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(en) Argentina Autonomous Communities - News

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 11 Dec 2003 11:06:13 +0100 (CET)


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In July this year, activists from the autonomous communities in Argentina toured
the UK. Graciela Monteagudo updates us on what they've been doing since that time.
dear friends: i hope this email finds our well and strong. we have a bunch of
exciting news to share with you:
a) international autonomist encuentro in Buenos Aires, Argentina - January 8 to
the 11, 2004
b) upcoming delegations to Argentina: January 12-21
March 6 -14 with the People United (www.peopleunited.org)
c) upcoming aap activities in the neighborhood of Solano, Buenos Aires -
January/March 2004
d) autonomista tour in october 2004: members of popular assemblies, recuperated
factories and unemployed workers movements
e) dreams: build a puppet show in Palestine, South Africa, Bolivia and
Argentina and tour it worldwide with women from these countries
f) narrative of the automous caravan and the aap tour, from montreal to the
ftaa protests in miami and the soa protests in georgia

a,b and c) please check our website for more info about the encuentro, the
upcoming delegations and the workshops in solano about domestic violence and
art and activism.

d) autonomista tour in october 2004 - we are already starting to book our new
tour. We will keep the format we've been using so far. "que se vayan tod@s, a
cardboard piece" as a historical introduction to argentina. then, our speakers
will dialogue with the audience. For this tour we intend to bring over members
of the popular assemblies, recuperated factories and movement of unemployed
workers. we will bring as many women as we can. we would like to tour the east
coast, but also the west coast, if at all possible.


e) dreams: we are beginning to plan a new production. We would like to go with
a group of artists to Palestine, South Africa, Bolivia and Argentina. We would
build scenes of a puppet show about the social movements and autonomy in each
of these countries. Once the show or shows are finished, we will first tour
them to different social movements in the countries we are building them and
then, once we have all the pieces together, we will tour it internationally
with a woman from each country speaking about their struggle. We are looking
for funding and support for this exciting project. Please let us know if you
can be of help with any part of it.

f) we just finished touring with the autonomous caravan. we started out in
montreal and tour our way down to miami and the soa in georgia. it took us a
month. although it was quite hard at times, it was also wicked fun. we met tons
of really cool people along the way. we want to thank everybody that
collaborated with us, from students, faculty and community members that raised
money and did publicity to the folks who opened their homes to us, from those
who asked great questions during the presentations to all of you who attended
and or helped spread the word! a rather longish narrative follows, hope you
have the time to read it.

the enemy is not that big, we just look at it from our knees! (a graffity in
buenos aires)
amor y autonomia!
graciela


Autonomous Women in the World
by Graciela Monteagudo in collaboration with Mark Brown*
translated by Joseph Huff-Hannon
Argentina Autonomista Project


On March 26, 2003, I participated with some two thousand other companeros in a
protest outside the house of Eduardo Duhalde, then President of Argentina,
responsible for the Avellaneda massacre. On June 26, 2002, two members of the
unemployed workers movement, Maxi Kosteki and Darío Santillán, were executed
by the police during a brutal repression of a road blockade at the Pueyrredon
Bridge, which separates the capital city from the province. When we arrived at
the front of the police fence that separated us from Duhalde’s house, we
found ourselves in front of various lines of police in combat gear. In front,
near the fence, were the female police officers, led by a female sergeant.

Mabel Kosteki, Maxi’s mom, approached the fence, along with the mother of
Darío, and with the mothers of the victims of the trigger-happy police. They
asked the female police officers: "Don't you realize that your companeras are
on this side of the fence? Don't you realize that on your side are the
assassins? They also asked them if they didn't also have sons or daughters.
While some of the women police officers cried, the sergeant marched furiously
up and down the line, police baton in hand. Many on our side
yelled "bitches/whores" at the police. I asked the women on our side if they
didn't see that the problem was that that they were cops; Whores are not
assasins. A woman said to me that it was about time that there was a little
feminism in these protests. That woman was Neka Jara, from the unemployed
workers movement of Solano.

I had been searching her out for a long time because I had wanted to invite her
to participate in a tour of Europe and the United States. I was
particularly interested in the work done by the MTD Solano because of
the connection between the autonomous projects (gardens, a
shoe-making workshop) with direct action. After having participated in
the struggles of the 80s and early 90s in Argentina, I had moved to the United
States to work with street theater. After Seattle, I dedicated myself full time
to producing theater during the protests and street events. This put me in
contact with a lot of people in the anti-globalization movement, in the United
States and in Europe.

