Friday, March 27, 2009

Movements, Bearers of the New World

A panel at the World Festival of Dignified Rage -> I'm pretty sure this is Adolfo Gilly, a zapatista rep (duh), zapatista compañera Everilda moderating, Mónica Baltodano, and Oscar Olivera

There have been way too few English-language reportbacks from the first World Festival of Dignified Rage, which took place for 11 days in three locations in Mexico over New Years. Here's one from a compa in Cali and the new issue of Left Turn Magazine provides a few snippets from speeches at the Festival as well.

Below is one such speech by the wonderful Raúl Zibechi whose work is still woefully under-available in English (check out his bio at the bottom of the piece). This is our second collaboration with the Boston Interpreters Collective and is a translation of a partial transcript of Zibechi's speech. To listen to the complete audio of the speech (in Spanish) go here. It's well worth it as you'll also get a chance to hear his powerful denunciation of South America's left governments' participation in the occupation of Haiti as well as an incredibly extensive list of the movements he so articulately and concisely describes below - Enjoy!

The Movements, Bearers of the New World
by Raúl Zibechi*
(Short version of the text read at the Festival of Digna Rabia, Mexico, January 3 - translated by Frances Miriam Kreimer of the Boston Interpreters Collective)

Some four decades ago, there emerged a new generation of movements, very different from what had been hegemonic in Latin America until that moment. This set of movements, born in the early 1970s and during the 1980s and very active in the 1990s, challenged neoliberalism and occupied the place left vacant by the leftist parties, which became supporters of the neoliberal models, and unions, which did more or less the same (with a few honorable exceptions).

These movements changed the face of the continent; delegitimizing the neoliberal model, or at least the most blatant problematic elements of the model, installed a new balance of power and changed the political map. Despite their differences, they have some features in common.

They turned the struggle for land (rural and urban) into the fight for territories or areas where people (indigenous people, peasants, urban popular sectors) live their daily lives and transform survival initiatives into modes and forms of resistance to the system.

They proclaim themselves independent from political parties, churches, trade unions and the state. But such autonomy embodied in physical territory goes hand in hand with the creation of new ways of living and of exercising power, that is, of self-governance.

These are community-based movements in the broad sense of the term. Unlike previous movements, membership is not individual but familial, and the social base of these movements involves the collective organization of the community structure.

These are not strictly social movements; they are political movements, or political-social, if you will. The division between the social and the political set up by the social sciences and the traditional left is not useful for understanding this new generation of movements.

It is not possible to understand these movements from the outside, or with a focus on the visible structures, those that capture the attention of the media, academia, and the institutional left. Rather, it takes an inside perspective, capable of capturing the underground and invisible processes, which can only be done in a long process of engagement with the movements, not only with their leaders. The concept of "field work" is limited, since it does not consider either living or affective attachment with the oppressed.

They are bearers of the new world because both families and communities establish their lives based on relations of reciprocity and mutual aid -- not to accumulate capital or power, but rather to grow and strengthen themselves as communities and movements. In this respect, I believe that in the movements’ territories, non-capitalist relations predominate, certainly not in a pure and uncontaminated form, but rather in a permanent struggle against the state and the capital that seek to destroy them. In other words, the material and symbolic production of values of use has taken the place of the production of values of exchange, not forever, not absolutely, but with steady progress.

We can see this in many initiatives, from those begun in cities such as El Alto and Plan 3000 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to the Piquetero neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, where people built houses, public facilities, streets, water, health and education. Thousands of gardens, in urban as well as rural areas, thousands of productive enterprises, hundreds of restored factories -- we are talking not only about rural areas but also in peripheral urban areas there is an enormous capacity to produce without bosses, without supervisors, and without a hierarchical division of labor.

In these worlds different kinds of thoughts arise. No longer are the academies and the system’s parties thinking about the oppressed, but rather we, ourselves, are doing the thinking. Not in order to produce a theory or a thesis, but in order to strengthen the movement, in order to defend it better, in order to expand it and share it with others. So no theory is produced, but simply ideas and strength to keep going.

This other world cannot be represented in the formal world of State and capital. Moreover, it cannot be represented because only that which is absent can be represented. I also believe that participating in the state weakens and diverts them from their main task, which is "to strengthen that which is ours." However, there are many movements that are still combative and fighting for real changes that maintain relations with states. This is a debate that will be with us for a long time and we have no alternative but to face it in the most united way possible, that it should always be a debate “among ourselves”.

Finally, in these areas in resistance, there exist worlds that are different than the world of capital and the state. Of course, they have their forms of power, with greater or lesser degrees of development. The assembly is the common form of collective decision. A world without power does not seem possible. But the facts show that there can be non-state powers, i.e., non-hierarchial and decentralized powers; rotating shifts, so that everyone can learn to give orders collectively and obey collectively. In each place and in each country people adopt different approaches, but these worlds exist, they have life, and they have not become involved with the State as the unions have.

How does it triumph, this world of values of use, this world that is feminist, communitarian, self-focused and self-directed, able to produce and reproduce life? We do not know. What we see is that it grows by expansion, extension, diffusion, contagion, radiation, resonance It does not grow alone, nor in a form symmetrical to capital and the State -- killing, destroying, imposing, digesting and directing. We cannot impose this other world because we would be negating it, but we may breathe life into it, acting as a ferment and yeast, in the belief that the movements and the other worlds are the only thing that can save us from the catastrophe that the upper classes are preparing.

* Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst for Brecha of Montevideo, Uruguay, lecturer and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to several social movements. He writes the monthly "Zibechi Report" for the Americas Program.


MoonRaven said...

This is a great speech. Thank you for posting it. It thrills me that there are 'decentralized', 'feminist, communitarian' movements emerging throughout the hemisphere. Another world seems not only possible, but to be happening.

RJ Maccani said...

For sure! And here's a very recent and challenging speech from a group in Durham, North Carolina that reflects on what it means for us to join these initiatives through our own action here in the US: The Emerging Commonism.

MoonRaven said...

Thank you for reference--it is indeed a challenging speech. I'm not sure I understand all of it but I am quite taken with the part about "creating a project in which it becomes possible to assume collective control of our lives: our survival, yes—food, housing, health; but also our desire to grow and transform ourselves—our relationships, our daily reality, the energy to desire something and the capacity to create it." I think what the (apparently unnamed) speaker is talking about is what we used to refer to as 'living the revolution'--moving beyond protest and challenging the system, to actually creating an alternative.

Thank you for sharing this.

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