2003 organizational document of a now defunct national coordination of unemployed workers assemblies. The majority of the assemblies are now integrated in the Frente Popular Darío Santillán.
Agreements drawn up collectively by the unemployed workers movements of Lanus, "Dario Santillan" De Alte, Brown, San Telmo y Lugano de Capital Federal, Berriso and "Oscar Barrios" de Jose C. Paz, members of the Unemployed Workers Movement "Anibal Veron"
WHY THIS MATERIAL? WHY NOW?
In the last years we have lived through a period of intense popular struggles in our country, in Latin America and in the world. Within this context our Unemployed Workers Movements have arisen. More recently the days of December 19 and 20 have imprinted strength and an important richness of experiences and creativity on our country.
Nevertheless, starting with the anticipated call to elections in July of 2002 the same regime in question retook control of the crisis, and with the assumption of Kirchner has managed to regain "legitimacy". Something unthinkable just a year ago, when the government resorted to criminal repression in order to restrain the popular struggle, a decision that left in its wake the shooting deaths of our companions Dario and Maxi. Now expectations seem to be channelled again behind trust placed in a leadership incapable of resolving the extremely grave structural crisis in our country. Faced with this, we believe that it is not enough to bemoan the successes of others: it is indispensable to review ones' own errors and to assume that in this phase there were strong limitations within the whole popular camp.
From the parties of the traditional left there have been the traditional errors. From the "progressive" social democracy, also, their own errors. But for those who like us search for paths to liberation outside of those logics, the limitations were also notable: The attitude of those who just contemplate their navels, the disagreements and the inability between the whole gamut of the "autonomous " movements, whether piqueteros, neighborhood assemblies, students or self managing workers. For us, writing these lines implies our assumption of our part of the responsibility.
We believe that in this political moment it is possible-and necessary- to overcome those limitations and advance to greater levels of popular organization.
Therefore we are putting forth these notes which have arisen from a process of agreements and orchestration of common experiences which the MTDs (Unemployed Workers Movements) began months ago as mentioned above. The ideas that we express here have arisen principally from our own practices but also from the contributions from other experiences of popular struggle. The "politics" which continue orienting our steps arise from exercising our thoughts, arriving at conclusions and also the capability that, as workers, as a people, we have to appropriate for ourselves the existing theoretical tools, and apply them creatively to define the path we want to walk.
We seek to share these ideas:
With the other MTDs with whom we form Veron: Those for whom we feel a kinship due to our very similar experiences, who we recognize and mutually respect with different concepts, trusting that in this way we make our contribution.
With those that we are used to meeting along the way every now and then: We hope that the debate with these and with other lines will serve us such that this walk together will become more frequent.
With those who agree little or not at all with what we propose here. It will be good if they speak up, surely it serves us well to recognize ourselves as companions too, in our differences.
OUR OBJECTIVE, SOCIAL CHANGE: A PRESENT AND A FUTURE WITH WORK, DIGNITY, JUSTICE AND EQUALITY.
From our short but intense lives as movements- and from so many previous struggles- we have learned that in order to achieve such simple yearnings it will be necessary to change society. That Social Change as our flag says, has two aspects: On the one hand it means the root transformation of a capitalist system based on individualism and profit, in order to build a society based on solidarity and the fulfillment of people; an affirmation of life in the face of the barbarity which subjects us to hunger, indignity, and daily oppression leading humanity towards its own destruction. We want the entire society to change, because as long as the economic ands social system is organized by the capitalists, they will seek to maintain their position as the ruling class, unleashing all their means: Deception or repression, the laws, which they themselves design, or when they no longer are of use by means outside of the law. Since the powerful, although a minority, do not wish to see a just and egalitarian society organized because it would mean the end of their privileges, a revolutionary change which expropriates great expanses of land and big business, putting them to constructive service, generating dignified and egalitarian work will be needed, in which the priority is not the enrichment of the few but the well-being of all.
The other aspect of Social Change is the change in daily relations: in order for the society that we want to be possible we have to begin to practice it starting now, daily organizing our work, our attitudes and our relationships with dignity, justice and equality. Experiences that place their ideals on a pure but remote future, in contrast with daily practices of arrogance and hierarchy and disrespect for humanity can come to no good end.
