Que se Vayan Todos

Politics Without Parties

16th Feb. 2002

We wake up the next morning to hear that the Pope has declared Argentina to be in a "pre-anarchic" situation. He seems to be following in the footsteps of President Duhalde, who in the first week of February said, "Argentina is on the brink of anarchy." Weeks later, the finance minister chimes in, telling a meeting of international bankers, "Either we have continuity or anarchy." Funny how that word gets thrown around whenever power begins to feel threatened.

It seems that they are using "anarchy" to conjure up the spectre of chaos, destruction, disobedience, nihilism, the collapse of law and order. It is doubtful they are using it to describe the authentic spirit of anarchism, which has spontaneously arisen on the street corners, and in the parks and squares of Argentina: the simple desire of people to live without rulers, remaining free to govern themselves.

What is so refreshing is that this spirit has developed so spontaneously, and that no one, except a few tired old politicos (and the state of course), is using the word anarchism. This is perhaps surprising, given that Argentina had the world's largest anarchist movement at the dawn of the twentieth century. But no one needs another "ism" from the 19th century, another word which imprisons and fixes meaning, another word that seduces some people into the clarity and comfort of a sectarian box, and leads others in front of a firing squad or a show trial. Labels lead so easily to fundamentalism, brands inevitably breed intolerance, delineating doctrines, defining dogma, limiting the possibility of change.

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