1 No.18 april - june 2014 Argentina A Nomadic University AUTONOMIES Greece Health from Below Mexico The Zapatistas Inspire the World Trimestral Grassroots Review South Africa Life Against the New Apartheid Another World Already Exists Brazil Mexico Greece Russia South Africa El Salvador Italy Argentina The United States Palestine.
2 A GLOCAL PERSPECTIVE AUTONOMIES Another World Already Exists For the Desinformemonos grassroots review, there is no such thing as a small or big struggle. What we observe, and try to relate are stories of any size that speak to the successes of community organizations in the here and now. In this issue we are not so concerned with grand plans or revolutionary aspirations. What we present are stories that are woven on the margins of the state, in which collective organizations reassert their right to prescribe and live-out their destiny. DIRECTORY Director Gloria Muñoz Ramírez Subdirector Adazahira Chávez Translation The Boston Interpreters Collective Design atelier.mx The autonomous processes of indigenous peoples have been easier to describe, as the communal spirit is integral to their very being. However, there is little said of the challenge of creating community and sustainability outside of the dominant hegemonic powers in the urban setting, where individualism, competition, income, and capitalist relations are major roadblocks to any communal effort. For this reason the experiences that have arisen as countercurrents acquire singular relevance in this issue. One common characteristic is that the autonomous experiences that are formed through rebellion, without permission, are targeted by the powers, and are considered a threat to the establishment. They are also radical in their day-to-day activities, as they sever the ties between State and client that flow from top to bottom, and are outside of the scope of political parties, who want to either co-opt or destroy them. They emerge from the underground, in a horizontal fashion, with no leadership cult or unilateral decisions. With Another World Already Exists, we aim to not be falsely optimistic, unfairly general, or excessively theoretical. We have taken upon ourselves the job of collecting experiences of the liberation of communities and collectives who have made history in diverse terrains, from a soccer field in Brazil to thousands of organized communities in Chiapas. Stories that walk the same walk from Argentina to Russia, El Salvador and South Africa, Greece, Palestine, Italy, and even the United States, the very heart of the monster. desinformemonos.org Collaborators in this issue: Argentina: María Coco Magallanes. Mario Canek Huerta, Zanón Fábrica sin Patrones and Grupo de trabajo en apoyo a la escuela en Fansipat; Brazil: Gabriela Moncau and Waldo Lao; El Salvador: Ricardo Martínez Martínez; United States: Kilombo Intergaláctico; Greece: Marina Demetriadou; Italy: Alejandro González; Mexico: Jaime Quintana and Hermann Bellingausen; Palestine: Gloria Muñoz; Russia: Katerina Girich; South Africa: Richard Pithouse. Photography: Gerasimos Koilakos, Gabriela Moncau, Alexander Chemeris, Maria Novella de Luca y Valerio Nicollosi/ Fool Frame Project, Fabiana, Wissam Nassar/ Maan Images, Casa Mafalda, Fútbol Rebelde, Comune Info, Teatro Valle Ocupado, Dphinfo, Occupy Cop17, Comunidad de Santa Marta, DGH, Message from Moscow, Fasinpat, Universidad Trashumante, Colors and Kilombo Intergalácticoo. Desinformémonos Trimestral Grassroots Review is a quarterly publication edited by Periodismo de Abajo A.C. in seven languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Portuguese. It can be downloaded freely on the Internet, distributed in magazine format, posted on bulletin boards in community spaces and/or distributed as a flyer. This magazine is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 MX), text and photos are distributed under the same license. Some rights reserved where copyright is found.
