This is the document we took to the Second APPO Conference and the banner that we continue to raise, in hopes of coming together with everyone who wants to see a new society.
We come from below, from the streets of the city of rebellion, from the barricades, from the original peoples, from the migrants, from those discriminated against for being different, from the conscious base though not the mass of the democratic Section 22 teachers’ union.
We come from the darkest and most dismal corner of this defunct society, from anonymity. We’re what the government rulers, the political parties, the leaders and bosses, the vanguards, whether of right or left, call “the people,” the ones on the bottom of the heap. That people that is neither seen nor heard, but that can always be counted, exploited, evicted, repressed, labeled, discriminated against, directed, and led like sheep towards a happy future in eternal pastures under the yellow rays of the Sun, grazing on the green prairie grass that the leaders, bosses, parties, and government rulers have so graciously sown and watered for us, while they, naturally, feed on apples and a tasty lamb chop.
We’ve come here as those who used to be only percentages in electoral contests, votes counted by political parties, cannon fodder for governments bringing modernity, anonymous crosses in forgotten graveyards, masses led by political bosses, but never, until 2006, peoples.
Now that’s what we are. We are happy to say that we are the peoples of Oaxaca because we’ve recovered the memory of our indigenous origins and have recovered communality as a form of harmonious social life together that is both respectful and horizontal among the men and women of society, and because we have recovered autonomy as a more just form of common life and relation between the peoples who share the territory of Oaxaca.
Even in the city, where we no longer work the land for our families, but instead run the machines and work in the businesses of the entrepreneurs and government, capitalist values like individualism, egoism, consumerism, and the cult of development and progress have permeated our urban indigenous minds and hearts. In the barricades of the insurrection of 2006, we joyfully realized that the 500-year old colonialist war hadn’t totally torn out our indigenous roots because in those nights of struggle, unpunished murders, and caravans of death, those apparently forgotten values of our indigenous origins emerged among us in a powerful way.
Fraternity, solidarity, mutual support, tequio and guelaguetza came down from our original peoples and have come to the fore again among us, the urban indigenous youth. Now, with the fresh rain of social revolution, our indigenous roots are being regenerated inside us, from one end of the state to the other, in cities and towns, in the fields, factories, and schools of Oaxaca, to put an end to 500 years of exploitation, oblivion, and death aimed at exterminating us.
In 2006, we made the unwavering decision to take our destiny into our own hands, and we’re not going to let go of it or back down before any murderous, repressive government like the government of Ulises Ruiz or before big national and transnational capital that is waging a war of re-conquest and dispossession against our original peoples and against the historic gains made by the hard-working peoples of Mexico in the Revolution of 1910. Neither will we entrust our future to the good intentions of any politician, no matter what his or her party. The only people we trust are the people on the ground, those of us who put up the barricades, we who marched at the middle or the tail end of the marches, we who walked to the country’s capital to demand justice and dignity for Oaxaca, the community people who rose up with us in the city like they’ve done time after time for the last 500 years, we who cover our faces with bandanas or hoods in order to be able to speak out, we who have gone to jail for being true to our beliefs, we who broke the silence imposed on us by 500 years of injustice and exploitation by taking over radio stations in 2006.
We come from the bottom, and we’re still on the bottom, but unlike before, when we were only counted, led, repressed, and given handouts, now we come to say what we think, and our words carry our anger, our commitment, and our dreams.
We’ve come to bring our word, brothers and sisters, about why we’re participating in the Second Appo Conference. We’ve come to share our joy and hope with all those men and women who share our anger over crime and impunity and an unbreakable will to maintain their dignity in the face of governmental power and corruption, with all those who share the idea of a need for deep, radical change in our society. We do this with the hope of coming together with many more people who share this need for justice, freedom, peace, and dignity.
We’ve come to join together with all of you who want to make a revolution.
We haven’t come to meet with those who’ve exchanged their dreams of freedom for mean interests, those who used to call for justice along with the peoples but now call for negotiation, those who used to give revolutionary speeches with righteous anger with their faces turned skyward but now speak of political realism with grim looks on their downcast faces, those who used to say they were opposed to Ulises Ruiz but now call for negotiating with him, those who use to reject political parties but now want to be on the lists of candidates for Congress, those who used to call for the disappearance of State powers but are now urgently trying to be part of those same powers. They’ll listen to us. We’ll listen to them. But we won’t come together. The roads to revolution and the roads to elections go in opposite directions. One seeks to turn the established order and regime upside down, changing society, while the other seeks to keep the same old society and regime alive, putting a little red, yellow, or orange makeup on the terrible body of power. Revolution is life; subjugation is death.
