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The Zapatistas and the Other: The Pedestrians of History

zap06 | 01.10.2006 23:54 | Repression | Social Struggles | Zapatista | World

This document is especially intended for and directed toward the adherents of the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign. And, of course, to those who might sympathize with our movement.

Introduction and Part I: The Paths of the Sixth


What is presented here is part of the reflections and conclusions that have been shared with some persons, groups, collectives and organizations, adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle. In accord with our “mode” of doing things in the Other Campaign, first we listened to the words of these companer@s and then we put forward our analyses and conclusion.

The Sixth Commission of the EZLN has been attentive to the opinions and proposals of a part of the companer@s of the Other Campaign with regards to what is referred to as the “postelectoral crisis,” to the mobilizations in various parts of the country (in particular in Oaxaca with the APPO and in Mexico City with AMLO) and to the Other Campaign. Through letters, through meeting and assembly minutes, via the web page, in some cases through publicly stated positions, and in personal and group meetings, some adherents have expressed their opinions on these issues.

During part of the month of July and the entire month of August, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN held multilateral meetings with some of our compas adherents from 19 states of the Republic: Mexico City, Mexico State, Morelos, Michoacán, Querétaro, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Colima, Nayarit, Guanajuato, and Aguascalientes.

In addition, [we also met] with political and social organizations with a presence in various parts of the country and with our companer@s of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).

In accord with our limited possibilities, we held these meetings in locales of comp@s of the Other Campaign in Mexico City and in the states of Morelos, Michoacán, Querétaro, Tlaxcala, and Puebla.

It was neither possible nor desirable for us to talk directly with all adherents, this with the result that in some places we were accused of “excluding” some people. With regards to this we say that in the Other Campaign it is the concern of each group, collective, organization, or individual to decide with whom they will meet in the Other, as well as when, where, and with what agenda. In exercise of this right, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN listened to and spoke with those who accepted our invitation.

However, although these were private meetings, our interventions were not and are not secret. To those who graciously listened to us, we asked that they make known to other companer@s in their states and work organizations what we, as the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, are thinking. Some of them nobly acceded to this request and have carried it out fairly. Others have taken advantage of the situation to add their own judgments as if they were the opinions of the EZLN, or they have purposefully edited their “summaries” of these meetings so as to give a slanted version of what it was that we proposed.

The themes of these meetings were:

The national situation “above,” particularly with regards to the elections.
The national situation “below,” with regards to those who are not part of the Other.
The situation of the Other Campaign.
The proposal of the EZLN for the “what’s next?” of the Other Campaign.

Some of the reflections of the companer@s with whom we met have now been incorporated into our own thinking, reflections and conclusions. However, it is necessary to clarify that what we are now communicating and what we propose to all of our companer@s of the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign is the sole responsibility of the Sixth Commission of the EZLN, and it is as an adherent of the Other Campaign that we do so.

To those who felt excluded or marginalized, our sincere apologies and our request for understanding.

We here present, and in only a partial manner, a brief summary of what occurred within the EZLN and resulted in the Sixth Declaration, our evaluation (which does not pretend to be THE evaluation) at one year of the Sixth and the Other, our analysis and position on what is taking place “above,” and our proposal for the next steps of the Other.

What we present here was already consulted, in broad strokes, with the comandant@s of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee of the EZLN; thus it represents not only the position of the Sixth Commission but also of the leadership of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

Sale y Vale.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos,
Mexico, September 2006

The Zapatistas and the Other: The Pedestrians of History

September 2006

Part One: The Paths of the Sixth

Here we will briefly delineate, as we have already expounded on this topic, the internal process of the EZLN previous to the Sixth Declaration:

1. The betrayal and decomposition of the Mexican political class. At the end of April of 2001, after the March of The Color of the Earth and with the support of millions of people in Mexico and around the world for the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture, the political class in its entirety approved a “counterreform.” We have already spoken about this extensively, now we would just like to point out that which is fundamental here: the three main national political parties, PRI, PAN and PRD, turned their backs on the just demands of the indigenous and betrayed us.

