What is the Frente Popular Darío Santillán (Popular Front Darío Santillán) ?
The Frente Popular Darío Santillán is a multisectorial, autonomous, social and political movement.
It is called Frente because it is born in 2004 from the confluence of different organizations, mostly of unemployed workers, with different ideological profiles, but that coincided in their anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, the construction of popular power, and the need to go through a process of unity based on the development of common practices and shared deliberations.
The denomination of Popular corresponds to the analysis that in our country (as well as in the world) the huge transformations of the capitalist economy in the last decades. These changes include, on the one hand, the generation of “abandoned” (surplus) populations, which goes hand in hand with the appearance of self-employed and small owners that are in fact under-covered salaried-workers and proletarized professionals that have established new relationships to capitalist exploitation. On the other hand, we have the consolidation of layers of managers and bureaucrats that, while not being owners of the means of production, share the benefits of the system. These are important changes that we should consider when we attempt to characterize the subject of radical social transformations. This subject can no longer be limited to the formally occupied working class, but it includes the lot of social sectors that are directly or indirectly victims of capitalism and that can only realize themselves as such in as much as the become protagonists of revolutionary changes. That’s why we say that the subject is plural or multi-sectorial. We denominate it as the working people (pueblo trabajador) or just people (pueblo). The recognition of the plurality of the subject does not imply that we attribute every sector the same strategic weight, since we recognize the different potentialities that are associated with the place they have in production, their possibilities to accumulate victories and organize, from their quantitative dimensions and their experiences of struggle.
Our organization is called Darío Santillán in memory of a companion (compañero) that participated in one of the founding organizations of the Frente : the Movement of Unemployed Workers of Lanús (Movimiento de Trabajadores Desocupados de Lanús, MTD de Lanús), integrant of the MTD Anibal Verón. Darío Santillán was killed along with another Piquetero partner, Maximiliano Kosteki, the 26th of June 2002, during a protest at the Puente Pueyrredón (Avellaneda, Provincia de Buenos Aires). Darío Santillán, killed at age 21, was and is an important reference and synthesizes the human values and the political conscience of the younger generations that, from a concrete personal compromise with the most urgent needs of our people, struggles with determination to pursuit revolutionary changes.
We say that the FPDS is a Movement because the diverse original ideological profiles have been synthesized in a common identity, which recognizes diversity and open discussions, but no to the point of allowing for the development of internal tendencies. The process of political synthesis has been pushed forward by the collective will of avoiding discussing “from the libraries”, and looking to discuss always from the questions that our practices and struggles, our country’s political conjuncture, and our own political construction, present us.
We say that we are a Social and Political Movement, because for us social and political struggles are not separated. We believe that every social struggle is political and that there is no political struggle without a social root. We value political and class conscience as processes, and not as objects to be introduced artificially from outside by enlightened intellectuals.
We say that our movement is Multisectorial because if it is true that in its origin, and its current development, the territorial organizations of unemployed workers have a decisive weight, student organizations, groups of occupied-workers, territorial organizations of neighborhood reference, cultural expressions, spaces of the youth and women, etc., have also been developed.
We say that our movement is Autonomous because the defense of our autonomy is part of our experience and our conception. From our experience because our movements of unemployed workers where built in the struggle for our right to demand and decide over the work to be done with the ‘employment plans’, obtained by means of the first road-blocks, which faced brutal repression, and confronted with the clientelistic political apparatus of the ruling parties (Justicialismo and Alianza). From our conception because we define ourselves as autonomous from the State, political parties, churches and trade unions, because we inherit historical experiences with the determination to advance the political autonomy of the working people, and because the gross definition of our political activity is generated in base assemblies.
Our place in the national historical context
The FPDS belongs to a generation of young organizations in Argentina whose precedents, forged in the late 90s, had great public and media exposure with the events of 2001 and, which consolidated in organizational terms in the following years.
Our organization it is essentially made up of young men and women (with average ages below 30 years old) that come from experiences of social struggle and have not participated in party structures.
However, a historical analysis allows us to find communicating roads with the generations of the 60s and 70s, influenced by the figure of the “Che”, the anti-colonial processes in Africa, the Chinese experience, the Vietnam war and the French May. Locally, the strongest references are with the anarco-syndicalist experience of early 20th century, the 17th October of 1945 and the “peronist resistance” (1955-1969), the riots (“puebladas”, 1969-1973) inaugurated by the “Cordobazo”, the inter-factory coordinations (“coordinadoras interfabriles”, 1974-1975) and the struggle against the dictatorship (1976-1983), symbolized by the mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Madres de Plaza de Mayo).
The fact that in our country there is a deep and prolonged experience of struggle by the working people, in part explains why the territorial movements that gathered the unemployed workers where so rapidly organized.
What are our organizational principles ?
Our organizational principles are : base democracy, democratic learning (“formación”), struggle and self-management (auto-gestión).
By base democracy we understand the democratic exercise of decision making. We perform it in the base assemblies that are regularly held in every base organization, in the sector gatherings (student, territorial, occupied-workers, etc.) and in the national meetings where delegates with mandates from their bases, look for consensus on general political decisions.
We understand by “formación” the collective reflection over our own practice, and gathering of knowledge from other emancipatory experiences of struggle. At a basic, initial level we work with the methodology of “popular education” that promotes the exchange of understandings and knowledge.
We understand struggle not only as the most adequate way for gaining satisfaction of our demands and for the advancement of the transformation of society, but also as a constitutive part of our political learning. In our experience, we have resorted to direct action as our main form of struggle : road and street blockades, mobilizations, occupations, “escraches” (public denunciations).
