A Letter to The Colombian Student Movement: DON’T STOP, ALL IS TO BE DONE!

Given the massive student demonstrations of last December in the UK, it is perhaps surprising that more coverage has not gone to the recent events in Colombia. In early October the Santos government sought to introduce a law (Ley 30) that would, among other thing, privatize the remaining public universities. In an immediate and powerful response, the students began to organise acts of public protest, culminating with a nationwide protest on November 10th. They combined with Labor unions, their lecturers and secondary school children. Unising a variety of tactics; from the traditional political expressions like marches and traffic interruptions to the more novel, like hug-a-thons with the police. They looked to the Chilean and UK student protests, the Spanish Indignados and their own traditions and histories of resistance. In the face of such a massive protest from across Colombian society, the government first – as in Chile and the UK – threatened and used ‘forcefully… the legal arm of state repression.’ However, on the 16th of November, in what should be seen as a victory for the global student movement, the government withdrew Ley 30. In this open letter to the Student movement, Prof Ricardo Sanin pleads that they should not to stop but rather to covert their struggle against Ley 30 into a ruptural counter-point.

You have shaken the structures of power of this country with what you have achieved until now. You have attained an everlasting victory over an ideological machine that is used to suffocate any dissident discourse that aspires to social justice with the violence of weapons, media or law. You have shown us all that we are not the country drawn by media fantasies, that we are not puppets on the string of a macabre “reality show” and that we are not willing to sell our selves to the highest bidders. You have also shown us that this cannot be the country dominated by a meticulous elite depredatory of democracy, shielded in a fortress of words and statistics without meaning. You have brought down to its knees an enormous power device, demonstrating that you are not phantoms dragging out of nothing, but that you are a dense reality that appears from your own history and time, that emerges from your own discourse and your own capacity to imagine and create a better world. Thus you have given a new meaning and orientation to the deepest sense of democracy: to live in conflict and to take it to its limit. In other words you have recovered the true meaning of politics, that which is anonymous, whose most intimate and sacred architecture are the streets, the squares and the walls and you have re-written over a petrified history of the few. You have achieved this with tenacity, discipline, but above all love.

You have opened a debate that was shut tight and in doing this you have unmasked the enemy, you have ascertained that the problem relating to education is but a deeper symptom of this countries tragedies. That democracy is not the rule of the technicians and experts blinded to reality, but that democracy is only proper to the wretched, the marginalized, those who have no voice and nevertheless cry out and rupture the world. You have shown us all that these “experts” are just lackeys of more horrific hordes as the IMF the WTO or the Washington Consensus, that behind this beastly mask are centuries of repression, coloniality and intellectual slavery. That behind their cold measurements and supposedly neutral discourses thumps a global monster that devours democracy in its name. You are tearing the veil showing us what lies beyond the appearances that pose as reality; you are screening the true gears of a global casino capitalism that manifests itself domestically as white collar pillage.

The battle was multifaceted; within the beast you struck back at the experts with erudition; with statistics in hand you exhausted their discourse. But well beyond that, you dismembered that perverse logic according to which there is no political discourse behind their “precious numbers”, that it’s always a technical discussion but never an ideological clash. You used their statistical logic to rescue and set upon the table the centrality of hard lined political discussions, and in so doing unveiled the true event of expert’s statistics and their true ideological function: to neutralize and postpone any political struggle. In the streets the beautiful form of the unexpected; embracing your brother and thus stripping away his disguise of a policeman. Telling him to his face “you are my brother, you too are trapped in this labyrinth of lies”

2.

Do not allow prohibition, do not allow them to prevent you from thinking, dreaming and doing. The most powerful weapon of the establishment, beyond stock markets, policemen or laws is the myth installed in our imagination according to which “nothing can be different” that we are irremediably thrown onto an insurmountable reality, that we most bow our heads and seek comfort in this orgy of permissive placidity, beware! For this is the authentic terrorism of state. You are re-inventing on top of that fundamental myth, you are showing us that change is not only possible but necessary. This myth spreads faster and with more power than the pepper spray with which they tried to disperse you, it is more destructive than any legal spell, and you are showing us that “the best of all possible worlds” that the official slogan rubbed in our face cannot function in a country wrecked by war and a permanent destruction of its social fabric.

