An interview with Verónica Gago by Mariano Pacheco
Source: La luna con gatillo / The Dawn News / March 5, 2018
Veronica Gago is a researcher and active participant of the Not One Woman Less (Ni Una Menos) assemblies in Buenos Aires. She is renowned writer in the Argentinian media (Pagina 12, Lobo Suelto) and the author of the book The neoliberal sense: Baroque economies and popular pragmatics.
In a context that has her thinking about the rising phenomena of the protagonism of women in Argentinian politics, Veronica Gago invites us to reflect on one of the most “trending topics” of the current scenery.
MP: – How should we analyze the context of March 8 regarding the feminist struggles and the other struggles that the popular movements keep waging?
VG: – The first thing to do is to analyze what happened throughout the year since March 8, 2017. One of the concepts that we are elaborating from the feminist movement is that the International Women’s Strike is not an event but a process. What does this mean? Firstly, that the strike is not a date on a calendar but an organizative horizon that allow us to develop a political process. And we sense it in the preparation of this strike because, on one hand, assemblies are being organized throughout the whole country, both big assemblies in big cities and little ones in small towns, an on the other hand, here in the neighborhood of Chacarita, 1500 women are coming to the assemblies for the preparation of the strike every friday when last year we were only 300. Some of the female trade union activists that come regularly to the assemblies told that assemblies are also happening in many workplaces. I believe this is not casual. I believe that, particularly from the Not One (Women) Less collective, but from the feminist movement in general, we learnt how to deploy the assembly device the whole year as a tool that could be used after the strike and also as a tool for the production of a collective intelligence to generate a diagnostic on certain common problems. For example: when we did the assembly with the workers of Pepsico, after they were dismissed and after they pitched the tent in front of the National Congress, along their male coworkers. What happened there was the reencounter of the map of alliances constructed for March 8, 2017, which we saw was still alive and with the need of finding each other again, to produce a conjoint diagnosis of what was happening in the workplaces, but also to dimension how these events that happened in formal work affected the workers of the popular economy. In these assemblies we were able to produce a sensitive, politically important information on how do we read the juncture in concrete situations. By the end of September, and after the previous situation, we made another assembly on El Bolsón, under the slogan “Where is Santiago Maldonado? Our bodies, our territories”. The idea was to figure out what does this offensive of capitalism represents, an offensive that advances over the territories and over the body of women (since they think the body of women is a territory), why there is a convergence of several feminist struggles, but also with the objective of producing a feminist theory aimed to the autonomy and sovereignty of our own bodies, and how does this connect with the struggles of different territories that are thinking on their own autonomy, sovereignty and self defense. This assembly was really important because it left the the mandate of not decoupling with the current slogan, “Safe appearance of Santiago Maldonado” along with the criminalization of the Mapuche struggle. But also the necessity to meet Mapuche women by several feminist organizations. Later, we worked on an assembly in Jujuy, named Jaiahia of Women, where the liberation of Milagro Sala and other political prisoners was demanded. I have the sensation that all these assemblies weren’t isolated events but the result of a collective intelligence that expresses itself in the organizative dynamic that is currently being produced.
– And regarding the general dynamics of the popular movements during this time, what have you seen?
