Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces . ments in the region, ‘ Zibechi has influenced activists, social movement participants, writers. “Zibechi goes to Bolivia to learn. Like us, he goes with questions, questions that stretch far beyond the borders of Bolivia. How do we change the world and. files Zibechi – Dispersing. Power – Social Movements as Anti-State ( MB) Wed, 28 Nov. GMT. Dispersing power.

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If that sparks your interest, here are some excerpts from the Introduction. What does the Bolivian struggle bring to the people of Latin America who seek to create a new world? These struggles were won without the traditional division between the leaders and the led.

The Bolivian experience also resembles other struggles on the continent in the sense that it was enough for them to draw from that which already exists in order to struggle and win: I think it is necessary to elaborate on this point.

Revolution is the midwife of history. However, Marx was always faithful to this way of looking at social change, in which the revolutionary act of giving birth to a new world is just a short step in a long process of creating that other world. Revolution helps give birth to the new world, but it does not create it. This new world already exists in a certain stage of development and that is why, in order to continue growing, it needs to be delivered by an act of force: They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant.

For Marx, communism exists as a potential within capitalist society. He is very clear about this in the Communist Manifesto when he discusses the transition from feudalism to capitalism and emphasizes how bourgeois society was born in the bowels of the feudal society.

Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces

The same, he anticipates, will happen in the transition from capitalism to communism. The new society is not a place that one arrives; it is not something to be conquered and therefore is not out there; and it is even less something implanted. The image that Marx offers us of revolutionary change is that of a latent power that lies dormant within the world of the oppressed, and grows out like a flower.

He affirmed, beyond any doubt, that the concentration of workers caused by the development of capitalism creates the conditions for their unity, based on self-education, and argued that this unity would erode the basis of bourgeois domination: Notice how he finds within the class not only the weaknesses that oppress them but also the powers that free them. It is one based on the idea that these processes occur naturally —a word Marx used himself—or, by themselves: The internal dynamic of social struggle weaves social relations among the oppressed, as a means of ensuring survival in the first place, both materially and spiritually.


Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces by Raul Zibechi

With time and the decline of the dominant system, a new world grows upon the basis of these relations or, better said, a different world from the hegemonic. This tumultuous reality has brought disastrous consequences: Despite the unimpeachable goodwill of so many revolutionaries, the fact remains that the state is not the appropriate tool for creating emancipatory social relations. This is a contested topic, and a point zubechi which an abundant literature has emerged.

From this perspective, the most revolutionary thing we can do is strive to create new social relationships within our own territories— relationships that are born of the struggle, and are maintained and expanded by it. Critics point out the limits of the social movements. From this point of view, there are only two ways of doing politics: Operating from within the limits implies poser what we cannot do.

Setting limitations is to place in the forefront what movements have been unable to do. This attitude has several variants: As is evident, these are two versions of the same project: In effect, the political scenario is quantity, while potency is quality. But one ddispersing be transmuted into the dospersing.

It is natural that the question about the usefulness of potency arises from the state-centered gaze. Like emancipation, this kind of power is not useful, it cannot transform itself into exchange value on the altar of the political market.

Worse still, it only has use value for those who live it, feel it, practice it. For this reason, the political and social left does not usually extol emancipatory power in the great liturgies that they believe bring about change. And this applies as much to the party congresses as to the social forums. Because what we call potency relates to the experience of human relationships that men and women in movement establish with each other and others—relationships that, individually and collectively, are formed through suffering.

In this sense we can say, yes, potency can change the people, and change each and every one of us. But only to the extent in which we participate in those relationships—not so much in the movements as institutions, but in movement. It is not the ritual demonstrations and marches that change people; but certainly, in some cases, street actions can embody the potencies of change.

Something like what happened on December 19—20, and the memorable days of the Water War and October in Bolivia. But this means eliminating the instrumentalism of the means. There is not the slightest difference between ends and means; as Marcos says, the end is in the means.

During the best experiences one can sense a tension to overcome limits. If this tension—which tends to overflow—is the potency of the movements, it seems clear that the political scenario does not affect it. At that stage, the tension dissolves the internal and external. The tension goes to the limit emancipationbut has no limits or limitations, except that of the tension itself.


So potency is never realized, it is a thing that does not materialize, it is always the unfinished becoming. It tends toward the autonomous, because it only depends on itself. Potency expands as it forms and creates relationships—which are manifestations of emancipatory power. It is the only thing we can call power, and it depends only on itself. To enhance, to strengthen, is therefore to deepen the fabric of relations to avoid freezing them into forms of domination.

dispersnig The Aymara experience is not only linked with the continental struggles but it also adds something substantial—the construction of actual non-state powers. By this, I am referring to powers that are not separated from or splintered off from society.

Powers that do not form a separate elite that makes decisions or leads struggles or resolves internal conflicts. If the state is the monopoly of physical coercion exercised by a body that separate from society a civil and military bureaucracyin the Aymara world this capacity is distributed and dispersed throughout the social body and ultimately subject to assemblies in the countryside and dispeesing city.

The capacity to build non-state power—decentralized and dispersed—links the Aymara process with the Zapatista the Good Government Councilsand both represent a vital contribution to emancipation, despite their differences and particularities.

One could say that the construction of these powers is explicit in Chiapas and implicit in the zibech and other communal forms in the Aymara Altiplano.

This is mostly due to the absence of territorial control among Aymara, although at base similar tensions and aspirations reside. The non-state powers of the Aymara were born in territories in which the community machine operates: These are the mechanisms that have enabled Aymara society and other social sectors in Bolivia to unleash powerful mobilizations that have toppled two presidents and defeated the neoliberal project without creating state structures.

Now is not the time to think of what will happen in the coming years. The best scenario, the most desirable, is that the new government will be the bearer and voice of change without disempowering the social movements and that they, the social movements, will remain the key players. For those of us who struggle for emancipation, the disperwing and critical challenges are not from above but from below.

Let it beat in the heart of the people, a heart woven in popular sociability, without hierarchy or leaders; let it blossom due to the strength of brotherhood; let it be the driving force of any change, the basic fabric and the light of life.

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