From Act for Freedom!, Bolivia
Translated from Italian by act for freedom now!
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Anonymous Translation Group or Anonymous Anarchist Texts Translation Group
There are books that “don’t exist”… because they are incomprehensible (due to linguistic barriers) or are difficult to find. Why not take the time to find them, read them and translate them?
Due to a chance sequence of events we found ourselves sharing suggestions, reflections and information. Thanks to our various language skills we thought it would be interesting to start translating books, texts and pamphlets where they cannot easily be got hold of so as to spread them and principally give resonance to actions and intentions that we feel affinity with.
The idea of the Anonymous Translation Group (G.T.A.)/GATTA was born, as often happens, in clear simplicity in a suggestion made around a common, but not ordinary, stove amid the coolness of leafy branches between one chat and another together among friends with a fantastic desire to make proliferate, spread and share ideas and thoughts coming from far-off lands, some of them almost unknown. We like digging into the past, into that of little-known comrades, of almost unobserved actions, but also the present where a contribution of a different flavour on already widely digested analyses can whet the appetite again. Or simply the will to spread as widely as possible the pieces we liked and are difficult to find in distros.
Rather than the umpteenth project that develops from the web, this is an opening on paper, starting from the choice of translating texts that push us to sail unknown and less explored seas, to the moment of the sharing of translated and printed texts which we’d like to do in person or through direct correspondence for those who are locked up.
…While waiting for the publication of the books and pamphlets underway, we grappled with the translation of this analysis on the recent protests in Bolivia. Have a good read!
BOLIVIA: AN ANARCHIST GLANCE AT THE PROTESTS AND INDIGENOUS PRESIDENT EVO MORALES’S RESIGNATION.
Translated by GTA/GATTA
THE END OF A LEADER…
The defeat of Evo Morales and his Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) government, in power for 13 years, stands out in the protests in Bolivia. This defeat was already announced by the referendum of 21st February 2016 (1) and is not limited to election results. The fire in Chiquitania was a very important occurrence against the previous government because it pointed out Evo’s alliance with the cattle farmers of Santa Cruz, an alliance meant to obtain billionaire contracts with the Chinese (2), his anti-imperialist allies. The attack on TIPNIS (3) also played against him. But all in all Evo’s insistence on governing at any price was what led to his defeat in the worst form for a self-proclaimed revolutionary, with street protests.
FIRST STAGE OF THE PROTESTS
But let’s start from an incomplete beginning of these days of conflict. The feeling of betrayal for a fraud, or the mistaken decision to stop the transmission of the vote count, unleashed what until then had been a crescendo of protests. Initially democratic youths, pacifists, citizens and circuses, who showed very poor judgment when dealing with racist comments, asked for a second round but were ridiculed (their coloured ribbons being strong reasons).
Thereafter more people, including university students and miners, swelled the protests demanding “new elections”, which was refused again until, finally, the streets cried out demanding Evo Morales’s resignation, with the civil committees that came together and took advantage of the moment.
If on the one hand some will tend to explain it referring to international forces of imperialism pushing people against the MAS, on the other hand let’s not forget that in those protests and Evo’s defeat there is something fundamental for any community: no longer wanting who is governing. Despite this, there was nothing that could call the anarchists to the protests because, besides defending a system and a democracy, these were protests without the least antiracist criteria. For their part, anarchists took advantage of the moment and responded with internationalism and solidarity, going to protest outside the Consulate of Chile (4), a country where masked comrades are carrying on the war against the system.
But putting aside all the citizenism and the institutions that try to govern life, when we talk about a place like Bolivia, with a population predominantly racialised as indigenous, there are things that deserve more attention. First of all, that this ruler that they no longer love represented more than a mere president. Evo Morales was made into the symbol of the Andean indigenous people, almost as an image to be exported and which was avidly accepted by the whole range of alternative leftists. And even if it is true that his government allowed a mass injection of the original peoples into hotels, public buildings, seats and places of political power that many never accepted other than to clean or to sell something, he invented nothing about the struggle of the original peoples, or seek recognition of their official status by the Bolivian State.
