Indigenous Anarchist Critique of Bolivia’s ‘Indigenous State': Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

By Bill Weinberg - Upside Down World, September 7, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Originally published on June 7, 2014 at World War 4 Report, with a shorter version on May 26, 2014 at Indian Country Today Media Network.

Bolivian historian and social theorist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is author of the classic work Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, and has recently emerged as one of the country’s foremost critics of President Evo Morales from an indigenous perspective. Indian Country Today Media Network spoke with her in New York City, where she recently served as guest chair of Latin American studies at New York University’s King Juan Carlos Center. The complete text of the interview appears for the first time on World War 4 Report.

What are you doing here in New York City?

I have been invited as chair of Latin American studies by the King Juan Carlos Center, which is sort of funny, it sounds like a horrible place for me. But Spain should give us back a little bit of what they took! And my salary is like a millionth part of what they owe us.

And what are you doing now in Bolivia?

I used to teach at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, which is the biggest public university in Bolivia. And I was very much involved in university politics, because I was trying to fight corruption in the university. In 2005, I had a 15-day-long hunger strike, and we managed to kick the dean out. But he left a lot of corruptos were still there, and I was forced to retire.

Since then, I have been doing community things, trying to network and create micro-politics… Since I wrote my study on anarchism, I discovered the importance of community to politics, as opposed to the individualist liberal conception…

What was the title?

Los Artesanos Libertarios y la Ética de Trabajo (Libertarian Artisans and the Work Ethic), based on oral history.

What kind of artisans?

Shoe-makers, carpenters, masons. In La Paz. They founded the Local Workers Federation. The foundation date is uncertain. We more or less think it was 1926 or ’27. ..

An anarcho-syndicalist federation?

Yes. It actually started with discussion circles as early as 1908—purely workers, without any intellectuals. Only intellectuals that were workers at the same time. I discovered that my great-uncle, from an estranged part of the family—because he was a worker, a mechanic, so my mother wanted nothing to do with him—was an ideologue of this movement.

This federation still exists?

No, no, no. It was destroyed by the MNR [National Revolutionary Movement, which took power in 1952]. Because under the Marxist view of the labor movement at the time, the artisans are not workers, and therefore they deserve to be erased from history! Only “proletarians” count, only the slaves of the machine count.

The final blow was in 1964, with the dictatorship. Only one union remained from the Federation, it was all-female union of flower vendors, in the Mercado de Floristas. We managed to find them still alive and conduct these interviews in 1985, ’86. And that archive, which is 100 cassettes, I have been working full-time digitizing here in New York…

And this relates to your current community work?

Yes, I am still working with artisans, with urban self-reliance groups in La Paz, ecological and feminist groups, working in the qhatu, or traditional peasant fair or market. This is a very ancient tradition form colonial times, in which indigenous communities used the market to prevent being used by the market. There is always a barter section, negotiation of prices, at the local level. It is a market that is not depersonalized; it is a conscious market, where people are there, not just prices and commodities. It is against the supermarket, against the mall. It is against the corporations and brands and selling things that are pre-packaged. You harvest lentils from your own garden, and you never put it in a plastic package. So the qhatu is a form of resistance to the world market. It is resisting the market with market—it is almost like a vaccination!

I am part of a collective that produced hand-made books and hand-woven bags frmo recycled plastic, as well as lettuce and potatoes and fava beans and sweet peas and medicinal herbs. Grown in community gardens in La Paz. And we sell them at the traditional markets in La Paz.

And we have made campaigns—a campaign against plastic bags, a campaign to promote walking instead of taking trucks or buses or cars. Walking is very difficult in La Paz if it’s uphill, because of the altitude. So we have a slogan, Camina La Paz, aun que sea la bajada—Walk through La Paz, even if it’s only downhill! At least just get a bus ticket one way!

So we try to link every public issue where human rights, indigenous rights, and the rights of the Pachamama are involved. So we joined with TIPNIS, we joined CONAMAQ, we joined the support network for the human rights office that was almost taken over by the government. We are defending the CONAMAQ people who were kicked out of their office… We are just there for them, if they need shelter for the night or a good breakfast, we go and do that. We are not many, but we do whatever we can.

We call ourselves Colectivo Ch’ixi—from the Aymara word meaning “stain.” We are mestizos, but we have a strong Indian stain in our souls. We are “impure.” We are not “pure” people. And we have to recognize also that there is a European stain in our bodies and in our subjectivities. And the good part of that stain is the idea of freedom and individual rights. From the Indian part we get the idea of community and of cycle, intimacy with the cycles of nature. But we do recognize the value of individual freedoms and rights—sexual rights, the right to have a sexual identity that is different from the rest, or of abortion. All this comes from the best contributions of European civilization and the Enlightenment.

They Go Wild, Simply Wild, Over Me!

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On Monday, September 22, 2014, over 2,500 demonstrators punctuated the 400,000 strong People's Climate March, with a more in-your-face, anti-capitalist protest called "Flood Wall Street". Channeling the IWW soapboxers of the Pacific Northwest during the lumber strikes of the late 1910s, IWW EUC member and cofounder Morgen Hughes was the first to engage in civil disobedience (and the first arrestee). Thanks to one of the demonstrators we have ample, albeit very muddy, video and audio footage of the instance. here (as best we can manage) is a transcript of the audio (the video is imbedded below). Fellow Worker Hughes begins soapboxing at 4:48 into the video:

Mic Check!!! (mic check!)

I'm doing a civil disobedience right now! (etc.)

I'm a member of the Industrial Workers of the World!

We want all workers to rise up!

Take control of all industry!

(inaudible)

And dismantle anything that is unsustainable!

And through Workers' power

(inaudible)

We need to dismantle all forms of oppression!

Including sexism...racism...homophobia...transphobia...speciesism...

Together, we can build, an ecological, general strike!

To take over, all industries, and dismantle capitalism once and for all!

(inaudible)...indigenous people, who are on the front line, and join in the struggle against capitalism!

Utilize your privilege, and support (those on) the front lines!

...at this point (7:43) Fellow Worker Hughes began leading the crowd in a chant. After about a minute, the police began demanding that Morgen step down. At approximately 9:49 into the video, having committed no significant crime, FW Hughes stepped down, where police were waiting to detain her.

Railroad Worker Jen Wallis: "The Fence is Capitalism...It's Time to Take it Down!"

By Jen Wallis - exclusive, September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Editor's note: Jen Wallis meant to give the following speech at the People's Climate March in Seattle on Sunday, September 21, 2014, but had to abbreviate it due to time constraints. Here is the entire speech she would have given:

Hi my name is Jen Wallis, and I’m a founding member of Railroad Workers United. We are a rank-and-file caucus of the various national and international railroad unions. A few of us started this organization to respond to the decades of infighting created by the carriers to keep us divided.

I've been a conductor with BNSF Railway for over ten years. In 2008, I was injured on the job through no fault of my own. I was one of the first workers to file a whistleblower suit against a major railroad for retaliation for reporting a work-related injury. After 6 years of litigation, I won my case in Federal Court this past March, so I know a little bit about what it takes to fight corporations and what they will do to you and your family. I lost much of my support system, and I lost my house to foreclosure. And just as a side note, I first met Kshama Sawant when she showed up and got arrested for those of us fighting foreclosure. She is amazing!!! Over 1,000 railroaders who filed similar complaints have lost. I’m one of a handful to have won. The railroads have a lot of money to fight you, and they usually win.

I’ve taken it upon myself to use my victory to speak out for safety on the railroad because I’m one of the few people who can and not get fired for it, and I was actually in San Francisco speaking at a labor conference this past July when I got word that a group of unelected union officials from the conductor’s union had been meeting in secret with BNSF for 18 months, and unleashed a proposal that would have ended the job of the conductor on freight trains right here in my territory. My job. One person running trains at least a mile long through our communities where there have always been at least two, and engineer and a conductor. 140 years of railroading tradition gone with one contract. All the railroads would follow that precedent.

So we at Railroad Workers United went into what I can only call DEFCON 1 organizing. We had less than a month to mount a campaign to vote no before ballots were to be sent out. There were plenty of carrots in the agreement being dangled for the huge numbers of new hires we have, with things like “worker retention board” which claimed if you can’t hold a job, we’ll pay you to sit at home and not work, ending pay scale for new hires, and huge buy-outs for those getting close to retirement anyway. It was the standard concessionary agreement. Now those of us who have been in the game long enough knew these were only empty promises. We’ve seen enough of these broken in our careers, but the massive numbers of new hires did not, and we saw what scare tactics do at places like Boeing. Unions usually don’t defeat concessionary contracts, even when those companies are swimming in profits.

