Everyday Life Pierces the Fragile Heart of the Metropolis

Raúl Zibechi, Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces, p50-1:

On the other hand, it is clear that before the magnitude of the September-October [2003] events [of the Bolivian Gas War, which rode on the coattails of the 2000 Cochabamba water war], institutionalized forms of social action had not succeeded in curbing the sale of gas. To be on top of the events, the neighbors had to create and invent something new, and to do so they had to go out into the streets en masse, dig themselves into their barrios, and overstep the very types of social action that they had executed in the decades before. These days the El Alto community spread out over the territory, neutralizing the armed repression by seizing areas that the army needs to pass through in order to deploy The El Alto social machine was able to disperse the state’s military machine, and to do so had to overstep their own organization and leaders not only because they were ineffective at defending and fighting, but also because these leaders and organizations had already formed part of that “other” that needed to be dispersed, as we shall see further on.

But how does this dispersal or inhibitory machine work? And how, if it does work, does it work in everyday life? Here are some examples. First of all, there are the “tactics” invented and used by the movement to defend and attack: pulga, sikititi, taraxchi, and wayronko are among the most prevalent. To summarize: the pulga [flea] is a tactic utilized to block roads and streets at night, quickly, and to withdraw instantly – similar to a flea bite – and occurs simultaneously at thousands of different locations.n24 The wayronoko [ground beetle] tactic consisted of “lightning marches and blockades to distract the forces of repression,” without a route or prior plan, like the flight of the beetle, which seems to lack any predictable direction.n25 In the sikititi [red ant] tactic, the communities march “in line.”n26 Finally the taraxchi [plumed bird] tactic is a massive mobilization intended to shut down the cities.n27

All of these action plans are rhizomatic in character, just like the lives of the animals upon which the tactics are based.n28 In effect, these plans have no centralized control, and are not carried out with any kind of command structure, since the implementation of these tactics depends on the communities and the mandatory system of rotation deployed with planned actions. These tactics, of which only the pulga was widely implemented, were activated after the organizations decided to blockade streets, and after extensive consultations with the communities and agricultural unions. When the blockades started, “everyone mobilized, because we are in our communities and know the strategic locations and can easily beat the enemy.”n29 Communal brigades oversee the plans or, to put differently, communards organized into groups for each specific task. The whole community participates, making and executing decisions. It is the “ayllu militarized”: the “community structures beginning to prepare for confrontation.”n30

n24: Felipe Quispe, “La lucha de los ayllus kataristas hoy.” in Movimiento indio en América Latina: resistencia y proyecto alternativo (México: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 2005), 73-4.

n25: Gómez, El ALto de pie, 70.

n26: Alvaro García Linera, Sociologia de los movimientos sociales en Bolivia, 157.

n27: Felipe Quispe, “La lucha de los ayllus kataristas hoy,” 74.

n28: Different from a centralized system like the tree/root binary system, the rhizome of the _raicilla_ system is multiple heterogeneous, and its bodies undifferentiated. For Deleuze and Guattari, the rhizome “is acentric, non-hierarchical, and non-significant, without General, without organized memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states.” It does not conform to external or transcendent ends, but “in a plan of immanence” and acts “by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, injection.” Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Mil mestas (Valencia: Pre-Textos, 1994), 26.

n29: Felipe Quispe, “La lucha de los ayllus kataristas hoy,” ibid., 74.

m30: Alvaro García Linera, Soicologia de los movimientos sociales en Bolivia, 158.


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