3 Brazil The other side of soccer in Sao Paulo A soccer collective has begun in Mafalda House, a space in which people can have fun, play sports, and discuss social movements. It s a little piece of what they call another possible world, its creators say. Original text: Gabriela Moncau Photos: Mafalda House and Rebell Soccer Sao Paulo, Brazil. An autonomous and alternative space to commercialized culture lives in the city of Sao Paulo. The idea of Mafalda House came from two soccer teams (one women s and the other men s) called The Autonomous FC, founded in 2006 and selfmanaged by punks, anarchists, and activists in the city. In 2011, similar self-managed spaces in the city closed their doors because of structural and financial difficulties. Driven by the vaccuum left by these closures, the soccer club and collective decided to put their idea of creating a space into practice. In the old music studio that today houses Mafalda House various activities are carried out. Videos are shown about the collective catharsis that soccer provokes. The collective Libertarian Art, inspired by the techniques of Mexican muralism, adorn the main room. The outside walls of the house are decorated with graffiti. They also hold debates about the space and its relationship with other social movements. The culture and values of the market absorb more and more of the population. Discussing the world from an opposite perspective is one of the most important things that can be done in Mafalda House, explains Gabriel Brito, a member of the team. Offering a space for people to listen to the voices of social movements that fight for a more equitable model for society, as well as discuss political ideas, is one of its most basic functions, in addition to promoting various forms of culture, he explains. The principles of the soccer team anti-capitalism, anti-fascism, anti-racism and anti-sexism are reflected in the activities that are organized in the space. Mafalda House stands with social movements, with soccer lovers, and with those who are against the commercialization of the most beautiful game in the world, Gabriel adds. Besides playing soccer, the members of the group also participate in social movements such as the Free 3 Fare Movement in public transit, the Moradia Front of Struggle in urban development, the Carnaval Group Hijos de Santa and the National Association of Fans. Self-management of the space The group designed a system of sponsorship for the house to gather donation. Sponsors receive rehearsal time in the studio (if they have a band), free dates to hold events, free entry on show day, t-shirts and other materials. Although The Autonomous FC is at the front of the project, other groups and movements have joined the cause. Brito points out that although they started with volunteer workers, now we hope that after paying off our debts we can work with a fair system of paid work. Mafalda House doesn t have its sights set on profits. The money, apart from being used to pay bills and those who work there, will be used for the group s projects among which is a children s soccer team, the Alternative World Cup, and a printed newspaper. For Gabriel, the idea is to make this space a little bit of what many call another possible world, with social justice, equality, solidarity, and respect for the rights of all social groups that are discriminated against and abused currently.
4 Greece The Potato Movement The initiative is an example of a high level of organizing and solidarity. This is exactly what O topos mu wanted to demonstrate: we can achieve a lot without the State. Original text: Marina Demetriadou Photo: Gerasimos Koilakos Piería, Greece. In the small city of Katerini, with 55,000 inhabitants located in the north of Greece, a Potato Movement has been organized. A group of volunteers contacted potato producers from the town of Nevrokopi directly, agreeing on a price of.25 euro/ kilo (which is a third of the price in supermarkets) for 24 tons of potato. They placed an ad on the internet to gather participants until the sale was guaranteed. The experiment was successful and was repeated again, this time with 75 tons. Other cities in Greece have followed Katerini s example. O topos mu ( my place in Greek) is a voluntary action group in the Pieria district. It had a very important role in Katerini even before the Potato Movement. It was founded in 2007 in an unofficial manner because, as the members point out, no one wanted to get legal recognition. It began with four or five people, who, after learning of the huge fires occurring in the south of the country, went to the local fire department to ask what they could do if Mt. Olympus, known as the Mountain of the Gods, which is located in the region, were to face a similar situation. I ll give a day of my summer to the forest, was the first of various activities they began. It was followed by tree planting and work to protect the mountain from eco-business and aggressive sports activities that hurt the natural habitat (such as heli-skiing and drag racing). In 2009, members of O topos mu became part of the I won t pay movement that demanded free access to the public highways without having to pay a toll. In August of 2011 the group supported a movement against an aggressive electricity tax and formed support groups to reconnect electricity to houses in PRICES DOWN Potato sales through the Internet pressured supermarkets to reduce their prices. $1. 38 Dollars Stores O Topus mu 4 Exchange rate on 3/19/14 per kilogram from 10 kilograms Stores Other O Topos mu movements Give a Day of My Summer to the Forest was a series of ecological actions on Mt. Olympus. I won t pay demanded free access to public highways. O topos mu supported the movement against an exessive electricity tax. which service had been suspended for not paying the new fee. Later, the collective opened a successful store of donated products that allowed poor families to receive free food. Similarly, O topos mu plans to establish a volunteer medical center to offer free medical consultations and care. With the Potato Movement, they were able to achieve an immediate impact. The week the internet sale began, one of the local supermarkets halved the price of potatoes to.35 euro/kilo with a minimum purchase of 10 kilos. This was exactly the goal of the initiative: Take a stab at the price speculation that affects the consumer household and blackmails producers. The initiative is an example of a high level of organizing and solidarity. This is exactly what O topos mu wanted to demonstrate: we can achieve a lot without the State.