You burst the fraudulent promise of a better world that capitalism retains within its fangs. You have demolished its pretensions of stability and shown us the need to transform the world through new words, through true acts of love for the other, in undying and permanent solidarity. Today’s dominant intellectual discourses coincide with the erudite elites of always: freedom is a good thing for the elites, but a catastrophe for the masses. Thus, you have shown that what is required is not a new interpretation of the word democracy, but a new interpretation of the world.

They want to turn you into an anomaly, and yes, inside an atrocious normality as ours that’s what you are and you must feel proud of it. You are the voice that dissolves a millenary silence, what stands in the way of the accumulation of the 1%, the finger that points firmly towards that cruel reality, the barricade that divides all that can be dreamt of and come true and a decrepit reality that hides its horrors underneath a façade of technical perfection. You have been chosen by history because you decided to create it, possess it, make it yours, make it ours.

3.

But until now you have just knocked on the door of the powerful and they have given away what they want, for they are sure that if they don’t appease the revolutionary appetite it will crush those doors and penetrate the illusion until beheading it. This is why it’s not the moment to halt, to stand still, on the contrary it’s the moment to intensify the fight. It is time to display that the true people of democracy is not an indolent mass manipulated by the moral cynicism of the gluttony of power, but rather well all of us, all the rest, we who are a leftover in their accounts, we who dare to live without masters, we who renounce to voluntary servitude, we who can only recognize ourselves as humans in the precariousness and fragility of the other, we are the mutilated miner of the Putumayo, the dispossessed indigenous of the Cauca mountains, the displaced peasants of Las Pavas.

Beware! You have only reached a highly institutionalized agreement that basically allows the domestication of the political. The Government sensing elephant steps resorts to the oldest trick in the official book, to retreat and concede, for it is aware that this is the modus to disenfranchise every demand, if the movement holds strong and carries on, behind the punctual demands in the defense of public education more powerful demands flourish, the demand to obtain social justice as a whole, the demand to reach an genuine peace process, the demand to eradicate hunger and misery that cannot wait.

Do not choke on the satisfaction of an important but ephemeral accomplishment. The true struggle is always to come, latent in the moment of words and acts that hide in the future. If you persist you are able to disturb the established order so deeply that behind it the world of the possible will open up, behind your mobilizations the people as true realization of democracy will come.

Do not allow your demands to be literally incorporated; they are withdrawing the bill with the same hand that the assassin hides the knife behind his back. Push forward, fight as if tomorrow doesn’t exist, you won’t attain a thing if you don’t turn yourselves into the nodal point of all the pains, disasters, victims, protests and movements in Colombia. You are not alone, on the contrary you are the plenitude we all aspire to be, the triumph of solidarity that demands no sacrificial offering, you are the new aesthetics of democracy: brave, unwinding and full of love, thrust until the establishment, the regime has nowhere to hide, nothing to conceal and it is driven to show its inconsistencies, the puddle of fiction in which its stands.

You are the beautiful excess that cannot be steered into the concentration camps of apathy, you are the restructuration of reality itself, a reality needed by the millions of displaced, millions of invisible people, millions that have been thwarted by history, you are about to cross the threshold of the unsayable, when you do, we will all be there, in life.

You hold in your hand the “I accuse” that awakens us from the lethargic nightmare of capitalism. You are the utopia; don’t be afraid of it, for it is not an unreachable future but the present declaration of the act that displays the consequences of its own event, which means that what we are lacking is the present, you are the concretion of that present that needs no more instant than a “here” and “Now” to be true. Utopia stands as a straight counterpoint to the fantasy that “everything is alright” produced by a pragmatic system as declaration of a world that does not exist. Here a question is: which is more realistic? A system that negates a world sunken in pain and despair or a utopia that begins to exist from the pain it recognizes multiplying exponentially in the world, that begins to disseminate in the words of a world it creates: which is the illusion? Which is the corrupt? Which is reality? They are the simulation, a grotesque caricature of reality; you are the only reality that defines the future, now!

(in Spanish)

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Ricardo Sanín Restrepo

Ricardo Sanín is a pro­fessor of legal and polit­ical theory and teaches in sev­eral in­sti­tu­tions across Latin America. Visiting profesor at Universidad Central de Quito, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad de Mexico (UACM), Universidad San Luis de Potosí (Mexico) PUC Rio de Janeiro, Universidade Federal de Ceará-Brasil. Guest Lecturer at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), University of California in Berkeley, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad de Valencia-Spain, Universidade Federal de Goias-Brasil. 

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