We haven’t come to meet with politicians, who disguise their conciliatory speeches of surrender with words of supposed political maturity, taken from the oldest dictionaries in the political tradition, like “realism,” “politics of alliance,” “negotiation,” and “mature tactics of struggle.” The prophets of doom have stolen their own right to dream, but what’s worse, they intend to snatch away the dreams of many other brothers and sisters with their despondency and pragmatism. In spite of them, we’ve come here, because we know that most of our society, the majority of our peoples of Oaxaca, are looking for true, profound social change, very different from all the old forms of traditional politics.
We’ve come here because we believe that the APPO belongs to the peoples of Oaxaca, to those of us who built it in 2006 as a space of confluence for honest struggles aimed at true social change in Oaxaca.
We’ve come with a forward-looking spirit in hopes of regenerating our social movement, with the will to raise it up from the prostration brought on by government repression and the betrayal of leaders and organizations. We’ve come with the will to see an APPO full of a revolutionary spirit of emancipation with a powerful leftist, grassroots presence among our peoples, never seen in the forces at the top. We want the APPO to belong to those on the bottom, and if we achieve this, we are sure it will be revolutionary and radical.
We haven’t come to fight with anybody about anything, but to defend the right of our peoples to dream in a new society with justice, peace, freedom, and dignity, as opposed to listening to reformist speeches that put us to sleep.
We’ve come to talk about our aims. We believe that the APPO’s aim should be the same as that of all the peoples of Oaxaca, which with different calendars, modes, and rhythms, come together in the need to overturn the present capitalist system and governmental regime and build a new society, a new social order with autonomy of towns, cities, factories, and businesses.
We’ve come to talk about the means of achieving this, which we believe should be as honest and just as the end that is sought because a good end can’t be reached through bad means. The road to freedom is long and tiring, and there are no shortcuts to reach it.
Neither the State, the governmental regime, or capital has the slightest intention of changing our terrible situation from above, a situation of injustice, poverty, dispossession, and concession. When the peoples have tried to bring about social changes through elections, they’ve only obtained discouragement, frustration, and demoralization. Scandalous frauds have been imposed on the people of Mexico, like the one committed in 2006 by Felipe Calderón, the spurious President of Mexico. Although a valiant part of the people of Mexico was willing to defend the election of the moderate, reformist candidate López Obrador, he was busier containing, diverting, and finally frustrating the desire for change of millions of Mexican people than in becoming part of the tremendous current of insurrection and hope that is spreading in our country. As for leftist parties and candidates, when they’ve come to power, little or nothing distinguishes their practice from the repressive, authoritarian practices implemented by all governments, obedient to the economic plans and mega projects of big transnational capital; there are too many examples to count.
When the peoples have decided to struggle peacefully and independently to make a few changes in the intolerable situation of social injustice that we’re enduring, the answer of the State has been the same, and it gets worse all the time: repression, jail, forced disappearance, and murder. Sicartsa, Chiapas, Atenco and Oaxaca are the most recent shameful examples or what the bad government has in store for the peoples’ just, peaceful struggles; impunity is their corollary.
We would do well to understand this and prepare ourselves at our own rhythm, taking into account all our peoples’ clocks of emancipation and finding the hour when all of them are synchronized so that we can rise up together against the regime of government, capital, and tyranny. Meanwhile, we must organize ourselves in our own ways, strengthening ourselves with autonomy, organization, and consciousness.
At the same time, we can begin to build the new society that we want, starting right now by planting the seeds of autonomous initiatives and projects. The active construction of our future begins today, with the construction of autonomy in the communities and the city, limiting the power of the State and capital in the territorial, ideological, political, and educational spaces where we live and work, beginning right there to try, err, and manage to build a new society where no government is necessary, but where a harmonious social common life among human beings is the product of solidarity, fraternity, respect, mutual support, and collectivism.
The way this change occurs will depend on the State and on capital; the size of their tyranny will be the size of the insurgency of the peoples. This road will surely be longer, more tiring, and more painful than the easy, mediocre road offered by the gloomy fortunetellers of continuity, reformism, false proletarian revolution, or dictatorship, even that of the proletariat.
We’ve come here to discuss forms, which we believe should be the ones decided on by the APPO when it was founded, those practiced by the communal assemblies of our peoples for thousands of years, which have allowed us to resist servitude, dispossession, and tyranny, with different degrees of success. Horizontal structures, consensus, mutual support, guelaguetza, and tequio should be conserved in the APPO.
In this Second APPO Conference we hope to reach agreement with our peoples on a direction and rhythm for achieving true, profound social change in our society. We don’t want to merely respond to aggression or to the agendas for change imposed from above, but to establish among all of us, the people’s calendar and its important dates, the dates of revolution.
This is our word that we’ve come to share, brothers and sisters. We hope that many of us will come together in this fiesta of the word and that this will allow us to organize, listen, and get to know each other, and finally achieve the true, profound social change that we, our society, and future generations urgently need.
Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL)
Oaxaca de Magon, City of resistance, February 2009, year of reorganization.