Making Worlds. “Health – Care / transformative commons practices”
Circle G. 12pm. Madison Square Park.
Join a conversation on transformative practices of health and care in North and South, looking at and learning from the different struggles that have been taking place in the city.
For information on the Free University and all the other conversations, meetings and activities, please check the Free U Schedule.
Meet artists, exchange art, and enjoy some food with the folks from the artCommons. Then at 3pm join us for a group discussion on art sharing projects.
@ 3pm Art Made Common II:
Sharing at Home, at Work, and In The Neighborhood
more details: http://queensmuseum.org/
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Every monday different collectives and indivuals gather from 5pm to 7pm at 16Beaver for the Common(s) Course.
Check the readings, discussions, and more in this link: Common(s) course at 16beaver
“The Common(s) course is a beginning for what we hope will grow into a set of collective inquiries and experiences in commoning the city and exploring the potentials for withdrawing from the community of money.
It begins in the shape of a course or seminar, meeting each Monday early evening from 5:15 to 7:15 or so. It will be molecular in its organization, but there is a group composed of individuals involved with 16 Beaver, friends from CUNY, and other friends of the space including George Caffentzis, Silvia Federici, and David Harvey who will collectively care for this inquiry.
We also hope that what we are theorizing as a common(s) course is not only a context of learning but also becomes a space of friendship, collective inquiry, experiments, political activity and reclaiming a culture of the common(s).”
Translated by Liz Mason-Deese
For the Spanish version, click here: Lobo Suelto!
For a non-state-centric politics
MB: I would like to start with something that you said in the talk that you gave in LaCazonadeFlores (“What can social movements do against the drug trade? Intuitions from the Mexican present”) during your visit to Buenos Aires in June. In that occasion, you talked about the change that occurred in the management of drug trafficking in Mexico when the paradigm of the “war on drugs” intervened. What effects did that change have on control of territories?
RG: The situation continues to be disastrous. In 2006 there was a fraudulent electoral process and a subsequent dispute over the election results that ended with the continuation of the PAN government, a party that is totally right-wing, pro-business and clerical. Six years later, in 2012, the PRI was reinstalled to government with a nearly exhaustive ability to control the territory at the local level. That is its great challenge: the attempt to take back control, to establish the terms of a very profitable business. We have no way of comparing drug-trafficking in terms of profitability, only in terms of volume, but in terms of the money it moves, I think it’s the second largest economic activity after oil. This is what we are talking about, about how they are going to manage the terms by which the second most important economic activity in the country takes place.
While drug-trafficking has been outlawed for a long time, the terms by which that illegalization is administered, how it is carried out, have varied. In a country where there has traditionally been widespread production and distribution of drugs, some – non-formal – terms to regulate that activity had been established. Different social classes were implicated: those that produced, those responsible for its transportation, those that financed it, etc. And, even if the use of force was always close to the surface, there were certain codes, certain moral terms, agreements between the mafias that managed the business, and between the mafias and the authorities. It is precisely those terms, those agreements that are being broken by Felipe Calderon’s government and, thus, what is known as the “war on drugs.”
I think we have to read this war as a political effort with a dual purpose, one linked to the United State’s control of trafficking and another that is more internal. On the one hand, an attempt to control a business that is porous as a whole: from production to transportation, to the profit that always slipped out of their hands. In this sense, the war on drugs has been an enormous effort by the U.S. government to establish, for example, prices and destinations for merchandise; in other words, to establish terms for controlling the business. First they did something similar in Colombia, later they tried to it in Bolivia and now they are doing it in Mexico.
On the other hand, the war on drugs had to do with the need to guarantee the existence of an illegitimate government, implicated since its rise to power in a series of scandals that showed a complete separation between politics and social aspirations. It is not my intention to propose a key for interpretation that counterpoises an “illegitimate government” to a supposed “legitimate government” (as proposed by the candidate who in my opinion won the 2006 election, Andrés Manual López Obrador). What I want to emphasize is the radical dis-encounter between the state sphere – and its projects and actions – and the very diverse aspirations coming from Mexican society focused on stopping both the increasing poverty and concentration of wealth and on obtaining a certain democratization of public life.
In the period from 1992 to 2006, in fact, there was a growing and surprising process of accumulation of struggles in Mexico, of the increasing social capacity to intervene in public life; during which the question of political autonomy from the state became very comprehensive, configuring a common sense: from the emergence of Zapatismo, the struggle for land-territory and against free trade, the proposal for legal recognition of collective figures – the indigenous peoples – that were the subject of public law; to the large-scale anti-authoritarian actions that collectively reappropriated social wealth like the city of Oaxaca’s uprising in 2006, when a city experienced a popular insurrection for six months with the people taking over the different means of communication, collectively managing political decisions and projects, etc. So then, until 2006, we experienced a period of accumulation of struggles, of clarification, of diverse experiments of linkage and political articulation from below. All of this happening in a tumultuous, chaotic, energetic way. Just as an example: May 1, 2006, there were protests in Mexico City the entire day. The first was a gigantic parade of workers belonging to the traditional, corporatized unions that, despite being the sectors most subjected to state control, demonstrated much anger and demonstrated clear cracks in the possibility of being controlled. Then came the turn of the independent unions, another enormous, very radical, very angry march, focused on the question of defending the public, of course in the state key, as the union does, but denouncing and confronting the privatizations, the dismantling of rights, etc. And the third, with a Zapatista delegation from the Other Campaign, which had arrived to Mexico City two days earlier. A totally heterogeneous, vital, festive demonstration, led by a group of masked Zapatistas that marched through the main streets of the city. The energy was amazing, a powerful social force was emerging. You felt it, we were starting to become a society in movement.
I think there is what you have to read to understand the subsequent “war on drugs” that came crashing down on top of us. Perhaps I am telling it in a way that is a bit rushed, but my aim is to transmit the vitality that could be felt at the time. A vitality that was expressed in the capacity to give words to the things that were happening, to propose an articulation of explicit, very clear slogans. If we take, for example, the care with which many other movements nurtured Zapatismo, we realize the great empathy that was circulating; despite the difficulties and contradictions that also existed. It was not about following a line, but it was more about generating bonds to open a dialogue between diverse struggles. Well, in my opinion, the dominate class read what was happening, recognizing it, precisely as what had to be stopped. This explains the the two levels of the “war on drugs”: a business that has to be controlled by establishing centralized terms for its administration – basically the interests of the U.S. – and the disarticulation of an interesting and potent process of political accumulation underway. That is the counter-insurgent and repressive political content of what happened later. And there we find the other key.
This question of the key for reading the situation is very interesting. Yours is an attempt to restore a political key to interpretation to a social conflict that is increasingly more violent and covert. In the talk in LaCazonadeFlores you dedicated a lot of attention to the difficulty of understanding what is going on in Mexico. False terms of the conflict are established (for example, the binary representation of a struggle between good and evil or reducing the violence to a mere fight between drug gangs) to inhibit other ways of understanding, leaving you without the necessary analytical keys. In this sense, maybe we could think the “war on drugs” also as a war in other sense, through which an attempt is made to cover up the implicit violence in such a profitable economic enterprise. It seems to me a particularly important topic that deserves to be thought beyond the specific Mexican context. Taking into account the profound differences between each national experience, the impression is that Latin America as whole is experiencing a contemporary model of capitalist accumulation of an extractive type, that captures value from a complex and diffuse territorial articulation, where formal and informal, legal and illegal economy are increasingly less distinguishable. At the same time, to govern, the state apparatus needs to redirect that same reality toward a legal-formal discursive rhetoric that inhibits the possibility of visibilizing, understanding, and narrating the complex articulation of power and the conflicts that occur in its interior. To retake one of your expressions, can we speak of a generalized “semantic capture”?
I think that what you are saying about semantic capture is related to a type of counter-insurgent dispositif that began to be practiced in the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks. I have seen it happen in various Latin American countries, in tough moments of tense social and political confrontation. Before, the question was very different. On the one hand, the politicians, the media, enunciated lies; on the other, it was possible to tell versions that contradicted what was being offered, but, and this is the relevant point, from a common ground of terms of understanding. The qualifying pair lies/truth was in force in the classic sense of the term, of the correspondence between words and things. In the last decade, it seems that there is a movement that seeks to profoundly inhibit the possibility of comprehension. I feel that this is the new step in terms of counter-insurgency. This strategy can be found very clearly, for example, in Bolivia in 2008, at the peak of the confrontation with the land-owning oligarchy of the West during Evo Morales’ government. Everything that had to do with the mobilization of the right in Santa Cruz and the separatist or “autonomist” desires that were expressed consisted, basically, in generating pure confusion: discourses that were being uttered at different levels, in different ways, like a kind of orchestration directed so that you would not understand what was at stake; so that you could not see what was happening. That same orchestration, that inoculation of diffuse and superimposed confusion, can be perceived in Mexico at other levels. And it is proving difficult to restore, to collectively produce a thread of understanding.
I introduced the notion of semantic capture to study the manner in which the state confronts experiences of very profound struggles. When a social aspiration is forcefully placed on the table of public discussion, the state takes on the challenge but tries to decode it in order to recode it: it often uses the same words, denaturalizing them. For that reason, I talk about semantic capture, of a very well elaborated way of denaturalizing the demands, the requests, the aspirations that emerge from below: “you ask for bread, they don’t give it to you, they give you a bone… that gets stuck in your throat,” that is a Mexican saying that even it doesn’t describe exactly what I’m saying, it helps explain it. Or rather, the state and its officials, constantly simulate, they neither do nor “concede” what is under discussion, they don’t dialogue with those from below: they take the words, they empty them of content, they take them to another place and later they proclaim that they “already fulfilled them.” It’s very confusing.
