The strategy of the caracol

[Administrator’s Note: Today is the the 15th Anniversary of the birth of the Zapatista Good Government Juntas and Caracoles, a revolutionary model for organizing and self-government. The anniversary is being celebrated at the Gathering in Morelia.]

Mural on front of the first offices of the  Good Government Junta in the Caracol of La Garrucha.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

It has been fifteen years since the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) announced the creation of the caracoles and the Good Government juntas (Juntas de Buen Gobierno, JBG).

Today, when the in-coming government enunciates as its goal to “fulfill” said agreements (the San Andrés Accords, SAA) it would be good for it to find out that they were already fulfilled. Now more is needed, the SAA were only the first of four stages of interrupted talks to negotiate peace with the rebels and to fulfill the historic demands of the nation’s Native peoples. Faced with the neoliberal policies that established dispossession and aggressive extraction on their territories, many peoples stopped hoping. A risk of AMLO’s policy for indigenous peoples is that it starts from behind. It will be patronizing and directed at “poverty,” and it foresees a manner of “autonomy” and goes straight to the creation of important divisions. As if there were not too many already!

Slowly, quietly and efficiently, the rebel Caracol that has been functioning for 15 years accommodates and moves, updates, contracts and expands, and apparently has fun. Its demands don’t go through Sedesol waiting lines. Besides, its strategy went further and deeper, and embodies a culture that the State is obliged to respect.

Andrés Aubry, a great interpreter of the Chiapas rebel movement, wrote in Ojarasca that: “the fiesta of the Caracoles demonstrated that the rebels took seriously breaking the silence proclaimed by 30,000 Zapatistas and their comandantes on January 1, 2003 in San Cristóbal.

“Now we know that what filled this long silence in clandestinity was nothing other than a disciplined and progressive fulfillment of the San Andrés Accords.” Faced with the “heavy omissions” of the political class and the official powers, “the Zapatistas proclaimed that from here on this open rebellion would no longer be practiced in silence, but rather by means of a transparent resistance.”

In the heat of the events, Pablo González Casanova also wrote: “Among the rich contributions that the Zapatista movement has made to the construction of an alternative, the project of the caracoles unravels a lot of false debates from politicians and intellectuals.” In the words of Comandante Javier (the same one who had read the First Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in San Cristóbal de Las Casas on January 1, 1994), quoted by González Casanova in his splendid Essay interpreting the caracoles, they open “new possibilities for the resistance and autonomy of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and of the world, which include all the social sectors that struggle for democracy, liberty and justice for all.”

After the creation of the Caracoles and the JBGs, formed by the EZLN’s civilian structure in the autonomous rebel Zapatista municipalities (that has been evolving since December 19, 1994), González Casanova points out that: “the project postulates that the communities and the peoples must practice the alternative in order to acquire experience, not wait to have more power to re-define the new style of exercising it. It is not constructed under the logic of the State’s power.” Nor is it constructed to create an anarchist society. “It is a project of peoples-government that is articulated internally and seeks to impose paths of peace… without morally or materially disarming the peoples-government.”

It’s fair to recognize that the JBG and its likenesses are both government and a school of government. They opened central participation to women and youth, and made community public service horizontal without anything to do with the political parties or the dominant system.

González Casanova’s conclusion was of long reach: “More than an ideology of the power of peoples-governments, the caracoles construct and express a culture of power that emerges from five hundred years of resistance of the Indian peoples of America.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, August 6, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




One Comment on “The strategy of the caracol

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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