When the "piquetes" (road blockades) started in the mid-90s in Argentina, I
started to follow the process. It seemed interesting to see the objective
connection between the horizontal forms of organizing and direct democracy that
were being used in the struggles in Chiapas, as in Seattle, as in the road-
blockades in the north and south of Argentina. When the insurrection of
December 2001 came to pass with the cry of "Que se vayan todos" (they all must
go), an international spotlight was shone on Argentina and people from other
countries flocked there to participate in and study the phenomenon.

When the repression hit on the Pueyrredon Bridge, on June 26, 2002, I was in
Calgary, Canada. I was helping to organize the giant puppets that we were to
use at the protest of the meetings of the G-8. The reaction of the activists
there to the news of the repression left a bitter taste in my
mouth. They wrote them a declaration of solidarity. I began to think that
there had to be a way to establish personal relationships between the argentine
movement and the rest of the world. So I began to organize visits to Buenos
Aires for community artists and activists, and to plan visits of compañeras
from Argentina to come to the United States. Many of the projects involve the
production of puppets and shows as a way to share histories and experiences. We
call this effort the argentina autonomista project.

The first tour that I organized I did by myself, because the women whom I had
invited from the unemployed workers movement were unable to get their passports
on time. But I brought with me a puppet show, a collective creation between
myself and two Italian artists, Damiano Giambelli and Cristina Discaciatti.
Before taking it on tour, we brought it to assemblies and discussions in and
around Buenos Aires, opening up a debate about the show. We then re-wrote the
show to reflect this process of debate and consultation.

Thanks to the work of the London support group for Peoples' Global Action
(PGA), Neka and I traveled to the United Kingdom in June 2003. The tour lasted
a month. We visited an impressive list of social centers in England, Scotland
and Wales. We were also invited to a conference in Dublin, Ireland.

The experience of the massive mobilizations against the war in Iraq was still
fresh, directed by the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite group. Despite
being massive, the permitted, tamed protests were not enough to force the Blair
government to withdraw from the war.

These mobilizations constrasted sharply with the mass Reclaim the Streets (RTS)
actions of the late 1990's. At this time, there were also widespread direct
actions carried out to stop the construction of freeways and communities. In an
effort to avoid the destruction that the roads would cause, hundreds of people
climbed into the trees and houses marked for clearing and demolition. In
London, RTS had evolved into a situationist-inspired challenge to the
capitalist status quo, peaking
in 1999 with a highly successful mass action. On that 18th of June, London
Reclaim the Streets organized the Carnival Against Capital in the City of
London. "We are Everywhere" (1) narrates how the city was occupied by 10,000
people wearing carnival masks, who evaded the police line and managed not only
to flood the basement of the London International Financial Futures Exchange,
but enjoyed a huge party while completely paralizing their financial activities
during that day.

Due to internal political tensions and state repression, London Reclaim the
Streets was forced to reorganize. We noticed an obvious tension between those
who were deeply committed to direct action, glorifying it as the only useful
tool in the struggle, and those who were trying to open themselves up to
experiences of community building, without leaving direction action to the
side. Currently in Europe the People's Global Action process is focussing on
the setting up of infopoints, which are places where people can go to find out
more about PGA (ie. global and local resistance) in an attempt to get their
ideas and actions out into the world, to forge new relationships and to
sidestep the possibility of our being turned into 'terrorists'. Sharing the
experiences from Solano was very important in this context.

It was also interesting to compare the different alternative cultures.
As a rule, the uk activists live in pockets outside of the system, and generate
a culture of resistance from these spaces. In many cases they squat in
abandoned factories or big houses, some choosing to live without electricity,
or by generating their own energy. Many don't travel by plane, so as not to
participate in the climate chaos-inducing effect of airplanes. In the future we
will have to see how some of these practices jive with the necessity of the
movement to grow and leave the confines of a certain social sector.

