From Procés Embat, a reflection on electoral-representative politics and social movements, on the eve of spain’s municipal and regional elections. If we share this text in translation, it is because of its intrinsic interest, as well as its relevance beyond the borders of the country. What we might question in it is the emphasis on the need of creating counter-hegemonies against what is presented as a homogeneous and centralised power structure. Once however the latter is understood as complex, centreless and heterogeneous, then the idea of politics as a struggle for hegemony is displaced by a politics of creative retreat, substitution and resistance …
The role of the libertarian movement in moments of elections and the institutional recuperation of popular and social movements
Today we live a few months of apparent social demobilization on the streets. While in some locations it is an easily observable situation, in others it is not so much as the activity of the movements follow the usual course of constant mobilizations. However, it is true that we are in a different moment, new situation in our post-15M epoch, because changes are emerging in the political landscape for the possible plebiscite elections in Catalonia and the rise of new parties that have real chances to get to power at both the levels of the central government as well as the municipality.
Before this change in the political context, unthinkable just a few years ago, it is logical that doubts arise in the strategic analysis of libertarians. This ebbing, does it occur because the movements are betting on an electoral avenue for social change? Have we reached the limit of social mobilization and therefore opt for another route?
First it is necessary to keep in mind that all social movements have periods of birth, growth and decline. It is perfectly normal and falls within what can be expected of any movement. We should not be frightened by it, on the contrary, we should envision other ways of mobilising on the street to re-activate a cycle of protests.
Secondly we have to realize that people are searching within a global imaginary. That is, they want to see real social change that will snatch power from he class enemy (which has all the levers of power, including the government). Thus at some point the institutions appear as the easy goal in the progress in social forces. If you have not accomplished much through citizen protest, the conquest of power through elections usually appears as a reasonable option.
Therefore if the revolutionary options have been absent from the general debate and have failed to articulate a global revolutionary alternative that draws on the popular movement, a movement towards electioneering is consequently produced. Globally there should be therefore an alternative of power and its revolutionary management, that is, a revolutionary theory.
However apart from the theory it is necessary to provide long-term strategy to work in this direction. Therefore it is necessary to construct an imaginary in which the popular movement will displace power from the clas that currently posesses it. Naturally it has to have the means to do it in a feasible way that can attract growing layers of the population.
In our present context, however, it can not ignore the electoral phenomenon. It is perceived as a social conquest insofar as political power is placed at the disposal of the winning party in the polls. No will stop taking this path howver much propaganda produced in defense of abstentionism. Along this line, and being realistic, it should be noted that, as long as movements have strength and influence, chances are that some will try to struggle for the enemy institutions through elections. They will do so if by this means they can replace a few local leadrs. For this reason the popular movement will have to give a dual response to the electoral event:
The popular movement must have mechanisms to exert influence on institutions without being recovered by them. For this purpose an a-legal revolutionary organisation is necessary (a role that should correspond to the libertarian movement) that maintains the tension and the centre of gravity outside the institutions. Popular movements have to be strong and well coordinated with each other to maintain autonomy and impose their demands on political power.
To build an alternative to institutions, either by transforming the present ones into new popular institutions, either generating counter-institutions to establish a dual power, or even both at once.
Finally, we note that the majority of the revolutionary processes of history have passed through a stage of attempted access to institutions through elections, through the legal channels, which are those that are still instinctively followed many times before initiating processes of self-organization and the creation of alternatives. In some cases they have been able to gain access to government posts. This has often led in turn to rapidly reaching the limits of intervention that the capitalist system permits, running into the walls of the “deep state” (patronage networks and class interests that put state structures at the service of the bourgeoisie, regardless of who are the managers of the institutions), and ultimately repression.
Access to institutional power may trigger the contradictions of capitalism that on the one hand promises democracy and freedom and on the other deny and boycott them with all of its strength, as its strength reveals itself more clearly. In short, that a political party that presents itself as representative of the popular movement reaches the government through the ballot box does not mean that it can then exercise real power, given that power is tightly in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which is able to exercise it by other means at the margin of government.
The role of the libertarian movement, rather than warning popular movements about the deception of the electoral process, it is to act as:
a) organiser of the social movement in autonomous popular power structures and with their own agenda at the margin of political parties so that it is able to impose its politics on the institutions, especially taking advantage of people sympathtic with these goals who participate in them – that, make no mistake, always exists. The popular movement can design and test where it is able more democratic and socialist institutional models – a sort of dual power – that may prefigure the society we want to build.
b) an element which increases the tensions within the existing contradictions between the well-intentioned project of reformist transformation and the real institutional and economic structures (the factual powers). If it is not well-intentioned then it will simply be reformist and simply not transform anything, limiting itself to merely cosmetic changes. That is, it will have newly disappointed the hopes of society so that the popular movement itself should turn against reform project.
c) prepare itself for the moment when the said contradictions burst. Because the most likely is that they will burst. For this one must have ready some reliable and proven popular counter-institutions (to avoid improvisation at the most critical moment), a broad political alliance capable of managing a country and an organisational and mobilising capacity to neutralise violent regressive offensives by the system.