OLIN Study Group

This Monday, March 12, from 6 to 8 pm at In Other Words Women's Books and Resources
8 NE Killingsworth St, Portland, OR 97211 www.inotherwords.org

MARCH 2006 DISCUSSION ARTICLE: Liberty, Justice, Autonomy: Building a
Magonista Reality.

Visit our myspace site for more CIPO-RFM and Magonista background reading:

[Olin disclaimer: We offer the readings here because we collectively feel
that they provide good history, background and opinion on the events in
Oaxaca. While Olin may not agree with all that is contained in these
articles, we feel that it is important to provide a diverse array of

Liberty, Justice, Autonomy: Building a Magonista Reality

"When the People
Have the conscience
That they are stronger
Than their rulers,
There will no longer be tyrants."
-Ricardo Flores Magón

The Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magón (CIPO-RFM)
is a social and democratic organization formed by 26 indigenous
communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, comprised of about 2,000 members. They
follow libertarian and indigenous ways and customs. The CIPO-RFM is a
grassroots movement whose members work in their communities in the defense
of human rights, on communal projects and environmental conservation, and
in the provision of basic social needs.

A Past of Many Histories

About 60% of the approximate 3.5 million inhabitants of Oaxaca, one of
Mexico's southernmost states, are indigenous. Many ethnolinguistic groups
coexist in this area, such as the Amuzgos, Chatino, Chinanteco, Chocho,
Chontal, Cuicateco, Huave, Ixcateco, Mazateco, Mixe, Mixteco, Náhuatl,
Triqui, Zapoteco, Zoque and the Popoloca. Like Chiapas and Guerreros,
other southern states with large indigenous populations, Oaxaca's economy
is based on agriculture and mired in poverty. But Oaxaca is unique in how
little of its land has been privatized, making it the center of ongoing
land conflicts: 80% of the land is still used communally.

The CIPO-RFM formed in late 1997 out of a conglomeration of anarchist,
Marxist and indigenous organizations. One of its forerunners was the
Magónist Indigenous Movement, an anti-capitalist group which formed in the
1980s in response to agrarian conflicts and social repression in Oaxaca.
This group took inspiration from Ricardo Flores Magón, an indigenous
Oaxacan revolutionary, libertarian, and a key figure in the 1910 Mexican

>From 1892 onward, Magón and his followers became "the most active
opposition to the Díaz regime at the time, participated in strikes,
launched militant uprisings, and tirelessly propagated their views,"
primarily through their newspaper Regeneración. Magón stressed the
importance of indigenous people forcefully defending their communal lands
within the overall revolutionary struggle—and the necessity of a social
revolution to guarantee their autonomy. According to the CIPO-RFM,
Magónism can't be reduced to the ideas of Magón himself: it includes their
historical heritage as indigenous people, and the heritage of all the men
and women of Mexico and worldwide who have contributed to the struggle.

Strategy and Practice

"We may not be heroes, guerrillas or revolutionaries here, but we do build
our dreams."
-The Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magón (CIPO-RFM)

The CIPO-RFM´s slogan is "liberty, justice, autonomy," and its mission is
to help the people and the workers organize themselves freely, regardless
of membership in the organization. They implement sustainable projects of
means of production, services, and commerce. They develop alternative
media, including radio stations, internet, and television. The CIPO-RFM
frames its activities in terms familiar to all libertarians: mutual aid,
self management, free association of communities, solidarity, equality,
direct action, and the rejection of the state and electoral politics. All
these ideals, interpreted in their own cultural context, are a reality in

The CIPO-RFM respects the EZLN in Chiapas, but has opted for the use of
peaceful rebellion, preferring not to give the state an excuse to engage
in open military repression. The CIPO-RFM does not believe that revolution
will be spontaneous, but that it is a slow and carefully planned process
of organization. It rejects the state and political parties, and is always
looking for ways to work with all other organizations, communities and
people who are willing to struggle for the liberation of their people. The
group is a member of the International Libertarian Solidarity network.

There is a clear process for a community to enter CIPO-RFM. First
representatives of the group are invited for a general presentation, in
which they explain the benefits and risks of joining. After this initial
introduction, a workshop is given on the topic of the importance and
necessity of organization. A second workshop analyses different forms of
struggle, stressing the importance of a libertarian and Magónista
organization. During a third workshop, the community diagnoses its
problems and discusses possible solutions. Participants are encouraged to
make connections between the problems in their own communities and those
of other communities. In a final workshop, called the Basic Council, the
community formally decides to join the CIPO-RFM. A work plan is
elaborated, and a commitment to struggle is agreed upon.

The CIPO-RFM supports its members in the solution of agrarian problems, in
protecting and recuperating communal farmland and forest. Here the idea of
"Land and Freedom" is materialized in the form of communal property. The
land belongs to the community and to those who work on it: the families
who work the land own their harvest.

This idea of self-management goes beyond working the land, extending to
the field of politics. Important decisions are made collectively, in
community assemblies. All representative posts within the CIPO-RFM are
assigned by the assemblies, and are unpaid, recallable positions.

