Barucha Peller: Self-Reproduction and the Oaxaca Commune

Self-Reproduction and the Oaxaca Commune
Barucha Peller, Roar Magazine, May 2016

In 2006 a popular mass uprising swept the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico, galvanizing hundreds of thousands of participants around the region and removing state power from the capital city and dozens of other municipalities. For nearly six months, there were no police in Oaxaca City, and at one point the cityscape was transformed by up to 3,000 barricades.

After years of repressive, authoritarian rule at the hands of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and Governor Ulises Ruiz, the uprising was triggered by a violent eviction of a teachers’ encampment in a central plaza during an annual strike of the Section 22 union on June 14. Thousands of Oaxacans poured into the streets to take back the square from police, and a spontaneous insurrection grew in which state authorities were physically removed and squares, government buildings, media outlets and city buses were taken over by protesters.

The movement formed a horizontal, central organizing body, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), which demanded the ousting of Ulises Ruiz. For seven months one of the poorest states in Mexico attempted to reorganize society without state governance or capitalist social institutions. When broadcasts from occupied radio stations began to sign off with the slogan “Transmitting from the Oaxaca Commune,” comparisons made to the historic Paris Commune were met with the response: “The Paris Commune lasted 70 days. We have lasted more than 100!”

The Oaxaca Commune ended on November 25, 2006 after the movement lost the battle for the streets to a violent and brutal siege by federal police and government-­backed paramilitaries. By the end of the uprising, hundreds of people had been arrested and dozens were disappeared or assassinated.

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