However, in the “war on drugs” it seems as if there were a kind of semantic capture toward society as a whole; as if the question were: how to inhibit the general possibility of understanding what is happening? I think this is a fundamental part of the inoculation of fear that has been so successful in Mexico. The years 2006, 2007, 2008 were properly terrifying. And the maximum point of this was when they launched the threat of the avian flu epidemic and 20 million people – those of us living in the capital city and suburbs – covered our mouths in the literal sense, obligating us to wear face masks in pubic space – rags that would have been completely useless if the epidemic were real.
It was very shocking…
Yes. It was tremendous: the data about the epidemic never made sense, the information that the authorities gave out – and that saturated the public space – was completely fragmentary and it was impossible to compose a general argument about what was happening. It generated an enormous amount of fear. In my opinion, it all had to do with preventing you from understanding what was happening. It was no longer simply about lying to you, but rather stopping you from understanding, which isn’t the same thing. We must develop a more detailed analysis of this form of counter-insurgency.
Then, to pick up on the point you were raising: we find ourselves with a powerful social accumulation produced from below that at some point confronts the level of the state. The state takes on the challenge, it yields something, and partially modifies its institutions to be be able to incorporate at least part of that accumulation within its own dynamics, to “capture it.” How would you understand the relation between “semantic capture” and “material capture?” That is, between the capture of meaning (impeding you from understanding) and the capture of the wealth produced by social cooperation?
I always think of three levels of capture, not necessarily sequential, but sometimes overlapping and combined. First, the semantic capture we were talking about, because the thread and meaning of the words produced by the movement are snatched up, they are forced to designate different things, they are pushed toward another place. Then, a political capture, and, lastly, an organizational capture. The dynamic becomes very clear if we take, for example, the case of the Constituent Assembly in Bolivia. In the moment that the slogan acquired such a force to become a horizon of common aspiration, there was a dispute over its meaning that was translated, ultimately, into its insertion into another discursive order. In Bolivia, it was said, during the years of struggle: “Constituent Assembly without party representation to produce the country where we want to live.” That did not happen.
These “captures” are part of what we tend to also call co-optation: a phenomenon that occurs in different ways and that I think we need to take very seriously. Co-optation does not refer to merely giving in, surrendering, but rather confusion, an inoculated confusion as well. It is no longer clear what we are talking about, it is no longer clear why we are fighting; it causes cracks in that which we produce in common. And what happens is that discussions about how to proceed start to differ. This is a very important point: when you have clarity in the horizon that you follow, you also have a moral criteria for how to achieve it, a political clarity that functions for itself. It is precisely this that has to be broken, that has to be captured. Thus the horizon moves toward its political capture: we no longer have a project of reappropriation and social control, we are constructing a plurinational state. That is how political capture works: one thing is not the other, but the second feeds off the first. It is a very tense process, where the structures that will sustain political capture, the structures of organizational capture begin to be constructed.
And then, the need to escape again, not to go elsewhere. Of course, you have to get out, because if you remain captured, the state and capital’s digestion of your previous force will continue and become their nurturing force. You have to leave to start again, to generate a new challenge.
It seems very relevant to me to think about the relation between these forms of capture – the risks of becoming the passive element of state and capitalist digestion – and the persistence of a an autonomous impulse from the forms of life taking place in the territories. How do you see it?
Well, I am elaborating an idea. The necessity of thinking about the elements of a non-state-centric politics. I don’t like the word non-state because it ends up referring to the state, in the sense that it maintains the state as the unit of measure. Or that you will understand non-state in relation to the state and then your practices are going to continue being defined negatively by another term, in a kind of infinite reflection. What if we think of a non-state-centric politics where we get out of this binary? Of course: the state is there, capital is there, as are we, everything is in the world. Now the question would be: how do we reposition ourselves in the world? Maybe by gradually inhibiting the capacities of the other terms (the state and capital) and preserving and increasing our own capacities and potencias. A kind of general prolonged popular struggle! – paraphrasing Maoism –, focused on the defense and expansion of our possibilities and conditions for reproduction. The issue is, if we don’t have a long-term vision, it seems like we can’t keep alive many of the creations that we achieved during the peak moments of struggle. It seems as if it were always the work of Sisyphus; that we collectively enrich ourselves in moments – we achieve social force and create all sorts of things –, but only to impoverish ourselves again. To maintain that capacity I think we should change the terms of thinking about the political and politics: instead of remaining stuck with the dichotomies of an inherited situation, we should always try to move them; to disrupt them. That, to me, is a non-state-centric politics; a politics that is focused, on the contrary, on our own creations and achievements, on what has been won from below through struggle.
It seems to me that in Argentina this has not managed to happen since the struggles of the turn of the century. Perhaps this was the place where the issue of the state/non-state most clearly marked everything, and therefore the history of a populist statism opposed to another violent, military statism. In Mexico, the history of statism is much longer and more intense, because for many decades we lived in the state that was reconstructed after the revolution of 1910-1921 – that was very deep; hence the key idea in Mexico that to change anything you have to take an autonomous position from the state. It is an immediate idea, that can be seen and heard very generally, although it is very difficult to practice. The problem is that this anti-statism contains in itself another type of limit, which has been greatly discussed in the movements: you either concentrate on the grueling effort of staying as far as possible from the state – and capital – or you become, very directly, the food of power, as if it were a curse. I wonder if this is the only possibility. Do we not have the capacity to think and focus on creating other places from where we can move more fluidly and from which we can more forcefully challenge the designs of the state and capital? Where we can fight differently, without assuming those dichotomous pairs typical of a state-centric politics – whether positive or negative? I think that yes, we can, or at least I try to think so. And what I see as a good starting point for thinking about this is, as Silvia Federici says, from the field of social reproduction as a whole.
Speaking of the need to propose a non-statecentric politics… In one occasion, you used a formula that I loved: you said we need to find a “tone of voice.” What is that about?
The tone of voice is related to how we talk to each other. We have another great problem which is articulation. In the course of struggles, as we already talked about, important moments of unification occur, when many barriers are dissolved, different points of view are accommodated, and a common horizon is produced, not easily but more or less jointly. But, how can this unification be maintained in the absence of a tense and generalized confrontation? It is during the less warlike moments of struggle when the cracks begin and what at first worked as a distinction that was accommodated within a shared horizon now seriously puts at risk the very possibility of unification: it is the risk of atomization, of disintegration. Then the problem of articulation becomes very important: how can we articulate different questions within a common horizon? Or, in other words, how can we make common words, how can we talk to each other? Hence, the idea of the tone of voice, the search for how to maintain, at all times, some words for ourselves, a few winks, some signs; as we collectively construct some type of mechanism, some type of language that allows us to recognize each other.
Let’s bring together the threads of the conversation. You were talking about how territories are at the center of a dispute for the control of very economically profitable businesses (the drug trade would be one of these); and how within this dispute there are increasingly refined and widespread strategies of capture. In a non-state-centric strategy like that which you have been tracing, how would you understand the question of the production of wealth?
It is a very complicated issue. There are experiments, maybe we should look at them again. On the one hand, there is the idea of recuperated businesses, with their different experiences. Property is taken over and established amongst some people. It is not exactly a common property: at the local level, among the workers, a collective property is established, but at a more general level, it continues functioning as private property, even if it shows solidarity and the terms of management are reformulated. That is one possibility.
There is a whole set of experiences, in Greece for example, where they are working from that idea. And other efforts that try to more radically subtract themselves from the capitalist economy: they invent currencies, they become small producers of things that they exchange between themselves, and they construct a life. One key thing, as I was saying, about all of these processes, is that they are about reconstructing life in its entirety to guarantee the conditions for its reproduction: there are an enormous number of efforts and struggles unfolding whose center is the collective – and expansive – reproduction of life; that is the place, I think of a non-state-centric position.
We can also, of course, nourish ourselves from the entire Zapatista experience, that in many senses resembles that of Greece with the relevant difference of being inserted into a continuous territory encompassing all of life. They have shown: “here we are and here we are going to govern our own form of life, we are going to produce it ourselves, with everything that entails.” There are many difficulties in a path like this one, that could be viewed – from the outside – as full of sacrifices, for example, of a whole set of goods that circulate to valorize capital; some of which are ultimately useful, although many more are useless. Therefore, you have to give up certain goods, although it’s worth emphasizing another set of use values that are produced autonomously. Those goods that until now have only been produced in a capitalist way are a problem. At the same time, there are many other things that can be recuperated from other ways of producing and practicing other forms of exchange. Another type of wealth is produced, focused on the production of conditions for the reproduction of life in general, that is not only the consumption of goods – although many are needed. Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about.
The question is if this can be thought about as a general project. The question is, focusing on the crucial question of the reproduction of life, of its guarantee and expansion (that capital systematically denies), how can we also include in our struggle, again, the old subject of the reappropriation of another type of material wealth that today only has the form of commodities. At the end of the day, it’s about the old question of defending and producing the common, a question raised in the 19th Century and now thought about again with all of the experiences of the 20th Century and all of the things that have illuminated the waves of struggle preceding us.