5 Salonica Pieria Greece Doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, laboratory technicians, and activists weave health from below Sotiris is a 50 year old Greek salesperson. I don t have a job and I don t have social security. That s why I m here. This place is important for its role in the crisis. If it did not exist, what would we do? Original text: Gloria Muñoz Ramírez Photo: Gabriela Moncau Salonica, Greece. Due to the economic crisis that has pummeled Greece since 2007, hospitals are lacking indispensable medical supplies and medicines including those serving people with social security. The public hospitals are, without doubt, one of the most affected by austerity policies. Solidarity Health Center The first floor of the Confederation of Private Workers building is a commotion of doctors, patients, and people arriving with medicines to be given to the pharmacy. While the volunteers sort pill bottles and attend to the needs of the doctors, the receptionist passes patients to an overflowing waiting room. The pathology, neurology, psychology, and pediatrics examining rooms are working at full capacity and the dentistry room is even more packed. In the entranceway, a cloth sign is hung with the name Solidarity Health Center. Sotiris is a 50 year old Greek salesperson. I don t have a job and I don t have social security. That s why I m here. This place is important for its role in the crisis. If it did not exist, what would we do? The health center opened on November 7, 2011, and it has been operating at full capacity ever since. The network includes 40 dentists and 20 dental assistants, 30 psychiatrists and psychologists, 15 pathologists, 20 pediatricians, 30 receptionists, and 20 more people in the pharmacy. Add to this a network of doctors with private offices who cooperate with the center seeing patients who are referred by the center for free. In addition, 40 specialists participate in the effort: Cardiologists, orthopedists, gynecologists everything. Cristina, a doctor who is part of the project explains: To that you ve got to add 200 support personnel, plus there s the help that laboratories and radiology centers provide. The patients needs are great and it is difficult to maintain proper sanitary conditions, for that reason we ve made the decision to pay for outside laboratory tests, even though it s not free. One of the marvels of this effort is that it does not receive support from the State, from the European Union, or international organizations. The city offered 10 thousand euros and the Center rejected it because, we cannot accept support from an institution that attacks immigrants every day and hunts them down in the central squares where they are trying to sell their merchandise. Financial support comes from unions, cultural organizations, and nonpartisan political groups. Their main funding, though, comes from activities that the group organizes themselves, such as concerts and art shows. This covers their monthly expenditures which amount to more than 3 thousand euros. No patient has been charged anything, and we ve been successful at maintaining that commitment from the very beginning until today, noted Anastasia and Cristina with pride. 5
6 Italy A Zapatista Township arises in Pisa Inspired by the ideas of autonomy and horizontality, a group of people of most varied origins builds day by day a cultural and political space in a factory ruined by crisis. Original text: Alejandro González Photos: Comune Info Pisa, Italy. The Cooperative Township occupation was an abandoned paint factory and is now a space in which to survive the economic crisis and rebuild the fabric of society. Born in 2012 as an initiative of the Coordinated Rebellion of Pisa, it has been converted into an open space. The multinational J-Colors decided to file a complaint after 15 years of abandonment, but the activists are not willing to allow an eviction. Francesco Biagi, constituent for the Rebellion, reports that the Rebellion was a university collective born in the heat of the protests against the G-8 in Genoa, in In 2003 they occupied an abandoned building in the University of Pisa. After an eviction came another occupation and more students joined the movement. However, a space for popular use in the city was still missing, says Biagi. Due to pressure from the community, the mayor at the time granted them a building, but in 2008, with the changes in authority and the complaints made by the Rebellion against the city s racist policies, the space was recalled. That s how the idea of occupying a space on our own was born, recalls the activist. We decided on an abandoned paint factory, which symbolizes the economic crisis. It belonged to a local business that went bankrupt in 1998 and was sold to J-Colors Multinational. The business closed down a few months afterwards to move to China, leaving dozens of people unemployed and an abandoned structure of 14,000 square meters. At the occupation, in October