
Collective power is better than individual power. Corporations hold power over individuals. Capitalism imposes its will over the rest of the world.
It’s down to us to break the power of the capitalist system.
The UK has no constitution. It needs one in order to have democracy. A system of privilege wields power, such as through the privy council. You cannot democratize the current state. We need to build a new constitution.
A revolution is needed against the capitalist state.
A peoples’ uprising is needed through people’s assemblies which can form a Peoples Republic.
Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina show examples of building people’s assemblies.
It is not a true democracy when there is an unelected head of state. We should also get rid of the unelected second chamber (House of Lords).
How? Be positive. Use the anger of the people to mobilize them. Use local people’s assemblies to formulate a new constitution.
Need to separate financial power from political power. Peoples assemblies can assemble peoples resistance. They can be the nucleus of new structures.
Concluding points read out to meeting:
PAs can be a nucleus to formulate a new way of doing politics.
We agreed that there was need to break power of current regime.
PAs would be a way of discussing and drafting a new constitution.
No one has a single answer.
Local campaigns can be brought together and support each other.
Separate financial from political power.
Democracy is not possible without elected head of state. A republic is needed.
Take anger and mobilize people in assemblies.
Arguments were for and against revolution.
(2) Natalie Bennett, Leader Green Party: Localism, Voting and Electoral
a) Election of the House of Lords, to replace our appointed/hereditary system that really belongs in a previous century – or perhaps in Saudi Arabia, which despite our arms trading there is surely not a place we want to be able to compare ourselves with in terms of democracy.
b) Proportional representation in House of Commons and council elections. Millions live in “safe” seats where they can vote for decades and never see their chosen candidate elected.
c) An end to the “ownership” of political parties by their donors – the system that’s given us a government of the 1% for the 1%.
Points made in working group
Votes at 16 and decent political education in schools and for young people (and older people) out of schools.
Getting more younger people voting – one suggestion on “how” was that politics should actually address the issues they were concerned about, from tuition fees to drugs policy.
Tackling media ownership, so diverse views could get an airing (something I was writing about this week).
Local People’s Assemblies in which residents can participate in making decisions about their street, their neighbourhood.
Industrial democracy – making sure workers have a say about how their workplace has run. (That’s worked out remarkably well for Germany.)
State funding for political parties.
Abolition of the Corporation of the City of London and its privileges (an issue close to my heart.
Natalie Bennett commented: “The energy, the enthusiasm, the desire for change was almost a physical presence in the room today.” See her full write up here: http://thebackbencher.co.uk/
(3) David Bovill: Parliament of Things
on real time distributed meetings live-streaming and legally constituted to be updated..
”I’m working on .. on a series of follow up discussions and work groups – specifically as to how we can create some tech and legal infrastructure to support create freeform assemblies.
For more info check for updates at: participativeassemblies.wordpress.com
(4) Naomi Colvin: City Reform Group – with support from Dave Dewhurst, Occupy Economics.
City of London’ Reform Sub-group at the Emmanuel Centre…….TO BE COMPLETED
Points made in working group
1. One worker or resident one vote – including residents or employees in outlying areas controlled (e.g. parks) (Democratize the City from the inside raise awareness among City workers of their NON vote.)
2. Massively more financial transparency – which would imply real G8, and wider, reforms. All countries able to access citizens’ holdings in tax havens & freedom of information access beyond sovereign tax authorities, as appropriate. (OK a bit of a fudge at the end, for further articulation????)
3. End City exclusion from Freedom of Information Act.
4. End the office of the Remembrancer or make all its lobbying activity open to public scrutiny.
5. Financial Transaction Tax (obviously for the whole finance sector not just the City.
6. Separate the City’s international financial function from its Local Authority function.
7. End the office of Alderman.
8. Its accounts in detail open to public scrutiny (At present it has given a summary and vaguely offered to provide more/full detail ????- here is your chance !)
(Also concomitantly address the issue of regulatory arbitrage ((Google search
Occupy London Economics Working Group - Little Book of Ideas Chap 17) specially relevant to points 2 and 5.