At that point something was definitively ruptured.

This deed (carefully forgotten by those who criticize us for our critiques of the political class in its entirety) was fundamental for the steps that were to come on the part of the EZLN, both internally and externally. From then on, the EZLN carried out an evaluation of what had been its proposal, the process that followed, and the possible causes of this betrayal.

Through public and private analyses, the EZLN characterized the dominant socioeconomic model in Mexico as NEOLIBERAL. We indicated that one of [neoliberalism’s] characteristics was the destruction of the Nation-State, which includes, among other things, the decomposition of political actors, of their relations of domination, and of their “modes.”

The EZLN had believed, up until that time, that there was a certain sensibility among some sectors of the political class, particularly those grouped around the figure of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (within as well as outside the PRD), and that it was possible, through mobilizations and in alliance with this sector, to “yank” the recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples from those who govern. For this reason, a good part of the public external actions of the EZLN were directed toward a discussion with this political class and a dialogue with the federal government.

We thought that the politicians from “above” were going to understand and try to meet a demand that had already cost an armed rebellion and the blood of Mexicans; that this would direct the process of dialogue and negotiation with the Federal Government to a satisfactory conclusion; that this way we might be able to “come out” and do politics by civil and peaceful means; that with the constitutional recognition there would be a “juridical roof” for the processes of autonomy that were taking place in numerous parts of indigenous Mexico; and that this would strengthen the path of dialogue and negotiation as an alternative for the resolution of conflicts.

We were wrong.

The political class as a whole was avaricious, vile, despicable, and stupid. The decision that the three principal political parties (PRI, PAN and PRD) then made showed that the supposed differences among them were nothing more than mere simulations. The “geometry” of the politics from above had gone mad. There was no left, center, or right. There was only a band of thieves with immunity... and cynicism during prime time hours.

We don’t know if we were mistaken from the beginning, if by 1994 (when the EZLN opted for civil and peaceful initiatives), the decomposition of the political class was already a fact (and so-called “neocardenismo” was just nostalgia for ’88), or if in those 7 years, Power had accelerated the rotting process of the professional politicians.

Since 1994, persons and groups of what was then referred to as “civil society” had come to us to tell us that neocardenismo was honest, concordant, and a naturally ally of all popular struggles, not just that of the neozapatistas. We believe that, the majority of the time, these people were well-intentioned.

The position of who is today an employee of Vicente Fox, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, and his son, the pathetic Lázaro Cárdenas Batel (today governor of a Michoacan controlled by narcotraffic), in the indigenous counterreform is already known. From the hand of the later flaming campaign manager for AMLO, Jesús Ortega, the PRD senators voted for a law that was denounced as a farce by even anti-zapatista indigenous organizations. They thus confirmed the words of an old militant of the left, “the general Cardenas died in 1988.” The PRD representatives of the lower house, for their part, approved a series of secondary laws and regulations that consolidated the betrayal.

We only have to remember that when we publicly denounced the behavior of neocardenismo, we were attacked (even in cartoons) by the same people that now say, in effect, that Cárdenas is a traitor (except now it’s for not supporting López Obrador). Of course, it’s one thing is to betray some indians, it is something very different to betray the LEADER [López Obrador]. We were then called “sectarian,” “marginals,” and, for having “attacked” Cárdenas, “the zapatistas played to the right-wing.” Sound familiar? And now the engineer [Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas] wants to be “leftist” and criticize AMLO...while he works for the tenants of Los Pinos in the commission of the bicentennial independence day celebrations.

After this betrayal, we couldn’t act like nothing had happened (we’re not perredistas). With the objective of the indigenous law we had entered into the dialogue process and negotiations with the federal government and made agreements, we had constructed an interlocutor with the political class, and we had made a call to the people (in Mexico and in the world) to mobilize with us for this demand.

In our error we had brought along a lot of people.

