Crisis, Class, and Disability in Argentina: Red por los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad


  • Stuart Schrader New York University
  • Facundo Chavez Penillas REDI (Red por los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad; Network for the Rights of Persons with Disability)



capitalism, disability, violence, activism


REDI—Red por los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad—is a radical disability-rights organization based in Argentina. Until the economic crisis of 2001, REDI focused on lobbying for increased legislative protection of the disabled and enforcement of extant laws in this regard. But the crash suggested that the difficulties facing disabled populations seeking to access to employment and education are rooted in the dynamics of capitalism, which condemn large swaths of the populace to systematic unemployment. Thus, REDI adopted a practical perspective that frames disability and chronic unemployment as a class issue, with the goal of critiquing two common misconceptions: first, that disability is a medical issue to be resolved individually and, second, that those facing chronic unemployment and organizing to overcome it are fighting a different fight from disabled people. Under the slogan "fight for the right to be exploited"—believing that disabled populations, when we include people injured on the job, comprise what Marx labeled the lowest stratum of the industrial reserve army—REDI joined the piqueteros and aimed to increase consciousness that both groups could benefit from an organizational principle that saw their struggles as one. Especially since the global economic crisis of 2008, which has been especially protracted in Argentina, REDI has remained devoted to the notion that the struggle for employment is one moment in a struggle for economic and political autonomy that contests the very foundations of the capitalist social system. This interview with a member of the Steering Committee, Facundo Chavez Penillas, describes REDI's history, organizing principles and campaigns, and its class analysis of disability. Other topics include the relationship between disability-rights activism and the so-called "Pink Tide" in Latin America, as well as the Argentine experience of bridging disability-rights activism and labor activism.