of 2012, individuals and collectives committed to the project got together. From there the Cooperative Township is born, summarizes the activist. The name was not happenstance. We consider Zapatismo a political example that we must re-vindicate with resolve. We would like to call it a Township bearing in mind its beginning as a direct democracy. Common property is a concept that is born in Italy with the campaign to make water management public but 6 we want to go beyond that. Not only are air, nature and water public goods but also land and public spaces. The factory was a dispossession effected by capitalism, that is now abandoning it, and we are occupying it, caring for it and transforming it. Space management The activities in the Township are varied: Popular meals, gym, courses in Arabic and a space for collective assemblies. A general meeting occurs where organization of the space is talked about. In addition to cleaning, cooking and watch turns, there are committees that are in charge of logistical issues. The most beautiful thing is that you meet people of all ages. The artisan workshops, one carpentry and another smithy, belong to older people. The student portion exists and is important, but not essential, explains the enthusiastic Biagi. It is a space truly occupied by the people. They have neighborhood parties, which include migrants. The space also brings together different political sensibilities. The occupation is horizontal, and that is why the Zapatista Way is an example. We wanted to unite people who feel like they are from below and to the left, he reports.
7 Pisa Rome Italy The curtain opens: Self-managed art in an occupied historical theater The theater of four floors through which it is said at some point Mozart walked, once again crossed categories and boundaries between music, theater and dance, returning to a place where genres blend together. Original text: Alejandro González Ledesma and Gloria Muñoz Ramírez Photo: Teatro Valle Ocupado y Fabiana Rome, Italy. In the center of Rome, at 30 meters from the Senate, rises one of the first theaters to see the birth of the opera spectacle. It is the Valle Theater, constructed in 1727, majestic and historic, closed as a result of cuts to cultural funding in 2010, and occupied since June 14th of 2011 by artists, technicians, theater directors, ballerinas and activists, who from that moment turned the lights back on and lifted the curtain to shows, concerts, workshops, montages and hundreds of activities that take place and are self-managed every day. There is overflowing enthusiasm. Nobody thought that a historic place could be occupied illegally but legitimately for so long. The occupants and the spectators, the artists and technicians, the film and theater directors, the musicians and the people on foot are the ones that live together in this community molded by the warmth of the organization and the countless issues that sustaining such a business represents. The challenges are many, as the occupants mention in a collective interview from within the theater vestibule, we are occupying and governing it, doing a lot more than was done in the theater before it was occupied, working communications, organization and all the technical details that a production like this one requires, with daily programming that is designed so that the artists who come here can sustain the fight. It is, in short, about the building in our country of a kind of politic though cooperation, horizontality and forms of direct democracy. The four-storied theatre through which some say at some point Mozart walked was innovative since its inception and a source of scandal because the actors, at the start of the 20th century, entered and exited the stage in the style of Betolt Brecht, continues to give people something to talk about. Once again, it crosses boundaries between music, theater, and dance, returning to a place where genres blend together. It is about actors, writers, composers and ballerinas united which is very rare in Italy, because people work within small, isolated companies. The Zapatista fight, point out the actors and activists, has been a strong model of reference. A lot of our type of organization comes out of Chiapas, out of the recovery of their land, horizontal organization, and formation within communal schools. Also out of experiences in Argentina and of the Diaspora in Brazil, among others. Maintaining this historic monument is an important topic. At this time, there is no compensation for occupants or for the artists, and they are currently raising the funds to maintain the space and establish the Valle Theater Cooperative, a status that would certainly provide certain legal guarantees to the 7 occupation. Fortunately, support is not lacking, and in addition to the collaboration offered by spectators, many recognized artists offer solidarity shows to support the fight. Here, every day, the lights turn on, the curtain lifts and the show goes on.