For two centuries our grandparents in struggle encountered again and again the problem of private property, of the monopolization of wealth and of the voice! Ownership of the earth, of nature and ownership, in general, of material wealth. We need to propose the reappropriation of these things: how can we do it? The conversion of that private property into state property has already been tried; which eventually was shown to be nothing more than another form of private property. Now, it’s about, I think, focusing on the production of the common which is something pretty different; then it starts with rejecting the fracture between reproduction and production that is at the foundation of the production of capital. And there is where non-state-centrism is founded.
The common reappropriation of material wealth is a path, not a model. I believe it is a central political question and, pay attention, it has nothing to do with taking state power! The common reappropriation of wealth and taking state power are two very different questions that have been tied together from the beginning of the 20th century; from that confusion. I think that upon making the critique, the baby ended up getting thrown out with the bathwater… Or rather, when we collectively threw out the question of a counter-hegemonic political strategy, of going about accumulating power partisanly and orientating our paths of struggle toward the “seizure of power,” etc.; we end up confused in relation to the central question of the common reappropriation of socially produced wealth so that it ceases to be capital. It seems that those are the relevant elements of our current political difficulties.
I would change, then the object of your question into a verb. How can we rethink the question of the collective – and tendentially common – appropriation of existing things while we propose creating and reproducing other ways of producing life as a whole? The first step in all of this is the struggle against new dispossessions, which are expressed through a set of collective efforts saying “NO”: “No, don’t take the water,” “Don’t appropriate the earth,” “Don’t destroy the forest we have produced,” etc. There are many communities and peoples that have risen up against this throughout Latin America. This is the point of departure, however, of a formula that would need to be: “don’t take it away from me, and what you have already taken, look bastard, give it back to me now!” This is a great problem and we should find a way to raise and articulate it. It is already beginning to appear.
The recent mobilizations in Brazil were an attempt to reappropriate their own World Cup. We can try to read them in this key. That is, there was the question of transportation, but there was also the effort to form a collective body in the streets to put limits on the savage expropriation of their favorite sport and the fantastic spectacle that they consider their own. The recent struggles in Brazil are, in this sense, actions that also tend toward the reappropration of social wealth. If we read them from this perspective we can understand those efforts of struggle differently and we can contribute and produce a different form of politicization: a non-state-centric politicization. In short, we need all of these types of experiences, like those in Chiapas, in Greece, with the recuperated factories and cooperatives; and we also need to understand differently the subject of tumultuous and energetic struggles, we need to contribute and amplify the significance of those threads. The heart of the question is still that of the reappropriation of wealth that is collectively and socially produced and privately monopolized. And this is one side of the central political problem since the 19th century. The other side of that same matter is guaranteeing for ourselves, in an expansive way, conditions for the reproduction of life as a whole. The question, obviously, is difficult; but there are many, many of us thinking about this. Hence, the importance of being able to talk to each other.
Leaving the airport, a little after eleven on a frosty night. We should already look like little moving lights to Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar. The end of an intense week, of which flashes, fragments of conversations remain. I abstract from anecdotes and more personal drifts, trying to construct, in turn, the conceptual constellation that allows her to think today, starting from social movements, a politics of the common.
Before the concepts, I am attracted to the rhythm of her voice and variability of her tones; a register that is restrained at times, other times passionate; always affected by the effort of naming problems, that which cuts across her vital/militant experience. In this task, concepts become a fundamental ally.
The first relevant issue, then: the need to name problems with their own tonality as a way of politicizing them, of constructing them as objects of politics.
Second and fundamental: a voice and a tone that speaks from the struggles. Not “about” or “of” struggles. Struggles and movements are not the sociological object of a doctoral student but a form of life. Struggles that are, at the same time, the motor and origin of politics; a language that goes against the grain of dominant imaginaries, whose motto is that only from struggles in the street is it possible to think the transformation of social relations; a transformation which lies precisely in the most intense unfolding of those struggles. Weeks ago I proposed thinking about the mobilizations and struggles in Brazil from the pair fertility/infertility, something which, goes in the same direction.(http://anarquiacoronada.blogspot.com.ar/2013/07/brasil-lalalalalala-notas-obre-la.html)
In accordance with this precept to speak from (and as a way of encouraging) struggles, RGA’s thought is organized not on the basis of what is, but rather as an exercise of imagination that projects what can be. Rather than the management of what is, the eruption of that collective imagination is what we could call politics.
In other words: struggles are that (special) moment of politicization where a collective imagination, oriented toward creating a dissident common sense, erupts that deploys and empowers (potencie) the possible inhabiting every situation.
Nothing new under the sun: classic Marx, old law: class struggle as the midwife of history; as the source of creation and irradiation of collective vitality. But, also, as the floor of comprehension of the real and of the political horizon: it is in the struggle itself where what can be or what can be achieved is illuminated; the moment in which the social recovers its capacity of public intervention expressing the desires, the secrets resting in its interior. Something new under the sun: Marx detached from the old Marxism.
Mobilizations and struggles in the street are, then, the creative force of new political images, moments of the birth of the new. Where does this force come from? From the social capacity of veto, from negation, from saying “no” to a reality that is presented as inevitable (and that coincidentally is always functional to the concentration of capital). Struggles and their negative force, however, find themselves today – just between us – unarmed in front of the childishness of the cast of adherents and enthusiasts.
The last great cycle of struggles (that had as its epicenter the Argentine 2001, as well as the massive and on-going mobilizations in Bolivia and Ecuador – among others – and which today resonates strongly in Brazil) named and made visible a horizon of the politics of the common.
The politics of the common is founded on two main features of these struggles:
– The force with which these struggles raised the problem of social reappropriation of material and natural wealth.
– The ineffective (liberal) form in which state power assimilates political participation through delegation.*
(*Article 22 of the Argentinean Constitution: “The people do not deliberate nor govern except through their representatives and authorities established by this Constitution. Any armed force or group of people that claims the rights of the people and petitions on its behalf commits the crime of sedition”).
Those struggles illuminated the possibility of a political reconfiguration oriented toward the reappropriation of material wealth and previously expropriated political capacities. In other words, struggles generate the material and symbolic conditions for the constitution of a res communis.
The establishment of a res communis refers to a profound reorganization of the social body centered on three ruptures: first, a rupture with the dominant processes of capital accumulation; second, a rupture with the collective disposition to obedience; and, third, a rupture with uncritical compliance with inherited norms.
To say it another way: we are attending the passage from a type of state-centric res publica – in which politics takes place in the encounter with the state’s institutional framework – to a res communis, in which politics is based on the capacity to interrupt processes of capital accumulation and the expropriation of common resources as well as to put pressure on liberal forms of the political, which, through delegation, destroy the possibility of collectively managing that which concerns us all because it affects us all.
Look out: the res communis is not a “model” to develop (or to reach), but rather a path. In other words, not a totalization that organizes the set of possibles, but the search for keys to transform the struggle for the reorganization of the social body. (Not a model, but a path: “living well” (“buen vivir”) – Sumak Kawsay – can be thought in the same way).
The res communis, proposed this way, dismantles and subverts the liberal state-centric political structure erected over the public-private split that, with one referring to the state and the other to the market, excludes and makes invisible all the social spaces in which the relationships of production and reproduction of life are created and recreated.
Moments of struggle are favorable times for the production and reproduction of the common. The common is not a classificatory category alluding to property but a central idea-force for the reorganization of social coexistence. Or, rather, the common is a form of doing that generates a form of social relation in constant risk of being captured by the state and/or capital: a form of social relation that expresses those fabrics of the reproduction of life (relationships which, in many cases, are captured by forms of commodity relations, but that in others, prioritize the establishment of collective modes of production with the capacity to discuss the criteria of usufruct of what is produced).
The common is a way of naming that “non-state public,” which is produced collectively and whose control and decision are not delegated to political mediations other than those that produce it. The horizon of the common is, above all, a perspective of struggle launched to directly and collectively reappropriate and recover that which has been taken from the communities: control of their fate. The common is, therefore, a social relation not reduced to what is given; the repeated production of meaning and connections that gives the collective the capacity to intervene in general affairs.
Circulation of language and affects are the basis of the common.
The production of the common is founded in a we, that is to say, in a collective force that ensures the reproduction of material life and enables the regeneration of a sense of collective inclusion.
In short, the res communis is the construction of a path of searching for keys to keep open a process of struggle that unfolds over a space that is neither public nor private, but common; that is to say, the space in which the relationships of production and reproduction of life are created and recreated. We have to think politics from these relationships – far from any ideological consistency. Politics, Raquel concludes, is then a politics of the common, of the production of the common, there where work is shared and the terms of its usufruct are collectively determined.
Originally published http://anarquiacoronada.blogspot.com.ar/2013/07/20-fragmentos-para-ser-leidos-en-el.html
TEXTO EN ESPAÑOL
20 Fragmentos para ser leídos en el metrobús (o la política del común de Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilera)
Riccieri, domingo once y pico de una noche helada. El aeropuerto va quedando atrás. Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar nos debe estar viendo ya como luces de alasita en movimiento. Fin de una intensa semana de la que sobrevienen destellos, fragmentos de lo conversado. Me abstraigo de las anécdotas y de las derivas más personales e intento armar, en cambio, la constelación conceptual que le permite hoy pensar, desde los movimientos sociales, una política de lo común.