I. HOW TO ACHIEVE IT: OUR POLITICS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
We understand by autonomy the ability which, as a people, we have to organize ourselves and "direct" ourselves by our own selves. Our movements are independent of the State and its institutions, political parties, and the church, but autonomy goes beyond that independence: we reject the subordination of popular organizations to any superstructural petition, since we believe that the people organizing themselves from the grass roots within their own areas should be those that determine, in a democratic way, the decisions and the politics to follow.
Our experience teaches us that the more autonomy is exercised, the broader the development and the harmonization, the greater the possibility that the interests, the wishes and the decisions of the workers will be in the forefront.
Therefore we understand political struggle as something inseparable from the struggle for our rights: We do not conceive of the separation of the "political" from the "social". The most important and genuine experiences which stand out as political references to the popular movement as a whole come from the mass movements and its struggles, and not from the "parties that direct the masses" or "vanguard organizations" who consider themselves to be above the same mass movement.
Autonomy is above all, action, and daily fulfillment. Therefore the pillars that support it, beyond the broadest definitions, are reflected further ahead, when we describe our tasks in the MTD.
When we speak of grass-roots democracy we speak of horizontal democracy, understood as rejection of hierarchical forms: We see ourselves as peers and
companions, where nobody is above anyone else. We don't believe, however, that the idea of horizontality expresses completely our concept of organization: The more we grow in numbers of members and also geographically, our movements take on the shape of a rich and diverse form outlined by tasks, work areas and responsibilities which hardly resemble a horizontal line.
In the first neighborhood assemblies, we were few and we could organize ourselves to make decisions between ourselves every week. But, how can we do this when the movement includes hundreds of companheros, and it is growing in different neighborhoods where each one has its own assembly? How should we proceed if the collective decision of each MTD should be put into effect, and coordinated with the decisions of some twenty other movements from different bases.
We overcame this problem with organization. Without defining structures, hierarchies, maintaining the sovereignty of the grass roots assemblies, but also creating specific work areas, and delegating detailed responsibilities to companions. So that the functioning is democratic, the companions who carry out these tasks should be elected and have the mandate of the assembly. It is also important that these roles be rotated and revocable. If we had to draw our organizational idea that we put into practice, more than a horizontal line, we would draw and inverted pyramid, where on top, above all else, are the grass-root assemblies, and subordinated to them are organized the work areas and the delegated tasks. "Our only director is the assembly" we say, and the companions who's turn it is to take on the role to speak, or "represent" the movement in determined places are called "spokespeople" or "referrals".
For us, therefore, the concept of "grass-roots democracy" is wider than that of horizontality: reaffirming the idea of equality, it defines a concept of organization which "harmonizes" the grass-roots decisions with the functioning of an organizational structure which naturally takes place insofar as our movements grow.
This concept permits us to overcome the "grass-rootsism" which would be a bottleneck to our struggles in each little facet. There are instances of coordination that require a certain "agility" for the confluence of all wills: Therefore our delegates participating within these limits respect the grass-roots mandates, at the same time making the greatest effort to create "flexibility" in one's own particular position in search of a common agreement. The assemblies, at any rate, have the final word, and can refute or remove that delegate if (s)he commits a serious error.
It is also true that there are assemblies and there are "assemblies": To speak of horizontality presupposes an equality in access to information, knowledge and everyone's political formation, which rarely happens in the reality of our people today. We know of experiences in which the assembly is only a formality where those with more information or better discourse end by deciding for or "directing" the decision of all.
Therefore, we understand grass-roots democracy as inseparable from growth and popular education, and as a projection into the future in which, as with the other values of Social Change, will only be solidified if we put them into practice from this point forward.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF POPULAR POWER
For us "power" is not a "thing" which is foreign to us, over which we have to be for or against: we prefer to understand if as a social relationship. We create power when we move forward in changing human, social and political relations, when we win better living conditions, and when people's capacity for organization and struggle grows. This is what we call "popular power". In a social order of domination such as imposed by capitalism, that power of the people will have to be constructed in permanent dispute with those who oppress us. And in that dispute there are no "empty" spaces: Where there is individualism, arrogance and dominance, where there is disorganization and skepticism it is because the power of domination rules. We will only be building an alternative of liberation if we practice the values that we preach, and if that change of consciousness adopts concrete organizational forms that overcome fragmentation and isolation, broaden and empower the struggles.
Popular power is built from the grass roots, with democracy and conscious participation, with relationships that foresee the society that we long for. It cannot be built from top to bottom or by force, because that is subordination, not liberation.
The revolutionary change, which transforms from the root the unjust structures of society, will be one more step in the construction of popular power. It won't be "the only moment" but it will be an important step, since we can only guarantee those deep social transformations and consolidate the values that we build day by day, when we are a conscious and organized people, to dispute the necessary power, avoiding that the privileged minorities continue imposing their oppressive conditions on us.
In this way we distance ourselves from visions that limit the idea of power to the conquest of the State apparatus as the object and ultimate end to seize by assault in the final battle. We also distance ourselves from those who say that they position themselves outside of power-as if that were possible- and claim to be rid of "situationally" the relationships of domination.
Behind this idea of popular power-understood as a social relation- we seek to change the correlation of forces in society in favor of the interests of the people, struggling for our immediate recovery and participating in the joint politics which show themselves to be determining factors for the advancement of popular power.
AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF MAN BY MAN AND THE OPPRESSION OF THE PEOPLE
Along with the rejection of capitalism as an economic system, we question the political regime which sustains it, designed to guarantee legally- or through repression- that private property and profit are above the right to life and justice. Therefore, while we put into practice the broadest democratic methods in our assemblies and organizations, for years we have demonstrated against this "lying" democracy in which "the people neither govern nor deliberate" not even by "means of their representatives" who represent their own interests or those of power. They offer us a "class" democracy of the upper classes, where the institutional framework guarantees voice and decision making ability only to the big economic corporations and their media spokespeople, while the genuine expressions of the poor and working people who demand justice go ignored or repressed.
With the same logic of capitalism, on a world scale, imperialism establishes a relationship of dominance between oppressive powers and oppressed people, unleashing wars or economic plans to extract natural riches in whatever part of the world, to exploit and marginalize entire peoples. With missiles and planes from the IMF, the destruction proposed by imperialism for Latin America is already permeating under the name FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas). The FTAA is the new tool of the United States to extend its economic domination and political-military intervention to our continent. We repudiate these plans, and we do not trust a MERCOSUR that limits itself to being an economic alliance of the big local businesses that are as exploitative as the transnationals. We believe that it will not be the business leaders or governments that put the brakes on imperialism. We should be movements and popular organizations, independent from States and economic groups who join together to organize the struggles and regional opposition to the FTAA and break the subordination to the USA, its international organs and its businesses.
We aspire to a kinship with every struggle in any part of the world, driven collectively and with regional criteria to solve the immediate problems of the exploited: the distribution of land, hunger, unemployment and repression.
Therefore we reaffirm the idea of the Sovereignty of the people, the processes of liberation, beyond borders, as principle factor of resistance and alternative to the barbarism of global and imperial capitalism.
PUTTING INTO PRACTICE OUR VALUES OF EQUALITY AND SOLIDARITY
We are looking for our women and our men to become freer, more worthy and generous every day. This is a difficult fight and runs against the dominant values. But the idea of daily forging the society that we want pushes us to struggle harder for the revolutionary changes that we need to build a united country and a humanity with hope.
On the subject of the basis for forming the MTD we propose these definitions: Solidarity is seeing the needs of others as if it were one's own, to feel good helping others, and reaping help from companions when we need it.
Commitment is to feel like a protagonist, among others, when solving the problems of everyone. Not having a passive attitude while there are needs and injustices. To feel good knowing that we contribute our little grain of sand.
Honesty: any individual advantage is taken from the common good, and harms those by our side. To be honest is, above all is to be fair with our companions and not take advantage.
Happiness: community work and the assembly generate a climate of companionship, friendship and happiness. They drive away competition and speculation and make us feel useful in what we do, if we all contribute the same.
Liberty: in the movement we try to create spaces that break with domination. We do not understand liberty as an individual form. "Nobody liberates anybody, nobody is liberated alone. We all liberate ourselves jointly.".
Other companions add:
Respect for differences: in our movements, the word "companion" creates a kinship to all, beyond religious, sexual, cultural, age and nationality options.
The defense of natural resources and the environment: when the unbridled ambition of capitalism threatens the very survival of the planet, drawing near to the peasant movements and the native peoples teaches us to also respect and struggle for these values.
RECOGNIZING OURSELVES AS PART OF AN HISTORIC PROCESS
Our experience and reflections, principle sources of our ideas, take nourishment from the very rich experience of workers' and oppressed peoples' struggles throughout the world and throughout history.
The ideas of autonomy, grass roots democracy, and popular power, sometimes with different names were part of the richest experiences of struggle that preceded us.
All these years we agree with the process of auto-criticism about the limitations of popular and revolutionary experiences that were destroyed in the last decades, and our experience also arises as a search for paths that avoid falling into the same errors.
But we will not be so arrogant as to ignore accumulated historic experience. We vindicate even those experiences that were frustrated, the political teachings and the great wealth of collective heroism, extreme solidarity and gift to humanity expressed by entire generations with so much strength and conviction, that the example still enlightens and motivates our practices.
II. OUR POLITICS IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE POPULAR CAMP
We think that popular unity is necessary if we want to succeed in our struggles. We are not referring to the empty slogans that seek to line up "the workers", "the people" behind big leaders and projects that seem foreign and don't respond to our interests. There are political forces that, in the name of "unity" propose actions and alliances that contribute little and have little consideration for popular wishes. Therefore we see that the best and most solid experiences of unity arise from concrete processes of harmonization, and coordination for concrete struggle, behind common interests
We call harmonization the relations in which we find important coincidences in political criteria, values, and affections. If we are in agreement with the major line of a project of Social Change, the distance, the particulars or the times of each sector don't matter. These notes arise from a process of harmonization and growing unity between the MTDs that we spoke about in the beginning. We also value the intent of the Coordination of Popular Autonomous Organizations (COPA in Spanish) where we have developed a relationship with the peasant movements of Santiago del Estero, Cordoba and Mendoza, and other assemblies, neighborhood or student groups from the rest of the country.
Our experiences and the values of autonomy sustain us, teach us to be respectful of each person's time, not to pressure ourselves, but not to devalue the search for advances to greater levels of unity between those in whom we recognize a kinship on a common path.
We also recognize sectors of people who choose other organizational forms or political definitions, other roads to take, often with the same objective of transition that we uphold here, as companions in struggle. Therefore we place a great deal of importance on coordination.
We have our differences with other movements and organizations of the unemployed, but we can coincide exactly with the demand for more plans for employment, wage hikes, and against repression. We coincide with the organizations for human rights in denunciations and activities for the rejection of impunity. We coincide with occupied workers in the recovery of worthwhile work under worker control, the struggle for increased wages and improved working conditions. With healthcare workers, in defense of public hospitals and good medical attention for all. We coincide with social and political organizations on the days of December 19 and 20 of 2001, and in other common fights. We have concurred with popular organizations throughout the world in the repudiation of imperialist war, the struggle against hunger and for the preservation of the planet.
VERON: A VALIENT EXPERIENCE OF COORDINATION, UNITY IN STRUGGLE AND COMMON IDENTITY
As a tool of coordination for struggle the MTD Anibal Veron is a "movement of movements", which houses MTDs with whom we don't necessarily share the same political concepts. Therefore, it is a heterogeneous space, based on respect for agreements, and also for our differences.
For us, Veron is more than a tool for "unity in action". The groundwork of agreements is important: we concur on a general characterization of the political stage that we are going through, in constructing massive movements of popular participation, independent from the State, its institutions, political parties and the church. These agreements permit us, in addition to a confluence of periodic action, to construct a common coordination tool which is stable and functions regularly. In this way we have been constructing an identity of common struggle that overlays and ties together diverse practices and concepts.
III. OUR MOVEMENTS OF UNEMPLOYED WORKERS
Our MTDs are the product of unemployed workers'struggles over the last decade that we organize democratically in our territories. In reality, up to this point, when we spoke about values, ideas and practices- that is to say, the
politics that we uphold- we speak mainly about the lessons we are learning in our MTD.
