So, socialism and communism haven’t yet bought about collective human liberation. I shall not insult your intelligence by going into all the wonderful contributions of capitalist society either.

Where do we go from here? Is it even possible to imagine a new new world on Mars?



A more recent anti-capitalist movement, made up of diverse actors around the world, has emerged from the failures of socialist and communist movements of the last century. Broadly termed the New Anti-Capitalists, they insist that capitalist ideology is not just concentrated in the state, but permeates our daily interactions and the way we see the the world. As such, this movement is both about capturing the state and focusing on the revolutionary potential of living life differently day to day, conceiving of a revolution as a ‘radical and long-lasting change in social relations.[1]’ These movements prize horizontalism over hierarchy, and privilege autonomy; they prioritize bottom-up revolution instead of top-down reform which became a painful legacy of the socialist and communist experiment of the 20th century.

Group-based decision making and creating coalitions of decentralized groups characterize the New Anti-Capitalists. As such, these groups engage with concrete problems facing their communities rather than working towards a one-size-fits-all generic program to dismantle capitalist state oppression. Recognizing the global nature of this struggle in the age of globalization is a fundamental part of these movements, as it was for Karl Marx and the young Soviet Union. By and large these groups favor direct action tactics - protests and forms of civic disobedience that impede capitalist society’s ability to function until anti-capitalist demands are met.

To better understand how these principles are applied by anti-capitalist movements, let’s take a closer look at a few social movements that have attempted to and still are, trying to transform Earth into a just planet, where the rights and liberties of all people are respected.

The Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion (EZLN) or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation emerged on the public horizon in 1994, on the same day as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect.[2] From mountains in Southeast Mexico, in Chiapas, the Zapatista movement, made up of largely indigenous locals, declared war on the Mexican government, condemning NAFTA as a “death sentence.” Although the movement took over major towns in the state using armed men and women, it’s goals were much broader than that. The Zapatistas framed their struggle as a struggle for the realization of democracy not just in Mexico but as necessary for a more just world order. Firmly against the neoliberal policies sweeping the world, Zapatistas framed their struggle as a “Fourth World War,” an apocalyptic battle against neoliberal globalization which in some cases is framed as a war against the ‘North American way of life,’ that seeks to create all in its image. As part of the struggle against domination the Zapatistas have challenged dominant definitions of “progress,” “modernity” and “civilization” and “democracy”.


The Zapatista movement focused on the global dimension of resistance using the internet as a mobilizing tool and hosting international conferences to emphasize the worldwide nature of a struggle against neoliberal capitalist policies. For instance in August 1996 they hosted the Intercontinental Encuentro for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism where some 50 countries were represented. Similarly they hosted the second global protest[3] against the meeting of the world trade organization in Cancun, Mexico, in July 2003. After negotiations with the government had repeatedly failed to recognize indigenous autonomy and control over resources and territories, the Zapatistas transformed its Aguascalientes (community centers) around Chiapas into “caracoles” (snail shells, a Mayan symbol) which are effectively regional governments.

Still active today, each of the caracoles is tasked with building solidarity with a continent that they are assigned - this could be in the form of consciousness raising or distributing locally grown free trade products. These communities provide health care and education in autonomous schools where young people from the community teach rather than government appointed teachers. The governance relies heavily on the active participation of the people, ‘who are obliged to originate plans, programs and initiatives for themselves.[4]

In addition to the construction of institutions that value indigenous people, the Zapatista movement also searches for spiritual authenticity to reclaim the autonomy, diversity and creativity of people to combat capitalist homogenization. Accordingly, Zapatistas invest heavily in explorations of collective memory and identity, framing their movement as part of a 500 year Mexican Indian struggle against various oppressors. Marches, rallies, dances, concerts, poetry sessions and sporting tournaments are used to ‘ritualize joy and make it part of the movement,’ and showcase an alternative world where people and connections that are valued over an impersonal world order.