Antes que por los conceptos, me siento atraída por el ritmo de su voz y por la variabilidad de sus tonos; un registro por momentos mesurado, por momentos pasional; siempre afectado por el esfuerzo de poner nombre a los propios problemas, eso que atraviesan su experiencia vital/militante. Los conceptos se vuelven, en esa faena, un aliado fundamental.
Primera cuestión de relevancia, entonces: la necesidad de nombrar los problemas con una tonalidad propia como modo de politizarlos, de construirlos como objeto de una política.
Segunda y fundamental: una voz y un tono propio que habla desde las luchas. No “sobre” o “de” las luchas. Luchas y movimientos no son el objeto sociológico de un intelectual o de un becario de doctorado, sino una forma de vida. Luchas que son, al mismo tiempo, motor y origen de la política. Nos encontramos frente a un lenguaje a contrapelo de los imaginarios dominantes cuyo lema es que solo desde la lucha en las calles es posible pensar la transformación de las relaciones sociales; una transformación que anida precisamente en el despliegue más intenso de esas luchas (semanas atrás propuse en borrador pensar las movilizaciones y luchas en Brasil a partir del par fertilidad/infertilidad, algo que, como es evidente, va en el mismo sentido).
Acorde con esta precepto de hablar desde (y como modo de impulsar) las luchas, el pensamiento de RGA se organiza, no tanto en función del registro de lo que hay, sino más bien como el ejercicio de una imaginación que proyecta lo que puede haber. Más que a la gestión de lo que hay, podríamos llamar política, precisamente, a la irrupción de esa imaginación colectiva.
De otro modo: las luchas son ese (especial) momento de politización en el que irrumpe una imaginación colectiva orientada a fundar un sentido común disidente que despliegue y potencie los posibles que habitan en cada situación.
Nada nuevo bajo el sol: Marx clásico derecho viejo. La lucha de clases como partera de la historia, como fuente de creación e irradiación de vitalidad colectiva. Pero, también, como piso de comprensión de lo real y del horizonte político. Es en la lucha misma donde se alumbra lo que puede haber o lo que se puede conseguir; momento en el que lo social recupera su capacidad de intervención pública expresando deseos que anidan, secretos, en sus entrañas. Algo nuevo bajo el sol: Marx desprendido del viejo marxismo.
Las movilizaciones y las luchas en la calle son, entonces, fuerza creativa de nuevas imágenes políticas, momento de gestación de lo nuevo. ¿De dónde nace esta fuerza? De su capacidad social de veto, de negación, de decir “no” ante una realidad que se presenta como inexorable (y que casualmente es siempre funcional a la concentración de capital). Las luchas y su fuerza denegativa, sin embargo, se encuentran hoy –entre nosotrxs- desarmadas frente a la puerilidad del elenco de los adherentes y entusiastas.
El último gran ciclo de luchas (que tuvo como epicentro el 2001 argentino, tanto como las masivas y constantes movilizaciones en Bolivia y Ecuador -entre otras- y que hoy resuena fuerte en Brasil) nombró e hizo visible un horizonte de la política del común.
La política del común se cimienta sobre dos rasgos principales de esas luchas:
– La fuerza con la que éstas plantearon el problema de la reapropiación social de la riqueza material y natural.
– La ineficaz forma (liberal) en que el poder estatal asimila la participación política en clave de delegación.*
(* Art. 22 de la Constitución Argentina: “El pueblo no delibera ni gobierna, sino por medio de sus representantes y autoridades creadas por esta Constitución. Toda fuerza armada o reunión de personas que se atribuya los derechos del pueblo y peticione a nombre de éste, comete delito de sedición”).
Esas luchas vislumbraron como posibilidad una reconfiguración política orientada a la reapropiación tanto de riqueza material como de capacidades políticas anteriormente expropiadas. Es decir, las luchas generan las condiciones materiales y simbólicas para la constitución de una res común.
La constitución de una res común remite a una profunda reorganización del cuerpo social fundada, centralmente, en tres rupturas: primero, una ruptura con los procesos dominantes de acumulación de capital; segundo, una ruptura con la disposición colectiva a la obediencia y; tercero, una ruptura con el cumplimiento acrítico de normas heredadas.
Dicho de otro modo: asistimos al pasaje de una res pública de tipo estadocéntrica –en el que la política se realiza en su encuentro con la institucionalidad estatal– a una res común en la que la política se funda tanto sobre su capacidad de interrumpir los procesos de acumulación de capital y de expropiación de recursos comunes como de tensionar las formas liberales de lo político, que bajo la figura de la delegación, anula la posibilidades de gestionar colectivamente lo que a todos incumbe porque a todos afecta.
Ojo: la res pública no es un “modelo” a desarrollar (o al que llegar), sino un camino. Es decir, no es una totalización que organiza el conjunto de los posibles, sino la búsqueda de claves para que la lucha (como reorganización del cuerpo social) pueda ir transformándose (“no modelo, sino camino”: el “buen vivir” –el Sumak Kawsay– puede pensarse en la misma clave).
La res común, planteada de esta forma, desarticula y subvierte el esquema político liberal-estadocéntrico erigido sobre la escisión público-privado que, remitiendo uno al estado y el otro al mercado, excluye e invisibilidad todo el espacio social en el que se crean y recrean las tramas de producción y reproducción de la vida.
Los momentos de lucha son tiempos propicios para la producción y reproducción de lo común. Lo común no es una categoría clasificatoria que aluda a la propiedad, sino que es una idea-fuerza central de la reorganización de la convivencia social. O, mejor, lo común es una forma de hacer que genera una forma de relación social en constante riesgo de ser fagocitada por el estado y/o el capital: una forma de relación social que expresa esas tramas de la reproducción de la vida (tramas que, en muchos casos, son capturadas por formas de relación mercantil, pero que, en otros, prima la disposición a establecer modos de producción colectivos con capacidad de discutir los criterios de usufructo de lo producido).
Lo común es una manera de nombrar eso “público no-estatal”, aquello que se produce colectivamente y cuyo control y decisión no se delega en otras mediaciones políticas que no sean los mismos que lo producen. El horizonte de lo común es, ante todo, una perspectiva de lucha que se lanza a reapropiarse y recuperar directa y colectivamente lo que ha sido arrebatado de las manos de las colectividades: el control de su destino. Lo común es, así, relación social no reducida a lo dado. Producción reiterada de sentido y de vínculo que dotan al colectivo de la capacidad de intervención en asuntos generales.
La circulación de la palabra y los afectos son la base de lo común.
La producción de lo común se funda en un nosotrxs, es decir, en una fuerza colectiva que garantiza la reproducción de la vida material y que habilita la regeneración de un sentido de inclusión colectiva.
La res común es, entonces, la construcción de un camino de búsqueda de las claves para mantener abierto un proceso de lucha que se despliega sobre un espacio que no es ni público ni privado, sino lo común; es decir, el espacio en el que se crean y recrean tramas de producción y reproducción de la vida. Es desde estas tramas –ajenas a cualquier consistencia ideológica– desde donde hay que pensar la política. La política, concluirá Raquel, es entonces una política del común, de producción de común, allí donde se comparte el trabajo y se definen colectivamente los términos de su usufructo.]]>
This month a couple of us at Making Worlds took a leap from idea to action. After a year of community discussions about the possibility of creating an “art commons”, we decided to start a few pilot programs in various neighborhoods in NYC and see how it goes. First stop Jackson Heights!
Jackson Heights presents a very interesting area for starting the project. There is no doubt that there is a vibrant art community here of poets, filmmakers, artists, dancers, and musicians from all over the world, but aside from bars and cafés like Espresso 77 there are very few places for artist to gather and exhibit work. There are however several art collectives like Hibridos and ArtFacting that have begun to organize and utilize all types of spaces for artist to show their work. The question of space is not a priority for a decentralized artCommons, but it has come up in our meetings with artists, some of them would like to put more emphasis on the artCommons as something to which social events and exhibitions can be built around. The social aspect of the artCommons is indeed on our minds, but first thing’s first, we need to build the artCommons with a strong community to support it.
Find out more about the artCommons project here: www.artcommons.org (like us on facebook: artCommons & follow on twitter @artcommons )
Creative Commons photo credit: Jackson Heights, 2010 #2754 photo by Fran Simó CC-by-nc-sa 2.0]]>
On the occasion of Oscar Olivera’s visit to New York, people from Making Worlds met with him to talk about the long struggle against water privatization in Cochabamba, in which Oscar was a spokesperson through his role as an organizer with the Coordinator for the Defense of Water and Life. Being in a place like New York, we were interested in hearing him tell us about the organizing potentials that made possible a struggle in which different parts of his land’s population participated, contributing their stories, their knowledges, their languages. From these stories, we arrive at the Bolivian present, where the great collective process has been expropriated of its language and its struggle once the state signs a contract with the corporations and continues a neo-extractivist line, disempowering indigenous collectives. In this context, Oscar emphasized the need to look for a common language between all struggles. Before starting, we talked about the challenges that new and old movements in power face in thinking of themselves as long-term processes, the forms of organizations they require, the need to profoundly rethink our languages and insist on continuing horizontal processes, “without bosses, without parties, without owners.”
MW: We would like you to tell us about the small steps that made possible such a large victory in its moment against water privatization in Bolivia. That is, how can communities that are so different (campesinos, miners) unite in this struggle? How was that connection achieved? What was its language?
