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(en) Britain, *Organise! #62 - THE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT IN ARGENTINA

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 2 Mar 2005 07:24:44 +0100 (CET)


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The following information is based on a visit by a French
anarcho-syndicalist woman who recently spent more than a month
and a half in Argentina (an account of which appeared in the paper
of the Organisation Communiste Libertaire, Courant Alternatif).
>>The anarchist movement in Argentina is in a difficult situation.
Its size is reduced from the old days of struggle. It is split. Its
influence is weak. Its financial sources are few and clearly
insufficient. It has practically no influence in society and outside
the capital is practically invisible. There is a generation gap
between the few, very old, militants who took part in
revolutionary struggles, and the majority of the
movement consisting of young people, full of
determination but with little experience.
There are few militants between these age
groups. The dictatorship and the resulting
30,000 dead and "disappeared" have ensured
this. The vastness of the country and the very
hard economic situation has made
communication, visits and face-to-face meetings
very difficult. Few anarchist books and texts are
in print, and those that circulate are often old,
often drawn from stocks dating from the 1960s
and 1970s, and dealing above all with the
historic past of the movement

The Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA)

Today little remains of this once large anarchist
workers organisation with a heroic past. A few
handfuls of young people, supported by several
old militants still living, have nevertheless taken
up the struggle and maintain the FORA in the
midst of great difficulties. At the present
moment this is composed of 4 small Resistance
Societies, in Buenos Aires, San Martin (near the
capital) Cholila (a small village) and Esquel (a
small town of 30,000) in Patagonia in the far
south.
The Resistance Society of Buenos Aires consists
of about 15 people, essentially young
unemployed and students. Their centre, situated
in the old quarter of La Boca is the only one tha
the FORA still has. It is pretty run down. During
heavy rain, water from the courtyard pours into
the meeting hall and forms a pond in its centre.
The roof has leaks as well, and water runs down
one of the walls in the archives room, a wall that
looks like it's going to collapse soon.
With a little money that they receive from the
International Workers Association (Anarcho-
syndicalist international) or as a gift from the
Federación Libertaria Argentina (who
themselves get some money from time to time
from sections of the International of Anarchist
Federations) the Foristas are attempting to
renovate their centre. Another problem is that
the right to own the property has to be
transferred to the young militants because the
old comrades who have the ownership know
that their time is not long. But legal doings like
that cost a lot of money, and the FORA does
not have that sort of money at the moment.
The centre has a little library, several old
computers and some historic archives of the
FORA (but these have been dispersed over the
course of time, some ruined in inadequate
storerooms, others vanished with police or army
raids, others lost in the splits that took place in
the 1910s and 1920s. The most important of
them are in the hands of the official Peronist
union, the CGT!).
There is a second-hand photocopier, bought
with IWA money. This produces leaflets, A3
posters, and Organización Obrera (Worker
Organisation) their bimonthly paper (A4 format,
usually 12 pages) with a print run of several
hundred. They receive newspapers from the
IWA and the international anarchist movement.
The propaganda they produce consists mostly of
declarations of principles, historical articles or
old texts reprinted in their paper or in leaflets.
On the 1st May and other historic occasions they
organise open-air meetings (they have a small
loudspeaker) and bookstalls. On 1st May 2002,
400 people turned out for their meeting.
Some of the young unemployed FORA
members are in the process of setting up a small
cooperative producing bread in a neighbourhood on the
outskirts of Buenos Aires where an independent
group runs a small libertarian social centre.
This would allow them to get some money and to be
involved a little in that neighbourhood.
The French comrade did not meet the San Martin
group, which appears to be a handful of people, which
manages to produce a little paper,
Sociedad de Resistencia (Society of
Resistance).
Twenty-seven hours by bus gets you to
Patagonia where 2 small Resistance
Societies of the FORA exist. They gather
together two handfuls of militants and a
number of sympathisers. At Esquel, the
Resistance Society distributes
Organización Obrera, bundles of leaflets
that they sometimes receive from the
capital, and handwritten or silk-screened
small posters.
They are regularly involved in support to
the indigenous communities of the
Mapuche of the region (small in number,
the Mapuches mainly live on the Chilean
coast) who are facing increasing problems
of being expelled from their land. In the
nineteenth century, these Indian
communities were violently resettled by
the army on poor soil. The survivors of
these extremely murderous operations did
what they could, but with no land deeds.
Now, vast swathes of "fiscal" land,
(belonging to the State) are being bought
by big multinational companies to carry
out prospecting or the raising of livestock.
(This is the case with Benetton, which
owns huge areas where it raises sheep for
wool that is sent to its textile factories).
The little Mapuche communities live on
these bought lands and are often
threatened by expulsion. The police are
violently involved in these actions. The
FORA is regularly associated with the
protests of the communities (little
demonstrations or symbolic occupations of
public buildings). A march for the
respecting of indigenous rights and against
the sale and parcelling up of Patagonia
took place in the capital in April 2003,
following a wave of expulsions and police
attacks against the Mapuches, involving the
exploitation of an open-air gold mine at
Esquel.
This mining project has raised tension in
the region. Meridian Gold, a Canadian
mining multinational, bought land on one
of the mountains overlooking Esquel, after
having detected gold. Its idea was to
exploit an open mine and to sift and
recover gold using cyanide. This is
causing serious problems with a minimum
of 2 large explosions each day spreading
dust over the town, important risks of
pollution linked to cyanide use, the
poisoning of water coming from the
mountain (most of which supplies poor
neighbourhoods of the town), and a major
social and political influence over the town
by Meridian Gold.
This has resulted in large opposition
drawing in shopkeepers, people involved
in local tourism, the middle classes,
ecologist associations, etc. Demonstrations
of a size never seen before have taken
place at Esquel involving thousands of
people. One of these led to an all night
occupation of a hall in the Palace of Justic
after the violent expulsion of Mapuches in
the little locality of Vuelta del Rio. Here 3
old Mapuches had their house destroyed,
their kitchen garden razed and their
livestock driven off by 20 mounted police
who threatened them with death if they di
not leave.
"Citizens" committees against the mine
have emerged, putting up posters,
distributing leaflets and flyers painted with
slogans. Meridian Gold has undertaken an
expensive promotion of its project, with
publicity spots in the media, pages in the
local press, lobbying of MPS and
councillors, arguing that it is bringing
economic development and jobs. Around
300-400 jobs for a period of 8 years are
promised, and this has won the support of
the Peronist Construction Workers Union
of the Argentine Region (UOCRA) whose
bureaucrats have made common cause
with the multinational capitalists. Tension
mounted, and the buildings of the
company had to be protected by the
police. Reinforcements of provincial and
federal police as well as gendarmerie had
to be sent to Esquel.
The affair has ended for the moment with
a referendum in March 2003. Despite the
efforts of Meridian Gold, there was an
80% NO vote (70% of the electorate
turned out). Meridian tried to buy the
votes of the poorest people, with free
concerts, distribution of T-shirts and caps
decorated with "YES to the mine", free
meals with as much meat as you could eat,
and 50 pesos on average for a YES vote.
The poor pragmatically took all this,
before voting NO!
The position of Meridian Gold and
UOCRA hardened and there were many
attempts at intimidation - anonymous
phone calls, trashing of the homes of
activists, burglaries, intimidating home
visits, culminating in the beating-up of an
activist when he turned up for work in the
morning, accompanied by death threats
and a cocked pistol pressed against his
stomach. A mass meeting in front of the
main company offices took place, which
turned into a street battle when UOCRA
thugs attacked it. An "escrache" (a
surprise action of public denunciation)
followed in front of the house of the
mine's principal engineer who was woken
and treated to all sorts of names by about
40 demonstrators. The local FORA
appears to have participated in all this
agitation.
At Cholila, several hours bus journey from
Esquel and lost in the woods and
mountains, is another Resistance Society.
It participates in a "libertarian"
community, composed of young people
involved in artisanal work. It suffers from
the difficult economic situation, as well as
problems of an interpersonal nature and
of internal functioning.
A regional anarchist gathering took place
in January 2003 and brought together
anarchists from Esquel, Bariloche, Viedma
and Bolson. It led to a blockade of the
national highway involving 30 masked
comrades and lasted 3 hours with anti-
mine slogans painted along the highway
and the distribution of leaflets. No
participant has been identified by the
police and there was maximum publicity- it
was the first road blockade in Patagonia
for a long time, a region little touched by
the social agitation affecting the rest of the
country.

