John Jordan on Sat, 4 May 2002 00:09:02 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Argentinas Popular Rebellion. An eyewitness account.

Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion.
An eyewitness account of the financial meltdown and ongoing 
grassroots rebellion.

A beautiful 16 page tabloid size publication, complete with fantastic 
full page images (by Argentina Arde and Andrew Stern) of the popular 
rebellion in Argentina has just been produced. If you would like 
copies write to - stating how many you would 
like ( they are free - all you pay is postage - despatched from the 

yours rebelliously
  JJ and JW

sorry for cross psoting

The full text is below.

Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion.
An eyewitness account of the financial meltdown and ongoing 
grassroots rebellion.

Routines and Rebellions

15th Feb. 2002

Your tickets are invalid," says the heavily lipsticked agent at 
theVarig airlines check-in counter in southern Brazil. Her eyes flick 
to the next person in line. We protest vehemently, as we've had no 
problem using the tickets. She is not impressed, and calls for her 
manager, who explains to us that Varig no longer recognizes the 
reciprocity of any tickets issued through Aerolineas Argentina. "They 
cannot be trusted now," she informs us gravely, showing us the memo 
announcing the new policy. "We no longer do business with them." This 
is our first experience of the rippling effects of the Argentinean 
financial crisis.
	At the Aerolineas Argentina ticket counter, the agent is 
friendly, and seems a bit embarrassed. He books us tickets on the 
next flight to Buenos Aires. His demeanor suggests that of a man who 
does not know if he will have a job tomorrow. We board the plane, 
hoping that the massive layoffs and budget cuts have not reached air 
traffic control, aerospace engineering, safety inspection, and other 
related sectors. We arrive safely, get ourselves a cheap hotel, and 
bleary-eyed, head out for a coffee.
	In the corner of the cafe a television with the volume down 
is tuned into the Cronica channel - a uniquely Argentinean phenomenon 
- non-stop live trashy "news," seemingly unedited, with unbelievably 
bad and erratic camera work, and featuring the same lone reporter who 
seems to pop up all over town at random. Our introduction to Cronica 
is "live and direct" scenes from the beach, complete with close-up 
shots of thongs which zoom out and reveal beach volleyball games and 
languid sunbathers. There's a massive social rebellion going on in 
this country, and the news is live and direct from the beach!
	After about 20 minutes of beach footage, it cuts to the news 
studio. Two "presenters" appear, in the form of shockingly 
pink-haired puppets! This is beyond ridiculous, here we are, 
desperate for news of the rebellion, and all we can get is puppet 
shows and thongs. After some "live and direct" from the local 
football team's practice, we finally are rewarded with images of 
people banging pots and pans while invading the lobby of a bank. We 
quickly drink up our coffee, ask the waiter how to get to the 
financial district, jump on a bus, and arrive there in minutes.
	Financial districts look much the same all over the world, 
whether in the City of London, New York, or Frankfurt, but here in 
Buenos Aires there is one major difference - huge corrugated sheets 
of steel cover many of the bank headquarters, especially the foreign 
ones, like Citibank, HSBC, and Lloyds. Gone are the grand entrance 
halls; the prestigious shiny surfaces of glass and marble are hidden 
behind blank facades of grey steel, and the only access is through 
tiny doors cut into the sheet metal, through which suited figures 
pass, heads bowed, entering these fortresses as if banking has become 
a secretive, clandestine activity.
	The strong smell of wet paint hangs in the air, fresh 
graffiti covers the steel shuttering and walls, saying "ladrones," or 
thieves. The action can't be far away. We split up and scout the 
area, listening  for the clang of metal upon metal, the ineffable 
noise that has become the soundtrack to this rebellion, but hear 
nothing, find nothing. It seems that we are too late.

Economic Freefall

We've arrived on a Friday. Every Friday night since mid-December last 
year, there has been a massive cacerolazo in Buenos Aires, when the 
people converge in the political center of the city, the Plaza de 
Mayo, and create an enormous racket by banging on cacerolas, or 
saucepans. These huge cacerolazos developed spontaneously on the 19th 
of December 2001, the day when the uprising exploded, after 
smoldering in the provinces for several years, and now involving just 
about every sector of Argentinean society.
	Argentina suffered two and a half decades of International 
Monetary Fund-(IMF) backed "free-market reforms," which meant 
privatizing everything: water, telephone systems, postal services, 
railways, electricity - you name it - even the zoo was privatized. 
When the Asian and Russian markets crashed in 1998, foreign 
investment dried up in the so-called "emerging markets." Argentina 
was hit badly, a major recession struck, and foreign lenders asked 
for their money back, on time.
	According to the IMF, the only way the Argentinean government 
could repay the $132 billion debt, some of which dated from the 
military dictatorship, was by making more cuts in social spending, 
especially as many people, sick of political corruption, had stopped 
paying their taxes. Pensions, unemployment benefits, health care, and 
education all were cut drastically, and all state employees had their 
salaries slashed by 13%. It was the same old story  repeated across 
the world - as countries are forced into deeper and deeper debt, the 
IMF strip mines their economies for the benefit of foreign banks and 
bond traders.
	In fact, it was the bond markets, unsatisfied with the pace 
of the austerity plans, who proved to be even harsher task masters 
than the IMF. Unlike the IMF, they never bothered to send delegations 
to negotiate, they simply jacked up interest rates on debt issuances, 
in some instances from 9% to 14% in a fortnight.
	Now, after four years of recession, one out of every five 
Argentineans is unemployed, and some economists say this could soon 
double. 40% of the population is now living below the poverty line, 
and another 2000 people fall below it every day. Hospitals are 
running out of basic supplies like bandages and syringes, schools are 
shutting down because teachers aren't being paid, child mortality and 
hunger is on the rise, and this is all occurring in what once was one 
of the wealthiest countries in the world, for decades considered the 
great success story of neoliberal development in the "developing" 
world, the star pupil of the "Washington Consensus," and the main 
advocate for free trade in the region.
	As the recession worsened, Argentinean stock plummeted, and 
the unpopular austerity measures became increasingly vicious. 
Protests spread further across the country. Things climaxed in 
December 2001 when, grasping for straws, the government decided to 
try a complicated re negotiation of its debt repayments. Fearful that 
the entire economic house of cards was going to come tumbling down 
and that the currency would be devalued, thus wiping out their life 
savings, the middle classes panicked and withdrew about $135 billion 
from their bank accounts.

Fearing that a run on the banks would sink the economy, the detested 
finance minister, Domingo Cavallo, announced sweeping restrictions 
limiting the amount of money Argentineans could withdraw from their 
accounts. Known as the corralito, these measures included a monthly 
limit of $1000 on cash withdrawals in addition to caps on off-shore 
transfers. With all the facets of the crisis interlocking, the 
economy was effectively paralyzed.
	The IMF freaked out, due to the banking restrictions and the 
debt repayment plan, which would severely impact foreign banks, as 
they own 40% of Argentina's debt. They refused to lend any more 
money, and within weeks Argentina defaulted on its loans, the first 
time a country had done so in years. From this moment the economy was 
in free fall. On the 13th of December, a general strike called by 
major unions brought the country to a grinding halt for 24 hours. Six 
days later the popular rebellion exploded into the streets, where it 
remains today.

