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(en) [Coppied from: nycanarchists] Tears of Inspiration from Argentina

From moose <moose000@earthlink.net>
Date Thu, 10 Apr 2003 19:48:04 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> From: "marina sitrin" <marina_1@earthlink.net>
Each day since I arrived in Buenos Aires, my eyes have at
least once filled with tears. Tears that are not of sadness,
yet neither are they reflective of an absolute or complete
joy. They are complicated tears, tears of inspiration from
the creation taking place all around, tears of sadness and
frustration for the pain and hunger caused by the economic
crisis, tears of intense contradictions, tears of a new
beginning, incredulous tears, tears for the future, tears
for the present. Beautiful tears.

It has been difficult over these last few weeks to write of
my experiences thus far. I am overwhelmed in so many ways
and search for words that do not come. Many people with whom
I have spoken talk of the need for a new vocabulary, a new
language. I more than agree. In light of that new language
being in its infancy, I will try to summarize with words a
few of my experiences thus far.

Argentina right now is easily the most inspiring place I
have ever been. Folks reading this remember what it feels
like to participate in spokes councils before global justice
mobilizations, from Seattle to Washington. Take that grain
and multiply it, add people from every social, economic and
political background, make it not only reactive, but pro
active/creative, take the question of subject and place it
in the fore, along with questions of power and autonomy.
Change the subject matter from a demonstration to running a
factory, or keeping a neighbor from getting evicted, to
organizing against the elections, to running a collective
kitchen or sometimes discussing what autonomy means or how
to maintain a horizontal group, questioning power and how
and where it can meet and diverge with leadership. (I am
speaking mainly about the neighborhood assemblies
(asambleas), factories that have been taken back by workers
and the Movements of Unemployed Workers (MTDs.)

I have already met and spoken at great length with dozens
and dozens of people. I could not, at this moment, relate
all my experiences.

Many of the conversations revolve around the politics of
horizontalism, which is, as it sounds, horizontal as opposed
to vertical, or hierarchical organizing. People describe it
as direct democracy, where everyone has a voice and
participates as equals. One young woman told me that she
feels more heard and complete than ever before through
participating in her asemblea, many heads nodded. There are
people who hold responsibility, but are not in charge.
Everyone makes a line with their two hands, gesturing a
horizontal line not a pyramid, which is indicated with two
hands making a point or triangle at the top. Direct
democracy and horizontalism are so logical here, that people
often give me a funny look when I ask them to describe it. I
have to ask folks to remember how politics worked before the
19th and 20th of December, to then think of how to explain
it to people from other places. The last year here has been
a long one.

Last week I went to the Hotel Bauen where worker had their
first asamblea since taking over the building. (It was/is a
five star hotel in the center of the city.) They are not
only occupying it, but are going to run it collectively and
plan to open it in two months. The owners left almost 2
years ago and some of the workers have been meeting since.
They have received a lot of support from the network, and I
do mean network, of Occupied Factories. While the actual
asamblea of the workers was closed, dozens of supporters
from various asambleas and occupied factories waited for
them in the lobby. (Again, imagine here the lobby of a five
star hotel filled with workers and students, old and young,
sitting around talking vision and creation.) At the end of
the asamblea, a group of workers from the network sang a
song, accompanied by a grand piano from the piano bar. The
chorus is "We are the future and the present, to resist and
to occupy". It goes on with more inspiring lyrics.
(Somewhere between 150 and 200 factories are now being
occupied and run by the workers, the form ranges from
occupations like Zanon or Brukman, to occupations that then
ask for a judicial nod and become collectives. Currently
Zanon is under threat of eviction. See indymedia Argentina.)

I participated in an asamblea a few nights ago that really
took my breath away. It is/was in large part what I dream of
seeing in neighborhoods around the world. I don't know if
folks can imagine what it is to see direct democracy and
horizontalism in action, but I am here and it is still hard
to imagine. Between 75 and 100 people met on a street corner
under the banner of the asamblea. There is a coordinator
(facilitator of sorts) that has a mic, there is a sound
system and it begins with anyone putting out topics for
conversation. One of the things discussed and debated was
the upcoming elections. After some discussion all agreed
that they are a farce. They then agreed to help organize a
carnival with various other neighborhoods to both point to
the farce, as well as show what "democracy looks like." Also
discussed was how to help a neighbor who is under threat of
eviction, as well as other day-to-day matters in the
neighborhood. There was also a discussion of the discussions
themselves and what they mean, in the sense of if people
agree to do something, do they have to do those things, what
does it mean to agree. One person wanted a way to make
things binding which then opened the conversation as to what
direct democracy and horizontalism means to them
individually and collectively. All agreed that there could
be no formal mechanism. There was then a group that started
the chant/song "Que se Vayan Todos". It was more than
beautiful. It gave me such confidence. A number of people
have told me that their dream is that not only for
Argentina, but also for the world to function with their
version of local asambleas, autonomous and connected,
directly democratic and horizontal. I not only share the
dream, but have more confidence than ever that it can and
will happen.

Yesterday I attended an encuentro of autonomous asambleas
and MTDs. Autonomous is stressed here because a few of the
groups are dominated by left political parties. There were
people there from many dozens of asambleas and MTDs. There
was a general conversation in which folks decided on topics
around which to generally speak, and then the group broke
out into many smaller ones so that all could have an
opportunity to speak. In the end all came back together to
relate the conversations in the smaller groups and have an
open conversation on all that was discussed. The topics
ranged from the war, to the politics of autonomy and
horizontalism, to the upcoming elections. In many ways the
conversations were a way to work together and network, as
well as discuss theory. Again, I am afraid that words do not
work to relate the power and scope of the conversations.
This was not a conference; it was an exchange between people
from around Buenos Aires who are working toward a more
general direct democracy.

There has been some discussion about the fact that there are
fewer people participating in the asambleas than before. (We
are still talking about dozens and dozens of asambleas in
almost every neighborhood that meet weekly, and are very
active, though there used to be hundreds.) Many respond to
this with an understanding that movements shift and change.
While there is a decrease in the number of people meeting
each week on the street or in an occupied space, there is
also an increase in the number of factories that are being
taken over by workers. All is a process, as I am told.

I smile now. I could write so much more. I am working on a
book that is based on interviews and is looking at the
politics of direct democracy and horizontalism. I hope
through the voices of those participating in the movements
to help reflect what is being created. The book will be both
in Spanish and English, and will hopefully inspire those
around the world, as I, and many many others are being inspired.

Back to tears. It is not only my eyes that fill with tears.
I have interviewed many people, and after talking for a long
time, we get to how it feels personally, what is being
created. It is not just a few people who at that moment get
teary, smile and sort of shake their heads, also

Con Amor, Imaginacion, y Autonomia,

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