The Difficulty of International Solidarity: from Wallmapu to Rojava

John Severino

Some time has already passed since the web-scandal surrounding Petar Stanchev’s unfortunate article, “Mr. Anarchist, we need to have a chat about colonialism”. All the better. We need cool heads to examine the underlying questions of international solidarity. Through the course of this article, I wish to tackle the problem on the basis of actual experiences of international solidarity, both personal and collective, referring to revolutions past and to relatively successful efforts of international anarchist solidarity with the Mapuche struggle.

Solidarity Cannot Be Based on Moralizing and Manipulation

First, it would help to review why Stanchev’s article, and other texts surrounding it, were so unhelpful. “Mr. Anarchist” is almost exclusively directed at Gilles Dauvé’s Kurdistan?. The text also mentions a criticism of the Rojava Revolution by the Anarchist Federation of London, but without giving any specifics.

The most obvious problem has already been pointed out in most of the responses. Dauvé is not an anarchist. Some supporters of Stanchev have tried to smooth this discrepancy over by relegating it to a question of terminology (Dauvé is an anti-state communist) but I would go further: Dauvé is in fact something of a kneejerk anti-anarchist who uses this and other texts to make sweeping and inaccurate generalizations about anarchists in an apparent bid to discredit them, since he seems to view them as ideological competitors.

Dauvé’s article on Kurdistan does suffer from ideological rigidity, a lack of consideration of real cultural differences, and a markedly armchair perspective; however he raises a number of important questions that Stanchev crassly dismisses as “privileged.” Forgive me if I am mistaken, but I am quite sure that Petar Stanchev is also a white male, and an academic to boot, and how it does rankle when the well-to-do white boys sit around arguing who is more privileged and who is the better ally!

Is it a simple mistake that Stanchev labels Dauvé an anarchist? I think not. He also makes the astounding intellectual effort to reach back more than a decade to a single article published in the long defunct Green Anarchy that denounces the Zapatistas, incidentally the exact same maneuver used by Chris Hedges in his own manipulative tirade against the anarchists.

Stanchev uses the Green Anarchy article, which was widely criticized in anarchist circles and, if I am not mistaken, even in the pages of Green Anarchy, to argue that anarchists have a colonial tendency. I believe that Western struggles everywhere are imbued with a colonial tendency, though the anarchist movement, or at least sectors thereof, have done more than most to challenge colonialism internally and externally. Of course, it is non-Western, anticolonial struggles themselves that are at the forefront, both in terms of ideas and practices, but anarchism is characteristically non-dogmatic and open to learning from such struggles, and anarchists have played an important part in solidarity movements, generally without trying to manipulate these struggles for their own ends as Leftists typically do. There are also a number of anticolonial struggles, from Bolivia to Nigeria to Indonesia, with an explicitly anarchist participation.

Stanchev attempts to create the sensation, on the sole basis of an unpopular article more than ten years old, a statement by a miniscule and politically archaic anarchist “Federation” and another article written by an anti-anarchist, that anarchists are failing in their solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, and that the reason for this failing is internalized colonialism.

On the contrary, I have seen far more anarchists express support for the Rojava revolution than dismissal or rejection, and I also know of anarchists who have traveled there to support and take part, who have organized solidarity protests, and who participate in structures that disseminate information and translations, and raise money for the Kurds struggling in Rojava. It is this widespread solidarity among anarchists, in fact, that Dauvé is writing against.

Given Stanchev’s tone and the manipulative way he marshals facts and fictions, I think it is fair to assert that he is trying to establish a moral duty for anarchists to support the PYD and the Rojava Revolution, and the fundamental feature of a moral duty is that it cannot be questioned. I strongly believe that this prohibition on reflection and critique is fatal to real international solidarity. Solidarity with other struggles will always be a tricky matter. Above all, we need to be able to discuss and debate critically, and freely decide whether or not we feel comfortable taking part. The premium, of course, should be on action rather than a disguised comfort politics justifying inaction, but in the absence of clarity, inaction can be better than blind action.

Two Formats for Colonial Solidarity

Petar Stanchev is absolutely right when he points out that it is a colonial attitude to expect struggles carried out by other people to be anarchist, to correspond to our preconceived visions and theoretical expectations. Even moreso to attempt to censor or pressure other struggles to conform to our perceived needs.

But there is a second format, just as common and pernicious, for colonial pseudo-solidarity, and this is a format that he is unwittingly encouraging. It is the alienated romantization of the struggles of Others, uninformed appreciation from a distance that also involves the projection of one’s own images and expectations on a faraway struggle. Its primary impulse is to nod, smile, and ask to whom one can write out a check.

I have seen the effects of this type of false solidarity firsthand, along the Andes where the Mapuche are struggling to regain their land and their way of life. The Mapuche struggle is also heavily populated by NGOs and political parties, some foreign and some autochthonous, that are one of the most effective mechanisms of continued colonization on hand, forcing all forms of rebellion and protest into channels that regenerate the imposed Western institutions. It is these organizations that have the easiest time fund-raising and doing outreach abroad, where they can present an easy message that conforms to the expectations of charitable Westerners who have not bothered to inform themselves about the inner conflicts and difficulties faced by the Mapuche in struggle.

A Model for Establishing International Solidarity

The model that we used to establish bonds of real solidarity with Mapuche communities in struggle involved making contact with and getting invited by a few Mapuche comrades, visiting their communities and sharing our differences in order to construct a common language and a mutual understanding, and looking for projects where we complemented one another and in which we, the outsiders, could be of some aid. The guiding philosophy was reciprocity, solidarity, mutual recognition of each other’s struggles and selfhood, and—for our part—humility and an attempt to be aware of colonialism. Critical reflection was a vital part of building the relationships we made. After the first trip (so far there have only been two, as it is a slow process, and we also have our own commitments and struggles to engage in), we shared what we learned as widely as possible, so that everyone in our own networks could share in our experiences and relationships.

This process is much slower, perhaps a good sign that it is more valid. But to undertake the risk and commitment that international solidarity entails, in the face of all the difficulties arising from distance, language, and cultural difference, it is crucial to have a basis of trust and familiarity, even if it is not firsthand. If a friend and comrade, or a friend of a friend, can vouch that a faraway struggle for liberation is as it seems and that my efforts of support will be helpful, that is a much more reliable foundation for action than an alienated article I might read on the internet, or the assurances of an anarchist celebrity who takes a nine day official tour of the revolution in question.

Though I don’t doubt their motivations, I think David Graeber and company did a minor disservice to the cause of international solidarity with Rojava by forming a delegation to visit the unfolding revolution. The delegation format is problematic for a number of reasons. It is mediatic, the content of the visit is overshadowed by the personalities of the delegates, and it is absolutely useless in terms of providing reliable information about a given struggle. It is no coincidence that it was the preferred format of the Communist Party in Russia, early in their assault on all their former comrades in the revolution. In order to cement their control over the international anti-capitalist movement, the Bolsheviks invited delegates from all over the world, and on the whole they were able to hoodwink these delegates and broadcast the impression that a true revolution had taken place.

This isn’t ancient history. Communists and other authoritarian leftists have been manipulating international solidarity for their own aims for decades. In the Crossfire, written by dissident communist Ngo Van based on his experiences during the revolution in Vietnam, reveals many of the dirty tricks used by Ho Chi Minh’s party to maintain power and win international support while stamping out dissent.

I seriously doubt that Graeber and company saw the parts of the unfolding conflict that the PYD did not want them to see, or that in the few days they were on the scene, they were uable to get an independent sense of what was going on and form meaningful, long-term relationships with people at the base, or dissidents to the PYD’s view of things.

My own misgivings regarding the Rojava Revolution stemmed from a lack of information. I found it highly worrisome that the available accounts of what was going on in Rojava all hailed an amazing revolution, but mentioned very few actual transformations. It’s all good that there are “communes,” but what do these communes do in practice? How do they function? Were they created by the party or from the ground up? How has life changed and what are the possibilities for someone who is not a member of the PYD?

Obviously the PYD is better than ISIS, but is that the moral logic we want to use to guide solidarity? Throw in to the mix some allegations that the PYD has been disappearing dissidents, and you have reasonable grounds for doubt.

Many of my doubts were assuaged after I attended a thoroughly researched presentation by some anarchist friends who support the struggle in Rojava. They were able to find detailed information about organization and decision-making (beyond just the names of different structures, as listed in other accounts), about private property versus the expropriation and collectivization of land, about the activity of the communes, about the feminist practices and the parallel women’s organizations, about the extent to which the oil industry remains in operation, and so on.

Now I feel more confident about supporting the struggle in Rojava, though I still have many doubts and questions about the relationship of the PYD with the rest of the struggle, and if I participate in fundraising, where that money is going to end up. It would help if more comrades from our side established direct relationships with comrades over there, unmediated by any political parties or academic celebrities. If only Graeber and Biehl had given the money they spent on plane tickets to fund a non-academic comrade who speaks Turkish or Arabic, if not Kurdish, to visit Rojava for a longer period of time.

Always Mistrust Marxist-Leninists

I think it’s necessary to say a few things in defense of my skepticism. International solidarity is often manipulated, as I’ve already mentioned. This isn’t a trivial affair. Time and again, brutal, bloody, authoritarian organizations have ridden waves of popular protest into power, killing anyone who gets in their way. The Khmer Rouge massacred over a million. Castro executed many non-Party members of the labor movement, and jailed queer people. The FLN in Algeria was responsible for numerous atrocities. Allende nationalized Mapuche lands and used the military to wipe out the radical wing of the very anti-capitalist movement that put him in power (in fact, he put Pinochet in charge of the operation). The Sandinistas carried out genocidal actions against the Miskito. The list goes on.