In 2014 the Zapatistas held a huge international party to commemorate 20 years since their movement became public. Surviving for twenty years despite government opposition – including military opposition -- and continued erosion of economic stability (thanks to neoliberal policies partly ushered in by NAFTA) is no small achievement. The movement has created international networks of solidarity and continues to be a source of inspiration for activists across the globe resisting capitalism.

Twenty years on, the Zapatistas are stronger than ever.

The Arab Spring and Real Democracy Now

I now invite you to join me to peek into the exhilarating year that was 2011. One could say it began on December 17, 2010, when a young Tunisian fruit vendor set himself aflame. Struggling to provide for his mother and five younger siblings, Mohamed Bouazizi had been selling fruit when a policewoman slapped him and confiscated his scales and cart. When he went to the municipal office of Sidi Bouzid to complain he was told the official was ‘busy’ and unable to meet with him. At this, at the years of economic frustration and governmental indifference, the young man set himself on fire. His act set off protests across the country. His tragic immolation[5] resonated with millions who were tired of a broken, corrupt system that seemed only to work against them. By January 14, Tunisia’s dictator of 23 years, Ben Ali, resigned. At this astounding success protests erupted across the Arab world -- in Egypt mass protests erupted on January 25th, eventually centered around Tahrir Square in Cairo. Two days later tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Sanaa, Yemen. Sudan, Bahrain, and Libya all erupted with mass protests of their own, and Morocco and Syria joined soon thereafter.[6] There were ripples around the world: on 15th May, Spain’s anti-austerity movement burst onto the stage as people from 60 cities demanded “Real Democracy Now.”


As the year of protests unfolded, activists in North America felt like we needed a ‘Tahrir moment.’ The July issue of Adbusters, a Canada based satire magazine, introduced #OccupyWallStreet, reflecting the anger that simmered against the richest in the wake of the financial crisis. In September, after several consensus based planning meetings, people started gathering in Zuccotti park, a patch of bare concrete in New York City.

Initially a few hundred people came out and some stayed to camp the night, but numbers soon swelled and decisions about the movement were made in huge general assembly meetings where anyone could raise objections. If you approved you would have your palm open pointing towards the sky. A palm pointing down would mean disapproval. If someone crossed their arms and thus stood firmly against a motion they had a chance to explain their viewpoint and the motion could then only pass if it had a nine-tenths majority. Microphones were banned and so people came together to create a human microphone to pass on messages. Someone would start the message and it would be repeated by those around them, outwards further and further until it reached the whole crowd. Soon tents, desks, generators, books appeared. Working groups were formed to take care of Structure, Facilitation, Sanitation, Food, Direct Action, and Safe Spaces.


As the movement grew, sustainability became far more challenging. Huge crowds of people meant that there were some who stayed by choice, some who were homeless, some with mental illnesses, and everyone needed food. Eventually a sort of working government, the Spokes Council, was chosen as the best way to facilitate the day to day upkeep of the park. But even as the movement was learning to sustain itself on a daily basis, its masses had attracted massive amounts of attention and authorities began to intervene. Police violence, arbitrary arrest, mace sprays and several attempts to empty the park threatened the movement.

Occupy, however, seemed uncrushable. The phrase ‘We are the 99%’ became a rallying cry - and not just for those in New York. Occupy movements spread to most major American cities, and supporters held rallies in Tokyo, Madrid, London and Sydney. Most importantly, the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement both opened up their respective public spheres to a new degree, bringing people out on to the streets to talk about politics and act on their visions of a just, ideal society. Despite its diversity and constant infighting, Occupy was becoming a powerful coalition propounding that struggle could bring justice, that the sleeping in the cold could bring equality, and that endlessly long meetings indicated a New World order that valued individuals.

However, like any other movement, Occupy could not quite escape the capitalist, sexist and racist reality that it was born in.

With police crackdowns eventually succeeding in displacing many of these groups from their spaces, the Occupy movement did not survive in its original form. As the movement did not have any concrete stated goals, and often also lost the physical space in which general assemblies were conducted and conversations about the way forward could happen, it eventually dwindled.


