Social Movements and Popular Power

05.Jul.03    Análisis y Noticias

Facing the crisis of representation, which is characterized by changes on the protagonist place that political parties and organized labour once had, which have lost much credibility in popular sectors, social movements, formed by the most marginalized sectors of society: aboriginal communities, peasants and residents of the city’s peripheral areas, are opting for no representation.

The same happens with important sectors of the youth, who’s uncertain destiny does not achieve to imprison them in the illusory expectations of a broken social order mainly sustained by force and ideology.

To be represented before whom? Before the state that marginalize and repress them? Before the business people who leave them without work? It is easily understood that over a million youth have refused to be registered in the electoral lists in Chile. This has lead those in power to discuss the need to eliminate electoral registry requirements.

In fact the representation crisis is accompanied by a crisis of co-optation, which is the real bottom of the problem. Marginalized communities can not be co-opted by those who marginalize them. The repressive and ideological apparatus of those in power has become to operate with greater force relative to the “detachment” of an important part of the population from the nets of subordination and clientilism.

Marginality has become a boomerang, it has turned against those causing it: capital and its institutions.

Religions, responsible for indoctrination and subordination, lately have launched waves of infiltration techniques to keep at least some “hope”. The theology of liberation has crumbled and few priests work along with the population on autonomy and self-organizing around re-organizing marginalized people within a new world, built by them, from where to project themselves as the existence of many worlds in construction by taking control of their land and social spaces as points of local self administration. Catholics have launched the charismatic movement to confront the offensive of evangelist in neighbourhoods and rural areas, who with large sums of money buy theatres and build temples even under the bridges to “group” and bring the message of posterior salvation.

Newspapers and television increase their alienating, sensationalist messages of open attack to any form of resistance that come from the margins which has already brought down governments in some countries.

The police forces are multiplied and the jails are filled with poor people. Armies have had to intervene in a great number of countries, as in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. In some cases to replace the crisis of representation by directly assuming government functions and in other cases by attacking or surrounding sectors of resistance.

The judicial powers are also fully participating in the repression of those who struggle in almost every country of the continent.

The State crisis has reached the most sensitive areas such as education and health, having taken place in the last weeks strong strikes, occupations, road blockades and mobilizations of teachers, health and other government sector workers in practically every country in the continent, with just a couple of exemptions. The deals and gained conquests are miserable, but they have challenged the contradiction within the “functions” of the state and its new assumed characteristics as the exclusive facilitator of capital flow and counter insurgency.

In Chile, in a clever way, sectors of suburban populations have organized what they call “cordones de educacion y salud” (self- administered community health and education) as a way of searching and struggling for solutions from the margins. We have not yet seen this in other countries, but we believe it to be a good way to bring the community together in function of its necessities.

A sector of the continental left has launched the politics of renewal of popular fronts to add the population behind the business groups to procure an illusory economic reactivation to the most pure style of development, founded in the submission of popular vindications to the support of the populist leaders ability to govern with capacity of attracting sectors of society behind their speeches and modernizing measures. What these theoreticians hide is that this modernizing is only possible under a greater dependency of IMF and World Bank programs, entities witch they aspire to establish a good relation with, based in some cramps with witch to appease a minimal part of the poor population that grows at accelerated pace in our countries, as is the program zero hunger of Lula, the possibility of the forgiving of part of the foreign debt or even that of charging a tax on capital flow.

The social movements of the continent have not swallowed that slow turning wheel, and those who participate in institutional activities, such as the aboriginal communities of Ecuador or the coca growers in Bolivia, are not willing to abandon their pace of building of new forms of organization and territorial control that allow them self-organizing and popular power. For example, some theoreticians write a lot about MAS of Bolivia that in the future may win the government, but nothing is said about the project of Popular Aboriginal Constituency Assembly nor about the forms in which MAS itself as a political instrument more than a traditional political party approach the economy based on the ayllus, that is, the communities administering their territories, the production, distribution and consuming of goods. The same is done in the case of Ecuador, as they state that Conaie and Pachakutik participate in government, but what they hide is that this is done based on the respect to the communities organised in their territories.

In that context a great part of the social movements of the continent find themselves dedicated to group reconstruction and the development of identity forms from which to project themselves into the future without depending on the institutions that marginalize and repress them. Autonomy, self-organizing and popular power are not coming to the surface due to “ideological” motives, but due to the concrete necessity of subsistence and resistance.

The market does not satisfy the necessities of everyone, and, to do so, the majority must be willing to make inhumane sacrifices. Poverty increases and with it individual or group actions, called actions of delinquency, which explains that the jails are over crowded and yet others are under construction. The informal economy doe not achieve in satisfying in any way the necessities.

In that terrain is it not surprising that self-organizing grows as an alternative of collective subsistence, which in the rural areas and aboriginal communities is in part resolved with the products from the land and water favouring the group initiatives, even though the corporations are plundering and poisoning every where. And in the city’s peripheries we can begin to see in different countries growing organized productive activities, administered by the communities themselves.

Thus, popular power has nothing to do with the so called “popular force” with which central power would be seized. If that central power is crumbling down in its capacity of co-opting, control and fulfillment of the population’s needs, having as the only tools left, repression and ideology, marginalized people have found their own paths, absolutely antagonist to capital and the State. There is no other way. Facing a growing unemployment and a lack of opportunities, doing something else, based in the initiative of self-organized people.

What is interesting about this process being implemented by movements and communities is its diversity, otherwise they would not be autonomous, but that has only been able to move forward by breaking away from traditional ways to do politics, reaching levels which are infinitely superior to that, practising now, in the middle of this process, community values, solidarity and affection, without waiting to first defeat capital and after that, to put the puzzle back together in a different way. There is nothing to put back together, to re-make in the future. This is being taken as an actual and immediate task, and that is what is bringing together poor and marginalized people. The speeches and proposals are taken as such, the facts too.

Facing this, the State’s instruments fail completely, the co-opting measures don’t work and thus the cheers to Lula and Kirchner, as there now come the populist to take charge of the apparatus, that is why the Frente Amplio is going to win in Uruguay, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Farabundo Martí in el Salvador. That is why certain writers surface calling the people to join the business groups, as now capital has levelled with the popular fronts, this is the only way they have to re-gather the population under the egis of the institutions, otherwise they fear that the process of autonomy of the pepleo become a mass and accelerated process.

Same as religions, left parties penetrate into the communities and the mass media to call for salvation, what neither of these two say is that what this really is about, is of the salvation of capitalism and of the institutions that serve it, that this time they bring out the fire tricks with the left hand, as it would be idiotic to imagine that the Andean presidents, by choosing Chávez as their spokesperson, they have passed to the popular rows.

But they’ve come late. In Brukman, for example, it is pathetic to see how groups and left parties attempt to take advantage of the struggle of those male and female workers. They are flying around like vultures behind fresh meet. But as much radical as their speeches may be it is too obvious that they are behind the famous “seizure of power” with them at the vanguard of course. And like that, we are going to continue to see for some time those who Harnecker calls the political left, as if the social movements had not already transcended those limitations a while back.

The system, even by resorting to its leftist spokespeople, in particular Lula and Chávez, the paladins of “regional integration” to subordinate the countries to the FTAA, has no way out, the building of autonomy and of popular power moves forward at giant steps all over. How has it hurt the reformist that the MTD Aníbal Veron has declared themselves also opposed to Mercosur.

We will take this again with other examples in the next text dedicated to this subject. There is still too much water passing under the bridge, it is the river of resistance, and if it sounds is because it carries stones.

Profesor J

(Translated by ClajadepCanada)