“Formal” education was a path already trodden too much, from Warisata to the universities, so much so that there are now three generations of “Aymara intellectuals” and a Public University of El Alto, which was opened thanks to protests and occupations of abandoned buildings. Traditional health was also recognised as a human heritage and participated in important encounters of international medicine (5), not western health but that which survives all states and powers. Again, the “indigenous parliamentary path” (6) was not brought about by the MAS, only to give two important examples, the MITKA (Tupak Katari Indio Movement) was one of the first indios parties, it was founded in 1978 and took part in the elections after the dictatorship claiming an indio country (7). And Comandante Remedios, the first chola [indigenous woman] TV presenter, the first chola to hold a public office and be elected as member of parliament in La Paz, and the first chola candidate for the presidency. A political path that also belonged to anarchosyndicalism in the 20s and 30s with culinary, artisan and floral specialities and from an anarchist perspective we have to highlight that it is precisely this inclusion that caused and is still causing the degeneration of the autonomous struggle because it obliges it to legalise and institutionalise and enter the project of civilization.
For this reason it is urgent to remember that we will never need a president, a constitution or even a multi-national state in order to exist with the happiness of being what we are or to resist centuries of colonialism.
Native peoples exist regardless of states. The deep relation we have with the earth, pacha, achachilas [supernatural spirits of the Andean world], illas, the apaches and everything that surrounds us was not invented by the MAS. What this party did was to unite indigenous peoples with a strong discourse of state leftism (8), the other side of the MAS coin, orchestrated by Álvaro García Linera by replacing monuments in honour of colonizers with others in honour of Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez. What the MAS government did, in its effort to build an indigenous state, was to steal the symbols of the resistance and put them in the State and on the uniforms of the repressive forces that historically and still now are the executioners of all the original peoples.
Ironically the role of the armed forces was fundamental for Evo’s resignation. Let’s make it clear that it wasn’t a question of good policemen who didn’t want to massacre the people. Nothing of that delirium about people’s policemen or antifascist ones. Police mutinied to demand a string of economic benefits taking advantage of the situation (9). And as soon as they went back to the streets they did so in order to defend their usual leaders, the rich who think they are white westerners. The police will never be friends, they are the repressive forces. There are those who don’t forget this, and that is what we applaud, the dozens of police stations set on fire, the ransacking of customs offices and the death of a UTOP colonel who, scared by the dynamite, ended up crashing his car into a minibus, about the minibus the media reported nothing. Acts of vandalism are not only actions carried out to get rid of the MAS, they are also acts of taking life back by attacking what represses it. And certainly it is an anarchist goal that this recuperation of life be cleansed of all parties.
AND THE RIGHT?
The appearance of a fascist leader of the highest rank, Camacho, son of the bourgeois landowners population, ex militant of Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (10), a markedly racist attack group, and head of the Civil Committee of Santa Cruz (11), defends the interests of Bolivia’s “rich” part, rich in land, soya, cattle but apparently less rich in thought like Camacho who in order to understand the political constitution of the State asked no less than the Brazilian Chancellor for help, a man notorious for his speeches where he mixes esotericism and racist literature (12). So, with help to understand his Constitution, Camacho took advantage of the dissent against Evo to become leader of the protests, and after the [president’s] resignation he went into the government palace burning the Wiphala (13), with the Bolivian flag and the bible. The same bible with which the brand new female president, Jeanine, entered surrounded by the military. In the attitude of the right wing there is reaction and a validation of the old values of domination: nationalism, leaderism, patriarchy, colonization, the supremacy of a white Creole idea and the insistence on god’s power, that eternal dictator who for centuries has been trying to dominate the rebels and to eradicate all original peoples’ “idolatries”. In their words that ask for national unity and one Bolivia are the imposition of a State over all other collectivities and the citizens’ desire for normality, which guarantees them the continuation of domination after the 13-year nightmare of being out of political power. These facts, added to the policemen in Santa Cruz tearing off the Wiphala from their uniforms, were awakened hidden tensions. Because what they did with the Wiphala is what they’d like to do with the original peoples. Because refusing the Wiphala contains all the colonialism that exists in Bolivia, where people look in the mirror and see themselves white so as to be more educated, more civilized. Because coming into office with the bible and the flag chasing off the Wiphala is an expression of ethnic purity, which domination always longed for in Bolivia.
