Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion.
An eyewitness account of the financial meltdown and ongoing
Routines and Rebellions
15th Feb. 2002
Your tickets are invalid," says the heavily lipsticked
theVarig airlines check-in counter in southern Brazil. Her eyes
to the next person in line. We protest vehemently, as we've had
problem using the tickets. She is not impressed, and calls for
manager, who explains to us that Varig no longer recognizes the
reciprocity of any tickets issued through Aerolineas Argentina.
cannot be trusted now," she informs us gravely, showing
us the memo
announcing the new policy. "We no longer do business with
is our first experience of the rippling effects of the Argentinean
At the Aerolineas Argentina ticket counter, the agent is
friendly, and seems a bit embarrassed. He books us tickets on
next flight to Buenos Aires. His demeanor suggests that of a
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
traffic control, aerospace engineering, safety inspection, and
related sectors. We arrive safely, get ourselves a cheap hotel,
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,
bad and erratic camera work, and featuring the same lone reporter
seems to pop up all over town at random. Our introduction to
is "live and direct" scenes from the beach, complete
shots of thongs which zoom out and reveal beach volleyball games
languid sunbathers. There's a massive social rebellion going
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
football team's practice, we finally are rewarded with images
people banging pots and pans while invading the lobby of a bank.
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
Buenos Aires there is one major difference - huge corrugated
of steel cover many of the bank headquarters, especially the
ones, like Citibank, HSBC, and Lloyds. Gone are the grand entrance
halls; the prestigious shiny surfaces of glass and marble are
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
a secretive, clandestine activity.
The strong smell of wet paint hangs in the air, fresh
graffiti covers the steel shuttering and walls, saying "ladrones,"
thieves. The action can't be far away. We split up and scout
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.
We've arrived on a Friday. Every Friday night since mid-December
year, there has been a massive cacerolazo in Buenos Aires, when
people converge in the political center of the city, the Plaza
Mayo, and create an enormous racket by banging on cacerolas,
saucepans. These huge cacerolazos developed spontaneously on
of December 2001, the day when the uprising exploded, after
smoldering in the provinces for several years, and now involving
about every sector of Argentinean society.
Argentina suffered two and a half decades of International
Monetary Fund-(IMF) backed "free-market reforms," which
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."
was hit badly, a major recession struck, and foreign lenders
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
paying their taxes. Pensions, unemployment benefits, health care,
education all were cut drastically, and all state employees had
salaries slashed by 13%. It was the same old story repeated across
the world - as countries are forced into deeper and deeper debt,
IMF strip mines their economies for the benefit of foreign banks
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
double. 40% of the population is now living below the poverty
and another 2000 people fall below it every day. Hospitals are
running out of basic supplies like bandages and syringes, schools
shutting down because teachers aren't being paid, child mortality
hunger is on the rise, and this is all occurring in what once
of the wealthiest countries in the world, for decades considered
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
try a complicated re negotiation of its debt repayments. Fearful
the entire economic house of cards was going to come tumbling
and that the currency would be devalued, thus wiping out their
savings, the middle classes panicked and withdrew about $135
from their bank accounts.
Fearing that a run on the banks would sink the economy, the
finance minister, Domingo Cavallo, announced sweeping restrictions
limiting the amount of money Argentineans could withdraw from
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,
they own 40% of Argentina's debt. They refused to lend any more
money, and within weeks Argentina defaulted on its loans, the
time a country had done so in years. From this moment the economy
in free fall. On the 13th of December, a general strike called
major unions brought the country to a grinding halt for 24 hours.
days later the popular rebellion exploded into the streets, where
The Tin Pot Insurection
December the 19th was the turning point, the day when the
people said "enough!" The stage was set the day before,
began looting shops and supermarkets so they could feed their
families. The president, Fernando De La Rua, panicked. Twelve
ago, major looting toppled the government, and now, within the
Argentinean collective memory, looting is linked to the collapse
regimes. De La Rua declared a state of emergency, suspending
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
30,000 people, but also it meant that the state was taking away
last shred of dignity and freedom.