This phenomenon doesn’t invalidate the grievances and aspirations that lie at the root of these struggles, nor the heterogeneous participation of common people in such struggles. It doesn’t justify the flippant dismissal made by many an armchair anarchist that “such-and-such revolution is bullshit”. But it does justify caution. If, for lack of better options, all we can do is support the authoritarian organization that has come to control a revolution, it is better to do nothing, because support in this case only empowers those who are suffocating the struggle for their own gain.

I insist that it is not dogmatism to systematically mistrust Marxist-Leninists and other authoritarian leftists. It is commonly accepted that fascists can be ostracized and spurned, but Marxist-Leninists are responsible for even more murders and a great deal more manipulation and conniving, and from the very heart of our movements for liberation, no less.

In the ’80s and ’90s, the PKK (the Kurdish liberation organization, based in Turkish Kurdistan, that is in many ways the parent of the PYD in Syrian Kurdistan) mutilated and assassinated thousands of opponents. We’re not talking about figures in the Turkish government and military, but non-aligned members of the Kurdish liberation movement and even members of the PKK itself who were purged in Party congresses.

It’s possible that the PYD has put this dirty, authoritarian mode of struggle behind it, but we would be unforgiveably remiss if we did not make an effort to be sure before supporting them. And, in spite of the moralizing of the likes of Stanchev, we should respect the choices of anyone who decides not to support an organization with such a pedigree, or to never support any political party in any circumstances.

I myself am opposed to political parties on principle, and I am wary of vague assurances that a political party in the Kurdish cultural context is different from one in the Western context. However, I strongly advocate building alliances with non-anarchists.

Elsewhere I have written about the anarchist movement in Chile. The comrades there are famous internationally. Does anyone count it as a mark against them that basically all the anarchists in Chile over a certain age used to be Marxist-Leninists? People change, and struggles evolve collectively. Certainly in Europe and North America there is no shortage of skeletons in the closet and oppressive ideologies that we are still trying to leave behind. I imagine that in Kurdistan it is no different.

Beyond Third World Essentialism

So, then, who do we support? If we accept the ineluctable reality that there will be differences within the Kurdish movement, there will be authoritarian and anti-authoritarian elements of various stripes, how can we avoid tokenizing? I think it starts by accepting that there is no objective answer to the question “who is the real Kurd?” We have to leave essentialism behind and acknowledge that no matter what we do, we are always projecting our own desires. If we are honest about it, we can reject the false neutralism, the cynical selflessness of “ally politics,” and recognize that we have to make choices about who we want to support, who we want to fight alongside, and these choices will arise from our own subjectivity, our own need to struggle, our own vision of freedom.

For those raised in the West, there is no safe path free of colonial attitudes. It is not so simple as “following the leadership of oppressed people,” in fact this formulation is a manipulation, because not all oppressed people are going in the same direction. Before we can start following, we first choose who we want to follow, and once again projection and colonial attitudes come into the equation.

Solidarity can only exist between individuals or groups in struggle. Someone who is a mere follower cannot build solidarity, and anyone who actively claims to be a mere follower, a pure ally, is probably a manipulator.

The only way forward is to express our own histories and viewpoints, embrace our own struggles, search for comrades we are compatible with, listen to them and accept their difference, be humble and open to change, constantly reflect on how colonialism has affected us, and accept that mistakes are inevitable.

The romanticism and simplicity with which the Kurdish struggle is sometimes presented constitutes an obstacle to real solidarity. Is it important to understand how their particular history and culture shapes the Kurdish struggle, and to admit that our reality is different from theirs? Absolutely. Perhaps constructs like “the proletariat” that Dauvé rigidly clings to do not apply there. I know that many Mapuche people in struggle who are far more anticapitalist than Dauvé bristle when anyone tries to include them in the proletariat.

But this open-mindedness is a far cry from the Third World essentialism often at play. The Kurds live in a different reality from the one that a U.S. citizen, for example, lives in, but I seriously doubt theirs is a homogenous reality any more than ours is, or that their world is completely non-intersecting with our own. Any people that has been colonized, that has embraced Marxist-Leninism (or liberalism, or democratic confederalism, or what-have-you), and that establishes political parties is at least in part westernized. It’s not up to me to say to what extent—I have no clue, and I don’t doubt that they have much better prospects for halting and reversing their Westernization, their colonization, than my own society does, since we are completely westernized and they are not. But I am willing to risk making such a controversial remark because I strongly believe that if someone shuts down a critical discussion about the Kurdish struggle with a broad claim that, for example, “political parties are not authoritarian in Kurdistan because it’s a different context,” they are not being entirely honest.

Solidarity is a Relationship

Without a doubt there are local dissidents critical of the PYD, Kurdish anti-authoritarians who for the most part probably do not call themselves anarchists. How do we get in touch with them? It would mean a great deal to know whether they decide to participate in organizing efforts with the PYD or if they opt for an independent line of action. Once we have a relationship of trust, we can decide to accept and to follow another’s strategic decisions in a situation that we cannot fully understand, and we can also let them challenge us and shape our own evolving ideas on revolution.

That personal relationship is at the root of all the good experiences with international solidarity I have had. An emphasis on real relationships allowed a group of us Westerners to be invited into several Mapuche communities and to support their struggle, while we grew immensely in the process, demonstrating the reciprocity of the relationship. It also allowed friends of ours who did not personally go on the trip, or Mapuche friends of the comrades we met, who never personally got to know us, to benefit from our link of solidarity and the resources and experiences we each bring to the table.

Also, numerous times when revolts broke out in other parts of the world I had never visited, it was unspeakably useful and empowering to have friends, or friends of friends, from those areas or who had been there and made deep and lasting relationships. During the rebellions in Oaxaca, Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt, large circles of anarchists were able to get accurate, firsthand information about what was actually going on, unmediated by the press or by NGOs, via informal networks based on friendship. Such contacts helped them position themselves strategically, know what forms of aid were actually needed on the ground, and whether the different elements in revolt were cooperating in a spirit of solidarity or whether some sectors were trying to dominate the movement. Most importantly, the nature of these contacts provided an emotional connection that motivated more committed and quality forms of support, and that subverted the borders and barriers that are always put up around revolts.

The alienated form of solidarity based on celebrity delegations and web articles cannot hope to provide a similar quality of action.

Another advantage that this model of international solidarity displays is the important role it gives to immigrants. Marginalized and oppressed by capitalist society, immigrants can play a vital role in our struggles for freedom thanks to the international connections they embody. The very act of crossing a border can be subversive, perforating the divisions the powerful fabricate to contain us, and bringing people in struggle across the world closer together. This dynamic is especially relevant to anarchists, because we constitute perhaps the only transversal movement that in various countries or at various times throughout our history has been comprised largely and even primarily of immigrants.

Solidarity based on personal relationships might seem impractical, but the fact that it takes longer to develop demonstrates how it is in fact a more realistic practice, given the immense tasks before us. And personal relationships are not as limiting as they may seem, given that we move within circles that are expansive and solidaristic. If I extend my trust to friends of friends, I can enjoy the experiences, connections, and resources of thousands of people spread across dozens of countries.

Kurdistan, for the moment, remains outside of my ken, but in most of the recent rebellions in the Americas, Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of Asia, many anarchists using this model of solidarity have been able to establish personal links with those who had risen up.

The fact that many parts of the globe remain beyond our personal horizons only demonstrates the obvious: that much remains to be done in order to make our struggles truly global. May we use methods befitting a struggle for freedom based in healthy, horizontal relationships, and not the very methods of alienation used by the authorities.

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Temuco 12 Acquitted! Solidarity Continues

The “Temuco 12”, twelve Mapuche warriors from different communities in struggle facing decades of imprisonment under the antiterrorism law, have been acquitted of all charges. Anarchists and others supported those facing charges or pressured Chilean consulates to drop the charges.

The need for solidarity continues. The twelve have already faced past legal harassment, including accusations under the antiterrorism law. In all probability, the Chilean state will try again to lock them up.TemucoTrialAcquittal

There are still plenty of reasons to continue the solidarity campaign called for previously. Anyone contacting the Chilean embassy should note that the “Temuco Bypass” case has ended, but the use of antiterrorism laws against the Mapuche struggle continues. The Temuco Bombs Case against three anarchists also continues.

Article from

Temucuicui Autónoma: Acquittal of Mapuche in Temuco demonstrates political frame-up of the Chilean State
Aug 22, 2013

Public Statement regarding acquittal in the BYPASS TEMUCO case

The autonomous Mapuche community of Temucuicui, regarding the acquittal of our brothers in the BYPASS case, we issue to the local, national and international public the following:

1.- Yesterday, Wednesday the 21st, in the Oral Criminal Court of the city of Temuco, came the acquittal of all of our mapuche brothers accused of attacks against a bus of the company Tur Bus and three trucks at the Temuco bypass, which occurred in july 2009, and in which José Queipul Huaiquil was charged, a member of our community.
2.- The court fully and conclusively gave their verdict that: “We are fully convinced that the incriminating evidence presented by the prosecutor of the Public Ministry and the government represented by the Ministry of the Interior is WEAK, POOR and VAGUE, to establish the crimes described in the accusations” inasmuch as they acquitted all our mapuche brothers.
3.- We should note that the evidence presented by the prosecution, was linked to proving the existence of the crime and the mapuche brothers’ participation in the act, for this the prosecutor presented the statement of a protected witness named RAUL CASTRO ANTIPAN, someone with a long criminal record, branded as a common criminal. This one piece of evidence, the Public Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior used to apply the Antiterrorist Law and force our brothers to spend a year in incarceration and three under injunctions that impeded freedom of movement.
4.- For the people of the Mapuche Nation and especially for our community, this new acquittal completely demonstrates our brothers’ innocence, it also clearly establishes the historical discrimination and racism of the Chilean state, that through its repressive legal apparatus headed by the antimapuche prosecutor, prepares and orchestrates montajes against our people, with the objective of criminalizing and halting the just territorial and political claims of the nation of Mapuche people and especially the communities mobilized in resistance.
5.- We call on the public in general to get informed and understand that all the accusations against the leaders and traditional authorities of the mapuche have a political objective manipulated by the Government. With the acquittal of our brothers, the justice and public statements of the Government lose validity, they are guilty of keeping the public confused, in that they do not want to recognize that they maintain a historic debt to the mapuche people.
Autonomous Community of Temucuicui

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Mapuche youth assassinated, call for solidarity


A new death has plunged the Mapuche nation into mourning this Tuesday, 6 August, with the confirmation of the murder of Rodrigo Elicer Melinao Licán, member of the community Rayen Mapu of Lof Lolokos in Ercilla, who was persecuted by the Chilean state and business interests in Wallmapu.rodrigomelinao

The body of the young community member was found by acquaintances this Tuesday morning, in parcel number 4 of Chiwaiwe sector, territory in conflict with the big logging companies. Amidst their grief, the family noticed that Rodrigo’s body was scored with bullet wounds, so they prohibited the presence of any outsider, above all police, who could tamper with the evidence.

