| Towards a Geopolitics of Popular Power | MR Online

Towards a geopolitics of popular power

Originally published: Internationalist 360 by Rafael Bautista S. (December 28, 2020 ) - Posted Jan 12, 2021

The empire forced us to think only and exclusively locally. It is time to think universally.

Lecture given at the event: “The Collapse of the Unlawful State and the Recovery of Democracy”, held in La Paz, on December 14, 2020, in the auditorium of the Vice Presidency of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Let me begin by telling a story: In 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell sent a memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning the business world that forces of the left were threatening its leadership role in American society; he literally warned that “institutions responsible for the indoctrination of youth,” such as universities, churches, colleges, and the media, no longer fulfilled that function.

The “Powell memorandum” served as the basis for the “Trilateral Commission” to commission its think tanks to promote a new concept of democracy, because they concluded that there is too much democracy and that democracy itself is a threat to the “American way of life”. This is the origin of neo-liberal democracy, as a “democratic system”; a new idea of democracy according to the new interests/values (as the former presidential candidate John MacCain said: “our interests are our values and our values are our interests”) that supports the financial sphere, the kind of world that, through globalization, will promote the dollar.

It is this new idea of democracy that entered the academic world and was functionalized in our countries in the so-called period of “democratic recovery” following national security dictatorships. It is a democracy without demos, without people, which is why it is a formalist concept, whose task is merely to preserve the institutions already formatted by the dictatorships (and constitutionally consecrated by neoliberalism). It is that democracy defended by the large media and the entire academy and intelligentsia trained in “institutionalism” (as the only guarantee and continuation). It is the democracy created in the image and likeness of the dollar, and promoted by the world bodies, created in Bretton Woods, in 1944, to impose on the whole world, the cosmogony of the dollar, the true triumphant power of the Second World War.

Why did the academic intelligentsia, even on the left, believe the mythological-ideological narrative (of not only that idea of democracy but also of the gringo idea of “freedom of expression”, of “human rights”, of “respect for minorities”, of “plurality” and “diversity” made in the USA) that the dollar imposes, as something naturalized in political and social life?

Allow me to refer to a letter that reveals how the gringos dedicated themselves to thinking about the best way to dominate us, beginning with our elites, decisively implementing the Monroe doctrine (which dates from 1823 and whose authors are James Monroe and John Quincy Adams), although it has only been explicit State policy since 1870. This letter is addressed to former President Woodrow Wilson by his Secretary of State, whose mission in Mexico was to study the possibilities of real domination over that nation. The letter says:

We must abandon the idea of putting an American citizen in the Mexican presidency, as that would lead again to war. The solution needs more time: we must open the doors of our universities to ambitious young Mexicans and make the effort to educate them in the American way of life, in our values and in respect for the leadership of the United States. Mexico will need competent administrators, and in time, those young people will come to hold important positions and eventually take over the presidency itself. And without the need for the United States to spend a penny or fire a shot, they will do what we want, and they will do it better and more radically than we could have done ourselves. – Richard Lansing, former Secretary of Estate under Woodrow Wilson, 1924.

They started with Mexico, but spread this plan to all the elites in our countries. Once the national elites are formatted according to the worldview of the dollar, then we can begin to talk about how domination can achieve legitimacy even among the dominated themselves. The national ” intelligentsia” itself is constituted as a peripheral-satellite consciousness; that is why it constitutes itself as a faithful administrator of a new and most inhuman process of transference, from the periphery to the center of the world.

If the elites themselves renounce their national identity, then, educated in a literal “voluntary servitude” (as Ettiene de la Boétie suggested), they can transfer net power, as a renunciation of sovereignty, to the center of the world; in this way, the center is anointed with power, both formal and material, which is given to it by the periphery as a result of that voluntary cession of sovereignty which, in the last instance, is our will to live that feeds the life of the center. The periphery not only transfers raw materials (to overcome the economicist vision of the left) but also the will of life, then a dialectic of plus-valuation of the life of the center occurs inversely proportional to a devaluation of the life of the periphery itself. From this the center is nourished as an Empire and therefore can maintain a stable, effective and lasting center-periphery design which, from being geopolitical, ends up being even ontological. This is what we call coloniality (beyond Quijano) in its most radical sense.

Colonial subjectivity then produces its own confinement, because its own consciousness is peripheral-satellite, because it never takes itself as the center of its own decisions. Thus it never even produces, in the terms propagated by the geopolitical center, its own development. That is why it produces despicable elites (even for the owners of the world), who possess no dignity whatsoever, because their own program of life, which translates into politics, is reduced to the most unworthy servility.

In this way, the oligarchy, if it could have constituted itself into an aristocracy, would only become a kakistos-cracy (the power of the infamous and the worst). Then they foist on their own people the very miseries that portray them in their entirety. For this they have “little doctors” who cover up and adorn their hardships, with stories that, only by pedagogical reiteration and cultural emphasis, insistently installs in the social imaginary servile oligarchic lordship as the only political option.

The “learned city” against its own people is the imaginary castle invented by its intellectuals (who are no longer organic for the people but transgenic). These are now the ones who dress up as scientists and do not even realize that they are a media invention: these are the political “analysts”. They do not even know why they fail to grasp anything, since they do not realize that mediocracy itself has devalued political science as a literary genre. They believe that the image invented by the media is reality and, thus, from that confusion, the only thing they can produce is the fiction needed by the media to invent public opinion.

Let me digress. To better understand this ideological rapture of the supposedly “thinking” spheres in our societies, I would like to expose how the think tanks of the Empire operate: Ron Suskind was an editorialist for the Wall Street Journal until 2000 and author of research on White House communication. In a 2014 article, published in the New York Times, he revealed the conversation he had, in 2002, with a junior Bush advisor:

He told me that people like me were part of that group of guys who believe that their analyses are based on reality (the reality-based community): you believe that solutions emerge from your judicious analysis of observable reality. I nodded and muttered something about the principles of the Enlightenment and empiricism. But he interrupted me: The world doesn’t work that way anymore. We are now an empire and when we act, we create our own reality”. This is what security advisor Karl Rove said, and it portrays very well what we might call “peripheral intellectuality”. Because he expressly said: “We are now an Empire and when we act we create our own reality. And while you study that reality, judiciously, as you wish, we act again and create other realities, new ones, which you can study as well, and so things happen. We are the actors of history. And you, all of you, can only study what we do.

That’s why the “little doctors” of the “learned city” (the academics of the university system) didn’t take notice of the coup, which was a dictatorial assault on democracy itself that meant for them a so-called “people’s revolution. They did not see the coup, because they only saw and continue to see what the imperial narrative imposes on them as reality.

Then, submission is no longer only political but also intellectual, and reveals that satellite consciousness of the periphery that does not know how to position itself as a reference but always to the narrative imposed by the center. From this mythological narrative, they interpret themselves as being made in the image and likeness of the master of the north. Therefore, even the traditional left and the “defenders of human rights”, shamefully justified the genocide, because they no longer had eyes to distinguish the people from the fascist hordes, because the veil of the imperial narrative had blinded them to any critical perspective to reveal what was really happening. Under the cover of ideological stories of “democracy”, “freedom of expression” and “human rights”, the Empire imposes the appropriate scenery for its interests in order to provoke planned demolitions of democratic processes, as a prelude to the famous constructive chaos, in the terminology of the hybrid wars that promote the “fourth and fifth generation wars”.

We can say that these supposed critics remained in the 20th century, with the type of reality that the Empire had created for the ideological enjoyment of an already anachronistic left, which had also positioned itself for its own misfortune. They denounced the right wing of MAS so much that they did not realize their own right wing.

And this should be a reason for serious and continuous reflection, since the indigenous peoples here in this room warned in 2006 that “the Latin American left never had an identity”. Ultimately, what sustains the vital and political stakes that I propose to myself depends on the narrative that I adopt; that is, all my options depend on, ultimately, what I believe or who I believe. And if I believe the media, which are the political operators of the imperial narrative, then I am lost.

