INSURRECTION IN ARGENTINA
In early January, it was difficult to know how events in Argentina would develop. From here in the United States, it was still possible to think that the rebellion there was just a momentary flare-up sparked by the intensification of the economic crisis that Argentina has been experiencing for years, but the struggle continues and is developing in very interesting directions.
Although things were fairly quiet during the first few days of Duhalde's presidency, this is probably not (as AP and Reuter's would have us think) due to any real expectation of change. The people of Argentina were far too familiar with the difference between the populist rhetoric of the Peronists and their actual policies. By January 11, demonstrations were a daily occurrence often involving attacks on banks, ATM machines, government offices and the homes of politicians. The poor, the unemployed, farmers, workers and the so-called middle classes-in other words, the full range of those exploited, excluded or marginalized by capital-have been carrying out such actions throughout the country.
But one of the most interesting aspects of this uprising is the apparently spontaneous development of the neighborhood assemblies. According to reports I've read, these assemblies first arose on December 20 in neighborhoods in Buenos Aires as a way of coordinating the various activities of struggle. By mid-February, assemblies had arisen in cities through out the country. They continue to function in an informal manner, as a tool of the people in revolt for coordinating their activity. The Argentine Libertarian Federation, an anarchist group, describes these assemblies in an undated article that appeared in translation on www.infoshop.org/inews on February 26 under the title, "Argentina: between poverty and protest":
"The destruction of savings through the devaluation of the currency, and the increase in unemployment, hunger and neglect have given rise to a form of struggle in our country beyond the sphere of established politics and public life: the cacerolazos and the neighborhood assemblies. These neighborhood assemblies and their committees have been formed by the unemployed, the underemployed, and people marginalized and excluded from capitalist society: including professionals, workers, small retailers, artists, craftspeople, all of them also neighbors.(1) Each assembly has its own characteristics, but non-delegation of power, self-management, horizontal struggle and opposition to voting are libertarian socialist slogans one hears frequently.(2) We should also point out that these neighborhood assembles, which meet on corners in several districts of Buenos Aires [...] also hold weekly coordinating meetings in Parque Centenario (Centennial Park). These have become invaluable spaces for debate and deliberation, not only because of the large numbers attending, but also because of the subjects brought up and considered. The meetings are open and anyone who wishes can participate, so often one hears self-serving speeches by political or union leaders. But the attendees have learned to pick out this kind of 'cooked' verbiage."
From this description, the assemblies appear to remain in the sphere of informality-there is no membership, no ideological framework and no political program upon which they are based. Thus, the assemblies remain a fluid tool for organizing the political struggle without hierarchy or politics. Nonetheless, there are reports that in some assemblies, one hears the "language of party politics", statements like this: "To get out of this crisis requires more politics, but real politics." [emphasis added-editor] In addition, certain assemblies have apparently developed "executive committees" to draft agendas for the assemblies-a step toward formalization that could open the door to hierarchy and the development of a political leadership claiming to represent the struggle.
Thus one important task for Argentine anarchists and anti-authoritarian revolutionaries to consider is exposing and opposing any political or union leader who opportunistically tries to use the assemblies to further his or her own career or who attempts to channel the activities of the assemblies into "the sphere of established politics". In addition, it is important to oppose all tendencies toward formalization, to stand firmly against any proposal for re-organizing the assemblies in a way that would provide a framework for politicians and self-styled leaders to impose their agendas. I am certain the anarchists in Argentina are quite aware of these dangers and quite vigilant. And I suspect that many who do not call themselves anarchists are equally hostile to anyone who wants to claim to represent them. But for those who have asked me in the past what I mean when I speak of anarchists intervening in a struggle in a way that fits in with their aims, this is precisely the type of activity I have in mind. The aim of the anarchist revolutionary is to recreate life free of domination, exploitation or hierarchy, to develop the self-organization of existence without politics or formalization, without the state or economy, to destroy everything that stands in the way of the full realization of each one of us as unique individuals. And in the course of a struggle like that in Argentina, this aim expresses itself in vehement rejection of all politicians and leaders, even those who claim to support the struggle. After all, though repression is certainly the greatest external threat to the insurrection, the greatest internal threat is its recuperation by politicians and union leaders who are also enemies of real liberation since they too prefer the passivity of the exploited. That is why they offer to act on the behalf of those in struggle.
But for now it appears that the struggle in Argentina is opening. People are exploring and experimenting with new ways of relating and organizing life, venturing tentatively into the unknown. To quote the Argentine Libertarian Federation once again:
"Each of our neighbor's expressions becomes a communitarian thought, charged with questions, where the posing of questions is what counts the most, not their imagined answers. Today we can say joyfully that words and direct action have begun to coincide. There is reason to hope that all Argentineans now know for certain who has been blocking our freedoms, excluding people, forcing our relatives and friends into exile and mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.
"Now the fear in our society has turned into courage."
(1)If this listing of those "marginalized and excluded from capitalist society" seems strange to U.S. and European readers, we need to remember that the freeze on withdrawals from banks pushed the so-called middles classes into a state of economic marginalization and desperation comparable to that of 25% of the Argentine population that is unemployed.-editor
(2)The description of these expressions of the practical refusal of hierarchical relationships and formalization as "libertarian socialist slogans" seems to me to be rather opportunistic. The call for such a methodology of struggle does not reflect any political program, not even that of "libertarian socialists", but rather the refusal of politics and the active desire to replace it with the autonomous self-organization of life.-editor
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