OO: I think that when important events happen many people normally say that they are spontaneous actions – that is what those on top say: they say that what happened with Occupy Wall Street, what is happening in Taksim right now, what happened in Cochabamba is something spontaneous – pure spontaneity. But I don’t believe that, but rather that it is people’s reaction to an accumulation of things, faced with what I call an accumulation of everyday dispossession of everything – not only of common goods but of your rights as a person, of your right to speak, to express yourself – there is brutal daily expropriation. Absolutely everything is dispossessed. And then, in a given moment, when there is a measure of people not willing to tolerate anymore, they take to the streets and generate a very quick process of articulation. We cannot deny that there are things absolutely in common between Bolivia and Turkey. It is the fact that for those who decide for us today, we don’t exist for them when they make decisions – said another way, when they make decisions, it is if we didn’t exist.
Who are they?
They are the same ones in Turkey, in Uruguay or in Bolivia. The big banks, transnational corporations, politicians, the governors – all of them have the same attitude of contempt, of invalidating us: they constitute a takeover of the institutional framework, negating any possibility for the participation of other opinions.
MW: What were you saying about the everyday accumulation of the expropriation of life?
OO: Yes, it is an accumulation of indignation produced by expropriation in front of daily, permanent dispossession. In the beginning of the 2000s, we saw that in Bolivia it was the water, in Argentina it was the corralito, in Ecuador with the CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) it was the dollarization of the economy… These processes that spring up in different places, with different rhythms, have to do with the fact that people start to take, to live, the territory differently. It is about people’s defense of territory, understood as something that is not only geographic but as a space that people have constructed with dignity – the neighborhood, the factory, the university, the water cooperative, the public company, the school, the farm. That is, a territory in which people have constructed a different form of relating, an experience, until a transnational corporation comes and occupies that territory and imposes its rules of mercantilism, of individualism, of submission. And people resist living in those conditions… Then, the people’s defense process begins, of their territory.
MW: Like what is happening in Taksim now…
OO: Of course, what is happening in Taksim is exactly like what happened in Cochabamba in 2000: people took over the plaza as symbolic territory. We said: “this plaza is ours: we find each other here.” And the same thing can happen in a community defending its territory against a transnational corporation that comes to contaminate its waters. Or university students defending free education in their territory. It is in the defense of that territory that people start generating another understanding of the territory that is fundamental for us – one that implies something that is not simply a site to exchange commodities. Some by intuition and others because they have a vision, like in the indigenous communities, and I think that is what is happening in the world today. I don’t think there is any difference – the piqueteros’ struggle in Argentina, the struggle in Cochabamba, the struggle of the CONAIE against dollarization or the struggle in Taksim today – I don’t see any difference. It’s about the same thing. The same enemies, the same behavior of the governors – and people defending their territory, their own political struggle.
MW: In the case of Cochabamba, there was also collaboration between very different social groups, for example campesinos and miners, each one with their own – and very different – forms and traditions of organization. We are really interested in hearing you talk about that, being here in one of the most diverse cities in the world where the polyphonic organization of struggles becomes difficult. How were different knowledges and forms of organization in Bolivia combined, mixed and transformed over the years?
OO: One of the things that neoliberalism has dispossessed us of is access to information. It has done this on purpose and it also happens because people don’t have time to inform themselves. The rhythm of work is such that it doesn’t give us time to read a newspaper, to inform ourselves. One example: I have worked in a shoe factory for 32 years. When I was young, there were 700 workers living in the neighborhood. Today there are still 700 of us but before they would sell 500 newspapers and today they don’t sell any at all. So that you realize how much people’s forms of information and communication have changed – even though they were forms of communication that we would call traditional, with all of the ideology that comes with them, but people were always hungry for information and that information could be argued about, spaces of communication were established within the factory, people had intuition of where political moves were going and would go out to the streets. Today there is no information.
Then one of the difficulties we had in Cochabamba was information – how to make it so people would inform themselves about the consequences of a privatization process. Then we formed a small team of water committees, unions, professional environmentalists, lawyers, engineers, economists and together we followed an analysis of the privatization laws and were able to put down five points on paper. Of those 400 pages of information, we took five points, which summarized how privatization would affect people.
We started a door-to-door outreach campaign but at the same time we had the opportunity to set up press conferences with a lot of thought. Also, for example we started looking for creative mechanisms to bring us together: we decided that people would put up a flag in each house and that people would gather around the house with the flag to distribute information, papers, everything. Everyone who agreed with fighting against this could put up their flag and later on there was a general flag-raising.
I think that Cochabamba, because of its characteristics, had two very strong components. First, the miners’ labor union structure that was dismantled in 1986. That structure became dispersed, it was no longer functioning like a social body but rather as little points in many parts of the country but in the moment of conflict, those points united again… Because beyond that fragmented structure, the culture of workers organization, I would call it courage, had not been lost. So that it was that same disperse movement that had the capacity to call people to the struggle in the neighborhoods. The other component was the indigenous and campesino movement that sees water not as a commodity, but, as our brothers and sisters say, a generous gift from the Pachamama. Since nobody in particular has been given the water, nobody can appropriate it. It is a very simple, but at the same time, very profound concept. I think that those elements prepared us for a frontal struggle.
MW: How do we arrive at the idea of the “right to water” that the government proposed?
OO: In no moment in Cochabamba did we speak about the right to water. Never. We don’t know why Morales’ government did. We don’t talk about the right to water because our concept of the water common, as I say, is different. We don’t talk about rights because in our communities, the individual is part of nature – not “above” nature to impose a “right” but rather a part of it. We talk fundamentally of the need for water that all living beings have – humans, animals, the earth itself.
Therefore I think of this conception, the defense of territory in the countryside, saying: “this here is my territory and I have constructed these forms of co-existence in my relation with nature”
and at the same time, maintaining the culture of organization in the cities, were the two fundamental elements for the cohesion of country and city.
At the same time, I think that in these times, there is a sort of institutional crisis where nobody believes in anyone anymore, not in the governors nor in the unions. People are looking for that reference. And in an union like mine,we try to create a transparent voice, a voice that makes visible the reality of non-institutional worlds: precarious workers, sex workers, child workers. At the base, it was the visibilization of all of the reality that neoliberalism itself created. Then, without meaning to, we started turning into a voice that convened the population, that convened people because we spoke with clarity, with transparency and absolute dignity to denounce this new world of work.
Thus a series of elements joined together: the miners’ organizing capacity; the indigenous communities’ understanding and defense of territory and water; a labor union that started to be believed by the population; and a group of intellectuals that had the capacity to decipher all of that dense language of laws and contracts and to give back to the people just the information necessary to fight. Additionally there was the use of innovative, creative forms of communicating massively on the margin of the normal means of communication.
MW: With what you were saying about maintaining a very nontraditional type of union, which moves in this system of precarious work – what happened with that type of autonomy when this government started? How does a struggle take place between the common and the public when it is co-opted by the language of rights? Is it a struggle that disempowered the communities or is it being rearticulated/reorganized?
OO: I think that throughout the struggle several things become possible. The fundamental motor is the recovery of people’s capacity to organize themselves, to mobilize, and to collectively set multiple common objectives. This means: we mutually support each other and we all fight for what each one wants.
The basic motor is that autonomy, people’s own capacity to deliberate, to decide. Without bosses, without caudillos, without parties. The people decide for themselves through deliberation in assembly, where people make their own structures. From a council of 100 thousand people in Cochabamba, to a small spokescouncil of five people, that were those that had to carry the voice to the state structures. Workers’ unions, of teachers, of the unemployed. The assemblies delegated the power to transmit the decisions of the people, of the councils, of the assemblies to the spokespeople. Then, it was that will of assembly, but expressed with an individual direction. There was no party, not even one caudillo. Spokespersonship was revocable, rotating, and there was accountability in the councils. You were cited by 100,000 people. But in that time the objectives were clear. We knew what it was we were doing. It was saying NO to water privatization. Then, I think that moment’s strength was that autonomy, that freedom. A certain decision in assembly, a hierarchy of representatives. And that decreed one of the most important things that went against what neoliberalism puts in our heads: individualism, apathy, resignation, and, above all, fear.
People have a lot of fear.
In Cochabamba, the barricades were constructed in people’s spaces of encounters. And those spaces of encounter helped us to see ourselves as equals, to see that we have the same problems, the same difficulties, the same horizons for constructing a new society. The assemblies, the unions, the barricades, all of those spaces were very important.
I think that today that strength, that vigorous social fabric has been lost because of co-optation from the state. Since its own referents, what I call spokespeople, from the rural parts, are now part of a state structure and that has taken away a lot of the struggle’s strength and credibility. And autonomy has been completely lost. Institutionalism is beating us with all of the vision that they have. While they are handing over territories to the large transnational corporations, the Bolivian government distracts us with measures, such as, for example, the obligation to have two dogs in each house. And additionally, to put a chip in each dog. Then, while the population discusses if we are going to accept or reject this municipal law, the government is handing over our territories to transnational corporations. We see how they have continued advancing and we have stayed behind in this type of institutional distraction that they provoke so that power disperses, dissolving the networks of power – of that power accumulated by the people that was able to impose an agenda on all of the governments. Today with these popular governments that agenda has dissolved. I would say that these popular governments have expropriated people’s capacity of indignation, of organization and mobilization. Even the people’s discourse has been expropriated by the governors. In Bolivia there is not the slightest possibility of autonomy but people are permanently fighting for it, in a dispersed way, but I would say that on average there are four conflicts a day, which gives you an idea that people are not standing still. What is missing is a new process of articulation from the experience of the water coordinator, of a participatory, horizontal, assembly-based, deliberative movement, that knows how to recover politics for the people and not for the parties.