The mistrust is obvious. This is an area besieged by the Special Forces, Gope [a militarized Chilean police unit], and intelligence units of the Carabineros, PDI, and government [respectively, another police force, the Investigative Police, and the elected government currently in power] that are working to protect the businesses occupying Mapuche lands. Lands in the hands of invaders which have been claimed by the communities of the area for decades and that today are once again watered with the blood of fighters, just as happened earlier with Alex Lemún [another Mapuche weichafe, or warrior, killed by police].

Rodrigo was condemned to 5 years in prison–together with Cristian Levinao–last July 24th for “arson and damages” against a logging company in 2011, without any more evidence that “faceless” witnesses who named him as the author of those actions of resistance. The sentence had been stayed due to an appeal presented by the defense.


Mininco, Arauco and Volterra; the big landowners and their allies in the regional government of La Araucanía must be celebrating in silence, while Congress pushes forward the law for Forestry Incentives that will fill their pockets; while the militarized police forces and their superiors demonstrate their capacity to defend their interests: the capacity to kill liberally and with full impunity.

From :

Rodrigo Melinao was not a passive victim, and the Mapuche are not a downtrodden people in need of help. Melinao was a weichafe, a warrior engaged in a longstanding struggle for the recovery of stolen lands and the ejection of the State and capitalism from Mapuche communities. News of his death should matter to anarchists because he dedicated his life to struggling against many of the same forces that are our enemies as well, albeit from a different tradition.

The Mapuche in struggle have already reached out to begin building relationships of solidarity with anarchists in Chile, Argentina, and elsewhere. We can let them know across the distance that Rodrigo’s death also angers us, and that his life also inspires us.

Mapuche comrades have requested international solidarity as 12 longtime participants in the struggle stand trial on antiterrorism charges this August and September. Solidarity demos are being planned in several towns, and there is always time to organize visits to local Chilean consulates. People who do not live near a consulate are calling or emailing Chilean consulates to voice their support for the 12 Mapuche standing trial in Temuco, and against the Chilean state’s usage of the antiterrorism law against the Mapuche struggle.

As unsatisfying as these actions may feel, they do make a difference in heavily politicized trials, such as this one. Many of the 12 have already been locked up and brought to trial under the antiterrorism law; in 2010, they won their freedom through an 80-day hunger strike backed by major Chilean and international support.

The killing of Rodrigo Melinao doubles the need for solidarity. The Chilean state is seeking to stamp out the Mapuche struggle. We should respond however we see fit.

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Solidarity with the Temuco 12!

Solidarity with the Temuco 12!
Solidarity with the anarchists of the Temuco “Bombs Case”

Starting August 1 and lasting at least until September 11, a dozen Mapuche who have been longtime fighters for total independence will be brought to trial, accused under the Chilean state’s antiterrorism laws.

On June 28, 2009, Mapuche community members used fallen trees to block five highways in the area of Temuco. At the Temuco bypass, a Tur-bus (similar to Greyhound) and three trucks trying to cross the blockades were stoned by masked Mapuche warriors, who spraypainted “Return Mapuche lands” on the side of the bus.

Temuco is part of Wallmapu—the Mapuche territories—as recognized in numerous treaties with the Spanish crown and later the Chilean republic. For over 300 years the Mapuche successfully defended themselves from colonization in a series of wars. In the early 1880s, Chile and Argentina successfully invaded Wallmapu, dispossessing the Mapuche and commodifying their lands. The Mapuche resisted, holding on to their language and culture and rebuilding their communities. In recent decades they have been recovering their lands and are fighting to expel the occupying states and put an end to the capitalist regime which treats the land and all its inhabitants as commodities.

The 12 accused hail from various communities across northern Wallmapu, and all are longtime participants in the struggle for Mapuche independence. Many of them were imprisoned in the antiterrorism trial of 2010 that fell apart in the face of strong solidarity and an 80-plus day hungerstrike by the detained.…

Several of them are facing other charges or currently completing their sentences for past trials, but thanks to widespread support and continuing resistance they have so far eluded the extremely long sentences police and prosecutors have been trying to achieve. The Chilean state wants to lock up these twelve and throw away the key. It hopes to break the back of the Mapuche struggle by permanently removing some of the most active and influential members of key communities in resistance.

By going after the same people again and again, prosecutors hope they can finally make the charges stick, despite a lack of physical evidence and an exclusive reliance on anonymous, paid informants.

The Mapuche have loudly proclaimed that their struggle for their lands is not terrorism. Terrorism is what the Chilean state does, harassing, beating, and shooting Mapuche youth and elderly, raiding Mapuche communities, and imprisoning those who speak out. The Mapuche will continue to work to expel the logging companies, mining companies, estate lords, and militarized police who have usurped their lands.

Let’s stand by them. Leading up to the trial and throughout the month of August, we can let the Mapuche know we support them, or show the Chilean state that their heavy handed methods belie their democratic pretenses.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the Temuco bombs case.
After the 2010 “Bombs Case” in Santiago fell apart due to a lack of evidence, resulting in the acquittal of all the anarchists framed with the planting of bombs, the Chilean state has decided to give it another try.

In March, 2013, they raided an anarchist social center in the city of Temuco and planted bomb-making materials. They are charging three anarchists under the antiterrorism law.…

Below are the phone numbers and emails of various Chilean consulates, and a sample message.
But please, be creative and write your own message or plan an act of protest that makes our solidarity clear.

“We demand absolution of the 12 Mapuche being brought to trial in Temuco under the antiterrorist law on August 1. The criminalization of the Mapuche struggle, and the use of the antiterrorist law and anonymous witnesses show the clear continuity between the Pinochet regime and the current government.

We also demand absolution of the three young women arrested in Temuco in March on the basis of planted evidence. The police are clearly frustrated that their “Caso Bombas” in 2010 fell apart due to lack of evidence and sheer implausability. Now they are trying again, this time manufacturing evidence and unscrupulously planting it in a social center. They are only further embarrassing the Chilean government.

We will be paying close attention to these trials and spreading the word. We stand in full support of the accused.”

Washington, DC
Telephone: (202) 530-4104 / (202) 530-4106 / (202) 530-4107
Fax: (202) 530-4145
E mail address:

There are Chilean consulates in New York, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Juan, Boston, Honolulu, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

In London
Phone: 44 (20) 7222 2361
Fax: 44 (20) 7222 0861

Just a few companies that exploit Mapuche lands
International Paper
Iberdrola USA, a subsidiary of the Spanish energy company with major operations in South America
Enel, which owns Endesa


In other news, Mapuche have successfully halted the eviction of the community Marihuen en Coronel, just outside of Concepcion. On the night the police were supposed to arrive, July 10, community members and supporters maintained a large overnight vigil prepared for confrontation. In the next days they held a large, communal cultural event as the Chilean government announced it would reconsider the eviction.

And on the other side of the Andes, on July 16 Mapuche from various communities in the area of Neukén occupied several rigs of the North American oil giant Chevron, which recently won contracts in Argentina for “nonconventional” hydrocarbon exploration. Chevron was recently convicted of contaminating 500,000 hectares of rainforest in Ecuador, home to other indigenous nations.

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Ongoing Repression in Wallmapu

June 2013
John Severino

A continuation of “The Intensification of Independence”.
See the former for a glossary of terms in Spanish and Mapudungun.

Awareness of repression should never be turned into a list of cases and prisoners. Those who struggle must understand repression strategically. If the essence of repression is isolation, this means intentionally formulating our responses to overcome that isolation, both by connecting them to the lines of our ongoing struggle, and analyzing and thwarting the particular mechanisms through which the State seeks to isolate us.blockade

In Wallmapu, that ongoing struggle is a struggle for the land, not as an alienated possession, but as a whole relationship outside of and against capitalism. Mapuche in struggle take over their traditional land, fighting with cops and landlords to do it, and sometimes burning them out; they block highways and sabotage the industries that would exploit their lands; and they farm, graze, and common in those lands, build their houses there, hold their rituals there, raise their children, marry, and bury their dead there, making their relationship with that land a solid fact.

Chilean state repression against the Mapuche demonstrates two distinct modes. One mode operates at a lower intensity, and is less likely to be recognized within the format of the anti-repression list that pretends to confront repression by reacting to its most obvious manifestations. This lower intensity mode manifests in constant surveillance, in raids that brutalize community members, traumatize children, and confiscate tools needed for day to day existence (as nearly every farm tool is a potential weapon). This mode levies psychological exhaustion, producing a negative incentive which the NGOs, development funds, and charity projects that offer a positive incentive away from struggle are always waiting to take advantage of. The Chilean state specifically deploys lower intensity repression to isolate Mapuche communities in struggle, dissuading travel between communities and obstructing those from outside who would visit Mapuche communities. Counterinsurgency in Wallmapu also means protecting and promoting the capitalist development that molds the landscape in the furtherance of social control: monoculture deserts of pine plantations that suck up the water, ruin the soil, and supplant the native plants and animals that make the Mapuche way of life—their medicine, rituals, food culture—possible; megaprojects like dams, airports, and highways that displace communities and accelerate military and economic intervention into the territory.

