Dislocated somewhere between 9/11 and Iraq , the Argentine insurrection of 2001-2002 seems to lie in the already-distant history, even though its events took place in the very recent past. During the mid-1990s, Argentina was lauded as an economic miracle. In order to promote the privatization of the Argentine economy following years of military dictatorship and a stagnant, nationalized economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral organizations had been supporting the dollarization of the peso by flooding Argentina with huge loans. But by December 2001, the IMF’s stabilization-recipe had soured. Currency values caved in completely. Unemployment and wage-withholding grew rampant. Fearing a run on the banks, the government froze accounts. The cash-machines ran out of money. The stores refused to sell their goods. The president resigned. Within a month, Argentina defaulted on 132 billion dollars of foreign debt. Millions took to the streets throughout the country shouting “Que se vayan todos!” (“throw the bums out!”), banging pots (= caserolas ) in protest. The power vacuum left by both governmental crisis and investor withdrawal created a need for radical-democratic grassroots “self help”: neighbours formed constituent assemblies, barter points, and public eateries; factory-workers took to forms of self-organized production, once the owners had been driven away by the default. The heterogeneity of a insurrective multitude, bound together not only by negative (destructive, violent) criticism, but also by the existential need to build something new as an alternative to the system’s hopelessness.
#6: Revolution or Resistance
1. Art is not the sublime descent of the infinite into the finite abjection of the body and sexuality. On the contrary, it is the production of an infinite subjective series, through the finite means of a material subtraction.
2. Art cannot merely be the expression of a particularity (be it ethnic or personal). Art is the impersonal production of a truth that is addressed to everyone.
3. Art is the process of a truth, and this truth is always the truth of the sensible or sensual, the sensible qua sensible. This means: the transformation of the sensible into an happening of the Idea.
If the mind, while imagining non-existent things as present to it, is at the same time conscious that they do not really exist, this power of imagination must be set down to the efficacy of its nature, and not to a fault, especially if this faculty of imagination depend solely on its own nature–that is if this faculty of imagination be free.
(Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, Prop. 17,https://www.msu.org/e&r/content_e&r/texts/spinoza/ethics_part2.html#text18)
Before how to resist before how to act we must deal today with how to think? This journal rightly asks that old question (or is it a statement?), What is to be Done? but can we really answer it today? After all, we cannot take for granted the very things trade unions, class solidarity, political possibility that Lenin built his argument upon. Instead, what we may require of ourselves is to imagine the non-existent things as present’ in the little space for the freedom of the imagination that is still available to us.
Speaking to a forum of left-wing activists, my friend Gaidar Dzhemal said that Islam was the banner under which the oppressed masses have resisted tyranny for over one and one half thousand years. You could say this, by the way, of any of other popular religion. Unexpectedly, a comment shot out from the audience: “That’s all good and well, but don’t you think it’s time to destroy this tyranny, instead of simply resisting it?”
Contrary to the expectations of Hegelian Marxism, social struggle does not follow any dialectic of progress, but always coagulates from scratch in discontinuous “events”. Such events, as in 1789, 1848, and 1917, do not elevate history to a “higher level”; instead, they “interrupt” its progress. As such, revolutions are extremely rare “historical finds”. At present, there is no revolutionary option. Furthermore, the 20th century has inevitably led to the experience that any attempt at establishing a different society will eventually mutate into a power-project, a rule of regime. Yet then again, this knowledge of radicalism should not lead to the kind of “pessimistic anthropologies” with which conservatives have always legitimized exploitation and oppression. Not in spite, but because of its tendency toward authoritarian ossification, real radicalism must always turn against itself. This turn against oneself does not only lead to a refusal of transcendence, but also attacks any form of rule (not of power). Thus, it refrains from connecting the critique of the totalitarian disfigurement of the revolution with an affirmation of the established order of things.