The Tin Pot Insurection

December the 19th was the turning point, the day when the Argentinean 
people said "enough!" The stage was set the day before, when people 
began looting shops and supermarkets so they could feed their 
families. The president, Fernando De La Rua, panicked. Twelve years 
ago, major looting toppled the government, and now, within the 
Argentinean collective memory, looting is linked to the collapse of 
regimes. De La Rua declared a state of emergency, suspending all 
constitutional rights, and banning meetings of more than three 
people. That was the last straw. Not only did it bring back traumatic 
memories of the seven year military dictatorship which killed over 
30,000 people, but also it meant that the state was taking away the 
last shred of dignity from a hungry and desperate population - their 
	On the evening of December 19th, our friend Ezequiel was on 
the phone with his brother who lives on the other side of Buenos 
Aires. They were casually chatting, when his brother suddenly said, 
"Hang on, can you hear that noise?" Ezequiel strained to hear a kind 
of clanging sound coming through the receiver." Yes, I can hear 
something on your side of the city but nothing here." They continued 
talking, and then Ezequiel paused, and said, "Wait, now I can hear 
something in my neighborhood, the same sound...." He ran to the 
	People were standing on their balconies banging saucepans, 
were coming out onto the sidewalks banging pots; like a virulent 
virus of hope, the cacerolazo, which began as a response to the state 
of emergency, had infected the entire city. Before the president's 
televised announcement of the state of emergency was over, people 
were in the streets disobeying it. Over a million people took part in 
Buenos Aires alone, banging their pots and pans and demanding an end 
to neoliberal policies and corrupt governments. That night the 
finance minister resigned, and over the next 24 hours of street 
protest, plainclothes policemen killed seven demonstrators in the 
city, while 15 more were killed in the provinces. The president 
resigned shortly thereafter, and was evacuated from the presidential 
palace by helicopter.
	Within a fortnight four more governments fell. Argentina was 
now set on a major high-speed collision course, with the needs and 
desires of its people on one side, and the demands of the IMF, the 
inept government, and global capitalism on the other.

Rivers of Sound

15th Feb. 2002

Our friends tell us to meet them for tonight's cacerolazo in the cafe 
of the  Popular University of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. The place 
is an enormous social centre, right opposite the national congress 
building, and is run by the well-known mothers of the disappeared, 
whose courageous actions brought to the attention of the world the 
mass disappearances during the military dictatorship between 1976 and 
	Surrounded by shelves crammed with books, journals, and 
newspapers documenting radical Latin American political struggles, we 
drink the quintessential Argentinean drink of health and friendship, 
yerba mate, an extraordinary herbal infusion that increases energy 
and mental alertness and is believed to contain all of the vitamins 
necessary to sustain life. The warm drink is served in a gourd with a 
silver straw and is passed around and shared between friends. No 
political meeting in Argentina is complete without mate, and some of 
us wonder whether this seemingly innocuous green twiggy tea is the 
secret ingredient behind this country's inspirational rebellion.
	Night falls, and before long we begin to hear the repetitive 
rhythm of pot-and-pan banging drift across the square. A small crowd 
of around fifty people has congregated in the street - they are 
young, old, rich, poor, smartly dressed, scruffy, but all are armed 
with spoons, forks, and a whole variety of metal objects to hit: 
cooking pots, lids, kettles, Coke cans, car parts, biscuit tins, iron 
bars, baking trays, car keys. The rhythm is high pitched and 
monotonous, and above it people sing catchy tunes instead of dull 
political chanting; often they include the key slogan of this 
movement: que se vayan todos, they all must go, meaning that the 
ENTIRE political class goes, every politician from every party, the 
supreme court, the IMF, the multinational corporations, the banks - 
everyone out so the people can decide the fate of this economically 
crippled country themselves.
	Our friend Eva tells us that the movement has lost some of 
its momentum over the last few weeks. We admit to being surprised by 
how small this crowd is - having imagined the cacerolazos to be 
enormous. But as we're thinking this, we reach a crossroads. To our 
right we see another crowd, perhaps twice as big as ours, coming 
towards us, waving and cheering. We continue for a few more blocks, 
and on the next street corner another stream of people flows out from 
the underground station, singing and jumping up and down as it merges 
with our group, another junction and yet more people come towards us.
	We began as 50, grew to a hundred or more, then we were two 
hundred, then five, then a thousand, two thousand, perhaps more. 
Rivers of people pouring into each other, growing bigger and bigger, 
rising to a roaring, banging torrent as we near the final 
destination, the Plaza de Mayo, where the presidential palace, the 
Pink House, stands protected behind police lines and barricades.

The Neighbourhoods Rise

Every week people make this pilgrimage, from every corner of Buenos 
Aires, some of them coming as far as seven kilometres. They walk with 
their asembleas populares, the neighborhood meetings which have 
spontaneously sprouted up over the last few months in over 200 
different neighborhoods in the city, and throughout the surrounding 
provinces. These assemblies are rapidly becoming autonomous centres 
of community participation. Most meet weekly (the more ambitious, 
twice a week!), and all meet outside - in squares, parks, and even on 
street corners.
	Every Sunday there is an assembly of assemblies, an 
inter-neighborhood plenary in a park, attended by over 4000 people 
and often running for more than 4 hours. Spokespeople from rich, 
poor, and middle class districts attend to report back on the work 
and proposals of their local assemblies, share ideas, and debate 
strategy for the following week's city-wide mobilizations.
	The local assemblies are open to almost anyone, although one 
assembly has banned bankers and party activists, and others have 
banned the media. Some assemblies have as many as  200 people 
participating, others are much smaller. One of the assemblies we 
attended had about 40 people present, ranging from two mothers 
sitting on the sidewalk while breast feeding, to a lawyer in a suit, 
to a skinny hippie in batik flares, to an elderly taxi driver, to a 
dreadlocked bike messenger, to a nursing student. It was a whole 
slice of Argentinean society standing in a circle on a street corner 
under the orange glow of sodium lights, passing around a brand new 
megaphone and discussing how to take back control of their lives. 
Every now and then a car would pass by and beep its horn in support, 
and this was all happening between 8pm and midnight on a Wednesday 
	It all seemed so normal, and yet was perhaps the most 
extraordinary radical political event I'd ever witnessed - ordinary 
people seriously discussing self-management, spontaneously 
understanding direct democracy and beginning to put it into practice 
in their own neighborhoods. Multiply this by 200 in this city alone, 
and you have the makings of an irresistible popular rebellion, a 
grassroots uprising which is rejecting centralized political power. 
As Roli, an accountant from the Almagro assembly said: "People reject 
the political parties. To get out of this crisis requires real 
politics. These meetings of common people on the street are the 
fundamental form of doing politics."
	Outside of the weekly meetings, the assemblies meet in 
smaller committees, each one dedicated to a different local issue or 
problem. Committees of health are common - with many local hospital 
budgets slashed, there is an urgent need to develop alternatives to 
the collapsing welfare system. Some are suggesting that people who 
own their own homes withhold their property tax, and instead give 
that money to the local hospitals. Many assemblies also have 
alternative media committees, as there is a widespread critique of 
the mainstream media's representation of the rebellion. It took a 
large cacerolazo outside their head offices to get them to cover the 
uprising more accurately. However, the spirit of distrust for any 
enormous corporate entity remains at large, and local assemblies are 
beginning to print their own news sheets, broadcast updates on local 
radio stations, and put up web sites.
	In addition to the innumerable meetings and the weekly 
cacerolazo, the assemblies also organize local street parties and 
actions. In one neighborhood, for example, the assembly organized 
pickets to prevent the authorities from closing down a baker who 
could not afford to pay his rent.
	For many of the assembly participants, this is the first time 
they have been involved in any form of grassroots mobilization in 
their lives. By creating a space for people to listen to each other's 
problems and desires for change, the assemblies have enabled people 
to realize that their personal daily struggles are connected to other 
people's problems, and that all roads eventually lead to a similar 
source, whether it is the government, the banks, the IMF, or the 
entire economic system itself. An elderly shopkeeper, whose 
experience is representative of many participants, said "Never in my 
whole life did I give a shit for anyone else in my neighborhood. I 
was not interested in politics. But this time I realized that I have 
had enough and I needed to do something about it."
	For radical change to occur, transformation has to take place 
in our minds as well as in social structures, and it is often on the 
tongue through the tool of language that one can trace some of the 
most radical shifts in consciousness. A beautiful illustration of 
this is that out of the experience of the assemblies, a new form of 
greeting has arisen. The traditional political leftist form of 
greeting in Latin American culture, compañero, or comrade, has been 
rejected in favor of a new form of address, vecino, or neighbor. It's 
a simple trick of the tongue, but one which signifies a major shift 
away from an authoritarian politics based on power and parties 
towards a participatory politics made up of people and places.

