Zapatista Freedom School goes Worldwide

EscuelitaZapatistaMore than 1500 invited students are in the Lacandonan Jungle taking part in the Zapatista Freedom school this week. The school has also gone online with registered studemts participating by teleconference around the world. Due to demand new courses are planned for Dec and Jan. Ask for invite or register for teleconference here:   See videos below.

Day 1: Zapatistas in their first class on Autonomy

The Zapatista Freedom School online got started this Monday! The first session was on autonomy…. “We know that autonomy is a dream, an utopia for some people, but in here it is a reality for us. We are already exercising autonomy, and what we can tell about autonomy is that there is no recipe for it. You should not ask for freedom to the government, you should exercise your freedom. We have seen that it is possible.”1012870_555260554540927_1324845575_n

Seven Zapatistas talked to the participants online for two hours. Then, after a 15 mins break, they answered questions.

They first talked about the seven principles of their government:

1. To lead by obeying

2. To represent; not to impersonate

3. To work from below and not seeking to rise

4. To serve; not to self-serve

5. To persuade; not to conquer

6. To construct; not to destroy

7. To propose; not to impose

“To us, the government is a body that provides a service to the people, not a way to make money for yourself.”

Following these principles, they have a governing board which rules by representing the people, not by conquering their will. They talked about how they organize themselves by obeying the people, listening to the people. “In the capitalistic system all the government officers take office to serve themselves and become rich,” they explained. “For us, ruling is about providing a service. We think that life is healthier in an autonomous community. An autonomous community is a community with future.”mundos

They say that no one will give you freedom, the freedom that the government “gives” you is deceiving, because in the end the government tells you what to do. The real freedom is an autonomous, collective government.

The collective government is at every level, every instance. They have three main instances: the Good Government Boards, the Watching Committee and the Reporting Committees.

With a rotating positions system, each member of the board serves for three years. “We don’t call them ‘Good Government Boards’ just because they say so,” our Zapatista teachers explained, but because they have a structure to make sure the board represents the community. Each board is monitored by the other committees (the Watching Committee and the Reporting Committee). For example, regarding the financial resources (which belong to the community), “not only each good governing board informs about the financial status but we also have financial watching committees on all the money and resources that come in and how they are administered, because we don’t want to repeat the experience on how we were before 1994, with bad governments”.

So it not just the board saying “we did this and this” but they have another committee supervising them. There is a connection and constant communication between all the committees.

“ The other principle is that we do not order or win over the people. We persuade, never defeat the people. If one of our authorities is not complying with our seven principles, the people bring that to his/her attention. He/she has the opportunity to correct it because we are humans and people make mistakes, but if that person do not correct the mistake, then he/she is demoted…that’s how we have conquered our freedom. Conquering freedom is about exercising our autonomy. Our autonomy comes from ourselves.”

They also talked about the duties, responsibilities and rights of each government board. member. They must listen to the people’s proposals, they should propose necessary proposals and explain to the people why they think a proposal is necessary, and each proposal must be discussed by all the committees and consulting with the people. “The capitalistic system does not respect the people’s opinion, they think they don’t know how to think, so they don’t ask. The capitalistic government officers think they are above us, so they don’t want to listen. We don’t think like that. Each officer serves the people and when their term is over they go back to their community activities. So for us our principle is about going below, not above the people to rule.”zap

They explained they have developed this autonomous structure over the years. First the War of 1810, then the Mexican Revolution in 1910 (Zapata’s), and then the Zapatista Uprising in 1994, each period learning something better, adding up. When someone asked them if there have been military confrontations lately in response to the paramilitary attacks, they said the way they are defending themselves right now is just “bearing and resisting, because we know that in the future these people will realize that this is the better way of living, – some of them have already realized it, and we are not confronting them with weapons. We don’t respond to the attacks because we know it is not them, but the government strategy so that Indians kill each other. We are not going to do that.”

After a 2-hour talk and a 15-min break, there was a 2-hour session answering the questions that participants made via chat.

They also said that another Government Board duty is to take care of all the property “because they must know what natural resources and material goods we have”.534448_490354050978268_1156073581_n

All their property. resources and money belongs to everybody. There is no such thing as “inheriting” the land in one family as private property.

Regarding the “ejidos” the coop systems in land, they said that “unfortunately these systems are not valid in terms of representing the people because they still require government officers’ permission and authority, which we don’t recognize. For us, after the Zapatista Army National Liberation, the life of the community changed dramatically. The Good Government Boards must administer the lands that were repossessed by us after the 1994 revolution. The Good Government administers them so that everything we have is for all the people: the land, the water, all the resources.”

They provided a detailed explanation on their government structure.zapatista march

This is the agenda for the next sessions:

Tuesday – Women’s Government

Wednesday – Resistance (financial resistance against a capitalistic
system and resistance from paramilitary attacks)

Thursday – Justice

Friday – Democracy.

For a world where many worlds fit!



(you need a password to take part, you can register for new courses in Dec)


Watch and listen to the videos that accompany this text:

The trackSoy el Sol en Movimiento (I am the Sun in Movement), from the group “El Problema del Barrio” (the Problem of the Hood).  Lyrics by Orlando Rodríguez, music by Miguel Ogando.  Drawings by Juan Kalvellido. Video production: Orlando Fonseca.


¡Rock! The Spanish group “Ilegales” (The Illegals) with the track Tiempos Nuevos, Tiempos Salvajes (New Times, Crazy Times). Video Production: Zenodro1000


Reggae, from the Ivory Coast, Africa, with Tiken Jah Fakoli and this track called  “Plus Rien Ne M’étonne (“At this point nothing surprises me”). Video production: Ben Magec.


If you want to take the class by videoconference and you don’t have an invitation, write to the following email address:

Dates for the Second Round of the Little School

  • Registration: December 23-24, 2013.
  • Classes: December 25-29, 2013.
  • Returning to your homes: December 30, 2013.

They also decided to remember and celebrate the January 1, 1994 Zapatista uprising, so for those who want to stay for the 20th anniversary festivities, there will be a party December 31 and January 1.

After that, there still won’t be rest, because it has also been decided that after the festivities, the work—that is, the Little School—will continue:

Dates for the Third Round of the Little School

  • Anniversary party: December 31, 2013 – January 1, 2014.
  • Registration: January 1-2, 2014.
  • Classes: January 3-7, 2014.

On January 8, 2014, everyone back to their corner of the earth.

PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS POINT: In order to request an invitation and registration code for the second and third rounds of the Little School, even if you have already asked for one via the webpage or by email, you must send your request to the following email (you can send it as of today):

We are doing it this way so that we can organize things adequately and so that you receive a timely response.

with thanks from :



zapatista feedom school

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