“Social Movements are what generates change in the world”: Raúl Zibechi



By Verónica Ferrucci and Valeria Scardino

December 4, 2018


We met up with Raúl Zibechi in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, during the Critical Reflection Workshop titled: “The ’68 revolution in Latin America and the current social movements” and “Eurocentrism and Revolution: Fanón and Quijano” in the Cosecha bookstore, and at the Presentation of his new book “Los desbordes desde abajo. El ’68 en América Latina” at Cideci-Unitierra.


So begins the presentation of his book:


“When people talked about ’68, the first thing folks thought about was Paris and that bothered me a bit, because while in Paris there were very important things that occurred, especially at the level of the student movements and the worker movements, ’68 happened all over the world. Moreover, ’68 began in the periphery and what happened in the center was a reverberation of what was happening in the periphery.


In the 60’s, there were strong social movements, which began with the Cuban Revolution, without which we could not understand anything that happened in the decade of 1960 in Latin America. Nor could we understand what happened during the Mexican ’68 without going back to Chihuahua and the whole peasant farmworker process and the assault on the wooden barracks. Nor can we think of Algeria in its war for liberation which was present throughout Europe and throughout the world. Or decolonization processes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We cannot understand ’68 without North America, which was important with a massive presence of students regarding the war in Vietnam, a country that produces the offensive where, for the first time in history, armed poor peasants organized as a people’s army defeated the greatest Military power in the world. The march to Washington that was led by Black folks and featured Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous ‘ I have a dream ‘ speech, or the struggle of the Black Panthers that begins to organize Black people in the slums of cities of the state of California, or the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union.


The Black-led movements that we now know in Colombia and Brazil, the whole of the indigenous movements, that are not born in this period, but they do have a reconfiguration from that moment on.


At this geopolitical point, I accept the ideas of Immanuel Wallerstein who says that ’68 was a successful revolution because it did not take power, because it failed. That ’68 was a cycle of struggle of about 3 years, more or less, which opens new possibilities at the macro level; such as the decline of the United States and on the micro level begins a major deterioration of authority; that of the male in the context of the family, with an increasing prominence of women and young people; The fight against patriarchy although it began long before is in many ways a daughter of ’68 or the struggle in the classroom against the authority of the teacher.”


— in your new book, you will discuss this lesson about anti-system movements, such as feminist, Indigenist, environmentalist, and farmworker from the periphery’s gaze and from below: What did these surges mean to you, why were they possible and what transformations did they accomplish?



-Since we are with one news agency from Córdoba, the clearest case of the overflow was the Cordobazo. There is a very nice piece by Mónica Gordillo and James Brennan: “Las guerras obreras en Córdoba” (The Labor Wars in Cordoba) which, precisely, tells how the factory workers, not the union, but the workers in the most difficult sectors: painting and mechanics, began a process of insurgency and disobedience ending in the Cordobazoand the Viborazo. I think it is a typical case of reclaiming their own unions, the workers remove their leaders, Tosco himself, who was impressive, but Tosco did not anticipate the Cordobazo, no one imagined it. The surges are this, to go beyond the established and the predictable, to overflow the organizational channels, and the establishment. In the case of workers, it was very obvious, therefore, the response was hard, because there was not only repression, but over the years they had begun to dismantle the old factories, chain work and began robotization, the destructuring of the factories and the precaritization of labor.


But in general, ’68 was a very rich and very powerful period of struggles, not only of visible struggles, but of invisible struggles, such as, for example, what was happening within the family, in the classroom, concrete spaces that began to be occupied and overwhelmed by women and the youth: The two main protagonists of ’68.


The consequences were many, the most positive was that in this period, the most important social movements are set up, born and developed. The feminist movement is the one that we are seeing most strongly today, but, in previous periods, we saw young people with their own culture, with their own spaces of socialization that they occupied, initially, armed struggles that later began appearing in other spaces.


There were changes at the macro and micro level; for example, at the macro level, dictatorships were the great answer to the whole period of insurgency and disobedience. On the other hand, macro changes include the decline of imperialism, of the Soviet Union, of polarization, the rise of Non-Aligned Countries, the third world, the growth of the importance of countries that, until that time, had no role in Latin America.



-From this matrix of analysis that you do from the analysis of the movements of ’68, what power do you think the current social movements have in the complexity of the reality that we are living in the region?


-I believe that those who change the world are social movements, not governments. Governments can repress or can tolerate, or, in some cases, they can support. [Hugo] Chávez, for years, supported social movements, the progressives, those unlike Chávez, did not support social movements, they tried to co-opt them, to undermine them. I believe that those who change the world are the movements, because they change it in all spaces, in the Micro daily life and in the intermediate space. On the macro level, then, the potential is this. This is the potential of the movements that we are seeing today in Latin America, the women’s movement, the Black movements in Brazil and Colombia, the indigenous movements, the movements against mining, against industrial agriculture that have had important successes, that have managed to stop large mining companies, have managed to stop Monsanto in Córdoba. They are triumphs that are not easy, but there lies the potentiality of the social movements that are changing the world.


When they tell me that in Argentina, eleven and twelve-year-old girls interrupt with their feminist demands (and that males don’t know where to put them, because that is the other big mess) is a potential of what can happen in everyday life. Then, abortion can be legally sanctioned, that year or ten years later, but there is already a legitimacy, abortion in Argentina today is legitimate or, for example, occupying land in Brazil is legitimate, then a government may come to repress them, but that is another History. Those who do not look up, but rather horizontally, and down, see that there is a very strong tendency of people to do things for themselves, to organize themselves, not to rely on warlords, leaders, commandors but to do. That is the destitutionary aspect of the movements or the part that impoverishes authority and authoritarianism, then there is creativity, right?


I have seen, in some cities of Argentina and Uruguay, that there are spaces that are feminine or other where there are also some males, and what is done is basically the reproduction of life, where the care of life is fundamental; Radios, cultural centers, libraries, spaces that are creating something new already, not only to dismiss, but also to create. Some of these spaces are visible, but others that are not defined as “We are creating the New World”, but they are really doing new things. They do not have the new World poster or the creation of an emancipatory project, but, when there is mobilization, they culminate and it is a clear symptom that the movements no longer only resist and try to move forward in that resistance, but also create and are important because they are necessary. These places, like here in Cideci, where you feel calm, safe, comfortable and able to speak.


Source: Desenformemonos

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