Converging Currents

15th Feb. 2002

The raging torrent of sound finally arrives at the packed Plaza de 
Mayo. The mouth of each avenue feeding into the square is flooded 
with thousands of people cheering the arrival of each assembly. 
Banner after banner passes by, some roughly painted and others 
carefully lettered , but each bearing the neighborhood's name and the 
time and place of the meeting.
	The repetitive metallic rhythm fills the night. Some people 
grow bored of hitting their pots and start to bang on lamposts or 
railings, others pound on the barricade which splits the square in 
half, behind which stand a symbolic row of riot policemen protecting 
the Pink House. Singing of the movement's anthem breaks out 
periodically, rising above the sound of the saucepans, voices crying, 
"They all must go, not a single one should remain, Duhalde must go 
back up his mother's cunt," sung with equal ebullience by elderly 
women, youthful punks, unemployed refinery workers, and middle class 
	Young kids are busy covering the walls with graffiti; hardly 
a surface of this city remains that does not carry some phrase or 
slogan of resistance. The outline of a coffin is drawn with the word 
"politicians" inside; a ministry building proclaims "My saucepan is 
not bullet proof;" the closed shutters of a shop declare "Popular 
assemblies - go out into the streets and claim what is rightfully 
	In the Plaza de Mayo, people are incredibly open, happy to 
talk with us, readily telling us stories, and repeatedly emphasizing 
how important it is that we document their struggle and show it to 
the world. The diversity of the crowd astonishes us - it seems that 
every walk of life is represented, and while we struggle to grasp the 
contradictions we perceive, we meet Pablo, a 30 year old employee of 
Bank Boston, who tells us, "By day I must work as a capitalist, but 
at night I'm a socialist. I've been a socialist for a long time, 
since my father was disappeared when I was six years old." His father 
was a university student of sociology, and was not particularly 
political, but was dumped in the Río Plata all the same at age 22, 
leaving behind an 18 year old wife and his six year old son.
	It is this which is particularly poignant, the fact that 
every one of these people who is over thirty is living with some 
memory of the dictatorship, has lost some people from their immediate 
family, (or at least knows someone who did), they know how bad things 
can get, how disappearances serve to terrify a population in ways 
that we, with only prisons and courts as official deterrence, can't 
dream of. This popular collective memory seems to permeate every 
aspect of this rebellion. Although the continuity of the lineage of 
resistance has been severely damaged, people seem deeply committed to 
doing the hard work of rebuilding a movement that was, until 
recently, in shambles, a movement that was long lulled to sleep by 
fearful memories not yet dulled by the passage of time, lulled to 
sleep by neoliberal promises and privatized dreams, convinced that 
without following the "rules of the market," the country was sure to 
return to the dark days of dicatorship.
	But not everyone is so sympathetic. "They had it coming," is 
a constant refrain from their Uruguayan neighbors, "They thought that 
they were European," and it's true that Buenos Aires feels much more 
like Paris than like São Paolo. However, the seemingly first-world 
status was propped up on credit and sustained by loans and a national 
refusal to recognize the symptoms of imminent collapse. Upon 
returning home, a Chicano activist tells us, "That's what's so 
important about the uprising. It's Latin Americanizing Argentina. 
Argentina is remembering where it is on the map."
	Time after time when we asked people in their neighborhood 
meetings, or during cacerolazos, "Do you think that people here have 
participated in resistance movements in the past?" the answer was an 
emphatic no, often with the postscript that the near-complete loss of 
a generation through disappearance and exile meant that there were 
few people in the country with any prior experience of organizing 
much of anything.
	Extraordinary to imagine, and contrary to everything we 
thought we knew, to find that a people with so little foundation, so 
little affinity for each other, coming from such a place of apathy 
and individualism, followed by outrage and despair, could so rapidly 
and intuitively develop forms of organization that are inherently 
disobedient, inherently directly democratic, and inherently utopian.
	Although this scene in the Plaza de Mayo is repeated every 
Friday night, tonight's cacerolazo is special. For the first time, 
the piqueteros, or literally, picketers, will be joining the 
cacerolazo. The piqueteros are Argentina's militant movement of 
unemployed workers, who launched this social rebellion five years ago.