I think it was important to see the trade union leaders supporting the 8M strike. This was a complaint of the feminist movement towards the trade unions last year, and it was an interesting discussion since while some trade unionist leaders were against the idea of the feminist movement calling to strike (unions said: “trade unions call to strike, not feminist or social movements”). Currently, the strike has been reinvented by women in a way that exceeds the unionized environments. I believe that this year trade unions became aware of the force that the feminist movement has taken and that is why they adhered to our call. And this is due to the work that many women have done within the trade unions, by opening space of democratic discussion and bringing the debate of what work means from the feminist point of view. From this point of view, work includes the recognized and the unrecognized, the paid and unpaid work, the registered and organized worker and the domestic and reproductive worker. So, I believe this this discussion has had its impact on trade unions and an interesting alliance is being generated with our female comrades. I would add that feminism works as resonance box for all conflicts. For example, in the assemblies of Chacarita fired women from Casa de la Moneda (mint), Posadas Hospital, INTI, Sarmiento Railroad and Rio Turbio, are present. So, it is of public knowledge that an ambit of listening and political elaboration is being built. And from those stories about the work situation also arise other that have to do with gender violence, with the adjustment of different State programs that directly impact the quality of life and the possibility of autonomy for women. And also of territorial conflicts. They have been partners of the Original March of Women and Indigenous Peoples to raise their situation. This is why I believe that feminism is currently producing a transversal capacity that other political dynamics are not having. There is an effervescence in the discussion that tries to understand what this violence against women means, against feminized bodies in general, linking economical violence with police, work or political violence in general. And this gives us the capacity to read what is happening on the neighborhoods, schools and with families that are passing through bad times. It is an analysis that keeps expanding and that works as a impulse for many organizations. To finish, I would say that this capacity to bind the discussion about social reproduction with the discussion about labour keeps growing in a really strong way. For example, in one of the assemblies we did in the 21-24 settling, the collective question about what does it mean to strike in the conditions in which we are kept emerging. And many female comrades that work in soup kitchens stated that, from their perspective, they couldn’t stop feeding the people, but they could elaborate specific strategies in order to strike. “They can’t say to us that we can’t strike because we are workers of the popular economy”, they said. And thought: “we can deliver the raw food” or “deliver the the food but leave the work of cooking, serving and doing the dishes”. I thought it was a brilliant synthesis, giving a response to the responsibility that these social works imply, like a kitchen soup, and with a great political imaginary. The reflection ended with the elaboration of a stencil that read “#8M: today we serve raw food. #NiUnaMenos”.
– Much is being said about feminism, but it is hard to come up with a definition for it. For example, inside the feminisms there is discussion about popular feminism. What are your reflections on this?
– I believe that we must talk about feminisms in plural, since it reflects the diversity and plurality that are a important for this moment, since a feminist doctrine doesn’t exists. But it seems important to think what this diversity means. Currently, the feminist struggles are global, but there is certain prominence in the Latin American struggle due to the thrust of certain dynamics like the villero (from the slums) feminism, the communitary feminism, the indigenous feminism, the popular feminism. These are terms that have their own history, genealogy and that share their link with social conflict. It is not an strict analytic, academic or institutionalist feminism. This is the first point. Then, I believe that in Argentina the discussion about popular feminism is really important. I believe that different organizations and comrades are developing this: what does this expansion of the labour world, which allows us to build the labour map with a feminist view and that includes the recognition of tasks, jobs, in ways that have to do with social reproduction or with what women do everyday to make life possible, means? And in Argentina this has a peculiarity. After the 2001 crisis and with the continuity of the social movements that politized the crisis, but which, above all, problematised what it meant for the social reproduction to be in crisis from the point of view of being unemployed or having subsidies that barely help, a network of popular economies was created that think in a collective way, what this reproduction means in social, popular and communal terms. An experience that has a massive repercussion in Argentina, since it is connected to the daily reality of communal soup kitchens, kindergartens, but also connected with the struggles that have to do with land, housing, territory, pollution, and extractivist projects. There is a link between the struggles that the feminism connects and it has to do with the dynamic of the daily life of women and feminized bodies, but as well with the dynamic of resisting the onslaughts and new ways of exploitation that little has to do with the idea of women appearing in electoral bills or companies. I think that this is the most powerful characteristic of the current juncture of Argentina and Latin America. A radical feminism which takes into account the dimension of the struggles and rebelliousness, while raising the debate about female bodies and abortion, and, at the same time, connecting these debates with the labour field and with the precarization of life in general. One of the most important achievements of popular feminism is its speech on how precarization impacts life on social, political and economical terms and the importance of this discussion in every territory.