Day 5: “The Other Democracy,” last day of Zapatistas freedom school


The Other Democracy: “For us, Democracy is Not about Election Season and Candidates’ Campaigns”

· “We did not have a theory first, our theory is the result of our practice”

· For us, democracy is not about election season and candidates.

· We start from small to bigger in everything.

· We don’t have minority people dissatisfied because their proposal was not voted for.

· Even our children apply democracy.

“For us, democracy is not about election season and candidates’ campaigns. It’s not about money, and a person telling us how he/she is going to do it when he/she gets elected. Democracy is at any moment, at every level of our life. Even our children are learning democracy. They don’t even know it’s democracy, but they implement it all the time among them. ‘What are we going to play today? Basketball or Football?’ they ask and take a vote. When their teacher sees them tired, he/she asks: ‘Would you guys take a break?’ and he/she takes a vote, or like we call it: they reach an agreement,” said the Zapatista teachers on the last day of the Freedom School.

Indeed, one of the most interesting topics for the Occupy Wall Street community was left for the last day – their voting system. They do not have minorities dissatisfied because their proposal was not voted for and their voices were not heard.

But how do they do that? Do they use direct vote? Do they use consensus?

Their answer was – they don’t allow any method/solution that does not work for the community to be permanent. Leaders get rotated. Officers cannot get re-elected in the same position. And all the proposals are just a test until they really work for the community.

CONSENSUS – “All the proposals are listened and taken into consideration. Not all of the proposals can be implemented at the same time. So the people vote (direct vote) for all of them. We implement the proposal that was most voted for (majority). HOWEVER, if your proposal did not win, that does not mean it is a bad idea or doesn’t work for the community. We implement the majority’s proposal for a while. It’s an idea to try for. It is never a permanent ‘majority vote’ that we must stick with even if it doesn’t work. We make a lot of changes! If we have a collective work project (be it a construction project, a production project, etc.) and we have been using one proposed idea for a while but it is not working, we switch to the second most voted idea and so we go on.”

“Our proposals are not for the benefit of just one group, so we don’t have such thing as people getting angry because their group was not included. There are no such things as dissatisfied people because their proposal was not voted by the majority. When they see that the majority’s proposal is working for them, why would they be dissatisfied? When the proposal is not working, the community can always change it and try the other ideas that were on the plate. Besides, each proposal is analyzed before the vote. It is discussed what the pros and cons it has – the benefits and the costs. We say that democracy works at every level because people elect even the duration of a certain collective work – for how long are they going to be working on something? That’s the result of a collective agreement as well.”

The only case when authorities are allowed to make an immediate decision without agreements are in emergencies (like natural disasters and paramilitary attacks) “because we cannot allow a group of human beings to suffer for a while”. In such cases, the authorities have the power to act, but they must let people know how they took action and why.

“Each local and municipality has its own agreements as on how to elect their authorities, but they all must follow the seven principles of government. Authorities do not make campaign to be elected. They don’t post their pictures. They sometimes are not even present when they get elected – they are somewhere else working. You qualify to be elected as an authority or representative if you are a responsible person who don’t steal, don’t abuse your family, don’t drink, etc.”

“In the capitalist democracy, you qualify as an authority if you know how to cheat, how to lie, how to steal and how to stand for the system.”

Zapatistas said that all the capitalist state governors have stolen the wealth of the state, including the so called “leftist” former PRD governor Juan Sabines.

“We don’t believe in the so-called democratic electoral system because it is all made so that officers serve themselves, become rich and get relocated in another elected officer’s position inside the same system forever. They offer housing, healthcare and education for all, but the housing system they offer is just a tin roof, their healthcare are hospitals with no doctors and nurses inside of them, and the education-for-all they are offering is all being privatized. So we don’t believe them.”

“How do we know the official government does not work, and their campaigns and programs are all lies? Because after a while we see demonstrations, barricades and rallies made by the same people who voted for them. These politicians are doing the opposite of our principle of ‘Building instead of Destroying’. They are destroying everything instead of building.”

On their last day of classes, Zapatistas thanked the students for their time, and humbly apologized if there was anything they were not able to answer satisfactorily. “If Mother Nature and Life allows, we will see you in another time,” they told us.

These night-shift classes were attended by students from across the world and almost all the Mexican states. From the Americas there were representatives from each extreme – from the very South (Argentina) to the very North (Indigenous groups from Canada) with English translation online by OWSZapatista. These 5 emails were just a quick summary. We will make available detail transcriptions both in English and Spanish in our next Zapatista newsletters. If you have any questions on these classes or proposals on how to work along with the Zapatistas for a world where many worlds fit, please email us to If you live in the NYC area, stay tuned for our S17-related teach-in on these Zapatista classes and how we can apply these conclusions to our fight for a world where many worlds fit!

If you are in Occupy Wall Street, don’t forget to fight the TTP this week – NAFTA ON STEROIDS! And remember that the Zapatista Uprising occurred the day NAFTA got into effect!

Malú from your OWSZapatista Team

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