Topics

The right of peoples to preserve their memory

“Memory is an acquisition of the modern world, like human rights –something of which we were unaware 40 years ago– the rights of women or sexual freedom and the rights of gay people. Ecology was another thing we knew nothing about. Memory is a concept that takes its roots from Nazism. Memory is not a fashion; it will stay with us forever. Peoples with no memory have no future. Chile has achieved democratic transition, it enjoys acceptable economic stability, institutions are beginning to re-establish themselves, but they continue to turn their backs on memory, as in Spain. How is possible that there are 90 year old women here that still claim for a grave for their beloved ones?

I will always love the collective joy lived with Allende, when the whole country took to the streets for the first time in their lives, when poor people invaded the centre of the city, celebrating with music and meetings, a success no-one had ever dreamt of. It was a state of collective falling in love, a legal movement, without weapons, crushed by an absolutely disproportionate Coup d’état. We were flattened by the power of an entire Army with the economic backing of North America, bringing an end to the longest democracy in Latin America”.

Patricio Guzmán

Film: Chile, la memoria obstinada, Chile, una galaxia de problemas

 

Forced child marriages

In 2010, more than 60 million women between the ages of 20 and 24 all over the world were married before they turned 18, generally obliged to do so by their fathers and mothers and normally to men much older than them, with absolutely no say in the matter.

Not only do forced child marriages represent a health risk for the girls, they also violate their fundamental rights, not to mention their sexual and reproductive rights given their scant or non-existent autonomy of decision with regard to their bodies and lives. In many poor countries, the leading causes of death among adolescent women are complications during pregnancy and childbirth. For girls aged 14 and under, their probability of dying at childbirth is five times greater than it is for those aged 20 to 24.

But these practices are also a reality in Europe, even if not openly spoken about. The laws and regulations that establish the legal framework for fighting against these practices in European countries differ greatly. Germany considers forced marriage to be a crime, punishable by prison. In others, like Sweden or Spain, it is not even mentioned as an offense in today’s Penal Code.

Film: Night of Silence

 

Economic sovereignty and self-management against the crisis of neoliberalism

Argentina was the experiment of a neoliberal economic policy which turned out to be an absolute disaster. As of the 90's, for over 10 years, the Argentinean political class removed the State from the economic scene with the privatisation of over 200 public companies and its energy resources like petroleum. That way, the recovery of the Argentinean economy confided in the "magic" of the economy, which would provoke exactly the contrary effect. This would culminate with the social explosion of 2001, when the so-called corralito was made public, a measure to avoid a bank run of capital which limited the quantity of money that savers could withdraw daily. Faced with the public indignation that the measure caused and the massive protests which left various fatal victims, the president resigned.

After various weeks of successive presidential appointments and resignations, a democratic Government was established which, among its most urgent objectives, was the restructuring of the debt. Argentina opted for a single payment: the State advanced the total it considered convenient for the total cancellation of the debt and did not pay what it considered was not due. That way it finally "restructured" a stormy relationship of over half a century with the International Monetary fund.

The economic and organizational experiences create from a social base after the Argentinean crisis returned the dignity to the citizens. The barter market, the factories recovered, the co-ops managed by workers, the neighbourhood meetings, the practices of direct democracy, are all examples of a budding social and associative economy which, in addition to contributing support to many families, on the whole mean an alternative to resist the globalisation of neoliberalism. A capitalist management model which focuses on the crisis in countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Argentina is not an isolated case in Latin America since other governments, like Ecuador, have refused to pay debt with the International Monetary Fund and opted to get off the path of austerity imposed as a sine qua non condition to opt for new bailout loans, necessary to continue assuming a debt which is unpayable.

There is an important difference between the situation in the 80's and 90's, when the epicentre of the debt crisis was in the southern countries and the current situation, and what has been present in Europe since 2008. The current crisis is the result of the private debt explosion generated by the bank crisis and subsequently transformed into public debt.

