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«by Kirsten Francescone A thesis submitted to the Faculty o f Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the ...»

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For Toribia Lero, technical support o f CONAM AQ ayllus de Cochabamba, “Nuestra vigilia en San Francisco sigue siendo el punto de informacion al pueblo, el punto de recibir el apoyo del pueblo, sigue siendo el punto de union de los indigenas con el resto del pueblo boliviano.”2 The vigil, served as a uniting point within the popular and 2511 received word from one o f m y contacts in C O N A M A Q that they w ould be m oving into the plaza in front o f San Francisco. Since at the time I was in La Paz attending the LRPCA com m issions and running som e formal interviews, I decided to head over to the plaza to spend a few nights with the som e o f the wom en w hom 1 had previously worked with. I w ent to visit the vigil on Friday Septem ber 2 3 rd and requested that I camp out for the w eekend with the w om en authorities, and after som e hesitation from a few o f the wom en 1 did not know, it w as agreed that I could stay.

252 Various ministers and the president and vice-president w ere quoted saying yes or yes the highw ay w ill be constructed, with or without the consent o f the com m unities within the park.

253 CEDIB, “Entrevista: Las vigilias por el TIPNIS. “Las mujeres no podiamos permitir e s o ”,” P etro p ress 27 {2011).

indigenous classes, one that became central to creating possibilities and strategically positioning the T1PNIS conflict as one o f national concern.

5.1 Organic intellectuals and the production of practical knowledge For Gramsci, the maintenance, contestation and reproduction of the capitalist mode o f production is driven by two forces, coercion and consent. The function o f hegemony serves to reinforce the domination o f the elites over civil society, whereas directdomination is mediated through the “state” or juridical government.254 The cohesion and strength of the domination o f the historic bloc is effective when hegemony is used along with coercion, and is strongest when coercion is barely revealed at all.2 5 Consent, therefore, is integral to the endured existence of domination, given that knowledge is produced by the dominant classes and consumed, contested and reproduced by the subaltern and working classes as ‘common sense.’ To construct a counterhegemonic project, the working and subaltern classes m ust collectively organize through active engagement with their material conditions but also through the production o f a counter hegemonic set of ideas, or “good sense.” Some o f the key facilitators o f this revolutionary process are organic intellectuals. Organic intellectuals em erge from an “active participation in practical life as a constructor, organizer, ‘a perm anent 254 Gramsci, Selections from the P rison N otebooks, 12.

233 When the M AS attacked the T1PNIS march this revealed a crack in the hegem onic fabric and resulted in a catalyzation o f popular m obilization.

persuader.’”256 Organic intellectuals become ‘specialized’ and political through active participation in the creation o f ideas.

Whereas for Gramsci, intellectuals work within their class to reproduce the status quo, which does not disrupt common sense, organic intellectuals can actively level their class position through the production o f common sense. This works towards uniting the subaltern and working classes. Organic intellectuals must constantly work and engage practically in order to unify and facilitate both the production of ideas as well as the subaltern and working classes for the “assim ilation and conquest”257 o f the dominant hegemony. Seeing that the MAS has managed to maintain a hegemonic bloc for some time which has major grounding in various popular sectors through its m anagem ent o f hegemony- practical engagement which expands beyond the production o f discourses and ideas can is essential in revealing the disaccord between economic, political and cultural change.

Since organic intellectuals contribute to the production o f practical know ledge to build and strengthen alliances between the working and subaltern classes- this also makes room towards decolonization of power relations possible, and the diminution o f interclass divisions grounded in racial/ethnic/colonial tension, a means towards producing commonalities o f struggle. Practical knowledge, then, in terms of political mobilizing, could be viewed as the ways in which key producers of knowledge are able to politically mobilize various sectors in the production o f hegemony/counter-hegemony.

256 Ibid, 10.


While in the Vigilia San Francisco, the intellectual/organic intellectual presence was quite visible. Equally as visible was the way in which organic intellectuals were effectively contributing to a broadening o f alliances and a decolonization o f expertise and intellect. CONAMAQ and C1DOB, the two organizations living in the vigil, had their own internal “insider” political advisors. These advisors, internally elected, would sleep and live in the vigil, and often simply arranged meetings and facilitated discussions.

