From a rebellion against neoliberalism’s miserable failures, notes for a new insurrection and a new society.
19 and 20 tells the story of one of the most popular uprising against neoliberalism: on December 19th and 20th, 2001, amidst a financial crisis that tanked the economy, ordinary people in Argentina took to the streets shouting “¡Qué se vayan todos!” (They all must go!) Thousands of people went to their windows banging pots and pans, neighbors organized themselves into hundreds of popular assemblies, workers took over streets and factories. In those exhilarating days, government after government fell as people invented a new economy and a new way of governing themselves.
It was a defining moment of the antiglobalization movement and Colectivo Situaciones was there, thinking and engaging in the struggle. Their writings during the insurrection have since been passed hand to hand and their practice of militant research modelled widely as a way of thinking together in a time of rebellion. Today, as a staggering debt crisis deepens amidst an already COVID-shaken economy, we see the embers from that time twenty years ago in the mutual aid initiatives and new forms of solidarity amidst widespread vulnerability.
Revisiting the forms of counterpower that emerged from the shadow of neoliberal rule, Colectivo Situaciones reminds us that our potential is collective and ungovernable.
What People Are Saying
“19 & 20 is a book-event that has become a key for social movements around the world. In it, Colectivo Situaciones practice militant research as an act of listening (escucha) and experimentation that translates the powerful mobilizations that took the streets to end neoliberal plundering (saqueo) into an inspiring and crucial praxis of thinking. Learning from the events instead of imposing old categories on their singularities, this book is a crucial source of inspiration on militant research and situated thinking. A singular work of pedagogy from below, this new edition comes in a timely moment where the deepening of the neoliberal expropriation of life that the pandemic has made so explicit meets with the tenth anniversary of the global uprisings of 201. Today, once again, 19 & 20 offers a crucial map for experimenting in the situated praxis of political thought.” Susana Draper, coeditor of Femincide and Global Accumulation and author of Afterlives of Confinement and 1968 Mexico
“Assemblies may become thinking machines. And experiments of resistance may give rise to alternative experiences of sociability. Colectivo Situaciones develops out of these findings, that emerged within the 2001 resurrection in Argentina, a powerful reflexive research: a truly magnificent effort to explore the potentialities of a future beyond capitalism.” Stavros Stavrides, author of Towards the City of Thresholds
“This is a book born in the barricades, neighborhood assemblies, and factory occupations of Argentina’s 2001 uprising against neoliberalism. Written by movement participants, it’s an inspiring account of the rebellion and a grassroots model of how to research and theorize a movement that forged a new way of doing politics from below. The English translation of such a classic book that’s been passed around revolutionary circles for decades is a cause for celebration and hitting the streets!” Benjamin Dangl, author of The Five Hundred Year Rebellion: Indigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia
“Twenty years ago, Argentina erupted in blockades and assemblies, occupations, demonstrations, and communal kitchens. In both its circumstances and forms, the 2001 uprising presaged the protests of 2011 and the struggles of our time. Colectivo Situaciones’ 19 & 20 provided both the sharpest analysis of that moment and a model of theoretical practice: nimble, dialogical, embedded in the movements with whom it thought, made in common. To rediscover it today is to do more than reconnect with the recent past; it is inevitably also to ask how it illuminates what we have lived since, and how we can continue to extend its lessons into the future.” Rodrigo Nunes, author of Neither Vertical Nor Horizontal: A Theory of Political Organization
“A long decade before Occupy Wall Street, Argentineans poured into the streets to reject austerity and short the circuits of neoliberal capitalism, proving that state violence was no match for popular refusal. But this is not a book about Argentina or even Latin America as a whole, a brutal laboratory where neoliberalism was imposed in blood and fire. It's about a way of thinking that is also a doing, about what the concrete experience of rebellion teaches us about how the world moves, and how to turn that movement into thought. Find yourself in this book.” Geo Maher, author of Building the Commune and A World Without Police
