School of Thought: Part 2: Raquel Gutierrez Aguilar – Bolivia: People’s Power and State Power, Saturday, 12 September at 10.00am

POSTED ON September 8, 2015 BY admin



Thanks to Richard Pithouse and all who attended for a stunning first session in the padkos “School of Thought”! What a great discussion exploring current meanings and value in Fanon’s liberatory insistence on the ongoing ‘mutation’ of humans – ‘the recovery of the human from a history of waste’ in the phrasing of Achille Mbembe – through the unity of thought and action in struggle.

At the beginning of our current century, the Bolivian city of Cochabamba was the crucible of the one of the most significant moments of militant praxis; of that praxis that marks the unity of radical thought and action in some very serious popular mobilisation. Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar was at the heart of those seminal “Cochabamba Water Wars” and she’s sharing insights and experiences with us at the next installment of the “School of Thought” padkos series. This really is a remarkable opportunity, and we encourage all of our friends and comrades to join us on Saturday morning, 12th September for some coffee at 09.45 and the session at 10:00am.

Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar was born in Mexico and became involved in the struggle of exiled Salvadorans of the FMLN. Later, in the ’80s, she went to Bolivia. There she was one of the founding members of the EGTK (Tupak Katari Guerrilla Army) along with her then compañero and today vice-president Alvaro García Linera. After accompanying the insurgencies of Aymara and Quechua communities, she spent several years in prison during the 1990s. Raquel says: “I was arrested … as a result of my political activism. I was tortured & imprisoned & charged… The case was dropped due to the lack of evidence, and all charges against me were officially dropped”. Later, she joined the group Comuna. She returned to Mexico and wrote her doctoral dissertation about the “Water Wars” of Cochabamba in Bolivia in the early 2000’s, which she also experienced as an activist.

Her astonishing 2014 book, Rhythms of the Pachakuti: Indigenous Uprising and State Power in Bolivia reflects and draws on this experience. There can be no doubt that the Bolivian mobilisation was a powerful instance of Fanon’s idea that “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it”. In Rhythms of the Pachakuti, Gutiérrez Aguilar points out that central to the political project was that it “introduced a different way of ‘making politics’ … that allowed people to ‘make politics in a direct way’ without collapsing under the weight of the state … [that] marked the beginning of a generalized perception of Cochabamba’s men and women as no longer ‘obedient’ and ‘powerless’ compliers to decisions made by others but as capable and responsible people who could intervene in, gain knowledge about, and provide solutions to social problems” (p26).

In a 2013 interview (full interview attached), Aguilar commented: “What is terrible is that in the countries that had strong social mobilizations, the interests of the most powerful financial capital are still fully dominant, and now appear to have also ‘captured’ the state forms that were reconstructed after the shock of the last decade. … [But] from the practices of struggle, societies gradually recovered and reconstructed political capacities in the broadest sense: possibilities to collectively manage that which concerns everyone because it affects us all. … [T]he moments of struggle were also energetic times of the production and reproduction of the common … [i.e.] that which is produced collectively and whose control and decision are not delegated to other political mediations other than those that produce it. The common is a way of naming that ‘non-state public’. The horizon of the common is, above all, a perspective of struggle launched to directly and collectively re-appropriate and recover what has been taken from the hands of communities”.

DO NOT MISS THIS! Get to CLP’s offices on Saturday, 12th September at 10.00.

Please let us know if you are coming – email: or call the office at 033 2644 380.

Interview with Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar