On The “Superior Form of Struggle”
By: Raúl Zibechi
When social and political life confronts crossroads, debate multiplies, forums happen, gatherings and meetings that seek to elucidate where to lead the social movements. Colombia is experiencing this kind of period; where an infinite number of spaces favorable for mutual exchange, listening and apprenticeship open up.
Last week a gathering was held on Left unity convoked by the newspapers Le Monde Diplomatique and Desdeabajo, another one that was organized by the University of Bogotá to debate the social resistances in Latin America in relation with the peace process, and a big march against violence toward women was also held; scenarios very different, for sure, because of which they passed from women and feminists to academics, political leaders and a good handful of young people.
In one of the gatherings the economist Héctor-León Moncayo mentioned the “acid irony” that the Colombian left lives: “In the 1970s those that impelled the street struggle told us that there was a superior form of struggle to which we ought to incorporate ourselves, in reference to armed struggle. Now they tell us, and that is the irony, that elections are the superior form of struggle.” Certainly, the axis of the current debates turns around candidates, signs, alliances and programs to attract the popular will to the ballot boxes.
We have heard similar arguments in other countries. For example in Argentina, where the need to “make politics” is being debated, insinuating that grass roots territorial work is insufficient for changing the world because it is too local and one must participate in elections to utilize that grass roots work. For sure, those say that are those who did not abandon the grass roots, but rather find enormous difficulties maintaining those spaces.
About the theme of the “superior” or more advanced forms of struggle, it would be opportune to mention four aspects.
The first is that to maintain that “superior” forms exist, as we maintained in the 1960s and 1970s, is as much as asserting that others are “inferior,” which has two consequences that are not positive. On the one hand, those who fit into the first have more authority to determine what is correct and adequate and what is not, simply by being in the “superior” sphere. On the other hand, it tends to homogenize the ways of ways of doing, which usually impoverishes anti-systemic combat.
Diversity in the forms of action often has some advantages. Perhaps the most notable is that it permits very broad sectors of society involve themselves in mobilizations although they may not participate in movements, something that usually just the most militant or less convinced and conscious are accustomed to doing. Similarly, the different subjects that make up the anti-systemic field (women, youth, people of the color of the earth, among others), usually feel comfortable acting in different ways to those that other subjects do. I mean that diversity in forms of struggle facilitates the incorporation of actors with their own distinctive characteristics, without feeling forced to be subordinate to a hegemonic form of action.
The second question is related to the long-term objectives. In the decades of the 60s and 70s, those who opted for the armed struggle sought to take over the state apparatus and to destroy capitalism in order to construct a new society. Those who opted for the elections sought to modify the system from inside, gradually, and many times tended to insert themselves more in it. Nevertheless, this determinist division between reform and revolution does not resist analysis. There are organizations that appealed to arms to be recognized by the State and electoral options that really sought to change the world.
In third place, a good part of the current debate turns around the convenience or not of participating in las elections. A double argument is registered on this point: strategic or long-term, and tactical or about the most adequate for strengthening the popular field here and now. Faced with the limits that deepening urban territorial work proposes, to which (groupings) from picketers (piqueteros) to the homeless and the newer collectives like the Free Pass (Passe Livre) Movement of Brazil are pledged, the temptation of turning to the electoral to get additional force appears. This argument should not be underestimated when militants committed to its reality brandish it.
This same debate confronts the protagonists of the big student protests in Chile. The secondary students grouped together in the Assembly Coordinator of Secondary Students and many other collectives rejected electoral participation, while the Movement of Residents in Struggle and other collectives supported candidates for the presidency. Beyond the results, half of the population preferred not to go to the ballot boxes, but it would not be opportune to accuse those who took that option of lacking political conscience.
Finally, a new focus radically modifies the debate about the forms of struggle. Electing modes of action to change this world is not the same as for constructing a new one. In this case, participating in the institutions –be it through elections or any other mechanism– would only have been felt if it would serve to neutralize an offensive of the powerful destined to destroy what is being constructed. The armed option is necessary for defending that other world, but not for constructing it.
If we’re dealing with making a new world, the modes of doing multiply, with special emphasis on the production and reproduction of life, which happen as much on the land and in the factory as in the home. This path begun by many movements on our continent places the debate in a completely new place: on reproduction, previously considered the work of women, and on collective work, begin to have a relevant place and to be incorporated into the totality of forms of struggle.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, November 29, 2013