From: John Holloway (johnholloway@PRODIGY.NET.MX)
Date: Sat Oct 21 2006 - 13:18:00 EDT
The book is really excellent, I found it very helpful. John > I talked to Marina Sitrin earlier today -- while waiting outside the court > house for the sentencing of Lynn Stewart. Marina is the editor of a book > to be published by AK Press next month, _Horizontalism: Voices of Popular > Power in Argentina_. See: > <http://www.cbsd.com/inventory.aspx?id=18755> > It has already been published in Spanish. > > The following should give you an idea of some of what is in the book. > > I'm going to get something quick to eat and go back to the court house. > Hopefully, Lynn will be set free. > > In solidarity, Jerry > > ===================================================================== > Horizontalidad en Argentina > by Marina A Sitrin > > > The following is a small selection of interviews with protagonists in the > autonomous social movements in Argentina, the second in a series that will > continue to appear here in the coming months. These are among the many > voices that I have the privilege to be compiling into an oral history to > be published bilingually in the near future. > > I concluded my introduction of the first selection of these interviews by > admitting happily that "I am still learning what I am learning." This > remains true today, as I hope it will remain true always, indelibly > inspired as I have been by the social and political transformation that is > taking place in Argentina. Among the most wonderful and profound > dimensions of the social movements in Argentina is, I believe, their > pervasive commitment to continually question, learn, and relearn new forms > of social creation. In the spirit of the Zapatistas' "walking while > questioning," the movements in Argentina are not about particular goals, > but about the process, about the revolution that can be achieved in the > every day. The movements are not about taking power, in other words, as > the interviews reflect, but about creating "another power" through social > relations, through the process of creation. > > I also admitted there that at first I thought that this might all be too > good to be true, as I have heard some wonder since in response to the > interviews, as I do still myself on occasion. These voices are indeed so > very inspiring. What the movements in Argentina are creating, after all, > is much of what many of us have imagined for the world for so long. I have > shared so much with their protagonists, and still I have to worry > occasionally that I may be hearing in their voices not their vision, but > mine. Upon rereading the interviews, however, listening again to the > voices they reflect, and hearing them anew in the conversations and > correspondence I continue to enjoy, I am fortunately and happily reminded > of the deep seeded hope and vision that the movements in Argentina do in > fact represent, of the ways in which they have moved me, ones I could > never have imagined, ones I continue to struggle to understand, of the > tears of joy I have witnessed and shed myself. These are the stories of > our time, and of our future. A profoundly real social and political > transformation is taking place in fact in Argentina, a revolution in every > day practice. It is happening there. I can happen everywhere. > > <i>NATALIA and I met one afternoon in the Toma. The Toma is an enormous, > four-story occupied building next to the train station in Lomas de Zamora, > outside of Buenos Aires. In 2002, a few neighborhood asambleas and a > piquetero group from the area of Lomas de Zamora came together and decided > collectively to take over a space to use for the community. The word > "toma" means "taken." It was a conscious decision on the part of those > involved in the taking of the space not to call it "occupied" or > "recuperated," so as not to impose on it any particular political > identity. The Toma serves many functions, from popular education classes, > to theater and music workshops, to housing a popular kitchen (comedor) > that feeds over one hundred and fifty people a day. Those who eat in the > comedor also participate in asambleas on questions of the food gathering > and of serving and cleaning. The goal is not to have a separate > relationship among the people who eat and those who cook, serve, and > clean. The Toma also works with dozens of street kids. The changes in > these kids, as well as in those in the Toma who work with them, is one of > the most amazing and visibly concrete things that I have observed during > the time in Buenos Aires. While they were at first completely distrustful > of anyone in the Toma, seeing them as just more people they could hustle, > how wonderful it was to witness, during one of my last visits, one of the > older kids working with an asamblista and turning afterward to helping a > younger one learn to read.