However, its legacies are still present in those who were politicized by the movement and began to see themselves as the 99%. It is present in invigorated conversations about income inequality. In activists who went on to do other things - like defending homeowners against evictions, or raising awareness about the problem of astounding medical and student debt. For instance, Rolling Jubilee which launched in November 2012, is raising awareness about the problem of staggering levels of debt by buying up second or third hand debt at a fraction of the original amount, and then forgiving the debtors. In 2014, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, frustrated by Chinese government intransigence in giving the people the right to pick their city’s chief executive, named their movement ‘Occupy Central with Love and Peace.’ At the end of September tens of thousands of protesters started taking to the streets, blocking several traffic junctions. Similarly Occupy Democracy and Occupy London activists attempted to set up camp in Parliament Square, Central London, in October and November 2014. They wanted to use Parliament Square for its original purpose: a place for public meeting and discussion.

In addition there are countless feminist, anti-prison industrial complex (PIC) movements and movements to end systems of racial discrimination (at the moment one of the most vibrant of which is #BlackLivesMatter)

These movements and many, many more show that the fire that was set ablaze in 2011 is not extinguished - there are deep deep problems at work in our societies today, and people are not willing to stand back and let someone else take care of them any longer.

[1] Ezquiel Adamovsky, (Illustrated by Illustradores Unidos) Anti-Capitalism: The New Generation of emancipatory movements, trans. Marie Trigona (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011), 94

[2] The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) marked the greatest shift in Mexican-American relations since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. When NAFTA went into effect in 1994, the entire continent’s political-economic calculus was irreversible altered, including the contours of Mexican, Canadian, and American sovereignty. Tariffs lifted, American companies, especially in the automobile and electronics industries, began moving their production centers south of the border, where labor was cheaper and fewer environmental regulations limited the pace of profit accumulation. NAFTA also undermined Mexican agriculture. Since there were no tariffs and the US subsidizes agriculture production inside its borders, crops came flooding into Mexico below market price, and more than a million Mexican farm workers saw their jobs evaporate. Facing starvation, Mexicans did what starving Europeans had done 150 years earlier: they came to the US. Source: The Case for Open Borders, Jacobin Magazine, 3/7/13 See also How US Policies fueled Mexico's Great Migration

[3] The first was in Seattle in 1999

[4] Charles Lindholm The Struggle for The World: Liberation Movements for the 21st Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 17

[5] He eventually died of his burns on January 4. 2011

[6] The legacy of these protests is varied. Egypt has reverted to military rule, Tunisia has had two rounds of elections and a peaceful democratic transition of power, Morocco has instituted some constitutional reform, Bahrain’s revolution was crushed with help from Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s president, Saleh, was negotiated out of power in a GCC brokered deal but the country is embroiled in conflict once more, partly due to a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and in Syria a civil war broke out that continues to this day and has thus far claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.

Want to read more? Check out some of these articles:

Why We Loved The Zapatistas : A critique of the new Anti-Capitalism for romanticizing rather than building institutions - critiques are always good, especially as we move forwards to a new new world on Mars.

A Black Woman Who Occupied Wall Street and Why She Won't Be Going Back

Where are Women at Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere.

What Happened to the Occupy Movement?

Revolution No 99 Vanity Fair piece that brings in the voices of Occupy planners and participants on the movement and their experiences with it.

A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement by Alicia Garcia

Resources: : One of the websites set up to coordinate information and updates during the Occupy movement. This one is based in New York but is still updated regularly with news on various movements, mostly US based, but also globally

Z Communications : Articles, videos and blog posts to get you thinking

Jacobin Magazine : For thought-provoking analyses of power dynamics, capitalism, race-relations at work in almost everything

Debt Cancellation Campaigns : The Jubilee South Campaign looks is working to reduce the influence of organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in setting economic policy for the Global South. By making countries subordinate to large debts these organizations effectively control the economic policies of many countries around the world.