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
"Hang on, can you hear that noise?" Ezequiel strained
to hear a kind
of clanging sound coming through the receiver." Yes, I can
something on your side of the city but nothing here." They
talking, and then Ezequiel paused, and said, "Wait, now
I can hear
something in my neighborhood, the same sound...." He ran
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
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
Buenos Aires alone, banging their pots and pans and demanding
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
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
desires of its people on one side, and the demands of the IMF,
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
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
mass disappearances during the military dictatorship between
Surrounded by shelves crammed with books, journals, and
newspapers documenting radical Latin American political struggles,
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
silver straw and is passed around and shared between friends.
political meeting in Argentina is complete without mate, and
us wonder whether this seemingly innocuous green twiggy tea is
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
of around fifty people has congregated in the street - they are
young, old, rich, poor, smartly dressed, scruffy, but all are
with spoons, forks, and a whole variety of metal objects to hit:
cooking pots, lids, kettles, Coke cans, car parts, biscuit tins,
bars, baking trays, car keys. The rhythm is high pitched and
monotonous, and above it people sing catchy tunes instead of
political chanting; often they include the key slogan of this
movement: que se vayan todos, they all must go, meaning that
ENTIRE political class goes, every politician from every party,
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
how small this crowd is - having imagined the cacerolazos to
enormous. But as we're thinking this, we reach a crossroads.
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
the underground station, singing and jumping up and down as it
with our group, another junction and yet more people come towards
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
rising to a roaring, banging torrent as we near the final
destination, the Plaza de Mayo, where the presidential palace,
Pink House, stands protected behind police lines and barricades.
The Neighbourhoods Rise
Every week people make this pilgrimage, from every corner
Aires, some of them coming as far as seven kilometres. They walk
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
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
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
attended had about 40 people present, ranging from two mothers
sitting on the sidewalk while breast feeding, to a lawyer in
to a skinny hippie in batik flares, to an elderly taxi driver,
dreadlocked bike messenger, to a nursing student. It was a whole
slice of Argentinean society standing in a circle on a street
under the orange glow of sodium lights, passing around a brand
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
and you have the makings of an irresistible popular rebellion,
grassroots uprising which is rejecting centralized political
As Roli, an accountant from the Almagro assembly said: "People
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
problem. Committees of health are common - with many local hospital
budgets slashed, there is an urgent need to develop alternatives
the collapsing welfare system. Some are suggesting that people
own their own homes withhold their property tax, and instead
that money to the local hospitals. Many assemblies also have
alternative media committees, as there is a widespread critique
the mainstream media's representation of the rebellion. It took
large cacerolazo outside their head offices to get them to cover
uprising more accurately. However, the spirit of distrust for
enormous corporate entity remains at large, and local assemblies
beginning to print their own news sheets, broadcast updates on
radio stations, and put up web sites.
In addition to the innumerable meetings and the weekly
cacerolazo, the assemblies also organize local street parties
actions. In one neighborhood, for example, the assembly organized
pickets to prevent the authorities from closing down a baker
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
their lives. By creating a space for people to listen to each
problems and desires for change, the assemblies have enabled
to realize that their personal daily struggles are connected
people's problems, and that all roads eventually lead to a similar
source, whether it is the government, the banks, the IMF, or
entire economic system itself. An elderly shopkeeper, whose
experience is representative of many participants, said "Never
whole life did I give a shit for anyone else in my neighborhood.
was not interested in politics. But this time I realized that
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
tongue through the tool of language that one can trace some of
most radical shifts in consciousness. A beautiful illustration
this is that out of the experience of the assemblies, a new form
greeting has arisen. The traditional political leftist form of
greeting in Latin American culture, compañero, or comrade,
rejected in favor of a new form of address, vecino, or neighbor.
a simple trick of the tongue, but one which signifies a major
away from an authoritarian politics based on power and parties
towards a participatory politics made up of people and places.
15th Feb. 2002
The raging torrent of sound finally arrives at the packed
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
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
railings, others pound on the barricade which splits the square
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
"They all must go, not a single one should remain, Duhalde
back up his mother's cunt," sung with equal ebullience by
women, youthful punks, unemployed refinery workers, and middle
Young kids are busy covering the walls with graffiti; hardly
a surface of this city remains that does not carry some phrase
slogan of resistance. The outline of a coffin is drawn with the
"politicians" inside; a ministry building proclaims
"My saucepan is
not bullet proof;" the closed shutters of a shop declare
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
the world. The diversity of the crowd astonishes us - it seems
every walk of life is represented, and while we struggle to grasp
contradictions we perceive, we meet Pablo, a 30 year old employee
Bank Boston, who tells us, "By day I must work as a capitalist,
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."
