From Commune to Commun-ication in the Heat of Insurrection

From Raúl Zibechi, Dispersing Power, p 60-4:

Maturana and Varela argue that in communication there is no “information transmitted” but only a linkage of behaviors. They question the so-called “metaphor of the tube,” according to which ‘communication is something that is generated in one spot, carried by a conduit (or tube), and delivered to another at the receiving end.” Based on field experience and research with birds and mammals, they conclude that the communication is “coordinated behavior in a domain of structural linkage.”n50 In the case of the October 2003 insurrection and other times of intense social activity, the is no unidirectional communication, but something different – the propagation of a stream [AC: or flow!] (collective actions, the circulation of voices and feelings, etc.) through a set of links, each of which activates the next. Scientists call this process “circular causation” or “feedback.”n51

I postulate that a kind of communication without central emission – and therefore without passive recipients – has been critical to moving the whole of Aymara society, and keeping it mobilized until the fall of Sánchez de Lozada.n52 In effect, during those weeks, the message was of crucial importance -a s much what was said on air on the radio, as what was happening to those receiving the information. The hunger strike at Radio San Gabriel by a group of social leaders, including Felipe Quispe, functioned more as a ndoe of inter-communication than as a command center giving order to the base. Moreover, the rural and urban Aymara communities took over radio stations and transmitted their own messages, but above all, they communicated – in the deeper meaning of the term – moods, experience, and emotions that were shared by those listening to the radio. This produced a very emotional effect similar to those who were airing it live. Thus there was a link that blurred the separation between emissaries and receivers.

The process of concentration/dispersion is territorialized in much of the city, in an immanent and interior manner, creating nodes and links that bind but do not unite. parallel to this, the nodes are [62] dissolved in a multitude of initiatives agreed to at the time of the meeting, during the assembly. The plaza is the pace of collective decisions making and the church is that of ritual acts, but after decisions have been made and “starting with the inter-relation of information” they are dispersed by establishing neighborhood committees that organize the pickets and barricades without a fixed general criteria because “in certain moments they had to make decisions on a collective basis” without the possibility or the need to consult all mobilized.n54 The concentration/dispersion mechanism, now territorialized, reproduces itself almost infinitely, encompassing the entire urban arena.

The mechanisms of this double pulse — the succession of beats of the multitude — generate an incredibly and diverse collective social energy:

Power networks of action and systems of communication were activated. The different radio stations transmitting direct coverage of the events were instrumental in increasing the numbers quickly. The system of Popular Radio Television [RTP in its Spanish acronym] and Red Erbol, as well as Channels 21 and 36 on the televisions played a fundamental role. Many of these media outlets were threatened by the government for doing this. ANd they integrated themselves with the inter-neighborhood means of communication such as blowing horns and whistles or the banging of lamp-posts to communicate an imminent danger or the presence of military forces. These measures had also been used to draw attention to the presence of criminals.

This is how what we define as neighborhood micro-governments emerge. Through the neighborhood organizational structures, each area of the town becomes a center for production of collective decisions in order to weave a sense of power, immobilizing the city and government.n55

It can be added that a good number of the mechanisms of intercommunication discussed (whistles, banging) are used daily by residents to alert the community to the threat of thieves or rapists. Secondly, there is a clear lack of separation between emissaries and receptors, as well as between means of communication and community. Finally, there is no planned-out process – in the traditional sense – but a spontaneity, in the deep voluntary sense, based on les-[63]sons learned previously. In this way, it seems both intentional and deliberate, though lacking a pre-prepared plan imposed from outside of the movement. The plan of action, to give it some kind of name, was born within the movement and in the throes of insurrection. Sometimes, as in October 2003 in El Alto, it seems that there was a general intellect at work or, in other words, a collective common sense constructed in the heat of the action. (60-63)

n50: Alberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, El árbol del conocimiento (Madrid: Debate, 1996), 196.

n51: Fritjof Carpa, La trama de la vida (Barcelona: Anagrama, 1998), 75-82.

n52: trans note on GSdL

n53: Pablo Mamani: Los microgobiernos barriales en el levantaminto de la ciudad de El Alto, 43.

n54: Ibid. 46.

n55: Ibid. 41.

———-> Note, this it the Spinozist “expression” of bodies, which connects nicely to Zibechi’s use of Negri v/v “Insurgencies” later.  This is also the basis of D&G non-hylomorphic super-semiotics, which claims that substances _speak themselves_ by ’emitting signs’ (directly contra Hegel) – also understood in the Negrian sense of singularity.

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