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(en) The Commoner #8 - Colectivo Situaciones - Causes and Happenstance (dilemmas of Argentina's new social protagonism) - Research manuscript # 4 II. (2/2)

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Date Thu, 25 Dec 2003 06:44:59 +0100 (CET)

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In second place, less than a week before the
election, a demonstration of some ten thousand
people gathered in support of the workers of the
recently evicted recuperated factory of Brukman
was savagely repressed. At only days from the
election repression materialized in the downtown
core of the city of Buenos Aires, with a savagery
radically incompatible with any consideration
about the civil rights that were, supposedly, being
restored with the elections of April 27th.
And so, the first electoral return comes about in the
midst of this climate. In the previous days, the
communication media won over the space of public
discussion with polls that gave as the winner
Carlos Menem and as possible second place the
pure neoliberal candidate - former leader of the
UCR - Ricardo López Murphy.
The result of the first electoral return turned out to
be a relative surprise: something less than 80%
of the electorate voted. The number of blank and
nullified votes was not significant. The list
headed by Menem returned first with 24% of the
vote. The official list came after with 22%. López
Murphy was third, followed by the Peronist
Rodriguez Saá, and falling behind him, Elisa Carrió -
also former leader of the UCR but of the center left
The parties of the traditional left, all together,
received less than 3% of the votes.
After the first electoral return two effects clearly
appeared: on one side, the politicians obtained a
place in the public sphere almost exclusively by
means of the communication media, and, on the
other side, the polls rapidly forecasted that Nestor
Kirchner would demolish Carlos Menem with
some 70% against some 20%.
Kirchner's performance in the first return reaped a
good part of its scarce votes thanks to the
Buenos Aires apparatus that Duhalde leads, in a
way that only in the second return the official
candidate was going to benefit from the support of
an anti-Menemist electorate that in the first
return split its vote among the other three
Of the three weeks that separated the election of
April 27th from the election that should have
been conducted Sunday the 18th of May, the first
two were characterized by massive support for
Kirchner by leaders of almost every party. Even the
support received by Menem in the first return
began to migrate toward the quarters of the assured
next president. In this context Menem refused
to participate in the second return, accusing
Duhalde of organizing an electoral fraud, and Kirchner
of being a Montonero.19
In this way, the success that the first electoral
return implied for the recomposition of a
representative institutionality was interrupted as
the second return was frustrated and a
government elected by a large percentage of the
electorate could not be proclaimed. The new
government appeared thus trapped by the
persistence of the logic of the Mafia-State and
without being able to effect its political capital - or
popularity - in an immediate manner. This situation

19 The Montoneros were an armed organization of
young Peronists founded in 1970. Its core ideas combined
elements of historical Peronism with revolutionary
Christianism and left-nationalism. By the
mid-1970s, after merging with other
revolutionary organizations, Montoneros became
the largest group of the revolutionary left. First the death
squads formed by the Peronist right, and later those created
by the military junta, murdered and disappeared thousands of
Montonero militants. Many others went into exile.
In the 1990s many former Montonero leaders gave support to Carlos
Menem's neoliberal administration. Other former
Montoneros, dissident of their former leaders, have
given support to the government of Nestor Kirchner. (Tr.)

should be read in light of the reconfiguration of the
totality of the political system that will be carried
out this year through the elections of the
government of the city of Buenos Aires, of the
government of the Province of Buenos Aires, of
Cordoba, and of national legislators.

III. The ballot boxes and the streets

And so, as was hoped, the first strategies of
reflection on the relation between the effects of the
events of December 2001 and the elections of April
-May of 2003 have begun circulating. These
arguments could be gathered in two large sets of
conclusions, each one arrived at - with all its
nuances- from an opposing perspective.
The first set of arguments sustains the idea that
there is no political legacy to the events of the
19th and 20th. The possibility of organizing a
political revolution starting from that discontent - if
that was an authentic possibility - has been
definitively exhausted. The political left has been
completely neutralized. It is not that there are not
great discontents - or that greater ones can not
be foreseen - but rather that the existent demands
have not been organized from outside the
political system, which now permits the restoration
of the proper institutional procedures for the
mediation of such conflicts. It is not that there has
not been a profound crisis, nor that it has been
resolved. Rather, the crisis logically generated
discontents, and now it is all about dealing with
those issues towards the normalization of social
co-existence through political methods. From this
angle, the realization of the first electoral return
possesses a very special significance, since it
constitutes a very important step in the moderation
of spirits. Although frustrated, the second
return confirmed a climate of withdrawal of the
extremes. The threat of antipolitics was conjured.
If this first strategy of reflection is festive, the
second set is of lament for a lost opportunity: the
events of December were the beginning of a
possible revolution. But for that, it was necessary
to endow the discontent with a political program, an
organization, a perspective. One can polemicize
over the characteristics of these organizational
forms or over the scope of these perspectives, but
one can not deny that these are the conditions for
the elaboration of a political alternative. The
fundamental error committed by those who
participated in the revolt - and above all by those
who participated in autonomous experiences - was to
have tangled themselves up in the paradoxical
structure of the slogan "al of them out, not a single
one should remain." In this way, they lost sight
of the complexity of the political struggle to end up
each one hidden in his/her refuge, with an
idealist discourse and some abstractly horizontal
Both readings oppose each other in perspective but
confirm the same image of what happened:
the elections occupied the center of the political
dispute and one of the contenders as it seems
simply did not constitute itself at that scene,
abandoning the battlefield and signing in this way its
defeat. If the forces unleashed in December did not
show up in the electoral act, it is because that
December has already ceased to exist. Thus
April-May of 2003 constitute the evidence of a
retroactive defeat of that which could have
happened after December of 2001. The lesson appears
transparent: the political system is frankly on its
way toward resurrection, and the forces of
counterpower have become entangled in a
foreseeable political infantilism.
Both perspectives correspond with the same
reading over the facts of the 19th and 20th as a
founding moment and an opportunity for developing
a political revolution. Only that while the first
feared this possibility, the second desired it. And
both hold, in striking coincidence, the same
image of politics as a game of two on the same
plane, with homogeneous rules of the game: as if
they were dealing with a game of chess. In this
way, things are presented as a match in which the
Political System, Power or the State was "staking
everything" against Popular Power, the Politics
of Horizontality or Counterpower. With things set
up in this way, the evaluation is unarguable: the
experiences of counterpower should have to
mature, learn how to "do politics," begin the long
march (as with Lula and the PT) that would lead
them, sometime, to become an authentic option of
power (poder).
And nevertheless, the ruptures are not other than
that: ruptures. A de-stituent power doesn't
necessarily work following the requirements of that
which institutes. December 2001 was not the
appearance of a political subject. This is why no
such subject has become manifest. There was,
indeed, a rupture, and a visibilization of a new
social protagonism. But this protagonism is what it
is precisely because it does not understand politics
the way it was understood a decade ago. This
is why it is not prudent to lament that these forces
have not acted as if they were this subject.
Yet there is more: the effects of the events of the
19th and 20th were so radical - and endure to
such a point - that the elections were completely
affected by them. But this by no means allows to
establish a direct a priori relation between the
street struggles and the elaboration of experiences
of counterpower and the result of the elections as
In fact, the same people that have participated,
voting for this or that candidate, are in many cases
the ones who later participate in the alternative
experiences of counterpower. Or bettter still: they
are not the same, since one is not the same in the
polling booth and in the assembly, or the
roadblock. Each place is instituted according to
heterogeneous rules: if the elections attempt to
represent all that exists and, for that reason, decree
the nonexistence of that which it does not
manage to capture and measure, the experiences of
counterpower, to the contrary, exist only in
situation, in a territory, a spatiality, a bodily
disposition and a self-determined time.
We don't say that there is no relation between the
two. We can not deny that both ambits affect
each other in a relevant way. We do say, however,
that there is no a priori relation between them.
We are dealing with with dynamics that are
heterogeneous - in their constitution. To transfer the
power (potencia) of a situation to what happened in
the elections, leads to its dissolution. And, on
the contrary, to order a situation starting from a
global reading of the elections leads to the
destruction of the possibilities of such a situation.
We no longer are in the chess game. There is not
one single dimension. There does not exist a
single set of given rules. As a friend once said, this
is not about the whites against the blacks but
about the blacks against the chessboard. While the
whites move in a certain manner, respecting
certain rules and preserving certain goals, the
blacks can very well alter what is expected of them.
This can give birth to another operation, create new
strategies, anull all pre-established objectives
and experience new becomings. It might be said
that all this is no more than an impossible flight
on the part of some black pieces that would be
committing suicide. But this is not true. To escape
the instituted does not have to be an idealist trait.
In fact, the blacks should take much into account
the board and above all the movements of the
whites. But - this time as a function of another
game: that which they intend to play, since it is not
true that to do our own game we must first win
within a game that we aren't interested in.

To kick over the board, then, is not to ignore it nor
to scorn the consequences. On the contrary, it
is only by intending to play something else that one
gets to know the complexity of the power
relations. That is why to think of an "a priori
non-relation" does not indicate a mutual absence of
affection, but rather it shows us that such
affections exist as a clash of forces of different
Each of them develops a priori in an independent
manner (in the sense that the dynamic of one
does not depend directly on the dynamic of the
other) and has no preconceived type of relation
(causal, of correspondence), and, at the same time,
there is no reason to discard the fact that their
evolution brings them to certain confluences, to
march parallel or to clash in a direct way,
producing all types of configurations, including
unexpected ones.
And in this case it turns out that the political
dynamic has fractured. On one side, power
institutionalizes itself, seeks to normalize itself.
And for that reason it finds itself in an atrocious
combat to manage to do what before the rupture of
December it accomplished without major
problems: carry out primaries within the parties,
select candidates and elect governments that take
office with some legitimacy starting from a
determined accumulation of votes. On the other side,
the forces of counterpower gain time, organize
themselves, argue, carry out the most varied of
actions. As it can be seen, the consequences of the
19th and 20th continue to act in permanent
manner across the social field, as condition - of
de-stitution - including for those who struggle to
play different games.

IV. Phenomenology of counterpower

Counterpower is not much more than the
combination of resistances to the hegemony of
That is to say: such a multiplicity of practices that
is not thinkable in its unity (as a homogeneous
movement) and, at the same time, a transversality
capable of producing resonances - of clues and
hypotheses - among different experiences of
The formula "to resist is to create" speaks of the
paradox of counterpower: on one side, resistance
appears as a second moment, reactive and
defensive. Nevertheless, "to resist is to create":
resistence is that which creates, that which
produces. Resistence is, therefore, first, autoaffirmative
and, above all, does not depend on that which it
In effect, in Argentina a combination of networks
has emerged that work around experiences of
health, alternative eduction and economy,
assemblies, occupation of factories, roadblocks,
These experiences are heterogeneous in relation to
each other. These networks tend - and not
always succeed - to autonomize themselves with
respect to the command of capital to the same
extent that the latter cannot include or integrate
them socially, but rather it only excludes. If the
crisis is at the base of these resistences, it is no
less true that the subjectivities forged there have
given way to dynamics that transcend the times and
penetrate the causes of the crisis.
Among the most important characteristics of these
resistences there are: (a) the fusion between
vital reproduction and politics; (b) a better
comprehension of the possibilities of the relation
between institutions (the State) and power
[potencia], and (c) the confrontation as form of
protection and as truth of counterpower.
Since capitalism works by managing life,
resistances are precisely bioresistences. There is no
sphere of existence in which one does not find
practices of resistance and creation.
These networks possess a growing capacity of
resources to the extent that they develop in
expansive dynamics, linking producers among
themselves, producers with consumers, inventing
new forms of interchange without mediations by
mafias, etc.
If we have used sometime the image of a parallel
society to describe these circumstances, we
have done it in spite of - and not in virtue of - the
association that this image carries with it with
respect to a supposed isolation. The experiences of
power (potencia) are not small separate
worlds, but rather that which produces the world,
that succeeds in instituting experience where
apparently there is pure devastation (desert). Far
from thinking of separation, power (potencia)
produces connection, but does it following a
different modality from those "centers" (of power
[poder]) with respect to which, as they tell us, "we
should not isolate ourselves" (the State,
"serious" politics, the parties, etc). The
experiences of resistance are, precisely, those which
invent new forms of taking charge of the public, the
common, beyond the determinations of the market
and the State. It is not about abandoning politics - in
the sense of engendering collective destinies
- but about the emergence of other ways of
configuring tendencies and influences in society.
And so, what happened to the movement of
resistence? Is there, in effect "a" movement?
We have seen above that power (poder) works
starting from its own requirements: subordinating
life to the valorization of capital, conquering
territories and business opportunities, obtaining cheap
labor power, making for itself a legality that permits
it to move itself at full speed without remaining
tied to anything or anyone.
Capital combines control of power (potencia) and
subjectivity, of nature and of that produced by
science and, in general, the culture of the peoples
with abandonment, exclusion, and violence.
It is not possible to combat the hegemony of capital
as a social relation as if we were dealing with
something purely exterior, which has its roots in the
halls of government. Essential y, there is no
other form of attacking capital without seeing, at
the same time, that its power is that of sadness,
powerlessness, individualism, separation, the
commodity. Hence, there is not any combat against
capitalism other than that which consists of
producing other forms of sociability, other images of
happiness, another politics that no longer separates
itself from life.
This poses, nevertheless, a problem when on one
side we realize that there is no creation but in
situation, but at the same time the confrontation
leads us to exit it, to converge with others with
whom we must unite in order to develop the
And, in effect, the development of power
(potencia), in situation, leads us to fortify the line
of counterpower to defend alternative experiences.
Nevertheless, these are not two different things. It
is not necessary to abandon the terrain of the
situation in order to meet the line of counterpower.
The line of counterpower is reached from inside.
The defensive line of the struggles unfolds at the
time that hypotheses develop at the interior of
each experience, at the time that right there we
experience the appearance of new values, of new
modes of life.
One of the problems that are posed when there is
an attempt to "organize the resistances in a
single movement" is precisely the abandonment of
the situation in order to organize the struggle.

When this happens, everything is reduced to a
discussion of organizational models (of
coordination/articulation) as if it were all about
getting it right with an adequate technique,
abandoning the organic relation between the
situations and their requirements and counterpower
as a moment internal to the situations themselves.
Thus, the situation is displaced. Counterpower
appears organized as a movement whose unity
and coherence are placed in front of (and imposed
upon) the situations themselves "from outside."
The capacity for confrontation appears magnified:
everything else "can wait." Or it is proposed that
the "work with the grassroots" must be
subordinated to or be organized starting from-- "the
Between centralism and dispersion, however,
power (potencia) offers a trajectory of composition
between the situations: multiplicity can react
without being organized from outside.
The example of the autonomous piquetero
movements is very clear: while in the
there are attempts to produce in other mode, putting
together bands of street mucicians,
workshops for the children, dispensaries, bakeries,
and forms of self-government, a physical
barrier for the protection of all they are producing is
constituted. There are advances in multiple
forms of coordination, and of circumstantial
alliances whose priority is to preserve the
In light of this discussion, the tragic confrontation
of June 26th can be thought of as a point of
inflection for the movement of counterpower. This
massacre brings back the echoes of a previous
one, that of June of '73 in Ezeiza,20 equally decisive
at the time for comprehending what is usually
called political ebb: moments in which what
happens at the level of the situation is disvalorized
by effect of the defeats suffered at the level of the
coordination (of the movement). This is the effect
sought by power (poder): to ponder the forces of
counterpower by their capacity of coordination in
a determinate moment; and to spread this image of
the relations of force as warning to all the
On June 26th clashed, on one side, the logic of the
gang, of the old task groups of the dicatorship
convoked now by the private security firms, the
logic of hunting and slaughter, and, on the other
side, the dynamic of the protection of the column to
back the retreat. While from power (poder) the
clash is sought, from counterpower the clash is not
produced in order to measure forces, or to
advance over power (poder) by way of force, but
rather to affirm itself, to protect the comrades, to
pressure and conquer unemployment relief
packages - in order to help sustain the workshops,
etc, to demand freedom for the imprisioned comrades.
Behind the notion of ebb there is a frustrated
expectation of imminent political revolution. In
effect, the 19th and 20th of December were read as the
signal that the crisis of neoliberalism opened the
course of a political revolution. The demonstrations
of the assemblies to the Plaza de Mayo
prefigured the next constituent assembly. The
march of the piqueteros with their hidden faces was
a glimpse into a popular army in formation. The
occupied factories revealed the red grassroots ofnces of

20 On June 20th, 1973, a crowd of half a million people
gathered at the highway that goes to Ezeiza, Buenos Aires'
international airport, to welcome Perón, who was returning
to the country after having lived in exile since 1955.
Elements of the Peronist right set a trap for the radical
groups attending the event. As they were trying to escape,
hundreds of members of the Peronist youth and other radical
groups were killed, while many others were injured or
tortured. The Ezeiza massacre was a turning point that
signaled the beginning of the repressive backlash against the
radical movements. (Tr.)
an insurrectional proletariat and the barter nodes -
in case they were considered - an alternative to
the functioning of the capitalist economy.
Thus, 2002 was lived as hope and frustration: the
nodes of barter had to sacrifice the figure of the
prosumer to assist millions of persons that
exceeded all prevision and interrupted the reflection
that was being gestated in those networks over the
role of money and over the forms of
autoregulation of the nodes. Inflation appeared, as
did shortage of goods, counterfeiting of money,
and the incapacity to regulate the flows of credit,
persons, and products.
The piquetero movement - above all in its
autonomous versions - was strongly attacked at the time
it had to face an accelerated increase of its ranks,
at such velocity that it became very difficult for it
to assimilate everything to the productive dynamic
under development. The assemblies, after
attracting thousands of people wore themselves out
in eternal struggles with the parties of the left.
In the end, those which essential y constitute lines
of exploration, of situational production of
alternative forms of social reproduction, were
invaded by the expectation that such practices
should present themselves as alternative
(symmetric) institutions to those of the market and
the State. To project over these practices a will to
alternativeness and to convert them into global
substitutes for the dominant institutions implies to
neglect the specific quality of those becomings
as wel as to interrupt their experimentation in the
name of a majority logic that judges them not for
what they are - in their multiplicity -, but rather for
that they should "come to be".
Ebb, then, is a mystifying category. The
discouragement that announces it arises from a frustrated
belief: that the new social protagonism could be
conceived as a new politics in the scene of power
(poder). It is clear that, as a politics, the new social
protagonism - or counterpower - would not give
place to just one more politics, but rather to one
founded in the most positive features of some
experiences of resistance such as horizontality,
autonomy, and multiplicity. These authentic keys
to counterpower were thus taken as a combination
of universal and abstract answers - an ideology
- apt for an a priori resolution of the dilemmas of the
every situation.
This is not a question of reclaiming optimism, but
rather of revising - if there was such a will - this
mechanism. The ebb and the disillusionment - if
they exist - represent the perception of a lost
occasion, of the unfinished political revolution, the
failure of a politics. Such representation proves
to be even less appropriate if the endurance of the
struggles, the emergence of new experiences,
and the development of an extended and profound
inquiry are established.
Perhaps the 19th and 20th did not as much
announce a coming revolution as they do a rupture.
It is not that the very idea of revolution is not at stake
there is no reason to resign from it but that
such revolution has appeared as a demand for a
new concept: rebellion, revolt and the subversion
of subjective modes of doing.
Buenos Aires, May 5th, 2003
Hasta siempre,
Colectivo Situaciones

[Excerpt from interview with Colectivo Situaciones:
At a particular moment we began to see what, for us, was a
fundamental lack of options for left libertarians and
autonomists in general. We began to feel very dissatisfied with
the discourse on the Left—of the activists, the intellectuals,
the artists, and the theoreticians—and began to ask
ourselves if we should put our energy in the investigation of the
fundamentals of an emancipatory theory and practice. Since
that day, we have continued pursuing that same question and,
since that day, things have been appearing, like Zapatismo.
Certain people also began appearing in the theoretical camp,
asking very radical questions, and they influenced us a lot. We
studied them, got to know them, and exchanged a great deal.
Also, in Argentina there began to emerge very radical practices
that also questioned all of this, carried out by people who were
also searching.

See Also:
(en) IAS Perspectives on Anarchist Theory Vol. 7, No. 2 - The
Shock of the New: An Interview with [Argentinian] Colectivo
Situaciones - by Marina Sitrin

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