‘Approaches to the situation in Bolivia from the anarchic insurrectional perspective’ by Gustavo Rodriguez
Approaches to the situation in Bolivia from the anarchic insurrectional perspective’i
Much has been written these days about the “resignation” of Evo Morales, former chief of the Bolivian state. As was to be expected, there has been no lack of furious positions on the subject – on the right and on the left of Capital – backing or attacking (as the case may be) the deposed president. Particularly prodigal have been the chronicles and approaches to this event from the vision of “nuestralatinoamericana” and from mostly an “anti-imperialism” orthodoxy. It so happens that for years we have been dependent on the interpretations and analyses of others -even though they can no longer be considered moderately acceptable from the contemporary anarchic viewpoint- and, driven by the need for reflection, other narratives have begun to express themselves with our unmistakable “brand name”.
It is precisely within this framework of reflections that the following pages are based, written with their own baggage of experiences and with a redoubled emphasis on the constant challenges of the nascent acrimonious paradigm that extends day-by-day across the planet in an internationalist key, objecting to all the sweetened mediated and reformist projects that divert it anarchism from its insurrectionary action. For this reason, the approach to the situation in Bolivia from the anarchic insurrectional perspective is an essential task in our time.
In the geopolitical context of a tripolar world (US/China/Russia), where paradoxically, there are no longer “opposing” ideological programs confronting each other, but rather three mutations of the most pedestrianized hyper-capitalist expansionism, we should have no doubt that today there is no “side” to defend in power nor a “bloc” to which to submit. Although, to be consistent, it should be recognized that for the anarchists of praxis, there has never been a “side” to defend in power, much less a “bloc” to bend to. On the contrary, from the first moments of the bipolar farce, during the so-called “cold war” of the last century, the emphasis was always on “the two imperialisms”, revealing the gross fallacy of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the imposition – by blood and fire – of State capitalism in the name of “really existing” socialism.
From the theoretical-practical trench of Anarchy, the forceful onslaught of the Russian Revolution of 1917 was confronted and its devastating effects on our movement resisted. The differences between the two projects were exacerbated with equal force, and all the communist regimes and the bourgeois (national-populist) revolutions that arose – the majority of them financed by Moscow – throughout the twentieth century were strongly rejected.
Unfortunately, there was no lack of certain distortions in our stores -which the scene is filled with- that are promoting ideological hybrids of twisted manufacture which, putting the prefix “anarchist” in front, were adding to the list of a long list of intrusive ideologies of impossible integration with essential points of anarchic thought. In this way, true Frankensteins came to life under crazy labels (anarcho-bolsheviks, anarcho-nationalists, anarcho-guevarists, anarcho-populists; etc.). It is precisely from these incongruities that in the last century he was induced to take the side of the communist dictatorships and “progressive governments,” cynically opting for the “lesser evil” and for revolutionary oppression under state capitalism (“much more humane”).
The new multicentric hyper-capitalist model in the post-industrial era has imposed a predatory global order – hand-in-hand with nanotechnology and the digital revolution – whose singularity lies in the promiscuity of ideologies and productive models, where multiple regimes of oppression and exploitation, including slave labour -in prisons- coexist harmoniously with plantations, mines, factories, brothels and narcotics laboratories (in the style of the 18th century), the use of the so-called “productive forces” (wage labour) and, the prevailing self-exploitation in the present “society of performance” that has transfigured the once “class war” into a struggle against itself.
This spectacle makes it even more difficult for the hybrid bastions to continue with the option to advocate for the “lesser evil” and/or, the cynical position of adopting a governing “side” or a “block” of power. However, there still exist groups and individualities that in the name of “People’s Power” insist on calling themselves “anarchists” and defending – in frank contradiction – popular governments, popular states, popular armies, popular police, popular prisons, popular executions and thus to the infinite extent any populist alienation, distorting anarchist theory and practice and, thickening the set of obstacles facing the present development of anarchism.
Unfortunately, in Bolivia these deviations also came to life by encouraging pompous acronyms in the name of neo-platformismii and, imposing on the scene a true ideological monstrosity at the service of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and of the Bolivian State under the government of the first Indian president, to whom “anarcho-indigenists”, pseudo-intellectual “pachamamistas” and “academic researchers”, illuminated by “democratic plurality” and multiculturalism, did not hesitate to adhere. These mercenaries, from their conceptual re-arrangements, did not hesitate to throw flowers at the development of “Andean capitalism” nor did they hesitate to marginalize, harass and expose the incipient outbreak of informal practices that dared to confront the State; sending comrade Henry Zegarrundoiii to prison in San Pedro and forcing comrades into exile.
These disastrous practices were added to a wide historical inventory of documented desertions and convenient “transfers” in the course of the truncated anarcho-syndicalism in the Bolivian region.
Against the assertions of some historians who have delved into the subject -disregarding beforehand, nationalist ruses and Leninist (particularly Trotskyiteiv) distortions-, the claims, which are plagued with ad hoc interpretations, are absolutely refutable, They widen the life of Bolivian anarcho-syndicalism until the mid-1960s, whimsically weaving in anecdotes and testimonies of FOFv militants (once hardened anarcho-syndicalist fighters) who ended up smelling the farts of Fidel Castro in Havana, as representatives of the “left wing” of Bolivia’s Central Obrera.vi
Despite the deep roots of anarchist practice in the Southern Cone – with its consequent illegalist and insurrectionary actions – and the geographical proximity with recognized points of irradiation, Bolivia was never reached by the influence of this tendency. On the contrary, the late development of libertarian ideas (1905/1906) would be represented in an embryonic way by small liberal groups of marked mutualist attachmentvii that would soon move, almost clandestinely, towards anarcho-syndicalism. These first nuclei would settle in the cities of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí, being the first two cities where their greater growth would be recognized, gaining a true movementist spirit in the twenties of the last century.
