Monday, June 16, 2008

Anarchism and Libertarian Currents in the Oaxaca Insurrectionary Movement

From Anarkismo - By Sergio de Castro Sanchez (translated) - Capital Terminus Collective

Translated from Sergio de Castro Sanchez's article, Journal of the CGT Rojo y Negro (Spain)

Between June and November of 2006, the Mexican state of Oaxaca lived through a popular revolt that both astonished and shocked the world. While the mass media took its characteristic perspective on the conflict, the people of Oaxaca rejected Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and took the capital city demanding his ouster as the starting point for the creation of a new political and economic order to wipe out the huge social inequalities that submerge the mostly indigenous state.

To talk about the historical background that led to this uprising can be misleading. And it is because our discussion is imparted with an essential difference between that which occurred before and that which occurred after June 14th. In reality, the struggle in Oaxaca, Mexico and Latin America is a continuum in which only the limits of our thinking and of our language that impose dates and events with special historical interest, while ignoring the "silent" processes and " marginal of history "(at least media-wise) that occur within the society, as well as the struggles and the repression exerted upon them.

Knowing this, however , we do advise that the fight in Oaxaca goes back to the arrival of the Spaniards, here we will just focus on the recent past.

A brief history

On June 14th 2006, 3,000 troops from different bodies of the Mexican State Police tried to enter the main city plaza or Zocalo with the intention to evict the annual encamped "sit-in" that the Mexican National Educational Workers Union (SNTE) union had established at the Zocalo for the past 25 years as a means of pressure for a series of demands. The people of Oaxaca joined together under this movement and went to the streets forcing the police to retreat. From that moment on and despite the authoritarian and repressive policies of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), the ouster of the governor became the unanimous demand of the people. A few days later, several organizations joined with the teachers in the creation of the famous People's Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), which in its first instance would be led by thirty members who comprised the "Interim Committee" and of various groups who saw only a opportunity by which some would seek to use the revolt to fill their lust for power. From that moment began the repression: arbitrary arrests, torture and killings become the norm in Oaxaca while the popular move movement would meet in mega- marches of up to 800,000 people and developed actions that the APPO's direction could not control.

June 14th provides one of the first examples of such popular effervescence that builds upon itself and takes the decision to confront the police. There are many more examples of this type. On August 1st, a "cacerolada" (pot and pan banging brigade) composed exclusively of women decided to take the state television station in a peaceful manner. For weeks all programming was in charge of these women until they were violently evicted by vigilante groups. But that same night it was decided to seize all the commercial radio stations in the city . Days later, an attack by the "convoy of death" upon Radio La Ley resulted in a casualty and this leads the people take another decision: thousands of barricades were installed as a defense against the paramilitary and vigilante attacks. For weeks, and every night, the town jumps to the streets to defend the city until October 28th, one day after 5 people were killed, when the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) managed to enter the main plaza or Zocalo of the city. Then a few days later, on November 2nd, the police attempt to evict Radio University in viola- tion of university's autonomy. As the leaders of the APPO offered support to the members of the barricades that protected the voice of the movement to the left, the people went back out into the streets forcing the PFP to withdraw. The APPO secured a victory .

On November 25th, following a mega-march that was intended to besiege the PFP in the Zocalo and before the police assault, clashes were unleashed leading to a night of brutal repression that would only be the prelude to torture, illegal arrests and while others negotiate with the government to end the movement.

The outcome of the whole process: 26 dead, dozens of detainees and an undetermined number of missing. When the repression continued and at same there was debate on the participation of certain groups of APPO in the forthcoming elections to State Congress that was threatening to break the fragile unity of the APPO, provides an ideal time to review how the anarchist groups participated in the movement outside of the electioneering perspective and the criticism of some groups such as the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) that is effectively Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist and which showed its true face in trying to eliminate all opponents participating in the election game.

Excerpted from Issue #8 of The Capital Terminus, Anarchist theory, news, and analysis, June 2008.

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