While we were in Manchester, I thought again about how it would be worth it to
bring an unemployed worker organizer, a "piquetera", on tour in North America.
But I was also starting to realize that in these tours the
conditions can be quite hard. Each night we slept in the house of a
different person in a different city, ate what we could along the route, and
traveled hours and hours by car. Of course we were also often welcomed with
incredible food and lively parties, but in general it was quite difficult.
But the relationship that Neka and I formed was very strong. Without the
emotional support that she offered me, perhaps we would not have been able to
finish the tour. During that time in the UK was when I began to question
myself; with whom, and exactly why did I feel the need to be doing these tours?

What determines it all in the end is hope. In Solano there is a sense of hope.
And in the subjectivity of Neka, in her sensibility, in her way of being a
woman and in her sense of duty, I established a personal tie and a feeling of
solidarity with Solano and with the autonomous movement.

Talking with friends in the United Sates, we came to the conclusion that the
best scenario would be for Neka to come on tour for the occasion of the
protests against the FTAA in Miami, and against the School of the Americas, in
Georgia. A month long tour through universities and community centers on the
East Coast of Canada and the United States was the most logical way to finance
the visit. At the same time it could help to spread the word about "the party
to end the FTAA" in Miami, and the need to close down the U.S. military school
for international terrorists.

And ever since the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre had pushed the social
movements towards the edges, opening up their main stage to politicians such as
Lula and Chavez, a group of compañeros in Brazil and the US were
simultaneously planning a similar tour for the same time frame as we were. So
we decided to unify our efforts and call the project the "Autonomous Movements
Caravan". Many people from Brazil and Argentina traveled as delegates on the
tour. Amongst the group were: Giulius Cesari Aprigio of the Green Alternative
Collective (CAVE) from Santos Brazil; Alessandro Campos from Acao Local for
Justicia Global from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Hiparidi of the Xavante tribe from Mato
Grosso, Brazil; Daniela Batista Lima, of the Associacao Wara; and Soledad from
the unemployed workers movement of La Matanza, Argentina.

Getting visas for the delegates to travel to the U.S. was not easy. But we had
learned something from past mistakes, and finally Neka was able to obtain a
visa. At the last minute the Chilean police complicated the whole scenario by
detaining two members of MTD Solano, Neka's movement, in a protest against the
eviction of a Mapuche community in southern Chile. Finally, thanks to pressure
from human rights organizations, the companeros were released and Neka was able
to join the caravan as we reached New York City.

In Manhattan we felt that we were right in the midst of the contradictions of
the system. Soledad, from La Matanza, said that the blinding yellow lights of
the city were an artifice to impress us. We slept in an activist's living room
in the Lower East Side. We went out to smoke on the balcony, from where you
could see Wall Street, and we imagined the thousands of workers covered in
ashes that had fled from the hell of the twin towers. One of our events was at
New York University, the same university where Domingo Cavallo, ex-Economy
minister of Argentina, lectures. Another event was in the offices of Community
Voices Heard, where a homeless man, almost toothless, clearly explained to us
the relationship between the thousands of poor people who survive on the
streets at the heart of the system, and the corporate globalization of the
world.

In many cities along the way we met people who had been to Argentina. We shared
our mate with them, and also with some other people in some
surprising situations, like a women in a Quaker reunion. The Quakers
offered us housing in their retreat center near Philadelphia. We spoke with
them about the problems of unemployment and destruction of the environment,
about the politics of neoliberalism. Some of them were going down to Miami for
the large protests against the FTAA. All of them had participated in the
movement against the war.

In Miami we marched with the Immokalee coalition, made up for the most part of
illegal workers, mostly Latinos. Neka denounced the politics of hunger and
exclusion of the FTAA in a popular tribunal, in which Naomi Klein was one of
the judges.

Neka, Giulius and Alessandro talked with the spokescouncil on Wednesday night.
Neka saluted their corage and their struggle. It was quite moving. Some members
of the caravan participated in a direct action at 7:00 am on the next day, the
20th of November. Others, who were in the country with a tourist visa, were
unable to come for security reasons. The call to action had come out of the
spokes council, the central organ of the most radical groups. The goal was to
knock down the police fence. The FTAA, just like other international
organizations like the IMF and the World Bank, design policies that effect
masses of people. Nevertheless, they always meet to negotiate behind closed
doors and in secret. For a long time now the movement has been trying to knock
down those police fences that have come to symbolize that exclusion.

The windows of Starbucks seemed especially unprotected. Nevertheless, the
police that surrounded us in that corner didn't make any effort to protect the
storefronts, which are normally guarded tightly by police lines during these
direct actions. In any case, the movement wasn't duped into provocation, and
there was not one broken window in the whole city of Miami.