And this is a second moment, when the protest, without the leader Evo Morales, carried on overflowing. Plundering and vandalism continued everywhere. At first, with no police or president, the “hordes” caused panic in the citizens, a historic panic due to the revenge of those racialized as indigenous. After all, those who dominate know they eat, buy, are served, transported and even live in houses built by those they call indigenous. But the plundering, like the attacks is much more than the action of a party. To think only of parties separates us from the complexities of our anarchist tensions and researches. Plundering and attack are also the result of centuries old exclusion and servitude.
If we look beyond the borders of leftist and right wing parties and look towards the joyful and urgent destruction of domination, we can feel the unsolved tensions in Bolivia. The burning of the Wiphala, like the burning of the ‘ponchos’ in Sucre in 2008 (14), are acts that from time to time remind us of the face of domination, the project of civilization, of which the State and all those who participate in it are vital parts. Why? Because in this continent the State was the result of a colonial imposition, which turned into wars and “revolutions” between creole elites. Because the State is the legal arm of the devastation of the earth through its politics of development and progress. Because the State is Power and power uses repressive force to annihilate any form of freedom and to corrupt. As a consequence, and even if it seems obvious to an anarchist to say this, it is not through States or parties (be they leftist or not) that domination is annihilated. Domination is annihilated by destroying the State and its false critics. This is the horizon that inspires the anarchist struggle, antagonist to power wherever the latter comes from, the horizon that leads us to see the possibility of absolute freedom. Because all this, when we anarchists say that we want the destruction of the State, we are talking quite seriously.
But this horizon, we’ve also learned it from the peoples from whom we inherited our native roots; centuries ago it didn’t need the State. And that’s why yet again in the streets we are hearing a cry – Now, yes, Civil War!! (15) An ancient cry we heard during the Gas and Water Wars (16), which reminds how in these lands there never was war between native peoples and colonizers, but between the Creole élites. A cry that today is rising up from a community that apparently is in the territory of El Alto; but the community racially labelled as indigenous is much bigger and reminds us that the tension against the civilization project remains unsolved because every day it expresses itself in the most varied forms of exclusions. And this is something that no governor can solve.
ON CONSTITUENTS AND THE CONSTITUTION
The false resolution of these tensions through the Constitution led by MAS between 2006 and 2008 (17) was a solution of problems that remain on people’s skin and on the vision of the world antagonist to the State and Capital, a solution made on legal paper (a western logic).
A constituent, and the constitution resulting from it, are the instruments of the social pact between society and the State. They are marks of the communities’ submission to the State and of the defeat of the autonomous struggle. That’s how the new Multi-national Constitution of Bolivia resulted in an institutional enclosure that has separated people from autonomous forms of making politics and the struggle: the streets and protest.
The Constituent reduced thousand-year old struggles to a party, MAS, and allowed colonialism and racism to hide behind political opposition. For this reason they, the dominators of all times, found it easier to insult an Indio, calling him masista [a member of Evo Morales’ party], than to keep up with the classic politically incorrect shit Indio.
The New Constitution and Evo’s indigenous face have created such confusion with this inclusion of his that those who had been antagonist to the State got confused too, and they suddenly found themselves being part of both an indigenous group and a ministry, as they are a group of contraband traders as much as they are of a political authority. Strong and fighting communities have become government, and with inclusion they got confused and conformed, losing sight of the fact that hierarchies are not only class matter but also culture and skin colour matters, they hardly hid. Many “anarchists” and libertarians were also confused (as happened in Venezuela with Chavez-anarchists, in Mexico with Zapatist anarchists and in Brazil with Lula’s supporters), probably because they only got along with social movements and didn’t make an individual search of anarchy which wasn’t lost in the first tempest (18). This confusion along with the negation of an anarchist radical practice (with strong repression in the bargain) ended up with silencing anarchism in Bolivia (19).
