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(en) After S26 - ya basta interview

From dr woooo <vornman@excite.com>
Date Wed, 1 Nov 2000 04:27:12 -0500 (EST)


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ya basta interview


                     An interview I did recently with a friend from the
Italian Ya Basta network is at the following temporary URL -

                     http://www.geocities.com/swervedc/yabasta.html

Changing the World (One Bridge At A Time)?

                   Ya Basta after Prague

  =

Changing the World (One Bridge At A Time)?

            Ya Basta after Prague

You probably saw them on TV: a phalanx of Michelin men
and women trying to push their way through police lines at
s26. With its origins in the Italian movement of
self-managed social centres, the Ya Basta network is fast
becoming known across the global anti-capitalist
movement. From its decision a few years back to stand for
municipal elections on green and communist party tickets,
to its role in Prague, Ya Basta has been no stranger to
controversy within the radical left. Here Steve Wright talks
with Hobo from Radio Sherwood (http://www.sherwood.it),
a media project that is closely linked to Ya Basta. =


What are the origins of Ya Basta and the tute
bianche? What are their connections to the social
centres movement in Italy? =


Ya Basta and tute bianche are not synonyms. The =91Ya
Basta!=92 association (http://www.yabasta.it) is a network of
many groups across many Italian cities. It was formed after
Italian militants participated in the first Encuentro in
Chiapas in 1996. It has the dual purpose of supporting the
Zapatista struggle and of spreading the deep meaning of
the struggles against neo-liberalism in Europe. In 1998,
most Ya Basta militants also joined the emerging
movement called the tute bianche (white overalls). This
comprises young people from the social centres,
unemployed and casual workers, people searching for their
first job, all united against the pressure of neo-liberalism,
asking for a universal basic income, but also asking for
better conditions of life for everybody. White overalls were
chosen as a strong image to symbolize the condition of
invisibility imposed upon all those people forced to live
without guarantees, without social security, on the margins
of a =91normal=92 life. =


How did Ya Basta become involved in S26? How was
the demonstration organised? =


As I said, Ya Basta is not only a support network of the
Zapatista movement, but also accepts their principles of
democracy, dignity and humanity as universal categories in
an increasingly globalised world. So it wants to affirm these
principles in Europe as well. Neo-liberalism is the same,
the multinationals are the same, the few people (World
Bank, IMF, etc.) who rule the whole world are the same . .
=2E the battle we have to fight is the same, in Chiapas as in
Seattle or in Prague. So s26 in Prague was the first
important occasion to send a signal in Europe of a real
resistance to the plans of globalised capital. Ya Basta and
tute bianche were involved from last summer in the
meetings held in Prague to organize the demonstrations
and direct actions (by the way, some of the Italian were
rejected at the Czech border because they had taken part
in these meetings). =


We decided to reach Prague by train, given the large
number of people involved. We had done this for earlier
Euro-demonstrations in Amsterdam and Paris, =91squatting=92 a
thousand seats in a train and affirming our right to freely
demonstrate wherever in Europe. This time we didn=92t want
to spend most of our energy in defending our right to leave,
so we negotiated an agreement with the railways and we
paid a nominal =91political price=92 to get a train for Prague. =


But things didn=92t go so well at the Czech border. The train
was blocked for almost two days by the police, who wanted
to reject a number of people as persona non grata. Finally,
after international media attention was focussed on the
case, the demonstrators were allowed to reach Prague. =


What led to the decision to use padding and shielding
at demonstrations? How successful has this tactic
proved to be? =


For years our practice of self-defence has been
instrumentalised by the media. Every time the police
charged a legitimate and peaceful march or demonstration,
it was always the fault of =91the autonomists=92. The papers
would carry headlines like =91violence returns to the streets=92,
=91the years of lead are back=92, or =91urban guerrilla warfare
again=92. We realised that the communication of events often
modifies things more than the events themselves. We
decided to send strong images and signals that left no
doubts as to intentions. So we invented, rummaging
through ancient history, systems of protective apparel, like
plexiglass shields used tortoise-style, foam rubber =91armour=92,
and inner-tube cordons to ward off police batons. All things
that were visible and clearly for defensive purposes only.
We wanted people to understand on which side lay reason,
and who had started the violence. When we decide to
disobey the rules imposed by the bosses of neo-liberalism,
we do it by putting our bodies on the line, full stop. People
can see images on the TV news that can=92t be manipulated:
a mountain of bodies that advances, seeking the least
harm possible to itself, against the violent defenders of an
order that produces wars and misery. And the results are
visible, people understand this, the journalists can=92t invent
lies that contradict the images; last but not least, the
batons bounce off the padding. But the question goes
beyond the purely practical aspect and is symptomatic of
what we call =91bio-politics=92, the new form of opposition to
power (cf. Foucault). =


This is what Judith Revel writes in the first issue of Posse,
a new Italian journal edited by Toni Negri: =91Comrades
dressed up in inner tubes. The papers are wrong to talk of
shields: that is, of a defensive armament. There were
shields present, but what=92s striking is the attempt to
interpose between bodies -- the bodies of demonstrators,
the bodies of police agents -- an element that blocks both
visibility and contact. That is, one that affirms its own
political space as something no longer disciplinary, but
rather bio-political. The bio-political is a form of politics that,
from within the post-disciplinary paradigm of control,
reconstructs the possibility of a collective acting. The
danger lies in mistaking the epoch, returning to the only
collective acting that we believe we know: that of
face-to-face, the facing off which is so clearly a part of the
old conflict-form of discipline. The padding on the
comrades=92 bodies signifies instead the passage to another
political grammar=92. =


