On Sunday night at PAC, members of El Kilombo Intergaláctico, a radical community collective from Durham, N.C., spoke to students about the lessons that activists around the world can learn from Mexico’s Zapatista revolutionary movement. Members of the collective recently held a long interview with the masked Zapatista spokesman known internationally as Subcomandante Marcos and published it independently in a new book “Beyond Resistance: Everything.”
“[El Kilombo’s] project is to create a space to strengthen our collective political struggles while simultaneously connecting these struggles with the global anti-capitalist movement,” reads a brochure published by the group.
Mara Kaufman, one of the group’s representatives, spent the first part of the talk going over the history of the Zapatistas. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation is a revolutionary movement in Southern Mexico that has controlled large tracts of rural land since an uprising on Jan. 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted. Kaufman said that the movement is creating new social systems in which every community is autonomous and governed through participatory democracy. She said that people from outside Zapatista communities seek Zapatista healthcare, education, and justice.
Kaufman explained that the Zapatistas believe they are combatants in a “Fourth World War” between “the Empire of Money” and humanity. The Zapatistas claim that this war is responsible for social upheaval, deepening poverty, and environmental degradation.
The movement has been trying to coordinate activists, peasant and workers’ movements, indigenous groups, and autonomous collectives from around the world in “The Other Campaign.” The group’s commanders traveled through Mexico, bringing together radical groups in order to foster cooperation among marginalized groups. The Other Campaign is extremely inclusive, embracing highly traditional Indian cultures, punk organizations, and the transgender rights movement equally.
Yousuf Al Bulushi, another member of El Kilombo, explained that while the group is technically a non-profit organization, it tries to escape the traditional model of community service with a powerful provider and a weak recipient.
“We focus more on means than ends,” he said. “Whatever [El Kilombo] becomes we decide what we want and create it for ourselves.”
He explained that the most important goal is to create a social system in which community members have ultimate authority over their own lives. This ideal is developed in Sixth Declaration, a statement that guides all aspects of The Other Campaign.
Kilombo Intergaláctico’s work in its community parallels the Zapatista’s, albeit on a less ambitious scale. They have educational programs, a health clinic, a housing commission, and a collective funds commission, which tries to offer no-interest emergency loans to community members. Their goal is to create an autonomous community that need not rely on any outside institutions.
Morgan Hamill ’11, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, the group that invited El Kilombo, admires the accomplishments of the Zapatistas and El Kilombo.
“The best way we can help them is to organize [similarly here],” he said.