Que se Vayan Todos


2 July. 2002

Returning to Rebellion

I arrived back in Argentina the day after the suprise announcement that early elections are going to be held in March next year. "I'm not going to vote, why condemn your candidate to hell? No one can govern this country," exclaims my friend Anabella on the way home from the airport.

It's true - no one in their right mind would want to take on the presidency of a country in such crisis. It's difficult for any politician to appear in public without being hounded by angry citizens, making campaigning a difficult task. General elections in most countries tend towards farce, George W Bush's Florida coup being the most memorable recent example. But in a situation where the hatred for politicians is so endemic that the ex-finance minister, Domingo Cavallo has to employed a decoy in a mask, Argentina's elections are set to be pure burlesque.

Voting is compulsory in Argentina, unless you are 500km from your home on polling day. During the elections of 1999 an anticapitalist group took several hundred people 501km outside of Buenos Aires, to hold debates about direct democracy and register with an extremely perplexed local police force the fact that they weren't going to vote. In last October's congressional elections, a record 22 per cent cast blank votes or abstained - many put pictures of Osama Bin Laden in their voting envelopes. Recent polls have revealed that 63 per cent of Argentineans don't believe in representative democracy. This time around many more will abstain. But breaking the law is commonplace now - even the middle classes, or what's left of them, are regularly refusing to pay taxes, or electricity bills.

There are three serious candidates who are neck a neck in the polls. One of them is a fascinating political paradox - Luis Zamora. Zamora is an ex-Trotskyite who has rejected his political past and has set up a social movement called "Self-determination and Freedom" which is influenced by Zapatismo and Autonomist ideas.

His movement is using the public space opened up by the election process, mainstream media debates and so on, to bring to light the rejection of representation and highlight other forms of power such as the assembleas and direct democracy. When asked what he will do if he is elected, Zamora says he wouldn't last a day and that he doesn't want to be president anyway. "Go self-determine yourself," he says. "Take care of yourself, take it in your own hands, if you don't take it in your own hands, nothing is going to change."

He describes what is happening in Argentina as "a revolution in the heads of millions", a process where the entire country is rethinking representative politics, discovering horizontal ways of organizing and beginning to realise a situation where the "population is doing politics" rather than the politicians. "The population is finding that it is facing itself," he explains, "its culture is to always look above, this is the culture that we all have. This is why this moment is so passionate and beautiful, because it is rethinking this."

Only in Argentina could one have a presidential candidate who does not want to be president and says things like: "the motto of the 'anti-globalization movement' that the resistance to capital be as international as capital itself, is showing a way, that the resistance to the barbarism of capitalism that is today globalized, be global."

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