The Federación Libertaria Argentina (FLA)

The French comrade had little contact
with this organisation. It claims 50-60
members in all the country and is based in
the main in the capital. It has a large
centre, again pretty run down. Some
renovations have now taken place with
money arriving from abroad. It has
extensive archives and a relatively
important library. Quite a few university
researchers use it. On a visit there, the
French comrade found several old
militants, several in their fifties, and a
majority of young people (between 20 and
30 years old). The FLA publishes El
Libertario but apparently very sporadically,
the last copy that she saw being December
2001! Some of the FLA's members are
involved in the popular assemblies and
distribute an irregular newssheet called De
Pie (Arise!) The FLA also publishes, when
it has money, a few small booklets on the
history of the Argentinean movement or
on presentations of anarchism. The visiting
Frenchwoman did not get the feeling that
the FLA was particularly dynamic.
Its relations with the FORA seem to be
embittered by old quarrels, because the
FORA veterans have not forgiven the FLA
for having, out of their hatred of
Peronism, taken the side of certain military
coup d'etats!

The Jose Ingenieros Peoples Library

This was founded in 1935 by anarchists
and a few socialists who did not stay with it
very long. It has moved several times, was
shut by Peron from 1949 to his fall in
1955, then suffered police raids and the
"disappearance" of some of its participants
and sympathisers during the dictatorship.
Many conferences, meetings, filmshows
and exhibitions have been organised by its
members. It has owned the building it
inhabits since the 1950s, which is quite big
and quite well looked after. A dozen
participants are involved, including a few
support of the International Solidarity
Network (SIL- supported by the Swedish
syndicalist union SAC, Spanish syndicalist
union CGT, and organisations like the
French Alternative Libertaire).