The Power of the Piqueteros

Born out of frustration with the corruption and constant political 
compromises of official unions and the failure of all political 
parties to represent them, the piqueteros (the term refers to their 
common tactic of road blockades) grew out of the excluded and 
impoverished communities in the provinces. They are predominantly 
unemployed workers who have been organizing autonomously in their 
suburban barrios, the neighborhood districts which are key to many 
Argentineans sense of place and identity.
	Demanding jobs, food, education, and health care, they began 
taking direct action in the mid 1990s, blocking highways across the 
country. The action of blocking the flow of commodities was seen as 
the key way to disrupt economic activity; as they were unemployed, 
the option to strike was no longer available to them, but by blocking 
roads they could still have an enormously disruptive effect on the 
economic system. One of them explained, "We see that the way 
capitalism operates is through the circulation of goods. Obstructing 
the highways is the way to hurt the capitalist the most. Therefore, 
we who have nothing - our way to make them pay the costs and show 
that we will not give up and die for their ambitions, is to create 
difficulties by obstructing the large routes of distribution."
	"We block the streets. We make that part of the streets ours. 
We use wood, tires, and petrol to burn," adds Alejandro 
enthusiastically. He is a young piquetero who sports the red and 
black bandanna of the MTD (Unemployed Worker's Movement) around his 
neck and carries the three foot wooden club that has become one of 
the symbols of this movement. "We do it like this because it is the 
only way they acknowledge us. If we stood protesting on the sidewalk, 
they would trample all over us."
	These tactics have proved extraordinarily successful. Whole 
families take part in the blockades, setting up collective kitchens 
and tents in the middle of the street. Many of the participants are 
young, and over 60% are women. Over the years this loosely federated 
autonomous movement has managed to secure thousands of temporary 
minimum wage jobs, food allowances, and other concessions from the 
state. The police are often unable to clear the pickets because of 
the popular support they receive. The highways often run beside 
shantytowns on the edges of the cities, and there is always a threat 
that any repression against the piqueteros would bring thousands of 
people streaming out of these areas onto the road in support, 
provoking much more serious confrontations.
	In August 2001, a nation-wide mobilization of piqueteros 
managed to shut down over 300 highways across the country. Over 
100,000 unemployed workers participated and the economy was 
effectively paralyzed. Thousands were arrested and five killed, but 
the movement continued building momentum and has broken new ground in 
its use of non-hierarchical grassroots forms of organizing.
	The spirit of autonomy and direct democracy that exists in 
the urban neighborhood assemblies, was practiced by the piqueteros 
years before, as they share a similar healthy distrust of all 
executive power. Each municipality has its own organization centered 
around the neighborhoods, and all decision of policy and strategy are 
decided at piquetero assemblies. If the government decides to 
negotiate during an action, the piqueteros do not delegate leaders to 
go off and meet with government officials, but instead, demand that 
the officials come to the blockades so the people can all discuss 
their demands, and collectively decide whether to accept or decline 
any forthcoming offers. Too often they have seen leaders and 
delegates contaminated, bought off, corrupted, or otherwise tainted 
by power, and they have decided that the way around this is to 
develop radical horizontal structures.
	The primary demands are usually the creation of some 
temporary state-funded jobs, and once these are secured, the 
piqueteros decide collectively who gets these jobs, based on need and 
time spent helping with blockades. If there are not enough to go 
around, they rotate the jobs and share the wages. Other demands 
normally follow:  distribution of food parcels, liberation of some of 
the hundreds of jailed piqueteros, public investment in local 
infrastructure such as roads, health, education.
	A friend shows us video footage of a passionate woman on last 
week's piquetero blockade of an oil refinery. She sits behind a 
barricade of burning tires, teeth missing beneath bright piercing 
eyes, and declares, "Yes this is dangerous, of course it is 
dangerous, but we need to fight, we cannot go home because no one is 
going to bring anything to our, food for our 
children, the schools that are now disappearing, the 
see, if I get hurt now and I go to hospital, they don't even have the 
bandages to help me.  So if we stop the struggle, all the things will 
disappear....we have to keep struggling."
	In some parts of Argentina, the piqueteros have created 
quasi-liberated zones, where their ability to mobilize is far more 
influential than anything the local government is able to do. In 
General Mosconi, formerly a rich oil town in the far north, which now 
suffers with a more than 40% unemployment rate, the movement has 
taken things into its own hands and is running over 300 different 
projects, including bakeries, organic gardens, clinics, and water 
	What is extraordinary is that these radical actions, 
practiced by some of the most excluded and impoverished people in 
Argentina and using extremely militant tactics and imagery - burning 
barricades, blocked roads, masked-up demonstrators wielding clubs - 
have not alienated other sections of society. In fact, support comes 
from all across the movement.
"When people get angry, they rule with blood, fire, and sweat," 
explains a young piquetero, wearing a "Punk's Not Dead" t-shirt 
across his face as a mask. "We lost seven comrades in Plaza de Mayo. 
They had no political banner or ideology, they were only young 
Argentineans and wanted freedom. Then the government understood that 
people wanted to kick them out.... Those  that are up there in power 
are very worried that they can no longer order us around as before. 
Now people say 'enough.' We got together all social classes, from 
workers to unemployed, to say 'enough is enough,' together with 
people that have $100,000 and that can't take it out of the bank, 
people that broke their backs working to save up, together with us 
that maybe don't even have any food to eat. We are all Argentineans, 
all under the same banner, and don't want this to happen again.." A 
young piquetera named Rosa puts it more succinctly: "When women no 
longer have the resources to feed their children, the government is 
coming down, no matter what type of government it is."

La Lucha es una Sola

15th Feb. 2002

Tonight, we are privileged to watch the different currents of this 
struggle as they converge in the Plaza de Mayo. Suddenly there is a 
commotion in the corner of the square, which ripples through the 
crowd as all eyes turn to witness the arrival of the piqueteros, 
heroic, like a liberating army entering the city. Masked-up, 
tattooed, and fierce, each carries a stick of iron or of wood, which 
they hold together to form a cordon around themselves. They are 
greeted with an enormous cheer as they flow into the square with an 
energy and attitude which is forceful, raw, and urgent. Fireworks 
explode over the crowd as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo come 
forward to greet them, their small elderly faces framed in the white 
head scarf bearing the name of their disappeared children. Rising 
above the crowd are the royal blue and white flags of the Mothers on 
one side and the wooden clubs of the piqueteros on the other. Framed 
by their trademark symbols, they embrace, and the night resonates 
with the chant from the entire plaza, "Piquete y cacerolazo, la lucha 
es una sola," picket and cacerolazo, the struggle is the same.
	What we are seeing tonight is an incredible coming together 
of differences, a convergence that crosses so many boundaries of 
class and culture. It seems that every social sector involved in this 
rebellion is beginning to work together, and support each other. 
Revolutionary epochs are always periods of convergence - they are 
moments when seemingly separate processes gather to form a socially 
explosive crisis. Argentina is explosive right now - anything could 
happen - it's an enormous social experiment that could well prove to 
be the first great popular rebellion against capitalism of the 21st 
	By four in the morning the square has emptied. The crowd has 
slowly melted away, returning to their neighborhoods, and the city is 
silent again. Clusters of young people sit around on the grass 
talking, drinking, smoking - it could have been any Friday night out, 
in any city, but for the people painting the plaza with the names of 
those killed in December, or the small group huddled over a mobile 
silk-screen printing press, taking turns printing dozens of t-shirts 
with the simple slogan yo decido, I decide.

Politics Without Parties

16th Feb. 2002

We wake up the next morning to hear that the Pope has declared 
Argentina to be in a "pre-anarchic" situation. He seems to be 
following in the footsteps of President Duhalde, who in the first 
week of February said, "Argentina is on the brink of anarchy." Weeks 
later, the finance minister chimes in, telling a meeting of 
international bankers, "Either we have continuity or anarchy." Funny 
how that word gets thrown around whenever power begins to feel 
	It seems that they are using "anarchy" to conjure up the 
spectre of chaos, destruction, disobedience, nihilism, the collapse 
of law and order. It is doubtful they are using it to describe the 
authentic spirit of anarchism, which has spontaneously arisen on the 
street corners, and in the parks and squares of Argentina: the simple 
desire of people to live without rulers, remaining  free to govern 
	What is so refreshing is that this spirit has developed so 
spontaneously, and that no one, except a few tired old politicos (and 
the state of course), is using the word anarchism. This is perhaps 
surprising, given that Argentina had the world's largest anarchist 
movement at the dawn of the twentieth century. But no one needs 
another "ism" from the 19th century, another word which imprisons and 
fixes meaning, another word that seduces some people into the clarity 
and comfort of a sectarian box, and leads others in front of a firing 
squad or a show trial. Labels lead so easily to fundamentalism, 
brands inevitably breed intolerance, delineating  doctrines, defining 
dogma, limiting the possibility of change.