(5) Bill Greenshields: The People’s Charter
We began by endorsing the thought, “Down With Miserablism” . It’s just no good listing an increasing catalogue of misery that is being inflicted on working class people. We need to know what is being done, and how and by whom… but it’s not enough if we want to inspire people to take part in a real movement against “austerity” and for real change, a movement for real democracy. We need to present a coherent, integrated and radical alternative to unite, excite and ignite our people… and that’s the People’s Charter. It’s been developed collectively over the last few years, drawing on individual trade union policies and those of single-issue campaign groups, together with expert analysis and advice and real awareness of the needs and hopes of “ordinary people.” You’ll find it at :www.thepeoplescharter.org.uk
It is a program that would mean a massive shift in wealth and power away from the tiny class of monopolists, millionaires and bankers.. and to those “ordinary people” – who in being liberated to exercise real democracy will be far from ordinary!
Points made in the meeting
So – first question – the People’s Assembly needs to clearly adopt a positive program for change – not just opposition to “austerity” – and as the People’s Charter has been adopted by the TUC Congress on more than one occasion, by Women’s TUC, Wales TUC, Scottish TUC and the local Trades Unions Councils (representing union organisation in every town and city) – why not start there… adopting the Charter and helping develop and extend it?
We discussed how “austerity” had “hollowed out” democratic processes that had been established as a result of real struggle over the last hundred years and more. We considered how the consensus of the “main political parties” for cuts and privatization – the “austerity agenda” was produced by top down pressure and diktat from the “top 10%” of the population in terms of wealth and power.
We agreed that to build a movement we needed to start with the immediate issues facing people who currently may not even think of themselves as interested in politics, let alone “activists”. This has to be at local level.
So we would propose
(6) James Holland: Community Organising where you live
(Read James’ blog at http://commdem.wordpress.com/ )
James spoke about his work in New Cross and gave a very quick introduction to his activity in New Cross, and made it clear that he thought we needed to really think about what we mean by local, not the scale of current so called local government, but much smaller – no more than a few thousand people, so we can work together face to face. He suggested that pre existing political forms and language were a barrier, that the way forward isn’t about big ‘P’ ‘Politics, but the simple work of people working together to get what they need. He explained that current main tactic is a community survey – where we go to people where they are and ask them what they want, and if they would get involved to make it happen.
The main points were:
- building slowly from the bottom
- conversations and listening, without an agenda
- organising social events and public meetings but most importantly going TO people and asking what they want.
Points made in the meeting
A number of people expressed frustration with how hard it is to get people to be active or believe that things can be different. One was particularly concerned that we not forget about politics as its needed when you come up against unpleasant views.
Experience of talking about particular issues shows people are engaged and do appreciate being asked for their opinions.
People seem very willing to complain but less easy to talk about positive, constructive alternatives.
It is difficult to move forward from conversations to action (e.g.. attending a meeting)
Important to have action, not just talk–this is more inspiring.
People can’t see that they can change things, especially where there is no tradition of activism.
We shouldn’t forget that this is already happening, particularly in the field of disability activism, thousands of people in every community are already working together
We need to find ways of getting engaged for people who are not natural “joiners-in”.
Try different structures to meetings- facilitation not chairs, being open rather than having committees.
Be creative- arts, film chalking pavements, etc.
Pass on positive rather than negative messages.
Help out your neighbours.
Get to know each other- through volunteering and neighbourliness- this will build up relationships. The first step in community organising is to build a community in the first place.
It is important to have our politics and be clear on what we stand for. But this should be in the form of principles rather than dogma.
Education is something we can do- myth-busting e.g.. about benefit fraud stories.
Important to keep the bigger picture in perspective as well.
Look at examples from other countries and from history.
One person shared that she decided to do stuff after the riots, and how you just have to get out there and do it, look after your neighbours etc
Participants said we need to show an alternative, food, housing more democratic, more inspiring way
At community council (parish council) in wales were experimenting with having much more direct involvement of the wider population
More about the idea of Community Democracy at http://commdem.wordpress.com/
(7) Richard Bagley, Editor Morning Star : Media Reform
Against a backdrop of the corporate stranglehold of our national media and
the withdrawal of the corporate media from our communities, and with
academic studies showing a clear link between the level of democratic
participation and the existence of a local press, what changes should the
People’s Assembly movement be demanding?