That is why it is important to say something coming from anarchy today, as a president resigns, so that those who are confused don’t come to the point of feeling sorry for a President or believing that to struggle against the right wing is to reduce commitment for freedom by forging alliances with leftist parties. That the president in charge is more or less open towards inclusive visions of the world is a very deep discourse, and as we take it into account we can’t forget that even if a president is an indigenous person, a woman, a black person or a libertarian, still remains the guardian of the State, of Capital and of the devastation of the Earth because he/she decides to govern over others and to use people’s lives as resources.
We are anarchists and to talk about a coup only justifies the state logic and puts aside the reasoning on parties and the parliament. The debate on whether there was a coup or not just strengthens the State’s untouchability, its laws and officers. The state logic has brainwashed people’s minds so much that they cannot see that it is us who must solve our own problems and that no saviour will come and open any doors for us. The reduction of the struggle to parties and dualistic thinking between right and left make it impossible to find radical horizons of struggle which can build up autonomy and aim at the total destruction of the State.
IT IS ALWAYS THE TIME
That is why we want to point out that we were precisely the anarchists to have been the first to struggle against Evo Morales’ government, with offensive actions against the macabre intervention of TIPNIS through words and propaganda by the deed. Therefore we ask now, is it now a question of losing to the right wing? Those who have the struggle as a way of life know that we are not losing anything, that everything continues.
That Evo lost doesn’t mean that the right has won. And if Evo continues doesn’t mean that domination is over. For those who forget this, neither the parliament nor the government are a triumph for any anarchist lover of freedom. The struggle against the right has always been the struggle against domination, devastation, a tyrant god, racism and, clearly, the State. We struggle against it, and it’s precisely from this struggle against the right wing, which we will always carry out, that many of the above mentioned confusions originate. The best answer is being given in El Alto, where they insist: We are masistas, alteños [natives of El Alto] (20), and they protest strong and violent as they shout: the Wiphala is to be respected carajo [‘fucking hell’]!, a cry full of the refusal, from day one, of the right, i.e. domination, that is entering the government.
The call now is to attack, but never by defending a less worse option or a party or “alliances” that divert us from the desire to live free, as we are, without being governed. To attack all repressive forces, state institutions, representations of the Bolivian state, any state, as we are inspired by hatred towards domination. In the end, we have always been against the State, and we will always resist all forms of power, being racialised as indigenous, and seeking anarchy. The fact that now we have to explain didactically why we don’t feel sorry for any party or ruler must lead to serious criticism.
As we write these lines there are strong protests, prisoners in the prison of San Pedro are in revolt and the prison governor has resigned, the armed forces and the police (the same police that refused to repress civilized and democratic youths) killed at least ten people in La Paz and Cochabamba, ten people with almond shaped eyes, dark skin and ancestral languages who they call masistas. There are hundreds of prisoners accused of this, but they are not only this but also coca growers, Aymara, Quechuas, Guaranì, all people who have been reviled for centuries… A surrealistic persecution is being carried out against all the people, including doctors, coming from Cuba and Venezuela, and the deportation of all those who are believed to be a “communist threat”, and centralized power doesn’t enter a dialogue with the social sectors without the mediation of UN, UE and the Church.
Things are clear, and the best answer to the fears of the “ascent of fascism in this part of the continent”, and leftist and right-wing geopolitical preoccupations, is not one day of rest. Only the end of the State will permit the creation of autonomy and the continuation of the autonomy that has been lived by many communities for thousands of years. Beyond the fighting between parties which only long for power, we are happy warriors and defenders of what we are, lovers of freedom, living resistance to colonization for centuries. Let the black flag and the Wiphala meet again in the streets, in the struggle, with the fuse ready for the conflict, free from the State.
