Keeping 2001 open: Argentina’s uprising 20 years later

On December 19 and 20, 2001, a popular rebellion broke out in Argentina. With the economy plummeting, people have taken to the streets with a clear refrain: “Que se vayan todos. The government quickly defaulted on its massive debt, and many new experiences of horizontal grassroots organization and economic alternatives have come to life. Colectivo Situaciones, a radical research collective based in Buenos Aires, sought to document the process.

This is an excerpt from the 20th anniversary edition of Colectivo Situaciones’ 19 and 20.

I first encountered the work of Colectivo Situaciones in the months following the uprising of the 19th and 20th, as their texts began to circulate more widely in certain circles of the global justice movement around the world. I encountered their work through collective translations that were freely distributed online, printed and handed out at events, and discussed in small militant reading groups in North Carolina where I lived at the time or at the counter-summits of the movement for global justice. I met members of the Solano Unemployed Movement as they traveled across the United States, visiting college campuses and activist groups, en route to protests against the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas in Miami in 2003. We connected to the texts not only in intellectual or theoretical terms, but through shared embodied experiences, acuerpamiento as we say now, embodying the struggle and putting our bodies on the line together.

These texts were therefore essential not only to know the revolt that had taken place in Argentina, and the novelty of it, but also to share the way of thinking and writing that accompanied it, not only the content of the writing, but the method of analysis-action, which fits into the proposition of research activism. This method – which could perhaps crystallize among the Zapatistas caminar preguntando– was a fundamental characteristic of this wave of world struggles. These struggles have opened up questions about the revolutionary subject, the class composition in the contemporary moment, the form of revolutionary action and organization, the meaning of the revolution itself. All over the world, new tactics were invented – and linked to strategies and ways of producing analysis – that emphasized not knowing, experiencing, something like humility, they formed that which could be seen as an ethos of this globally connected movement.

Thus, the work of Colectivo Situaciones immediately fits into a constellation of texts, conversations, concepts, which trace a geography from Seattle to Genoa, from Chiapas to Sāo Paulo. It was also directly linked to a number of meetings, such as Enero Autónomo in Argentina, in which activists traveled to participate in assemblies and events with participants from the Argentine autonomous movements. These events were not intended to replicate the experience of the 19th and 20th in other countries, the forms of organization and movement that gave rise to the revolt or emerged in its wake, as that would have been absurd. . Yet they were based on a fundamental belief that we can learn from each other, that the encounter can open new questions and avenues and can resonate elsewhere.

Thus, if the reading presented in this 19th and 20th century book is fundamentally a situated reading, immanent in the event itself, and based on specific genealogies of Argentine and Latin American Marxist thought, it is ‘also fits into transnational circuits and conversations. , as are the events themselves. This led to a specific way of reading the Argentine uprising, of understanding it as a revolt against neoliberalism, against financialized capital, which both underlined the uniqueness of the revolt and linked it to global and particular struggles elsewhere.

Activist / Investigation

WWithin Argentina, the Colectivo Situaciones stands out for its relationship to the 2001 revolt compared to others engaged in intellectual and theoretical production. Many intellectuals of the time downplayed the importance of the uprising, calling it “spontaneous”, “unorganized” and “prepolitical”. In other words, it didn’t match their ideas of what a “revolution” should look like, nor did it confirm their already existing theories, nor did it follow the game manual they had devised. As a result, much of the uprising has remained unreadable for this kind of intellectuals and ways of thinking. Colectivo Situaciones, on the other hand, took a different approach. Without pretending to understand the uprising, they knew that it was necessary to participate in it, that it was necessary first and foremost to be in the streets, at the barricades and roadblocks, and in the assemblies. Rather than judging the ongoing revolt according to predetermined criteria, their role as a collective was to deepen and follow the threads of an insurgent subjectivity that ran through it.