The higher intensity mode of repression seeks a hostage for every outrage against a democratic solution to the “Mapuche conflict” that the weichafe commit. Sabotage and arson have been normalized at this point that the police are unable to arrest a suspect for every illegal action that is carried out, not without abandoning their pretext of legality. But every time a cop or latifundista is killed, or a major infrastructural project is targeted, the Chilean state selects several influential Mapuche to take the fall.carabineros

The Chilean state highly values its veneer of legality as a tool for achieving the consent of the governed by symbolically distancing itself from the dictatorship that ended in 1990. This is a difficult task as many Chileans remain suspicious of the government and many more are armed than when the military government took over in 1973. Twice a year, Chileans mark the continuity of their suspicions and in the poblaciones they test out their weaponry, often on police. Many Chileans also sympathize with the Mapuche struggle. (An excellent documentary that explains this background is The Chicago Conspiracy).

The Chilean state faces the same limitations as any state that tries to apply criminal law as a tool to repress a popular struggle. They have to break their own laws if the tool is to have any chance of getting the job done. This would not be a problem in a more sedated democracy, but the Chilean state in particular is sensitive about the effectiveness of its democratic image.

Generally, the only way the Chilean state is able to manufacture evidence adequate for convictions that nominally follow legal rituals is through the dubious figure of the anonymous protected witness. Mapuche communities and their capacity for vengeance are strong enough that the age old tool of the snitch could only be applicable to the Mapuche conflict with heavy modifications: defendants are never allowed to know the identity of the paid informants testifying against them, therefore they can make no specific challenges to the informants’ veracity.

The Chilean state is attempting to stretch an already precarious legal foundation to bring the repression against the Mapuche into the realm of anti-terrorism. Three years ago, a disciplined hungerstrike backed by committed and expansive support defeated the government’s previous attempt to prosecute the Mapuche as terrorists. (See these articles about the 2010 hungerstrike and a statement by some of the hungerstrikers).

Now, the government is trying again, pinning its hopes on the Quino case, in which a dozen peñi face up to twenty years in prison. If they succeed at the social level in applying antiterrorism law, they will have achieved a powerful tool in capping the Mapuche struggle, isolating those elements most committed to full independence and forcing the rest on the path back to a democratic solution that does not challenge the integrity of the Chilean state nor the capitalist ideas of alienated land and alienated freedom on a global level.

What we can induce is the following: the Chilean state, predictably enough, wishes to respond to every single major act of Mapuche illegality by taking hostage people it has identified as valuable to the struggle, utilizing the logic of collective punishment. The particulars of its situation require it to protect the democratic pretext for repression. Therefore, the success or failure of Chilean state repression against the Mapuche is a function of the extent to which that repression can be justified to Chilean society on democratic grounds, grounds on which the ruling class and the ruled can be said to have a unity of interests, because it is only within such a narrative that the argument of public order and safety makes sense.

Adios, Luchsinger

Adios, Luchsinger

Domestically, the segment of the Chilean population which the state fears has already demonstrated it will sympathize with the Mapuche struggle even if they burn down logging trucks, construction equipment, warehouses, developments, and mansions (something they frequently do). But in the last year, with the deaths of a couple estate lords, Chilean sympathy has waned. Although incoherence is a universal position under the yoke of capitalism, still we must call out their position as incoherent. These same people all sighed in regret when Pinochet died peacefully in his bed, claimed by old age rather than an act of vengeance. Why, then, do they moan and fret when a Luchsinger, one of the very bedrocks of Pinochet’s power, dies at the hands of those who struggle? If Chileans who are committed in their support of the Mapuche struggle cannot convince their compatriots to resolve this incoherence by shedding their civic qualms, then either the Mapuche struggle has already encountered the outer limit of its available tactics, or the Chilean state will successfully be able to apply antiterrorism law in repressing them.

On the international level, the Chilean state wants to project itself as a stable, developed nation that honors its business contracts and respects the rule of law. The level to which international solidarity can disrupt this projection is added weight to the other side of the scale which prosecutors, governing officials, and businessmen have brought out to see if they can successfully utilize this new tool against the Mapuche.

An additional fact surpasses such calculations: successful international solidarity would also serve as a bridge by which lessons of struggle, and of the nature of capitalism, that are elucidated in the context of the Mapuche struggle can be spread across the world and applied to our own battles.

This is the situation which gives sense to our solidarity, and it is only in this context that we present the following list of major cases of repression. Below: the real people, the specific clashes. Above: the lay of the land and the general motions of the war we are fighting.

The Quino CaseTemucodetained

On October 10, 2009, a group of Mapuche blockaded the highway at the Quino toll station. On the sole evidence of a highly paid confidential informant, the Chilean state arrested 10 peñi, accusing them under the antiterrorism law of attempted murder, illegal association, robbery, and arson. The accused are José Queipul Huaiquil, Víctor Queipul Millanao, Camilo Tori Quiñinao, Felipe Huenchullán Cayul, Juan Huenchullán Cayul, José Millanao Millape, Juan Patricio Queipul Millanao, Jorge Marimán Loncomilla, Ernesto Cayupán Meliñán and Luis Marileo Cariqueo. The case faced a series of legal setbacks as judges struck down the use of the antiterrorism law, and later acquitted the defendants for lack of evidence. However, the prosecutor, pressured by the government and local business interests, continues to press new charges. One maneuver was to break off the cases of two of the accused, who are minors. Even after the others were acquitted, the two minors from the communities of Temucuicui and Cacique José Guiñón were brought to trial separately, and still under the antiterrorism law, in May 2013 (with results still pending). There are also indications that others previously accused in the case will be brought back to trial on new charges, again under the antiterrorism law. Many of them have already been imprisoned in the past, and some of them participated in the major hungerstrike of 2010 which ultimately caused the government to withdraw its use of the antiterrorism law and release the accused with “time served.” This case constitutes an attempt to lock up some of the most active and well known participants in the Mapuche struggle, on the accusation that they have formed an illegal network spanning multiple communities. Throughout the investigation period, police have also harassed, interrogated, and in some cases even arrested the children of those accused (though in the latter case charges have always been dropped or resulted in absolution).

Lof Yeupeko-Katrileo and the Vilcún fire

Matias Catrileo

Matias Catrileo

Shortly after midnight on January 4, 2013, the mansion of the major latifundista and usurper of Mapuche lands Werner Luchsinger was set ablaze at Vilcún, near Temuco. The bodies of Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne Mckay, were found inside. Werner was the cousin of fellow businessman and latifundista Jorge Luchsinger. On January 3, 2008, Mapuche weichafe Matias Catrileo was shot in the back and killed by police guarding Jorge Luchsinger’s estate against an action to pressure the latifundista with the longterm goal of recovering stolen lands. Police opened fire on the crowd with automatic weapons. Catrileo was killed while running away.

The machi of Lof Yeupeko-Katrileo, Celestino Córdoba, was arrested and accused of the arson and murder under the antiterrorism law. At the end of May, the Chilean prosecutor filed a request for life imprisonment. Supporters have organized many marches and religious ceremonies to aid Córdoba, whose health has deteriorated rapidly since his imprisonment. According to the Mapuche, the machis do not often fare well in prison when their connection with the land is broken. When the Mapuche culture was more heavily repressed, the machis, or those who would have become machis, were often locked up in mental institutions. Córdoba is also accused of the December 2012 arson of another latifundistas home, for which the prosecutor is seeking an additional 36 years of imprisonment.

The leftist Mapuche organization CAM publicly denounced the arson. They attributed what they saw as an irresponsible act to the Temuco prisoners who split with them during the 2010 hungerstrike. Thanks to CAM’s politicking and their attempt to avert the blame, a weichafe had to go into clandestinity.

Celestino Cordoba

Celestino Cordoba

Lof Yeupeko-Katrileo, renamed in remembrance of Matias Catrileo, is leading the struggle in the county of Vilcún for the recovery of stolen lands. The Luchsingers are the primary usurpers of Mapuche land in the county.

Wente Winkul Mapu

Wente Winkul Mapu, another highly active community on recovered land near Ercilla, was the site of a violent police raid in April 2012. Such raids are extremely common against Mapuche communities in struggle, resulting in the terrorizing of residents, the traumatization of children, brutality against the elderly, destruction of houses, and the stealing of tools and money. However, in April 2012, things turned out a little differently. One cop ended up dead. Apparently, the highly militarized, intensively trained, armed-to-the-teeth GOPE opened fire on themselves, killing one. Of course, the Chilean police are not about to let their stupidity and ineptitude go unpunished. They are claiming that someone inside one of the houses fired the shot, though they do not explain how the shooter got away from the surrounded village.

At the end of April 2013, police arrested the werken of Wente Winkul Mapu, Daniel Melinao, and accused him of complicity in the cop’s murder. Melinao is a highly active, longtime participant in the Mapuche struggle. It is not a coincidence that police arrested him at the bus station in Collipulli as he was on his way to Concepción to participate in a panel discussion about repression against Mapuche communities.

At a court appearance shortly after Melinao’s arrest, police arrested the longko of the nearby community of Temucuicui, Victor Queipul, accusing him of disorder, a charge that could bring a couple years of imprisonment. The longko had come to the appearance in solidarity with Melinao. Melinao was denied provisional release and sent to prison to await trial. The prosecutor revealed that they are searching for Erik Montoya, also of Wente Winkul Mapu. Two anonymous paid witnesses claim to have seen Montoya open fire on the cop during the raid. Montoya is in clandestinity.

