Lessons from Colombia’s Insurrection

Raúl Zibechi
Uruguayan sociologist, writer and journalist, editor of the Uruguayan weekly magazine Brecha

A week of general strike with mobilizations that suggest that now the insurrections have cracked the model of domination administered by the far right of Álvaro Uribe. The provisional toll is about 30 deaths due to police repression, 10 sexual violences, 1,400 cases of brutality by officers, with over 200 injured and nearly a thousand arrests. Let's try to reflect on this imposing movement that nourishes hope.

1. The capitalist system is genocidal and criminal, especially at this time of decline and for the countries of Latin America. Its character does not depend on some government administering the model, because it is a structurally genocidal regime as it is based on a mode of accumulation by expropriation and theft that can only work with violence, exclusion and marginalization of majorities.

The brutal repression at the hands of the Mobile Riot Squadron responds to the fact that half of Colombia, but perhaps also half of the continent, is in excess from the point of view of the logic of capital. It must be discarded, or people must be locked up in their neighborhoods / ghettos or even killed if they dare to protest. Summary executions, crimes against young people are not due to errors or deviations by some man in uniform, they are the politics of the State and of the capital.

"If vandalism is assumed to occur, people are supposed to be captured and brought before a judge, but what we have seen is that protesters are directly executed," says Colombian researcher Richard Tamayo Nieto. The system no longer aspires to integrate or tame los de abajo, those from below, so it is ready to eliminate the demonstrators, those it considers terrorists.

To the extent that the surplus population comprises half of our continent, they have no right to protest, which is considered a risk to the State and "social demonstrations must be addressed militarily," Tamayo notes. Since this is a structural reality, the government that will succeed Iván Duque, in the best-case scenario, could only moderate the repression for a while.

2. Once we know the genocidal character of what is above, we must focus on what is below. Most notably, hundreds of thousands of young people defied police repression, the state of emergency and crime for seven days (at least until May 5). This is the main change, in Colombia and in the entire region.

We are facing a generational change that teaches ways of doing things differently from the previous ones. To fight, resist and rebel against the system, you don't need the avant-gardes, which most frequently become obstacles, as they claim to manage from their offices, without even asking questions or listening to the people who took to the streets. The participants in the mobilizations of these days have learned to take care of each other, because they already belonged to affinity groups, artistic and neighborhood, in which they socialized.

In the front row, with the men, are the young women. They promote forms of protest in which confrontation is not sought, they make themselves heard in order to be able to say what they think and collectively defend themselves from uniformed assassins. This generation knows what it is facing, but it has lost its fear and a cry that we hear in all the geographies of our south resounds:  "Yes, you can".

3. There is no way out of this model without powerful mobilisations from below and to the left. It only comes out with a political crisis, because those who benefit from extractive industry, more or less 30 percent of society, will defend their privileges with generalized violence.

What it is about, more than a change of government, is a change in the way of accumulation that destroys societies and the environment. If we do not stop this speculative financial model (mining industry, monocultures, mega-projects and real estate speculation), we will enter a period of barbarism in which we, the two thirds of society, will be subjected to open-air concentration camps, while the remaining third will be watching over us, consuming and voting.

4. We are not moving towards better governments, but towards a period of ungovernability, regardless of who is in charge of the government. Whoever wins the elections will have no rest or respite. We are entering a period of chaos, in which there are no forces capable of imposing an order other than that of cemeteries.

From the global and geopolitical scale to the most remote corner of the planet, disorder has become the norm in everyday life; what the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) calls a "storm", caused by the unstoppable predatory vocation of the capitalist hydra. It is a challenge to our knowledge and forms of action and to the objectives of the anti-systemic movements that aim at seizing power.

5. We, las and los de abajo, must learn to live and coexist with uncertainty, systemic violence and permanent attempts to make us disappear. Collectively caring for one another must be placed at the helm of our driving direction, in self-controlled spaces out of the reach of capital-armed males. This is the form that autonomy takes during systemic chaos.

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