The end of a leadership is the beginning of freedom.
For those who struggle against all tyrants, let the Achachilas’ winds blow resistance!
So that revolt becomes contagious!
No Left no Right!
Death to the state and long live Anarchy!
PS.1: To the comrades in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, La Paz, El Alto, and those who nourished with internationalism this text with tales of what’s happening everywhere and above all with perseverance in the struggle.
PS.2: With the memory of the anarchists who were able to criticize all forms of totalitarianism that led away from the horizon of the radical struggle for freedom.
(1) On 21st February 2016, there was a Referendum asking for approval of the change of the Constitution whereby the president and vice-president of the State could be re-elected continuously (YES or NO). In spite of the result, 51% NO and 49% YES, in November 2017 the Constitutional Tribunal surprised everyone with the news: president Evo Morales and other authorities could be re-elected without limits because the constitution grants the human right to put oneself forward for the presidency. www.bbc.com.
(2) In August this year more than 2 million hectares “accidentally” went on fire in the region known as Chiquitania; not long before this happened, export of bovines and soya to China had been announced as economic success: “Through coordinated and intense work with the Ministry of Rural Development and the Lands of the Bolivian State the signing of this important document was made possible, which aims at facilitating the export of bovine meat from my country to China”, chancellor Diego Pary in April 2019, la-razon.com. dialogochino.net.
(3) TIPNIS, stands for Territorio Indígena Isiboro Sécure, a Natural and Indigenous Reserve; Evo Morales gave authorization for it to be crossed by a road, which was part of IIRSA (Initiative for the South American Regional Integration). An intention that was defeated by successive marches and conflicts between 2007 and 2011, when he finally declared TIPNIS untouchable but he continued to get the peoples of the region involved with gifts and the expectation that the road would go ahead. tipnisbolivia.org, operamundi.uol.com.br
(4) “Our embrace of solidarity to the comrades who are struggling in the streets, not for a better government but for the destruction of all forms of Power”, they said in a communique, also explaining something of context in Bolivia: “As anarchists we have had enough of these protests that are interested in taking power, we don’t agree with either opposition that represents the return of the right or the left that is currently in government”. ContraInfo
(5) On the subject, read the research by Carmen Beatriz Losa, engaged in the study of the history of the Kallawayas [an itinerant group of healers living in the Bolivian Andes] and native medicine, and its criminalisation and subsequent inclusion in the state through institutional forms of validation, which broke up all local traditions and values.
(7) Mi militancia-MITKA, Felipe Quispe Huanca, Ediciones Pachakuti. La Paz.
(8) García Linera, Álvaro. ¿Qué es Una Revolución? De la Revolución Rusa de 1917 a la revolución de nuestros tiempos. Vicepresidencia del Estado, La Paz, 2017.
(9) Police demanded the same wages as the Armed Forces, home ownerships and so many economic benefits that would alienate even more people lacking these benefits. www.la-razon.com
(10) The Unión Juvenil Cruceñista is a regional far right group, self-styled Shock Group of the Civic Committee for Santa Cruz. Some of its members were put on trial for use of racist violence, such as Jorge Holberg. Their notorious actions cannot be forgotten, taking to the streets with baseball bats, shields with a green cross, gloves and uniforms of white skirts, jeans and short hair to beat up Indio people. www.indios.org.br
(11) The Civil Committee for Santa Cruz was founded in 1950 at the Gabriel René Moreno University in the city of Santa Cruz, with Hernando García Vespa, the secretary of the Government of the Local University Federation as the event organizer. At the time, few decades after the War of Chaco (1932-1935) and two years after the Revolution of 1952, a series of economic openings were beginning, such as railways and roads towards the Santa Cruz area, as the latter intended to take the opportunity to exit the third world. The CcpSC defends the interests of the region of livestock and the soya agribusinesses in Bolivia. www.comiteprosantacruz.org.
