” […] This series of mobilizations that have sprouted throughout Latin America for the past two decades positively indicate that grassroots movements are alive across the region. Many of them are carriers of a new political culture and a new form of political organization, which is reflected in multiple ways and which is different from what we knew in the 1960s and 1970s.
Some of the movements, from the Chilean secondary school students and the Zapatista communities, to the Guardians of the Conga Lakes, the Venezuela Settlers’ Movement and the Movimento Livre Passe (MPT) of Brazil, reveal some common characteristics that are worth noting.
The first is the massive and exceptional participation of the youth and of women. As vulnerable victims of capitalist exploitation, their presence revitalizes anti-capitalist struggles because they can be directly involved in the movement. Ultimately, it is they — those who have nothing to lose — who give movements an intransigent radical character.
Secondly, a unique political culture is gaining ground, which the Zapatistas have synthesized in the expression “governing by obeying” (mandar obedeciendo). Those who care for the lakes in Peru — the heirs of peasant patrols (rondas campesinas) – obey their communities. The young activists of the MPL in Brazil make decisions by consensus in order to avoid consolidating a majority, and they explicitly reject the “loudspeaker cars” that union bureaucracies used to impose control on their marches.
Another common feature to these movements is the project of autonomy and horizontality, words that only started being used 20 years ago but which have already been fully incorporated into the political language of those involved in the various struggles. Activists claim autonomy from the state and political parties, as well as horizontality — the collective leadership of the movement rather than that of any individual. For instance, members of the Coordinating Assembly of Secondary Students (ACES, its initials in Spanish) of Chile function horizontally, with a collective leadership and an assembly.
The fourth characteristic is the predominance of flows over structures. The organization adapts itself and is subordinate to the movement; it is not frozen into a structure that conditions the collective with its own separate interests. The collectives that struggle are similar to communities in resistance, in which all run similar risks and where the division of labor is adjusted according to the objectives that the group outlines at every given moment.
In this new layer of organization, it is difficult to distinguish who the leaders are — not because referents and spokespersons do not exist, but rather because the difference between leaders and followers diminishes as the collective leadership of those from below increases. This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the new political culture that has been expanding over the course of the past two decades.
Finally, Zapatismo is a political and ethical referent — not so much indicating a direction for these movements, but rather serving as an example from which to take inspiration. Multiple dialogues are taking place among all the various Latin American movements, not in the style of formal and structured gatherings, but as direct exchanges of knowledge and experience between activist networks: precisely the kind of exchange that we need in order to strengthen our struggle against the system.”
Read the full article at: http://roarmag.org/2013/12/zapatistas-latin-american-movements/