We knew we had to be bold, as bold as they were. I immediately started a FB group to protest the meeting in Sea-Tac where the officers would be to give us the hard-sell pitch. Now railroaders aren’t allowed to strike, and we haven’t done much in terms of organizing anything since 1894. You won’t find many of us who have ever so much as held a sign on a picket line. So I invited people who are more comfortable with holding signs - I invited my environmentalist friends I’d been trying to build alliances with these last couple of years - people from Backbone, from 350.org, Rising Tide, and members of the more radical unions like the Teamsters and Teachers and ILWU, and they showed up for us. Jess Spear showed up for us. The media we got in Seattle from that little picket inspired towns all across the country to follow suit. In places like Greybull, Wyoming and Creston Iowa, we got the spouses and families out there holding signs, (probably for the first times in their life), because they know our jobs and how terrifying it would be to have their loved ones out on these dangerous trains by themselves working under extreme fatigue in every kind of weather. We added over 2,000 new members to our facebook group in a month, distributed thousands of stickers and flyers and talking points. Many of us put our lives on hold and spent every waking moment organizing around this.

Finally, on September 10th, less than two months after we first got wind of it, the results were in. From the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes to right here in the Pacific Northwest, our members voted that proposal down. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. But as sweet as that victory was, none of that means anything compared to this fight against climate change. I have a 9 year-old son. I read recently that by the time he is my age, at the rate we’re going, this planet will experience a mass extinction. Extinction! And I can’t help but wonder If I’ve really done enough to protect him from that future.

Now our recent victory was a huge inspiration to all of us. We now know what we have to do, and we know what it takes to do it. We understand completely now that we are fighting an industry that cares as much about us as they do the environment, which is not at all...It might seem a little scary for environmentalists to approach labor, and sometimes the feeling is mutual, but when my co-workers saw that tripod up in Everett with the sign that said “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors”, they were blown away. Nobody has stood up for us in a very long time. America has what I call an epidemic of fence-straddling. Most people like to be perched up there, listening to information from both sides and occasionally hopping down from one to the other based on the news we get or the friends we know or which side has the most money or slickest campaign. But my friends, the fence is an illusion. If we could all just step back for a minute and notice that big field we’ve been in together this entire time. The fence is capitalism and corporate plutocracy, and it’s time to take it down!!!

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Climate Change Knows No Borders - Peace Arch Rally

Press Release - Vancouver IWW, September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Members of the Vancouver, BC and Bellingham, WA branches met at the Peace Arch on the BC/WA border on Saturday to participate in this weekend's international Climate Action.

It was a great opportunity to discuss labour issues and organizing in our region.  It was inspiring to hear from a diverse group of speakers, several of whom directly tied industrial capitalism to the climate crisis.  Another world is possible.

A special thanks to The Wilderness Committee for organizing transportation to the event.

Capital and Climate Catastrophe

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin - The Portland Radicle, November 21, 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Capitalism is changing the weather.  More fundamentally, it is changing the climate.  This is the byproduct of an economic system that relies primarily on burning oil and coal to fuel production and enable the transportation of people and goods.  In looking at capitalists’ responsibility for the climate crisis, a central question is whether capitalism must impact the environment in this way, or if it is capable of changing its mode of production so its continued operation does not change the climate.
A new report estimates that before the year 2030, 100 million people will die as a result of the changing climate.  Ninety percent of these deaths will occur in poor countries.   The ‘climate crisis’ should now be spoken of as the climate catastrophe, because this is what it is for the majority of the peoples of the earth.  The droughts, melting icecaps, tropical storms, and bizarre weather we have been experiencing is just the beginning.

The dominant economic system is the driving force of climate change.  It is based upon the exploitation of oil and coal, which contributes greenhouse gases to the environment, resulting in increasing global temperatures.   The innermost logic of this economic system is the accumulation of capital.  Whatever serves profit thrives.  Currently a large part of the capitalist machine is fueled by oil and coal.  The vast majority of scientific investigation points directly to the burning of oil and coal as having already raised the temperature of the Earth by 1.5 degree Fahrenheit, with the possibility of raising it over ten degrees by the end of this century.  To do this would make life on earth unrecognizable, like something out of a science fiction movie. This may happen by the time today’s infants enter old age.

At one time reformists called for a Green Capitalism, for developing Green technologies and the like.  Major unions, who have reconciled themselves with capital, call for Green Jobs. Reformists and unions suggest that capitalism could be ecological, that it does not have to do things like pollute the air and water and change the climate.  This may be true.  It may be possible to have an exploitative economic system like capitalism, based upon renewable, alternative energy.  After all, the slave trade and early colonial conquest were based upon wind-powered ships and mills.  A central question then is whether the logic of capitalism is inherently ecologically destructive; will capitalism continue to play chicken with our future, or will it revolutionize its mode of production to not change the nature of the environment so much that the future of civilization is put into question?

