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"Act in assembly when together, act in network when apart"
(as suggested by the National Native Congress, Mexico)

(report presented at the II International Encounter for Humanity and against Neoliberalism, Almuñecar, Ruesta, El Indiano, Madrid, Barcelone; Spain; July 26-August 2, 1997)

1. The Second Declaration of Realidad (August 3, 1996) served to outline four major objectives: a world conference on the issues of the First Meeting, a new Intergalactic, an intercontinental network and a network of resistance, fight and action against n eoliberalism. Unlike meetings and consultations, organizing through networks is not specific to Zapatist movements, but rather the natural development of a social model applied throughout man's history by free people on all continents and revolutionaries everywhere: direct democracy. Historically this model is characterized by the direct and equal participation in sovereign assemblies of people of the same community, who by so doing collectively express, deliberate and act on all the issues relating to the government of their community. Different communities were connected via delegates to their respective assemblies. The mandate to said delegates could be revoked at any time, and their presence did not affect the autonomy of the assembly. Taking this model as a starting point, a network should serve to weave the relations of single individuals and groups into a mosaic of different interests, without over shadowing the community's collective functions, based on the pure pleasure of freedom.

2. Even if they do not call it so, Native Americans have always practiced direct democracy. In their communities, authority is exercised through assemblies and their delegates, elected according to the principle of "mandan obedeciendo" (to command by obeying). In other words they act exclusively according to the letter and spirit of the various mandates they receive. Both the deliberation of authority and its practice are monitored in different ways by a council of wise men and elders called "principals". Among the Mayas of Chiapas, for instance, this social model is based on consensus, has been used and perfected over centuries as a weapon of resistance. Their particular version of direct democracy is at the same time a mechanism which allows the community to function, a thermometer of its vitality and an objective to strive for. For them, ajor decisions such as war and peace are not deliberated until consensus among all the members of the community is reached. In this way, Mayan communities have continuously redefined themselves over time, giving historical significance to that concept of "us" which in their eyes constitutes true freedom. Likewise, those communities now fighting under the EZLN banner maintain constant relations through a network of revocable delegates, and the CCRI-CG itself, despite it being a military structure (and therefore heirarchical), answers to the same communities through consultation and control from the base.

3. This form of direct democracy based on consensus which we found in the mountains of Southwestern Mexico is inevitably tied to a social context of small rural communities where each member knows the other personally. Those of us who instead live in the monster's belly must invent different ways of applying the same principles. The Zapatists themselves are the first to say that their movement cannot be exported. What we can do is fight to maintain a collective control over authority, as envisioned, among others, by Western antiauthoritarian movements which have consistently criticized representative democracy. In the words of the Enragé John Oswald (1793): "representation is the deceptive veil used to hide all forms of despotism and political manipulation". Today we stand to witness the unmitigated failure of all the movements and organizations which over the past two centuries have attempted to direct, provoke, or simply accompany radical change. The latest metamorphosis of the monster, called neoliberalism, has spread its ruin precisely in the wake of so many defeated revolutions and dreams turned to nightmares. Modern economy is much more than social organization, it is an eclipse cast unto the minds, eyes and hearts of people the world over, in the North as in the South, in the East as in the West, preempting life in exchange for simple survival.

4. Our adventure is really an attempt to conjugate collective freedom, as intended by Pablo González Casanova, with the perspective of individual liberation. The Second Declaration of the Realidad identifies networking as the tool for building a world from the meeting of many worlds. The break with the past is well evidenced by the results of the round table: in the new way of thinking the end does not justify the means, but, on the contrary, the means affect and determine the end (Table 1: What is our policy, what policy do we need. La Realidad, Chiapas, 1996). The means become a qualifying factor: to build a network of worlds we use the network itself. This allows us to overcome the precepts of traditional political practice: totalitarian obsession, program as an abstract model and consequently, the complimentary issues of tactics and strategy. And to preempt the notion itself of political party and of systems of thought - once called ideologies - developed to force our existence onto a predefined track. So we start to use our heads and our hearts. The concept itself of "fight" is thereby shifted from a negative antagonism, necessarily conditioned by patterns of survival, to the daily construction of a new life, or better, a new civilization.

5. The traditional political method involves an artificial separation between the "drafting" of a program, effected by specialized intelle ctuals, and its "circulation", entrusted to bored and listless militants. Both these moments are separated from its "realization", projected in a vague and uncertain future. As we intend it, the network should instead by the starting point, the motor, and the end of a new movement of self-liberation for hu mankind: a realm of plurality and liberty, a world which contains many worlds. A place where the future takes root in the present. Putting free communities in touch. Communities which express themselves through autonomous assemblies, made richer by a rainbow of exchange and nomadism. The network therefore places itself at the end of history built over our heads and at the beginning of history experienced consciously. Through a common project, identifying the building blocks of individual action and those of public action. With these weapons we can face up to monolithic thought and bring decisions back to the only level where they can be controlled - the local level, and cast our nets unto the mysterious ocean of resonances and echoes. And, place the noble ideal of the old worker's movement back on the table: the international will be humankind.