</i> > > This is a new space, a space of creation, one where we are creating > distinct connections, new relationships among and within ourselves. It is > also about creating connections with people who are generally > marginalized, and breaking with the sort of relationship that does not > recognize the other, or creates a barrier that does not allow one to see > the other or their situation, making them invisible. It is a new space > outside of what has previously been instituted or established. The > intention of the Toma is the creation of these new personal relations, > other forms of socialization. This is one of the main reasons why it was > fundamental that we incorporate the street kids in the space. It is a > place for all to share, it is of and for everyone. The idea is to create a > consciousness that this place, the Toma, does not belong only to me, those > who work here, or the asambleas, but rather it is of and for everyone in > the neighborhood, the kids, the cartoneros [who collect and sell cardboard > to survive] the people that live in the street, everyone. > > This has been a hugely important learning process. One of the first things > I noticed when I entered the Toma is the wonderful tendency, to actively > listen to all opinions, ones we may or may not agree with, but listening > to everyone, and continuing to try to construct an understanding among all > people. If things are not collectively built they are not likely to be > succeed. I am reminded, by way of example, of something that happened with > the left political parties. The parties wanted to participate in the > asambleas of the Toma, but really they just wanted to have everyone work > on their particular project. They had an objective, they wanted to voice > it, and then just wanted to bring it to a vote within the asamblea, and > that was it. It became clear they could not get what they were seeking and > they had to leave. > > As I see things in the asamblea, we are creating, and continue to create > everything, among and between everyone. One puts out an idea, another > complements it, another criticizes a part of it, another supports a part > of it, and that is how things continue to grow and change. It is, of > course, sometimes difficult. Each person participating has a different > learning process. All of us come with a set of ideas and different ways of > being. It is difficult to get accustomed to learning to think together. We > have many conversations on precisely this topic in the asamblea. The > overall objective is that everyone believes that no one can impose > anything on another, we strive for horizontality, we know that we need > much more time and that it is complicated. but we continue. It is all a > learning process, a process of constant creation. > > We try and not think too big, because we know that the work is enormous, > and the process is very difficult, but when we see certain things, the > happiness is enormous, like the work with the street kids . sometimes > these kids would steel from us, or hit or spit at us, and now that we have > the bond that we do with them, as they have with us, it is incredible. > When you not only believe, but know you can connect with another, it makes > it all worth it, it is enough. This is how one continues giving > everything, why we know we will continue to give. > > It is as if we are not only appropriating the space, but also liberating > the word. Before I felt a bit shy and fearful, and now I even approach > people to speak. The fact is that we, any of us, go and eat with those in > the comedor, and we stay late, it is different than just going, helping > with a plate of food and then leaving. The exchange and sharing is all > part of creating the bond and connection, a bond that is much more ideal. > And this is the difference, that you can begin to discuss, because the > learning process, obviously, is mutual. It is not that I have something > and am going to then teach it to others, it is about a relationship, that > from them I learn so much, the richness is on both sides, it is huge. > > <i>PATRICIA, MARTIN and VASCO participate in the MTDs Allen and Cipoletti, > in Patagonia, a region in southern Argentina that is one of the most > politically coordinated and sophisticated that I have encountered so far, > including a powerful network of occupied factories, MTDs, indigenous > Mapuches, university students, and a strong barter network. Formed in the > mid 1990s, MTD Allen was the first in the region to organize, and has > since inspired MTDs in neighboring towns, including Cipoletti, in part by > coordinating autonomous encuentros of unemployed workers. The MTDs Allen > and Cipoletti are pursuing numerous important projects, from organic > gardening and other forms of food production, to clothing repair and > manufacture, to a medical clinic, which even provides eye care. Most > recently, a huge expanse of land has been occupied in order to build > homes, and plans are under way to locate there an alternative education > project.</i> > > The interpretation of horizontalism is important so as to understand the > movements. I say this because if you talk with compaņeros in the left > parties they will schematize the question. They believe that horizontalism > is a direct line, an association of points, where all are equal and > differences do not exist. If you view horizontalism from the perspective > of a relationship of different people, all with the same quantity of > rights, you do not understand it. You are presupposing that horizontalism > is a mechanism that divides up one chorizo in equal parts, and that is not > horizontalism. We are all distinct and different. The challenge is for > each of us to think within the collective, for each person to be > integrated, to form collective thought, as well as understand how we > produce a collective, and how this collective relates amongst itself in > creating collective thought. This is horizontalism. > > The movement in Allen arises, and from there a freshness and naturalness. > From the moment it is born with all its freshness and