How do you respond to those critics (e.g.
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/353/pragues26.html)
who accuse Ya Basta of manipulating other
demonstrators during the encounter with police in
Prague? =


I don=92t believe that anyone was manipulated by anyone
else. There were affinity groups, and everyone freely and
consciously chose what to do and with whom. We don=92t
think that anyone, including ourselves, has a monopoly on
the truth. Each does what they consider most useful and
effective. Some sections of the demonstration, such of
those involving these critics, were few in number, whereas
during the demonstration our numbers grew. Other
comrades chose to join our section: not only tute bianche
or Italians, but also anarchists and trotskyists of various
countries and nationalities. Clearly the vetero-communist
vision of some, linked to a strictly marxist-leninist style of
politics, has stopped them from seeing past their own
noses. We have no grounds for reproaching other sections
of the demonstration that engaged in direct action
elsewhere in the city, just as most of them have nothing to
reproach us for. On the contrary, we wish that there had
been many more of them, so that we could have forced the
police blockades. But probably even all together we
wouldn=92t have succeeded. We did our bit, what we had
decided upon in the joint assembly, committing a huge
number of police in a face off on the bridge with continuous
charges, resisting and advancing. =


Can s26 be considered a success? What comes next?

In terms of Europe, it was certainly a success. The forum
ended a day early because of the curfew atmosphere
created in Prague. The movements from across Europe
finally found themselves together, visible and determinate
against an economic globalisation that threatens to create
a dual society. For Europe Prague was the beginning, but
in the minds of everyone were memories of Seattle,
Washington, Melbourne . . . This begins to confirm the
validity of a new way of finding ourselves side by side in
the world=92s streets, confronting global problems. =


The next leg for us will probably be Nice, where an EU
summit is to be held in early December, to formalise a
European bill of rights. A sort of constitution, although
much more for economic investors than people, neglecting
a good part of the social problems that afflict Europe. =


What are Ya Basta=92s connections to other radical
circles in Europe and beyond? =


We have many contacts in several European countries:
Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Finland, to name a few.
Back in 1997 we held a European meeting in Venice,
where we presented to others our program -- borrowed
from the Zapatista struggle -- of fighting for a =91Social
Europe=92, where people not money come first. In a sense,
that was the first step in our current direction, trying to
escape the isolation which many radical groups found
themselves in, and to connect with vast parts of what
Marcos calls =91civil society=92. =


Relations between Ya Basta and some other circles in
the Italian movement became increasingly strained in
the late nineties, with strong disagreements about
orientation and activity. What were the terms of this
debate, and have relations improved in the meantime?

We chose to abandon ideologies, others didn=92t. The split
can be very simply defined in this sense. Our analysis of
the current world has led us to consider some aspects of
this society -- like the profound modification of the
production system, the dominant role of information, the
importance of the environment and other themes until now
considered more =91social=92 than =91political=92 -- and to act
accordingly, trying to cut the chains that tied us too tightly
to marxist orthodoxy. We=92ve always been heretics anyway,
believing that you must have the courage to change and to
follow new paths when you suspect that they could lead to
results. =


Other groups, more tied to traditional ways of
understanding marxism and politics, don=92t agree with us.
Some of them accuse us of being =91reformist=92 or
=91media-fixated=92 (implying that we live in a virtual world).
Recently, though, we have seen a point of commonality in
the struggles we are doing together, a sort of
re-acquaintance with people who can appreciate the big
results obtained by our struggles, from forcing the closure
of immigrant detention centres in Milan and Trieste, to the
symbolic blocking of NATO bases in the Veneto -- which
reopened debate about the Balkans war -- to the ship in
solidarity with Albanians and against the criminalisation of
immigrants (the first sailing demo!), to the recent Prague
demo. =


Within the Veneto region, Ya Basta and Radio
Sherwood are two aspects of a broader network. Can
you tell us something about the other organisations
they=92re connected with? =


Radio Sherwood has now evolved into something more
complex: the =91Sherwood Communications Agency=92. This
involves a massive use of the internet (Sherwood Tribune),
along with the ability to intervene in the media, so as to
give voice and visibility to the whole network, from Ya
Basta and the social centres to ADL and Razzismo Stop. =


ADL (Workers Defence Association,
http://www.adl-cobas.org) is a bit like a union, although
rather different from the traditional form of European
unions. It has more than one thousands members in the
region, organised in twenty workplace collectives, and is
affiliated to the radical union confederation CUB. Its main
activity is legal defence for workers, while its political
activity is very similar to that of the tute bianche. Razzismo
Stop (http://www.sherwood.it/r-stop) is an association for
the defence of immigrant rights; it works side by side with
immigrants to spread a new culture. It offers legal advice
and concrete aid, from Italian language courses to
welcome camps for refugees from ex-Yugoslavia, as well
as social and educational activities for detained immigrants.
Over the years it=92s become a real reference point of
anti-racism, even for some institutions. Razzismo Stop has
always been in the front line opposing expulsions and
detention camps for immigrants, linking its daily social
programs to a strong political activity. =


_____________ =


Uploaded 28 October 2000. This interview will shortly be
appearing in the new web zine Aut.


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