The coup they promoted and the dictatorship they imposed was not a classic coup. And it has much to do with the subsequent global quarantine that cloaked an undeclared state of siege worldwide; whose purposes were never sanitary but political, as military exercises of strategic deterrence to corner all of humanity. They are resetting the world economic system and for that they need a globalized experience of shock to promote a new post-imperial world order, much more perverse and sinister than we have ever known. That is why the importance of what we are experiencing, and how we overcome it as a people; to teach the world that post-imperial power, the transnational deep state of the national deep state, can calculate everything, but less and never, the hard question of all political equations, the people factor.

That is why we owe it to our people not to have succumbed and restored their own spirit and thus overcome the worst misgovernment we have ever suffered. The importance of Bolivia is decisive in weighing what a detachment of South America from the geo-economy of the dollar would mean. In the current collapse of the imperial center-periphery design, the Atlantic has ceased to be the distributor of trade and the world market and this is turning definitively to the Pacific. Bolivia, as a geostrategic corridor connecting South America to the economy of the 21st century, is considering, for the first time in its history, no longer being just a geographical heart but a regional strategic geopolitical center of the new and inevitable multipolar geopolitical physiognomy of the 21st century. That is why there is interest from our neighbors (with local right-wing complicity), sponsors of the geopolitical coup we suffered, to shut us up and cancel us out again, objectively and subjectively.

That is why we need to rethink everything again, from a necessary democratization of democracy itself to the consolidation of a project of life of our own that generates in us and in the world the overcoming of the modern-liberal-capitalist idea of the State and the civilizing proposal of what would be the new idea of the plurinational communitarian State, in accordance with life. If living well, the “sum qamaña”, is to be a political horizon with universal validity, it can no longer be only discourse but must become State policy. And this also means deepening what we have called the geopolitics of popular power.

But before we get into that, let us consider something we cannot ignore. That is, why did the coup triumph, and why were the people immobilized, disorganized and cornered into orphanhood, after having been the creator of the democratic-cultural revolution?

In January 2018 we had warned that a “color revolution” was in the making in our country. A certain official infallibilism believed itself the owner of political power, without realizing what was happening. We have to know why the right wing triumphed circumstantially so as not to repeat a new fascist uprising. Let us remember. The concept “color revolution” is somewhat novel in politics. It is not precisely a concept that originated in political theory, but rather from the military sphere. It is a strategic component of the “fourth generation wars” and is designed to implode democratic processes that are inconvenient for gringo hegemony. It implodes them from within. For this reason, it relies on much more complex factors that require not only a detailed knowledge of the political reality and of the bloc in power, but also the possibility of interfering in the government’s own management in order to undermine, from within, the legitimacy that sustains it. That is why it is conceptualized as a “revolution”, because it appears and develops through a transfer of legitimacy, which grows inversely proportional to the loss of legitimacy of the government and which is, in the last instance, what ends up anointing the opposition with a “democratic” and even “revolutionary” aura.

It is from within that the conditions are generated to implode political stability, as a condition for the “constructive chaos” that is imposed as the new physiognomy that a country acquires with no other choice than intervention. Now then, how is an implosion provoked from within?

It is not specifically the right wing (as the political arm of the oligarchy and of the gringo hegemony), the manager of an ideal situation for the appearance of a “color revolution”, but rather the very contradictions of the government that corner us into a situation, not only of popular withdrawal but of transference of legitimacy. In other words, if from the beginning of the “process of change”, legitimacy had been constituted as a popular patrimony, when it is appropriated by the right wing it is then that the oligarchic insurrection recovers vitality; because the condition of legitimacy that has been transferred to it is what can now reorganize all the oppositions into a unified body. It can be said that, in this sense, the oligarchic insurrection no longer needs the oligarchy as a visible actor, but that the middle class and even popular sectors become the contingent of social onslaught that causes the destabilization necessary to generate the expected chaos.