Points made in the meeting
- Change to the Localism Act to redefine local newspapers as a community
asset and prevent owners from unilaterally shutting them down without
giving the community a chance to have its say, and intervene if desired
- Right and assistance to workers and communities to exert local
co-operative ownership over titles where a corporate owner wants to wield
the axe and withdraw from an area
- Crowd-sourcing could be used to help fund such initiatives
- People’s Assemblies should seek to intervene locally through activism
and direct action if need be to keep media open and show solidarity with
journalists facing the axe.
- There should be a specific newspaper etc of the People’s Assembly
- Rules on ownership of national media not confined to the number of
outlets belonging to a single individual/business, but amended to
encourage a broad range of ideas, aided by state subsidy, as in other
countries, where required
- A cap on advertising per title could help to redistribute the balance
away from a few large titles and encourage more smaller ones
- There should be laws governing fair access to retail outlets to prevent
a handful of retailers i.e. supermarkets, which now have a sizable market
share replacing news-agents, dictating what publications can and can’t be
displayed on their shelves
- A national distribution network should be established so that all titles
have equal access to potential readers, on the day of publication, and
this facility is not restricted to the big corporate players
(8) Loz Kaye, Leader Pirate Party UK : Transparency and Liquid Democracy
The UK is facing a crisis of democratic participation. It’s most obvious in the terrible turnout of recent elections. Look at the Police Commissioner vote where the average turnout was under 15%. November 2012′s Manchester Central by-election saw the worst level of participation since the second world war. Does this matter or is just an incidental problem in the wave of crises brought about by economic collapse and austerity?
It matters profoundly.
Lack of democratic participation is closely bound up with the communities who are most affected by austerity. Manchester Central also has the highest incidence of premature deaths, and is the constituency with the highest rate of child poverty in the UK.
Why is this the case? If you spend any amount of time campaigning in Manchester or indeed any marginalised area, the same responses come up time and again. “No one is interested in what I think”. “They’re all the same”. “Nothing ever changes”. People feel they are lacking a voice. It’s not about apathy, it’s outright antipathy. It’s not a lazy response as it’s too often characterized, it’s a reasonable reaction to generations of neglect. Democratic reform has to go deeper than putting a cross in a box. It has to be about getting everyone involved in the process and allowing people their voice. Voices to air what is happening in our marginalised communities and to find solutions.
In the Pirate Party we have been pushing for ways to get more people in to the decision making process. In Germany we have been developing the ‘liquid democracy’ approach where groups can give feedback and guide using the wisdom of the crowd. In the UK our manifesto was crowd sourced on line, voting up and down suggestions and ideas, in a process that involved over 3000 people. We know it’s not the answer to everything. But it is a challenge to the idea that policy is to be left to a select elite. Policy is just a good idea, a way to make it up and evidence that it will work. The UK is full of those ideas, that’s what democratic reform has to do, to restore that voice.
Points made in the meeting
In our group we identified two areas of concern:
Four points to help engagement:
Taking action in every forum: the workplace, unions, community groups.
Being creative with demonstrations: for example taking a vote on a concrete measure after.
Using technology in campaigning and sharing its use educating one another.
More referendums, better participatory democracy.
Four points to help access:
Make companies subject to freedom of information where they are providing public services.
Better rural broadband access.
Making sure the digital divide is bridged across generations.
Acting to make our elected representatives better reflect the diversity and experience of the people.
If the current framework can’t provide it’s up to us to change it.
We don’t need to wait to put this in to action, let’s hack democracy.
Following this session a national working group to take forward the ideas presented and discussed is now being proposed and taken forward. More info to follow ..
10 August 2013
by Mark Barrett
Ø The Zapatista School to implement a language justice system -students will know how is it to live in the language of a conqueror through their simultaneous translation from a Mayan language into Spanish.