Anarcho-syndicalism in Bolivia languished drastically after the Chaco War (1932-1935), in the face of the predominance of the new corporatist syndicalism in the hands of the Komintern and revolutionary nationalism. The Federación Obrera Local (FOL)viii would continue to fray slowly until 1952, but the nationalist Revolution would give it its coup de grace, but not until it had first left a long and shameful list of deserters, informers and deputies. However, all these infamies would not sully the names of a group of irreducible men and women who knew how to be anarchists to the last. This has motivated the meticulous revision of history by a generation of stubborn and conflictual people, provoked by the urgency of their own analysis and, by the need to take charge of the narration and systematization of our steps.
In our hands, we have precisely one of these analyses -by the charge of various authors-, totally distant from the “official” tendencies and the partisan mobs involved in the pillage and current struggle for political power in the Bolivian territory; written with the cold edge of a dagger, it sharply sinks a firm statement on the present Bolivian situation and tries to outline possible life paths, here and now, based on informality and the pleasure of anarchic insurrectionary action, advancing a relentless exercise of criticism of all power, of any re-heated programs, of any rigid organizationalism and free of the previous sacrificial and/or immobilising models that had been kept in our stores.
In this sense, the present text helps us to lay the foundations of a reflexive panorama of rupture, at the same time that it reaffirms our position in the face of the transfer of dominion and promotes the power of this anarchic, informal and insurrectionary tendency, which is propagated throughout Latin America and the world, giving an account of “the seditious awakening of Anarchy” -Rafa Spósito dixet– in the 21st Century.
March 10, 2020.
i. This text, under the title “Preliminary Words”, serves as a Prologue to the book “How we live from anarchy to disturbance and the struggle for power in Bolivia”, Ediciones Crônica Subversiva. La Paz, 2020.
ii. Suffice to recall the nauseating actions of the Anarchist Organization for the Social Revolution (OARS), the Anarchist Communist Youth Collective (CJAC) and the Green Network for Total Liberation -a neo-platformist farce that used the concept of “total liberation” to confuse and attract the unwary-, together with other larvae of the same kind promoted from Montevideo that acted without any concealment in the service of the State.
iii. For more information: https://periodicoelamanecer.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/apologia-a-la-delacion-carta-del-companero-henry-zegarrundo-desde-la-carcel-de-san-pedro-en-la-paz/ (Consulted 8/3/2020).
iv. A clear example of this premeditated distortion is the extensive work on the history of the workers’ movement in Bolivia by the late Trotskyist historian Guillermo Lora, in which contempt for anarchic theory and practice is exacerbated. However, while the author shows at all times a marked preference for the development of Marxism-Leninism, the third volume of his “Historia del movimiento obrero boliviano (1923-1933)” should be highlighted as a valuable source of information, since -if we read between the lines- important clues can be extracted around the rise and fall of Bolivian anarcho-syndicalism.
v. Federation of Women Workers (FOF). This anarcho-syndicalist organization was founded in 1926 “for the purposes of mutual protection, solidarity, cooperation and charity” (as stated in the “Acta de Fundación de la Federación Obrera Femenina, La Paz, 29 April 1927”). From the beginning, its “orientation” was disputed between Leninists and anarcho-syndicalists, finally opting for the libertarian syndicalist leadership. This legendary women’s organization managed to maintain its autonomy only three years after the triumph of the Nationalist Revolution of 1952, being forced to affiliate to the official Trade Union Confederation of Guild Workers (CSTG) dependent on the Central Obrera de Bolivia (COB), after long years of a declared anarcho-syndicalist trajectory.
vi. Dibbits, Ineke; in collaboration with Peredoy, Elizabeth; Volgger, Ruth and; Wadsworth, Ana Cecilia (Taller de Historia y Participación de la Mujer), Polleras libertarias Federación Obrera Femenina 1927-1965, TAHIPAMU/HISBOL, La Paz, Bolivia, 1989.
vii. It is worth noting that the societies of mutual support, also known as “mutuals of beneficence and relief”, almost always associated with the formulations of Proudhonian anarchism in other regions, in Bolivia, since the end of the 19th century, were in the hands of “free thinkers” (read Masons, liberals and socialist suffragettes) or of priests (mainly Jesuits and Salesians), maintaining a close struggle for the “orientation” of the guilds of artisans.
viii. An anarcho-syndicalist organization founded in 1926 under the name of Federación Obrera Local de La Paz, with Desiderio Osuna as its first General Secretary. It was formed with the intention of “disassociating itself from and opposing the Marxist controlled Federación Obrera del Trabajo (FOT)”; from its first day of life it had the support of 38 unions of various trades and the group “Despertar”, which later would be joined by the union of textile workers (Said) and that of the cardboard factory. It maintained a significant presence in the cities of La Paz and Oruro until 1932 when it began its sad decline.
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