This did not seem to impact John Timoney, super-cop, the butcher of the
protesters at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia in July of 2000.
Without blinking an eye he went on TV and explained that violent demonstrators
had been using tear gas. He personally claimed to have been gassed by
demonstrators!

In fact the police repression started early that day, with a savage attack
against peaceful demonstrators which continued into the next day, all over
Miami. Demonstrators were shot at with rubber bullets. With a special fund of
$8 million dollars, the police were equipped with concussion grenades, tazers,
clubs, and various types of gas. There were tanks, armored cars, and
helicopters throughout the city.

The result was over 250 compañeros detained, 100 injured, 12 hospitalized –
two in intensive therapy. All sort of abuse were reported from within the
jails, including death threats and sexual assault. It is clear that we are
beginning to see the practical application of the Homeland Security doctrine,
here, in the U.S.

We traveled all the next day to arrive at the protest at the gates of the
School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia. Over a decade ago, a group of
priests and nuns began to enter the military base, denouncing the program of
torture and disappearance that the US school teaches to Latin American soldiers
and Generals. Prominent graduates of the School include Manuel Noriega of
Panama, and Galtieri and Massera of Argentina. The first two are enshrined in
the school's ˜Hall of Honor". With the passage of time, people from the anti-
globalization movement have become more involved in this movement, and more and
more activists are arrested during the civil disobedience actions every year.

Neka, Giulius, and Alessandro spoke from the stage, set up in front of the
base. The demonstration lasted all day of a peaceful Saturday. There was music,
speakers, and a huge show, made of up hundreds of performers, prepared by ˜The
Puppetistas", a group of us who are artists and activists from all over the
United States. At nightfall we presented our show ˜Que se vayan tod@s: A
cardboard piece". In the words of Joseph Huff-Hannon (one of our incredible
translators, and a member of Naomi Klein's documentary team in Buenos Aires)
the tour wouldn't have been complete without an outlaw puppet show. With the
excuse of obeying the fire code, the local police kicked first us out of the
hotel where we were performing. They then kicked us out of the parking lot
where we had gone to continue the show, and finally threatened to arrest us if
we didn't all disperse from the sidewalk. In an assembly we discussed amongst
ourselves that if was better to concentrate our energies on the actions of the
following day, and not all be arrested prematurely. Photos and articles can be
seen at:

http://atlanta.indymedia.org/front.php?article_id=23596&group=webcast
http://atlanta.indymedia.org/front.php?article_id=23686&group=webcast.

The following day many people were arrested as they entered the base; nuns and
priests, punks, anarchists, and pacifists. Their punishment will
probably be three months in Federal prison. The fight continues.

Over the last month we spoke with hundreds of people; from radicalized
relations of Nelson Rockefeller to homeless people in New York City. We met
them all along the way, visiting universities where we found radical
students and professors, community centers in which poor and marginalized
people discussed direct action against corporate globalization, in the streets
of Miami marching with illegal immigrants, exercising our right to protest the
FTAA in a militarized city, and in front of the gates of the School of the
Americas. Some of those people will be with us in our "Autonomous January"
encuentro. All of us are tied together by similar ideas and practices: direct
democracy and horizontality as arms in the struggle and the common articulation
against a system of global domination.

**********

(*) Mark Brown is one of my dear friends in London. He not only just joined the
aap board but he is also involved with London Rising Tide (part of the UK and
international Rising Tide grassroots networks for climate justice -
www.risingtide.org.uk), London Action Resource Centre (LARC -
www.londonarc.org), the London Peoples' Global Action support group (PGA -
www.agp.org) and Funding for Change/Network for Social Change.


The following are websites of participating groups of the "Autonomous Movements
Caravan":

Associacao Wara. www.wara.org.br
Coletivo Alternativo Verde. www.cave.org.br
MTD Solano. www.solano.mtd.org.ar
Argentina Autonomista Project - Proyecto Argentina Autonomista.
www.autonomista.org
Worcester Global Action Network. www.wogan.org
School of the Americas Watch. www.soaw.org
MTD La Matanza. mtdlm@hotmail.com



Sources:

We are everywhere, www.weareeverywhere.org
People's Global Action Network, London, www.agp.org
Joseph Huff-Hannon, pelirojo79@hotmail.com


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