Daniel Melinao

Daniel Melinao

In June 2012, police raided Wente Winkul Mapu searching for Montoya, entering houses without a warrant and smashing everything. When the weichafe of the community forced the cops out, they opened fire with tear gas and bullets. They shot one young weichafe, Gabriel Valenzuela Montoya, in the back. Six others were wounded, including Gabriel’s grandfather and three minors. Gabriel evaded arrest for the confrontation by hiding until police left. He later denounced the police. Perhaps in retaliation, in November

Leonardo Quijon

Leonardo Quijon

of the same year he was arrested and accused of a robbery-murder along with Luis Marileo of the community José Guiñón and Leonardo Quijón of the community Chequenco. Gabriel, who is being held in a juvenile detention center at Chol Chol, is currently on hungerstrike to protest the frame-up, which he and supporters say is intended to delegitimize the Mapuche struggle. Quijón carried out a hungerstrike in the prison at Angol shortly after his arrest. Marileo is also one of the accused in the Quino case.


Gabriel Montoya

The people of Wente Winkul Mapu and supporters have organized large protest marches to the courthouse to support Melinao, and in late May they began communally cultivating a tract of newly recovered land in protest of the use of the antiterrorism law and as a sign that they would continue their struggle.

Millaray Huichalaf

Millaray Huichalaf


Communities along the river Pilmaikén, in the far south close to Osorno, are fighting against the planned installation of a hydroelectric dam that would flood the valley and destroy much land and many villages, as well as the sacred ground of Ngen Mapu Kintuante. The Williche (Mapuche from the far south) have proclaimed their right and responsibility of self-defense and the defense of their territory against any further incursions into the Pilmaikén watershed by the Chilean government, Conadi (the governmental institution for the development of indigenous peoples in Chile), and the company Pilmaiquen, S.A. The ayllu rewe of Ngen Mapu Kintuante currently has four people facing charges for actions against the dams, including the machi Millaray Huichalaf.Pilmaiken


On May 19, 2013, the peñi Orlando Benjamín Cayul Colihuinca was remanded to preventive detention pending trial for the arson of construction equipment. Cayul is a member of the community Temucuicui Autonoma. The longko Victor Queipul and werken Jose Queipul, as well as several others of the same community, are also facing charges under different accusations. And on May 23, police raided the community, evicting and burning down several houses that had been constructed on land newly recovered from a latifundista.

Freire Airport

Mapuche from several communities in the area of Freire, south of Temuco, are fighting against the construction of a new airport. In 2012, Chilean justice convicted three people involved in the resistance: the werken of the community Mawizache, for illegal possession of a firearm; another member of the same community and the werken of the community Trapilhue, both for public disorder. In March 2013, the communities of Mawizache, Trapilhue, and Wilkilko had to release a public statement, refuting an announcement by AyunMapu, a leftist Mapuche organization based in Santiago that a deal had been made to go ahead with the airport. The three communities asserted themselves as autonomous, contradicting the organization’s claim that they were members. They emphasized that they had participated in a handful of protests alongside but not under the authority of AyunMapu.

In raids against communities in the area on April 30, police arrested three peñi, Jorge Painevilo Loncomil, Miguel Painevilo Licanán y Segundo Braulio Neculmán, and accused them of attempted murder, arson, and illegal possession of firearms. Two weeks later they were released pending further investigation. Their release was secured after a protest of several hundred outside the Temuco prison, and other mobilizations by communities hit with brutal raids in recent months.

blockade2On March 9, a large group of Mapuche blocked a major highway in the region with tree trunks and burning tires to protest the airport. The same week, a group of thirty temporarily seized the airport construction site.

Lof Newen Mapu de Chequenco

In February 2013, Juan Millacheo, longko of Lof Newen Mapu of Chequenco, was arrested by Argentinian police in Nequén, Puelmapu, by Argentinian police, and handed over to their Chilean counterparts. Millacheo had been living in clandestinity for 9 years after being condemned in 2004 to ten years imprisonment for arson under the antiterrorist law. After three weeks, the Chilean courts accepted the defense’s motion to have the sentence commuted to one year of conditional liberty with monthly sign-ins.


Puelmapu, the “Eastern Lands,” are the part of Wallmapu east of the Andes, occupied by the Argentinian state since the 1880s. Although repression and colonization after the invasion were more brutal in Puelmapu, the Argentinian state has not succeeded in stamping out the Mapuche struggle.

In July, 2011, a group of half a dozen armed men, associates of a local latifundista, attacked the community of Lof Loncon in the Rio Negro province, opening fire on community members. They then proceeded to steal the community’s cattle, as police intervened to impede community members trying to stop the theft. In February of 2012 in the province of Nequén, nine families from the community Quintriqueo recovered a parcel of land that had been usurped by area landlords.

The struggle continues

In April 2013, Mapuche saboteurs damaged a railroad line, causing the derailing of a logging company train with over 40 cars full of cellulose and leading to the extensive destruction of the line. The next month, masked weichafe blocked several highways with burning tires in and around Temuco. Their communiqué read: “All political prisoners on the street with no conditions! Down with the 28M frame-up! Expel the pigs from the Mapuche communities!”TemucoCorte

[The 28M frame-up is the new “Bombs Case of Temuco,” when several anarchists in Temuco were arrested on March 28, as police planted bomb-making material in the social center where they were arrested]TemucoCorte2

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The Intensification of Independence in Wallmapu

The Intensification of Independence in Wallmapu
Critical Reflections on a Solidarity Trip to Generate Electricity in one Mapuche Community in Struggle

John Severino


In the last decade, an increasing number of Mapuche communities have carried out the “productive recovery” of their lands. Using direct action to take back their traditional territory from whomever has usurped it—usually logging companies or latifundistas—they take this land out of the capitalist market and put it to a traditional use for local needs, either through farming, grazing, or forest commoning. While this line of struggle has been hugely successful, inspiring other communities to begin forcefully taking back their own lands, those that have ejected the usurpers and asserted their claims to the land have often faced new problems.

After a community successfully reclaims its lands, repression usually decreases and quality of living improves, leading to a different atmosphere in which the struggle is less conflictive. In this new, more comfortable atmosphere of struggle, certain recuperative ideas can sneak in. One of these is the temptation to put newly acquired lands to economically productive use, out of a desire to achieve a higher standard of living along Western lines.

Closely related to the infiltration of a capitalist worldview, principally seen in the desirability of jobs and money, is the influx of evangelical Christianity. Evangelical churches are recruiting aggressively in South America, and their presence is always accompanied by a decrease is solidarity, an extension of the capitalist worldview, and a greater vulnerability to resource extraction and other development projects. Specifically in Wallmapu, evangelicals often work as snitches and they aggressively demonize the Mapuche culture. Communities in which the Christians have not yet taken root have a clear and effective solution—burn down the churches—but communities with an already significant Christian presence have lost their togetherness after the more conflictive moments of struggle passed and Christians could begin pushing for a successful reintegration into winka society or simply ignoring the earthly reality of social conflict.malleco

Another major problem stems from the lack of access to electricity and water. Most Mapuche communities steal their electricity from existing power lines. But in the depths of the forestry plantations that occupy the greater part of Mapuche lands, there are no power lines to pilfer from. What’s more, the exotic, genetically modified pine and eucalyptus planted in straight rows in a nearly endless monoculture (the World Bank labels these as “forests” in its development statistics) dry up the water table. In other words, many Mapuche communities have successfully kicked out the logging companies or big landlords, only to find that they could not have electricity and water in their newly reclaimed lands. Taking advantage of the vulnerable situation, logging companies and NGOs used charity to discourage resistance, building infrastructure projects to reward non-conflictive communities.

To overcome this obstacle, some Mapuche communities in struggle have begun looking for ways to set up their own water and electricity infrastructure. In the furtherance of this goal, one community invited a handful of gringo anarchists with the necessary skills and resources to help them set up an electricity generation system that could subsequently be recreated in other communities. This article is about that collaborative project.

The Community

We can call the community where the project took place Lof Pañgihue. The people of Lof Pañgihue lost their lands, along with the rest of the Mapuche, in the 1880s during the surprise invasion by Chile and Argentina. As with other lof, many che were killed, and others became refugees, eventually moving to the cities. A few were able to remain in the lof and rebuild, though their herds and the best of their lands had been stolen from them. The rewe, ayllu rewe, and fütal mapu with which the Mapuche had traditionally come together for ceremonies or defensive warfare had disintegrated.

The Chilean government was giving away Mapuche lands, and many gringos came and set up large estates on which the Mapuche had to labor as peons. The struggle in the early years was focused on survival, retaining their language and spirituality, and resisting the landlords. In the days of Allende and Pinochet, the Mapuche linked their struggle with the leftist anticapitalist movement in force at the time, often joining armed struggle groups like MIR and Mapu-Lautaro. Around that time, several thousand people were living in Lof Pañgihue on just about a hundred acres of land. A large amount of land was nationalized by the Allende government as part of a program to eventually give it to poor people (Mapuche and winka) on an individualized commodity basis. The Pinochet government, however, gave this land to the logging companies, and Lof Pañgihue was soon surrounded by pine plantations.

recuperacionproductiva2In the early ’90s, many Mapuche embarked on an autonomous line of struggle, increasingly rejecting the leftist mode of struggle that had utilized the Mapuche as footsoldiers, or the Marxist analysis that insisted on branding them as peasants who had to join the international proletariat in order advance and liberate themselves.

The people of Lof Pañgihue occupied about a thousand acres that had been usurped by various latifundistas, using sabotage, attacks on police guardians, and constant pressure to eventually get the landlords to give up their claims. They also built houses and began farming or grazing on the recovered land. More recently, they began recovering another thousand acres currently usurped by a logging company. They have been cutting down pine for use as firewood and replanting native trees. With the return of the native trees, mountain lions, native birds, and other forms of life have also started to come back, including medicinal plants that the machis gather for traditional cures.