spontaneity, it is > born breaking free from the social control imposed by the parties. The > first rupture is to toss off the shit of leaders, stop messing with > political parties, and to look for our own path. Without an elaborated > theory of practice, [the movement] arises as spontaneous expressions of a > social practice looking for a different path, as a search. > > As well as a search, it is a rupture with everything. A strong break with > all that I have seen, all that I have been experimenting with for many > years. As they say "enough of this," including the revolutionary > experiences. It is as if we have seen it all and this is not it. So then > we make a break and begin to forge another path. I believe that autonomy > is a path that is doing this, it is not complete, every day there are > things to learn, to internalize, each of the compaņeros learning from the > experiences of the other. Autonomy is something that is developing, and > developing constantly. It is in no way closed. > > Through the concept of autonomy, this epoch shows the intent to construct > a way that will not be a mirror of modes of domination, and will be able > to subvert it, if not it is not subversive, but simply reactive. > > Autonomous thought does not only question the ideas of the revolutions of > the past, nor does it simply question the practices of past > revolutionaries in their struggle against capitalism. Rather, we are in a > time where the contradiction is capitalism, the presupposition of the > disappearance of humanity, or the constitution of a new civilization.. > This is to say, not only to try to change the system, not only to question > capitalism, but to try and question everything, including all of our own > practices. > > <i>CARLOS G spent hours with me one afternoon discussing the history of > the struggle at Zanon and how deeply the struggle there has affected not > only the workers, but their families, the local community, and the broader > community of the movements. Zanon has been occupied by the workers and run > directly democratically since the fall of 2001. It is the largest factory > in Neuquen, Patagonia, occupying several city blocks. Entering the factory > offices, one is greeted by walls filled with posters and other materials > documenting their struggle, and the struggles of other factories, > communities and MTDs in the movements. One wall in particular is covered > with letters from elementary school students in the region, thanking the > workers for setting an example for them to follow as they grow up. Zanon, > no longer in the service of exploitation, is now in the business of > creating a community, not only in the "ceramics family," but throughout > the whole of the city. What the workers of Zanon are accomplishing > represents a truly inspiring redefinition of values. </i> > > There are so many things we are thinking about, including which way to go > until this society changes. We are not going to achieve this from day to > night. We did not take the plant from day to night. Everything is step by > step. We are trying to take these steps little by little. We have come > far, from being in the street to being here, working and producing at the > level we desire, one that month to month is growing. > > When Hebe Bonafini of the Madres visited us in the Zanon plant for the > first time, she told us she could feel the life beating here in the song > of the machines functioning. This song makes her heart beat, and she sees > in us the children that she has lost. For us these words were really > important, very "llegantes" also for each one of us. A woman that has > fought for more than 26 years, struggling for social change, in a country > that has more than 30,000 disappeared and that the only thing that they > fought for was a better society, a better country, imagine, how we were > affected when we heard these words. > > We began this for one reason, that of survival. We have done a lot, taken > many steps in which we have grown not only in expressing ourselves, but > also in the things that we have done. None of this is done for > self-aggrandizement. We are humble. If you ask me, "why are you here?" It > is to keep our workplace, and not only for me, but also for my compaņeros. > I go to other places and I say this, and they say, "but you are making > history, you are the greatest and they elevate us like this as if we were > an idol, as if you were famous. Or you go to speak in a place, and as soon > as you speak people begin to applaud. This happened to me once. These are > things that show you what we are living, and you do not want to open your > eyes because we know that what we are doing is very very big. > > In this conflict we have always been attacked, always. In total we have > had five orders of eviction, and all five were pushed back with the help > of the community movements. Each time that we faced an eviction, outside > thousands gathered within half an hour, so that the factory could not be > evicted. The factory is of the people, as we have suggested. > > My life has changed, absolutely. The struggle has given me much more > courage, more values than I can count. I learned what solidarity is, what > is the dignity of a person, up to the valors, until where you get, and > that you have to feel for others, collaborating, feeling, to think in a > collective form, as a part of the community, and much further from there > you think in a collective form that is yours. > > We continue