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
can get, how disappearances serve to terrify a population in
that we, with only prisons and courts as official deterrence,
dream of. This popular collective memory seems to permeate every
aspect of this rebellion. Although the continuity of the lineage
resistance has been severely damaged, people seem deeply committed
doing the hard work of rebuilding a movement that was, until
recently, in shambles, a movement that was long lulled to sleep
fearful memories not yet dulled by the passage of time, lulled
sleep by neoliberal promises and privatized dreams, convinced
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,"
a constant refrain from their Uruguayan neighbors, "They
they were European," and it's true that Buenos Aires feels
like Paris than like São Paolo. However, the seemingly
status was propped up on credit and sustained by loans and a
refusal to recognize the symptoms of imminent collapse. Upon
returning home, a Chicano activist tells us, "That's what's
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
participated in resistance movements in the past?" the answer
emphatic no, often with the postscript that the near-complete
a generation through disappearance and exile meant that there
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,
little affinity for each other, coming from such a place of apathy
and individualism, followed by outrage and despair, could so
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
the piqueteros, or literally, picketers, will be joining the
cacerolazo. The piqueteros are Argentina's militant movement
unemployed workers, who launched this social rebellion five years
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
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
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
country. The action of blocking the flow of commodities was seen
the key way to disrupt economic activity; as they were unemployed,
the option to strike was no longer available to them, but by
roads they could still have an enormously disruptive effect on
economic system. One of them explained, "We see that the
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
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
We use wood, tires, and petrol to burn," adds Alejandro
enthusiastically. He is a young piquetero who sports the red
black bandanna of the MTD (Unemployed Worker's Movement) around
neck and carries the three foot wooden club that has become one
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
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
state. The police are often unable to clear the pickets because
the popular support they receive. The highways often run beside
shantytowns on the edges of the cities, and there is always a
that any repression against the piqueteros would bring thousands
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,
the movement continued building momentum and has broken new ground
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
decided at piquetero assemblies. If the government decides to
negotiate during an action, the piqueteros do not delegate leaders
go off and meet with government officials, but instead, demand
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
time spent helping with blockades. If there are not enough to
around, they rotate the jobs and share the wages. Other demands
normally follow: distribution of food parcels, liberation 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
barricade of burning tires, teeth missing beneath bright piercing
eyes, and declares, "Yes this is dangerous, of course it
dangerous, but we need to fight, we cannot go home because no
going to bring anything to our doorstep...jobs, food for our
children, the schools that are now disappearing, the hospitals...you
see, if I get hurt now and I go to hospital, they don't even
bandages to help me. So if we stop the struggle, all the things
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
influential than anything the local government is able to do.
General Mosconi, formerly a rich oil town in the far north, which
suffers with a more than 40% unemployment rate, the movement
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
Argentina and using extremely militant tactics and imagery -
barricades, blocked roads, masked-up demonstrators wielding clubs
have not alienated other sections of society. In fact, support
from all across the movement.
"When people get angry, they rule with blood, fire, and
explains a young piquetero, wearing a "Punk's Not Dead"
across his face as a mask. "We lost seven comrades in Plaza
They had no political banner or ideology, they were only young
Argentineans and wanted freedom. Then the government understood
people wanted to kick them out.... Those that are up there in
are very worried that they can no longer order us around as before.
Now people say 'enough.' We got together all social classes,
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
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.."
young piquetera named Rosa puts it more succinctly: "When
longer have the resources to feed their children, the government
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
struggle as they converge in the Plaza de Mayo. Suddenly there
commotion in the corner of the square, which ripples through
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,
they hold together to form a cordon around themselves. They are
greeted with an enormous cheer as they flow into the square with
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
head scarf bearing the name of their disappeared children. Rising
above the crowd are the royal blue and white flags of the Mothers
one side and the wooden clubs of the piqueteros on the other.
by their trademark symbols, they embrace, and the night resonates
with the chant from the entire plaza, "Piquete y cacerolazo,
es una sola," picket and cacerolazo, the struggle is the
What we are seeing tonight is an incredible coming together
of differences, a convergence that crosses so many boundaries
class and culture. It seems that every social sector involved
rebellion is beginning to work together, and support each other.
