Dialogue of Latin American perspectives for social emancipation
by Ryan della Sala and Tuk
This article focuses on the reflective and collaborative exercise with the struggles between german climate justice and migrant perspectives in Germany. We believe that a better future is possible and we are convinced that we can build a society that is not organized around the exploitation of capital over life; a society where nature, our housing and labor are not interchangeable commodities.
Our experiences and perspectives do not come from the academic study or social sciences, but from our political practices and experiences as activists, linked to the queer perspective in Argentina and the activism for Climate Justice in the Rhineland Germany.
We are motivated to make a contribution to political actions that not only set concrete agendas of struggle but can actually win them. These contributions arise from the reflections that we have deepened in the political spaces with which we are linked. We want to take a position on the current political debates of decoloniality and the axes that within this debate seem important to us to strengthen the construction of a theory of change that accompanies the historical transformation processes that mobilize us and lead us to a more effective organization.
Our political context
At the end of last year the government of the Ampelkoalition (the Greens, Social Democrats
-SPD- and Liberals -FDP-) was consolidated after many years of having the CDU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany) in government. There was an expectation from some sectors of society that it would be a more progressive government than the previous one, due to the advances of the climate justice movements and the idea of the Green New Deal, which could respond to some of the social demands of recent years.
To date, more than six months of government have passed and we can already make a first assessment of the conservative line of this coalition. Not only are there no clear policies regarding the 1.5 degree limit, but we can also see how this government has deepened extractive policies in Latin America, for example with the recent agreements for coal extraction in Colombia (that are now in crisis thanks to the new progressive government in which Francia Márquez is the vicepresident). In addition to the millionaire military investment, which shows that for this government the war is more of a priority than social and ecological policies.
Where do we believe we should focus our political efforts?
Honoring the experience of resistance struggles in Latin America, we believe that deep social transformations will not be achieved through negotiations in parliament, but by building power from above. This means that power is born from the need of the people to improve their living conditions and in that sense fight against the oppressions of class, gender and razialization. A power that places life at the center and is built from the discourses, aspirations and necessities of the fundamental rights and material needs of the oppressed.
We take as an example the struggles for the legalization of abortion, the gender identity law and the transvestite-trans labor quota law in Argentina. All these are struggles that were not won by asking permission from the state power structures, they are struggles that were won by building popular and collective organizations, with methodologies based on popular education -Educacion Popular-, which knew how to combine self-organization with the broader dimension of the political dispute.
Based on the idea of counter-power as proposed by Gramsci or of a revolutionary power as proposed by the Argentine guerrilla fighter Mario Roberto Santucho, we believe it is fundamental to build collective organizations that project themselves in the medium and long term, that are able to appeal to people who are not organized, because to achieve the structural changes we need, we have to be many.
The role of activists
It is on this contextual analysis that we ask ourselves about our role in the organizations and the political culture we build. How can we build methodologies while being aware of our positions in society in terms of gender, experiences of racialization, among others, and that allow us to enhance our political practice and not obstruct it?
Both the movement of queers (movimiento de disidencias sexuales) with Argentine feminism and the political thought of the Latin American guerrilla Che Guevara agreed on a critical point about social transformation: we cannot build a new society with „the dented weapons of capitalism“, nor can we forget that the personal is political when it comes to common experiences to a certain oppressed sector of society.
However, we notice that the political methodologies inherited from NGOs (mainly North American and European) or from the autonomist bubbles end up generating more guilt and fear that leads to a political paralysis because they individualize problems that are collective and systemic. We watch this clearly happening when in activisms people spend more time pointing to
those who have suffered less oppression by violent, hetero cis sexist, colonial and racist systems. Instead of asking how to build spaces where differences allow for the weaving of alliances to win urgent struggles.
One of many examples is when people who have had a university education are called to silence, with the argument that „they had many privileges for being able to access education“. In our opinion, this is problematic. First of all because we think that access to University should be a universal right, on the other hand, silencing people because of their background should not be the way to tackle academic perspectives (that does not mean that we shouldn’t build strategies against the logic of extractivism in Academic reflections).
This logic of constant checking of „privileges“ generates the feeling that if you have not suffered enough, you cannot speak. This generates an individualizing competition of who has more right to the use of the word and greater representativeness over the most oppressed communities.
It is also true that there is an endless number of people, especially European, academic, white, cisgender, heterosexual, male, etc. who do not know how to position themselves and occupy the voice in spaces that clearly do not correspond to them.
In this sense, we believe it is important to recognize the differences in order to build bridges and converge more to fight and win conquests, but this cannot be at the expense of alienating people who want to fight side by side with us. It is our task, whether we like it or not, to elaborate methodologies that do not make people afraid to speak out because they are not politically correct enough.
It is this politics of correctness empowered by guilt, for not having enough violated rights, which leads to individualization, immobilization and a constant inbred internal reflection with people who are already convinced that they should be organized. The same people that knows the world is unjust and those are the discourses that instead of colletivize us, they individualize us, fragment us and isolate us. Exactly what the bases of neoliberalism propose.
It is thus demonstrated by history and above all by the lessons learned from queer struggles that nothing is gained by using the blame-based logics inherited by religious approaches. We need to overcome these paradigms of policing „who has suffered the most?“ and fight against guilt in order to transform it into a sense of social responsibility. A responsibility that takes into account the political discussions on intersectionality and that places us in our place of enunciation, but at the same time generates a productive force for political work, because there are millions of people in the world for whom the exploitation and destruction of their territories is an urgent issue!