growing in different ways. This growth has caused many > compaņeros to change their way of thinking, this way of thinking of only > oneself, and to open up and think also about others, no longer in just the > singular. We are everyone. > > It is all part of a new reeducation. You speak with a certain confidence, > you feel that it is a compaņero that struggles at your side. and there you > become more human. How are you not going to love him? Yes, you esteem him, > you love him, and I am not exaggerating. > > And as a dream.a dream is to win this struggle, to move ahead. move ahead > with this factory. My personal dream is to teach my son all of the values > that I have learned up to this point; that he follows in his fathers > footsteps, that he struggle and know why, that if one of us should fall, > our children raise our flag, as so many have raised, and continue > fighting, that he struggle for just causes and is always conscious that > things can always be better, that they can be better on the personal > level; and that more than anything he have a path that is clear. I speak > of my baby, because my baby was born two months before this conflict. > > <i>ALBERTO and I met one afternoon on the factory floor of Chilavert, a > printing press that was taken over by the workers in December of 2001, and > has been run collectively and directly democratically ever since. Alberto > was there as a representative of the Clinica Medrano, a clinic that has > been run without bosses or hierarchy, and by the workers, for over a year. > He was there to discuss how to help Chilavert and the neighborhood > asamblea of Pompeya open a free neighborhood clinic in one of Chilavert's > front offices. Alberto invited me to come visit the clinic and discuss its > history and current reality. He explained that before taking over the > clinic the workers had a series of struggles with a boss who had not paid > them for months. A new owner then took over the clinic, continued not to > pay the workers and then called out armed guards when the workers occupied > the clinic. In the end, the workers, with support from the community > forced the boss to back down. They have been running the clinic without > bosses ever since.</i> > > The process. it has been a revolution in every sense of the word. It was a > revolution from the point of view of "I will not tolerate any more." We > decided that we would not tolerate more, the workers together, including > us, and we began to look for a way out by our own means. The workers, from > state employees to private, began to see how to resolve their own > problems. What were their problems? Their basic problem was that they had > corrupt leaders that did not allow them to fight, who did not allow them > to advance. In our case we did not have a way out, so we decided ok, we > will invest our energy into taking our clinic, fighting along the way with > the government, and fighting with the union bureaucracy. > > We are politically independent, and our politics as a cooperative get > resolved in the asamblea, from the most minimal individual problems, to > the changes of hours, to things that are not necessary to resolve in the > asamblea, but in this case we do resolve all things in the asamblea > because we do not want to make mistakes. > > How did we feel about taking the clinic, how do we feel? In general we > have a lot of hope and many expectations, together with happiness. But > also uncertainty, we were facing something that we had no idea how to do. > We knew how to work, but not how to administer the mechanics of the > organization of a workplace, so everything was a challenge. We pretty > immediately surrounded ourselves with people who know about these > subjects, and people who in solidarity came to help us. But the work > itself was to be done by us. > > Solidarity is an essential aspect of our project. We do not want to > practice the same type of medicine where what is important is that you > have money rather than your health, which is the traditional medicine in > this country, as well as others. Our idea is to be able to live, to bring > home a salary, while giving the most dignified and best service possible. > Offering attention to people who need to resolve their health problems, > including a day that we devote to unemployed people, from medical > attention to medical consultations. We want to give medical attention to > those sectors that are marginalized. > > Forms of solidarity among the occupied factories. We have with Chilavert > an agreement of attention. They print all of our paper and we give medical > attention to all of the members of the cooperative and their families. We > also have an agreement with a cooperative that is called the 26th of > September. They make software which they install for us. They also offer > courses at for the administrative support staff so that we can work > better, and learn more about the programs we have. Of course we give > medical attention to the cooperative and their families. > > One of the things we are trying to do is put together a group of > recuperated workplaces that is independent of the political parties. We > would like an encuentro of recuperated work places that is the most > politically independent and autonomous possible, with independence from > the state, political parties, the church, and all of the sectors in > general; not independence from politics in relation to the political > thoughts of someone who works, but from the institutions; one