The Zapatista journey surpasses the anti-globalization movement

Squadron 421 maeches in France

Above Photo: Squadron 421 marches in France.

By: Raúl Zibechi

I propose thinking of the Journey for Life that the EZLN organizes as improving upon the anti-globalization movement that took off in the 1990s, recuperating the traditions of internationalist mobilization, but at the same time, overcoming some of the limitations that allowed it to be neutralized.

At the end of the 1980s the movements against globalization started to hold meetings and gatherings on each occasion that there were summits of the World Bank, the IMF and other international bodies. In the 1990s, international co-ordinations were born, such as Via Campesina (1992) and the Association for the Appraisal of Financial Transactions (ATTAC, in 1998). That same year People’s Global Action against Free Trade and the World Trade Organization (WTO) were born.

In 1999 they organized large demonstrations in Seattle, where more than 50,000 demonstrators managed to abort the WTO meeting. Since then, each meeting of the G-7 or of other international bodies ran into a “counter-summit,” whose maxim expression took place in Genoa in 2001, where the movement suffered brutal repression.

The First World Social Forum was held in 2001 in Porto Alegre, which was replicated for years in different cities of the world. There were meetings of movements, NGOs and parties where heterogeneity and diversity prevailed below and a homogenizing tendency in the coordinating bodies.

As an excellent work from three members of Ecologists in Action (Luis González Reyes, Tom Kucharz and Beatriz Sevilla) points out, these meetings were “in the genesis of the next cycle of struggles, which was qualitatively and quantitatively more important: the indignant movement and the occupation of places that emerged between 2008 and 2011 in different countries” (

The movement against globalization, the name that they prefer to that of de “alterglobalizador” or “altermundialista,” because capitalist globalization is “the only existing one,” failed to sustain itself over time, in large measure because a good part of its referents, especially after the 2008 crisis, chose to become embedded in the institutions, as happened with Syriza in Greece, with Podemos in Spain and in the Latin American countries where there were progressive governments.

Thus, the powerful struggles on Latin America, as well as 15-M on the Iberian Peninsula and the Arab Spring, were diluted between the counteroffensive of the right and the sterility of the parliamentary game. The truth is that those coordination and counter-summits, with which they responded to the summits of the system, disappeared from the political map.

To the contrary, the Zapatistas who convened the First Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, in 1996 in La Realidad, never stopped organizing international meetings during these 25 years, including the Escuelita that was much more than a meeting: a coexistence for learning in the Zapatista communities, autonomous municipalities and caracoles, among those from below.

I believe that the Journey for Life is the surpassing of the experiences I have just described, in a very brief and incomplete way, for several reasons.

The first is because it goes beyond the concept of “mobilization cycle” or “protest cycle,” a concept coined by the sociologist Sidney Tarrow to explain the accumulation of actions in a short time. Disorganization survives when a cycle ends, the crisis of the movement, its cooptation by the State or the political parties and the struggles decay until they almost disappear. Overcoming the cycle implies permanent organization, without rest, even where there’s no mobilization.

The second consists of going beyond reactive mobilization against governments and institutions, to presenting demands or impeding certain initiatives. We react to the agenda of power that, being necessary and indispensable to setting us in movement, by failing to create our own agenda, it leaves us as prisoners of the initiatives from above.

To my way of seeing things, this is one of the greatest weaknesses of the movements because that way they are not able to construct their own movement, which ends up with us making the system of domination functional again. The FMI and the World Bank have their agenda, they will manage it in their own way and with their own times, but we need our own times and agendas to be truly autonomous.

Lastly, the Journey for Life deepens anticapitalist ways against patriarchy and colonialism because they are gatherings among those below, in the everyday spaces of those who resist, paid for by those who struggle and not by NGOs and governments, to talk about our limitations and the way to overcome them.

I want to understand the journey as an immense collective hug, to make our communities stronger, facing the storm together.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, July 30, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

One Comment on “The Zapatista journey surpasses the anti-globalization movement

  1. Pingback: Το Ζαπατιστικό ταξίδι ξεπερνά το κίνημα κατά της παγκοσμιοποίησης – Αέναη κίνηση-moto Perpetuo

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