Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Looking South: Venezuela, Argentina & The New Social Movements
After returning home from a series of frustrating meetings or sub-par 'activist' events here in the city, I often forget how many inspiring things are going on all over the world right now... As organizers living in 'the heart of the empire' i often feel like we think 'its all on us', which can be a dangerous way to think sometimes.
I remember always being fond of this great quote by Noam Chomsky that is featured in the documentary Manufacturing Consent where says (in that specific case talking about Palestine) : "They rely very crucially on a very slim margin for survival thats provided by dissidents and turbulance within the imperial societies...and how large that margin is, is for us to determine..." The quote is of course pointing out the obvious, that what we do here in the US has a great impact on people all over the world. I still think thats a good way to understand the current reality of military power in the world but one has to be carefull not to take away the agency of those that are resisting these policies on a daily basis.
The example of Latin America is so interesting right now because you can argue it is a unique combination of the US being so bogged down in Iraq (itself a combination of primarily the Iraqi resistance and to a lesser extent factors like the anti-war movement in the US and international 'civil society') that is opening up some spaces for the governments of countries like Venezuela and various autonomous social movements across the continent.
John Pilger recently wrote a great article for ZNET on all of this, focusing specifically on Venezuela as the rising 'post-Iraq' enemy of the Bush administration. Just recently Bush was down in Argentina and was met with both huge demonstrations outside of the summit as well as sharp criticism inside the actual meeting, specifically from Hugo Chavez who did not mince words. The real inspiration though comes not from the rowdy demonstrations or the fiery rhetoric from a head of state, but instead from the social experiments and forms of organization that we are seeing in these countries.
Michael Albert, who helped start both South End Press and Z Magazine/ZNET recently took a trip down to both Argentina and Venezuela and wrote some interesting report backs. Both of the pieces are fairly long but well worth the read. Albert who's specific interest lies in studying alternative forms of economic organization brings a lot of insight into these articles through the specific questions he asks of the people and government representatives he meets. Anarchists and anti-authoritarians here in the US are often weary of supporting specifically the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela but its important that we study what is taking place there because i think we will be able to learn a lot by what happens there in the coming years. I will write more about Venezuela specifically in a later post, im trying to catch up on some reading on the subject. One article i can recommend if you can get your hands on it (it will hopefully be online soon) is one that we ran in Left Turn magazine #17 by Peter Brogan, who wrote an excellent piece looking into the possibilities and openings that the Chavez government was creating through his vision of a 'radical participatory democracy.'
As my man Ali G would say...."You'se betta learn..."