VERSION EN ESPAÑOL
Oscar Olivera, conversa con Making Worlds.
Viernes 14 de junio en 60 wall
Making Worlds (Susana, Vicente, Maria, Janet K, Ina)
En ocasión de la visita de Oscar Olivera a New York, Making Worlds se juntó con él para conversar sobre la larga lucha contra la privatización del agua en Cochabamba, en la que Oscar fue uno de sus portavoces desde su rol de organizador en la Coordinadora para la defensa del agua y de la vida. Al estar en un sitio como Nueva York, nos interesaba que nos contara los potenciales de organización que hicieron posible una lucha en la que diferentes partes de la población de sus tierras participó contribuyendo con sus historias, sus saberes, sus lenguas. Desde esas historias, llegamos al presente boliviano, en el que el gran proceso colectivo ha sido expropiado de su lengua y de su lucha una vez que el Estado firma un contrato con las corporaciones y continúa una línea neo-extractivista en la que los colectivos indígenas son desempoderados. En este marco, Oscar enfatizó la necesidad de buscar un lenguaje común entre todas las luchas. Antes de comenzar, hablamos de los desafíos que enfrentan los movimientos nuevos y viejos en poder pensarse como procesos a largo plazo, las formas de organización que se requieren, la necesidad de replantear de raíz nuestros lenguajes y la necesidad de insistir en continuar los procesos horizontales, “sin jefes, sin partidos, sin patrones”.
MW: Nos gustaría que nos cuentes sobre los pequeños pasos que hicieron posible una victoria tan grande en su momento contra la privatización del agua en Bolivia. Esto es, cómo se logra que comunidades tan distintas (campesinado, mineros) se unan en esta lucha. ¿Cómo se logró esa vinculación? ¿cuál fue su lenguaje?
OO: Creo que muchos dicen que normalmente, cuando acontecen grandes eventos se trata de acciones espontáneas — esto es lo que normalmente dicen los de arriba: dicen que lo que pasó con Occupy Wall Street, lo que está pasando en Taksim en este momento, lo que pasó en Cochabamba, son una cosa espontánea -puro espontaneísmo. Pero yo no creo esto sino que se trata de una reacción de la gente frente a una acumulación de cosas, frente a lo que yo llamo una acumulación de despojo cotidiano de todo –no solamente de los bienes comunes sino de tus derechos como persona, de tus derechos para poder hablar, expresarte –hay una expropiación cotidiana brutal. Se despoja absolutamente de todo. Y entonces, en un momento dado, cuando hay una medida que la gente no está dispuesta a seguir tolerando más, se sale a la calle y se genera un proceso de articulación muy rápido. No podemos negar de que hay cosas absolutamente comunes tanto en Bolivia como en Turquía y es el hecho de que los que deciden por nosotros hoy, para ellos nosotros no existimos cuando toman decisiones– o dicho de otro modo, cuando toman decisiones, es como si nosotros no existiéramos.
¿Quiénes son ellos?
Son los mismos que están en Turquía, en Uruguay o en Bolivia. Son los grandes bancos, las corporaciones transnacionales, los políticos, los gobernantes –todos tienen la misma actitud de menosprecio, de invalidarnos: constituyen una toma de institucionalidad que anula cualquier posibilidad de participación de otra opinión.
MW: ¿Lo que decías respecto a la acumulación de expropiación de la vida en lo cotidiano?
OO: Sí, se trata de una acumulación de la indignación que produce la expropiación frente al despojo cotidiano, permanente. En los primeros años del 2000, vimos que en Bolivia fue el agua, en Argentina fue el corralito, en Ecuador con la CONAIE (Confederación de nacionalidades indígenas de Ecuador) fue la dolarización de la economía…Estos procesos que brotan en diferentes lugares, en diferentes ritmos, tienen que ver con el hecho de que la gente empieza a tomar , a vivir, el territorio con una dimensión distinta. Se trata de la defensa del territorio de la gente, entendido como algo no solamente geográfico sino como un espacio que la gente ha ido construyendo de una manera digna -el barrio, la fábrica, la universidad, la cooperativa de agua, la empresa pública, la escuela, la chacra. Esto es, un territorio en el que la gente ha construido una forma de vinculamiento diferente, una vivencia, hasta que viene una transnacional y ocupa ese territorio e impone sus reglas de mercantilismo, de individualismo, de sumisión. Y la gente se resiste a vivir en esas condiciones… Entonces, comienza un proceso de defensa de la gente, de su territorio.
MW: Como lo que está pasando en Taksim, estos días…
OO: Claro, lo que está pasando en Taksim es exactamente como lo que estaba pasando en Cochabamba en el año 2000: la gente toma la plaza como territorio simbólico. Nosotros decíamos: “esta plaza es nuestra: nosotros aquí nos encontramos”. Y lo mismo puede ocurrir con una comunidad que defiende su territorio contra una transnacional que viene a contaminar sus aguas. O los universitarios que defienden la educación gratuita en su territorio. Es en la defensa de ese territorio que la gente empieza a generar otra concepción del territorio que es fundamental para nosotros -una que implica algo que no es simplemente la de ser un sitio para intercambiar mercancías. Algunos por intuición y otros porque tienen una visión, como en las comunidades indígenas, y yo creo que eso es lo que está ocurriendo en el mundo hoy. Yo creo que no es ninguna diferencia — esa lucha de los piqueteros en la Argentina, la lucha de Cochabamba, la lucha de la CONAIE contra la dolarización o la lucha de Taksim hoy — no veo alguna diferencia. Se trata de lo mismo. Los mismos enemigos, la misma conducta de los gobernantes – y la gente defendiendo su territorio, su propia lucha política.
MW: En el caso de Cochabamba se da además la colaboración entre grupos sociales muy distintos, por ejemplo campesinos y mineros, cada uno con sus propias – y muy distintas – formas y tradiciones de organización. Nos interesa mucho que nos cuentes de eso, por estar aquí moviéndonos en una de las ciudades más diversas del mundo en las que se hace compleja la organización polifónica de luchas. ¿Como se fueron combinando, mezclando y transformando los diferentes saberes y formas de organización en Bolivia a lo largo de los años?
OO: Una de las cosas de las que el neoliberalismo nos ha despojado es del acceso a la información. Esto se ha hecho a propósito y también ocurre porque la gente no tiene tiempo para informarse. Es tal el ritmo del trabajo que no da tiempo para leer un periódico, para informarnos. Un ejemplo: he trabajado en una fábrica de zapatos por 32 años. Cuando era joven, en el barrio vivíamos 700 obreros. Hoy somos 700 también pero en ese tiempo se vendían 500 periódicos y hoy no se vende ni uno. Para que te des cuenta cómo ha cambiado estas formas de información y comunicación que la gente tenía — pese a que eran formas de comunicación digamos que tradicionales, con toda una ideología encima, pero la gente siempre estaba ávida de información y esa información se podía discutir, se establecían espacios de comunicación dentro de la fábrica, la gente tenía la intuición de por dónde iban las movidas políticas y salía a las calles. Hoy no hay información.
Entonces una de las dificultades que tuvimos en Cochabamba fue la información —cómo hacemos para que la gente se informe de las consecuencias que va a tener un proceso de privatización. Entonces formamos un pequeño equipo de comités de agua, sindicatos, profesionales medioambientalistas, abogados, ingenieros economistas y entre todos seguimos todo un análisis de las leyes de privatización y tuvimos la capacidad de poner en una hoja 5 puntos. De esas 400 páginas de información sacamos 5 puntos, que resumía el modo en que a la gente le iba a afectar la privatización.
Entramos en una campaña de difusión puerta a puerta pero al mismo tiempo tuvimos la oportunidad de establecer conferencias de prensa con mucha psicología. También por ejemplo comenzamos a buscar mecanismos creativos que nos juntaran: decidíamos que la gente colocara su bandera en cada casa y la gente se unía alrededor de la casa donde se había colocado la bandera y se distribuía la información, los papeles, todo. Y todo el que estuviera de acuerdo para pelear contra esto, podía poner su bandera y más adelante hubo un embanderamiento general.
Creo que Cochabamba por sus características tuvo dos componentes muy fuertes. Primero una estructura sindical obrera, minera que fue desmantelada en 1986. Esa estructura se dispersó, ya no estaba funcionando como un cuerpo social sino como puntitos por muchas partes del país pero en el momento del conflicto, estos puntitos se volvieron a unir …. porque más allá de esa estructura fragmentada, no se había perdido esa cultura obrera de organización, yo digo de coraje. Así que era ese mismo movimiento disperso el que tuvo la capacidad de convocar en los barrios a la lucha. El otro componente era el movimiento indígena y campesino que ve el agua no como una mercancía sino como dicen nuestros hermanos, como un regalo, generoso de la Pachamama. Como a nadie en particular le han dado el agua, nadie puede apropiarse del agua. Es una concepción muy simple pero muy profunda. Creo que estos elementos nos habilitaron a una lucha frontal.
MW: ¿Cómo se llega a la idea del “derecho al agua” que se planteó desde el gobierno?
