The Non-Homogeneity and Emergence of Anti-Capitalist Positions in the [Chilean] Student Movement

Second Round of Student Mobilizations! Take Position!                                

A new process of student mobilizations seems to be taking place throughout the country. Once again the streets of all of $hile are full of potential that is characteristic of the masses that dare to dream and disobey. There have been ongoing announcements of the government that have had the main objective to “save what is not broken” and propose “technical” solutions. But what else can we ask from those who try to protect the status quo at all costs?

Once again we have dared to break the mechanic routine and with it, we sometimes enter into unchartered territory. Many are the questions we ask ourselves that come up when we try to transgress reality. Perhaps the first question that should be answered is in relation to the nature of the student movement. Many times, those of us who participate in such movement let ourselves be carried by the inertia of the masses, leaders, of what is said in assemblies (in various faculties, schools, and colleges); or we simply let ourselves be carried by the CONFECH (Federation of Students) or some other representative mega organization. Sometimes we forget what is often called a “student movement” is not a uniform mass, but is constituted by small groups very different from each other, which unite to the heat of the revolt and demand.

Diversity is present within the student movement, even if many deny its existence. For example the mass media and the State have depicted an extremely simplistic version where there are only two factions within the movement: the “moderate” and the “ultra.”

What is true is that there many positions between this bivariate relationship imposed by the mentality of official structural discourse. However since this imaginary line has been implanted with relative success within the population (including within the very student movement) we will analyse it to decipher the motives for its implantation.

The “moderates” basically consist of the major institutionalized players within the movement, such as the Communist Party through its Communist Youth, or other such groups, including that which is lead by Giorgio Jackson and the current President of the FEUC (Catholic University Federation of Students) Noam Titelman.  When the movement overcomes legality and institutionalism, the mass media visibilizes these sectors official representatives as the State validates their existence, since it is the group which is easiest to communicate with and impose “negotiation tables” that least vulnerate legality and the structural system.

Even if seemingly paradoxical, the State effectively empowers these leaders unto the incapacity to understand and pacify the different radicalized expressions of the movement. On its part, the media will give the appearance that the “student leaders” and the “State” are at odds, while carrying out a delegitimizing campaign against all forms of protest that do not fit under the institutionalism of these leaders.

It is interesting to note that figures such as Camila Vallejos have almost transformed themselves into a fetish for the national and international media, whom is referred to as an “example” of leadership. Of course, there seems to be plenty of interest in empowering leaders than the actual movement. It is always easier to deal with ringleaders, instead of dealing with the collective conformed by representatives of every faction and variant of a diverse and confrontational social movement. It is in the interest of the media and the State to have a uniform movement, to domesticate, empower charismatic leaders that are separate from real collective action; in this way, they can give the appearance that they dialog with “leaders” of the movement, while at the same time repress street mobilizations, the occupation of establishments or any expression from the movement that makes them uncomfortable.

On the other hand, there are the “ultras,” those who basically do not conform part of the moderate side of the movement. The press and the government talk about the “ultras” as a uniform group, disciplined and militant that creates an obstacle for negotiations and capitalist routine. Once again we see the State and the press try to uniform the revolt through their choice of language, since what they consider “Ultra” is in no way uniform or unitary.

What does a university leader that pretends to channelize their political actions through the CONFECH (Federation of Students), with a young high school student that channelizes their everyday actions through a school occupation?  What does a young university student that seeks various methods of social protest have to do with the comrades who wish to protest through civil disobedience? What does a student bureaucrat representative who only seeks re-election in the next university vote have to do with the masked youth on the street that channelizes their political action through direct action? What we can see here is that the issue at hand is not as simplistic as depicted and the alleged uniformity of the “ultra” does not exist.

We see within what is widely known as the “ultra” there exists profound differences in the way of understanding the notion of “education,” the forms of protest and the society that sought to be constructed. One the one hand, there are those who wish to extend State rights in the education process, assigning a positive note to the mechanism of domestication and indoctrination that constitutes the school and university system.  Furthermore, there are those who seek “free education,” not because they consider that the massification of so-called “formal education” constitutes as an intrinsic right to the individual, but seek to create “equality” in access to a “commodity for consumption,” which is the current state of education; all of this under the infallible truth that we live in a country with huge inequality, or otherwise considering that access to mass “free” or “State” education it is merely a step towards development. On the other hand there are those that consider neither private nor State owned education could constitute as a common good for the individual, since this creates subordination to bosses, cultures of uniformity, competition, imaginative suppression, hierarchy and the destruction of the collective. This last group proposes “self-education,” the construction of autonomous education spaces, “popular education,” and any instance of generating knowledge outside of institutional education imposed by the scholarized society. What should be noted is that within these three trends within the student there exists thousands of intermediate experiences that pick up various elements from each position, and are the original product of every context that they are carried out.

Beyond the differenced that we find in understanding the concept of “education,” there are also profound differences in how the concept of protest, occupation and other aspects of social struggle is understood.  There are those who believe in direct action and the transgression of legality as something crucial to generate advances in the movement, while others advocate for completely peaceful marches that do not go beyond the discourse of the “model citizen” regarding law and order. Similarly regarding student occupations, there are those who believe they are mere mechanisms of pressure to achieve practical ends in the demands of the movement, while there are others see them not only as mechanisms of pressure to the authorities but as liberated spaces where new dynamics of education can be achieved in self/popular education. This can relate to any action that seeks to not only demand better education from the State, but also construct a different kind of education in practice, from below and with individuals. We could go on about the various standpoints within the movement.

Past these differences that we can visualize, what we seek is to demonstrate that the “movement” is not a homogeneous structure, but contains an immense diversity of positions. This diversity is manifested in the infinite collectives, groups and individuals that support from various points of view, places and rhythms. Therefore, we can see that the movement does not have a centre, no leader, no rigid structure, but are multiple visions converged into marches, events, workshops, assemblies or street riots. However, after these events each collective goes back to their own territory, their own occupations, universities, affinity groups, common spaces, organizations or collectives.

We know that the State and the press are mistaken to name the “Ultra” as something homogeneous. Diversity will be concealed by the State and the media since they do not understand this decentralized logic of political action, and also because it is easier to deal with a hierarchical, disciplined movement instead of diverse groups attacking back in various ways, rhythms and places. It is easier to give negotiation power and action to leaders instead of dealing with a movement that not only questions “market education,” but domination and hierarchy at all levels; the existence of leaders and the dominated, the existence of the State and the exploited .  Of course this diversity is not much use if it is not able to coordinate itself to bring about change.

In the end, we see there exist profound differences in the so-called “student movement” and it is urgent that we do not ignore them and begin to establish a discussion regarding the type of emancipation that we want as a collective. It is important to attack “market education,” but it is also important to question ourselves and to make conclusions on what could facilitate the revolt. Of course, these instances do not include “unification” or “uniformity” from the movement, rather an efficient non-authoritarian coordination, without leaving behind our differences and our diversity. The “student movement” still does not have true “positions” unto this reality, but rather seemed like a potent force of rejection to the reality that is imposed on us daily. The construction of a greater questioning and a strengthening of criticism are fundamentally needed, as is the circulation of ideas within all the spaces where the movement has developed. It is necessary to begin discussing these issues, even if it takes time and some energy. These ideas cannot be left aside; if we only go this far the movement will disappear, or it will turn into a functional organism to the system.

To imagine, discuss and break the normality of Capital!

Distributed by: The Women’s Coordinating Committee for a Free Wallmapu [Toronto]

Negra Conciencia


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