Ø Their government system to be against dogmatism: “What you will see here works for us now. New generations will build their own paths, in their own ways and their own times. A concept of freedom does not enslave its future inheritors” their collective speaker says.
Ø The “Freedom According to Zapatistas” School is coming up this Monday August 12! Occupy Wall Street people are invited to watch it online in two different schedules for people who work at night!
Ø Still don’t know how to access online next Monday? Want to go to Chiapas for the next cycle of workshops in December? Write to us at email@example.com for more information.
More info also at http://roarmag.org/2013/08/escuelita-zapatista-10-year-autonomy/
Below please find the complete English translation on the last Zapatista communiques about the upcoming “Little School”
July of 2013.
Now we want to explain to you how the little school will work (the list of school items you’ll need, the methodology, the teachers, the course subjects, the schedules, etc.), so the first thing is…
What you will need.
The only thing that you need, objectively, to attend the Zapatistas’ little school (in addition to being invited, of course, and your one hundred pesos for the book-DVD packet), is the willingness to listen.
So there’s no reason to heed the advice or recommendations of those people, however well-intentioned, who say that you need to bring this or that equipment, based on the fact that “they have been in community.”
Those who really have been in community don’t go around bragging about it, and they also know well that what one truly needs is to know how to look and listen. Those who have come to community to talk (and to try to tell us what to do, or to offer us charity in the form of money or “wisdom”) have been and will be many, too many. And those who have come to listen are very few. But I’ll tell you about that on another occasion.
So you don’t need to buy anything special (I read that someone only had some old tennis shoes to bring, that’s cool). Bring a notebook and a pen or pencil. It is not mandatory that you bring your computer, smartphone, tablet, or whatever you use now, but you can if you like. There won’t, however, be a cellular signal where you will be. There is Internet in some “caracoles” (Zapatista autonomous communities, meaning snails-conchs which is the symbol of Mayan time and the spiral of History), but its speed is, how shall I put it, a little like “pegassus,” Durito’s mount [a turtle]. Yes, you can bring your whatever-you-call-it that you use to listen to music. Yes, you can bring a camera and a recorder. Yes, you can record audio and take photos and video, but only according to the rules, which Sub-Commander Insurgent Moisés will tell you about. Yes, you can bring your teddy bear or equivalent.
Other things that might be useful: a flashlight; your toothbrush and a towel (if you want to bathe and it is possible to do so); at least one change of clothes, in case you get covered in mud; your medicines, if they are necessary and a trained capable person has prescribed them; a plastic bag for your identification and money (always keep these things with you—we will only ask you for your identification at registration, to see if you are really you); another plastic bag for the study materials you will receive here; you should also put your (under—if you use it—and outer) wear in plastic bags.
Remember: you can bring as much stuff as you want, but everything you bring you will have to carry yourself. So none of this “I’m going to take the piano just in case I have time to practice my do-re-mi-fa-so-la.” And no, you can’t bring your Xbox, ps3 wii, or that old Atari console.
What is in fact essential to have, you cannot buy. It is what you bring already incorporated within your person and can be found, if you start at your neck, below and to the left.
Okay, having clarified that, I will here list what you do need to attend the little school in community. Without the following requirements, YOU WILL NOT BE ADMITTED:
-Disinclination to talk or to judge.
-Willingness to listen and watch.
-A well-disposed heart.
Your race, age, gender, sexual preference, place of origin, religion, scholarliness, stature, weight, physical appearance, equipment, “long experience” on Zapatismo, or what you wear or don’t wear on your feet, none of that matters.
The Scholarly Space and Schedule.
According to the Zapatistas, the place of teaching and learning—school—is the collective. That is, the community. And the teachers and students are those who make up the collective. All of them. So there is no teacher, but rather a collective that teaches, that demonstrates, that trains, and in it and with it—a person who learns and, at the same time, teaches.
So when you attend your first day of class in community (this will be different if one is taking the course another way), do not expect to find yourself in a traditional school. The classroom that we have prepared for you is not a closed space with a blackboard and a professor at the front of the room imparting knowledge to the students who he or she will then evaluate and sanction (that is, classify into good and bad students), but rather, the open space of the community. And this community is not a “sect” (here Zapatistas, non-Zapatistas, and, in some cases, anti-Zapatistas live together), nor is it hegemonic, homogeneous, closed (here people from different calendars and geographies visit all year around), or dogmatic (here we also learn from Others).