OO: En ningún momento en Cochabamba hablamos del derecho al agua. Jamás. No sabemos porqué lo hizo el gobierno de Morales. Nosotros no hablamos del derecho al agua porque nuestra concepción común del agua, como digo, es diferente. No se habla de derechos porque en las comunidades nuestras, el individuo es parte de la naturaleza -no está “sobre” la naturaleza para imponerle un “derecho” sino que es parte de ella. Hablamos fundamentalmente de la necesidad del agua de todos los seres vivos -del hombre, los animales, la tierra misma.
Entonces creo que esa concepción, la defensa del territorio en el campo, el decir : “este es mi territorio aquí y yo he construido estas formas de convivencia en mi relación con la naturaleza”
y al mismo tiempo mantener la cultura de organización de las ciudades, fueron los dos elementos fundamentales para una cohesión del campo y la ciudad.
Al mismo tiempo, creo que en este tiempo que vivimos existe una especie de crisis institucional donde nadie cree en nadie ya, ni en los gobernantes, ni en los sindicatos. La gente está buscando esta referencia. Y en un sindicato como el mío, tratamos de crear una voz transparente, una voz que visiilizara la realidad de mundos no – institucionales: los trabajadores precarizados, las trabajadoras sexuales, los niños trabajadores En el fondo, era una visibilización de toda esa realidad que el propio neoliberalismo construyó. Entonces sin querer nos fuimos convirtiendo en una voz que convocaba a la población, que convocaba a la gente porque nosotros habíamos hablado con claridad, transparencia y con absoluta dignidad de denuncia de este nuevo mundo del trabajo.
Así que se juntaban una serie de elementos: la capacidad organizativa de los mineros; la concepción y defensa del territorio y el agua de las comunidades indígenas; un sindicato obrero que empezó a ser creído en la población; y un grupo de intelectuales que tenían la capacidad de descifrar todo ese lenguaje denso de las leyes y los contratos, y de devolver a la gente una información que era justamente necesaria para pelear. Y además estaba el uso de esas formas innovadoras, creativas, para comunicarnos de manera masiva al margen de los medios normales de comunicación.
MW: Con lo que decías de mantener un tipo de sindicato muy poco tradicional, que se mueve en ese sistema del trabajo precarizado –¿ qué pasa con esa forma de autonomía una vez que empieza este gobierno? ¿cómo se da una lucha entre lo común y lo público cuando es co-optado por la lengua del derecho? ¿es una lucha que desempoderó a las comunidades o se está rearticulando / reorganizando?
OO: Creo que en toda la lucha posibilita varias cosas. El motor fundamental es esa recuperación de las capacidades de la gente de organizarse, de movilizarse, y de fijar colectivamente múltiples objetivos comunes. Eso significa decir: nos apoyamos mutuamente y todos peleamos por lo que cada uno quiere.
El motor fundamental es esa autonomía, esa capacidad propia de deliberar, de decidir, por la gente misma. Sin patrones, sin caudillos, sin partido. Es la gente la que decide por sí misma en una deliberación asamblearia, en la que la gente se va dando sus propias estructuras . Desde un cabildo de 100 mil personas que había en Cochabamba, hasta una pequeña vocería de 5 personas. que eran los que tenían que llevar la voz a las estructuras estatales. sindicatos obreros, de maestros, de desocupados. Las asambleas delegaban el poder de transmitir la decisión de la gente, del cabildo, de las asambleas a los voceros. Entonces, era esa voluntad asamblearia, pero expresado sin una dirección individual. No había un partido, ni un caudillo. El tema de la vocería era revocable, rotatorio y la rendición de cuentas se realizaba en los cabildos. Eras citados por 100 mil personas. Pero en ese tiempo los objetivos eran claros. Sabíamos lo que estábamos haciendo. Era decir NO a la privatización del agua. Entonces creo que la fortaleza de ese momento fue la autonomía, la libertad. Cierta decisión asamblearia, cierta jerarquía de representantes. Y eso decretó una de las cosas más importantes que iba contra lo que el neoliberalismo mete en nuestras cabezas: el individualismo, la apatía, la resignación. y ante todo el miedo. La gente tiene mucho miedo.
En Cochabamba, las barricadas se construyeron en espacios de encuentro de la gente. Y esos espacios de encuentro nos ayudan a vernos como iguales, nos ayudan a ver que tenemos los mismos problemas, las mismas dificultades, los mismos horizontes para construir una sociedad nueva. Las asambleas, los sindicatos, las barricadas, todos estos espacios fueron muy importantes.
Hoy creo que esa fuerza, ese tejido social con tanto vigor, se ha perdido porque ha habido una cooptación desde el estado. Desde que los propios referentes, de lo que llamo portavoz, de lo rural, ahora son parte de esa estructura estatal y eso le ha quitado mucha fuerza, mucha credibilidad a la lucha. Y se ha perdido totalmente la autonomía. Y la institucionalidad nos está ganando en toda la visión que ellos tienen. Mientras ellos están entregando los territorios a las grandes transnacionales hoy, el gobierno de bolivia, a nosotros nos distrae con medidas, como por ejemplo la obligatoriedad de tener 2 perritos, dos canes, en cada casa. Y además, de poner a cada can un chip. Entonces, mientras la población discute si esa ley municipal la vamos a rechazar o aceptar, el gobierno está entregando nuestros territorios a las transnacionales. Vemos cómo ellos han ido avanzando y nosotros hemos quedado atrás en esta especie de distracción institucional que ellos provocan para que se disperse el poder, para que se disuelvan las redes de poder– de ese poder acumulado de la gente que tuvo la capacidad de imponer a todos los gobiernos una agenda. Hoy con estos gobiernos populares esa agenda se ha disuelto. Diría que ha habido una expropiación desde estos gobiernos populares de esa capacidad de indignación de la gente, de organización, y movilización. Inclusive, ese discurso de la gente ha sido expropiado por los gobernantes . En Bolivia no hay la mínima posibilidad de autonomía pero la gente está luchando permanentemente por eso, de manera dispersa pero yo diría que hay un promedio de 4 conflictos diarios, lo que te da una idea de que la gente no está quieta. Lo que falta es un proceso nuevo de articulación bajo esa experiencia de la coordinadora del agua, de un movimiento participativo, horizontal, asambleario, deliberativo. que sabe recuperar la política para la gente y no para los partidos. Eso..]]>
By Veronica Gago
Translated by Liz Mason-Deese.
Spanish version here.
Talk by Raquel Gutiérrez “Hacia una política de lo común (repensar el cambio social desde América Latina)”, june 2013 (in Spanish).
Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar was born in Mexico. She studied philosophy and mathematics and became involved in the struggle of exiled Salvadorans of the FMLN. Later, in the ’80s, she went to Bolivia. There she was one of the founding members of the EGTK (Tupak Katari Guerrilla Army) along with her then compañero and today vice-president Alvaro García Linera. After accompanying the insurgencies of Aymara and Quechua communities, she spent several years in prison during the 1990s. Later, she joined the group Comuna. She returned to Mexico and wrote her doctoral dissertation about the water wars in Boliva, which she also experienced as an activist. As a researcher at the University of Puebla and the UNAM, she studied and documented the continent’s processes of constituent assemblies, comparing the cases of Ecuador and Bolivia. Here she proposes rethinking social change in the region in search of a “politics of the common.”
I’m not sure that the expression “end of cycle” can be applied to the progressive governments in Latin America… There are some discrepancies in the processes that continue, for example in Bolivia and Ecuador with respect to Venezuela, especially after Chávez’s death. However, more than an “end of cycle,” I think we are witnessing the political consolidation of a cycle that began after the constituent processes in Bolivia as well as in Ecuador. I think that what we are seeing is the growing consolidation of the monopoly of privileges over the most important political decisions in the hands of small groups of political officials. This “blockage” – to put it one way – of the other visions and political paths that opened up years ago is what, in my perspective, has reached an extraordinary point of saturation.
There is, I think, in Bolivia and Ecuador, a very strong moment of consolidation of the state and a growing tutelage of popular and indigenous initiatives, which have to increasingly abide by the decisions of others. This is what I see: a reiteration of liberal forms of politics entrenched in the expropriation of the social capacity to intervene in public matters that affect everyone.
I think that the current moment is not the same as the liberal moment of policies and politics that swept Latin America in the ’90s. That is easily verifiable living, as I do now, in Mexico, where the (neo)liberal ideology of structural reform that limits state intervention is still present and in force, assaulting what tend to be called “social gains” and promoting the predominance of monopoly business interests through the excuse of the predominance of the market. This, I think, no longer happens, you no longer hear this, in countries where there were vigorous and energetic mobilizations during the previous decade, countries that went through constituent processes and have progressive governments.
What is terrible is that in the countries that had strong social mobilizations, the interests of the most powerful financial capital are still fully dominant, and now appear to have also “captured” the state forms that were reconstructed after the shock of the last decade. This is what one finds when one tries to understand what is happening based on the similarities between the conflicts unfolding in different countries, some which are increasingly liberalized and formally “democratic,” like Mexico; or, like Ecuador and Bolivia, where indigenous peoples have to, time and time again, defend their territories and lives being threatened by new efforts of plunder, and struggle against the imposition, without any consultation, of policies that, in the South, are allegedly promoted “for the good” of those same peoples defending themselves. At stake is what appeared in the turbulent and rebellious times once again as a horizon of the common that strongly dislocated the terms of modern liberal political discourse.