Not anymore. The next step by the EZLN would not only not be directed toward talking and listening with those above, but would confront them....radically. That is, the next step by the EZLN would go against all of the politicians.

2. Armed struggle or civil and peaceful initiative? After the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) rejected the protest against and disagreements with the counterreform by diverse indigenous communities, some intellectuals (several of whom reproached us afterwards for not supporting AMLO and the PRD in the fight for the presidential seat), made implicit calls for violence. In so many words, they said that the indigenous now had no other choice (see the declarations and editorials from those days—September and October of 2002). One of them, today the flaming “organic intellectual” of the postelectoral movement of López Obrador, acclaimed the decision of the SCJN and wrote that the EZLN thus had only two choices: to renegotiate with the government or to once again rise up in arms.

The choices that were planted from above (and that certain “leftist” intellectuals have made theirs) are false, it was by looking inside ourselves that we decided to do neither one.

We had then the option of renewing combat. And we had not only the military capacity but also the legitimacy to do so. But military action is a typical exclusive action, the best example of sectarianism. In this action are those that have the equipment, the knowledge, the physical and mental condition, and the disposition not only to die but to kill. We had resorted to this because, like we already said, they had left us with no other choice.

What’s more, we had made, in 1994, a commitment to pursuing the civil path, not with the government but with “the people,” with that “civil society” that not only supported our demand, but had also participated directly in our initiatives over those 7 years. These initiatives were spaces for everyone’s participation, without more criteria for exclusion than dishonesty and crime.

According to our judgment, we had a commitment to these people. So our next step, we thought, should be a civil and peaceful initiative.

3. The lesson of the previous initiatives: look below. While the political class, in 2001, converted its betrayal into law, the delegation that participated in the “March of the Color of the Earth” reported back to the zapatista communities. Contrary to what one might believe, the report did not refer primarily to what was said and heard with and from the politicians, leaders, artists, scientists, and intellectuals, but rather to what we had seen and heard in the Mexico of below.

And the evaluation that we presented coincided with that of the 5,000 delegates of the 1999 referendum and the March of the 1,111 in 1997. Namely, there was a sector of the population that called to us, that said to us, “we support you in these indigenous demands, but, what about us?” And it was this sector that was, and is, composed of peasants, workers, employees, women, young people. Above all women and young people, of all colors but with the same history of humiliation, dispossession, exploitation, and repression.

No, we didn’t understand them to be saying that they wanted to rise up in arms. Neither were they waiting for a leader, a guide, a caudillo, or a “ray of hope.” No, what we read and understood was that they hoped we would struggle alongside them for their own specific demands, just as they had struggled with us for ours. We read and understood that these people wanted another form of organizing, of doing politics, of struggling.

The “going out” of the 1,111 and the 5,000 had signified “opening” even more our hearing and our gaze, because these compas had heard and seen, directly and without intermediaries, those from below. Not just the living conditions of people, families, groups, collectives, and organizations, but also their conviction to struggle, their history, their “I am this” and their “here I am.” And these were people that had never been able to visit our communities, that did not know directly our process, that only knew of us from what our own words had narrated to them. And they weren’t people that had been on the stage in the distinct initiatives where the neozapatistas had made direct contact with citizens.

They were humble and simple people to whom nobody listened, and whom we needed to listen order to learn, in order to become companer@s. Our next step would be to make direct contact with these people. And if before it had been to talk to them and they to listen to us, now it should be to listen to them. And not in order to relate to them in one specific situation, but for the long-term, as companer@s.

We also analyzed that the zapatista delegation, when it “went out” on a given initiative, was “isolated” by a group of people—those that organized, those that decided when, where, and with whom. We’re not making a judgment as to if this were good or bad, we’re just pointing it out. For this reason, the next initiative should be able to “detect” these “isolations” from the beginning in order to avoid them further ahead.