This began with the 2010 gasoline strike, was exacerbated by the conflict in the TIPNIS, and ended with the referendum on February 21. The banners of “defense of Mother Earth,” “living well,” “decolonization,” and “indigenous issues” were gradually being ceded by a government that, the further it moved away from the plurinational horizon, the more legitimacy it transferred to the actors who were increasingly empowered. In this way, the government and MAS were gradually losing the spirit that had given them a new legitimacy in the political field.

The novelty and uniqueness of the Bolivian process, which was what gave transcendental meaning to the new plurinational State that was to be constituted, was what was renounced and left to the government administration to redeem another state cycle, within the margins of action that the liberal substance of the colonial State could allow. This meant that the government leadership itself renounced the very meaning of change and, in this way, replaced a stately spirit that would inevitably “normalize” state management, once the plurinational was condemned to become mere declaratory rhetoric.

But, with this, not only did the government alienate itself from the new legitimacy, but it also left the people orphaned by the mystique that had made possible its reconstitution as a historical subject and that inaugurated the possibility of producing a new concept of politics and democracy. For this reason, the opposition began to appropriate the language of the nation in an instrumental way in order to definitively empty the people of a discourse necessary for its reconstitution as a political subject. That is, it is not the cunning of the right wing but the renunciation by the government itself of the plurinational character that should be its new political substance, that promoted the articulation of the right wing in “democratic” opposition (the democratic being now the patrimony of the opposition bloc).

This ideological emptying of the new historical challenge is what served as a breeding ground for the replacement of the lordship, unconsciously promoted by a government directive that, renouncing the plurinational horizon (and reaffirming only the modern-capitalist myths, which translated into the developmentalist challenge), emptied the people themselves of the horizon that was proposed as a historical subject. In this way, the return to “normality” is described in the terms that the right wing itself uses: the promised change never came, but rather, corruption even took over the government of change. Then, the transfer of legitimacy initiates the insurrection because, moreover, once the people are emptied of their own mystique, then they face a conservative side waving their same flags, leaving the people powerless to see themselves now under the stigma of being “anti-democratic” and “dictatorial”.

If the people, in the midst of the constitutional process, until 2010, were the heralds of democratic mysticism (which should have led to a new concept of democracy), they found themselves expropriated from their own creation and confined to a secondary role of mere obedience to a government policy that, to make matters worse, no longer showed any interest in claiming the indigenous horizon that guaranteed their arrival in power.

What remained and gave away an enthusiastic assimilation into traditional political culture -what needed to be transformed- was the pure political calculation of the accumulation of power. This gave the right wing the best arguments to denounce all official initiatives -even the best ones- as “authoritarian”. So, it was not that the opposition would decompose the popular character of the new state, but rather, from within, that that decomposition began to happen. What the opposition has done was to foment destabilization as a reflection of that decomposition. And this was the scenario from which a “color revolution” became possible.

It is called this because it is promoted with all the democratic physiognomy that was usurped from the people; in this way, the sectors opposed to the new Constitution and to the principles of a democratic-cultural revolution, view themselves in the best position to recover the state patrimony. Then a lordly insurrection can be provoked that can mobilize great contingents of the social masses to destroy a democratic process with democratic flags and, in that way, make a popular recomposition impossible.

This means that a “color revolution” must generate its legitimacy from the very loss of legitimacy of the government; the mode of that transfer is what would guarantee the success of the “revolution”. That is why the Pentagon’s think tanks use this concept, taking advantage of and instrumentalizing the popular-democratic character of a revolution in order, through it, to restore its hegemony by recovering a democratic system useful to its interests.

Since the government is no longer capable of containing the moral values that the opposition now wields as its unique patrimony, then we find ourselves in a situation in which there are “good guys” and “bad guys”, and the media are in charge of canonizing this bellicose dichotomy. For this reason, in order to present itself as a “revolution,” it must first imbibe that transferred legitimacy that the government can no longer recover.

That is where the “color revolution” began, transforming the right wing, on the media platform, into the new depository of the legitimacy usurped from the subject of change. What comes out then to the streets, to the violent confrontation, under the rubric of the people, is not a people as a people, because this would mean a historical subject that believes in a new horizon of life; rather, what now constitutes itself as an empowered actor, is a contingent that defends the hegemonic lordly, colonial, racist and liberal order and, for that very reason, can even demand imperial intervention.

