Critique of the Italian Edition of the book “19 and 20. Notes for the new social protagonism” by Colectivo Situaciones

The Ballad of Buenos Aires, by Toni Negri

This is a book that talks about the events of the 19th and 20th of December, 2001 in Argentina, when the inhabitants of Buenos Aires took to the streets and aimed themselves at Congress, forcing the flight of the President, and the successive resignation of the government. But not just that: it also speaks of before and after the insurrection, it talks about the new political and social situation that was determined since the miltary dictatorship of 1976-83 and the neoliberal decade (1989-1999). The book – Piqueteros. La rivolta argentina contro il neo liberismo [Piqueteros. The Argentinian revolt against neoliberalism], DeriveApprodi, pg 227, – the authors tell us (the Colectivo Situaciones is constituted by a group of militants) was thought with urgency, written and published in the space of less than three months. The original subtitle is “Notes for a new social protagonism.” In fact, it treats in the form of notes, theoretical notes and syntheses of discussion by assemblies, the theory of organization of struggles and the critique of lived experiences. “Writing in situation” finds here an example in all ways innovative: the capacity to combine critical reflection and investigation materials reaches a level of true theoretical innovation. Those who, on the other hand, want to have proof of the newness of this political writing have no more than to find the materials that the Colectivo Situaciones have published frequently since 2001 until the end of 2002 (as a summary of all these materials one can look over all “Hypothesis 891. Beyond the piquetes.”). In all these writings, then, the reflections of the collective cross with that of the grand assemblies of struggle. Above all with the Movement of the Unemployed Workers (MST) of Solano.

But fine, what is this Argentinian experience? Do these writings of the Colectivo Situaciones speak to us about a new configuration of revolutionary subjects? Do we find ourselves in front of a new Paris Commune? It is always dangerous to assimilate ideology to reality: but perhaps in this case it is worthwhile. Here there is something new: it is the act of violence of engagement with power that permitted, at the time, the unmaking of the continuity of social and political relations that have contained Argentine development, and giving rein to new particular apparatuses and subjects that constructed new realities of resistance and desire, of counterpower. Argentina, the struggles of its proletariat, the paradoxical confluence of sectors of the middle class with them, has convulsed the picture of the traditional analysis of the class struggles and preferred the creation of new, unexpected and untimely behaviors to the customary rituals of the left. As Marx, in the “Class Struggle in France”, counterposed the communards to the socialist Synogogue of Luxemburg, today from Argentia we find an example of new constitution of the multitude. The example of the constitution of the multitude (what we have seen and continue seeing is also its internal transformation) has to be seen essentially in the struggles that “Piqueteros” documents. To a radical institutional crisis (“all of them must go!” was a cry that denounced and registered the minority condition to which the traditional political parties were reduced), to a consequent lapse of the legitimation of the representative function (involving generalized public and private corruption), to a political crisis (demonstrated by the incapacity to reproduce customary models of constitutional alliance between social classes and bourgeious hegemony over the system), to a financial crisis (of payment of the debt and of inversion of the flows between the periphery and the center) and finally to a very profound social crisis that destroyed capacities productive (extreme unemployment, savage precarization of labor) and reproductive (crisis of public education and health), to all this responded a “multitudinary counterpower” that organized itself in autonomous systems of production, of interchange and political organization, in completely original forms. From workers’ self-management of the factories to the generalized occupation of public buildings on the part of the neighborhood assemblies, from the construction of a new exchange from below (and a new market and new modalities of exchange) to the revolutionary and legitimate exercise of force on the part of the piquetes, there appears here a capacity of autonomous constitution of the multitudes, that bear an energy of universal conviction and of egalitarion social recomposition. The martyrdom of the generations destroyed by the militarty dictatorship of ’70-’80 and the desperation of peoples that rebelled against neoliberal globalization in the ’90s, find here the truth of a new experience of radical social construction.

When today it is said “a new world is possible”, if we don’t want to be imbeciles that scratch our bellies while telling lies, it is necessary to have the courage to imagine the possibility of a new world, of not trembling before the threats of the capitalist apologists, of inventing the possibility of a new currency, of its utilization, of thinking that it is possible to organize labor, a “dignified labor”, autonomously, of deciding the common.

Is it possible to change the world without taking power, or better, is it not the way of destroying power? Isn’t this imagination in action of the piqueteros and of the MTDs the true and only line that can be counterposed as a real alternative to the couplet reformism-terrorim that the global powers counterpose to the multitude?

I don’t know what can happen in Latin America during the next decade. I know only that in Latin America a social laboratory, extreme and effective, is developing. The distance there is between the Argentine piqueteros and the Brasilian Lula, beyond what really will be and how it will be perceived subjectively, is in every way minimal: the Latin American laboratory rises against the unilateralism of US and global capitalism in an effective manner. Mutatis mutandi, in Latin America a subversive breach is being constructed within and against globalization, and this breach corresponds to that which the movements in Europe are producing. The social and political experimentation in Argentina, with its incredible recompositions between the organized unemployed and elements of the middle class impoverished by the IMF, show on the one hand the construction of the multitude and on the other the impossibility of opposing resistance within the bounds of the Nation-State. This is how in the South, civil but very poor, and in the North, rich but socially disintegrated, piquetes of resistance are formed.

The book by the Colectivo Situaciones composes the fragments of a global discourse, founding on the basis of the experiences of the Argentinian struggle a style of inquiry that is directly organization of struggle. The communist political contents of these struggles are evident (it is evident also that the western European media give almost no information on this matter). What remains is that from here we can and should start again. When one assumes the problem of counterpower and takes it, beyond anarchist or spontaneist experiences, to the present crisis and to the world in which exodus (which is one of the figures of counterpower) can develop; when one becomes aware of the enormous asymmetry that there is between the forms of repression and the insurrectional development of the multitude; when then the problem of the “dualism of power” is reproposed in biopolitical conditions, is when we begin placing ourselves in “situation”. Thanks to the Argentinian piqueteros that invented extraordinary forms of protest and of organization from below, thanks to the popular assemblies that are reinventing the forms of monetary exchanges and of management of social services, thanks to the militants that organized new networks of subversive communication, thanks, finally, to the Colectivo Situaciones, who know, in the vital interchange with the multitudes, to give us critical information and hopeful reflections.

translation by Nate Holdren and Sebastian Touza


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