What’s more, whether it was desired or not, the “going out” of the EZLN had privileged the interlocution of a sector of the population: the cultured middle class, intellectuals, artists, scientists, social and political leaders. If made to choose, in the new initiative we would have to decide between this sector and that of the most dispossessed. And if we had to decide, we would decide in favor of the latter, those from below, and we would construct a space where we could meet them.

4. The “cost” of being consistent with one’s word. Each conclusion that we reached in the internal analysis led us to another definition, and each definition to a new conclusion. According to our custom, we couldn’t call people to an initiative without telling them clearly what we thought or where we wanted to go. If we had decided that with the political class nothing, nothing above, then we must say so. We had to make a head-on and radical critique of the ENTIRE political class, without differentiating (as we had differentiated before Cárdenas and the PRD), giving our arguments and reasons for this. That is, we had to let the people know what had been ruptured. We thought then (and, as it would be seen, we weren’t mistaken) that the sector that before followed Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano would later “forget” the legislative actions by the PRD government—the incorporation of ex-priistas, the flirtations with “big money,” the repressions and aggression from perredista governments against popular movements which were outside their orbit, the complicit silence of López Obrador in the face of the Senate perredista vote against the San Andrés Accords—and it would proclaim AMLO as its new leader. We’ll talk more about López Obrador later; for now we’ll just say that our critique included him and, as expected, this bothered and distanced that sector that had been close to neozapatismo.

That sector, formed principally but not only by intellectuals, artists, scientists, and social leaders, also included what is called “the PRD social base,” and many people who, without being PRD fans or sympathizers, think that there was or is something salvageable in the Mexican political class. And all these people, along with many more that did not and do not subscribe to the analysis and positions of the PRD, formed a kind of “shield” for the zapatista indigenous communities. They had mobilized each time that we suffered an aggression.....except when that aggression came from the PRD.

The critique and distance with regard to AMLO, would be assumed by those who considered and consider their alternative to be above to be a critique of they themselves. Ergo, not only would they stop supporting us, but they would go so far as to attack us. And that’s what happened.

Among the triumphs of those who, from academics, the sciences, the arts, culture and information, gave their unconditional and uncritical support to López Obrador (and who make an ostentatious show of intolerance and despotism...even without having the government) is one that has slipped by unperceived: they managed to do what neither money nor pressures and threats had been able to, that is, to close the few public spaces that had given space to the word of the EZLN. First they lied, later they twisted meaning and slandered us, after that they cornered us, and finally, they eliminated our voice. Now they have the field clear to make themselves the strident echo for what AMLO says and contradicts (previous edition), without anybody or anyone overshadowing them.

But the cost of this will not only be is also military. That is, the “shield” will cease to be so and the possibility of a military attack against the EZLN will be more and more attractive to the powerful. The aggression will come then in olive green uniforms, as wells as in blue, tri-colored...or, as it happened, yellow (the perredista government of Zinacantán, Chiapas, attacked a peaceful mobilization by zapatista support bases with firearms April 10, 2004; the yellow paramilitaries which were formed afterward, sponsored by the PRD, the first “AMLO citizen support networks”—another “forgotten” of those that reproached and scolded the EZLN for having not supported and not supporting now the perredista).

So we decided to separate the political-military organization from the civil structure of the communities. This was a utmost necessity. The influence of the political-military structure in the communities had become, instead of a thrust, an obstacle. It was the moment to step to one side and not disturb. But this was not just about avoiding a situation where the process that the zapatista communities had constructed (with their own contributions, genius, and creativity) be destroyed at the same time as was the EZLN, or that this process not be disturbed by the EZLN. It was also aimed at insuring that the cost of the critique of the political class was “paid” only by the EZLN and, preferably, by its military chief and spokesperson.

But not only this. In the case that the zapatista communities would decide to take the step that the EZLN viewed as necessary, urgent, and concordant, we would have to be ready to survive an attack. For this reason, a time later, the Sixth Declaration of the Lacondón Jungle would start off with a red alert, and we would have to prepare, for years, for that.

