The New "Politics from Below"
Book review of Raul Zibechi's "Territories in Resistance: A Cartography of Latin American Social Movements"

Quandt, Midge
Date Written:  2013-11-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2013
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20285

Zibechi's "Territories in Resistance" centres on the practices in Latin American movements, such as the Zapatistas and the Landless Workers Movement, analysing their strengths and weaknesses over time vis-à-vis the central governments that they helped bring to power.



As Zibechi and others have observed, whole populations were displaced in the 1980s and 1990s by the practice of neoliberalism. Agribusiness removed farmers from their land; industry, in capital flight, removed workers from factories. Neoliberalism left people without work, without union representation, without land.

The dispossessed responded by creating their own neighborhood-based communities ("territories" is Zibechi's term) to replace the workplace as the site of struggle. The old left, organized in political parties and unions, was too distant, too vanguardist to meet their needs. Rejecting all centralized organization, the movements insisted on emancipatory self-organization and horizontal relations within the territories they claimed as their own.

Critics on the left, Zibechi argues, contend that the new social movements need structure and coordination if they are not to be ephemeral. This implies, in his opinion, a "state-centric" perspective on transforming society. However, these movements are not interested in confronting capitalist institutions; nor do they want to demand rights from the state -- the outmoded logic of the 20th century, he would argue.

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