Revolutionary epochs are always periods of convergence - they
moments when seemingly separate processes gather to form a socially
explosive crisis. Argentina is explosive right now - anything
happen - it's an enormous social experiment that could well prove
be the first great popular rebellion against capitalism of the
By four in the morning the square has emptied. The crowd has
slowly melted away, returning to their neighborhoods, and the
silent again. Clusters of young people sit around on the grass
talking, drinking, smoking - it could have been any Friday night
in any city, but for the people painting the plaza with the names
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
following in the footsteps of President Duhalde, who in the first
week of February said, "Argentina is on the brink of anarchy."
later, the finance minister chimes in, telling a meeting of
international bankers, "Either we have continuity or anarchy."
how that word gets thrown around whenever power begins to feel
It seems that they are using "anarchy" to conjure up
spectre of chaos, destruction, disobedience, nihilism, the collapse
of law and order. It is doubtful they are using it to describe
authentic spirit of anarchism, which has spontaneously arisen
street corners, and in the parks and squares of Argentina: the
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
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
fixes meaning, another word that seduces some people into the
and comfort of a sectarian box, and leads others in front of
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
the world over the last decades. From Indonesia to Nigeria, and
Ecuador to Morocco, people have vented their desperation and
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
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
on an even keel in the face of emerging market crises, domestic
collapses and currency devaluation. The game, according to its
creator, is designed to "test your skills at juggling interest
controlling inflation, balancing budgets and managing debts."
Apparently managing the accompanying health care crises and the
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
a conversation he had with Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist
the World Bank: "'...everywhere we go, every country we
meddling in, we destroy their economy and they end up in flames,'
said Stiglitz. And he was saying that he questioned this and
fired for it. But he was saying that they even kind of plan in
riots. They know that when they squeeze a country and destroy
economy, you are going to get riots in the streets. And they
'well that's the "IMF riot."' In other words, because
riots, you lose. All the capital runs away from your country,
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
rioting to the joy of creating alternatives. As the economic
tears into the social fabric of Argentina, pushing more and more
people to the edge, the tension between hope and despair becomes
conducive and creative space for change. Between laughter and
exists the space of optimism, the space of radical social
For the workers of the Zanón ceramics factory in Neuque,
is this spirit of optimism that has enabled them to occupy their
factory, one of Latin America's largest ceramics producers, for
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,
workers decided to occupy the factory and keep the production
"We showed that with two days' worth of production, we were
able to pay the wages of all the workers for that month,"
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
have organized a network of young vendors who sell them in the
José Romero, a maintenance worker at the factory, adds,
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
made at general assemblies of workers, not behind closed doors."
Photographs of the occupied factory show workers laughing and
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
the English language, the word for work and play are the same.
seems the workers of Zanón have begun to make this dream
Meanwhile, a mine in Río Turbío has been occupied,
as well as
a textile factory in Buenos Aires, which recently opened its
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
longer pay their salaries he would instead turn over blankets
produced in the factory which the workers could either sell or
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
in such unusual times.
16th Feb. 2002
It is in the barter markets where another extraordinary example
necessity breeding ingenuity is enabling Argentineans to survive
crisis. We visit the Trueque La Estación, or The Station
that takes place twice a week in a four story community centre
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,"
explains. "People come here because they don't want to be
The place is bustling; we can hardly move through the jovial
throngs of people perusing the rows of tables offering goods
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
barter's own currency - small brightly colored notes which look
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
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,
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
sling does a swift trade in home baked pies. On one table Frederick
Forsyth novels jostle for space with the Argentinean equivalent
Hello magazine and books about the Spanish Civil War. Huddled
the stairs, an indigenous Bolivian family chat over wooden boxes
fresh vegetables. On the top floor a doctor in a pristine white
offers to take our blood pressure, while a dentist demonstrates
procedure using a lurid pair of false teeth. People are having
haircut in one room while manicures and tarot readings are offered
another. There are classes in technical drawing as well as
immigration advisement. Occasionally the trueque radio station
"broadcasts" through a crackly PA system) announces
These barter clubs began in 1995, when the recession began to
be felt. Since then they developed into a whole network and are
known as nodos, meaning nodes, or points of concentration. Currently
there are several thousand nodos in existence throughout the
with well over two million people taking part. For many of them
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
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
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,
monkey wrenches, one woman even removes her shoe to use as a
The entire facade of the building shudders under the fury of
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
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
systematically smashed, shattered glass flies, and a woman sprays
word "chorros," or crooks, in huge letters on the marble
Nervous bank employees watch the scene from behind a glass doo;,
egg sails through the air and breaks against it. The bankers
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,
casually exits the lobby and moves on to the next bank, less
fifty yards up the street.