We understand self-management as the free decision over the use of the resources generated by our own work, received by donation and solidarity, expropriated from capitalist enterprises or obtained from the State though struggle. Regarding the development of our own productive endeavors (orchards, farms, carpentries, blacksmith shops, textile and serigraphy shops, dairy farms, bakeries, etc.) we promote the creation of consumer networks (fair trade networks, “redes de comercio justo”) and the progress of an alternative economy as another means of resistance to the capitalist system.
Our conception of social change
We understand social change as a practice to be promoted on a daily basis and as a goal to be reached in time. We think our own social and political constructions as pre-figurative of a new society. That is why we have the intention of promoting here and now new values, new social and work relations, new ways of struggling and acting politically, new ways of relationship between women and men, between sons and fathers, new cultural manifestations. With respect to the objective in time, we name it as socialism, associating it to the idea of creating a society without exploiters, but agreeing that it will be our own People, as the protagonist of those changes, who will give concrete content to these ideas.
Our position with respect to Kirchner’s government
It is hard to explain the policies adopted by Kirchner’s government if no reference is made to the great popular rebellion produced in Argentina during the 19th and 20th December 2001, which ousted the neoliberal government of De la Rúa (Alianza) and questioned the representativity of the whole political class with the phrase “Que se Vayan Todos” (“All [politicians, businessmen, etc.] must go”). The popular forces that had enough capacity to overthrow a constitutionally elected government were, however, not capable of capitalizing on the political crisis, something that the Justicialist Party was able to do, even while it was one of the main organizations questioned by the popular uprising (in as much as it had governed the country during 1989-1999 and in 2001 ruled in the main provinces). Kirchner was, during 23 years, a protagonic participant of the Justicialist Party (main supporter of neoliberal policies in Argentina) and also during two terms governor of the Province of Santa Cruz, lobbyist in favor of the privatization of the State Oil and Gas Company (YPF). He uses his remote political past, with a brief and timid participation in the mobilizations of the 70s (something like saying that he participated in a mobilization during May of 69 in France), to present himself as the heir of the popular revolt. Making during the first months of his government some well-publicized political gestures, he created the illusion that the political class was going to produce effective changes in favor of the popular majorities. The changes that were actually made, and begin with a brutal devaluation of the currency by its predecessor, Eduardo Duhalde, refer to the model of capitalist accumulation. The model of accumulation based on financial valorization, which was dominant during the governments of Menem and De la Rúa, was replaced by a model were the dominant features are the capitalist exploitation of natural and human resources with an exporting profile. This model, which has coincided with the important appreciation of primary products exported by Argentina (Soya and Petroleum), has allowed for an important economic growth financed by local capitals returning from outside the country, and by the super-exploitation of labor (with informal employment, “trabajo en negro”, representing 43% of total salaried employment).
The human rights policy set by the government has centered in the re-opening of trials to genocide members of the armed forces, together with an active campaign to co-opt referents and organizations, has been stained by the fact that in Argentina 20% of the population lives with under 30 dollars a month (1 dollar a day), prolonging the economic genocide that was condemned in times of Menem and De la Rúa.
The Frente Popular Darío Santillán opposes the policy of Kirchner’s government and, in consequence, we have had to pay the price of our autonomy : each conquest gained, each right acquired has to be upheld by struggle.
In these battles we have won and lost. Our most important victory was the conviction to life imprisonment of the material executors of the crime against Kosteki and Santillán, which was upheld by a struggle that lasted over three years and included, amongst other, measures the monthly blockade, the 26th, of the Pont Avellaneda (Pueyrredón), where the massacre originated.
Our territorial extension
The Frente Popular Darío Santillán groups about 3000 women and men of our People distributed in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Río Negro, Formosa, Tucumán and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Our biggest development can be found in the southern area of the urban area (known as the Conurbano Bonaerense) that surrounds the Capital city of Buenos Aires, where we have presence in 14 districts.
Our local political projection
The FPDS participates in the Movimiento Intersindical Clasista (Inter-sindical Classist Movement), a grouping of the left syndicalism, through its workers organizations La Fragua and Herramientas.
The FPDS shares task on popular education, “formación”, and political communication with the Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indigena (National Peasant Indigenous Movement).
The Frente Popular Darío Santillán has promoted the constitution of the new political space that has already had two national meetings. Within it have participated like-minded social and political organizations from Santa Fe, Salta, Jujuy, Córdoba, and other provinces. The objective of this space is to promote a new political confluence with concurring groups, which will go on maturing in time thanks to the accumulation of trust, common practices and reflection.
Our international positioning
The local dimension of the FPDS, and our non-alignment with any international organization, does not invalidate the fact that we believe that is very valuable to reach out and contact other experiences and of other countries, in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Latinamerica is living a very special upsurge of social movements and some political processes that we believe is necessary to differentiate. For example, even though they are all part of the Mercosur, we do not put on the same stand the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela. The differential mark in all cases, it seems to us, is the incidence that the autonomous social movements are having, and may have in the future, in the direction of the political decisions of the governments. In the case of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, due to the attitude of the governments towards autonomous social movements, we do not see the possibility of surpassing a ‘progressist” neoliberalism. We understand that the processes of Venezuela and Bolivia are still open and that’s why they generate on us important expectations.
Our international relationships are not with governments, but with social and political movements.
We do not know much of the reality of Europe (with exception of Spain), North America, Africa and Asia. We aspire to develop relationships with organizations such as ours.
For more information, check the web site : www.frentedariosantillan.org