While it emerges in the midst of tragic and difficult circumstances, I am excited for the release of the anthology Deciding for Ourselves: The Promise of Direct Democracy, edited by Cindy Milstein and to which I contributed the chapter “The Bonfires of Autonomy in Cherán.” As we make our way through this time of loss and uncertainty and begin to think about what comes next, I hope it may offer some insight and inspiration.
It’s now available for a short time on a “Pay What You Can” basis from AK Press.
As the book description reads, “A better world through self-determination and self-governance is not only achievable. It is already happening in urban and rural communities around the world.” This is what Deciding for Ourselves dives into, a theme that couldn’t feel more pressing and necessary.
My contribution looks at the indigenous P’urhépecha municipality of Cherán, located in Michoacán, Mexico. For the past nine years, Cherán has operated under a form of autonomous communal government after a popular uprising removed cartels, local police, politicians and political parties from the area. While the story of the rebellion and its immediate aftermath have been well documented, the chapter takes an in-depth look at how the communal government functions and meets the daily needs of Cherán’s residents, why the government took the form that it did, and how life has changed and is experienced in a place where community and government are woven into a shared communal fabric.
If mutual aid, solidarity, autonomy, self-determination and collective liberation are ideas that interest or resonate with you, this book is worth picking up. And at up to 75% off, it’s a great deal that also helps support an independent radical publisher.
Last week, in a class I teach, we were discussing the concept of “posthuman suffering,” which can be understood in two different ways. In the mundane sense, it is the experience of a negative emotion resulting from our dependence on technology and especially when a technology fails. For example, if you must complete an online task for work or school and the internet goes out, you may feel frustrated, irresponsible, or inadequate, despite the fault of the situation and your resulting emotional experience of it lying completely with the technology and not with you. In a deeper sense, posthuman suffering manifests as “ontological angst” brought on by the awareness that we are biological entities dependent upon technology in order to survive, to know ourselves, and to know the world around us. This awareness has implications for the construction of our sense of self as human beings when simply to be is contingent on a technological other distinct from us. As class was ending on that point, a student shared that the college just announced a temporary halt to in-person classes due to the coronavirus.
It is not difficult to see posthuman suffering play out in the face of this pandemic. In the US, we have seen test kits that don’t work or don’t exist, systems of technology that spread misinformation or fear, access to medical technologies denied to those who are or may be sick, etc. This is amplified by the emphatic, ever-present reminder of our biological fragility, the gaze toward technoscience to save us, and the worry and helplessness upon realizing that it might not – indeed, that it already has not for thousands of people.
This is a special IGDCAST with Sofi, an anarchist compañera from Mexico City who is deeply involved in a variety of solidarity and organizing efforts with anarchist prisoners in Mexico. The audio interview is in Spanish, while below is an English transcription, along with two song MP3s you can download separately. If you want to see more in depth reporting on what is happening in Mexico, be sure to support our Mexico trip fundraiser.
We start off this episode with a recorded greeting from the Cimarrón Collective in North Prison in Mexico City. Then Sofi discusses the persecution and repression facing the anarchist movement in Mexico City as well as a review of the situation of four anarchist prisoners currently being held by the Mexican state. We look at the corruption, exploitation and neglect that occurs in Mexican prisons and what compañeros on the inside are doing to fight back. In particular, there is a focus on the Cimarrón Collective, a formation started by anarchist prisoner Fernando Bárcenas that has autonomously reclaimed space inside the North Prison and self-manages a variety of initiatives. For listeners, perhaps the most intriguing one will be their punk band, Commando Cimarrón. A couple of their songs are included in the podcast.
The interview then wraps up with discussion of a proposed amnesty for prisoners being put forward by “leftist” political parties in the Mexico City government and the response of our anarchist compañeros. Lastly, there are suggestions for how the struggle for their freedom can be supported from outside of Mexico. Throughout this post, we include links for more information, primarily in English, and photos of some of the art produced during workshops organized by the Cimarrón Collective.
During a press conference on September 28, anarchist prisoners announced the beginning of an indefinite hunger strike. They are compañeros Fernando Bárcenas and Abraham Cortés, prisoners in North Prison, Luis Fernando Sotelo, prisoner in South Prison in Mexico City, and Miguel Peralta, prisoner in Cuicatlán Prison in Oaxaca. The strike is in rejection of the 33 year and five month sentence given to Luis Fernando Sotelo, to mark three years since the arrest of compañero Abraham Cortés on October 2, 2013, and in solidarity with the prison strike underway in the United States against the exploitation of prisoners’ labor and in support of the revolts against the killings of African-Americans by police in the U.S.
The three compas in Mexico City have gone on hunger strike, while Miguel will go on fasts.
Note: The use of the word prison in this text refers to all artificial environments that domesticate us so as to insert us by force into the capitalist system of production; this is a contribution to deepen the reflection of all living beings in the hands of economic powers and the technological project…
Compas, I greet you with insurrectionary love, that these words of war may reach you; greeting as well the coming days of insurrection, as ideas bloom in the fields like flowers we should not stop tending.
We do not know if there will be a victory, but what we do know is that they will not occupy our dreams and our lives…
With the ongoing teachers’ strike that has morphed into a widespread rebellion, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, we haven’t put together a more general roundup of resistance and repression in Mexico in some time. While that struggle is very much alive and well, the intensity with which it is unfolding has diminished some. This column will first take a look at the past three weeks of that conflict (if you need to get up to speed, check out this piece) and then cover some of the other recent events around the country.
The teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have now been on strike for more than two months. Since the massacre by federal and state forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca on June 19, in which eleven people were killed, the conflict has taken on an increasingly popular dimension. This has looked like direct actions, marches, material support and expressions of solidarity from across Mexico and beyond, in numbers far too large to recount individually.
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) reports, communicates and denounces the following:
We appreciate the national and international solidarity for an objective, impartial and non-racist investigation that clarifies the facts around the political assassination of our compañera and General Coordinator, Berta Cáceres, and leads to the truth and to justice, with the true material and intellectual authors of the murder being subjected to the law, as well as learning the facts and motives by which her murder was planned and carried out, however, we reiterate that the State of Honduras continues to fail to fulfill its obligations in this respect. Not accepting our requests, such as for an independent international investigative commission that has the trust of our organization, are the reasons for which we haven’t trusted, don’t trust and never will trust in the national laws and for which we denounce our country’s legal authorities’ manipulation of the investigation into the vile and horrendous murder of our compañera Berta Cáceres. And that Mr. Juan Orlando Hernandez has not shown the political will to speed up the investigative process and one month after the murder, neither the compañera’s relatives nor COPINH have received an official report on behalf of the government about how the investigation is proceeding into identifying the material and intellectual perpetrators.