It is the very contradictions, within the official bloc, which inclined social expectations to a conservative approach because, in addition, those ravings are accompanied by a gradual abandonment of what generated, in the people, a new horizon of beliefs. The block in power becomes conservative and an elite appears that constitutes itself as a substitute subject for the plurinational subject.

This substitutive subject imposes its way of “understanding the process of change” and establishes a cult of personality as a guarantee of a fidelity that substitutes the project for the leader. But with that cult, it only empties the leader of legitimacy and turns his leadership into a personal adventure.

Therefore, what we call “llunquerío” (or sycophancy), is the tributary obedience that not not only unconstitutes the leader but the people themselves. There is no longer a critical relationship with the leader and, without this, the leader no longer relates to the people as a subject. The leadership assumes an analogous verticality, because the sacredness of politics has been abandoned and, consequently, everything is corrupted. Everything comes down to defending the power achieved. Once the mystique and the spirit -the sacred of politica-, of which the people was the historical subject, is diluted, the only thing left is power and political calculation. The popular revolution becomes bourgeois, then the opposition side can say: “they are like us, equal or worse”.

Once the horizon of “living well,” the mysticism and the plurinational spirit has been abandoned, the only thing that remains is the cult of the leader. Fidelity is no longer to a project but to the permanence of the enthroned figure and this ends up not only reducing the people but the leader himself, since this leads to plunging him into an irremediable solipsism. That is to say, they end up sacrificing him for the sake of sublimation. This generates (what we have called) the syndrome of the encircled king:

The entourage (also called “q’ara circle” or “white circle”) elevates the king to a divine condition because his presence is the only thing that guarantees the existence of the entourage (since without the king they are nothing). The king becomes omnipotent, but he needs the entourage, and the entourage needs a dependent king. That is why he isolates and envelops it; so that everything is done for him and, in that way, the king no longer sees with his eyes but with the eyes of the entourage, he no longer hears but with his ears; his contact with reality is mediated by that presence that envelopes him the more endive he is. But the king is not a god and, when this becomes evident, the king does not serve the retinue any more; then they sacrifice him and even raise him to martyrdom. So they appear unharmed and make of the king a scapegoat that will bear all faults and sins; while the retinue, clean and immaculate, saved by the blood of the immolated one, will be devoted again to look for a new king.

The people found themselves orphans, because being the subject, actor and creator of the “process of change”, they were gradually displaced and excluded by this substitute subject that we have called “the thermidor of the process of change”. Let us learn. The only guarantee of a revolution is the people themselves, and if this is ignored and the people are marginalized from power and their ability to make decisions is expropriated, the only thing that occurs is the empowerment of a right wing that is hungry to recapture political power.

What they proposed was to cut off the ajayu of the people. That is why they were so fierce against Evo, because in politics no one is only one, but what one represents, and Evo represented the Indian converted into a multitude, into a project, into a horizon of life. That’s why fascism wanted to repeat the dismemberment of Tupak Katari, to teach our people a lesson so that they would never dare to be equal to their “masters”.

But our people won. They came together as a people’s power, from all corners and all extremes, to show us what defines “a people as a people”. In the face of any pact or negotiation, it taught us that life cannot be negotiated, especially when it is seriously threatened by the presence of the most spurious of the oligarchic right, which has become an illegitimate government.

In that sense, the only guarantee of democratic recovery has always been the unified popular leadership that began to happen historically and effectively. That is why the right wing (and its media) are so interested in provoking divisions, disagreements and disagreements. Let us learn. The struggle has never been homogeneous but analogical; not everyone is walking at the same rhythm, even in their demands, but everyone, from the very bases, configured the decantation of the self-awareness that we are placing the historic destiny of the nation at risk.