Decisions are made in the assemblies, which are held periodically, usually once a week. The assembly also appoints the companions that will attend the joint meetings of Veron, of the spaces of political affinity, with other social organizations, with functionaries, etc. We organize ourselves also in work areas that develop productive or community projects. We also organize areas of procedure, food, health, security, press and training.
Our struggle for "Work, Dignity and Social Change", we say, has three main aspects: the struggle in the street, egalitarian work and popular training or education.
THE STRUGGLE IN THE STREETS
Pickets and road blockages, mobilizations and encampments are a fundamental component of our organization. Because by means of struggle we obtain and maintain food for our dining rooms, subsidies and tools to drive our productive projects, and our demands of a political nature which would not be heard otherwise. But also because get to know ourselves through struggle and we can more or less distinguish who supports us, who ignores us and who tries to repress us. Struggle feeds our consciousness, just as vegetables from our gardens and our kitchens feed our bodies.
Production in the MTD is popular and united. The goal is to satisfy our needs and to better the quality of life of all. The opposite of capitalism which only seeks to accumulate riches, and those riches always stay in the hands of the few. We define our work as free and shared, which relates to a community of socially equal men and women joined together to work as peers. Within this relationship affection, solidarity and companionship are born. We bet on collective benefits, not individual outcomes. Economic self-management has to do with our autonomy, with it being ourselves that decide about all aspects of our lives, our movement and our struggle. To this end we have to be independent economically. This has not proven to be simple given needy situation we are going through. Therefore we manage with communal funds, contributions from companions and our own production.
TRAINING AND POPULAR EDUCATION
Training for us is an essential element in the construction of Social Change. We train through struggle, through free and shared work, through participation in assemblies and area meetings, and through training workshops. We use tools and the dynamics of Popular Education, which permit all to participate equally. We think about our practices within these limits, in order to broaden participation and the commitment of neighbors and all people. We analyze and understand reality. The more of us that struggle and think, the more certainties and power we can build. We seek to decide for ourselves, therefore we need to be informed and trained, always collectively. It is about becoming better as militants and as people, to develop and multiply the values of unity, new forms of relating that every day defeat the values and ideas of the dominator a little more.
With popular education we take our departure from the following premises: only the people can change this reality. Nobody knows everything and there is nobody that knows nothing. He who struggles knows, but he who thinks about his struggle, struggles better.
THE MTD AND THE PLANS FOR EMPLOYMENT
In a country where there is no possibility-in the short term-of recuperating the millions of jobs destroyed by more than 25 years of neoliberal politics, the Plans for Employment were put in motion and broadened only after great popular demonstrations and powerful struggles. This was a victory for the unemployed workers that cost us many martyrs. Our movement carries the name of one of them, Anibal Veron, a picketer assassinated in the Provincia de Salta. In the autonomy we also fought and have conquered with respect to the administration of these subsidies, permitting us to take care of some basic needs, giving us the opportunity to organize ourselves and learn to work without bosses. We are not satisfied with winning an unemployment plan in struggle. It is a first step towards opening consciousness for new demands, new dreams, and new struggles.
What the government pays for employment plans reveals that capitalism in Argentina is prepared to sacrifice millions of people sacked from their jobs, their future in ruins. It is but a drop in the bucket and keeps us in poverty.
The corrupt management of employment plans by the "pundits" is one more example of the perversity of a political system that brings millions of people to the point of poverty and desperation and uses this poverty and desperation to perpetuate itself. Appropriated by our organizations, those same resources are transformed, within the framework of the social and working relationships that we propose, into an incentive and a challenge to advance the construction of popular power towards Social Change.
June 2003- one year after the Massacre of Avellaneda
Dario, Maxi and all of the fallen in the popular struggle
Present! Now and Forever!
MTD de Lanús
MTD "Darío Santillán"de Alte. Brown
MTD de Berisso
MTD de Lugano
MTD de San Telmo
MTD "Oscar Barrios"de José C. Paz
integrantes del MOVIMIENTO DE TRABAJADORES
DESOCUPADOS "ANIBAL VERÓN"
Translation by Clajadep USA