 From Rebellion to Reconstruction

There has been a clear pattern of rebellion against the IMF across 
the world over the last decades. From Indonesia to Nigeria, and 
Ecuador to Morocco, people have vented their desperation and anger 
against austerity measures which have destroyed their livelihoods. 
Riots have erupted, sometimes the military is sent in, occasionally 
governments fall, but inevitably the IMF remains and austerity 
programs continue. Nothing changes, except for the growth of poverty 
and mistrust.
	In the Buenos Aires Herald, we read a timely article about a 
new computer game called "Playing Minister" in which you replace the 
Brazilian economic minister, and are charged with keeping the country 
on an even keel in the face of emerging market crises, domestic bank 
collapses and currency devaluation. The game, according to its 
creator, is designed to "test your skills at juggling interest rates, 
controlling inflation, balancing budgets and managing debts." 
Apparently managing the accompanying health care crises and the food 
riots are not a part of the challenge when "Playing Minister."
	During a recent interview, investigative journalist Greg 
Palast revealed how useful these riots are to the IMF. Palast relayed 
a conversation he had with Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of 
the World Bank:  "'...everywhere we go, every country we end up 
meddling in, we destroy their economy and they end up in flames,' 
said Stiglitz. And he was saying that he questioned this and he got 
fired for it. But he was saying that they even kind of plan in the 
riots. They know that when they squeeze a country and destroy its 
economy, you are going to get riots in the streets. And they say, 
'well that's the "IMF riot."' In other words, because  you have 
riots, you lose. All the capital runs away from your country, and 
that gives the opportunity for the IMF to then add more conditions."
	What the IMF doesn't expect and certainly doesn't want, is 
for people to take things into their own hands, for them to shift 
from resistance to reconstruction, from the desperation and rage of 
rioting to the joy of creating alternatives. As the economic crisis 
tears into the social fabric of Argentina, pushing more and more 
people to the edge, the tension between hope and despair becomes a 
conducive and creative space for change. Between laughter and tears 
exists the space of optimism, the space of radical social 
	For the workers of the Zanón ceramics factory in Neuque, it 
is this spirit of optimism that has enabled them to occupy their 
factory, one of Latin America's largest ceramics producers, for the 
last six months, running it with astounding results. The company 
stopped production last year, claiming that it was no longer 
profitable and that they could no longer pay the workers' salaries. 
Rather than join the growing ranks of Argentina's unemployed, the 
workers decided to occupy the factory and keep the production lines 
running themselves.
	"We showed that with two days' worth of production, we were 
able to pay the wages of all the workers for that month," explained 
Godoy, one of the 326 workers involved in the occupation, thus 
exposing the realities of where the company profits were really 
going. The workers market the tiles at 60% of the previous prices and 
have organized a network of young vendors who sell them in the city. 
José Romero, a maintenance worker at the factory, adds, "This fight 
has opened our eyes to a lot of things."
	Like so many in this movement, they are critical of 
hierarchical forms of organization. Godoy continues,  "Now we have no 
full-time officials. The officials work eight hours like everyone 
else and we do our union activity after hours. The decisions are all 
made at general assemblies of workers, not behind closed doors." 
Photographs of the occupied factory show workers laughing and joking 
as they pull tiles out of the kilns. In Ursula Le Guin's 
extraordinary novel, The Dispossessed, which is perhaps the most 
tangible and touching description of an anti-authoritarian society in 
the English language, the word for work and play are the same. It 
seems the workers of Zanón have begun to make this dream a reality.
	Meanwhile, a mine in Río Turbío has been occupied, as well as 
a textile factory in Buenos Aires, which recently opened its doors 
for an International Women's Day festival. These worker-run endeavors 
are setting examples for Argentinean factories everywhere, and 
perhaps setting precedents on ways of doing business in the "new" 
Argentina. One manufacturer, who was on the verge of bankruptcy, 
called together his workers and told them that since he could no 
longer pay their salaries he would instead turn over blankets 
produced in the factory which the workers could either sell or take 
to the local barter markets, to exchange for other commodities. 
Perhaps he was worried by the example set at Zanón, or perhaps he is 
beginning to recognize the futility of continuing business as usual 
in such unusual times.

Popular Economics

16th Feb. 2002

It is in the barter markets where another extraordinary example of 
necessity breeding ingenuity is enabling Argentineans to survive the 
crisis. We visit the Trueque La Estación, or The Station Exchange, 
that takes place twice a week in a four story community centre on the 
outskirts of the city, where we are shown around by Ana, a shy 
engineer wearing thick glasses. "The politicians have stolen 
everything from the people, they want to control everybody," she 
explains. "People come here because they don't want to be in the 
	The place is bustling; we can hardly move through the jovial 
throngs of people perusing the rows of tables offering goods and 
services. You can buy anything here, or rather, you can exchange 
anything here, from eggs to bumper stickers, miniskirts to spices, 
cucumbers to crocheted toilet roll holders, as long as you use the 
barter's own currency - small brightly colored notes which look a bit 
like Monopoly money.
	The system is simple:  people take their products to the 
market and sell them for barter credit. The vendor is then able to 
use this to purchase products they need in return. If you have 
nothing to exchange and want to participate, you must buy credits 
from a bank with cash. But most people have something to trade, if 
they are imaginative enough, and though these people are deeply 
lacking in cash, they have a surplus of imagination.
	Piles of bric-a-brac cover some tables, while others have 
neat and ordered displays. A young woman sits behind a pile of 
underwear reading Nietzsche while a mother carrying her child in a 
sling does a swift trade in home baked pies. On one table Frederick 
Forsyth novels jostle for space with the Argentinean equivalent of 
Hello magazine and books about the Spanish Civil War. Huddled beside 
the stairs, an indigenous Bolivian family chat over wooden boxes of 
fresh vegetables. On the top floor a doctor in a pristine white coat 
offers to take our blood pressure, while a dentist demonstrates some 
procedure using a lurid pair of false teeth. People are having their 
haircut in one room while manicures and tarot readings are offered in 
another. There are classes in technical drawing as well as 
immigration advisement. Occasionally the trueque radio station (which 
"broadcasts" through a crackly PA system) announces new services 
being offered.
	These barter clubs began in 1995, when the recession began to 
be felt. Since then they developed into a whole network and are now 
known as nodos, meaning nodes, or points of concentration. Currently 
there are several thousand nodos in existence throughout the country, 
with well over two million people taking part. For many of them it 
has become the only way of surviving the economic crisis.
	As we leave the building we pass a stall holder with whom we 
spoke during the afternoon, a strikingly tall, elegantly dressed 
woman in her mid-forties. She waves good-bye, her dark eyes filled 
with resigned sadness, in sharp contrast to the overall conviviality 
of the place, and her lips silently form the words, "We are hungry."