8 The Desinformemonos Grassroots Review is made possible thanks to the support of: Cádiz No. 152 Colonia Álamos, Delegación Benito Juárez facebook: Maya Vinic En Campeche, México espacio + comunidad CGT Valencia y CGT Murcia. 8
9 Durban South Africa In facing renewed segregation, the Abahlali basemjondolo Movement builds another city The AbM is capable of resisting the dissolution of settlements, creating new settlements, accessing State services without aligning with any political party. Original text: Richard Pithouse/ Dph info Photos: Dph info y Occupy Cop17 Durban, South Africa. The repression facing the movement of shack-dwellers Abahlali basemjondolo (AbM) is powerful, but it does not dissuade the activists who are exercising their right to decide and to build how and where they want to live, independent of the political parties, the established power, the intellectual elite, and NGO s. With the defense of their settlements, and by putting into motion group projects, they are asserting that right. With the end of apartheid in South Africa, the right to housing was enshrined. However, over the years, the State has come to see the shacks of the poor as threats to modernity, precarious settlements that should be eradicated rather than communities that should be integrated. Its strategy is to withhold services such as water, electricity, and sanitation; the use of state sponsored violence to limit the expansion of the settlements; and the destruction of the established settlements, and the relocation of the inhabitants to peripheral areas. In response to these pressures we have seen the resurgence of urban social movements against this new class apartheid. The Abahlali basemjondolo (AbM) movement started in Durban in 2005 in response to the State s attempt to remove the Kennedy Road settlement. What has formed is an autonomous political project that is based on care for the other; a patient political culture, profoundly democratic, and deliberate, along with an impressive diversity of race, ethnicity, and nationality. The AbM is capable of resisting the dissolution of settlements, creating new settlements, accessing State services without aligning with any political party, implementing projects of mutual benefit, connecting thousands of people to the electric grid and water pipelines (illegally), opposing political oppression, democratizing the governance of the settlements, and fighting for land and homes in the villages as well as in the cities. In some settlements the AbM implements successful projects such as day-care centers, community gardens, garment-making collectives, and assistance to orphans and those 9 living with HIV. In addition the AbM organizes a football league with 16 teams, and cultural events highlighting various musical genres. The AbM also coordinates meetings and campaigns where NGO s, academics, and lawyers can offer their help to the movement, always with an eye towards maintaining mutual respect. The settlements affiliated with the movement are treated as dissident territories by the police and military forces. Their gatherings are targeted through illegal and violent means.
10 Mexico Zapotec cellular telephone, communitarian and autonomous A totally new community project of collective functionality was born within Oaxacan indigenous communities. It services the people that exist outside the economy. Original text: Jaime Quintana Guerrero Photo: Alexander Chemeris Local cell phone system This is how the cell phone system of the indigenous communities of the Sierra Negra in Oaxaca works. The necessary infrastructure was installed so as to provide signal to the community. The system has public numbers that connect to a computer. The computer connects to a switchboard that locates the telephone of the dialed number. The call disconnects after 5 minutes so as to give other users an opportunity. Oaxaca, Mexico. Within the indigenous communities of the Sierra Negra of Oaxaca flows a system of communal cellular telephone communication, a social communication project unique in the world, seeking a management model similar to that of community radios. This project has its origins in the Zapotec Telea de Castro community. The project s essence rests in the community s administration of its own system, states Pedro Flores, the coordinator of the project. In Mexico, there are 50 thousand indigenous communities without telephone service. The large businesses from which they requested service for more than ten years have replied that it was not economically viable to invest in distant zones, says Flores, who is part of Rhizomatica, the community project s governing cooperative. In indigenous communities, having a cellular telephone establishes social status, but [the telephones] are also useful, Flores exposes. Youth utilize them to listen to music and to watch videos. [The telephones] are also lanterns or calculators and they serve as a way to listen to the radio. We saw that these devices existed and a network of people that used them, the only thing missing is a signal, he affirms. One challenge facing the project is not furthering consumerism. We don t want to contribute to an irresponsible understanding of technology within the villages. Telea de Castro is happy not only because it has service, but also because the service is self-owned. The people put together resources for the equipment and they decided to establish time limits. After five minutes the phone call disconnects to give someone else the opportunity to use the service, Flores describes. The most complicated aspect of configuring the equipment is making decisions at the community level. The Zapotec community, which has a high migration rate, saves money with this system. One telephone number exists in the community and others for Los Angeles and Seattle, in the United States. An individual who spent six pesos to call now spends fifty centavos. The system has public numbers that connect to a computer, which connects to a switch that locates the telephone of the person you want to call, the promoter explains. One result from this is that telephone use has become more popular, it facilitates interpersonal communication and the resolution of domestic issues. 