These kind of tactics have become archetypes of contemporary
protest: the shattered glass, graffiti smeared across bank walls,
corporate symbols of capital destroyed. Images like these have
imbedded in our imagination over the past few years, placed there
the mega-machine of mainstream media in its attempt to divide,
discredit, and attack the growing anticapitalist movement, which
increasingly referred to as "terrorist thugs", "violent
and "mindless mob." From London to Genoa, via Seattle,
Québec City, it has been the same story, the same images,
rituals of symbolic destruction, played out over and over again;
high drama which effectively sells newspapers when splashed across
the front page, and which serves to distract from the real issues
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
and hammers in the other, women with gold bracelets, hand bags,
high heels sharing cans of spray paint, anonymous suits on their
lunch break joining the fracas and then melting back into the
Walking through the pedestrian zone was astonishing - not only
impossible to tell who was who, but also, businesses remained
leaving their doors and windows open, fearless of looting or
as it was perfectly clear that the targets were the banks and
but the banks. Even McDonald's, usually having the honor of being
first to lose its windows, left their door open, solely guarded
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
although one woman covers her face with a newspaper and large
sunglasses, understandable if you've survived the disappearance
30,000 of your fellow citizens. The spirit of "militant"
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,
idly, watching sheepishly. This is the most open, accountable,
disciplined property damage (one can hardly call it a riot when
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,
why not, as they move and act as one, maybe "bourgeois bloc"
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
spreading as they watched the glass shatter into thousands of
That day they also surrounded every armored security van transporting
cash from bank to bank that they came upon and covered each one
graffiti, while men in pin striped suits proceeded to unscrew
wheel nuts and others pried open the hood, tearing out wires
running engines. Soccer moms jumped up and down on top of the
smashing anything that could be broken, side mirrors, headlights,
license plates, windshield wipers and antennae. For three hours
Monday afternoon, our understanding of the world was turned on
head, all our preconceptions and stereotypes melted away. "This
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
don't seem the sort who would be smashing up corporate property.
are architects, computer programmers, doctors, housewives,
accountants, and even bank employees, one of whom, dressed in
business suit and holding a wrench and a metal bowl, explained,
not just the banks who are thieves, it's the government with
corporations. They confiscated the money we had in the bank.
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
broken out of the enclosure of self-interest, and has begun to
encompass a critique of much of the social system. They have
allied themselves to the piqueteros and many take part in the
assemblies . "A lot more than just the government must change
says Carlos, a computer programmer, who has painted slogans all
his suit. His words echo those of the piquetero, Alejandro: "Us,
piqueteros, and all the people who are fighting, are struggling
social change. We do not believe in the capitalist neoliberal
Predicting the Unpredictable
The repudiation of the politicians and the economic elites
complete," says José Luis Coraggio, the rector of
a university in
Buenos Aires who is active in the movement. "None of them
recognized can walk the streets without being insulted or spat
It is impossible to predict what will happen. Next month, or
week, Duhalde could be deposed, we could be in a state of chaos,
we could be building a new country that breaks with neoliberal
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
Yankee boot." Currently that boot is held over Argentina's
will undoubtedly start kicking if the government does not find
to please the demands of global capital, and get back to the
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
of the citizens and the demands of capital as enforced by the
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
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,
further infuriated the IMF because it is another artificial control
of the markets. In response, Doug Smith, a Wall Street analyst,
"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
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."