Beware the Bourgeois Block

18th Fe. 2002

It's noon on a Monday, and we are on Florida Avenue, the main 
pedestrian shopping street of Buenos Aires, no different from 
London's Oxford Street, with its numerous McDonald's, Tower Records 
and Benettons. This busy street, normally full of bankers and 
business people making quick lunch time purchases, runs along the 
edge of the financial district. But today something is not quite 
normal. The rustle of shopping bags is drowned out by a deafening 
	A crowd of about 200 people are beating the steel sheet metal 
that protects the entrance of a bank. They bang with hammers, ladles, 
monkey wrenches, one woman even removes her shoe to use as a tool. 
The entire facade of the building shudders under the fury of the 
raining vibration of the blows. The force of some of the tools 
manages to punch gaping holes straight through the metal, agile 
gloved hands prise the sheets apart. Suddenly the armor falls away 
and the crowd cheers.
	A handful of people split off and invade a bank lobby across 
the street. Within a fraction of a second all six ATM machines are 
systematically smashed, shattered glass flies, and a woman sprays the 
word "chorros," or crooks, in huge letters on the marble wall. 
Nervous bank employees watch the scene from behind a glass doo;, an 
egg sails through the air and breaks against it. The bankers flinch, 
then turn away.
	The crowd repeats the accusatory chant, "Ladrones, ladrones," 
or thieves, and then join in a longer chant, while jumping 
ecstatically up and down, waving portfolios and briefcases around. 
The chant translates loosely as "Whoever is not jumping is a banker, 
whoever is not jumping is a thief...." When this dies down, everyone 
casually exits the lobby and moves on to the next bank, less than 
fifty yards up the street.
	These kind of tactics have become archetypes of contemporary 
protest: the shattered glass, graffiti smeared across bank walls, the 
corporate symbols of capital destroyed. Images like these have been 
imbedded in our imagination over the past few years, placed there by 
the mega-machine of mainstream media in its attempt to divide, 
discredit, and attack the growing anticapitalist movement, which is 
increasingly referred to as "terrorist thugs", "violent anarchists," 
and "mindless mob." From London to Genoa, via Seattle, Prague, and 
Québec City, it has been the same story, the same images, the same 
rituals of symbolic destruction, played out over and over again; a 
high drama which effectively sells newspapers when splashed across 
the front page, and which serves to distract from the real issues at 
hand. However, here in Buenos Aires, things are very, very, different.
	For one thing, it was impossible to tell the demonstrators 
from the passersby. Men in suits and ties with briefcases in one hand 
and hammers in the other, women with gold bracelets, hand bags, and 
high heels sharing cans of spray paint, anonymous suits on their 
lunch break joining the fracas and then melting back into the crowd. 
Walking through the pedestrian zone was astonishing - not only was it 
impossible to tell who was who, but also, businesses remained open, 
leaving their doors and windows open, fearless of looting or damage, 
as it was perfectly clear that the targets were the banks and nothing 
but the banks. Even McDonald's, usually having the honor of being the 
first to lose its windows, left their door open, solely guarded by 
the customary single private security guard.
	Another major difference is that this is not the black bloc - 
in fact there are no hooded sweatshirts to be seen. No one is masked, 
although one woman covers her face with a newspaper and large 
sunglasses, understandable if you've survived the disappearance of 
30,000 of your fellow citizens. The spirit of "militant" (and often, 
macho) clandestinity is completely absent. It is broad daylight - 
while the bank is being trashed, shoppers are buying tennis shoes 
next door, and the handful of police, unable to do anything, stand 
idly, watching sheepishly. This is the most open, accountable, and 
disciplined property damage (one can hardly call it a riot when the 
police don't fight back) that we've ever witnessed. It's also 
probably the most surreal. If one must call these people a bloc, and 
why not, as they move and act as one, maybe "bourgeois bloc" would 
suit them best.
	The ahorristas, or savers, hold their demonstrations three 
times a week. On the day we followed them, 17 banks were "visited." 
Before meeting them, it was difficult to imagine women with shopping 
bags and high heels kicking at corporate windows, huge lipstick grins 
spreading as they watched the glass shatter into thousands of pieces. 
That day they also surrounded every armored security van transporting 
cash from bank to bank that they came upon and covered each one in 
graffiti, while men in pin striped suits proceeded to unscrew the 
wheel nuts and others pried open the hood, tearing out wires from the 
running engines. Soccer moms jumped up and down on top of the vans, 
smashing anything that could be broken, side mirrors, headlights, 
license plates, windshield wipers and antennae. For three hours on a 
Monday afternoon, our understanding of the world was turned on its 
head, all our preconceptions and stereotypes melted away. "This could 
be my mom," we kept thinking.
	The ahorristas are the upper to lower middle class who have 
had their life savings frozen by the government-imposed corralito. 
Dressed in shirts and ties, pumps and designer sunglasses, they just 
don't seem the sort who would be smashing up corporate property. They 
are architects, computer programmers, doctors, housewives, 
accountants, and even bank employees, one of whom, dressed in a 
business suit and holding a wrench and a metal bowl, explained, "It's 
not just the banks who are thieves, it's the government with the 
corporations. They confiscated the money we had in the bank. They 
stole it." She pauses, and then shakes her fist. "I am very angry!"
	And yet the ahorristas are not simply the selfish petit 
bourgeoisie, worried only about their own money. Their struggle has 
broken out of the enclosure of self-interest, and has begun to 
encompass a critique of much of the social system. They have publicly 
allied themselves to the piqueteros and many take part in the 
assemblies . "A lot more than just the government must change here," 
says Carlos, a computer programmer, who has painted slogans all over 
his suit. His words echo those of the piquetero, Alejandro: "Us, the 
piqueteros, and all the people who are fighting, are struggling for 
social change. We do not believe in the capitalist neoliberal system 

Predicting the Unpredictable

The repudiation of the politicians and the economic elites is 
complete," says José Luis Coraggio, the rector of a university in 
Buenos Aires who is active in the movement. "None of them who are 
recognized can walk the streets without being insulted or spat upon. 
It is impossible to predict what will happen. Next month, or next 
week, Duhalde could be deposed, we could be in a state of chaos, or 
we could be building a new country that breaks with neoliberal and 
capitalist orthodoxy."
	Breaking with capitalist orthodoxy is what the IMF and the 
supporters of global capitalism most fear. Last year Fidel Castro 
caused a diplomatic storm when he accused Argentina of "licking the 
Yankee boot." Currently that boot is held over Argentina's face and 
will undoubtedly start kicking if the government does not find a way 
to please the demands of global capital, and get back to the business 
of licking again.
	However, the government is between a rock and a hard place - 
even if it had an iota of legitimacy within Argentinean society, 
which it clearly doesn't, it could not possibly please both the hopes 
of the citizens and the demands of capital as enforced by the IMF. So 
what can it do?
	Traditional remedies seem worthless, as the country's 
currency is steadily plummeting in value on the foreign exchange 
markets. People are queuing outside money changing shops for hours, 
desperate to change their pesos into dollars, before their cash 
becomes worthless. The government, in yet another desperate attempt 
to appear in control, put restrictions on the exchange rate, but this 
further infuriated the IMF because it is another artificial control 
of the markets. In response, Doug Smith, a Wall Street analyst, said, 
"The only thing that's going to stop this is for them to come up with 
some announcements that are credible and get the IMF behind them 
instead of trying to put Band-Aids on every situation." Yet there are 
no credible announcements to be made, and the wounds are too deep for 
	A certain kind of language has become common currency 
recently. The head of the IMF, Horst Koehler, has declared that "... 
without pain, [Argentina] won't get out of this crisis." President 
Bush called on Argentina to make some "tough calls" before even 
thinking of the much-desired financial aid, and President Duhalde 
himself said that things are going to get a lot worse before they get 
	Is this tough talk laying the groundwork for a military coup? 
After all, Argentina has had its fair share of these over the last 
century. But given the residual illegitimacy of the military, 
stemming from the decades of dictatorships, it seems that this option 
is unlikely, and besides, no one wants to take power and inherit the 
current situation, not even the military. In fact, it seems that 
there may be dissent their ranks - one officer told reporters, "Even 
if the situation turns to anarchy or civil war, if they ask me to 
intervene, my principal concern will be making sure my orders will be 
obeyed by my men."
	More likely than another coup, or CIA-funded force invading 
to "restore order" (common practice in Latin American history), 
another form of outside intervention will be attempted. "Somebody has 
to run the country with a tight grip," write two professors of 
economics in a Financial Times article brilliantly entitled, 
"Argentina cannot be trusted." The article goes on to suggest that 
Argentina "must surrender its sovereignty on all financial issues," 
it must accept "...radical reform and foreign, hands-on control and 
supervision of fiscal spending, money printing, and tax 
administration," preferably from a "...board of foreign central 
bankers," from "...small disinterested countries." To phrase it 
another way, it would be like Belgian, Danish, and Swiss bankers 
coming in to run the British Central Bank and Inland Revenue Service.
  	Despite shocking poll results saying that 47% of the 
population agrees that large parts of Argentina's government should 
be entrusted to international experts, there is such distrust in 
banks that it seems unlikely that the arrival of more foreign bankers 
will calm people's nerves. As Enrique Garcia, president of the Andean 
Development Bank, said recently, "People in the streets feel that 
instead of being part of the solution, the banking sector is part of 
the problem."
	The spirit on the streets and in the assemblies is that 
people can govern themselves. Another poll showed that one in three 
people had attended an assembly, and that 35% say the assemblies 
constitute ''a new form of political organization." The spirit of 
direct democracy and self-organization has never felt as strong as it 
did as we watched the assemblies unfold in the long, warm Buenos 
Aires evenings. President Duhalde may say, ''It is impossible to 
govern with assemblies," and believe that "the democratic way to 
organize and participate is through voting," but the people of 
Argentina have taught themselves through practice the real meaning of 
democracy, and the vacuous words of politicians now fall on deaf ears.
	One evening, after attending his local assembly, a middle 
aged man who was active in the resistance against the military 
dictatorship, turned to us, and said in a soft, confident voice, "In 
the last month we have achieved more than we did in forty years. In 
four short weeks we have given ourselves enough hope to last us 
another forty years."
	So a choice does exist, despite the government's blind 
adherence to the demands of the IMF. Argentina can choose between 
sovereignty and occupation, between the local desire of people and 
the global demands of capital, between democracy and empire, between 
life and money, between hope and despair.

