Political affinities very often transgress ideological borders; indeed, if they did not, politics would be far poorer, if not dead. Politics is the gathering together of singularities for collective life, in dissension.
This post is in memory of the intellectual and political work of Horacio González. While perhaps little known outside of south america or the hispanophone world, he was a central figure in his own country, argentina.
But why celebrate a “Peronist”, some may ask? A ready answer lies in the fact that “Peronism” was never homogenous, and González was among its most critical and heterodox “followers”. And more importantly, González and his work were never reducible to the ideology and/or the movement.
Below we share a text by González that takes us back to the argentinian uprising of 2001, an event which remains of enormous significance for the understanding of anti-capitalist politics in the present.
This is followed by a tribute to González, authored by Diego Sztulwark.
(lobo suelto 25/06/2021)
Those days that began on December 19, 2001 meant ambition, the dream that society could take into its hands the entire apparatus or state management. This is one of the most generous utopias that political thought ever coined. The absorption of ritualised institutions by civil society, turned into an anti-leviathan of free actors; it is an ever-stretched rope that speaks beneath the surface of the origin of the political. We perceived it in those days. Reviving or rescuing the original mode of politics, it claims to seek a primal bond mediated by language, which implies the initial mark of human association. So were those primordial moments. They sought much more than to replace a government, they sought to think about the very nature of the social and cultural fabrics that forge a government.
The origin of the political is found in the idea of an assembly or a congress, words equivalent to the act of walking. The Latin root grad comes from gradi: to walk. From this common word we can derive what are the essential terminological moments of politics: progress, regress, digression, income/entry/committal [for ingreso]. Walking together leads to congress, to gathering together, and doing it in the sense of opposition to struggle generated aggression. Every time a human ensemble enters into an essential vertigo, in the grandiose illusion of a self-organisation, federative ideas of small associative nuclei arise – in the manner of Proudhon, who was however little remembered in those days of 2001 – in which the initiatory community is revived. This vertigo occurs at a time when routines break down and planned cohesions cease. Famous moments in universal history are remembered – the Franco-Prussian War, which leads to the vertigo that was the Paris Commune -; the moments prior to the Bolshevik seizure of power, recounted by John Reed – where in Saint Petersburg he continued his daily life, trams carried on normally, while train and post office stations were occupied -, or among us, during camping trips, during which for a few days the machinery that moulds obedience and predictability was loosened. Walking together and holding assemblies in times of aggression is a compressed summary of the social that becomes political and can – or cannot – remain in unity.
In our 2001, there was not a powerful National Guard as in the Paris of 1871, nor a disciplined and armed party with its doctrine of the “extinction of the State” as in Russia, nor an expectation arising from an election that sounded a resounding end to an era, as in Argentina in 1973. But there was an assembly based thinking that was devoted to rethinking political representation on the basis of a splendid fragility, a generous chimera. It is not true that a dream is an inoperative force, but it is true that, to bequeath the idea of autonomist vertigo to the coming times, it should abandon itself to its prodigious candor. In 2001, real life followed its course, the productive, financial and repressive procedures were still in place, although due to the crisis of the capitalist logos some areas or redoubts had been abandoned in their partial withdrawal: with certain companies, factories, banks and, of course, streets and squares, momentarily withdrawing from the proprietary legal network. This coexistence of situations that put the property owning subject in parentheses meant a deep enjoyment of emptiness, mixed with other deep feelings that were not easily interpretable despite being obvious. Side by side lived the loss of savings, the loss of the currency, the anti-financial utopianism of the popolo minuto [little people], the primitivism of barter, the cry of extreme disgust postulating the tearing away of all political masks, which was the true gesture on which the situation rested and whose main attraction consisted in its powerful condition of being uninterpretable.
That primal feeling of starting politics again by denying the above – a theme of those who really wrote about it, like Machiavelli – was so strong that there was no one who did not feel it. And there is no one who does not continue to feel it. Like those who traveled in quiet trams in Petersburg in 1917 although the events of history were otherwise, we must know that those moments of enchanted vertigo, of dreamy materialism as Leon Rozitchner would say, occur from time to time in their pure creative and abysmal visibility, while all around the seemingly lethargic institutions continue apace. Protesters are killed by shots coming from inside the banks in the middle of Avenida de Mayo and the bars are still open. And in the subsequent debate it will be said “that the left ruined the Assemblies” or that “it did not know how to formulate the limit of the mandates” of those who at that time were invested with political representation.