Multiple members of Lof Pañgihue have been imprisoned, and others face an array of minor and serious charges, in retaliation for their struggle. The police maintain a constant level of repression against the community, and they have also destroyed houses, stolen tools, tear gassed babies, shot rubber bullets at the elderly, and beaten, harassed, and arrested their weichafe, werken, and longko.

represion_mapucheIn the face of the repression, a neighboring community gave up on land recovery actions, even though many in the community still did not have any land. In another controversial decision, they also accepted a charity project from the logging company that brought water to the village. But after just a couple years, the pipes broke, and the community has neither the know-how to fix them, nor the money to pay for replacement parts. That enforced dependence is a built-in part of charity. The logging company rewarded the community for giving up its struggle, but it was not so stupid as to hand out a reward that would permit any degree of independence. They did not involve the community in building the infrastructure, nor did they use cheap local parts that could be easily replaced.

The major obstacle faced by Lof Pañgihue is the lack of water. Thanks to all the pine plantations, the middle of the valley where they and the other community are located goes bone dry in the summer. No water for drinking, no water for the animals, no water for the crops. There are year-round streams at the edge of the valley, but no power lines to steal electricity from. They don’t need a lot of electricity, since they are not pursuing a Western model of development, but having radio and telephone is not only a major convenience, but a way that different communities stay in contact and spread the word about repression. And, let’s not romanticize, the occasional washing machine is seen as a big plus.

If they can relocate their homes and gardens to the riparian side of the valley, leaving their current site for grazing, and if they find a way to generate power, then they will have land, electricity, water, their dignity, and a way forward in the struggle, whereas the community that accepted charity and made peace with the State will only have electricity and half the land they need.

The Anarchists

We got the invitation through a Mapuche friend we had worked with on our previous trip to Wallmapu. Having been their guest, and having collaborated on land recovery, translation and diffusion about their struggle, prisoner support, and other projects, we had a personal basis of trust, solidarity, and friendship. Without that, they never would have thought of contacting us when they learned that a nearby community needed to find a way to generate its own electricity.

The next step was finding comrades who were interested in the project and had the needed skills. We prepared for several months making arrangements, getting resources together, and practicing techniques for the fabrication of different generation systems.

We also talked about our expectations and desires for the trip.

A clear priority for everyone involved was a total rejection of charity. We did not see ourselves as privileged people going to help underprivileged others, nor as allies to the Mapuche struggle. The only reason we considered going was because the Mapuche were struggling for their freedom, and we as anarchists were involved in a distinct but interconnected struggle for our own freedom. This was, in a sense, the “community of freedoms” Fredy Perlman writes about.

The purpose of the project was to deepen the relationship of solidarity between different people in struggle. We were being invited because of specific skills some of us had, but we had no illusions about being unique in that regard. Only because the Mapuche had created such a potent, insightful struggle was this project even possible. It is no coincidence that none of us had ever set up an electricity generation system before; never before had doing so held revolutionary implications. We wanted learning on this trip to go both ways, and we knew that it would. Speaking for myself, the conversations and experiences I had on the previous trip to Wallmapu, the worldview and the vision of struggle I encountered, forever altered my own practice as an anarchist.woodgasifier

Because it was impossible to communicate directly with the people in the community until we arrived, when planning the trip we decided we should begin with a conversation about our goals, motivations, and expectations. We would not get distracted by the technical details, as important as they were. We were not going to set up a generation system in a village, we were going to deepen our relationships. The material infrastructure was an anchor that would permit the intensification of anticapitalist relations, and a point of leverage for the liberated social relations to push back against the imposed capitalist social relations.

As such, success for the project could be defined as the following:

1: forming relationships that would enable mutual solidarity

2: working together with peñi and lamuen in a collective process to install one or several models of electricity generation using local materials, with an emphasis on passing on skills, such that the model could be recreated without external aid and set up in other communities in struggle.

In other words, if we effectively set up an electricity generation system in a community and left, and the people there did not know how to make another one on their own, the project would have been a failure for us.mapuche-15

The Project

Solely on a technical level, the project was fairly complicated. The plan was to fabricate one system that would use wood chips to create power, and one or two run-of-river systems that would use pressurized water to turn a drive shaft and generate electricity.

Logistically, it became even more complicated. We needed to get a workshop space, an arc welder, a gas welder, an angle grinder, a drill, a metal lathe, a dozen hand tools, and a hundred other items that would constitute the primary materials. We had to get the materials as cheap as possible, in local stores and junkyards, so we could be sure that the peñi and lamuen could replicate everything after we had left. Then we had to build everything with Mapuche comrades so that they would learn the process. And we had to do all this in a context of constant repression, with new arrests and raids happening every week, some of them directly impacting on the project. The possibility of being arrested, deported, and banned from Chile hung over us throughout the entire project, should the state decide to define what we were doing as a political activity. The Chilean constitution prohibits foreigners from participating in political activities, and the state’s repression against the Mapuche specifically aims to isolate—one community from another, and all of Wallmapu from the outside world. To us, the project was not at all a “political activity,” in fact it went far deeper, and precisely for that reason we had to be extremely careful and low key.

A couple of friends took us out to Lof Pañgihue for the first time. The police seemed to know we were coming and controlled us near the entrance to the community, but that was hardly unexpected, given the level of surveillance they use against the Mapuche struggle.

The initial conversation between us and the longko and several werken and lamuen of the community went as well as we could have hoped. They explained their struggle to us, and the history of their community: the loss of their land with the Chilean invasion, further losses during the Pinochet dictatorship, the manipulations of their Marxist allies, the autonomous path of their struggle, the beginning of forceful land recoveries, the repression, the lack of water, the dependence on state electricity infrastructure.

Then we explained why we were there, that we were anarchists fighting against the State, that we respected the Mapuche struggle and wanted to create stronger connections of solidarity, that we came to help them set up a system for generating electricity but it was absolutely important for us not to create dynamics of charity. We recognized that we would be gaining a great deal from them, and learning things that would be helpful for our own struggle.

They thanked us for coming and asked us what models we were proposing to build. The only models for ecological electricity generation that they had had contact with were wind and solar, which in their region were only ever used by rich landlords.

We explained the two systems and their benefits. They were much better suited to the region, geographically and climatically, then wind or solar. They were more discreet, harder for the police to find and destroy during a raid, and cheaper to replace should they be broken. They would not hurt the land: the wood system only released as much carbon as the trees serving as fuel had taken out of the atmosphere, meaning as long as they weren’t deforesting their land there would be no net pollution. The only other waste product was charcoal which could serve as fertilizer. And the water system only required a small stream running down a slope. The stream would not have to be extensively dammed or diverted, and all the water taken from it would be returned to it. Both systems could be made with materials available in the stores and scrapyards of the nearest city.

We told them we had raised the money for all the costs of installing an electricity generation system, but to expand that system to meet the needs of the whole community, or to set one up in another community, they would have to meet those costs. However both models were designed to be highly economical and durable. The most expensive, inaccessible part was the alternator in the water system and the generator in the wood system, but the cost was not too great for a whole community to assume.

They liked the proposal, and they took us out to the site to make sure the geography and the available water supply were adequate. Then we had lunch together and talked a while about our respective struggles. In the evening we made ready to head back to the city, where other Mapuche comrades were looking for tools and a workshop. The werken from Lof Pañgihue said they would hold an assembly for the whole community to decide on our proposal, but he was sure everyone would be excited about it, as they had been talking about the need for such a project for some time. They would call us soon with confirmation and measurements from the site so we could start getting materials, and then they would arrange to send some people to the city to work alongside us and learn how to build these systems.

The day could hardly have been more fortuitous, but we encountered an early problem that would later create serious difficulties. Although we had been preparing on our end for months, because of limited and insecure communication, preparations in Wallmapu had not been able to move forward. The community had been able to send out its request, but had not been able to get detailed information about the specific proposal in order to start preparing. The logistics on this project were far more complicated than on the project three years ago, requiring local knowledge and very specific skills, and we did not have the direct connections to begin organizing those logistics until we arrived in Wallmapu. But as they say, sometimes you need to do something before you can get the skills and resources you need to be able to do it. This was definitely the case with our project.

But initially, back in the city, things went fast. Other Mapuche comrades who were friends of the friends we made last time helped us find the cheapest shops and the best junkyards. It helped immensely that several of them were welders, mechanics, or other technical workers, so they had all the necessary tools and knew where to get things we never could have found in a month.

Shortly, we got confirmation from the community that they wanted to work with us to realize this project, but they had to delay a bit before they could come to the city. So we waited. Days turned to a week before they told us they would not be able to come. Repression clearly played a role in this, but it also made us worry that the project would not be fully participatory, that it might slip across the line from solidarity to charity.

pacosWe had not wasted the entire week, since we continued getting to know the comrades in the city, sharing meals with them, learning the local histories of struggle, sharing stories about our own battles. But there was no way around the fact that our time there was limited, and with one week less, we were beginning to lose the chance at the nice leisurely pace we had originally envisioned.

Discussing it with everyone involved, we decided to start fabricating the systems with a couple peñi from the city who were already experienced welders or builders. They would then be able to show others how to make the systems.

Still, we had vastly different rhythms. The peñi worked full time, and sometimes on weekends too, and they also had a completely different concept of punctuality. It soon became clear that to get done in time, we would have to do a lot of the fabrication ourselves, and then on our relatively short time together focus on practicing vital techniques and explaining the overall process of fabrication.

It was far from ideal and all the delays and time alone made us entertain serious doubts. Were we giving more importance to this project than our Mapuche comrades? Was the shared participation we were striving for a lie? So we (this being the reduced group of gringo anarchists) talked it out and decided that if the promised participation was not forthcoming, we would leave the two generation systems half-finished and head for home. It was neither an ultimatum nor a surrender, just the recognition that letting solidarity devolve into charity would be the worst possible outcome of the trip. It was far better, from the perspective of anti-State struggle, to leave half-completed systems rather than fully completed systems, because that meant that the generation systems would only ever be more than semi-expensive junk if the people they were intended for learned how to finish making and installing them.