So you are not coming to a school that operates on the traditional schedule. You will be in school every hour of every day during your stay here. The most important part of your time in the little Zapatistaschool is your living experience with the family with whom you will stay. You will go with them to get firewood, to the cornfield, to the river/stream/spring, you will cook and eat with them (of course, you will only eat what doesn’t harm you or go against your convictions—for example, if you are vegetarian or vegan, they won’t give you meat, but please let us know beforehand because the compas, when they are happy with a visit, often cook chicken or pork, or the community or autonomous municipality or Good Government Council might take one of its collective cows and make a stew for everybody), you will rest with them, and, above all, you will get tired with them.
All in all, during these days you will be part of an indigenous Zapatista family.
And that is the reason why we can’t accept people coming with their camping tent or RV. That is why there is a limit on the number of people who can come. Because many people do indeed fit on these lands, but under the little Zapatista roofs only a few fit. If you want to camp, to live close to nature or its bucolic equivalents, fine, but not here on these dates.
So you won’t be living with your gang, group, or collective. Nor with other “citizens” [like city-dwellers]. If you come with your family, partner, or your not-so-much-a-partner, you can be together if you like, but no one else. None of this “all of us who came from such-and-such place are going to get together to hang out or talk or sing around the campfire or whatever.” This you can do in your geographies and calendars. You (or you and your family, or partner, or not-so-much-a-partner) are coming here to participate in the daily life and knowledge of the indigenous Zapatista people, and, of course, the daily life of non-Zapatista indigenous people.
The Zapatistas are a people that have the particularity of not only having challenged the powerful, nor only of having maintained their rebellion and resistance for 20 years. They also, and above all, have managed to build (in conditions which you will become personally acquainted with) the indigenous Zapatista definition of freedom: to govern and govern ourselves in accord with our ways, in our geography and our calendar. Yes, this part about “our geography and our calendar” defines a considerable distance between ours and other projects. We warn you that this is not only not a model to follow (some things have worked for us and some things haven’t), a new evangelism, or a new fashion for export; it is also not a “construction manual for freedom.” It is not that for the other native peoples of Mexico, much less for all of the peoples who struggle in all of the corners of the world.
In addition, take careful note, we are defining a time. What you will see here works for us now. New generations will build their own paths, with their own ways and their own times. A concept of freedom does not enslave its future inheritors.
For us, this is freedom: to exercise the right to construct our own destiny, with no one that rules over us and tells us what to do or not do. In other words: it is our right to fall and pick ourselves back up. We know well that this is built with rebellion and dignity, knowing that there are other worlds and other ways, and that, just like we are building ours here, others are going about building their identity, their dignity.
During the week that you live with the Zapatista communities, you will only twice go to a meeting in the Caracol with all of the students of the zone that you are assigned to. In this meeting, where many different colors and ways from many different calendars and geographies will meet, there will be a teacher dedicated to trying to respond to any questions or doubts that have come up during your stay. This is because we think that it will be good for you to hear the doubts that arose for someone from another country or another continent, another city, another reality…
But the most fundamental part of the little school you will learn with your…
Over the course of a few months, tens of thousands of Zapatistafamilies have been preparing to receive those who come to the little school in community. Along with them, thousands of women and men, indigenous Zapatistas, have become a Votán, simultaneously individual and collective.
So you should know what role the Votán will play, because the Votán is, as they say, the backbone of the little school. It is the method, the study plan, the teacher, the school, the classroom, the blackboard, the notebook, the pen, the desk with an apple, the recess, the exam, the graduation, and the cap and gown.