These advisors were often central to the continued political engagement by these organizations. One advisor in particular, Toribia Lero,258 a woman from the ayllus o f Cochabamba, was extremely important for working with various other sectors, arranging meetings, and resolving internal and external conflict as it emerged. She also m aintained a presence in marches and press conferences and helped in meal preparation.

There were also the “outsider” advisors, the “intellectuals,” members from the urban middle class who would come into the vigil, give their expert opinion on strategy or tactics, and then leave. These people often belonged to various NGOs or research institutions; some white,259 all educated, and all young. They often entered the vigil and appeared rushed to leave. They would give long-winded speeches and then would m ake themselves available for questions, and collaborate on the production o f written statements. There were other “outsider” actors, however, who took on a different role that 2,8 Official position o f CONAM AQ, Support o f Organic Incidents: A yllu s de Cochabamba.

259 When I say w hite here, I literally refer to American or European. Rafael Quispe in particular often had one or two white male advisors that w ould com e and sit in on m eetings, taking notes. They were not researchers, and their positions were kept quiet- no one w as sure o f w ho they were or what they were doing, but they often only entered during large v ig il m eetings and discussions.

could clearly be interpreted as the permanent persuaders and political organizers Gramsci was referring to.

In particular I am referring to an NGO that had a persistent (24 hour) presence in the vigil.26 This organization contributed not only to the active production o f political practical knowledge, it also contributed to a de-colonization o f the dynamics o f power between the urban middle classes and the rural indigenous and campesino com m unities with whom they were working. Instead o f going into to vigil to “educate” or “tell” the indigenous organizations what their next move should be, instead o f w riting their documents, responses, and analyses for them, they opted to provide support. They offered their help to being a liaison with the media, and they contributed to the day-today labour that was required to ensure the survival o f the vigil. Politically this organization provided the indigenous organizations with a breadth o f know ledge and information. They gave presentations on the TIPNIS highway, of the econom ic and political motivations behind the project, they invited other academics and indigenous people to come and speak o f their experiences with the project. Further, they m aintained a large database o f press and media coverage that was up-to-date. Daily they would present any issues to the attention o f leaders and the mamas within the vigil. Finally, using the contacts that they had, and continued to collect over the six-week period, they kept in touch with other popular sectors (COB, FSTMB, Maestros) expressing their support, helping to arrange meetings so that indigenous leaders of CONA M A Q and CEPLAP could meet and strategize with these sectors.

260 In order to protect the organization from governm ental scrutiny and possible funding/donor problem s the name o f the organization as w ell as its members w ill be kept anonym ous.

What is essential about their presence in the vigil is two-fold. Firstly, they m aintained a daily presence, which meant that, despite their middle class status they slept and ate in the vigil with the organizations in order to maintain a level o f trust and camaraderie.

Second, their sense o f what their role was not to “ inform” or to “tell” the indigenous organizations what to do. They were completely aware o f these organizations' abilities to produce and act politically as organizations. Instead, they felt their role was to provide as much information as possible to permit for the rolling out o f politics through debates, discussions and presentations. This methodology proved to be extremely effective. In fact, due to some on-the-spot diligence members from CONAMAQ and CEPLAP were able to meet with and discuss with the COB and M aestros unions respectively two players who became central and maintained a physical presence throughout the conflict.

5.2 Criticism, debate and the Intellectual and Urban Class With the release of the LRPCA and the increasing popular skepticism by the M AS the urban intellectual class began mobilizing to create spaces for intellectual debate, conversation and criticism holding public meetings in the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz. As such a group o f intellectuals including Alejandro Almaraz, Raul Prada and Gustavo Soto along with activists and m ilitant campesinos formed and collaborated to produce the Manijiesto de la Coordinadora Plurinacional de la Reconduccion Por la Recuperacion del Proceso de Cambio para el Pueblo y con el Pueblo. Their first official meeting was held in Cochabamba on July 1st.