This suggests two reflections. It was inevitable that the different positions and the different ways of interpreting the social split or extinguished assemblies. The original community does not exist before political “contamination”, but the political exists because it is what founds the cohesive associationism and its opposite, the dissension within the jointly shared. However, the founding myth of a constituent assembly verified in that Argentine summer a decade ago has not come to an end; even at small levels, it continues to exist in every institution. An assembly that takes place on foreseeable party principles also has a small measure of the recreation of the political, although its process may be fossilised. Even under the determining role played by the media. And on the other hand, the project to declare the limit of mandates – remember the Assembly at the Bambalinas Theater in August 2002 – was late, though interesting.
When an event of the dimension of that December of 2001 occurs, when the autonomist flag flew over all the political creeds that the long national history had already elaborated, and in an assembly of assemblies -Parque Centenario- the possibility of the unknown was explored, one never acts knowing everything. On the contrary, the political remains an open possibility because in some unexpected fissure in history the imagination of institutions ceases. And this places us in the walker’s paradox. History calls for a sovereign coming together, a congress and it never avoids aggression: all these words come from the same root. Less is known about this at a time when State dominions seem to fall; more is known when those dominions are recovered. Thanks to 2001, the odyssey in the space of our social memory, our discussions continue in relation to whether it was preferable to know less by putting forth motions of order or throwing ideas under the araucarias, or to know a little more within the recomposed social textures, textures that speak of liberation but which are obliged to take themselves as a precondition for this magnificent event. It is nothing new, famous texts speak about all of this. The good thing was having lived it.
[Published in the special supplement of Página|12 “De 2001 a 2011: Qué pasó. Qué cambió.” December 19, 2011]
Diego Sztulwark (lobo suelto 27/06/2021)
Horacio González’s eyes look in a strange way, slightly displaced. They fix their attention on a distant point while he listens. In that disconnect between seeing and hearing, which gives him a distracted air, he unfolds a space for games and strategies that he never gave to any power: a privileged source of unexpected connections from which fundamental political scenes emerged. González drew intersections between politics and literature, outlined a Gramscianism for revolutionary Peronism, created his red base in the Faculty of Social Sciences in times of Menemism and, from there, drew a libertarian diagonal line between Kirchnerism and the Left, between cultural institutions and popular organisations. He was an inventive and persistent organizer of culture, indefatigable creator of magazines and assembly based collectives.
His relationship with reading was the most moving. Not only because, as they say, he gave the impression of having read everything; more than the quantity –impressive–, it was the lateral connections between what he read that was noteworthy. If we say “everything was read” we refer less to all of the pages of all the books that were read and more to what no page of any book easily delivers. Perhaps the word strategy – in a literary and political sense – is well chosen; by subtracting the weight of this or that main line, he brought out secondary, subordinate, suggested lines, from which unexpected connections sprang up. To read, for González, was to come into contact with that elusive flow and take it to its possible end. Hence humor, mockery and laughter were such essential gestures in him.
In this experience, the proper names are summoned for a different theater. It can be seen in his texts on the relationship between Perón and Cooke [John William Cooke]. If Perón is evoked as the one who at a certain moment tried to adjust the precise meaning of his name to exorcise a certain chaos in the order of things, Cooke, on the contrary, returns as the architect of a theory of the mismatch of names in history; as he who indicates that the name “communist”, in Argentina, did not correspond to any party but, nevertheless, to a “cursed” movement, so necessary to stabilise national capitalism as it was the bearer of boisterous subjects, workers of a boycotted resistance and who rendered impracticable any project of bourgeois hegemony. Cooke was circulating in the Gonzalian theater and he appeared in a question that he asked former President Néstor Kirchner about the names of current Peronism in a public assembly of the Carta Abierta. Cooke would have been the first to conclude that Peronism is not enough, but it cannot be done without. Although the complement that should take it further would be contact with the subjective excess of popular struggles. It would be the name of the overflow.
González’s battles – the most famous was his controversy with the writer Mario Vargas Llosa, but there were many others – were motivated by his dissatisfaction with the automatisms and occlusions of language, insidious and minimised forms of denigration that precede and accompany the more ominous denials of the human, and of the living. His criticism, with a strongly moral (anti-moralist) and political content, can be reconstructed in detail, for each surrender of university discourse, journalistic or militant, to the unquestioned power of the communicational universe was accompanied by an article by González in newspapers, magazines and blogs – lately in Tecla EÑE– showing the weight of business, military and geopolitical networks in the configuration of that language. This state of verbal resistance helps to characterise that original enunciation, which certain readers perceived as too hermetic – baroque, alembicated – but which can also be seen as a careful attempt to put into operation a new and first version of justice that, as his admired Walter Benjamin desired, would be able to anticipate the justice of the judges, naming everything, names and dates, saving everything from the power of erasure and disappearance.