The Organisacion Revoluzionario Anarquista (ORA)

This group, apparently set up recently, was
again not met personally by the French
visitor. Apparently it has 5 to 10 members
and publishes a monthly paper called
Resistencia (A4 format, 8 pages). It seems
to consist mainly of students, at least one
of who comes from a family of leaders of
the Maoist Revolutionary Communist
Party, which might explain its politics. In
its paper it talks of "the revolutionary
vanguard" " workers' government" "
programme of the workers and masses" "
militant work in cells" and calls for " a
workers and peasants government and the
creation of people's self-defence militias in
Iraq to struggle against the Yankee-
imperialist war". A distinctly dodgy outfit,
which leads us on to the.....

AUCA and MUP

Sixty kilometres to the south of Buenos
Aires is the university town of La Plata
(600,000 inhabitants). There the French
comrade met the group of the AUCA-
Socialismo Libertario. This group consists
of 15 militants publishing a well-designed
paper, Ofensiva Libertaria, with a print run
of 500 (A4 format of 8 pages). This little
group, composed mainly of students and
unemployed ex-students was the
inspiration for the creation of an
important `piquetero' movement in
the La Plata region and the district
of Quilmes, the Movimiento del
Unidad Popular (MUP).
Pre-occupied for a long time
with the lack of social influence
and implantation of anarchism,
the AUCA have worked for
several years in some poor
neighbourhoods. With the
deepening of the crisis, the
social explosion of December
2001 and the winning by the
piquetero movements of control
of individual plans of social aid, the
MUP has, like most piquetero
movements, grown considerably.
Today more than one thousand people are
members, grouped together in a "front" of
neighbourhoods and a student "front"
controlling several hundred plans.
In the neighbourhoods and shantytowns
the work of the MUP consists of
developing comedores (people's kitchens
for children) setting up classes and
schools, vegetable gardens and bread
ovens. The MUP is equally involved in
campaigns around public health (sanitary
and medical conditions are often very bad
in the poorer areas) and participates with
other piquetero movements in a "
Coordination of Public Health" which has
led to blockades of pharmaceutical
laboratories and campaigns of collections
at chemists and pharmacies, which has
allowed them to gather together 33,000
various medical treatments which have
been shared out among the dispensaries
run by the different movements of the
coordination.
At the university level, AUCA has been
behind the creation of Aguas Negras
(Black Waters) a student association that is
allied with the Maoists and the group
Quebracho (inspired by the left Peronists
of previous decades, the Montoneros).
They have taken control of the leadership
of the student federation of La Plata,
which was controlled before 2001 by
liberal Peronists. They presented a list
with their allies at student elections and
had several elected in certain university
departments and are participating in
"power-sharing" bodies of the university.
With the MUP, the AUCA has occupied a
private school which went bankrupt in the
centre of La Plata. This is a huge building
where they can meet, house people, set up
a library and school courses, and have
public meetings etc.
AUCA has an important sphere of
influence via the MUP but at the same
time is overwhelmed by the amount of
work and confronted with the same
problems as other piquetero movements.
Their use and direct control of the
individual plans of social aid has attracted
to the MUP many people who are non-politicised
but need the help of the plans. These people have to gain
political and practical experience and the MUP has to function in a
fully participative way (not easy, especially at the beginning, with
the number of inexperienced and passive new members). In
the present period with the falling back of the social
struggles, the State will probably try to find ways of
regaining control of the plans of social aid, which will
empty the piquetero movements of the greater part
of their members. To avoid that, the schemes for people's bakeries,
vegetable plots, the raising of rabbits
and chickens and metal workshops have to
be set up to keep these people involved
before the State turns the tap off on the
social aid plans.
The AUCA is inspired by the practices of
the Federación Anarquista Uruguayano ­
the Anarchist Federation of Uruguay
(FAU) a specifically Platformist
organisation which has set up "broad"
fronts of action among workers, students
and in the neighbourhoods. This
unfortunately has the effect of producing a
Leninist schema with a political vanguard
linked to a mass organisation with a
"broad" recruitment, little politicised and
at least partly manipulated by the
objectives of the vanguard.
The AUCA's drive to develop influence
and implantation and to develop
numerically and logistically, has led it to
involvement in the game of electoral
representation at the university, to trying to
build a base of support in part relying on a
presence in the institutions, and alliances
"against nature" with political grouplets.
The AUCA also refers to the development
of "people's power" of "a government
from below" based on organisations of the
"popular forces" and on strategic alliances
between revolutionary organisations. This
power would have a "national, anti-
imperialist, popular and democratic"
content and would develop, at least at the
start, " in the general framework of the
bourgeois State". Even if their ideological
references are anarchist (of a clearly
Platformist and class struggle tendency) the
organisational culture and strategy of the
AUCA is undoubtedly strongly tainted by
Marxism and indeed Leninism. This
explains why, despite its real mass
influence and its willingness to "bring
anarchism down into the street", most of
the other libertarian groups in the country
regard AUCA with mistrust or hostility, as
being a group on the margins or indeed
outside the anarchist movement.

======================================
* Buletin of AF - Anarchist Federation - Britain


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