If the dictatorship had triumphed, this would have meant, at least, another half century of postponement in the development of popular power. But the people recovered the lucidity that made them the subject of the constituent process, and their own ancestors (of all our history, absent in the myopia of the historians) have given them back, once again, the “democratic and revolutionary unction”. Thanks to them, the fascist-oligarchic daring to balkanize Bolivia was circumstantially halted; and that is what is contributing to the definitive advance of popular power as an institutional and constituent power.

Elections both open and close possibilities. They are a democratic exercise, but not democracy itself. When they are tailored to a democracy according to the market, that is, to neoliberalism, the vote can be the most deceptive (as is any manipulated poll). For this reason, the true “kratos” of democracy is not an election (which is always contingent) but the constant, continuous and even imaginative exercise of popular power.

An election is not defined as “democratic” by its mere realization but by everything that makes it possible. In this sense, only a true “democratic recovery” could have ensured credible elections and where it was possible to recover, once again, the “democratic unction” of a people who were the object of a fascist usurpation which, not only sought to take away their democratic spirit, and even cut off their own historical capacity.

Now our people is rising historically, in this decisive hour, with an accumulation of centuries and can therefore awaken the oligarchic nightmare of the “Indian made into a crowd”, the “blockade made into a political school”, the “march made into a historical school”. Our history is coming back and announces a new “historical encirclement” to show us where the true ignorance, the anti-nation, the anti-patriotism of a caste that always duped its subordinates with its own colonial miseries, lies.

To “encircle” this caste and its “living space” (the abduction they made of the city) means, in the popular struggle, the abbreviation of its nefarious social transmission. That is why the expansive nature of popular power is its historical irradiation of a transcendental character. All times are present in the Pachakuti, because all times demand historical reparation, from the past denied to the future not fulfilled or the future not reached. All demand redemption when the present proposes to constitute the redemption of all our history. That is why the people rise up in their unification from all their past as historical accumulation. That is why they awaken a wisdom of profound density that allows them to interpret the present in the light of all times.

A geopolitics of people’s power opens us to the challenge of thinking about the conditions of possible irradiation of strategic power. Because power that is not strategic is not power at all. The empire submitted us to think in a solely and exclusively local way. It is time to think in a universal way. The empire always thinks this way. That is why now the peoples must also think universally, in order to dismantle and definitively destroy the power of world domination which, for five centuries, has developed the logic of death, leading us to this civilizational crisis which we are suffering as the possible end of life itself.

It is said in geopolitics, that the true policy is not the national policy but the foreign policy; for that reason, it is the way of strategic insertion, in the global board, what defines the viability of a certain project. It is the world horizon, the maximum horizon of intelligibility of any political project. It is time for the peoples to radiate all their potentialities in the macro context, where the effectiveness of a new global desideratum is defined. In the midst of a civilizational crisis and in a transition without a defined physiognomy, humanity is hungry for alternatives, thirsty for a new hope for life. Our existence, that of our ancestors and that of all humanity depends on it.

I would like to thank the members of the decolonization workshop, my community of argumentation, with whom we also resisted the coup, from our own trenches and, above all, by becoming a community again. Patiently summoning the most sacred antiquity and the most sacred of ancient times, to nourish the faith and hope they wanted to destroy in us. In their name, a gratitude also to all the anonymous heroes that, in the networks, streets, walls, bombardments, we denounced the politics of final solution that wanted to be imposed by fascism and disseminated from Bolivia to the region.

Jawilla! Jawilla”. Nina Achachila, Awicha Inal Mana, PachaMama, PachaTata, thank you, because as a people we have received the anointing of the qamasa and the ch’ama from our Grandfathers and Grandmothers. This struggle was not only ours but also yours. Because we are the only reason for your existence. If the enemy had won, not even our dead would have been saved, because if the people perish, memory and history also perish, our dead and our seeds. But thanks to you we have restored the ajayu of the people Jallalla Boliviamanta!

La Paz, Chuquiago Marka, 14-12-2020

Translation by Internationalist 360°

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the views conveyed in articles republished at MR Online. Our goal is to share a variety of left perspectives that we think our readers will find interesting or useful. —Eds.