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Revolt Continues to Boil


   As the Bolivian government, under president Jorge Quiroga, strives to enforce social peace through murder, torture and general repression, the exploited continue to rebel fiercely. Like all real large-scale struggles, this one is not always coherent nor does it always question the totality of the relationships of domination and exploitation, but the practice of revolt has certainly carried this struggle in an insurrectionary direction (encouraged both by Bolivian anarchists and by certain indigenous people from cultures in which hierarchical relationships and formalization are nearly non-existent).

   The latest round of protests, blockades and battles with the armed guards of the ruling order was sparked by the expulsion of Evo Morales from the Bolivian parliament. But the movement very quickly left behind much of its reformist baggage. It is likely that this is due in part to a practice of collective, autonomous, direct action in struggles that have been going on over the last two years. A communiqué from the Bolivian anarchist group, Juventudes Libertarias, dated February 6, gives a description of aspects of the struggle:

   "[...] Facing the violence of the State/Capital, the proletariat is defending itself. In the last month, three soldiers and a policeman have been finished off in Chapare; while in Sucre a group of small debtors, defending themselves from foreclosure, threw gasoline at a squad of police and set them on fire. In the locality of Pocitos, thousands of border workers made a group of elite police flee and burned the border post with Argentina; on 2nd February last, a march of thousands of workers, coca farmers, college students, small debtors, teachers, health-workers, water-workers and workers without retirement ended up throwing stones, firecrackers and paint at the police station in the city of Cochabamba, in protest at the ferocious repression exerted by the elite forces-the "dalmatas"-accused of torturing political prisoners with electrical charges applied to the gums, finally a group of young people dressed in black threw a homemade bomb, which injured five policemen, including a senior officer.

   "Over the last two weeks, Cochabamba has become the epicenter of the protests, with thousands taking to the streets, raising barricades, making bonfires, setting vehicles on fire in some cases and attacking shops selling luxury goods, as well as the court building, laying barbed wire and glass to stop the passage of the brutal body of police, that finally arrived, capturing even children of 11 years of age and using heavy arms [...]

   "The social movement in Cochabamba, which includes coca growers, demands the abolition of parliament and the formation of a popular assembly [...]

   "The iron resistance of the cocaleros movement is partly explained by the flexible organization it practices, being based on horizontal, communitarian traditions of the ayilu and ayni, which have a self-managing tradition.

   "A similar organization has also been developed by the natives of the plateau, who this week have added to the mobilizations by cutting the routes, together with farmers of other regions [...]" (The full text of this communiqué can be found at by checking the South America topics.)

   The struggle in Bolivia has several interesting factors. It is a struggle of all of groups of the exploited, each with their specific problems and experiences of exploitation; but recognizing their struggle in the struggle of the others, they act in solidarity with one another. Furthermore, since the resurgence of struggle in 2000, the method of the struggle has been predominantly that of autonomous direct action. There is evidence that these factors are beginning to promote the development of a revolutionary intelligence, an increasing quickness in seeing through the reformist illusions that could recuperate the struggle, as is evidenced by the call for the abolition of parliament and the development of popular assemblies which could be a way of self-organizing life and the struggle (as long as formalization and the politics that tends to bring are carefully avoided). In relation to this, it is particularly interesting that the traditional informal and non-hierarchical social organizations of many of the native farmers have provided a basis for organizing their struggle along the same lines. Although the communiqué from Juventudes Libertarias did not go into details about why the border post shared with Argentina was attacked, it certainly expresses a potential for the opening of active international solidarity between the insurgent exploited in Bolivia and those struggling in Argentina.

   But, though it seems that the coherence of the struggle in Bolivia is increasing, it still seems to be critical only of the bureaucratic organization of unions, not of unionism itself, and an examination of insurrections going back at least as far as the revolutionary movement of the 1930's in Spain shows that unions have always played a compromising role that has been a key factor in undermining several uprisings (including the Spanish revolution, sacrificed to an "anti-fascist" coalition, and May '68 in France). Furthermore, Juventudes Libertarias mention leaders of various movements who keep the fight "on the level of revenge which eliminates all historical perspective" from the struggle. Nonetheless, the movement is young and strong, and appears to be gaining in perception.


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