A lot has been written and said about what Votán (or “Uotán”, or “Wotán”, or “Botán”) means. For example, that the word doesn’t exist in the Mayan language and is just a misunderstood or badly translated version of “Ool Tá aan,” which would be something like “The Heart that Speaks.” Or that it refers to an earthquake; or the growl of the jaguar, or the beating of the heart of the earth, or the heart of the sky, or the heart of the water, or the heart of the mountain, or all this and more. But, as in everything that refers to originary peoples, these are versions upon versions from those who have tried to dominate (sometimes with knowledge) these lands and their inhabitants. So, unless you have interest in contemplating interpretations of interpretations (that end up ignoring their creators), here we refer to the meaning that the Zapatistas give to the Votán. And it will be something like “guardian of the heart of the people,” or “guardian and heart of the earth,” or “guardian and heart of the world.”
Each of the little school students, regardless of their age, gender, or race, will have their Votán, a guardian (or guardiana) [feminine].
That is, in addition to the family with whom you will live for those days, you will have a tutor who will help you understand what, according to the Zapatistas, freedom is.
The Guardians [masculine and feminine] are people like all common people. Only these are people that rebelled against the powerful who exploited, dispossessed, disrespected, and repressed them, and they are people who have given their life to that rebellion. Despite this, the Votán that we are does not preach the cult of death, glory, or Power, but rather walks through life in a daily struggle for freedom.
Your personal Votán, your female or male guardian “Votán”, will tell you our history, explain who we are, where we are, why we fight, how we struggle, and alongside who we want to struggle. They will talk to you about our achievements and our errors, study the textbooks with you, resolve any doubts they are able to (and for when they are not able, we have the larger meeting). They are the ones who will speak to you in Spanish (the family with whom you live will always speak to you in their mother tongue), they will translate for you what the family says, and will translate to the family what you want to say or know. They will walk with you, go to the cornfield or to bring firewood or water with you, they will cook and eat with you, sing and dance with you, sleep near you, accompany you when you go to the bathroom, tell you which bugs to avoid, make sure you take your medicine; in sum, they will teach and take care of you.
You can ask your Votán anything: if we are really the offspring of Salinas, if SupMarcos is dead or just tanning himself on a European beach, if SubMoy is going to show up at some point, if the world is round, if he or she believes in elections, if he or she is for the Jaguares [Chiapas’ Mexican professional league soccer team], etc. etc. In contrast to other teachers, if your female or male guardian “Votán” doesn’t know the answer, they’ll say “I don’t know.
Your guardian “Votán” will also be your simultaneous translator that doesn’t need batteries. Because here, as far as it is possible, you will be spoken to in our native languages. Only your female or male guardian “Votán” will speak to you in Spanish. This way you will experience what happens when an indigenous person tries to speak in a dominant language. The fundamental difference is that here you will not be treated with disdain or mockery for not understanding what is said to you or for mispronouncing words.
There might be laughter, yes, but out of sympathy for your effort to understand and make yourself understood. And note, your Votán will not only translate words, but also colors, flavors, sounds, entire worlds, that is, a culture.
In the meeting that you will attend with your classmates in the zone, you will not be able to ask questions directly of the teacher; rather, you will ask your female or male guardian “Votán” and they will translate the question for the teacher, who will respond in their mother tongue and your guardian will translate back to you. You will of course be left with the doubt as to whether your question was adequately translated and if the answer you got is the same as that which the teacher gave. But, isn’t that exactly what an indigenous person is subject to with a translator in the government courts of justice? This way you will understand that what they call “juridical equality” is just one more monstrosity of justice in our world. Where is juridical equality if the translation of things like “freedom,” “democracy,” and “justice” are made with the same words of those who want to enslave, dispossess, and disappear us? Where is equality if accusation, trial, and sentencing is made by a juridical system that, in addition to corrupt, is imposed in the language of the Ruler? Where is justice in a system whose judgment is based on the premise of cultural dispossession? That is why the school will be like this. That is why the Votán will have this purpose. Because…
They are us.
Your Votán is a great collective concentrated in a person. He or she will not speak as an individual. Each Votán is all of us Zapatistas.
A few weeks ago, Subcomandantes Moisés and Marcos gave the responsibility of spokesperson to thousands of indigenous Zapatistamen and women to hold for the days of the little school. During those days in August (and later next December and January), the EZLN will speak through their voice; through their ears the EZLN will listen; and in their heart will beat the great “we” that we are.
