Saturday, October 30, 2010

Raúl Zibechi

Zibechi's first book to be translated into English

Reading his book-length work in Spanish over the past five years, Raúl Zibechi has been for me like a boat out to sea yet in the horizon... detectable with the eye or, perhaps, a good ear but nevertheless beyond reach. So it's with great pleasure that I discovered that this year Dispersing Power has appeared in English and next month Zibechi himself will be arriving on the shores of NYC.

Zibechi will be at Bluestockings on Thursday, November 11 at 7p and with the Militant Research Group on Friday, November 12 from 2-4p in the Sociology Department Lounge (Room 6112.04) at the CUNY Grad Center... We'll be journeying through the city with him and organizing some other, less formal events so please be in touch if you're interested... also of note that week are Bluestockings appearances by Benjamin Dangl on Tuesday, November 9 at 7p and Kolya Abramsky (an author featured here not once or twice, but three times) on Friday, November 12 at 7p in support of his book, Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-Petrol World.

You can find Zibechi's monthly English-language reports for the Americas Program here and although he has been churning out a great deal of excellent analysis lately on the conflicts between South America's left governments and socio-political movements, I want to leave you here with a bio of Zibechi written for his visit by Marina Sitrin and a piece that he published over two years ago; a piece that should give you a good idea of where he's coming from.

And lastly, thank you to all who helped create and attended Monday's fundraiser for the National Encuentro of Organizations and Struggles of the Other Campaign -> it was a great time!

Raúl Zibechi is a life long militant, journalist and writer. His works deal primarily with social movements in Latin America, where he lives and is from, and movements who are creating alternatives and dignity through the horizontal construction of new territories with the creation of other powers.

Raúl was a part of the revolutionary struggles in Latin America and was then forced into exile when the brutal military dictatorships took power. He continued to organize and write from outside his native Uruguay, and returned soon after the fall of the dictatorship there. He has never stopped organizing, resisting and creating.

Raúl is active in a number of ways. When he is writing he is often doing so in a way that is participating in a larger conversation. He does not write books for the sake of writing. He intervenes in conversations. Writing is a political tool.

For example, his book on the Rebellion in Argentina was one of the first ones published, and played an important role in the conversations about what was taking place there. Another book he wrote a few years ago had to do with the concept of territory. Territory as the construction of other powers, and the need to do so in geographic space and real time. For example, with workers taking over a factory, neighbors creating a garden to feed themselves, or the unemployed opening space on the road blockade. Not physical space as much as the political space – what people are able to do with one another in the space once there was a blockade.

His latest book on Dispersing power is exactly this. A part of a conversation about what to do with / about the state. We have not gotten rid of it, we do not want to be a part of it, but we cannot ignore it. (It does not ignore us!) So, how might we use it, avoid it, take parts of it … His work relates to the biggest questions for the social movements in Latin America today. It is also super relevant for groups and movements in the US and globally.

Zibechi’s books include:

Territories in Resistance: Political Cartography on the Urban Latin American Periphery (2008); Autonomies and Emancipations (2008); A Horizontal View: Social Movements and Emancipation (1999), The Youth Rebellion of the 1990s, Social Networks and the Creation of an Alternative Culture (1997) and The Streams When They Run Low, the Challenges of Zapatismo (1995).

Zibechi's writing has appeared in journals throughout the world, from Pagina 12 and MU in Argentina to Socialism and Democracy, Monthly Review, and Counterpunch in the US, The Guardian in the UK and La Jornada in Mexico. He is the editor of the weekly Brecha, in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The Revolution of 1968: When Those from Below Said Enough!
By Raúl Zibechi
Original published by the Americas Program on June 11, 2008

There have only been two world revolutions. One took place in 1848, the second took place in 1968. Both were historic failures. Both transformed the world. The fact that both were unplanned, and therefore in a profound sense spontaneous, explains both facts—the fact that they failed, and the fact that they transformed the world. -Immanuel Wallerstein

Historical Events are not points, but extend to before and after in time, only gradually revealing themselves. -Fredric Jameson

The four decades that have passed since the "Worldwide Revolution of 68" — a concept coined by Immanuel Wallerstein — seems like sufficient time to attempt to understand the direction taken from that moment on by the anti-systemic struggle in Latin America. In order to do that we must divert our attention from large epic events such as the Tet Offensive of the Vietnamese fighters, the May manifestations in Paris, and the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City, just to recall three events that had an impact throughout the whole world.

The truth is that these three events do not account for all of the social and political energy that was circulating during those years. Thinking only about our continent, what must be added are the workers' uprising in Córdoba — The Cordobazo of 1969 — which forced the withdrawal of Juan Carlos Onganía's military dictatorship; the onslaught of the urban struggles in Chile, which modified the structure of cities and brought Salvador Allende to the presidency in 1970; the farmers' struggles in the Peruvian mountains, which forced out the military government of Juan Velasco Alvaro, starting in 1968, to carry out the largest agrarian reform of that time period after the Cuban agrarian reform; the impressive rise of workers and miners in 1970 in Bolivia who built a Popular Assembly, an organ with which they were able to contest the power of the dominant classes. In each country it is possible to include events and processes which can easily be linked to what has generically been merely referred to as "68."

Nevertheless, one must dig deeper in order to get to the bottom of the long-term changes that allow us to speak of a before and an after of those years. What remains if we take from '68 the multitudinous protests on main avenues? If we leave the colossal although fleeting events of that period? Responding deeply involves us in a way of seeing the world differently than the hegemony, similar indeed to that which the Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos practices. He maintains that, "The large transformations do not start from the top nor with monumental and epic events, but rather with movements that are small in form and that appear irrelevant for the politician and analyst at the top."1

These changes were not immediately made visible, but rather are spread out almost imperceptibly or through a progressive and ascending manner, from the periphery to the center, from remote rural areas to the cities, from daily life to recognized cultural forms. But they do not do it following European and North American sociology of analytical logic regarding "social movements." That is, analyzing the "characteristics of the organizations" that develop "cycles of protest" that start when "social actors" take advantage of "the structure of political opportunities" to deploy "repertoires of social action" that allow them to reach their "objectives and ends" in an "interaction with the state" and its allies. It is difficult for us to understand what is occurring in the basements of our societies by following this conceptual road.

One of the most notable results of the events of '68 is the revelation of those from below, or rather their differentiation and visibility, to later rehearse the uprising or insurrection from the lowliest depths to proclaim "that's enough!" Over time this evolved into the creation of another world, different from the hegemonic world. To see that, it is necessary to take a view similar to the one Marcos attributes to anthropologist Andrés Aubry, which implies going beyond the exterior and what is visible in order to understand the side of the people "that is closed off to the outside."2

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