10 Individuals came from private companies to talk to people of the community, and told them, we heard that you already have your own telephony and we want to launch our business here. They hoped to take advantage of the network, being already installed, to put phones in houses, but the community s response was that they did not want [the company] to profit and that they were not interested in their service, since they already have their own network. Among various challenges, legal issues persist because although the Federal Commission on Telephony (COFETEL) granted the community a permit for two years, the Commission requests that the system include the participation of four different states in the formation of a network. The second challenge is technological, because the community needs less expensive equipment. The third challenge is in reference to organizationally related topics, and to management and administration from within the community. We are talking with the communities and this could be similar to a communal radio, Flores mentions. But the largest challenge is in respect to telephone companies, the promoter explains, who believes that as more communities approach the system in a request for service, businesses will attempt to insert themselves with more resolve.
11 Oaxaca Chiapas Mexico Zapatista Autonomy, a pillar of inspiration around the world Today the fields of autonomous community healthcare and education are part of a list of other projects such as the creation of autonomous media, transportation systems, cooperatives and even an anti-capitalist bank that supports emergency health care costs. Original text: Hermann Bellinghausen Photo: Maria Novella de Luca y Valerio Nicollosi/ Fool Frame Project Five Caracoles This is the location of the five Caracoles in Zapatista territory. Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has not lost any time. In December of 1994 in the community of Guadalupe Tepeyac, Subcomander Marcos, military leader and spokesperson for the organization, announced the creation of new rebel autonomous municipalities. Years later, in 2003, as a result of the lack of adherence to the San Andres Larrainzar Accords signed with the government that acknowledged among other things, the rights of indigenous populations to autonomy, the Zapatistas decided to establish their autonomy as law in their territory. Thus began the autonomous experience of the five Councils of Good Government, organized into five Centers and dozens of autonomous municipalities and regions. Since that time, they have fought against successive federal governments and the continued deployment of federal troops, police and paramilitary. Health and education, two of the pillars of autonomy and above all, the concept of leading by following, the principle by which autonomous governments are organized, were created during the period of mutual recognition between villagers and insurgents and was part of what was put into practice years later. Today the fields of autonomous community healthcare and education are supported by projects such as the creation of autonomous media, transportation systems, cooperatives and even an anti-capitalist bank that supports emergency health care costs. The autonomy of the Zapatistas, Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Choles, Tojolables, Mames, and farm workers of Chiapas has been possible thanks to the magnitude of the territory and the organization and the existence of their own army comprised of insurgents and militiamen who were born in the very towns they are fighting for; an army that honors the truce that they made with Mexican civil society not to engage in combat, but also not to surrender their arms. In the area of Torbellino de nuestras palabras people work non-stop, not for the accolades they will receive but as a way of life. Dozens of indigenous peoples, members of the regional and municipal autonomous government from a variety of commissions, spend time in meetings, trainings, discussions and gatherings with other farm workers and even sometimes receiving visitors from around the world. According to the Council of Good Government, the heart of the rainbow of hope, healthcare, education, production and women s work have been the most critical concepts to their autonomous development and they are doing what they can to advance in these aspects of their government. We do not do the same work as the official government. There, one or more special groups makes all the decisions. In Zapatista autonomy everyone makes decisions. Here you will notice that everyone is active, nobody is just sitting at a desk writing. Everyone reads, everyone writes, everyone plays. Everyone does everything. One Zapatista authority from the Council explains, this is not like the official government where a president says You guys go there. You, over there. It is because of this, among other reasons, that autonomy in these communities continues to be an unprecedented example worldwide. There is no comparable experience, and while it may never be replicated, the existence of Zapatista autonomy is the motor that has started many struggles in Mexico and around the world. 11