This is the first part of a series of discussions on movement perspectives, written for Z sustainer program, and as a part of my forthcoming book, Global Movement.
Ezequiel Adamovsky is an anti-capitalist writer and activist. He has written books and articles published in Argentina and other countries. He is currently member of the Popular Assemblies’ movement in Buenos Aires.
What is the movement?
I think "the movement" is only in the making. For the moment, it is nothing but the multitude of local movements and people committed in different ways to defend life from capitalist aggression, and who are beginning to realize that some sort of global articulation is needed, and to explore ways to do so. The movement is our desire to make the movement come true; it is diffuse, but powerful at the same time.
I believe we are witnessing the first steps of a new wave in the history of human emancipation. The movement draws from a long tradition of anti-capitalist struggles, but it is also new and different in many ways. However, its new features are still hard to perceive, and we can only guess what it will look like. For my forthcoming book Anticapitalismo para Principiantes (Anti-capitalism for Beginners), I made the effort to imagine how the movement will be, and in which respects it will distance itself from that tradition. I have summarized the key "mutations" of the movement in eight "words":
1 : Counterpower and Autonomy
The new anti-capitalism seems to have a less naÃ¯ve approach to power. We no longer believe that the key to changing the world is as simple as "seizing the power". For all its differences, the Leninist, Social-democratic and "national liberation" traditions had one view in common: that we need to gain control over the state first, and then change society from above. But things do not seem to be so simple for us any more. For power is not located in the national states alone, but disseminated throughout society (including our minds).
Moreover, it is not very much constrained by national boundaries. In other words, if we "storm the Winter Palace" today, we would not "have the power" as a result, but only a nice empty building.
But also, the traditional left failed to see that, in trying to "seize power", political parties and movements often end up reproducing and expanding structures of power, rather than struggling against them. Leninist and social-democratic parties alike tended to reinforce the people’s passivity and/or authoritarian practices, instead of contributing to liberate and empower all of them equally. Power is not a "neutral" tool that you simply use for any purpose (whether good of evil), but always an unfair and oppressive type of relationship.
In order to overcome these shortcomings, the new anti-capitalism seems to be more interested in undermining power than in accumulating it for its own designs. In other words, the new anti-capitalism struggles not to "seize power", but avoid being "seized by power". This means to build and expand autonomy, that is, our capacity to live according to our own rules. In this respect, the "new world" is not only what comes in the future, after the revolution, but what we create every day while we struggle for our lives and rights.
The traditional left tended to believe that there was one and only one "privileged subject" -the working class- who, due to the special role it played in society, would lead the whole of humankind to emancipation. All the other groups -women, students, aborigines, gays, ecologists, and so on- were meant to "follow" the working class, and somehow "renounce" or at least "postpone" their own needs and interests. The "worker’s revolution", it was said, would bring liberation for all.
As a result of such belief, the diversity of interests and social identities was often repressed or forced to adapt to the worker’s plans -actually, to the doctrine and party that were supposed to "represent" the workers.
On the contrary, the new anti-capitalism does not seek to enforce one and only one identity, doctrine, or project, for no group is considered to be more important that the others. For the new anti-capitalism it is not a matter of unifying and achieving homogeneity, but of negotiating and articulating differences on an equal basis. The more voices, styles, ideas, interests the movement has, the stronger it will grow. Far from being a handicap, multiplicity is the very source of our strength.
3: Globalization from below; Horizontality and networks
In order to struggle against power and for autonomy, while encouraging multiplicity, the new movements are exploring new forms to organize and make decisions. The new anti-capitalism tends to reject the hierarchical and centralized organizations typical of the traditional left. Many of the new movements prefer to make decisions in "horizontal" ways, that is, ways in which nobody has more say that the rest, and there is no permanent distinction between leaders and followers.
Likewise, different groups coordinate actions through flexible and voluntary networks, rather than centralized or "rigid" institutions. This permits to reach wide consensus, which do not rely on the enforcement of a single identity or political "program".
The global nature of capitalist domination is more evident now that it ever was. That is why the networks that the movement is weaving seek to go beyond national boundaries and identities; I believe we are witnessing the beginnings of a real "globalization from below".
4: Direct Action and Creativity
Another feature of the new movement is that it employs a "plurality of tactics". However, the methods of direct action and civil disobedience seem to be preferred, especially when democracy and so-called "representative" governments are more and more unwilling to address the needs and interests of the vast majorities. In the new anti-capitalism, political action and artistic creation are intimately linked: after all, both art and resistance are about creating new worlds and expanding the limits of the possible.
In Argentina, more and more movements are organizing in the ways I have just described, specially after the rebellion of the 19th and 20th of December 2001.
The peasants of the MoCaSE occupy private lands and set up their own autonomous communities in one of the poorest areas of the country.
The unemployed of the MTD AnÃbal Verón blockade roads and organize collective forms of production with the subsidies they gain from the government.
The neighbors of some cities gather in Asambleas Populares (Popular Assemblies) and engage in direct action of many types. Industrial workers in some factories, like Brukman (textile) and Zanón (ceramics), refuse to become unemployed when the owners decide to withdraw their capital; instead, they occupy the plants, kick the managers out, and run production themselves.
New unions, like SiMeCa, reject the bureaucratic methods of the "official" unions and decide in horizontal ways, just like the peasants, unemployed, and neighbors.
Students, independent journalists, artists, aborigines, and other groups explore similar ways to organize, create, and resist. Little by little, strong networks are being built, not only between all these groups in Argentina, but also with similar movements abroad.
Although Argentina is special in that it was completely ruined by neoliberal policies and a strong popular reaction took place, I believe similar movements are mushrooming all over the world. These are still weak, and to a great extent remain poorly interconnected in the global and even in the local level. But I have no doubts that "the movement" is already happening. In its forms and contents, in its methods, values, and forms of organization, the new movement anticipates the society of the future. That is, I think, what will make it irresistible in the next years.
*Ezequiel Adamovsky (1971) is an anti-capitalist writer and activist.
* Andrej Grubacic is a historian and social critic, from Belgrade , post-Yugoslavia; author of the book Globalization of the Refusal. He can be reached at [email protected]