"The 2001 uprising in Argentina is a major flashpoint in a wave of popular struggles that repudiated the neoliberal capitalist order and authored new forms of non-capitalist social construction. Colectivo Situaciones gives us important analyses of the uprising and its legacies, the roots of Argentina’s financial and political crisis, and changes in contemporary forms of anticapitalist mobilization and resistance. Their close attention to grassroots practices of resistance, political organizing, and world-making is emblematic of their method of militant research, which itself has been an inspiration to so many. Those interested in contemporary social movements, political theory, and the history of Argentina and the region will find much to appreciate in this wonderful new edition. Jennifer S. Ponce de León, author of Another Aesthetics Is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War
“If the insurrection in Argentina that began in December 2001 was our Paris Commune, then Colectivo Situaciones fits well in the position of Karl Marx. As Friedrich Engels was fond of saying, one of Marx’s many talents was to analyze the historical importance of political events as they took place. This book by Colectivo Situaciones, written in the heat of action, certainly demonstrates that same talent in full, delving into the complexity of concrete events while simultaneously stepping back to recognize how our political reality has changed.” Michael Hardt, from the Introduction
About the Author
Colectivo Situaciones is a collective of militant researchers based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They have participated in numerous grassroots coresearch projects with unemployed workers, peasant movements, neighborhood assemblies, and alternative education experiments.
From the Book
This is a book about the events of December 19th and 20th of 2001 in Argentina, but not exclusively. Such events, we believe, revealed in concentrated form the emergence of a new social protagonism. But the 19th and 20th cannot be taken as an excuse – nor, in any way, as a demonstration – to show something that already existed. Not even to mark a degree zero of Argentina. Our motives are otherwise.
The events of December tore down the Nunca Más democratic truce. Since then, situations that were believed to have been conjured away appeared on the scene: levels of resistance willing to confront state power became visible and the threat of a military coup returned. In this sense, we believe they mark the end of the genocidal dictatorship that began in 1976. Or, in other words: the insurrection of December man- aged to escape the threatening double bind of all those years: dictatorship or democracy.
The traditional role of the state was severely overturned during these appearances: the declaration of a state of siege the night of December 19th and the ongoing rumors of a coup conspiracy sought to reestablish terror, but they were not enough, at any moment, to stop popular unrest.
The events of December force us to think of novelty and not just to inscribe the “facts” in an already existent totality of meaning. That is why our attempt is to think what the 19th and 20th opens in its singularity. That is, the practices of fidelity to such processes as were unfolding in the context of 2001 and of which this book seeks to be part. The events unleashed by the insurrection remain open. This indeterminacy, how- ever, is not an obstacle to the writing of this book. On the contrary, we intend to develop a style of thought constituted not by the preexistence of its object but by its interiority with respect to the phenomenon we are thinking about. In this way, thought abandons all positions of power over the experience in which it participates. The classical separation between subject and object is left aside in order to turn thought into another dimension of experience. Thinking becomes a risky activity: it consists not in producing representations of objects, but rather in assuming the theoretical dimension that is present in each situation. Nor is it about producing a final conjecture about the process still in motion, but about intervening in the current discussions, under the heat of the events. For that same reason, this is a book of urgencies. Neither predictions nor prophecies will be found in these pages. The goal of this work is to think the opening inaugurated in December from within itself: the possibilities of mobility and visibility of the bodies and knowledges that such events activated. But also to think how the experiences of struggle previous to the 19th and 20th were transformed. Summarizing, to think in the effects and not about them. To think without objectifying. To think without capture and appropriations. To think with the conviction that the moments we lived will inspire struggles and experiences to come. And that, in consequence, the task of thought is not neutral.
The hypothesis from and upon which we work here is constituted as a site of polemics, ruptures, and continuities with respect to the struggles of the seventies and the post-dictatorship period. We affirm the emergence of a collection of practices and languages that give way to a new type of intervention in the social and political sphere. Here we find a social protagonism that operates by bringing together dimensions of existence in their entirety; this is a consequence of a more significant historical rupture with respect to the myths of determinism and progress characteristic of modernity.