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Marinaleda and Zapatista alternative to neoliberal capitalism

Some Brazilian activists met with Zapatistas in Chiapas to learn from their movement that surfaced in 1994, including 19-year-old Luiza Calagian. Philosophy student Marcelo Hotimsky explained, “The Zapatistas have greatly influenced the alter-globalization movement. They are part of a historical process [begun in 1983] of which we are the fruit.” The Zpatistas of Chiapas started building their own autonomous horizontal self-governing communities in 2003, including women’s rights: Each of five self-sufficient communities have a collective health clinic, school, community gardens, etc.[i] Children participate in many of the community activities, working in teams. Photos are available on their Facebook page “Enlace Zapatista.”

In 2013, they invited global activists to their “Little School of Liberty According to the Zapatistas,” including some participating through video conference. A reporter who stayed with a family in the Tojolabal community said the father did his share of family work and alcohol is prohibited which he linked to the absence of aggression or grumpiness in the family.[ii] Decisions are made collectively, as when visitors asked a question, the group would quietly converse, and then one person would speak for everyone. Raúl Zibechi concluded that the Zapatistas are building a new world.

In a book about how to “uproot the system and build a better world” in an era of global crisis, Subcomandante Marcos (said to be a former Mexican professor) the head of the Mexican Zapatista rebels summarized the two directions of globalization: “The one from above that globalizes conformity, cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction, death, and amnesia. And the one from below, that globalizes rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory, building a world where many worlds fit.”[i] The question is which direction will attract youth. Marcos calls the struggle against neoliberalism the “Fourth World War,” the third being the Cold War. He believes, “Neoliberalism is the chaotic theory of economic chaos, the stupid exultation of social stupidity, and the catastrophic political management of catastrophe.” Zapatista horizontal democracy has influenced recent uprisings, as when Brazilian student activists traveled to Chiapas, Mexico.

A remote village in Spain, Marinaleda is a rare example of a kind of communist society of cooperativistas like the Zapatistas in Mexico. Let by their mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, they created an island of economic security in a country with high unemployment for the “precariat” who lack job security. The village cooperative owns 1,200 hectare farm where they grow olives and vegetables, crops selected because they are labor intensive in order to create work for as many people as possible. Any profit is used to create more jobs. Every farm worker earns the same salary, which is double the Spanish minimum wage. Some families own their own small farms. Everyone gathers one Sunday a month to work without pay on local improvement projects and decisions are made in general assemblies. Villagers help each other build houses, including three bedrooms and a courtyard at the cost of only 15 euros a month.

A young man told Dan Hancox, the author of a book about Marinealeda (The Village Against the World, 2013) that many villagers “become communists, because they want to work, or they want to have a house, but not because they are communist. They don’t sit at home reading Karl Marx.” The village young people aren’t as enamored with working on the land as their elders who fought hard to get it starting in the late 1970s with occupations of public places, hunger strikes and marches, suffering many arrests. In Spain young people are referred to as mileuristas because they’ve had to survive on 1,000 euros a month, or as ninis (neither work nor study), and  juventud sin futuro, youth without a future whose only hope is emigrating. Some Marinaleda youth also leave in search of non-agricultural work. A mural on a farm house reads “Don’t emigrate, fight!” written over portraits of Zapata, Malcolm X and Gerónimo. Albeit rare, alternatives to capitalism desired by many youth activists do exist.


[i] David Solnit, ed. Globalize Liberation. City Lights Books, 2004.


In a book about how to “uproot the system and build a better world” in an era of global crisis, Subcomandante Marcos (said to be a former Mexican professor) the head of the Mexican Zapatista rebels summarized the two directions of globalization: “The one from above that globalizes conformity, cynicism, stupidity, war, destruction, death, and amnesia. And the one from below, that globalizes rebellion, hope, creativity, intelligence, imagination, life, memory, building a world where many worlds fit.”[i] The question is which direction will attract youth. Marcos calls the struggle against neoliberalism the “Fourth World War,” the third being the Cold War. He believes, “Neoliberalism is the chaotic theory of economic chaos, the stupid exultation of social stupidity, and the catastrophic political management of catastrophe.” Zapatista horizontal democracy has influenced recent uprisings, as when Brazilian student activists traveled to Chiapas, Mexico.

A remote village in Spain, Marinaleda is a rare example of a kind of communist society of cooperativistas like the Zapatistas in Mexico. Let by their mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, they created an island of economic security in a country with high unemployment for the “precariat” who lack job security. The village cooperative owns 1,200 hectare farm where they grow olives and vegetables, crops selected because they are labor intensive in order to create work for as many people as possible. Any profit is used to create more jobs. Every farm worker earns the same salary, which is double the Spanish minimum wage. Some families own their own small farms. Everyone gathers one Sunday a month to work without pay on local improvement projects and decisions are made in general assemblies. Villagers help each other build houses, including three bedrooms and a courtyard at the cost of only 15 euros a month.

A young man told Dan Hancox, the author of a book about Marinealeda (The Village Against the World, 2013) that many villagers “become communists, because they want to work, or they want to have a house, but not because they are communist. They don’t sit at home reading Karl Marx.” The village young people aren’t as enamored with working on the land as their elders who fought hard to get it starting in the late 1970s with occupations of public places, hunger strikes and marches, suffering many arrests. In Spain young people are referred to as mileuristas because they’ve had to survive on 1,000 euros a month, or as ninis (neither work nor study), and  juventud sin futuro, youth without a future whose only hope is emigrating. Some Marinaleda youth also leave in search of non-agricultural work. A mural on a farm house reads “Don’t emigrate, fight!” written over portraits of Zapata, Malcolm X and Gerónimo. Albeit rare, alternatives to capitalism desired by many youth activists do exist.


[i] David Solnit, ed. Globalize Liberation. City Lights Books, 2004.

 

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