There is a debate amongst members of the ruling class, the so-called 1%, about which way to go.  Some argue for the development of “carbon markets,” in which the right to put carbon into the environment is bought and sold, thus continuing to profit from the emission of greenhouse gases, while slowly decreasing them.  They argue for developing alternative energy, such as wind and solar, to replace coal and gas.  They promote ‘lifestyle changes’ and taxing coal and oil companies for their emissions.  Right now, this section of the ruling class is losing.  No real change is coming from above to respond to climate catastrophe.

It seems that if the fundamental driving force of capitalism is the further accumulation of capital, it would make sense not to change the ecology so much that you severely reduce the number of producers and consumers, threaten food production, and endanger the future of humanity.  Without civilization, how can capitalism continue?  Right now, the most potent anti-civilizational force on the planet is capitalism.

How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign

By Arun Gupta - CounterPunch, September 19, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

I’ve never been to a protest march that advertised in the New York City subway. That spent $220,000 on posters inviting Wall Street bankers to join a march to save the planet, according to one source. That claims you can change world history in an afternoon after walking the dog and eating brunch.

Welcome to the “People’s Climate March” set for Sunday, Sept. 21 in New York City. It’s timed to take place before world leaders hold a Climate Summit at the United Nations two days later. Organizers are billing it as the “biggest climate change demonstration ever” with similar marches around the world. The Nation describes the pre-organizing as following “a participatory, open-source model that recalls the Occupy Wall Street protests.” A leader of 350.org, one of the main organizing groups, explained, “Anyone can contribute, and many of our online organizing ‘hubs’ are led by volunteers who are often coordinating hundreds of other volunteers.”

I will join the march, as well as the Climate Convergence starting Friday, and most important the “Flood Wall Street” direct action on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ve had conversations with more than a dozen organizers including senior staff at the organizing groups. Many people are genuinely excited about the Sunday demonstration. The movement is radicalizing thousands of youth. Endorsers include some labor unions and many people-of-color community organizations that normally sit out environmental activism because the mainstream green movement has often done a poor job of talking about the impact on or solutions for workers and the Global South.

Nonetheless, to quote Han Solo, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

NGOs Are Cages: How Capitalists Control Mass Movements

By Stephanie McMillan - CounterPunch, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We really need to understand the methods used by NGOs* to undermine radical political organizing efforts and divert us into political dead ends. The People’s Climate March is a good case study because it’s so blatant.

In South Florida, we saw the exact same process after the BP oil spill. Once the NGOs came in to the organizing meetings and were given the floor, all potential resistance was blocked, strangled, and left for dead. NGOs will descend on any organizing effort and try to take it over, dilute it, and bring it eventually to the Democratic Party. We can also see an identical set-up with the established labor unions and many other organizations.

If organizers are being paid, usually they are trapped in this dynamic, whether or not they want to be. While combining a job with organizing to challenge the system sounds very tempting and full of potential, it’s overwhelmingly not possible. They are two fundamentally incompatible aims, and those funding the job definitely do not have the aim of allowing its employees to undermine the system — the very system that allows the funders to exist, that they feed off of. Capitalists aren’t stupid, and they know how to keep their employees chained to a post, even if the leash feels long. With NGOs, capitalism has set up a great mechanism for itself both to generate revenue, and to pacify people who might otherwise be fighting to break the framework. “The unity of the chicken and the roach happens in the belly of the chicken.”

Another problem is that the rest of us attending an activity or a demonstration have to wonder: when organizers are being paid to say whatever it is they’re saying, how do we know whether or not they believe it? They follow a script, and can’t reveal their true feelings. They attempt to promote their cause in a convincing way, but if their funding was cut off, would they still be involved? Would their orientation still be the same? It’s hard to believe anything said by a paid spokespuppet – it’s like interacting with an embodied list of talking points. There can be no real trust, that the person could be relied upon when the money is no longer there.

Of course people need jobs, and NGOs provide them. I’m not blaming those who work for NGOs any more than who work for any other capitalist institution. We’re all trapped in the enemy’s economy. Instead, what I’m arguing for is to be aware of the nature of it, its severe limitations, and to do real political work outside the framework provided by the job.

