Movements from below 2022-2023. Learning to navigate the storm

The sign reads: “Russian Army out of Ukraine! Out!”

By: Raúl Zibechi

The year that has just ended was dominated by war after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was a year led by the States, particularly the most powerful (United States, China, Russia, European Union…), which seek to redesign the world according to the interests of the ruling classes of each nation.

In the Latin American region, media prominence has been taken up by the electoral victories of Gustavo Petro in Colombia and Lula da Silva in Brazil, the assumption of Gabriel Boric in Chile and the fall of Pedro Castillo in Peru. They say that progressivism would be experiencing a “second wave,” although in fact it resembles continuity with the first. They also say, even their supporters, that these are increasingly moderate governments or, in common parlance, more to the right.

From the Zapatista march against All Wars:That the capitalist system dies!

Although our region doesn’t seem to know, the world is at war. For the first time in a long time, the leaders of the main powers are talking about the possible use of nuclear weapons to settle their conflicts, although it’s clear that “There will be no landscape after the battle,” as the EZLN communiqué of March 2022 is titled, which analyzes the situation created by the invasion of Ukraine.

As is often the case, little or no talk is made in the mainstream media about anti-systemic movements, about organized peoples struggling to survive in the midst of the storm that has come upon us. They pretend that everything is still “normal,” although violence against peoples continues to grow in every geography of this continent.

In 2022 there were no major collective actions like those of 2019 in Chile, Ecuador and Colombia; nor like the popular revolt against the impostor Manuel Merino in Peru, in 2020, or the blockades in Bolivia against the illegitimate government of Jeannine Añez. This 2022 there was a great uprising in Ecuador, harshly repressed, and a phenomenal revolt in southern Peru, where the head of State murdered 28 people.

Revolt in the streets of Peru.

It cannot be said that 2022 has been the year of movements and struggles, as the previous ones were. What’s happening? Have they been weakened, co-opted or have they handed themselves over to progressive governments that are already in the majority at least in South America?

None of that. Listening carefully, we can understand that organized peoples are in a process of inward growth, which involves debating what to do in a completely new situation, in which the Covid pandemic, wars between States and the continuity and deepening of wars against peoples are added. They debate, draw new horizons, strengthen and deepen their de facto autonomies in the most remote corners of the continent. They resist because, as the EZLN says, “to resist is to persist and to prevail.”

It’s therefore time to resist, and in doing so to clarify the panorama, clearing shadows and doubts, taking advantage of the moments when the storm breaks out and it’s possible to look beyond, although the sky is still overcast. Many words within the towns, many small meetings and assemblies seek the way, which will be a new path because the situation is completely different from the one we experienced before.

In Brazil, the new government created the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and placed at the head an indigenous woman who Time magazine  had nominated as one of the hundred most influential people in the world in 2021. Why does Lula create this ministry? Because indigenous peoples were the most active in resisting Bolsonaro for four years. And because the Amazon is a strategic space for big capital. In other words: to reassure the Amazon, to facilitate big capital’s conquest of the main green space on the planet.

Below is a map of the land demarcations of indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Legal Amazon, provided by militant geographer Fabio Alkmin.

As can be seen in the areas colored in red, the territories where the peoples carry out “autonomous demarcation” with their own indigenous guards, are already an important part of the Amazon. This can grow since, as indicated by the green areas, there are many more villages that can take the same path in the face of the State’s refusal to demarcate their lands.

But the most important thing is the acceleration of these processes. As of 2019, Alkmin had identified 14 demarcation protocols. Three years later, there are a total of 26 protocols, covering 64 different indigenous peoples and 48 different territories. This indicates that under the Bolsonaro government there was a growth of autonomous processes among the Amazonian indigenous peoples, which is consistent with the enormous role they have had on a scale throughout Brazil. That’s why Lula wants to tame them.

This is not the only case. We know that under the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador new Zapatista caracoles were formed in Chiapas, going from the initial five to the current twelve. In Puebla, the struggle for water has grown exponentially since Pueblos Unidos took over the Bonafont plant and definitively closed the well that stole water from the campesinos. Resistance on the Isthmus to the Trans-Isthmus Corridor is solid and widespread. Surely there are other processes of which I’m not aware.

The sign reads: “It’s not drought, it’s dispossession! Danone-Bonafont out of Mexico and the World! Sincerely: Pueblos Unidos.” Photo: La Flor Peri Odico.

In Chile, the Mapuche people have carried out more than 500 recuperations of land since 2019 and the organizations fighting for autonomy have multiplied despite the increasing militarization of Wall Mapu by the new progressive government.

They are only fragments of resistance that have not stopped growing, under the line of media visibility, in this 2022 that, apparently, does not show us great actions.

This 2023 that has just begun, will be a year of struggles of greater intensity than the previous one. Organized peoples are learning to move under the storm, something they have never suffered with such intensity. They haven’t taken a breather. Not at all. We are facing new modes, those that are necessary to continue browsing.

Eviction in Villa Mascardi.

Originally Published in Spanish by Desinformemonos, Monday, January 2, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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