Fortunately, we were able to have a heart-to-heart with a couple of the peñi in the city, both of whom helped set us straight. Having a heart-to-heart conversation about the possible failure of a major project is no easy matter, especially when there are huge cultural differences and the other people involved, while friends of friends, were total strangers until a few weeks earlier. The outcome underscores the importance of good communication and solid relationships based on friendship. The “dead time” we had spent waiting for the chance to get to work, and instead hanging out with new friends and getting to know one another, was more important in the end than the technical work on the systems, as the latter would have failed without the former, and the former—the good relationships—opens a whole world of possibilities and other projects.

The comrades we spoke with clarified for us how little detailed information had gotten through before our arrival, making it impossible to prepare in advance. They told us how enthusiastic many of them were about this project, and how such a project constituted an important and needed step forward in their struggle. They reiterated how they had limited time, and while they were fully committed, could not help out more than a few days a week, which just didn’t mesh with our schedule of coming for a month and working every day. And they clued us in that Mapuche from the countryside operated on a completely different calendar and there was absolutely no way around that. While those who lived in the city might say 8 and arrive at 10, the Mapuche from the countryside would say Monday and arrive on Wednesday.

Being told that it was a question of different rhythms helped us understand the difficulties we had been having and feel good about the time that had gone by, since we had no desire to impose our pace. The local rhythm will always take precedence over whatever expectations of rhythm outsiders may bring with them. In short order we saw ample proof that the Mapuche comrades in no way lacked commitment, and it was in fact still their initiative.

But the fact that we so closely approached defeat, in my mind, was perfect. It forced us to draw a line, to define victory, and we decided it was better to accept failure than to declare a false victory.

Shortly thereafter, a couple peñi from the community arrived, helped us get a few more materials that had so far eluded us, and took us and the equipment back to the lof. We worked feverishly the next few days, as we had pushed back our timeline considerably and our return dates were approaching. But the work in Lof Pañgihue was incredibly inspiring. We woke up every morning while the stars were still out, the lamuen set up a cooking fire, we discussed the day’s work together, and some of us cooked or acquired materials while the rest of us labored together along the river bed, speaking in a mixture of Spanish, English, and Mapudungun, digging, building frames, reworking the turbine, and installing the electronics. When it got dark, we would stop, but the conversations about the project and about our larger struggles would go on over supper and until midnight.

At the end of it all, seeing the pulleys connected to the alternators begin to turn, that unassuming circular motion was one of the most beautiful sights.

Affinity and Difference

When working together with anarchists from another country, you typically find that you speak the same revolutionary idiom and share an overwhelming affinity which is put into sharp relief by certain cultural and historical differences, which often prove useful for self-reflection by the contrast they provide.

Working together with Mapuche who are struggling for full independence, the gulf is even wider. Our histories share few common reference points (though these are of extreme importance), our worldviews are different, and we communicate within distinct idioms of struggle. The strong points of affinity capable of bridging this difference have all the more meaning, and reflect on anarchist ideas about decentralized global struggle.

Neither the Mapuche nor their struggle are homogenous; however in general they have chosen to frame both of these as unified entities. Some Mapuche believe in political parties, in NGOs, or in Marxist dogma about economics. But one aspect of their shared framing of the struggle is a focus on the communities and the land. This is the center of the Mapuche struggle, where communities are regaining their land, and it is precisely where leftists, NGOs, and political parties have the least hold. The former are all given a niche by the institutions of the State, whether the media, the universities, or the development funds, meaning they tend to only have a presence in the cities.

Among the Mapuche in the communities, or those in the nearest cities who focus on aiding the rural struggle rather than leading it, there is a clear tendency to reject the State, capitalism, Christianity, and the entire Western worldview, including the pernicious narrative of progress.

Many peñi and lamuen we met had a crystal clear view of what was going on in Bolivia and how much it represented what they wanted to avoid. The “plurinational state” of the indigenous Evo Morales had recognized various indigenous peoples within Bolivian territory, putting their rights down on paper, and this had changed absolutely nothing. Legal recognition meant nothing as long as they did not have their land. But “having their land” in the Western sense was also meaningless, because it would only imply individualized title to a commodity that had to be put to productive use on the market in order to be maintained.

The Mapuche are the “people of the land.” In their idiom, as with many other indigenous peoples, “having land” is interchangeable with “belonging to land.” It cannot be just any land, divided into parcels. It must be the land with which they have a historical, spiritual, and economic connection. Mapuche land recovery is an assault on authority at the most fundamental level, because it destroys the very meaning of the capitalist idiom, denying the Western construction of the individual, and insisting on the inalienability of person and environment.

This is a more fleshed out, studied view of what anarchists were going for when they first took up the call, “land and freedom.” It is no coincidence that anarchists, open to the possibility of learning from other struggles rather than imposing a unifying dogma, adopted this slogan in part from indigenous people fighting in southern Mexico in the days of Zapata and Magon. Marxists, meanwhile, declared such a posture to be reactionary, believing that agriculture had to be industrialized and taking for granted, therefore, the alienation between person and land.

At a panel discussion about repression in the communities, the Mapuche youth organizing the event hung a banner over the speaker’s table that read: Wallmapu liberado, sin cárcel ni estado. “Wallmapu freed, without prison nor state.” They have living memory of a stateless, decentralized society, and with this memory as a lens, all coercive institutions, from prisons to schools, appear as building blocks of their colonization.represionchileno

Given the importance of these affinities, along with the sincerity and dedication of the Mapuche I have met and the resilience of their struggle, I am inclined to pay attention to the differences. Not because I think we can or should copy the Mapuche struggle, nor out of a romanticized idea that their struggle has no failings. But it is a powerful, inspiring struggle, and the differences between their version of a stateless struggle and our own cannot help but aid us in reflecting on our own strategies.

A couple of the people we got to know in Lof Pañgihue were remarkably upfront with their criticisms, though they made it clear that those criticisms came from a place of respect. They praised Chilean anarchists for their consistent, disinterested solidarity with the Mapuche struggle, and noted that they were piqued when they saw that anarchists were fighting against the State, placing bombs, and going to prison; clearly these were committed enemies of the established order. However, they did not have a clear idea of what the anarchists were fighting for. Those who had spent time in the city had seen anarchist social centers and libraries, but what were the anarchists actually trying to create?

All the major leftist anticapitalist groups in earlier decades had used the Mapuche as footsoldiers and “the Mapuche conflict” as a mere source of discontent. It became clear to many that should the Marxist guerrillas ever win, they would only impose a new Western order on Wallmapu, as had happened to every other indigenous nation when Marxists had taken over. For them, independence specifically meant not being subordinated to a state.

The anarchists had only been around for a short time in Chile, eight years in their estimation. Because it was not clear what the anarchists wanted, they were cautious that they might also be fighting for power. Should they ally with anarchists and win, would the anarchists accept that they did not have any say on what happened in the lands south of the Bío Bío river, or would they also try to impose on the Mapuche territories? Did the anarchists have an answer for the “Mapuche conflict” or would they respect Mapuche autonomy?

They did not understand why solidarity events at the anarchist social centers often turned into parties. What did the parties have to do with the struggles or prisoners they were supporting? Mapuche solidarity events often focus on letting people know why they are struggling, and the rightness of their struggle, or on holding a ceremony that would bring newen to their prisoners.

They also asked why so many anarchists were vegans, not seeing a connection between respecting animals and not eating them. Fortunately, most of the anarchists they had met, in addition to being vegans, held strong criticisms of civilization. I worry that, had their prior experience been with leftist anarchists who believed in the narrative of civilization and progress, they might never have reached out to us. As it was, none of us were vegan, and all of us were critical of civilization, so we got along just fine.

Then there were a couple specific grievances they had, both relating to Chilean anarchists. One was an occasional imposition of rhythms, as when a group of masked anarchists started smashing banks at a Mapuche solidarity demo in Santiago. The Mapuche were not opposed to smashing banks, quite the contrary, but they did object to what seemed like anarchists trying to speed up their struggle.

mapu-luchaThe other grievance related to a video they had seen on TV of a Santiago anarchist transporting a bomb which blew up prematurely. The surveillance video portrayed the anarchist catching on fire, and his comrade running away and leaving him there. The Mapuche would never abandon a comrade like that, they said. They attributed it to inexperience on the anarchists’ part. One question they asked us frequently was how long we had been involved in the struggle and what had made us become anarchists.

A Mapuche friend who was close enough to not have to worry about politeness chided us anarchists for not having newen. This will be an especially difficult difference to explain, especially since the closest analog to newen among North American anarchists is “woo” or “magic,” and the concepts seem completely different in practice. Suffice it to say that a comparison would be misleading. In my experience the Mapuche are very matter-of-fact about newen. Beyond simply rejecting a mechanical, scientific view of the world, as do many anarchists, the Mapuche live out a different worldview that is firmly anchored in the totality of their economic, spiritual, and physiological life, and therefore they do not relate to newen as a performance in an alienated spiritual sphere.

I will point to a few other differences pertaining directly to the Mapuche vision of struggle that I think can be instructive for anarchists.

The Mapuche in struggle are far from pacifist. On the contrary, sabotage, direct action, self-defense, and the attack are assumed as an integral part of their struggle, and the topic of burning things down is a constant source of mirth and laughter, exactly as it is with anarchists (which is surprising, given that humor is often the first thing not to translate). The similarity ends there. Not every Mapuche is expected to be a weichafe, or warrior, and the weichafe are not the central participants in the struggle. The weichafe are not more important than the machis, the werken, or the weupife. On the contrary, the weichafe are at the service of the community, and their activity is in a certain sense meant to complement and be guided by the activity of the rest of the community.

presosmapucheThe Mapuche have a lot of prisoners, and they do an excellent job of supporting those prisoners. But they do not fall into presismo, or a detached focus on their prisoners, an activity that certain anarchist circles present as the most radical. On the contrary, their focus remains on the struggle that resulted in people falling prisoner in the first place. The assertion that a powerful struggle supports its prisoners can be taken in two directions, after all. Supporting prisoners so that the struggle will be stronger, or strengthening the struggle so that the prisoners will be supported.