We should attend demonstrations like the climate march, because a lot of sincere people will be there who want to make a difference. But we should remain autonomous within them, bringing our own message targeting capitalism as the root of the problem, exposing the uselessness of working within the political frameworks it sets up for us, and building our own organizations with the people we meet.

To challenge, weaken and ultimately destroy capitalism, we need to build a strong, organized, broad, combative mass movement outside the influence of capitalist interests.

The Largest Climate March in the History of the Planet…

By the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - CIW Online, September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This afternoon, over a dozen CIW members joined people from all over the globe — New York families, Superstorm Sandy survivors, indigenous groups, Chinese farmworkers, and everyone in between — in what is being called “the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet”  Organizers estimate that a record-breaking 310,000 individuals came out to join the People’s Climate March, filling the city’s streets from the heights of Central Park down to lower Manhattan.  

The experience spurred this powerful reflection from CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo:

As farmworkers, we are deeply affected by climate change and environmental degradation.  First, it affects our work — extreme temperatures and other impacts of climate change have a direct impact on farmworkers.  Second, and most importantly, we are all connected.  We all must fight for a better future, and in order for us to leave a better world for our children, we must have clean air, clean water, and sustainable energy.  It is time the major corporations contributing to climate change to take responsibility for their actions and to start protecting the environment.  The planet is the most important gift that we have. 

The Climate Justice Call Echoes Across the Globe

By Danny Katch and Nicole Colso - Socialist Worker, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s. The image depicted here was not part of the original article.

ORGANIZERS HAD hoped it would be the largest climate justice demonstration in history. It was definitely that--and more.

People filled Central Park West in New York City from 59th Street past 86th Street for the People's Climate March on September 21--a massive crowd estimated to be as large as 300,000, maybe more.

Dozens upon dozens of contingents, representing indigenous activists, unions, students, community organizations, political groups and more, showed the broad range of people who want real action against climate change--before it's too late. For some of the marchers, it was three hours before their part of the demonstration stepped off.

And it wasn't just New York City that was in the streets. The main U.S. protest was one of more than 2,600 events held in over 150 countries on the same day. From India to Tanzania to South Africa to Brazil to Germany and Taiwan, people across the globe raised their voices against ecological destruction.

But this expression of dissent and determination is in stark contrast to the attitude of those who preside over the system that is causing climate change.

The demonstration in New York City was organized to issue a challenge from the streets in the run-up to a United Nations climate summit. Such meetings have been little more than a show--with the world's most powerful governments, in particular the U.S., frustrating attempts to set substantive targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The consequences of putting profits before the fate of the planet are becoming increasingly clear--ever more so by the month.

Meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week that the months of June, July and August marked the hottest summer on record for the planet as a whole. 2014 is on track to break the record for the hottest year, set in 2010.

At a solidarity demonstration held in rural Papua New Guinea, primary school students marched to a lighthouse that has become partially submerged as a result of rising sea levels. In other threatened spots across the Pacific Islands, solidarity marches calling for "Action, Not Words" had a similar message of real urgency.

Thousands of Workers Begin Strike at World’s Biggest Copper Mine

By Cecilia Jamasmie - Mining.Com, September 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Close to 2,800 miners at Chile's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, began a 24-hour “warning” strike on Monday morning as they seek to negotiate better working conditions, Publimetro reports (in Spanish).

Workers belonging to the Sindicato No. 1 union said if talks with the mine owners, BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Rio Tinto (LON:RIO), don’t bear fruit, they’ll stage an indefinite stoppage beginning Wednesday morning.

The 1.2 million tonnes a year operation, located in Chile's Atacama Desert, also provides around 1,900 contract workers with full time jobs.

The news did not affect the red metal prices. London copper futures, in fact, fell to their weakest level in months, losing 1.46% to trade at $6,735 a tonne by 0648 GMT. Earlier they had fallen falling to $6,722.50, the lowest since June.

So far this year copper prices have tumbled more than 8%.

Escondida’s Sindicato No. 1 union carried out a similar 24-hour stoppage over pay and conditions last year. That dispute was quickly settled, but during a two-week strike in the summer of 2011 output of more than 40,000 tonnes of copper was lost, forcing operator BHP to declare force majeure.

News of the strike comes not long after BHP said the mine could substantially increase total output next year to 1.27 million tonnes.

The mine which also produces gold and silver as by-products plays a key role in the Chilean economy, accounting for about for 2.5% of the country's gross domestic product. According to Rio Tinto’s website, in 2012 the mine generated 5% of global copper production and around 15% of the South American nation output.

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