Dialogues for Autonomy with Raul Zibechi

By Luis Guillermo Gonzalez Imbert

Responding to the call from the Oaxacan collectives VOCAL, CASOTA, and Diplomado de Investigadores Descalzos for “Dialogues for Autonomy,” Raul Zibechi held a conversation with the Oaxacan social movement APPO on January 12th in Oaxaca.

Raul Zibechi’s most recent publication is entitled “Autonomy and Emancipation in Latin America.” He has published articles in the Uruguayan weekly Brecha Uruguay, Fogata Digital, and the Mexican daily La Jornada.  He is a professor and researcher of social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana Latino Americana, and he collaborates with social organizations, neighborhood groups, and alternative media on the topic of the Americas.

To begin the conversation, he asked the audience to share opinions, questions, or intentions that they hoped the conversation would address, and the air of formality was removed.  Questions were posed such as the following. What autonomy is? What is not autonomy? What is needed to achieve autonomy? Can autonomous institutions exist within the confines of a state?

Participants discussed the autonomy of social movements against state oppression, as well as the movement towards the individual and metaphysical autonomy. Zibechi discussed his concept of “practical alternative knowledge”, which goes against the grain of the so-called “correct knowledge” which is polished and propagated by other ideologists to prevent social awakening.  Zibechi’s vast experience working with conscious social groups against systematic state-capital oppression was evident, as was his South American prosaic humor.

Zibechi addressed the audience’s questions from his particular and honest understanding, which helped the audience to gain a better understanding of what autonomy can mean for social movements. At the same time, he made clear that there is no manual for autonomy. Autonomy is more than just decaring that one is autonomous, either as an individual or as a nation state.  Whether we are speaking of an individual who forms part of a collective or a convergence of many different trains of thought and activities, a connection with others is required to create a rich autonomy. We must be aware that the solution to physical problems such as space and food sovereignty tend to be impermanent and are only functional for a certain amount of time.