Connected to the Mapuche success in supporting their prisoners and resisting heavy state repression, at least in my mind, is the long-term view that the Mapuche typically take. One can often hear the phrase, “We have been struggling for over 500 years, and we may have to struggle 500 more.”

This is interesting because the historical referent that frames this view—colonization—should be equally important to people of European descent and to anarchist theory itself. The State swelled exponentially with the early beginning of capitalism. What the Spanish state tried—and failed—to do to the Mapuche had already been done across Europe. The alienated worldview that anarchism has struggled with for its entire history, sometimes discarding it, sometimes reifying it, comes down to the separation of land and freedom which is the essence of colonization and all the political movements against colonization that have won freedom without land and land without freedom.

The same long view that could allow us to make historical sense of this alienation can also give us the patience to weather repression. As urgent as a particular case of repression may feel, we will not answer the broader questions of repression in our lifetimes, but we also do not face them alone: we have gone through all of this before.

A common criticism that anarchists might have of the Mapuche struggle has to do with gender. But this criticism should be put into perspective. As a friend in the project aptly put it, “Our opinion about gender in Mapuche society doesn’t matter.” It would also be wrong to assume that our opinion is entirely external. In fact, it was a criticism shared by several Mapuche comrades, although they tended to frame it in a different way.represion

We were able to talk frankly about gender with several of the lamuen and peñi we were closer with. Many of them said that the machismo of Chilean society had rubbed off on the Mapuche, which was traditionally not a patriarchal society. However, accepting that assertion requires allowing for a distinction between patriarchy and gender binary. In Western history, patriarchy and gender binary are largely inseparable. But are we willing to assert this as a global truth? Mapuche society is built around a traditional division of gender, but this division constitutes two autonomous spheres of activity, rather than a hierarchy. In practice, women are full participants in the Mapuche struggle. Some spaces of this struggle are mixed, others are separate, but none are made invisible or subordinate. The question that we as outsiders are unable to know is, what happens to those Mapuche who do not accept their assigned role?

Gender roles are gradually changing within the Mapuche struggle but, for better or for worse, the rhythm, form, and ends of that change are not necessarily recognizable to a feminist mode of struggle.

What Made This Project Possible

I hope comrades will take it as a matter of high standards and not self-congratulation if I describe this project as a great success that goes far beyond the complacency and repetition of most anarchist projects. It was not a success because those who made it happen are particularly successful anarchists; on the contrary, we probably aren’t. It was a success because we were able to identify our weaknesses and find comrades with the skills necessary to shore up those gaps.

In order to encourage better anarchist projects, I wanted to identify the prerequisites for making it happen. Although the project was a joint affair with Mapuche comrades, I can only talk about our side of things.

The most vital element were relationships of friendship and solidarity. These could only form face to face, sharing moments of struggle and of daily life. This is an indictment of the superficial solidarity of communiques, or the abstract solidarity of NGOs, both of which commit to the idea of a distant struggle, and are therefore incapable of enabling a solidarity intense enough to challenge our practice. The relationships that enabled our project could only form in a healthy way if people on both ends were committed to their own autonomous struggles, but willing to find points of contact and affinity between those struggles. This is an indictment of ally politics. Someone who is only an ally can never offer anything more than charity. Those who believe they are so privileged that they do not have their own reasons for fighting have nothing to offer anyone else. But we also had to recognize the fundamental difference of the Mapuche struggle, staying true to our beliefs but not trying to impose them.territoriorecuperado

Personal relationships created the possibility for a deeper solidarity, but technical skills were necessary for transforming that solidarity into an intensification of the struggle. Liberal arts education is a wasteland that imprisons North American anarchists. Without technical skills, we condemn ourselves to an anarchism of abstraction, incapable of rising above dependence on the structures of dominant society.

No one on this trip had the skills necessary to complete the project. But together, and with a lot of help from the peñi we worked with, we were able to pull it off by the skin of our teeth. This gave us the confidence and the experience to do something like this again. The rural Mapuche had the experience of building their own houses, and a couple of us had learned welding or at least a very basic familiarity with hand tools through squatting or an interest in tinkering. This might have barely been enough to construct one of the simpler water systems. But the more complex of the systems we were working on would have been entirely out of our reach had one of the comrades not had an attribute rare among anarchists these days: years of experience working in a factory. These extensive technical skills, however, would have been inadequate without the aid of those practiced at adapting to chaotic situations and scarce materials. Working in a factory, in the end, is nothing like working in the field. So the technical genius of the anarchist factory worker who participated on the project was completed by the practical genius of the Mapuche comrades who were used to making everything out of nothing. And finally, until all anarchists are polyglots, translation will be a necessary skill for international projects like these. However, translation alone can only enable projects centered on propaganda.

101_1357The skills we are talking about, in other words, go far beyond hobbies. We are talking about years of experience to acquire abilities that most of us lack, in order to overcome very immediate limitations to our struggle.

Finally, this project relied on a strategic projectuality. This means identifying our weaknesses and crafting projects that might overcome them, projecting ourselves into the breaches where our struggle might be overwhelmed in the near future. This is the opposite of doing for the sake of doing, or carrying out a predetermined and repetitive set of activities, which is how many anarchists spend their time.

The Mapuche had identified their lack of land, and they began to recover that land. Only within the situation they had created were we able to work on such a project together and learn things that may be useful in addressing weaknesses we face on our own turf.

The original solidarity trip three years ago was an attempt to overcome an identified weakness in the international relationships of US anarchists. That trip made it possible for Mapuche comrades to suggest the present project to us, allowing our solidarity to advance to a new level. This is an indictment of those anarchists who either travel for mere personal pleasure, or those who use the contacts they cultivate as a form of social capital to hoard.

When the Line between Self-Sufficiency and Sabotage Becomes Fine

Why is it that in a context of total alienation, projects that focus on self-sufficiency or going back to the land almost invariably entail a cessation of hostilities with the State and a recuperation by Capital? The answer is probably equally related to the implications of buying the land or space for one’s autonomy, and a spiritual acceptance of the a priori alienation between person and environment.

An attempted development on Mapuche lands burnt down.

An attempted development on Mapuche lands burnt down.

The Mapuche struggle involves the forceful recovery of land they uncompromisingly claim as theirs, and a way of being—by this I mean a seamlessly interlocked spirituality, economy, and social organization—that declares war on the alienation between person and environment. In this way of being, there is no dividing line between gardening, home-building, natural medicine, setting fire to logging trucks, clashing with cops, sabotaging construction equipment, or blocking highways.

Self-sufficiency signifies a contraction of one’s relationships and an avoidance of the lines of social conflict. One who is self-sufficient need not form relationships with others. But the claiming of space and the inalienability of one’s relationship to that space asserts an expansive web of relationships that we must defend in order to truly be alive.

In my free time in Wallmapu, I learned to harvest and thresh quinoa, to kill and gut a chicken, and to gather certain wild plants. In that particular context, these were not hobbies that might eventually be put to use in a strategy of avoidance. Capitalism has been very deliberate in deskilling us, which is a way of robbing us of the possibility of intimately relating with the world around us. “Relating with the world around us” is not a leisure activity, as the bourgeois imagination would have us believe. It does not mean (only) walking barefoot and spending time with nature, or playing games and having picnics in the park. It also means feeding ourselves, healing ourselves, housing ourselves, and a hundred other activities. Doing things directly always requires relating with other living beings rather than relating with commodities. Feeding ourselves, within an offensive practice that seizes space from the State, is not at all a form of avoidance, but an intensification of our freedom and our war on the State.

The people in Lof Pañgihue were very clear: being able to produce their own electricity would be a powerful form of sabotage against the State. Theirs was not a case of middle class people putting solar panels on their houses, selling the surplus back to the power company, and living with a cleaner conscience. It is a war to recover their territory, to kick out the State, the capitalists, and the Western way of life. If they end their dependence on the State’s infrastructure, not only have they intensified their practice of independence, they have also made that state infrastructure vulnerable to attack.

A logging truck in the Mapuche territories

A logging truck in the Mapuche territories

It is often said that there is no outside to capitalism. This is certainly true as far as capitalist projectuality is concerned, but the statement does not truly define our counter-activity unless we accept alienation as a physical feature of reality. Where land is being retaken as a part of ourselves, building the tools and developing the lost skills that allow us to relate directly to that land and to live as a part of it constitute a practice of independence from and against capitalism.

Our freedom is not merely a blank slate or the lack of imposition by the State. Freedom must be articulated ever more intensively, through the tools, skills, worldview, medicine, historical memory, food culture, and material anchors that constitute the becoming or the embodiment of that freedom.mapuche nation


Bío Bío—a river that runs west from the Andes and empties into the Pacific at the modern day site of Concepción. For hundreds of years, this was the treaty-guaranteed northern boundary of the Mapuche territories.
che—person or people
gringo—European or North American
lamuen—sister or compañera
latifundistas—major landowners, a holdover from the colonial system of production
lof—a Mapuche village community
longko—the closest translation is chief, although not a coercive figure and only one of several vocational authorities at the community level
machi—medicine man, a spiritual leader and healer (can be man or woman)
mapu—land, earth, territory, or space
newen—force or strength, of the kind that flows from nature
peñi—brother or compañero
presismo—prisonerism, a dead-end practice of obsessively or ritualistically supporting prisoners, often in a fetishizing way
rewe—a voluntary aggrupation of lof in a contiguous local territory
Wallmapu—the Mapuche territories, or “all the lands”
werken—literally a messenger, a community authority responsible for working on behalf of the community and maintaining connections with other communities
weupife—a person in a community responsible for maintaining and transmitting the collective historical memory
winka—literally “New Inca,” meaning white person or non-indigenous person

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Activity in Solidarity with Henry in Valparaiso

June 2, 2013

Talk about the TIPNIS case in Bolivia and presentation of a calendar and compilation benefit CD in solidarity with Henry

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