Church Land Programme: Living Democracy

Living democracy

Church Land Programme, May 2014.

For good reason, practical questions of grassroots democracy and autonomy remain central in CLP's work and reflection during this period. It's clear that emancipatory politics starts in political events of complete rupture with what exists. It's also clear that the subsequent work taking forward that politics, in struggle/s and in organisation, can only be faithful to itself if it never compromises the principled basis of that politics. That fidelity requires always matching the modes of struggle and the forms of organising with a thoughtful and practical praxis that expresses those axioms and principles. In practice, such fidelity cannot be assumed or taken for granted and nor are there any ready­made recipes for ensuring it, except perhaps the refusal to ever surrender principle to tactics.

There are valuable lessons to be learned in conversations between the experiencs of militants of emancipatory politics in different places, each grappling in their own journeys to take forward a liberatory and principled politics. In this edition of Padkos we draw once again from the journey of the Zapatistas (see previous Padkos) and also from the MST (the Landless Peoples Movement of Brazil), generally credited as being the world's largest social movement.

In “Educate in Resistance” (2014), Angélica Rico briefly discusses the autonomous Zapatista schools. A remarkable exercise in putting principles of dignity and autonomy into practice, Padkos readers will no doubt also note powerful parallels with the principles of “Living Learning” captured in the 2009 CLP publication from an earlier phase of work with Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Rural Network. Rico says

“Zapatista autonomous education is conceived as a university of life. Its objectives and contents arise from the experienced problems, and the possible solutions, through reflection and collective participation”.

“Participatory Democracy in Action” (2011) looks at the practices and structures of both the Zapatistas and the MST. Though different, both movements “show a shared concern with autonomy, in particular avoidance of demobilization through the clientèlism and paternalism induced by government programs and political parties. Both movements stress training in democracy (the experience of “being government”) and the obligation to participate.”

 The authors (including Peter Rosset featured in the Padkos Bioscope documentary feature this week) indicate at the beginning that they are:

“interested in the specific internal democratic practices of the most powerful of these [alter­globalisation] movements because their project is to create the power to solve their own problems and to do so democratically. … Drawing on extensive fieldwork with these movements, we focus here on their practices of participatory democracy with an eye to  identifying lessons for other movements that seek to use their techniques”.


Participatory Democracy in Action Practices of the Zapatistas and the Movimento Sem Terra

Educate in resistance: the autonomous Zapatista schools

EZLN: AutonomousResistance