6. In our case the obstacles to this proposal are to be found in the almost total fragmentation of communities, which should be the lifeblood of this organism, and the consequent difficulty which individuals have of thinking their liberation in collective terms. Not only. The elements through which centralized power dominates are such that they multiply and expand infinitely, nuturing identification with these and fostering axes of conflict, making it difficult to discern their global sense. It is by no means easy to break this vicious circle. Nor is it easy to speak out of the mold, to speak of ourselves, our hopes and how to realize them with others: neoliberalism not only privatizes companies, but our lives as well. A network of communities without communities, this is how we stand on the threshold of the new millenium. The feeling is that we are on the right track, but that we have lost our strength along the way. How do we break the veil of dissimulation and mediation which society has tended between each of us and our lives? How can we repropose in practice that "unitary triad of participation, realization and communication", to use the words of the Situationist Raoul Vaneigem? How can we lay the basis of truly autonomous assemblies, starting from communities of independent subjects and real lives, rather than of interest groups and ideas, in the desolateness of our metropolies?

7. Without pretending to offer miraculous solutions for undoing these knots, the network can supply the technical infrastructure needed to reverse our perspective and once again give us the capacity to fight and resist, to create, through its infinite real-life situations, the many ways of collectively practicing and expressing free thought and its responsibilities. We can do so by connecting with other networks via international campaigns to help common causes such as global citizenship, intended as the freedom of movement across borders, or boycots of companies which do not respect human rights, of military states, etc. The practice of Intercontinental meetings amplifies this type of action and retraces backwards, so to speak, the original path which should lead from local communities to the network. Such a structure is necessarily based on the principle of voluntarism. Is there a different way of recreating community consciousness, where the concept of community itself is lost? In an unsustainable society and an ungovernable world, all we can do is beseige utopia. Despite the many difficulties and the strong minority connotation, the experiences of the past two years in creating a network of relations in the sense outlined above, induce us to a reasoned optimism. Starting from this we can invent a language and practice which - like the Zapatist movement in Mexico - serves to connect past and future revolutions, oppressed people everywhere and proletarians of our industrial urban areas.

8. At the same time ,we feel the need to clear the field of unfortunate intepretations which have the potential of becoming a fast track back to the quagmire of the old world. The network we are building is not a popular front, and even less is it " for lack of anything better" in these sad time, characterized by the death of so many illusions. At the same time the concept of hosting many worlds does not mean we are open to all ideologies, but rather that we would like to be a method and place for men and women to rethink their lives. A place where ideologies, as closed and sclerotic systems of thought, have no reason for existing. Through the network we can try to write a chapter of our existence together, experimenting new ways of experiencing and transforming the world. The network is not a weak organization adapted to a time of weak thought, but the free instrument of a time which needs to rediscover freedom. The translation in practice of the words contained in the First Declaration of the Realidad: "We need not conquer the world, but rebuild it. Together, today."

9. Because every single method of human self-liberation requires its space and sounding board, the network must steer free of institutions and power, destined by their nature to defend specific interests. We can instead contemplate forms of defensive self-organization such as mutualism or other forms of solidarity inherited from the dawn of the worker's movement. Since political parties and unions have always been the managers of our defeat, it is impossible for us to envision their participation in the network. It is vital that each individual have the possibility of rethinking his or her life free from ideological affiliations. We believe this is the only way to create a truly inclusive practice, because we cannot fight alienation through alienated structures. It should also be clarified that while formally speaking there are no local assemblies, only we can give ourselves the mandate to attend and deliberate, we and the hate which the old world always dealt us, our ideas, our dreams, our lives. It is therefore important to immediately create the local decision-making level, ensuring that coordination between local groups is conducted solely in the spirit and with the objective of giving local decisions the greatest amplification and strength. An additional advantage of keeping decision-making at the local level is that it makes it impossible to implement or even think of huge projects, from the pyramids to nuclear power plants. In the course of this century the political left cultivated the obsession of substituting capitalism with an equally global system (socialism, communism). Today, although it may not be always true that small is beautiful, it is unquestionably true that large is monstruous and anti-human.

10. The progressive, joyful contagion of other local realties through meetings, the free interweaving of personal relations, the impassioned emulation of play and the fervid enchantment of thought seems to be the only legitimate way of building the network without giving life to new supreme soviets and oppressive beaurocracies. The local assemblies constituted in Committees, which could be called "For Humanity against Neoliberalism", are the nodes connected by the network of networks which we propose to cast around the world. A network which uses telematic communication, but, far from being virtual, is composed of names and faces, blood and dreams. A network capable of giving form and content to the need expressed by people everywhere to reappropriate themselves of politics. An invisible network, the visibility of which will grow with the conscience of its participants, men and women who join to be different. A network which puts hope and passion in touch, laying the ground for the biggest party of the 21st century. A network which, overcoming the mystification of representative democracy, recaptures that red thread of direct democracy which connects in time and space the agora in ancient Greece with the Paris Commune, workers in Canton with the Catalonian collectives, Budapest in arms against beaurocracy with the Zapatist communities in Mexico. All this, not out of methodological purity but out of coherence with those steps which each of us alike must take if we want to build our world without mediation, whether such mediation be called neoliberalism, real socialism or whatever else the powers that be and that were have devised to divide and dominate us.

Claudio Albertani, Paolo Ranieri June, 1997

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