Bush called on Argentina to make some "tough calls"
thinking of the much-desired financial aid, and President Duhalde
himself said that things are going to get a lot worse before
Is this tough talk laying the groundwork for a military coup?
After all, Argentina has had its fair share of these over the
century. But given the residual illegitimacy of the military,
stemming from the decades of dictatorships, it seems that this
is unlikely, and besides, no one wants to take power and inherit
current situation, not even the military. In fact, it seems that
there may be dissent their ranks - one officer told reporters,
if the situation turns to anarchy or civil war, if they ask me
intervene, my principal concern will be making sure my orders
obeyed by my men."
More likely than another coup, or CIA-funded force invading
to "restore order" (common practice in Latin American
another form of outside intervention will be attempted. "Somebody
to run the country with a tight grip," write two professors
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
it must accept "...radical reform and foreign, hands-on
supervision of fiscal spending, money printing, and tax
administration," preferably from a "...board of foreign
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
Despite shocking poll results saying that 47% of the
population agrees that large parts of Argentina's government
be entrusted to international experts, there is such distrust
banks that it seems unlikely that the arrival of more foreign
will calm people's nerves. As Enrique Garcia, president of the
Development Bank, said recently, "People in the streets
instead of being part of the solution, the banking sector is
The spirit on the streets and in the assemblies is that
people can govern themselves. Another poll showed that one in
people had attended an assembly, and that 35% say the assemblies
constitute ''a new form of political organization." The
direct democracy and self-organization has never felt as strong
did as we watched the assemblies unfold in the long, warm Buenos
Aires evenings. President Duhalde may say, ''It is impossible
govern with assemblies," and believe that "the democratic
organize and participate is through voting," but the people
Argentina have taught themselves through practice the real meaning
democracy, and the vacuous words of politicians now fall on deaf
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,
the last month we have achieved more than we did in forty years.
four short weeks we have given ourselves enough hope to last
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
the global demands of capital, between democracy and empire,
life and money, between hope and despair.
Watch this Space
15th Feb. 2002
When we first landed in Buenos Aires, we were immediately
for signs of the insurrection. Would this airport feel any different
from any other? Would the streets be clogged with traffic, or
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
Riding into the city, we got our first clue. The barren
stretches of highway that link cities with airports, so similar
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
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
possibility. They somehow stood for the space of change that
country is undergoing, they spoke of the pause, the blank sheet
paper waiting to be filled; they were the space from which a
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
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
shows the perils of following the recipes of the IMF. Supporters
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
things continue to unravel in other parts of Latin America. Recent
events in Venezuela, and the possibility of left wing gains in
year's Brazilian presidential elections, point to a shift away
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
every continent, challenging the seemingly unstoppable expansion
capital. From Chiapas to Genoa, Seattle to Porto Alegre, Bangalore
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,
behind fences defended by thousands of riot police. Seeing them
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
speeding up, that perhaps we could succeed in the next phase,
process of imagining and constructing worlds which exist beyond
and competition. Then, history did what it does best, surprising
all on September 11th when the twin towers were brought down,
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
backpedaling and distancing occurred within the movement itself.
Commentators immediately declared anticapitalism dead. The editor
The Guardian wrote "since September 11th, there is no appetite
[antiglobalization], no interest, and the issues that were
all-consuming a few months ago seem irrelevant now." Others
that the movement was somehow linked to the terrorists. Clare
the UK development minister, stated that the movement's demands
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
breath, put our rhetoric into practice, and think strategically,
fast. Then three months later, history seemed to resume its
accelerated speed, when Argentina erupted, followed closely by
collapse of Enron. It seemed that despite the blindly nationalist,
racist, and indefinite "war on terror" to distract
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
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
institutions such as the World Bank and the G8 are constantly
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
beyond a latent hostility to big business. Its a well-organized
critique of capitalism." The book argues that we must "start
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,
villain." Perhaps a few hours on the streets of Argentina,
or a chat
with former employees of Enron would show them the true villainy
absurdity of capitalism.