Watch this Space

15th Feb. 2002

When we first landed in Buenos Aires, we were immediately searching 
for signs of the insurrection. Would this airport feel any different 
from any other? Would the streets be clogged with traffic, or with 
crowds? Was the garbage still being collected and the mail delivered? 
Never having been in a country in the midst of a mass social 
rebellion, we wondered what would appear different in everyday life.
	Riding into the city, we got our first clue. The barren 
stretches of highway that link cities with airports, so similar all 
over the world, are always flanked by rows of large billboards, 
advertising the staples of international business - Visa cards, 
mobile phones, hotels, airlines. This was true on this sterile strip 
of land, but something was different.
	Over half the billboards were completely bare, with huge 
white spaces where adverts would have been. There was something 
really beautiful about them, as they stood enormous in their 
emptiness, drained of the poisonous images of consumption, yet 
seductive in their nothingness, freed from commerce, and filled with 
possibility. They somehow stood for the space of change that this 
country is undergoing, they spoke of the pause, the blank sheet of 
paper waiting to be filled; they were the space from which a society 
could begin to imagine something different, the space from which 
people could begin to put dreams into action.

A Post Script for the Global Anticapitalist Movement

Argentina's crisis is fast emerging as a sort of economic Rorschach 
test, used by economists and theoreticians of all ideological 
persuasions to prove their point," says the Financial Times. 
"Opponents of the 'Washington Consensus' say Argentina's experience 
shows the perils of following the recipes of the IMF. Supporters of 
free markets say Argentina's experience shows the danger of not 
opening up [the economy] enough."
	Argentina may well prove to be the crisis which irrevocably 
splits the ever-widening crack in the neoliberal armor, especially if 
things continue to unravel in other parts of Latin America. Recent 
events in Venezuela, and the possibility of left wing gains in this 
year's Brazilian presidential elections, point to a shift away from 
the "Washington Consensus" across much of the region.
	The last decade has seen the increasing delegitimazation of 
the neoliberal model, as a movement of movements has sprung up on 
every continent, challenging the seemingly unstoppable expansion of 
capital. From Chiapas to Genoa, Seattle to Porto Alegre, Bangalore to 
Soweto, people have occupied the streets, taken direct action, 
practiced models of self-organization, and celebrated a radical 
spirit of autonomy, diversity, and interdependence. The movements 
seemed unstoppable, as mass mobilizations got bigger, more diverse 
populations converged, and the World Bank, WTO, IMF, and G8 were 
forced to meet on mountain tops, protected by repressive regimes, or 
behind fences defended by thousands of riot police. Seeing them on 
the defensive, having to justify their existence, gave the movements 
an extraordinary sense of hope.
	By identifying the underlying global problem as capitalism, 
and by developing extraordinary international networks of inspiration 
in very short amounts of time, it felt almost as though history were 
speeding up, that perhaps we could succeed in the next phase, the 
process of imagining and constructing worlds which exist beyond greed 
and competition. Then, history did what it does best, surprising us 
all on September 11th when the twin towers were brought down, and it 
seemed for a while that everything had changed.
	Suddenly hope was replaced by the politics of despair and 
fear. Demonstrations were called off, funding was pulled, and mass 
backpedaling and distancing occurred within the  movement itself. 
Commentators immediately declared anticapitalism dead. The editor of 
The Guardian wrote "since September 11th, there is no appetite for 
[antiglobalization], no interest, and the issues that were 
all-consuming a few months ago seem irrelevant now." Others suggested 
that the movement was somehow linked to the terrorists. Clare Short, 
the UK development minister, stated that the movement's demands were 
very similar to those of Al-Qaida.
	September the 11th forced a reappraisal among activists, 
particularly in the global North. It challenged us all to take a deep 
breath, put our rhetoric into practice, and think strategically, and 
fast. Then three months later, history seemed to resume its 
accelerated speed, when Argentina erupted, followed closely by the 
collapse of Enron. It seemed that despite the blindly nationalist, 
racist, and indefinite "war on terror" to distract the world, 
neoliberalism was continuing to disintegrate.
	Perhaps the biggest challenge the global movements face now 
is to realize that the first round is over, and that the slogan first 
sprayed on a building in Seattle and last seen on a burning police 
van in Genoa, "We Are Winning," may actually be true. The "crisis of 
legitimacy" expands exponentially almost daily. Corporations and 
institutions such as the World Bank and the G8 are constantly trying 
to appease the growing global uprising, with empty promises of 
environmental sustainability and poverty reduction.
	On May Day, 2002 a new book is being launched by academics 
who lament, "Today there is an anticapitalist orthodoxy that goes 
beyond a latent hostility to big business. Its a well-organized 
critique of capitalism." The book argues that we must "start standing 
up for capitalism" because it's "the best thing that ever happened to 
the world," and that "if we want to change the world then we should 
do it through business," and treat capitalism as a "hero, not a 
villain." Perhaps a few hours on the streets of Argentina, or a chat 
with former employees of Enron would show them the true villainy and 
absurdity of capitalism.
	With mainstream commentators falling over themselves to 
declare that capitalism is good for us and will save the world, it 
seems clear that the first round of this movement has been a victory. 
There has been a "...nearly complete collapse of the prevailing 
economic theory," according to economist James K. Galbraith. But the 
next round will be the hardest. It will involve applying our 
critiques and principles to our everyday lives; it will be a stage of 
working close to home. A stage where mass conflict on the streets is 
balanced (but not entirely replaced) with creating alternatives to 
capitalism in our neighborhoods, our towns and cities, our 
bioregions. This is exactly where Argentina can show us an inspiring 
way to move forward.
	The situation in Argentina contains many elements of the 
anticapitalist movements:  the practice of direct action, 
self-management and direct democracy; the belief in the power of 
diversity, decentralization, and solidarity; the convergence of 
radically different social sectors; the rejection of the state, 
multinational corporations, and financial institutions. Yet, what is 
most incredible is that the form of the uprising arose spontaneously, 
it was not imposed or suggested by activists, but rather, created by 
ordinary people from the ground up, resulting in a truly popular 
rebellion that is taking place every day, every week, and including 
every sort of person imaginable.
	Argentina has become a living laboratory of struggle, a place 
where the popular politics of the future are being invented. In the 
face of poverty and economic meltdown, people have found enough hope 
to continue resisting, and have mustered sufficient creativity to 
begin building alternatives to the despair of capitalism. The global 
