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Buenos Aires: la Rivolta, from the pandemic

A text from Buenos Aires in times of the coronavirus.

Originally published by The Plague and the Fire. Image above: View of Buenos Aires’ Paseo de Julio — now Avenida Leandro N. Alem — at the turn of the 20th century (from 1900-1905).


Last Friday, March 20th, the Argentinian state anounced that complete quarantine would come into effect from midnight. After months of distant news announcements and growing paranoia between the various means of mass communication and the president’s national channels they finally announced it, causing a mass exodus of the upper-middle classes to their summer houses, panic buying in supermarkets and and a call to stay at home with less than four hours notice.

As state and capital always respond in the face of the complete lack of social and economic preparation, this quarantine is executed by different armed forces in the streets operating with more or less impunity depending on the wealth of the given region of the country. Instantly, videos appeared showing the different police forces moving into neighbourhoods with machine guns and rifles in hand, pursuing on motorbikes those who were found outside, forcing them home running. A woman run over by a patrol vehicle and the long leash of the police is untied in a country close to militarisation.

As in the majority of infected countries the message of war was launched into the air, excused by the pandemic. Between some unfortunate analyses that try to point out a global conspiracy it is evident that the virus is capitalism and said conspiracy is merely a disease unleashed on a global level in societies based on misery and exploitation. Now, it is clear to everyone that class society continues to harm those that it always does: those that continue being obliged to expose themslves through work and those without permission or contracts (in an economy based on 40% informal work), having to stay at home watching their debts increase and mental health deteriorate or face being arrested and tortured by the state.

Snitching and Means of Communication

The campaign of terror is reinforced by the official mediums of communication, being the point from which the society of control is launched. Although the police terror is evident and tangible it is supported under the guise of #quedateencasa (#stayathome), under the idea of ‘responsibility’ that this progressive hypocrisy uses to openly justify the repression. Now, with the repeated slogan of ‘if you stay at home, nothing is going to happen to you’, the fear changed from red to green and shows us that the idea of the enemy within is independent of time and shape. That which creates disturbance in the social order should be pacified by the threat of persecution and prison.

Even already knowing that we live in a prison society, power’s broadcasted campaign to justify the military’s entrance onto the streets is completely obscene, needing a justifcation that substantially complies with the important portion of the population that happily voted in the last election. Within this context of paranoia snitching becomes legal tender. Those that yesterday were flaunting their feathers with the motto ‘never again’ now call the police in response to any suspicious movement, spying from their windows and incriminating, megahones in hand, from their balconies in the city centre.

In the mix is thrown the media campaign, ‘The state cares for you, not the market’, reinforcng the false paradox imposed by Kirshnerism. What they are doing is protecting the market – private property or whatever it may be – demonstrated in the absence of the possibility of a contamination test coming into fruition, in the supplies given to health departments and in comparison to the budget payout to the entire repressive apparatus. Even so, the guilty continue to be the neighbours, those that live stacked up and without the possibility of quarantine, but of course excepting those deliery drivers and other workers. Those exploited that serve as servants for those that enjoy a privileged quarantine, ordering sushi and ice cream delivered to their homes.

The Passing of the Quarantine

According to what’s announced the quarantine is supposed to last until March 31st.
The quarantine in Argentine is now said to last until April 26th but, as in many places, is expected to be extended further., although the discourse that is starting to circulate is that it should be extended, a hypothesis supported by the crumbs that the state declares that it will distribute soon in order to avoid disorder. Within this context we can encourage ourselves to think in global terms and begin a clear point of inflection, although in certain territories they have already endured many long years of extreme militarisation. In an situation such as this how can the Mapuche, Palestinian, Kurdish or Syrian people exist with global levels of repression against an enemy without a face, that isn’t human or even visible. We can all be guilty like an Orwellian thought police, a single panopticon, where every one of us checks on the other as a possible enemy agent.

Within the different reflections made by ‘intelectuals’ of capital we found, for example, Slavoj Zizek, known leftist who, amongst all the repeated academic words, demanded the implementation of a ‘global health network’ that, as a co-ordination that could not only overcome COVID-19, but could prevent these cases providing greater power to the scientists of the WHO. At the same time that he asserts that, “The virus is democratic. It doesn’t distinguish between rich and poor”, leaving out that democracy is based precisely on this distinction, he indenifies the virus in question as, “a blow to capitalism that could reinvent communism.”

Sadly this analysis, like that of another known writer, Byung Chul Han, departs both from and returns to the intellectual field, sheltered behind comfortable academia and totally removed from how things are, much more in South America. Even so, some words of the latter ring more fruitful, responding to the former by saying,

“Zizek asserts that the virus has dealt capitalism a deadly blow and evokes a dark communism. He also believes that the virus could make the Chinese regime fall. Zizek is wrong. Nothing such as this will happen. China will now be able to sell its digital police state as a model of success against the pandemic. China will exhibit the superiority of its system with yet more pride and, after the pandemic, capitalism will continue with greater strength and tourists will continue trampling the planet. The virus cannot replace reason. It is also possible that the Chinese-style digital police state will arrrive to us in the west. Just as Naomi Klein said, an upheaval is a favourable moment that allows the establishing of a new system of governmet. The establishment of neoliberalism also came preceeded by crises caused by upheaval. It’s what happened in Korea or in Greece. I hope that after the comotion that has caused this virus a digital police regime, as we see in China, doesn’t arrive in Europe. If this managed to happen, as fears Giorgio Agamben, the state of alarm would become the normal situation so the virus would have managed to do that which not even Islamic terrorism could.”

This clearly fits the situation. Capital is far from falling. Certain markets and the world of finance can lose themselves in the paranoia but, logically in a society based on authority and domination, before losing their positions or power they will demand our submission, or death.

Always Aiming for Revolt

The dystopian world is, and always was, this. Here we are with a reality that is more relentless than our desires. That which today is a virus which should be confronted but also learned to be lived with, tomorrow will be some natural disaster and the constant setting in motion put forward some time ago by Desierto (Ediciones L’anomia). Always a slap in the face out of nowhere, it’s coherent, yet in this daily asphyxiating frenzy one can do little more than inform and convince themselves until, finally, it will be necessary to confront it, whatever it may be.

It is also an opportunity to study the behaviour of the armed forces: where they locate their control points in a city and how their security and repression functions so that later we can agitate for revolt, at the same time that certain comrades edit propoganda and try to strengthen community ties in opposition to the logic of the police. Points of rupture and inflexion are also moments in which it is important to strengthen our social relationships, never hiding ourselves behind some stupid, misanthropic mask. On the contrary, confronting this reality is to take up arms against the state and not allow ourselves to be apathtised by the media, political or citizen apparatus.

That cuarantine strengthens our passion for freedom and reaffirms our rejection of all authority.

1.The quarantine in Argentine is now said to last until April 26th but, as in many places, is expected to be extended further.

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