Challenges for Social Movements in Abya Yala After the Pandemic

Ollantay Itzamná
Woman from Cotopaxi, Ecuador. Social protest. 2019. Internet

In the post-pandemic period, the dispute for the control of the State (as a guarantor of rights) should be an essential bet for the social movements. That is, social movements are called to move from being social subjects to socio-political subjects.

The three decades prior to the global pandemic of COVID19 were a “fertile” time for the emergence and confrontation of different social movements in the countries of Abya Yala.

Several of these movements, even while the Western world was proclaiming the end of history with the apex of the free market system, not only dared to position a counter-hegemonic narrative in the collective imagination of Abya Yala, but through the “progressive” governments managed to lift about 70 million people in the region out of poverty.

The COVID’s unprecedented global pandemic19 encountered several of the contemporary social movements disconcerted by the latest coups d’état (Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia). However, from Chile and Ecuador, at the very beginning of the pandemic, multitudes of people dissatisfied with the neoliberal system showed their discontent with their governments in the streets.

The pandemic, and the “mandatory planetary social isolation”, placed an obligatory mask on all social movements. Although, even with masks, hungry and unemployed crowds defied and challenged COVID19 and governments in the US, Bolivia, Honduras, Colombia.

What are the main challenges for social movements in the post-pandemic period?

Social protests in Chile during the pandemic. Internet

Construction of a shared ideology beyond anthropocentrism. It is assumed that social movements are established for the pursuit of human welfare focused on the recognition and guarantee of rights. In that sense, they are desires centered on human welfare (anthropocentric).

The pandemic returned us to our condition of being dependent on the cosmic community, on the Earth system. Without health care, without food, without water, without oxygen…, even though we have money, we cannot subsist. In this sense, the theoretical and conceptual horizon of the social movements that survive the pandemic must change.

A holistic perspective that overcomes the fragmented and sectoral view of reality. A conception of human life as part of the network of different forms of life that comprise the cosmic community. We must educate ourselves that health and human rights depend on the health and rights of Mother Earth. It is urgent to de-westernize, de-colonize, de-patriarchize, de-binarize (left/right), dehumanize (overcome anthropocentrism)

Continental coordination and simultaneous actions. The pandemic shows us that the harmful consequences of the neoliberal system have no national borders. After decades of representative democracies and the free market, the states of Abya Yala do not have basic health care systems. The free market does not save lives.

Furthermore, it is clear that the pandemic, far from constituting a blow to the hegemonic model, is rather a reason to reload the processes of raiding/pillage of territories, dissolution of rights, annulment of the rule of law.

Faced with this reality, social movements with identity and territorial roots must establish a connection between all movements throughout Abya Yala and become a continental actor that moves simultaneously from different points of the continent. Faced with common enemies, simultaneous threats, and violation of shared rights, the action of social movements must be continental in the post pandemic period.

To move from social subjects to socio-political subjects. The neoliberal system is flourishing, and North American interventionism continues with impunity, to the extent that social movements are not able to transcend protest as our confrontational horizon. It is urgent to move from protest to proposal.

In the post-pandemic period, the dispute for the control of the state (as a guarantor of rights) should be an essential undertaking for the social movements. That is, social movements are called to move from being social subjects to socio-political subjects.

The challenge of becoming sociopolitical subjects inevitably entails the construction of political organizations to dispute power from the ballot box, and thus guarantee the fulfillment of rights. Otherwise, the agents of the free market will continue to create the conditions for new lethal pandemics.

Communications on the move from the streets and in the cloud. In the post-pandemic period, the traditional model of social organization and the traditional mode of communication from the social movements must change.

In the latest collective actions of the social movements, it has been noted that every mobilized actor is at the same time a communicator in action through his or her cell phone devices. A network actor that generates and/or distributes content for social-digital networks. Previously, in social movements, the role of communication was assigned to a “secretary/responsible”. Now, all of us in social movements are communicators.

Perhaps this communicational battle for the installation of a certain narrative in the imaginary of the peoples and societies of Abya Yala, from the cloud/internet, is one of the most powerful trenches in the asymmetric war between the hidalgos of death and the “rainbow warriors”.

To agree on a horizon of struggle beyond modernity and development. During the pandemic, the dispute over the post-pandemic narrative led many to believe that the “new normal” would be a lifestyle more friendly to the Earth system, more focused on the ethos of care/cooperation than competition/annihilation… But, the official messages for the revival of the economies tell us that the post-pandemic will be nothing more than the neo-liberal revival with public funds. That is to say, the post-pandemic will be the push for more developmentalism/extractivism, more modernism (without enlightenment).

In this panorama, the socio-political movements in Abya Yala, from the territories, the streets and the socio-digital networks, we are called to think, agree and build a world beyond the illusions of development and modernity, without renouncing the benign legacy of modernity.

Development, like this horizon of accumulation of goods and exploitation of different forms of life, can no longer be a post-pandemic horizon from the point of view of social movements. In coherence and fidelity to our historical tradition, the social movements are called to promote and cultivate an alternative lifestyle, centered on the care and restoration of the broken balances in the cosmic community. And this bet is imminently socio-political.