This group, a collection o f activists, intellectuals and leaders o f campesino organizations met and collaborated to produce a document to steer the proceso de cam bio away from transnational and colonial dangers o f the past. They identified key areas o f economic and political shortcomings o f the government; including the failure to truly nationalize hydrocarbons, the MAS failure to invest into the public sector with their reserves, and the continued persistent movement towards being a capitalist extraction economy. They clearly criticize the MAS for claiming on one hand to be the protector o f m other earth, while introducing transgenic seeds and engaging in extraction processes that are continued to destruct the environm ent.2 1 According to one o f the signing members o f this loosely organized group, the value o f what they were trying to accomplish lay in the production o f knowledge and politics.

Creo que el valor de ese manifiesto, y de ese grupo esta en abrir un espacio plural de discusion y de critica al proceso de cambio, pero que no se enuncia desde la oposicion neoliberal, que no se enuncia desde la tradicion conservadora de la politica boliviana, si no que se enuncia tambien desde un espacio de izquierda critico, ^no? Entonces, creo que la intention no es situarse contra el proceso de cambio, sino senalar y de hacer evidente sus limitaciones y tratar de profundizar este proceso, ^no?262 Contrary to criticisms denouncing the M anifiesto, this group was not trying to get rid o f Evo Morales, or completely reject the MAS or the M A S’ project, but rather they recognized the dangers in the directionality o f the present tendencies. Instead they were attempting to re-situate what they felt was the core o f the proceso de cambio, a political project to live better, which constantly required maintenance and struggle from Bolivians.

261 See report fully published in Bolpress June 25, 2011. A vailable online:

http://www.bolDress.com/art.php7Cod-2 0 1 1 0 6 2 2 07 262 From interview with Jorge Komandina.

...en Bolivia hay un espacio enorme de discusion, de reflexion, deliberacion en todo los ambitos; es decir siempre se esta reflexionando en todos partes, en Bolivia es lo bueno digamos de este proceso, que la gente siempre esta pendiente de todo que pasa y cualquier cosa que percibe, considera de que no es lo correcto, entonces sale como con el gasolinazo del 2010, (,no? La idea del m anifiesto es justamente establecer, pero de manera mucho mas ordenada, m ucho mas... hum, como diriam os... mucho mas rica en cuanto a todo lo que se ha podido avanzar hasta ahora, y las dificultades que se han tenido, es poner sobre la m esa todo esto, escuchar mucho a la gente, y otra vez establecer la construccion de una base social fuerte y vigorosa, clara, y con propuestas que pueden ir empujando este proceso, no empujar al gobiem o pero si al proceso (,no?2 36 Although these meetings were important for stimulating not only critical discussions within and between the middle and urban classes, they also attracted the attention o f the MAS. In response to the M anifiesto, Vice-President Garcia Linera wrote a formal response in the form o f a book264 criticizing the group o f indignados o f being right-wing opportunists, producing lies to the general public about what was happening economically and politically in Bolivia. Further, m embers o f the MAS executive constantly made public efforts to de-legitimize their work, calling A lm araz and Olivera power-hungry opportunists, denouncing the work they had done in the past for the country, and running slander campaigns against them.265 The work o f the Manifiesto was successful in that it ignited an antagonistic critical dialogue, if somewhat hostile, between the government and civil society. That being said, 263 From interview with Oscar Olivera.

264 Alvaro Garcia Linera, E l “O E N E G ISM O ” en ferm edad infantil d el derechism o: O com o la “recon duccion ” d el P roceso de Cam bio es la restauracion n eo lib era l (La Paz: V icepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional, 2011).

16tA% the group began their criticism s the governm ent began their counter campaign. Cesar Navarro, vice minister o f the State was quoted calling the group “derechistas” Later, follow ing the violent repression o f the march Wilfred C havez was quoted attributing the blam e o f the repression to political instigators Almaraz and Olivera. From “Los indigenas del Tipnis rompieron ayer con violencia un cerco de seguridad, en el noveno intento del G obiem o de dialogar, ” E l Cam bio, 25th o f September, 2011.

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