The Magónistas are currently developing communal schools with an
indigenous and Magónist focus, staffed by indigenous teachers. They offer
occupational workshops for young people, study groups, and workshops
promoting and spreading their cultures, languages, and traditions.

The communities practice mutual aid in two main aspects: barter and the
tequio. Money has little importance internally: it is mainly used to
obtain goods from outside the communities, and comes from the sale of
hand-crafted goods in the cities, and from indigenous people who have
emigrated. The tequio is communal work. For example, when a mill needs to
be built, everyone works on that specific construction for free, as it
will be a benefit for them all.

In many of the communities, participation in the tequio is also mandated
as a penalty for social offenses. The Magónist concept of justice is to
benefit the community, as contrasted with the concept of justice expressed
by the kidnapping, humiliation, torture, capital punishment, forced labor
and exclusion of the prison system.

The organization puts into practice concrete measures to ensure the full
respect of the rights of women, youth, and ethnic minorities. The struggle
against machismo is a key element for the Magonistas. They promote a
culture of respect for women in every space where they are present—in the
community, organization, schools, unions, etc. The group also offers women
assistance for education, defense of their reproductive rights, and
training in skills such as handicrafts, baking, farming, and radio. Women
are represented in all posts of responsibility, and also organize
workshops in the communities to combat patriarchy. The result of these
efforts can be seen in women's leadership in environmental struggles, such
as the fight against genetically modified crops.

University researchers have discovered that between 20 and 60 percent of
traditional corn varieties of the CIPO-RFM's communities are now
contaminated with modified genes from imported US corn. The CIPO-RFM
rejects the use of chemicals or pesticides, and use only techniques which
improve traditional agriculture maintain self-sufficiency in food

They mobilize against destructive free trade agreements—the Free Trade
Area of the Americas, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the
Plan Puebla Panama—in order to maintain their way of life, their customs
and traditions. They view the imposition of capitalist free trade as a
means of turning them into wage slaves, destroying their biodiversity,
exploiting their land and water for industry, and patenting their
medicinal plants for the profit of multinational corporations.

The revolutionary strategy of the CIPO-RFM is to protest against the
genocidal and repressive forces of the state and capitalism, but at the
same time, to create counter-institutions which meet the political,
economic, and social needs of the communities. In the political sphere
they have created directly democratic assemblies; they have formed
cooperatives to meet their economic needs; and they have developed a range
of social projects such as the women's anti-patriarchy workshops, an
indigenous center in Oaxaca City, and educational programs.


"The solidarity of others is our own defense."
- Praxedis G. Guerrero, Puntos Rojos (1906)

The CIPO-RFM explains that what hurts the government most is that "we will
put an end to their economic and political institutions, we reject their
salaries, private property, the state, and political parties."

Even though the CIPO-RFM has a policy of peace and coexistence and rejects
the use of violence to resolve conflicts, their history has been marked by
persecution and repression. Since the creation of the organization in
1997, there have been 212 people detained, 47 kidnappings, 103 raids by
the military, police and paramilitaries in the communities of the
organization, 500 arrest warrants, 22 people tortured, and 277 serious

Some of the cases that stand out are the detention and torture of 106
indigenous people on April 18, 1998, and kidnapping and torture of 46
indigenous people on January 1, 2002. The CIPO-RFM has organized protests,
direct actions and sit-ins, demanding the release of their members. In
order to build an external solidarity movement, members of the CIPO-RFM
have toured Europe in 2001 and Canada in 2005 giving presentations and
holding conferences.

Members have been displaced from their communities for fear of being
jailed or murdered; hundreds are currently living in the US. Members such
as Raúl Gatica and César Chavez García have had to flee as a result of
constant harassment and assassination attempts.

Not surprisingly, the government of Vicente Fox has increased the number
of soldiers and paramilitaries in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca. In the
early months of 2005, following the election of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz as the
new Oaxacan governor, there was a serious deterioration in the social and
political situation, particularly in regard to indigenous peoples'
political rights. Evidence of this deterioration is the political crimes,
inter-community conflicts, detentions, and criminalization of social

The most recent attacks include the imprisonment of various CIPO-RFM
members for opposing repression and land theft in San Isidro Aloapám. As
of December 2005, 15 of them still remain imprisoned. Also, since July
2005, the community of Soledad, Sola de Vega, a village with a CIPO-RFM
majority, has been surrounded by state-aided paramilitaries, who are
blocking the entrance to food and medical supplies, and have orders to
kill any CIPO-RFM members who try to pass.

The CIPO-RFM makes it clear that it does not want to transform the world
by being in power. Its members believe that true power comes from the
collective, from the community; therefore they promote and develop the
organization of the people. Free association, direct democracy, autonomy,
mutual aid, and collective work are the base of their daily lives, and
ground their perspective of the liberation of their people and all others
around the world who suffer under the modern forms of domination.


Diana is a Spanish anarchist living in Boston. She works with children and
is a member of the Boston por CIPO-RFM collective.


The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey