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(en) Argentina, Roca Negra, Report on the Ronda de Pensamiento Autónomo, Presente!*

From stevphen shukaitis <stevphen@mutualaid.org>
Date Tue, 20 Jan 2004 12:31:51 +0100 (CET)

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The first hit of the drum shatters the silence over the sun-baked fields,
ringed by reclaimed factories and several hundred organizers, activists,
artists, families, members of asambleas, unions of the unemployed, and
self-managed collectives. The burst is followed by another, then a
succession of alternating rhythms and as a band of children and the young
at heart enter the field dancing, chanting, and being cheered on by on-lookers.
A circle is formed around those dancing, chanting, and singing as more and
more people become involved in the joyful ritual and shared movement of
bodies. After some time the children and the drummers lead the gathering
over to a large reclaimed warehouse for an opening gathering and
celebration, where the amassed organizers and movements introduce and
proclaim themselves in the created community of thought and strategy.

Thus begins the Ronda de Pensamiento Autónomo (Round of Autonomous
Thinking) held this January 8-11 at Roca Negra, in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. As part of Enero Autónomo (Autonomous January) the gathering
brought together several hundred women, children, workers, piqueteros,
idealists and organizers of many varieties and background to discuss and
expand upon the concept of autonomy and horizontal practices and
movements. From many countries and struggles they have gathered to build
upon the practices of direct democracy, horizontalism, autonomy, and
struggle that unite the many fibers of people and practices into a fabric
of passion and hope for bringing the new world in our hearts into
existence. Here is the space where these shared stories and dreams meet,
where rage meets pragmatism in fruitful dialogue and strategizing.

Roca Negra (Black Rock), as the space is known, is a former chop shop in
Lanus, an area on the outskirts of greater Buenos Aires that was reclaimed
by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. It is a fitting a space as any, a
place that was formerly used for the operations where those screwed by
economic conditions would steal from others to survive – a place that is
now used for the growing of vegetables and raising of livestock to support
the members of the unemployed worker unions that have called for this
international gathering.

The hundreds gathered in this space come from many locations and
struggles, from the Unemployed Workers Movements (MTDs) and neighborhood
assemblies to indigenous communities of the Mapuche and Guarani and
activists from the US and Europe. There are members of countless of
autonomous collectives and self-managed workplaces, including Mujeres
Creando (Women Creating) from Bolivia, the Landless Peasants Movement
(MST) from Brazil, Autonomista Socialista de Suecia (Sweden), the
Worcester Global Action Network (from the US) and Cooperativa La
Asableraria (Italy). Coming from many places and experiences the
discussion is united by many common features: struggling against the
corporate globalization of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, building
and sustaining cooperative projects and community organizations, fostering
independent media and sources of information, confronting the many
varieties of oppression that exist worldwide.

International encuentros such as this one reinforce and make clear the
need build common projects, genuine solidarity, and connections of mutual
aid between radical organizations. Through many discussions any emphasis
was placed on how solidarity must go beyond fundraising to genuine
political support and working together, common projects and work beyond
piqueturismo (activist tourism) and fetishizing militant chic. When
funding from NGOs, grant making foundations, government sources, and
religious charities come with questionable strings attached, the building
and maintaining of truly autonomous movements necessitate webs of support
that enable the maintenance of dignity and self-determination. Poverty
pimping and paternalism don’t magically disappear when the situation
becomes international.

While it is important to appreciate the beauty and resistance displayed by
organizers in Argentina, Brazil, and everywhere, it is also important to
not overly idealize such movements or to forget the situations they face.
For instance, while the work of MTD La Matanza and Solano is amazing and
encouraging (and largely responsible for bringing together this
gathering), these unions represent only a small portion of the unemployed
workers who are involved in such organizations, many of whom are being
co-opted and bureaucratized by the Argentinean state as it continues to
repress the more radical organizers. Many of the community asambleas
neighborhood associations that formed after the December 2001 financial
crisis have since fallen apart as things have become more stabilized and
the middle class has been bought back into the system, even if slowly.

The point of such observation is not to deny the validity or importance of
such organizing, but to realize that if we as activists and organizers
want to understand, support, learn from, and from with organizations not
just from Argentina but anywhere in the world, it makes little sense to
try to do so without gaining a fuller understanding of the political
situation. Building common projects and forums of understanding means
interacting with the situation as a whole, and not just the organizers
whose politics and practice comes closest to the kinds of organizations
that we find most desirable.

There is much to be gained by the formation and maintenance of such
networks and spaces of dialogue, passion, and autonomous thought,
strategy, and action – but also much to lose if idealism prevents seeing
the situation in full view and acting upon such. Imagining new worlds
cannot blind us to the harshness of the existing world, or to overlook the
inevitable growing pains as words from the heart and social creativity
expand to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Enero Autónomo: www.eneroautonomo.org.ar
Contact: Stevphen Shukaitis, stevphen@mutualaid.org
* See:
8 al 11 de enero - Roca Negra / Buenos Aires - Update

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