So during the days of the Little School, you will have a teacher who is nothing more and nothing less than the maximum Zapatistaauthority, the supreme head of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation: Votán. And the Votán will also be in charge of…
One guardiana for each child/student who is a minor (12 years old or younger) will accompany the mother and/or father all of the time, helping to take care of the child, making sure they don’t get sick, that they take their medicine, that they play, learn, and are happy. If the child knows how to read, the guardiana will study our textbook with the child, and tell stories of how the indigenous children lived before the uprising and how they live now. They will tell terrible and marvelous stories, and jokes, and maybe even sing the children the song about “the moño colorado.” And if the children misbehave, they will tell them not to act like that, because if they do SupMarcos will come with his great big bag of cookies and won’t give them even one, even if they are animal crackers, and that the great Don Durito of the Lacandón will not tell them the story of how he fought, all by himself, against 3.141592 toothless dragons, nor the marvelous story of Lucezita and the Cat-Dog that, they tell me, leaves Ironman, Batman, The Avengers, Spiderman, X-Man, Wolverine, and anything else that comes out, in the dust.
All of the children, with the family members that accompany them, will be assigned to the zones closest to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, under the best conditions we can offer. They will have specially prepared lodging with their mother or father so that they do not get cold or wet if it rains. There will also be compas present who know about health and first aid. And in the case of an emergency, two ambulances and two other vehicles will be available 24 hours a day to take the child to the city if a doctor is needed, or to get medicine if needed. If it is necessary for a family to return to their own particular geography before the school is over, we have a small economic fund to help them with their tickets or gasoline.
In short, the children will have very special treatment. But neither they nor the adults will escape the…
It is the most difficult test you can imagine. It does not consist of a written exam, a thesis, or multiple choice questions; and there won’t be a jury or a council of judges with university titles to grade you.
Your reality will be your test, on your own calendar, in your own geography, and your council of judges will be… the mirror.
There you will see if you can respond to the only question on the final exam: what is freedom according to you and yours?
Vale. Cheers and believe me, I say out of my own experience, what one certainly learns best here is to ask questions. And it’s worth it.
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
SupMarcos.Mexico, July of 2013.
Mexico, July of 2013.
More English versions and summaries on the history of Zapatismo coming up this week! If you don’t want to receive our OWS Zapatistanewsletter, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the message “unsubscribe” on the subject.
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21 July 2013
Declaration of the 3rd International Youth Assembly of the Via Campesina
8th and 9th June 2013 – Jakarta, Indonesia
Watch the pictures of the Youth Assembly!
We are young peasants, members of the Via Campesina, people with different cultures and languages from over seventy countries in five continents, who are in Jakarta, Indonesia, to celebrate the 3rd International Youth Assembly and the 20th anniversary of the Via Campesina.
As young peasants, we are the present and the future of sustainable agriculture, which can sustain the world and cool Mother Earth. Having analysed and reflected generally on the global political and economic situation, we would like to express our deep concern about the current development crisis, which is causing many impoverished and marginalised communities to be expropriated of the territory, land, water and forest goods on which they depend for their livelihood. There has been an increase in the number of forced displacements and evictions of young peasants, and an increase in hunger and poverty.
For this reason, to restore the dignity of peasants and agriculture itself, and to encourage a holistic concept of food sovereignty through agro-ecology, we, as young peasants, will continue to fight against:
We demand that states and governments recognise, comply with and regulate food sovereignty in the constitutions of all countries as a basic human right. We also demand that the organisations and authorities that are involved and have responsibility take the following action:
In addition to these demands, we also make the following commitments:
The Youth of the Via Campesina will fight for Food Sovereignty!
21 July 2013
19 July 2013
14 July 2013
9 July 2013
8 July 2013
It was agreed to write a common text to call for the agora, to be published on 99agora.net.
We wrote a first draft, based on the old FAQs for the Madrid meeting:
Here the pad: http://agora99roma.titanpad.
The dates proposed for the 2013 meeting in Rome are October 4-6(first weekend of october) or November 1-3 (first weekend of november).