5. Anticapitalist and from the left. But the principal conclusion to which we arrived in our evaluation had nothing to do with these aspects, that is, tactics, but rather with something fundamental: responsible for our pain, for the injustice, the contempt with which we are treated, the plunder and the blows with which we live, is an economic, political, social, and ideological system, capitalism. The next step neozapatismo would take would have to point clearly to this source, not only of the negation of indigenous rights and culture, but to the negation of the rights and the exploitation of the great majority of the Mexican population. That is, it would have to be an anti-systemic initiative. With this in mind, although all of the initiatives of the EZLN have been anti-systemic, this wasn’t always made explicit. The mobilization for indigenous rights and culture had taken place inside the system, and with the intention of constructing an interlocution and a juridical space within the legal framework.

And defining capitalism as the culprit and the enemy brought with it another conclusion: we needed to go beyond the indigenous struggle. Not only in declarations and propositions, but in organization.

We needed, we need, we thought, we think, a movement that unites the struggles against the system that plunders us, that exploits us, that represses and looks down upon us as indigenous. And not only us as indigenous, but millions who are not indigenous: workers, peasants, employees, small business people, street vendors, sex workers, unemployed, migrants, under-employed, street workers, homosexuals, lesbians, trangendered people, women, young people, children, and the elderly.

In the history of the public life of the EZLN, we had met other indigenous peoples and organizations and we had good relations with them. The National Indigenous Congress had permitted us not only to know and learn from the struggles and processes of autonomy that Indian peoples were carrying out, it also taught us to relate to them with respect.

But we had also met organizations, collectives, political and cultural groups clearly defined as anticapitalist and of the left. With them we had always remained distrustful, distant, and skeptical. The relationship had been, above all, a continuing misencounter...on both sides.

Upon recognizing the capitalist system as the source of indigenous pain, the EZLN had to recognize that it was not only in us that it produced this pain. There were, there are, these others that we had encountered over these 12 years. Recognizing their existence was to recognize their history. That is, none of these organizations, groups, or collectives had been “born” with the EZLN, nor by its example, nor in its shadow, nor under its wing. There were, and are, groups with their own history of struggle and dignity. An anticapitalist initiative should not only take them into account, but propose an honest relationship with them, that is, a relationship of respect.

The compas of the national Indigenous congress had shown us that to recognize histories, ways, and contexts is the base of respect. In that sense, we thought that it would be possible to propose this to other anticapitalist organizations, groups, and collectives. The new initiative should propose the construction of commonalities and alliances with those others, without that implying an organic unity or hegemony by them or by the EZLN.

6. Looking Above...what is not said. As the struggle for the presidential seat went on above, it became clear that they never touched on what was fundamental for us: the economic model. That is, the system that we are subject to as Indian peoples and as Mexicans was not addressed by any of the proposals made by those disputing the “above,” not by the PRI, not by the PAN, and not by the PRD.

As it has been pointed out, not just by us, the supposedly “leftist” proposal (of the PRD in general and AMLO in particular), was not and is not [leftist]. It was and is a project for the administration of the crisis, assuring profits for large property owners and controlling social discontent with economic support, the cooptation of leaders and movements, threats, and repression. From the arrival of Cárdenas Solórzano to the government of the capital, later with Rosario Robles and after that with López Obrador and Alejandro Encinas, the city of Mexico was and is governed by the PRI, but now under the PRD flag. It changed party but not politics.

But AMLO had, and has, what none of his antecessors did: charisma and ability. If before, Cárdenas used the government of the city as a trampoline for the presidency, López Obrador did also, but with more ability and better luck than the engineer. The government of Vicente Fox, with all of its awkwardness, became the principal promoter and publicist for the candidacy of the perredista. According to our evaluations, AMLO would win the election for president of the Republic.

And we were not mistaken. López Obrador obtained the highest number of votes among those that fought for the presidency. Although not with the grand margin foreseen, his advantage was clear and certain. Where we were mistaken was in thinking that the recourse of electoral fraud was something of the past. But we’ll talk about this below.

