Autonomous Politics and its Problems

Published on, by Ezequiel Adamovsky, July 10, 2009.

(Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications. This paper was originally prepared for the June 1 – 7 2006 first Z Sessions on Vision and Strategy, held in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and also published in the book Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century)

Part One: Two Hypotheses on a New Strategy for an Autonomous Politics: My aim in this article is to present some hypotheses on issues of strategy for anti-capitalist emancipatory movements. The idea is to rethink the conditions for an effective politics, with the capacity to radically change the society we live in. Even if I will not have the space to analyze concrete cases, these reflections are not a purely “theoretical” endeavor, but spring from the observation of a series of movements I had the chance to be part of – the movement of neighbor’s assemblies in Argentina, some processes of the World Social Forum, and other global networks- or that I followed closely in the past years – the piquetero (unemployed) movement also in Argentina, and the Zapatistas in Mexico …    

Part Two: The Autonomous Interface as an Institution of a New Type: What would an autonomous interface look like? What kind of new political organization, different from parties, would allow us to articulate vast sections of the emancipatory movement in a large scale? How should it be, if it also has to be able to deal with the global management of society, so becoming a strategic instrument for the abolition of the state and the market? These are questions that the social movements are beginning to ask themselves, and that only they can resolve. The following ideas are aimed at contributing to this debate …

… Let us now imagine an even more favorable context. The ASM already has a long experience of work in common. It has grown and has several thousands of member-organizations. It has perfected its decision-making procedures and its internal division of tasks. It has contributed to spread a new militant culture and ethics. It has a proficient method to deal with internal conflicts and to make sure that no person or organization accumulates power to the expense of the rest. Its debates and political positions are followed with great attention by the whole of society. The strategy of electoral boycott has been effective, and the government and all parties are loosing all credibility. Or, alternatively, the strategy to “colonize” parts of the state with their own people has been successful, and the ASM now controls vast sections of the Legislative power, and some of the Executive power. In either case, the state has lost credibility and a vast social movement is demanding some radical changes. There is disobedience, strikes, and direct action everywhere. In this case, the “political co-operative” may be used to prepare the next strategic step, by proposing itself as an alternative means (at least transitional) for the global management of society. The strategy here may vary: the ASM may decide to continue to “colonize” the electoral positions that state politics offer, thus taking over more and more sections of the state until it controls most of it. Or, alternatively, the ASM may promote an insurrectional strategy. Or a combination of both.

Needless to say, this was just an imaginary exercise only aimed at providing an example of an “autonomous interface” at work. In this hypothetical case the ASM has worked both as a tool for the co-operation of emancipatory movements, and also as an institution able to take care of the management of society here and now. Its strategy consisted in, first, developing an institutional model that “mimics” the multiple shapes that structure our co-operating networks (that is, and open and plural space, but also endowed with clear rules), with an “anticipatory” character (it is horizontal and autonomous; it expands our power-to-do without concentrating power-over). Secondly, the ASM developed an intelligent strategy by “reading” the configuration of the main links of co-operation of the current society. Thus, the ASM identified the crossroads in which the power-over has an ambivalent role (that is, those tasks performed by the state that are to some extent useful or necessary) and offered a better, autonomous alternative. In this way, ASM’s strategy was not purely destructive. Unlike political parties -including the Leninist ones-, which “colonize” the social movements with the forms and values of heteronomous politics, the ASM provided an interface between our movements and the state that ended up “colonizing” the state with the forms and values of the movements. It did so either by occupying state positions, by draining their power, or by destroying them when necessary.

Once again, this does not intend to be the model of a perfect political machine. The ASM does not require “angelic” beings. Of course, there would be internal struggles for power and conflicts of all kinds. Of course, such an institution would not resolve and eliminate for good the intrinsic distance between social and political. Emancipatory politics would continue to be, as it is today, a difficult, daily task with no guaranties, aimed at expanding day by day our autonomy. The benefit of such an institution of a new type is that all those struggles, conflicts and tensions would be at the same time acknowledged and ruled, so that they do not inevitably destroy the possibilities of co-operation.

Even if this was a purely imaginary exercise with many limitations, I hope it may contribute to expand our horizon of possibilities when it comes to answering the crucial question of an emancipatory strategy: What is to be done? (full huge long text).

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