Ya Basta FAQ , Jan 2001



What is Ya Basta! all about?

Ya Basta! began in Italy in 1996 as a solidarity network supporting the indigenous campesino uprising of Chiapas in 1994. With it’s roots in Mexico, and following the Zapatista uprising, many Italian Activists gradually created coalitions with the centri sociali (social centers) of Italy, including the Italian squatting movement. Ya Basta became a generation's attempt to affirm free space and it’s own visibility, a place in which it would be possible for radical politics to grow outside of any form of institutionalization. The squats provided a space, in many of these cities, for autonomous politics and everyday "free" organizing. In 2000 alone, beginning with the anti-EU and other anti-globalization movements, Ya Basta! Milan organized actions mainly in collaboration with squatters and the so called "tute bianche" or white overalls, a non-institutional anonymous group, who act dressed in white workers overalls and chemical suits. Their wish is to symbolize the invisibility of citizens with no rights, no power, all the same, masses of bodies rendered ghosts by neoliberal policies of the "Global North". Their tactics are hardly passive, however, and usually involve large crowds, utilizing horizontal organization and decision making. They attend demonstrations with pads, shields and helmets, as protection from police brutality. They usually have no pre-defined strategy, instead leaving the decision open to the moment, with the only criteria being not to do anything that would alienate the mass of people involved. Tute Bianche and Ya Basta successfully allied with and organized one of the three groups which converged on Prague in September of 2000, and were able to resist numerous police attacks. We here in NYC have borrowed their name, as well as a great deal of their tactics, and yet we don’t feel the need to be a defined as an association.

What is Neo-liberalism?

Neoliberalism is not just an economic framework. It's a philosophy of life, work, and community that the U.S. and its corporate elite are working to perfect at home and export to the rest of the world, with increasing success. Under neoliberalism, the market is everything: In the ideal neoliberal universe, every human interaction is a market transaction, contracts govern every human relation, and individuals are not esteemed as such but are assessed according to their ability to create value. Those who do not or cannot participate in the market (the "underclass") are failures. Neoliberals claim their philosophy is democratic because the market gives everyone an equal chance to succeed. But in reality, the market gives certain individuals (the "business elite") and certain nations (principally the U.S.) the leverage to ruthlessly turn others into their economic satellites. Neoliberalism denies communities the right to determine their own future, instead forcing them to serve an economic system that ruthlessly drives down costs and devalues labor. We in Ya Basta! reject neoliberalism outright. No community that respects life, freedom and dignity can submit to a market-centric belief system and still maintain these values. We fight for a society that puts individuals and their communities first - where they have real control of their destiny, where the economic system serves the need for human dignity and happiness, not the other way around. Enough is Enough of a system that places a privileged elite over everyone else, all in the name of "the market."

What is "biopower"?

"Biopower" is a phrase first coined by the French social theorist Michel Foucault. Foucault believed that the modern state has come to see itself, not so much as controlling a territory within certain borders, but as that which governs populations and bodies. The population is seen less as a mass of citizens than as a purely biological, physical "mass" that can be measured by life expectancy, fertility rates, and so on (and controlled and monitored through a host of "disciplinary institutions"). Further still, biopower can be thought of as the process of reducing human beings to a state in which they are little more than "bare life", that is, separating the person from the body, so as to do with the body that which capitalism does so well; commodify. The power of the state is ultimately "biopower", a power over life itself. Many in the Italian Ya Basta! see their organization as representing the opposite principle: biopower as life, rising up against the state, on its own behalf.

What are some of Ya Basta!'s immediate political demands?

Two of the most important ones for Italian Ya Basta! have been (a) the right of free immigration, similar to the notion of globalizations "free markets": everyone should be able to live in whatever part of the globe they wish to, regardless of national borders, and (b) the right to a guaranteed national income: instead of having things like welfare and unemployment, everyone in any country should be guaranteed a baseline annual income just for existing; after that, the rest is up to you. Now, it might show something about the difference between Europe and America than there, prominent activists and intellectuals can propose such things (especially, together) without being considered entirely insane, but they do. We in New York Ya Basta! agree: we demand that both these reforms be instituted immediately.

Who are we acting in solidarity with?

We act without the limitations of ideology. The philosophies we wear in our daily life become invisible when we wear our suits; so as Anarchist, Illegal Immigrant, Communist, Zapatista, or as Prisoner, we act in solidarity and federation with all communities deliberately ignored and all people rendered invisible by the forces of "the free market."

Why all the Anonymity?

We completely reject the cult of celebrity, which dominates so much media/political attention in this country. We choose instead, through anonymity, to act in concert with those throughout the world who are nameless, and will remain nameless as long as their very existence is relegated to redundancy and marginality. By being anonymous we present a clear undiluted message of leaderless solidarity that is inclusive and very real.

Why the overalls and chemical suits? Why so much padding?

We wear chemical suits and padding because we have witnessed the extreme brutality that the police and authorities unleash on dissent, despite our non-violence, and in complete disregard for human dignity and suffering. We do not wish to put these chemical suits to use, but we do expect (and refuse to accept) the repression of our resistance.

Why yellow, orange and other bright colors?

Ultimately visibility has many functions. For us, it offers the certainty of noticability, or an undeniable presence, like a traffic sign that says "danger ahead". Further, the colors yellow and orange offer a visual warning, one that simply cannot be ignored. Beyond function, however, there is the symbolic association with the numerous prisoners of America who, denied their voices by repressive and racist juridical systems, are relegated to jails and work gangs, while their families and communities, marginalized economically, are pushed off welfare and forced into "workfare", a quintessential neoliberal program.

How do I join Ya Basta!?

Joining Ya Basta! is as simple as wearing a suit, or supporting fellow members through solidarity and action- suitless. We have no formal structure, as that of most organizations. Some would even suggest that, by resisting the juggernaut of neoliberalism with ones very body, one is already a member. The difference is, we dress up! And it’s lots of fun, too.