From my point of view, what a few years ago was envisioned as political possibility was a kind of shared collective disposition, not without internal tensions, to reappropriate previously expropriated material wealth and political capacities. This key allows you to understand the ongoing struggles that seek to establish limits to the expropriating-privatizing action of the most powerful capital, as well as efforts to establish new terms of social control over recuperated wealth – whether water, forests, or hydrocarbons. From these practices of struggle, societies gradually recovered and reconstructed political capacities in the broadest sense: possibilities to collectively manage that which concerns everyone because it affects us all. This tended to erode and threatened to dissolve certain modern terms of political understanding, like the private/public distinction. And the threat of dissolution of this ancient distinction, that founded a great part of our understanding of the political, well the moments of struggle were also energetic times of the production and reproduction of the common. The common is not a classificatory category alluding to property but rather it is a central idea-force for the reorganization of social life.
The common is that which is produced collectively and whose control and decision are not delegated to other political mediations other than those that produce it. The common is a way of naming that “non-state public.” The horizon of the common is, above all, a perspective of struggle launched to directly and collectively reappropriate and recover what has been taken from the hands of communities. In that sense, the common is not something that is merely inherited, but rather, primarily, it is the reiterated production of meaning and relations to collectively equip ourselves with capacities to intervene in general affairs.
This issue is overwhelming… I’ll give you a few keys for interpretation: beyond the so called “transition to democracy,” in Mexico there is a form of the political, still fully in force, based on a stark patrimonialism. Mexico is a country of monopolies and their defense by any means. In this context, the war on drugs – driven by the United Sates, and which in Mexico started mainly during the second government of Calderon’s conservative National Action Party (PAN) – forced a redefinition of the terms of one of the most profitable businesses in Mexico: the production and distribution of controlled substances. This has unleashed an authentic war on several fronts with many actors, whose possible identification is not always clear. Thus, a confrontation has generalized in which two levels can be distinguished: on the one hand, the violent struggle between mafias that exercise territorial control as a guarantee of the permanence of their business and, on the other, an underground war against the people and civilian population, which intends to compel obedience at gunpoint and adding up murders. All of this is not only very confusing but also highly dangerous. And worst of all, this authentic dissolution of state authority – in many parts of the Republic – is almost completely covered up, because it is difficult for information to circulate. What is certain is the proliferation of an infinity of local struggles of self-defense in multiple communities, localities, towns and regions. In these struggles there is hope for the reconstruction of the ruins in which we live.
It is a time for words and conversations. We need to rebuild a common sense of dissidence and of struggle, because almost all of what we managed to clarify in the previous wave of mobilizations and uprisings has been “recodified” in state terms. First there was a semantic “capture” of our words, that no longer designated with clarity what we were alluding to in times of great political crisis; that was followed by a political “capture” and later, an “organizational” capture, of the most philosophical political contents of our struggles. Because of this, it is important to refocus the discussion not so much in what the state and different governments are currently doing, but rather in what we have learned.
Dignity, for me, is always the starting point for political and moral autonomy; as well as the fissures that are imprinted on the cages of fear and distrust. It could be said, being formal, that dignity is always necessary, but not sufficient for the unfolding of struggles for social and political transformation. The “what else is needed?” constitutes, I think, the heart of the contemporary militant political debate.
2. This can be helpful in order to define more clearly what MW do. Our general project would be a sort of mapping groups and organizations in the city -sort of what we already are doing- and having conversations. We convened on the need of using more the website to publish reports and notes on those encounters. Antonio suggested some very interesting groups (Chinese Workers Center, Initiative against sweatshops, both in LES)
3. Susana just finished transcribing Oscar Oliveras’ interview. Susana and me are going to edit it in a way that is easier to translate. Begonia will ask our friend Liz for the translation.
4. We will held a “working meeting” next Sat, June 29 at the Goethe Institut. We convened it can be helpful to meet and work together on the document (working together is better that doing it alone!). I just looked at the Goethe Institut webpage and Wyoming building space seems to be free next Sat. So what aobut meeting there next Sat, from 4pm to 6pm?
(Notes taken by Vicente)]]>
Meeting Minutes 4/20/13
Attendees: John H, Thomas, Antonio S, David A, Janet M, Kara, Janet K, Susana D, Vincente, Begonia SC, Luis MC, Ina B, Babak, Isabel
1. Commons document/ toolbox
2. Brooklyn commons
4. NYC Columbia Conference (April 26-27th)
5. Visioning Session
-Exploring avenues on the World of focusing. Dynamic facilitation.
-Better listening, leading, co-leading, facilitation.
-How to exercise these skills.
What is frustrating about the dynamic of the group?
-In recent meetings and at the forum, it was difficult to co-lead the conversation.
-How the room was organized in the commons was disturbing but no one said anything.
-Vicente: we could use research methodologies
-Janet: there needs to be more discussion in the group – more debate
-John: we could have different levels of meeting – including skype
-Ina: but still we need more listening
-Begonia: we don’t need facilitators, we need to all be responsible about who speaks
-Antonio: we could do conversations about texts – about theories about the commons so we can be more critical and understand the different points of view.
-and a visioning session in which we can brainstorm everything that we would like to do
-a very relax setting to talk about where we come from, our visions, our desires – what is important for each of us
-Susana: we should put a date for this envisioning session – because sometimes we end up not doing what we said we would do
-Vicente: we should remember that we already started a conversation about what Making Worlds is doing – before Sandy – create a continuity
-Tomasso: the most important thing is networking – in the future we will be thinking more collectively – to try to include people that are not in NYC
-Susana: clarification about internal list: we cannot use it for any issue, just to discuss things concerning meetings, website
-Isabel: conference on the commons NYU-Columbia
-Kara: bring the work that we are doing to the conference
-Babak: bring students into MW
-David: right to universal education vs privatization of education
-Luis: work about how to build commons in academia
-precarious work in universities
-situation of graduate students – unions
-privatization of education – Montreal, Chile
-commodification of knowledge
-specialization of disciplines
-separation of Spanish departments from Spanish speaking migrant communities
-challenge the cooption of the word “commons” by neoliberal academia
-Vicente: in academia commons are presented like a thing – but it’s a practice
-Kara: can we link this event with May 1st
-Susana: we should have half hour after the event to see how it went
-Isabel: she needs info about the activity to give a handout
-Who is going to this? Vicente, Susana, David, Janet M?, Begonia, Marcos
-Susana: the website needs to change the home page – Luis will do it
-Janet: there are some topics that repeat themselves and that could be organized in the
-space – money – strategies of groups
-we could do a summary of each sessions – for someone who wasn’t there
-1 point person for each of the 4 sessions to edit
-Janet K – will do the 1st
-Susana – caring
-Vicente – network
-Ina and Kara- space
-Everyone can edit – while we edit we can highlight things for the toolbox
-For the next meeting we should have some ready
-David: last meeting with Melissa was focused on financial situation – and she doesn’t want to rent a whole floor to commercial
-David: two possibilities: do something very small with clear limits – just one
-or do an alternative space in NY – something big –
-216,000 total to sustain the building (including her retirement)
-Babak: to raise tht money we would need two full time staff
-Kara: the proposal is very confusing – the dynamic wouldn’t change if we still have to raise 6000 per month – it was not something that we were planning
-John: we need to make a list of questions for her
-Susana: we have a pressure now but for a project that maybe we are not going to feel ours
-John: we need to ask her if she is considering a transfer to collective ownership
-Janet K.: it’s a lot of money – we have to worry about the commons
-Luis: this project is for a bigger group of people
-Babak: the theory of what the commons is – maybe we don’t need the physical space – commons is not necessarily physical space – why all those groups left?
-John: propose another plan – it doesn’t have to be a bank
-Susana: if we don’t find more groups we can’t do it – and in a week or two we cannot form a group that can do it
-Luis – we could perhaps buy more time from Melissa, but I don’t think we can do it – that said: we need something else that allows us to create a sustainable commons, even if it’s a cultural commons, but a sustainable commons – to avoid the cooption
-Babak: transforming our institutions hospitals, universities – we are not in the position
-Vicente: personally I don’t have time – I’m not opposed, I think it’s worth exploring it, but it’s not the right moment
-John: space is important and very difficult to get in NYC – we have to understand the compromises that you have to do to get a space – we could go to philantropists and grants – like Fractured Atlas – membership, rentals, activities – he can commit one or two days
-Marcos: MW alone cannot do it – fundraising requires become a 501-c3 – Fractured Atlas offer fiscal sponsorship: you work under their status for fundraising
-Kara: we can’t do it alone – struck by George’s provocation: sell the building and take the commons to some other place – very excited about Club 99 –
-Janet K: a huge commitment of energy – I agree that space is important
-Janet M: was ready to commit myself, but I don’t what our role and Melissa’s would be
-Ina: got pretty energized – but felt taken aback by her reactions to us – what she offered was not cleared – we would be joining her in a transition but we don’t know what – maybe we need a commons of knowledge, maybe we don’t need space. – but I would love to find another place
-Begonia: it’s going to be a burden – but I have mixed feelings – of course we more people – we would become a business – we were thinking of possibilities – the only solution would be to do a café, but then we wouldn’t have space for other things
-Susana: can we use the toolbox as a research for finding a space?
-Kara: we can still help with the fundraising even if we don’t want to get involved in the project – find support within the community
-Ina: to continue enticing people around the idea of finding space
-do some outreach in Occupy – try to raise at least part of 60,000]]>