Zibechi: It can be done: those below as subjects

Marcha de la Gorra / March of the Cap, November 2014

Marcha de la Gorra / Cap March, November 2014

By: Raúl Zibechi

When those most below, the poor youths (men and women) of the peripheries, the forever nobodies, take the reins of their lives and also do it collectively, it’s because something very profound is changing. A new world begins to sprout when the intellectual, the leader, the strategist (masculine), dissolves before the collective power that announces a strong political, social and cultural wind.

On Friday, November 19, a crowd of more than 20, 000 people walked the tenth Cap March, in Córdoba (Argentina). You had to see and above all feel those dancing youths, singing, shouting at the head of the march, those that day-by-day are beaten, murdered and disappeared by provincial police, one of the country’s most lethal. It’s a march that began in 2007 demanding the repeal of the Code of Faults, today disguised in the Code of Coexistence, which equates faults with criminal offenses, a legal trap of the provincial power to pursue “dangerous” youths; in other words, the poor that live on the peripheries.

A police State exists in Córdoba functional for a militarized capitalism that has in soy extractivism and urban real estate speculation its nucleuses of capital accumulation. Those that don’t consume are intrusive; they don’t exist either to the power or to the media, they are to blame for the “insecurity” and, as Giorgio Agamben points out, they can be murdered without it being considered a crime. The Code of Faults approved in 1994 is the legal gear piece.

Last year, 73,000 people were arrested, the majority for “wearing a face,” in other words, for their aspect, for being youths with darker skin, wearing caps and clothing “suspicious” to the police. Some 200 young men are arrested every day. Since 2011, more than 150 were murdered and several thousand beaten and injured. The legal figure that the police use is the merodeo (marauding), which can be confused with strolling, walking or circulating. Eighty percent of the young men between 18 and 25 were arrested at some time.

The worst thing is that the code grants the police the power to arrest, instruct and judge at any point of the processing of the act. Impunity is the most adequate word. They don’t permit them to leave the peripheries. The police systematically detain them on the bridges and at the exits from the barrios and pursue them each time that they return to their homes.

Huayna synthesizes the definition of a police State; it’s a member of the Federation of Grass Roots Organizations, in Barranca de Yaco, a peripheral barrio with precarious houses put up over a garbage dump. “We call an ambulance and the police come. We call the firefighters and the police come. It’s the only service the State has for us.”

Those young men that head the march with portraits of their murdered friends, like Güere Pellico, 18, shot in the back when he was returning home on a motorcycle, have traveled a long road. Now they are capable of editing a memorable text, like the Open letter to the police State, the proclamation that was read at the end of the walk.

I do not seek to shed light on public action that, finally, is similar to those that champion those below throughout the world. The central point was how poor youths are converted into subjects.

Since the 1997-2002 cycle of protests, whose peak was the uprising of December 19 and 20, 2001, dozens of university students and professionals (the majority women) work in poor barrios creating community theater, street music, magazine and radio workshops with a basis in popular education. Towards 2007, the community psychologist Lucrecia Cuello relates, the young people of the barrios began to meet in large assemblies of up to 300 members. They produced a formidable act there.

“They told us about the decisions they wanted to make, that they wanted to go out into the street and not only make workshops. They told the technicians to separate to one side and that they would call us back later,” Cuello explains. They separated and waited. But, above all, they understood that their academic work logic reproduced “the colonial tutelage over the poor that continues being inferior in relation to the NGO’s and the leftist parties.” The Youth Collective of Youths for Our Rights that called the Cap Marches was born from those meetings.

With time and permanence in the territories, a fistful of professional women accompanied the youths that “overthrew popular education thanks to the meeting that they held, which was determinative for breaking with the technician and the militant that go into the territory.” We’re talking about an explanation similar to that which Huayna and other militants of the ten-long social organizations that work in the peripheries offer. “Us for us,” would be the synthesis, although more and more all the time one must use the feminine, since they started working hard in recent years.

There, in a nutshell, is the story of standing up that made the Cap March possible, from the double vision of the peripheries and of the “technicians.” Questions abound. Are we in conditions of thinking and sensing that the poorest can be subjects? What do we militants say? Do we accept placing ourselves to one side to “simply” accompany the subjects from below? Do we really sense that they can change the world without a political or intellectual vanguard?

Having reached his point, what is the role of militants, or whatever we call that life attitude? The first, comprehending with the skin, making ours the collective pain. The second, accompanying a process without leading it. The third, renegotiating by being accepted as one more. The fourth, saying what we think when they may ask us about it and keeping silent the rest of the time; policies of ethics and humility. The opposite will limit our revolution to reproducing colonialism and racism.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, November 25, 2016


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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