In another sense, we also see how sometimes the political practices, especially in the European territory, are crossed by internal policing logics, where the way to listen to the different intersectionalities is to generate surveillance teams that exercise an almost police audit of what are the „correct“ or „incorrect“ behaviors. This is not to say that queer movements (Movmiento de disidencias sexuales) and women do not need to have a place to turn to in massive spaces if someone generates violence against us. But isn’t it problematic to incur in surveillance and control mechanisms in order to feel that we are in a safe space? Shouldn’t we be building spaces with enough political trust so that being wrong can develop into a political discussion that enriches us as a collective?
There are very interesting examples in experiences in Latin America, as well as in the political practices of Kurdish activism where there is a critique of punitivism and police methods, which are a red line that cannot be crossed.
The big question is: How can we build methodologies that allow us to reflect on our places and generate productive force?
Our first approach to this question is that the efforts of political organizations should focus on the political objectives and reflections that bring them together and on being able to generate spaces that enable the self-organization of more people and more sectors of society.
This does not deny that there is violence within political spaces, but it puts political action at the center and builds the need to have dynamics that prevent possible violence, and that make us feel as safe as possible when we participate in mixed spaces.
What kind of collectives do we want to build?
Returning to a point made at the beginning, we believe that the political objectives we set ourselves must be carried forward by transgenerational political actors who can situate themselves historically and learn from the mistakes and successes made in the past; who possess methodological syntheses of the type of political culture they want to build within their organizations. We need political actors who analyze the situation in which we live and can characterize what tasks we have to assume in each political moment based on the possibilities; the framework of analysis and political action ranges from going local and help developing strategies to fight against the emptying of waters in Brandenburg as well to build long term strategies in how to dismantle 500 years of extractivist colonialism that has been sustaining an economic model of brutal plundering.
In this sense we want to rethink the methods of climate justice organizations to achieve these goals. In recent years a central theme within the movement is to gain radicalism in political actions. But what is radicalism? We believe that radicality starts with understanding the context we live in and not by glorifying a method of action. Actions are or are not radical depending on the context.
We can begin by thinking of an example of the great achievements of Ende Gelände in recent years, where civil disobedience actions were radical because they managed to put the issue of coal and the climate crisis on the table, through direct actions blocking mines with hundreds and then thousands of people. Today, what was once a novelty and managed to twist the discourse and political practices as they had been occurring, began to be a recurrent practice in all climate justice groups, no longer having the same effect.
Another tactic that had an effect and massiveness within the movement was when activists at Hambacher Forst focused on winning the public discourse instead of resorting only to the defense of the forest through confrontation. Thus, at the peak of the mobilizations, they managed to mobilize around 50,000 people in a remote and inaccessible location in Germany.
For many there is a pre-established definition of what radicalism in political action implies, it has a very clear and defined form and is determined by direct action. However, we believe that at a certain moment, direct action actions have more weight and at other political moments, actions that tend to build other political forms have more weight.
If we recall the history of Latin America, we can see how each process of social transformation and each conquest achieved innovated existing political practices. From our perspective, the systematic study of experiences was, is and will be an exercise that will guide us to better understand reality and will give us tools to put creativity into practice in our own context.
Radicality depends on each political struggle, it depends on the political context, on the mood of the social base around us, on the narratives that prevail at that moment in society. There is not only one way to be radical! Radicality can sometimes mean direct action, but many other times it can mean mobilizing sectors of society that would not mobilize if that cause did not challenge them concretely in their daily lives. An example in this direction was the Berlin rent campaign, which combined two very important factors: on the one hand, the possibility of mobilizing sectors of society that were not mobilized on the basis of a concrete problem, and on the other hand, a political strategy that people found it possible to win. However, we are left with the open question of whether there are political organizations today that can push this process enough to give it the continuity it requires and continue mobilizing.
And this is another element that represents what we consider to be radicality: the capacity to reinvent oneself based on the needs of the political context; the need to generate a social force that is capable of identifying the political moments in which we live and the needs of the people, and to change actions and methods to reach more people, for longer and in a direct dispute.
And what better experiences than the struggles that are being won in the world? We must get out of the romanticizations far from our daily life and focus on the study of political experiences that have managed to conquer demands. With the purpose of empowering our political practice, understanding the heterogeneity and complexity that this exercise of translation implies.
Today we are witnesses of the great mobilizations in the United States using the green handkerchiefs of the campaign for Safe and Free Legal Abortion in Argentina. But this was not just a campaign, the success of the achievements of the feminist movement and sexual dissidence in Argentina are born of years of grassroots work, of neighborhood self-organization, of popular education high schools throughout the country, of self-managed counseling to help pregnant women to have an abortion, of non-partisan and partisan political organizations that have been making a political effort to win these demands. It was possible because there are active and collective social movements that surpass individualities in the search to advance with political struggles.
This is the case of the constitutional process in Chile, where it seemed that from the great student mobilizations few results were achieved, until the accumulation of more than twenty years of mobilizations resulted in the burial of the first neoliberal, genocidal and extractivist constitution, imposed at the cost of the massacre against the Chilean people orchestrated by North American imperialism and the school of the Americas.
All these exercises should help us to think about how to strengthen our political practice to dialogue with the territories here, to be able to generate mass movements here and to be able to build popular power.
For us, the best way in which we can show solidarity with the peoples of the so-called global south is to build a collective force capable of wresting policies from the capitalist state, far from personalist strategies and false messiahs. And as the struggle of the comrades of Kurdistan has taught us: with anti-patriarchal struggles in our sights to help us to dispute public policies, to stop once and for all the contamination of our ground, the destruction of our lands and the plundering of our water.
Luchar, crear, poder popular