Oaxaca Commentary

Why Oaxaca Matters
By James Cooke
Mar 27, 2007, 10:12

For anyone interested in social progress, the ‘Oaxaca Commune’ stands out as an event worthy of attention and study. In the Mexican state of Oaxaca the overwhelming majority of people suddenly awoke from political hibernation and became active in shaping social life. In consequence, the old apparatus of the state, dedicated as it was to the interests of the rich, was destroyed, and a new structure, based on direct representation of the many, was established.

The ‘popular assembly’ (APPO) that arose out of the mass movement of Oaxaca was not the first of its kind. History has numerous examples of similar political formations, always birthed amid a revolutionary climate.

The first modern example took place in Paris in 1871, when working-class people revolted against the policies of ‘their’ government, and created a new form of social administration to suit the needs of the average person. Like Oaxaca, the ‘Paris Commune’ consisted of delegates from a varying political/social background, working together to enact policies that reflected the demands of the majority, in contrast with the previous government that ruled according to the interests of a tiny elite.

In 1905 Russia, unmistakably similar organizations sprang into existence. These worker’s councils, called ‘Soviets’, were the organizational basis for the failed uprising in 1905, and were reconstructed anew and on a broader level for the successful revolution of 1917. For several years, the coordinated efforts of the nationwide system of Soviets acted as the backbone of organization for the successful civil-war and subsequent reconstruction. Following the successes of Russia, soviet-style organizational methods were constructed throughout Europe in response to the widespread social turbulence caused by World War I. In 1919, the working class of Germany formed soviets of their own, which acted as the foundation for the heroic but failed revolution.

Years later, the Spanish Revolution made good use of the same independent method of organization, where in many towns, all the functions of normal government were revolutionized to an extent that the word ‘government’ seemed hardly applicable. After World War II, ‘worker’s committees’ and militias sprang into existence in Italy and Greece, accompanied by revolutionary upheavals.

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