This conviction that knowledge occurs in struggle – that struggles, mobilizations, rebellions are productive both in terms of new ways of understanding a situation and through new encounters between subjects and experiences – is a fundamental characteristic. of the methods and policies of the knowledge of Colectivo Situaciones. Thus, the militant researcher is immanent in the present situation, not an external and neutral observer, but immersed in and of the struggles themselves, following and contributing to this insurgent knowledge produced in the struggle. There is also another element, knowledge itself is productive. Thus, activist research is not characterized by description, limited to the deployment of sociological categories and analytical frameworks, but rather a producer of new concepts, relationships, encounters and Powerful.

Research activist, research activism: both question the hegemonic forms of academic and intellectual research and the dominant forms of activism and militancy. They question the very presumption of a research subject who is researching, separated from the situation, and the research object, passively researched. But neither do they refer to a new form of action research or participatory research or the like, forms which do not generally challenge the epistemological claims of hegemonic research, which continue to depend on the established positions of the researcher and the participating, and often only lead to more extractive forms of knowledge production. But it also challenges the dominant forms of activism and militancy, which assume that the responses, the tactics and strategies needed, the forms of organization required, the desired way of life, are already known. Research, in the productive sense described above, is an essential element of politics, not only to understand our situations, but also to bring about new encounters and new futures, and to avoid getting bogged down in reified ways of doing things. think and be in the world. .

Basically, research activism is characterized by this position of immanence to the current situation, and ultimately research activism indicates the self-abolition of both the researcher and the activist as independent and fixed subjects. . What we saw in the uprising of 2001 is that this militant research practice is not embodied in a few specific subjects, even if the texts reproduced here bear names. Research activism is a hallmark of the uprising itself, widespread across the social field and put into practice in an insurgency that is more about inventing new forms of acting and being together than implementing plans and predefined programs.

Twenty years later

WSo what does it mean to read this book 20 years later with the goal of keeping 2001 open as a premise? These 20 years have seen a profound transformation of the political, social and economic spheres: many movements and organizations that emerged with the insurgency were then incorporated into the government Kirchnériste project while alternative economic activities reached a mass level with the expansion of the popular economy, as people individually and collectively invented forms of income generation to survive during the crisis. It has also been accompanied by profound changes in political subjectivities, with the neoliberal government of Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) and a proliferation of microfascisms from below, increased competition and violence at all levels of society.

Thus, rather than remaining linked to the organizations and forms of mobilization and protest that were practiced in 2001, to keep 2001 open is to engage in an inquiry-action, to seek out and cultivate insurgent subjectivities. It is a question of immersing oneself in the struggles of the moment, of recognizing the knowledge that occurs there and of keeping alive this feeling of indeterminacy. This perspective shows that, more than anything, it is the feminist movement (s) that have taken over the mantle of the spirit of 2001 in the manner discussed here. Organized territorially, through assemblies, through meetings in different places and at different scales, it is not encapsulated in a single organization or campaign. This is a transformation that is occurring simultaneously at the macro and micro, molar and molecular levels: gaining the right to a legal, free and safe abortion for women and those with the capacity to procreate, promoting the use of abortion. ” non-sexist language in society, leading unions to tackle gender discrimination in the workplace and in the organization itself, achieving important legislative victories for non-binary and trans people and organizing massive transnational feminist strikes.

The feminist movement has been able to do this through a process of situated investigation, starting from specific bodies which serve as entry points to produce a point of view making it possible to understand the whole. The work of weaving different situations and struggles – in assemblies where women and trans and non-binary people share their own trajectories to put them in touch with others – produces a political cartography to understand the relationships between different forms of violence and creates unexpected alliances. . It connects households imploded by domestic violence to lands razed by agribusiness companies and murdered peasants and environmental activists, with the wage gap in industries and universities and invisible care work; it links the violence of austerity and budget cuts to the preponderant place of women in popular economies and to financial exploitation by public and private debt. This is the work of activist investigation today: to discover and cultivate these emerging insurgent subjectivities in order to keep open the premise of 2001.

Liz Mason-Deese is an independent researcher, translator and feminist activist. She is a member of the Territorio de Ideas translation collective and also a member of the Viewpoint Magazine editorial collective and of the Counter-Cartographies Collective.

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