by John Severino
One aspect of our trip to Chile, Wallmapu, and Bolivia was the elaboration of a model for the intentional building of international solidarity.
The trip was organized on a principle of reciprocity, which should be considered an important element of solidarity. The traveller culture that intersects heavily with the US anarchist scene has certainly increased international contacts and awareness in some ways, but generally I feel that that mode of travel has failed in connecting the US anarchist struggle to an effective degree with anti-authoritarian struggles in other parts of the world; it is better suited, rather, to gaining valuable experiences at a strictly individual level to the traveller, and giving little in return, except also at an individual level, in terms of friendships made in the countries travelled through.
Before the trip, the group of us organized a number of fundraisers so we could financially support groups or projects whose work seemed important. Rather than choosing in an absolute sense to whom the money would go, we found the comrades with whom we had the most affinity, whom we trusted, and whose work we respected, and asked them to recommend where the money would be most useful. In this way we supported eight different projects, from social centers to counter-information projects to anti-repression and prisoner support groups, and some of the donations represented a huge contribution in local currency. Secondly, we supported local struggles through translations, articles, and interviews with alternative media, to spread information in English about these struggles. Particularly in cases of repression and calls for international solidarity, such as with the August 14 arrestees in Chile or the Mapuche hungerstrikers, translation and diffusion were particularly valued by the comrades there as a form of support. The comrades in Santiago also asked us to contact progressive media in the US to accomplish an as-wide-as-possible diffusion, something we had some questions about on political grounds, and in doing so we found a stark difference in the receptivity of different media; counterpunch.org gave good coverage to our articles on the Chilean repression, whereas Democracy Now! refused to cover it, even when contacted by former associates of theirs.
The least effective aspect of solidarity provided was the sharing of information and experiences from anarchist struggles in the US. Comrades in the Spanish-speaking world are typically unaware radical struggles in the States beyond Mumia abu-Jamal and Ted Kaczynski (no joke!). While on the trip we were able to give talks on US anarchist struggles we were personally involved in; the use of anti-terror laws to repress anarchists in the US; a criticism of pacifism and recuperation in the US; and struggles against the border and the criminalization of immigrants. These talks, however, were mostly small and organized at the last minute. In Chile, this was due to the recent wave of repression that was taking up everyone’s time and that had also closed down one of the social centers where we’d already had a talk scheduled. In Bolivia, our lack of time in the country and shortage of close contacts (which is to say, people we already knew and trusted who would be willing to organize events for us before we came) made it difficult.
On the other end, we have tried to bring a number of resources back to the US. Through articles, translations, and info-events throughout the US subsequent to the trip, we are attempting to provide more and more accurate information about struggles in Chile, Wallmapu, and Bolivia, as well as strategic analysis and theoretical questions arising from those struggles, that may be useful, in comparison and contrast, for us to think about here. By connecting with struggles in other countries, we become harder to isolate, and more able to attack State and Capital at the global level on which they frequently operate. To continue deepening these connections and relationships, we can intentionally share the contacts we made with other comrades in order to make it easier for US anarchists to go on similar trips in the future.
Two factors were indispensable in organizing this trip. One was prior contacts that other US anarchists had already established, and shared with us, through living in South America, or alternately, that South American anarchists had established by living in our communities. The second factor was the ability to speak Spanish. Being able to communicate fluently was a prerequisite for all our connections and collaborations. The purpose of stating this obvious point is to underline a clear need that, despite its obviousness, has not translated into practice. In order to realize international solidarity that goes beyond the repetition of relatively superficial patterns, US anarchists need to learn other languages.
In sum, the trip was generally effective. Hopefully, other people will continue to use and improve this model of intentional solidarity trips in order to improve connections with people in struggle in other countries.