(13) The Wiphala is a symbol of various peoples that recall Tawaintinsuyo, the name of an area controlled by Incas in which there were many villages. Even if its origin is not clear as it seems to be quite multiform and with different appearances, “the great explosion of the Wiphala, particularly in the Andean area, took place along with the mobilization of the peasant unions in the1970s in Bolivia”. This recuperation as a symbol of the struggle makes it much more than a flag, but the emblem of various native communities and the representation of Andean philosophy. pueblosoriginarios.com
(14) This is in reference to the humiliation that the members of the Inter-institutional Committee and the students of the San Francisco Xavier University inflicted on people identified as “masistas”, as the latter were wearing the traditional costumes of their ancestral people and were forced to kneel down and kiss the flags of Sucre and Bolivia, while the former burnt their traditional costumes. We recommend a documentary by Cesar Brie Humillados y Ofendidos www.youtube.com, to learn more.
(16) The War of water (2000) was a conflict between the population of Cochabamba and the intention of privatizing water supplies in favour of a North-American company, which was chased out of the city www.youtube.com . The War of Gas, La Paz 2003, involved several days of conflict and the siege of the city of La Paz, firstly to have gas for Bolivia and not for export, then as a protest against the assassination of eighty people who were shot dead by the army which was evacuating the streets to provide petrol supplies in the city of La Paz.
(17) The Constituent Assembly began on 6th August 2006 in Sucre, with the intent of drafting a new constitution that was approved on 10th December 2007 by the Assembly and a referendum; it has been in force since 7th February 2009.
.(18) The individual search for anarchy is an indispensable part of any kind of search for anarchy. If we anarchists are anarchists for some collective or other, we limit our expansive capacities to this collective; and as anarchists we are fugitives, prisoners, exiled, immigrants, we have no homeland (but roots yes and we love the earth) and we struggle; that is we are left alone and disaggregate, but at all times we remain anarchists for anarchy. The individual search for anarchy, moreover, is not at all an obstacle to collective construction, on the contrary it drives it because an individuality seeking anarchy will always seek accomplices and spaces to live it.
(19) It is an exaggeration to say that offensive has remained in Bolivia. But it is also an exaggeration to say that nothing has happened there. Precise and timely actions such as the molotovs against the consulate of Argentina following Santiago Maldonado’s disappearance; or the propaganda and solidarity, and the recent anarchist book fair, leave no taste, but if you want more.
(20) The Public University of El Alto, the kataristas [followers of a political movement in Bolivia, named after the 18th-century indigenous leader Tupac Katari], and some figures such as Felipe Quispe, Mallku, like many other people, made it clear that their protests are a response of indignation against the fire of the Wiphala and at the recourse to the bible to delegitimize Andean peoples. “Listen. It was not a masista who blocked, it was not a masista who got stronger by burning his symbol with racist offence, indifference, hypocrisy, paternalism, no, a thousand times no. Do understand that it’s not the masista who is in the streets, it is a whole society, it is a whole city of migrants in the Aymara territory who are mobilizing. It is the Aymara city. It is the veterans of 2003, it is the orphans who lost their fathers in the shooting wanted by the government of whose democracy they are now supporting. It is not the masista, ladies and gentlemen, it is the alteño who is struggling. It is the Aymara”. jichha.blogspot.com, the blog mentioned as a reference to follow and learn about the current katarista thought. [katarismo – indigenous movement of da Tupac Katari n.d.t]
Bolivia: Uno sguardo anarchico sulla protesta
20 Dicembre, 2019 da Inferno Urbano
Riceviamo e pubblichiamo:
Gruppo di Traduzione Anonimo oppure Gruppo Anonimo di Traduzione Testi Anarchici
BOLIVIA: UNO SGUARDO ANARCHICO SULLE PROTESTE E LA RINUNCIA DEL PRESIDENTE INDIGENO EVO MORALES.
Traduzione a cura di GTA/GATTA