It wasn't in the acridmist of Seattle's tear gas that this global movement was born, but inthe humid mist of the Chiapas jungle, in Southern Mexico on New Years Day 1994 the day. This was the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, a day when two thousand indigenous peoples from several groups came out from the mountainsand forests. Masked, armed and calling themselves Zapatistas, their battle cry was "Ya Basta" - "Enough is Enough". An extraordinary popular uprising, which was to help change the landscape of global resistance, had begun. Using a jungle battered laptop computer and intermediaries to get the discs to an internetconnected computer, the Zapatistas were able to bypass the media censorship of the Mexican state and communicate directly. People everywhere soon heard of the uprising.
These masked rebels, from poverty stricken communities, were not only demanding that their own land andlives be given back, neither were they just asking for international support and solidarity; they were talking about neoliberalism, about the "death sentence" that NAFTA and other free trade agreements would impose on indigenous people. They were demanding the dissolution of power while encouraging others all over the world to take on the fight against the enclosure of our lives by capital. "Don't join us - do ityourself" was their message.
The sense of possibility that this uprising gave to millions of people across the globe was extraordinary. In 1996, the Zapatistas, with trepidation as they thought no-one might come, sent out an email calling for a gathering, called an "encuentro" (encounter), of international activists and intellectuals to meet inspecially constructed arenas in the Chiapas jungle to discuss commontactics, problems and solutions. Six thousand people attended, and spent days talking and sharing their stories of struggle againstthe common enemy: capitalism.
This was followed a year later by a gathering in Spain, wherethe idea for the construction of a more action focused network, to benamed Peoples' Global Action (PGA), was hatched by a group made up ofactivists from ten of the largest and most innovative socialmovements. They included the Zapatistas, Movimento Sem Terra, (the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement who occupy and liveon large tracts of unproductive land) and the Karnataka State Farmers Union (KRRS), renowned for their "cremate Monsanto" campaign which involved burning fields of Genetically Modifiedcrops.
The group (who became the PGA convenors committee, a role that rotates every year) drafted a document outlining some of the primary objectives and organisationalprinciples of the emerging network. It outlined a firm rejection ofappeals to those in power for reforms to the present world order. Asupport for direct action as a means of communities reclaimingcontrol over their lives, and an organisational philosophy based onautonomy and decentralisation. In February 1998, Peoples' Global Action was born. For the first time ever the worldsgrassroots movements were beginning to talk and share experienceswithout the mediation of the media or Non Governmental Organisations (NGO's).