movements can learn much in this laboratory. In many ways it is 
comparable with the social revolutions of Spain in 1936, of France in 
May 1968, and more recently, in southern Mexico, with the 1994 
uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) - all 
rebellions which inspired, then and now, millions around the world.
	It was a spirit of innovative solidarity that sparked a 
transformation of the practice of politics, and led us into the first 
stage of this new evolution of people's movements. The Zapatistas 
sowed the seeds for creating "rebellions which listen" to local needs 
and demands, and which are therefore particular to each place, and 
activists from around the world responded, not only through 
traditional forms of international solidarity as practiced during the 
1970-80s, particularly by Central American solidarity groups, but 
also through applying the spirit of Zapatismo by "listening" at home.
	This network of listening that has occurred between many 
different cultures has been a cornerstone for the first round of this 
global movement, as it wove together its multiple differences, 
forming a powerful fabric of struggle. The second round needs to 
maintain these networks that nurture mutual inspiration flowing, 
because no revolution can succeed without hope. But the global 
anticapitalist movement also needs the reassurance of seeing its 
desires and aspirations being lived on a daily basis. The Zapatista 
autonomous municipalities in Chiapas are a kind of model, but are 
firmly rooted in indigenous culture, are small enclaves within a 
larger state, and are largely unexportable. Argentina, however, is an 
entire society undergoing transformation. It is a model that is much 
easier for the movements, especially those of the global North, to 
imagine occurring at home.
	However, the movement in Argentina is in danger of isolation; 
without the security and the mutual inspiration of international 
solidarity, it will suffer greatly. The mainstream press has mostly 
ignored the situation since the December riots, and most people we 
met felt that the world was unaware of their plight. For once, no one 
was chanting "the whole world is watching," because of course, it is 
in the interest of capitalism's defense team to ensure that we don't 
get to watch, don't get to see what's really going on. Although many 
anticapitalists worldwide have said "Thank god for Argentina," as 
we've had our hopes rekindled in the dark days post 9-11, most of the 
people on the streets of Argentina have no idea that they've provided 
such widespread optimism.
	If Chiapas was the place from which the seeds of the first 
round of this movement blew, then Argentina could well be where those 
seeds land, begin to sprout, and put down roots. We need to find 
creative ways to support and learn from the rebellion there as we did 
with the Zapatistas. Some solidarity actions have been taken - the 
Argentinean embassy in London was occupied and an anarchist flag hung 
out front, cacerolazos have taken place from Seattle to Sao Paolo, 
Rome to Nairobi. A chant directed against the World Economic Forum 
when they met in New York, proclaimed, "They are  Enron, we are 
Argentina!" But much more could be done, more stories could be 
exchanged, actions coordinated, and visits to the laboratory 
	There is a joke currently circulating the Japanese banking 
community, that goes: "What's the difference between Japan and 
Argentina ?" "About eighteen months." These bankers well know that 
the economic situation in Argentina will occur elsewhere, and that it 
is inevitable that the tug of war between people's desires for a 
better life and the demands of global capital will result in 
explosions across the planet. A recent report by the World 
Development Movement documents 77 separate incidents of civil unrest 
in 23 countries, all relating to IMF protests, and all occurring in 
the year 2001. From Angola to Nepal to Columbia to Turkey, the same 
cracks are appearing in the neoliberal "logic," and people are 
resisting. A dozen countries are poised to be the "next Argentina," 
and some of them may be a lot closer to home than we ever imagined.
	We need to be prepared, not only to resist, but to find ways 
to rebuild our societies when the economic crisis hits. If the 
popular rebellion in Argentina succeeds, it could show the world that 
people are able to live through severe economic crisis and come out 
the other side, not merely having survived, but stronger, and happier 
for struggling for new ways of living.
	As this goes to print, the economic crisis in Argentina 
continues to spiral out of control. Having succeeded in winning legal 
battles against the government (setting legal precedent that 
ricochets around the globe) and recovering their savings from banks, 
thousands of depositors are withdrawing their money from the banking 
system as fast as they can. In  recent days a judge has sent a police 
contingent and a locksmith to a branch of HSBC to recover a 
claimant's savings, while the vault of a branch of Banco Provincia 
was opened with the aid of a blowtorch. With the banking system about 
to go belly up, the government decided to close all banks for an 
"indefinite holiday." When the IMF refused again to loan more money 
and the Argentinean congress threw out  a bill that proposed 
converting the frozen bank savings into IOU government bonds, the new 
minister of economy resigned. In an emergency press conference, 
Duhalde declared "Banks will have to open again and God knows what 
will happen then. Banks cannot be closed permanently. It would be 
absurd to think of a capitalist system without banks."
	It may be absurd to think of a capitalist system without 
banks, but it is equally absurd to believe in the continuation of the 
present global system. Perhaps the most realistic thing to imagine at 
the beginning of this already war-torn century, is a system free of 
capitalism, one without banks, without poverty, without despair, a 
system whose currency is creativity and hope, a system that rewards 
cooperation rather than competition, a system that values the will of 
the people over the rule of the market. One day we may look back at 
the absurdity of the present and remember how the people of Argentina 
inspired us to demand the impossible, and invited us to build new 
worlds which spread outwards from our own neighborhoods.

John Jordan and Jennifer Whitney, May Day 2002

Argentina's own independent media centre, mostly in spanish, a great 
source of information straight from the streets.
Loads of links to excellent English language news and analysis about 
the crisis.
The Financial Times, always the best coverage of struggles in the 
global South! Why? Because they affect investment ...
Argentina's English language daily paper on line. Good for up to the 
minute news.


Text/design by:
John Jordan and Jennifer Whitney.

Argentina Arde and Andrew Stern.

Thanks to:
María Eva, Martín, Ezequiel, Alejandro, Rosa, Griselda, Raphael and 
many others on the streets. Annabela, Gabriel, Manuel for the flat 
from heaven. Greyg for fellow travelling. Naomi and Avi for 
contagious optimism.  Sherry Fraser for Photo Shop wizardry.
Joane and Josephine for love and support.

For more copies contact:

For similar inspiration in print check out the forthcoming book "We 
Are Everywhere: The Irresistable Rise of Global Anticapitalism"
published by Verso at the end of 2002.

"The role of the revolutionary artist is to make revolution irresistible."
Toni Cade Bambara



WE ARE EVERYWHERE - a radical publishing project, needs your contributions.


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