Following our analysis, the arrival of AMLO and his team (formed purely by shameless and pathetic salinistas, in addition to a rabble of vile and despicable people) to the presidency of the Republic would mean the installation of a government that, while appearing to be left, would operate as if it were right (exactly as it did and does in the government of Mexico City). Additionally, it would take power with legitimacy, support, and popularity. But nothing essential in the economic model would be touched. In the words and AMLO and his team: “we will maintain macroeconomic policy.”

As almost no one says, “macroeconomic policy means a rise in exploitation, the destruction of social security, the precarization of work, the dispossession of ejidal and communal lands, an increase in migration to the United States, the destruction of history and culture, the repression of popular discontent...and the privatization of petroleum, the electric industry, and the totality of natural resources (which, in López Obrador discourse, is disguised as “co-investment”).

The “social” politics (the analysts close to AMLO “forget” once again the strong similarities with the “solidarity” of Carlos Salinas de Gortari—the “unnameable” renamed by López Obrador’s team) of the perredista proposal, they told us, would be possible by reducing the expenditures of the governmental apparatus and eliminating (ha!) corruption. The savings obtained would serve to help the “most vulnerable” sectors (the elderly and single mothers) and to support the sciences, culture, and art.

So we thought: AMLO wins the presidency with legitimacy and with the support of big business, in addition to the unconditional backing of the progressive intellectuals; the process of destruction of our homeland (but with the alibi of being destruction “of the left”); and whatever kind of opposition or resistance would be qualified as “sponsored by the right, at the service of the right, sectarian, ultra, infantile, an ally of Martha Sahagún (then it was Martita that it seemed would precandidate of the PAN—afterwards etiquette would say “ally of Calderon”) and blah blah blah,” and repressed (like the student movement of 1999-2000; the town of San Salvador Atenco—we should remember that all this started with the PRD municipal president of Texcoco; the representatives of the PRD in the State of Mexico, who today demand the liberation of the prisoners at that time nodded to and supported the police repression; and the young people that were repressed by the perredista government of that “defender of the right to free expression” Alejandro Encinas, paradoxically, for blocking a street in demand of liberty and justice for Atenco); attacked (like the zapatista support bases in Zinacantán); or slandered, pursued, and satanized (like the Other Campaign and the EZLN).

But the illusion would end the minute that they saw that nothing had changed for those from below. And then would come a stage of disappointment, desperation, and disillusionment—that is, the breeding grounds for fascism.

For this moment an alternative leftist organization would be necessary. Following our calculations, the true nature of the so-called “Alternative Project for the Nation” would be defined in the first 3 years of governance.

Our initiative should take this into account and prepare itself to go with everything it has against (including cartoons) for various years, before converting itself into a real left, anticapitalist option.

7. What followed? The Sixth. By the end of 2002, the project that would later be known as the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle had been broadly outlined: a new civil and peaceful political initiative; anticapitalist, that would not only not seek interlocution with politicians, but would criticize them openly and without exceptions; which would permit direct contact between the EZLN and others from below; that would listen to them; that would privilege relationships with humble and simple people, that would permit alliances with organizations, groups, and collectives with the same thinking; that would be long-term; that would prepare to go forward with everything against them (including the progressive sectors of artists, scientists, and intellectuals) and ready to confront a government that had legitimacy. In sum, to look, listen, speak, walk, struggle, below...and to the left.

In January of 2003, dozens of thousands of zapatistas “took” the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. Machetes (in honor of the rebels of Atenco) and pine limbs burning brightly illuminated the central plaza of the ancient Jovel. The zapatista leadership spoke. Among them, Comandante Tacho warned that those that bet on forgetting, cynicism, and convenience “are mistaken, there is something else.”

In this moment, still in the shadow of dawn, the Sixth Declaration began to walk...

(to be continued)

For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee—General Command of the EZLN and the Sixth Commission.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
August-September of 2006


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