Above all, González is worth following in two great libertarian moments. The first, in the Faculty of Social Sciences of the UBA – Universidad de Buenos Aires, Marcelo de Alvear 2230, with its extension in the cafe La Giralda –on the corner with Uriburu– and its most enduring production: the magazine El Ojo Mocho. Santiago Miter introduced his camera into those corridors full of militant posters and pamphlets, capturing in his film El estudiante the evident decadence (the student apparatus of the Franja Morada, the liberal political science of radicalism), without fully capturing this other Gonzalian scene in which all of that neglect turned into its opposite, giving rise to a utopian universe, of round tables and book reviews, in which the young Eduardo Rinesi, Christian Ferrer, María Pía López, Guillermo Korn shone, in dialogue with the old leftists David Viñas and León Rozitchner from the mythical magazine Contorno. That universe connected by way of a thousand communicating vessels with the militant initiatives of those days, such as the Cátedra Libre Che Guevara, which had an unforgettable participation by González.
In December of ’99, he published one of his most memorable and perhaps most enduring books, Restos pampeanos, dedicated to Liliana Herrero. It is an essay on the national essay, that is, on the very possibility that a national group “can refound justice on the basis of an emancipated memory”, starting from José Ingenieros and Ramos Mejía to “Santucho and Gombrowicz“. “A compromise between politics and new forms of enunciation of historical-literary knowledge” will be necessary, González would therein contend. The book was written on the basis of scraps published in some magazines of those years: El Ojo Mocho, of course, but also Artefacto, La Scene Contemporánea, El Matadero. In December 2001 Horacio wrote – in conversation with the Colectivo Situaciones – about that city square that neither waited for the leader on the Casa Rosada balcony nor did it aspire to take the presidential palace by storm. On the night of December 19, in the street, in the squares, singing “que se vayan todos”, the most intimate and generalised neoliberal moment had been pierced through, for once: the television sets had been turned on with no one to watch.
After 2003 he began to shape the second great libertarian moment from a double wager, political –the passage that goes from anti-menemism to Kirchnerism– and institutional –from the Faculty to the National Library. From this double movement emerges Carta Abierta, an urgent political initiative –with a Walsheano inspired name – in the face of a “destituent climate” caused by the reaction of the cereal producers associations to the government of Cristina Fernández. His book about that political commitment is Kirchnerismo, una cultural controversia (published like almost all his work by Aurelio Narvaja, colección Puñalada, from Colihue publishing house), as well as the book that accompanies the passage to the National Library is Historia de la Biblioteca Nacional, estado de una polémica (published by the publisher of the National Library, managed by Sebastián El Russo Scolnik, editor also of the new era of the National Library magazine). Those of us who knew González in the ’90s, and did not imagine that his rhetorical magic would find any efficacy outside the classroom, were doubly fascinated to see the spell working with the guilds of the Culture area.
The same in the assembly as in the class, in institutional management or in the writing of an article, González always seemed capable of shaking off hierarchies, or simply slipping away from them, to open up a horizontal or egalitarian zone – fold and nuance, says María Pía López in her book Yo ya no– in which she recovered stories and narratives, scholarly or common, about him recombining with a circus talent that hypnotised his audience with unexplored and righteous shifts that today we celebrate as acts of generosity, because they were acts of love, capable of touching the lives of many people. He was the great teacher who knew how to take this lesson to each place (classroom, television, state institutions, round tables, militant meetings). That was his style, always public, available to anyone, excessive, creative and always subversive of existing schemes. González was a democratic and playful being, who knew how to show that there is always somewhere to go, and that any time and place is the right one to give life to something truly new. He was a political being who knew how to somatise this country like no one else. I think that is the meaning of a message that Christian Ferrer sent me as soon as we found out: “Something immense left this world today”.
Among the many projects that Horacio González was involved with – and because of its significance, we cite it here -, was the magazine El Ojo Mocho, of which he was the director. The publication can be consulted at the Archivo Histórico de Revistas Argentinas.
The literature on the argentinian uprising of 2001 and beyond is extensive. For english readers, the libcom.org website has a selection of texts dedicated to the events. The Treason Press pamphlet, an article by Liz Mason-Deese and Marina Sitrin’s book, Horizontalism: Voices of popular power in Argentina, are all worth exploring.
The work of the argentinian group Colectivo Situaciones is in this regard fundamental.
We close with the film La Dignidad de los Nadies, by Fernando “Pino” Solanas …