WHERE TO NOW?
Some Thoughts on the Uprising in Argentina
During the course of an uprising, there comes a time when decisions far beyond those of tactics, logistics and the meeting of daily needs must be made. A point is reached in the struggle where the choice between pursuing one of the various known paths or choosing to explore the unknown can no longer he ignored. Unfortunately, it seems that in most cases, this decision, which may he the most important decision of any revolutionary struggle, is left to chance, to the random twists of circumstance.
I have been trying as well as one can from the distance of several thousand miles to keep informed about the uprising that exploded in Argentina last December. Though the information has been sparse even in anarchist sources, it is clear that this is no flash in the pan. The distrust in the rulers has moved well beyond the realm of mere outrage into the actual practice of self-organization and direct action on a large scale. The neighborhood assemblies have managed to maintain a healthy contempt for all politicians and labor union leaders, allowing them to remain an organ of insurgent struggle. The signs of struggle in neighboring countries - Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil - could open farther possibilities.
But over the past couple of months, the information l have read from Argentina indicates that the struggle there has reached an important crossroads. Assemblies have been carrying out occupations of spaces of various sorts in order to develop activities and projects. When police come to the occupied spaces, demanding to speak to someone in charge, people tell them, "We are all in charge". At the same time workers have occupied factories and have had several meetings to discuss where they want to take this struggle. These meetings have not only included the factory workers, but also people from the neighborhood assemblies and unemployed groups. These occupations of spaces by neighborhood assemblies and of factories by workers mean that more and more of the tools through which the ruling order operated have been appropriated by the insurgents. The question now becomes: what will people do with these tools?
A true revolution cannot simply be a change in the way current social relationships are managed. Even self-management of the current system of social relationships remains exploitative and dominating. The whole of society simply comes to replace the individual bosses and rulers as the exploiter and dominator. This is why the question of what to do with these tools is so central. The spaces that have been taken over by the neighborhood assemblies are already seen as places in which the people involved in these assemblies can carry out the projects and activities that they consider desirable. They therefore potentially point to an exploration into new and unknown possibilities for relating and interacting.
Factories, on the other hand, were developed for the explicit purpose of milking the maximum amount of labor at a minimum cost from the workers - in other words, exploitation is built into them. It is not clear to what extent the Argentine workers involved in the occupations are questioning their role as workers - the role assigned to them by capital. A report about the ceramists of Zanon indicates that the occupying workers there continue to work as they did before, massproducing ceramics, and this is how they have maintained their livelihood. In other words, they have not yet questioned their role as workers in a practical manner and sought to find new ways to create their lives that are not based on alienated labor. I state this not as a judgment, but to clam the fundamental choice about which I have been speaking. The Zanon case is of particular interest because the workers there have been demanding "nationalization under workers' control" - a demand that would mean continued involvement in the market economy and commodity production rather than a dismantling of the work machine. Not surprisingly, according to the report, union leaders and human rights organization - con artists from the left wing of the old order - have been involved in this particular struggle.
But the workers of Zanon do not represent all workers, and what they have done up to now could change if the general revolt takes a direction that moves beyond mere self-management of exploitation. From here, I cannot know the extent of experimentation and exploration of new ways of relating that are going on. I do not know whether there are those who are striving to explore ways of creating what they need and desire outside of the context of work as an activity separated from life, those who desire to dismantle the factories in order to open more space and free up more tools for the exploration of other ways of living. Generally during insurrections, imaginations go wild in the most positive ways. But there are also always the spokespeople for "realism ", and the people of Argentina have gone through very hard times. The people of Zanon cannot be blamed if the put their survival before utopian exploration: a hungry belly makes it hard to dream. But this is precisely how the old world creeps back in, undermining the libratory experiences of insurrection.
Precisely where the uprising in Argentina will go now is hard to guess. Most likely, some adaptation to the present reality will occur. This does not in any way reflect upon a lack of revolutionary imagination or tenacity on the part of the insurgent people in Argentina. The lack of tolerance for politics or leadership in the neighborhood assemblies and their occupation of spaces for their own purposes indicate that there is some confused vision of a truly total transformation. But the reality of a global civilization based on domination and exploitation of people and the earth still very much exists, and it will not be willing to lose any of the resources in Argentina, including those that are human. This is why those of us who would desire to see the Argentine insurgents take that step into the unknown where work no longer exists as a sphere separated from life, where all the prisons through which this society imposes social control - including the factories - have been dismantled, where people create their lives together on the basis of their needs and desires with no predetermined programs which they must follow, cannot simply sit back in open-mouthed awe of these courageous insurgents. We must examine their struggle critically, not in order to judge them or tell then: what to do, but in order to learn from it and use those lessons in developing our own struggle here where we live. Until there are insurgent struggles, destroying the old world and beginning to explore new ways of existing and creating our lives, throughout the world, and particularly in the "West"- the so-called "first world "- -specific struggles will always be recuperated or destroyed, with maybe a few insurgents left to struggle on their own. That is why the necessary form of solidarity with the insurgents in Argentina and in the rest of the world is that of attack against the ruling civilization and all of its institutions with the a in: of creating an insurrectional struggle here as well.