From the March-April 2015 issue of News & Letters
Mexico City—On Jan. 31 around 100 members of the community police of Guerrero went to Chilpancingo, the capital of the state, to protect its people from narco-traffickers and state violence. They were summoned by the people themselves. However, the official police didn’t let them in. Because of this, the community police moved to a small town, Petaquillas, seven miles from Chilpancingo, where the community received them.
Seven days later, the army tried to enter Petaquillas to apprehend the community police. However, the population defended their police with sticks and stones. They even captured six soldiers, releasing them hours later. The army decided to withdraw.
.IDEAS BECAME PART OF THE STRUGGLE
One could be tempted to say that this was just an act of strength, a battle won by force. However, by putting their bodies between the army and the community police, by accepting and sheltering the latter in their town, the community of Petaquillas put their ideas into the struggle as well: the right to autonomy and self-government. This was made clear by what the population shouted at the army during the confrontation: “Let the people have their own police, because you don’t do anything, you work for the narco-traffickers!”
How is this action of self-defense related to the struggles for freedom on a major national scale—specifically, with the protests for Ayotzinapa seen in the last five months? (See “Letter from Mexico: Mexican protests deepen,” Jan.-Feb. N&L.) Some say that the movement for Ayotzinapa has come to an end, that the mass demonstrations, especially in Mexico City, haven’t shown a significant development recently. In some sense this may be true. At the same time, however, the struggles for autonomy in “rural” states like Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacán and Chiapas are becoming deeper.
These movements are not a direct consequence of the protests for Ayotzinapa, but a result of centuries of people’s organization. Nevertheless, the Ayotzinapa protests have given them new life, and put them in a national focus. People throughout the country have turned to the mass movements going on in those states, and have begun to find there a source of practical and theoretical inspiration for social uprooting.
An important example is the proposal for boycotting the 2015 elections. This is not just not voting or annulling the vote, but aiming to actually prevent the elections from taking place. The idea was born from the popular movements in Guerrero. It has been accepted nationally. Trying to concretize it could be a crucial step in the construction of a people’s self-government.
Returning to Petaquillas, Guerrero: What does an act of popular defense, like the one that took place there, tell us about the possibilities of deepening the social movement? What does it mean, theoretically and practically? These are questions that both mass movements from below and revolutionary organizations should try constantly to answer, in order to go forward on the road for freedom.
by G.W.F. Héctor