Movement as Institutions and as a Moving-of-itself

From, Raúl Zibechi, Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces, pg 82-90

There is a large body of work dealing with social movements that focuses, as a whole, on three questions: organization, collective identity, and codes of mobilization.n49 This view is hegemonic in the sociology of social movements and, accordingly, gives priority to aspects of the movements like structure, cohesion, and definition of objectives.n50 To be considered in this way, movements must have an organization that is different from that which preceded its emergence, because social relations immersed in the daily lives of the people are not regarded as organization per se. They should have a common [83] goal (Garciá Linera); minimum standards of cohesion (Sandoval et al); and finally, present strategic (Garciá Linera) or well-defined objectives (Sandoval et al).

Movements are therefore framed as homogeneous, collective actors, with defined interests and rational forms of action appropriate to the aims pursued. If this formula has ever functioned, it was during the period when mass-trade unions and centralized syndicates dominate, but it is doubtful that the miners who participated in the 1952 revolution had been inspired by the _Tesis de Pulacayo_ – which surely the vast majority had not read before the events, despite the clear value of the work.

A kind of epistemological earthquake occurs when those who have occupied the depth of society for centuries – Indians and women, etc. – emerge as subjects, which calls into question the subject/object relationship, one of the more pernicious legacies of colonialism.n51 This relationship is reflected, among many others, in what Guha Ranajit defined as “the univocity of statist discourse” that “sees a particular set of contradictions as dominant or central and the need to resolve them as a priority or more urgent then all the others.”n52 It is because of this argument that those of “the low voices” (women, Indians, etc.) were not taken into account for centuries. It brings to mind the recuperation of a vision of the world very similar to that of the Indian and indigenist elite of the Movement for Socialism (MAS).

Some of the neo-colonialist modernist discourse that applies a Gramscian model that Zibechi doesn’t like.

There is, of course, another way of addressing the social movements of the oppressed; it is not a gaze from above – taking the state as its start point – in a colonial form. It consists of beginning with social relationships created from below for basic survival, meaning the “pre-modern” or familial relationships, and assuming as a starting point the movements of that society, their flow, their faults. Because what is a movement but this — self-movement? “Every social movement is configured by those who wish to rupture social inertia and move themselves, which is to say _they change places_, refusing the place they have been historically assigned within a given social organization, and broaden their spaces for expression.”n60 Porto Gonçalves reached this conclusion after working for years with the _seringuerios_ (rubber extractors) from the Amazon jungle, together with Chico Mendes, who was their adviser. [85]

We are talking about giving priority to the shift over the structure, or the mobile over the fixed, to the society flowing as opposed to the state, which seeks to codify and control the flow. in this analysis, the movement’s objects do not derive from the place they occupy in the society (worker, peasant, or Indian, etc.) nor the program advanced, nor the statements or intensity of the mobilizations. it does not judge the movement according to its organizational “solidity,” its degree of centralization or homogeneity – things that would speak about the strength of its [hegemonically, Gramscian] organic structure.

We do not discount these fragmented or dispersed movements but rather propose to address these characteristics from an immanent gaze. Again and again, non-articulated an non-unified movements have been capable of doing many things: toppling governments, liberating large regions from the state’s presence, creating different ways of living beyond the hegemonic, and waging important daily battles from the survival of the oppressed. Social change, the creation and recreation of social bonds, does not need articulation, centralization, or unification. Moreover, emancipatory social change goes against the type of articulation proposed by the state, academia, and political parties.

A first question revolves around the significance of dispersion or fragmentation. What is our vantage point when we use these terms? We are dealing with a perspective that is external, distant, and on top of everything, from above. To speak about a movement, a social subject, or a society as fragmented, does this not imply perceiving it within a state-centered logic, one that presupposes the unity-homogeneity of the social realm and thus its subjects? Moreover, to be a subject supposes some degree of unity or at least non-fragmentation. Supposedly the state-party-academic perspective already knows the role of subjects and can even define when they exist and when they do not.

Secondly, proponents of the articulation of the movements – who are generally those with a state-centric policy – leave it to the side the need to take stock of the past one hundred years of socialism and the labor movement. That accounting can be summarized like this: “A controlled and organized transition tends to involve some continuity of exploitation.”61 [Wallerstein] Again, it is not a theory but just a reading of one hundred years of socialism. however, the left and the academics assure us that without articulation there is not the slightest chance of victory, or the triumphs are merely ephemeral, and that a disarticulated and fragmented movement marches toward certain defeat. Was it not the unification and centralization of past movements that [87] enabled the state and capital to neutralize or domesticate them? On the other hand, how can the popular uprisings in Latin America be explained, at least since the Caracazo of 1989, which garnered very significant victories and yet were not convened by formal and established structures?

short paragraph on El Alto

We have seen that the separation (inside the movement) intensifies with demobilization since it implies impotence, the movement in which the movement-disengagement reaches its limits and then the movement-institution wagers on reigning in the leaders.  but talking of leaders supposes going into the field of representation.  For Weber, everything related to representation goes into the chapter “types of domination” and he insists that representation implies the absences of solidarity. For “below” the FEJUVE and the neighborhood councils, there is a large tapestry, a true society in movement that is what we call the social movement. The panorama presented by the El Alto society is one of the pendulum swinging between dispersion and regrouping, disintegration and unification. We can understand it as struggle, although not necessarily a struggle in the classic sense but rather a fight to encode/decode flows, or social relations in movement.

skip some empirical stuff

The image is of a permanent space-time dispute between movements/communities and the state/political parties: the latter to create division, to divide power, to co-opt, to dominate and consolidate its hegemony; the former, to deconstruct dominance, to re-unite and prevent separation. One way to avoid co-optation is to advocate fragmentation and dispersal, rather than advocating large movements or institutions, thus enabling the movement to acquire spaces of autonomy – gaps through which they can resist, because the state/party system does not enter into these gaps. When the FEJUVE leaders criticize the grassroots for their “indifference,” we are witnessing a silent struggle to avoid subordination.

It should be added, following Foucault, that this struggle between tow poles is not one of an exteriority relationship, but rather [90] that the party/state logic lives in the bosom of the community and the movement; it permeates them, not as something that comes from the outside but rather something that exists in an immanent relationship, as “manifold relationships of force that take shape and come into play in the machinery of production – in families, limited groups, and institutions – are the basis for wide-ranging effects of cleavage that run through the social body as a whole.”n66 [F’s HOSv1]


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