With mainstream commentators falling over themselves to
declare that capitalism is good for us and will save the world,
seems clear that the first round of this movement has been a
There has been a "...nearly complete collapse of the prevailing
economic theory," according to economist James K. Galbraith.
next round will be the hardest. It will involve applying our
critiques and principles to our everyday lives; it will be a
working close to home. A stage where mass conflict on the streets
balanced (but not entirely replaced) with creating alternatives
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
diversity, decentralization, and solidarity; the convergence
radically different social sectors; the rejection of the state,
multinational corporations, and financial institutions. Yet,
most incredible is that the form of the uprising arose spontaneously,
it was not imposed or suggested by activists, but rather, created
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.
face of poverty and economic meltdown, people have found enough
to continue resisting, and have mustered sufficient creativity
begin building alternatives to the despair of capitalism. The
movements can learn much in this laboratory. In many ways it
comparable with the social revolutions of Spain in 1936, of France
May 1968, and more recently, in southern Mexico, with the 1994
uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)
rebellions which inspired, then and now, millions around the
It was a spirit of innovative solidarity that sparked a
transformation of the practice of politics, and led us into the
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,
activists from around the world responded, not only through
traditional forms of international solidarity as practiced during
1970-80s, particularly by Central American solidarity groups,
also through applying the spirit of Zapatismo by "listening"
This network of listening that has occurred between many
different cultures has been a cornerstone for the first round
global movement, as it wove together its multiple differences,
forming a powerful fabric of struggle. The second round needs
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
desires and aspirations being lived on a daily basis. The Zapatista
autonomous municipalities in Chiapas are a kind of model, but
firmly rooted in indigenous culture, are small enclaves within
larger state, and are largely unexportable. Argentina, however,
entire society undergoing transformation. It is a model that
easier for the movements, especially those of the global North,
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
ignored the situation since the December riots, and most people
met felt that the world was unaware of their plight. For once,
was chanting "the whole world is watching," because
of course, it is
in the interest of capitalism's defense team to ensure that we
get to watch, don't get to see what's really going on. Although
anticapitalists worldwide have said "Thank god for Argentina,"
we've had our hopes rekindled in the dark days post 9-11, most
people on the streets of Argentina have no idea that they've
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
seeds land, begin to sprout, and put down roots. We need to find
creative ways to support and learn from the rebellion there as
with the Zapatistas. Some solidarity actions have been taken
Argentinean embassy in London was occupied and an anarchist flag
out front, cacerolazos have taken place from Seattle to Sao Paolo,
Rome to Nairobi. A chant directed against the World Economic
when they met in New York, proclaimed, "They are Enron,
Argentina!" But much more could be done, more stories could
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
Argentina ?" "About eighteen months." These bankers
well know that
the economic situation in Argentina will occur elsewhere, and
is inevitable that the tug of war between people's desires for
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
in 23 countries, all relating to IMF protests, and all occurring
the year 2001. From Angola to Nepal to Columbia to Turkey, the
cracks are appearing in the neoliberal "logic," and
resisting. A dozen countries are poised to be the "next
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
people are able to live through severe economic crisis and come
the other side, not merely having survived, but stronger, and
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
battles against the government (setting legal precedent that
ricochets around the globe) and recovering their savings from
thousands of depositors are withdrawing their money from the
system as fast as they can. In recent days a judge has sent a
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
to go belly up, the government decided to close all banks for
"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,
minister of economy resigned. In an emergency press conference,
Duhalde declared "Banks will have to open again and God
will happen then. Banks cannot be closed permanently. It would
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
present global system. Perhaps the most realistic thing to imagine
the beginning of this already war-torn century, is a system free
capitalism, one without banks, without poverty, without despair,
system whose currency is creativity and hope, a system that rewards
cooperation rather than competition, a system that values the
the people over the rule of the market. One day we may look back
the absurdity of the present and remember how the people of Argentina
inspired us to demand the impossible, and invited us to build
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,
source of information straight from the streets.
Loads of links to excellent English language news and analysis
The Financial Times, always the best coverage of struggles in
global South! Why? Because they affect investment ...
Argentina's English language daily paper on line. Good for up
John Jordan and Jennifer Whitney.
Argentina Arde and Andrew Stern.
María Eva, Martín, Ezequiel, Alejandro, Rosa, Griselda,
many others on the streets. Annabela, Gabriel, Manuel for the
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
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
Toni Cade Bambara