where the > workplaces determine for themselves, in a form that is autonomous where no > one comes to tell you what to do, where the workers themselves decide what > path they need, and construct it for themselves. > > <i>EMILIO and I first met in an asamblea of indymedia and Lezamal Sur, > located in the occupied Banco de Mayo. Our conversation revolved around > their possible eviction from the bank, a space that they, along with > others in the community had been occupying and using as a cultural center > since shortly after the 19th and 20th. Many of the occupied spaces in > Buenos Aires are banks, chosen in large part for their symbolism. Emilio > is 17 years old, and easily one of the most articulate and visionary > people I have ever met. He has worked with a number of movements and > collectives, including Intergalactica, a " laboratory of global resistance > working against capitalism and for a global struggle based in the local." > We met for our interview in Tierra del Sur, behind Lezama Sur, where > Emilio spends a great deal of his time. Tierra del Sur was another > collectively run occupied building, housing a number of families, and > providing cultural activities and a kitchen for the community. During the > interview, two children came into the room wanting to know what we were > doing, what we were talking about, and why we were using a microphone. > When we told them what the interview was about they wanted to talk. They > proceeded to tell us why they loved Tierra del Sur and why the possible > eviction was "very bad." They said they enjoyed coming to the space not > only to eat, but for their music and puppet workshops as well. Together > they chanted "No al Desalojo!" ("No Eviction!"). Both spaces were evicted > by hundreds of police the following month. Indymedia is now located in > another occupied bank and Tierra del Sur is in an occupied building a few > blocks from the original. The workshops and communal kitchens > continue.</i> > > What is our program, the good thing is that we do not have a program. We > are creating tools to be free. First, obviously we need to meet our basic > necessities. At the same time we are meeting our basic necessities we are > creating tools to be free. And for me this is autonomy. Because if you > think about it, what are the concepts that are incorporated in autonomy? > One begins to think about self-organization, providing for oneself > (individual and collective), organizing in networks, non-commercial > exchange of goods, horizontalism, direct democracy, and we think, if we > have all of these things then are we autonomous? Autonomous of what? No, > if one day we really have autonomy we are not going to be autonomists or > autonomous, we are going to be free. > > Autonomy for me is a construction and not an end, the day we are > autonomous it will no longer be necessary to be autonomous. As well we > cannot believe that oh, good, we are autonomous and it is in some > geographic or temporal space, that is to say in a non-capitalist > community. This was the hippy experience that we can learn a lot from, > because this did not work. While capitalism exists we are inside of it. > > Autonomy is a bubble that exists within the system. With autonomy what we > are able to do is construct spaces where the logic of the system does not > reign. That is not the same as the system not reigning. The capitalist > system is everywhere, and will be until it no longer exists. And yes, of > course we will get there. What can I say, if I did not think we could get > there I would not be trying. > > What we can do is continue constructing, without falling into the logic of > the system. To not think as the system thinks. Trying to make the > revolution in our everyday life. And the day when we are successful, the > day when we really successful, then the things are ready, we will then be > free, we will not be autonomous. > > The times we are in are not electoral. We are continuing with our > neighborhood construction, and our local construction, thinking globally. > In this moment we are in a time of resistance and construction. The > rebellions of the 19th and 20th of December and January have passed. Now > we are moving ahead step by step, and sometimes we have to pause and > examine where we are, each step we take, our successes, and wait, and then > continue advancing. It is a moment of resistance and creation. > > We are historical subjects. We have stopped being passive subjects, which > is what voting, electoral politics and the system try and do to us. We > have stopped being marginalized subjects, so as to be historical subjects, > active subjects, participatory subjects. Actors in our own lives. > > At this moment I believe more important than shutting down roads and > bridges, more than direct action, is to expand the work in the > neighborhoods. Clearly with an anti-capitalist vision of construction. > Most important for me right now, as this moment of resistance is to expand > our community gardens, expand our occupied factories, expand really all of > the constructive projects we are working on. until another 19th and 20th. > > ABOUT THE AUTHOR > Marina spent the Spring in Argentina working with the autonomous popular > movements and developing an oral history of the movements for a book > entitled "Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina." She > returns to Argentina periodically to continue this work.
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