Countries in the European periphery which are currently facing the crisis with difficulty and have opted to contract a sovereign debt, the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) are being subjected to similar controls by the Troika, an alliance made up by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. The alliance pushes these countries towards policies of austerity, the reduction of public spending, labour market precarity, salary freezes and the progressive destruction of social services which include health, education and retirement among others. In short, a cutback in economic, social and cultural rights which were gained with much effort.

The loans contracted allow the Troika legitimate authority and power over governments of "bailed-out" countries which have not been submitted to any democratic decision processes and, above all, do not represent citizens or their interests, hence its illegitimacy. This can be a legal decision, because the governments themselves made the decision, but it is not legitimate, because it forces citizens to assume the debts generated by the real estate bubble and the bank crisis, business which responds to private interests.

Once again it is important to look back to learn from experiences lived at the hands of its central characters. According to activists from international networks and committees which have fought for years for the cancellation of debt for poor countries, it is fundamental for citizens from social movements, to conduct audits of the debt from the bottom. This serves to arouse the action and organization of the bases, in addition to helping understand and change the perception that people have of the debt in mass, because the bank, international institutions and communication media which they control constructs a false idea that the public deficit is a consequence of squandering on social expenses which come from an excessive Welfare State.

A civic audit is not limited to making an analysis but rather serves to provoke the mobilisation which demands the cancellation of the payment for the illegitimate debt. In Ecuador, for many years the popular movements conducted audits from the bases and later managed to get the Government, Correa's, to decide to audit and cancel the payment of the illegitimate debt.

On the other hand, it is necessary to understand the importance of encouraging and multiplying those other alternative social economies which arise from the base when the system abandons or casts them out and understand its aspects like participation, transparency, link with what is local, cooperation, gender perspective, environmental equilibrium and the processing of capital and surpluses.

Participation is key to strengthen social economic experiences, to understand local realities and to dialogue with them. A committed, motivated and dynamic social base, which feels central in the development of these experiences, encourages networking with other experiences, promoting the collective action and exchange of knowledge and resources at different levels. Without participation, the alternative economy loses its power to transform, the "social face" of the experiences of social economy becomes weak, its political dimension is lost and a good part of its legitimacy.

"There is a universal structure which explains all these things and which Latin America is beginning to fight against, be aware: destiny is not a misfortune, although the Greeks thought so in another time. In reality the future can be imagined, invented, instead of being obeyed". (Eduardo Galeano).

Film: The Argentina Experiment

   

Resistance of the Sahrawi people

Different forms of non-violent resistance have helped to raise awareness of the Sahrawi conflict and to gain backing from European public opinion, making use of unusual spaces of visibility. France is a country that has welcomed large numbers of Sahrawi’s who, like the runner Salah Amaidan, are driven by fear of the reprisals they suffer for their different forms of resistance to seek asylum.

France has a vast culture of defending human rights. French citizens in general support and are sensitive to the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. However, the different French governments have been all too involved in the violations suffered by this people. Unfortunately, after 35 years of conflict, France persists in using its right of veto in the Security Council, thereby permitting Morocco to continue dominating and repressing the Sahrawi people in its Western Sahara territory, strategically occupied since 1975.

This represents an enormous contradiction and generates a “love-hate” relationship with France in the Sahrawi people.

Film: The Runner

 

Reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction processes

The reconciliation and normalisation sought following violent conflicts cannot be artificially imposed by one of the sides without prior agreement and dialogue. Experience shows that proceeding otherwise runs the risk of “false closure”, a situation potentially leading to new violent outbursts or to scenarios of confrontation similar to those existing at the start of the conflict. Also, if the instability and injustice of political, social, power, legal and economic structures remain in place, it will be difficult for these processes to have a successful outcome.

There are different complementary approaches to conciliation processes. Some operate from “top to bottom”: this is the case of Algeria, where, in 1999, the State, with its “national harmony” policy, offered amnesty to Islamists with no violent crimes to their names. But an amnesty of this kind is incomplete, since the “repentants” are unable to find their place in a society that does not accept them. Other approaches, from “bottom to top”, encourage involved participation in the communities of the people affected by a conflict and work to reconstruct inter-personal and group relations.

Film: El taaib / Le repenti

   

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