(versión en español)
Ten years! Don’t look back. Or look back only to go forward.
The rage and the fury and the desperation are still there. The injustice and the exploitation and the oppression, they are still there. And nothing has happened to stop humanity’s rush towards its own self-destruction. Capital still rules. Money still binds us into a dynamic of death.
There is a social flow of rage, sister to the social flow of rebellion, of which Sergio Tischler speaks. It is hard to pin down, impossible to institutionalise. Inseparable from capitalism, rage flows through the world, constantly varying in intensity, always bubbling just below the surface, exploding now here, now there: in Argentina, in Bolivia, in Venezuela, now in Egypt, in Tunisia, in Greece, France, Italy, Ireland. Sometimes it seems to calm down, even to disappear, but it is never far from the surface in a world built on the frustration of human potential.
Crisis is a time of rage. Rage because our expectations are frustrated: there are no longer places in the universities, there are no longer jobs available, there are no longer resources available for what we want to do with our lives. It is not that we do not have the abilities, it is not that we cannot see what we want to do or what needs to be done. But everything depends on money and the money is not available, at least not for us. The rule of money is the rule of frustration. Rage against the rule of money.
Rage, deep rage because millions and millions do not have enough to eat. It is not that the food does not exist, it is not that the people have no appetite, it is just that money is needed to buy the food and the people have no money. Rage against the rule of money.
Rage is not the problem. There is no shortage of rage in the world, and it will probably explode more and more in the years to come. The real problem is what comes next, how to direct the rage, how to build upon the rage. Rage against Mubarak is good, but it does not go far enough. Rage against the bankers is good, but the bankers are no more than the servants of money.
“¡Que se vayan todos!” raised the level of rage, opened a new level of struggle for a different world. Firstly because it did not just demand the removal of one politician, as is so often the case (De la Rua, Mubarak, Berlusconi), but of the whole political class. And secondly, and more fundamentally because the demand opened the door to the occupation of a multitude of spaces.
The rage that explodes in a moment of capitalist crisis is often occasioned by the withdrawal of capital. For much of the time, capitalist social relations provide us with a framework for surviving – not for living, perhaps, but for surviving. Most people have jobs, the state provides some sort of infrastructure of education and health. And then capital contracts, and suddenly unemployment rises, there are massive cuts in state expenditure, the banks may even stop functioning.
When this happens – as it did in Argentina in 2001/2002 and is now happening increasingly all over the world – there are only two possible options. One is to beg for capital to come back to fill the space it has vacated: we want jobs, we want more state services. Fight for the right to work, fight the cuts in state expenditure! Come back capital, come back state!
The other possibility is to see that capital has ceded spaces and rush forward to occupy them. When capital makes us unemployed, we celebrate because now we can do something meaningful with our lives. When the capitalist state closes down schools and hospitals, we move in to take them over ourselves. When the capitalists close a factory, we take it over, not in order to reproduce the same method of working but to do things in a completely different way.
It is clear that the first of these responses is the only sane and sensible one. Throughout the world, this has been overwhelmingly the response of the labour and socialist movements. Defend our jobs, make the capitalists pay for their crisis! We are not to blame for the crisis, why should we pay for it? The only problem with this sane and sensible response is that it closes the system around us, makes all rupture impossible. The only problem with this sane and sensible response is that each resolution of the capitalist crisis within a capitalist context brings us one step closer to human self-annihilation. The only problem with this sane and sensible response is that it is insane.
The other response is of course ridiculous, stupid and the only possible way forward for humanity. We start by observing that capitalist employment is exploitation, the subordination of our daily activity to the logic of capitalist accumulation and that activities of the state seek to promote the best conditions for capital accumulation. If capital is unable to carry out these functions we rejoice and fill these spaces with our own social relations, our own way of doing things, with doing what we consider necessary or desirable. That is precisely what the radical interpretation of que se vayan todos is all about. Out with them all, not just the politicians, not just the capitalists, but the whole way of organising society. Capital has turned its back on us, it has failed. We do not want it back, let it go to hell.
Absurd because we do not control the world, we only control bits of it – cracks, fissures in the general texture of domination. Absurd because how do we survive if we tell capital to go to hell? “We don’t need you, capital, we can survive without you”, we say bravely. But how will we live without capital? That is the real test. It is not that we need new institutions to give duration to our revolt: that is not the issue. The strength of our refusal of capital depends finally on our capacity to live without it, on our capacity to live by doing things in a different way, our capacity to create here and now a different world.
How do we live if we get rid of capital? The old revolutionaries had an answer; by showing that socialism is a more efficient form of production than capitalism. The old answer failed doubly: the “communists” (as they called themselves) were unable to create a system of production as efficient as capitalism, and in the process of trying to do so they reproduced the same structures of hierarchy, oppression and alienation as those that they were trying to overthrow.
They failed, but that does not mean that we have the answer. The question remains: how do we live without capital? This is no longer the question of how we can construct a planned economy in the future, but how we can construct, here and now, what Raúl Zibechi calls in his excellent contribution to this collection an “economía política en resistencia”. This is both the glory and the dilemma of the argentinazo of ten years ago. It shows us the way forward and forces us to reflect on the difficulties.
The que se vayan todos, the cry of “we can do it ourselves, we do not need capital or the state”, the asambleas barriales, the fábricas recuperadas, the piqueteros and the community kitchens and talleres and schools, the movimiento de trueque: all of these are forms of struggle that project into a world that does not yet exist, or that exists only through our struggles. This is perhaps the most glorious urban example of struggling to create another world by living now the world we want to create. It was a struggle that went beyond mere negativity to create in a rapid opening of cracks an anti-world, not just a world of opposition, but a world of different social relations, different ways of doing things.
To live now the world that does not yet exist is the only way of creating that world, but it is also hazardous precisely because the world in which we choose to live does not yet exist. Or rather it exists not-yet, as anticipation, through our creation and the creations of the millions of people who live against-and-beyond capital. This makes the process both wonderfully exciting and creative, but also makes it very fragile. But perhaps beneath the fragility there is also a toughness, a great strength.
Maybe we should think of the argentinazo in terms of layers and different temporalities. A wonderful burst of creativity that lit up the world and showed the way forward, but fragile because it needed a stronger “economía política en resistencia” to sustain it. Yet it has left a strong sediment of quieter, less spectacular action that goes on constructing the world we create by living it. This is perhaps the only way that we can give strength and direction to the rage that is likely to flow through the world in the coming years.