María Galindo: Giving form to a local anarcho-feminism

The logic of the struggle is not the final victory, but permanent and tenacious sabotage.

María Galindo

For the 8th of March, in solidarity with the calls for a feminist strike, an interview with María Galindo, anarchist, feminist, psychologist, from bolivia, by Carolina Meloni González, for the spanish newspaper, el salto diario (25/01/2020).

Indian women, whores and lesbians: María Galindo and feminist disobedience

We spoke with María Galindo, one of the most subversive voices of Bolivian feminism. Founder of the Mujeres Creando collective, a movement that has been building a true rebellious, critical, disobedient and deeply poetic “feminist utopia” for more than 20 years, Galindo has made desire, graffiti, street action and performance true poetry and combative alchemy. We owe Galindo the lucid concept of “de-patriarchalisation”, a powerful tool of analysis and for dismantling the apparatuses patriarchal and colonial power that have historically served to subdue women. “Indians, whores and lesbians, together, revolted and in sisterhood”, such is the unexpected and forbidden political matrix of anti-colonial and anti-systemic feminism that Galindo defends, as a space of struggle for social and personal transformation.

On one of the walls of “La Virgen de los Deseos/The Virgin of Desires”, that magical house of Mujeres Creando in La Paz, there is a graffiti that says: “Thinking is highly feminine.” To place thought, rationality, whose historical ownership has always been masculine and phallocentric, as a feminine act is in itself an act of subversion and disobedience. Isn’t that what you have been doing here during the years since the founding of Mujeres Creando? Give voice and word, appropriate the space of politics, the street, through criticism, desire and feminist resistance?

We are full of contradictions. We are an experimental space where we dare to do everything; we are the ones who have nothing to lose; we are less than we would like to be and more than we suppose we are; we are a group of women to which women join because we are a magnetic force and which women leave because it is simply not easy to belong to Mujeres Creando in Bolivia. We make mistakes as we go, step by step, and in the so many years of struggle and organisation, there are many times that we feel that everything done is like sand in our hands. We are a work team and I am part of that team; we sign what we do as a collective, but also individually, so as not to erase the effort of each one. We combine manual work, intellectual work and creative work as three parts of the same process separated and ranked by capitalism.

We cultivate heterogeneity and conflict as the main ingredients of our daily lives. We are united by our rebellions and we do not constitute an ideological pact, but an ethical pact that is based on concrete practices.

One of the elements that brings us together and gives us meaning is that we not only produce “ideology” – in the broadest sense of the word – but we produce something that we have called “concrete politics”, which are a set of transformative feminist practices, useful and tangible, such as guaranteeing access to a safe and legal abortion. With one hand we handle the emergencies, with the other, we caress the utopias.

In that struggle for the re-signification of female voices, always illegitimate and excluded from political debates, I would like to ask you about the “Women’s Parliament”. Can you tell us what this parliament consists of? What activities does it carry out and what is its purpose?

The Parliament of women combines two aspects: on the one hand, as the main base, it begins from the proposal of Paul B. Preciado of the “Parliament of the bodies” that was born in Documenta 14. His proposal is inspired by the Greece of Alexis Tsipras in the context of the application of structural adjustment and in the face of a democratic apparatus that is unable to offer a way out. As a second ingredient, the tradition of popular movements in Bolivia, which have always had endless debates as a part of their practice, but where the monopoly of the voice has always been held by men. From that combination the Women’s Parliament is born, as an emergency tool. Bolivia is militarised, the country has been subjected to a psychological war instrumentalised by social networks. Terrorist actions were carried out, such as burning the houses of public figures, to install fear, silence and paralysis. The formal Bolivian parliament was unable to meet or even offer a way out, as happened in Greece. In that context, we launched the first Women’s Parliament, which has already been organised in 5 cities in the country and through which we have reached a total of about 3,000 women. These parliaments have been organised by different groups bringing together the dual methodology or politics to which I referred at the beginning.

The Parliament of the women opens up a space of collective lucidity, of horizontal deliberation, of taking the word in the first person out of all logic of representation, and it has managed to materialise hope in the fullest sense of the word. At the same time, it has managed to displace the “official voices”, to get us to listen to anonymous voices belonging to the most varied social contexts. At this moment, in Bolivia, the Women’s Parliament is a living history and a collective lucidity, it is an effective antifascist tool, it is a place for materialisation of a radical democracy, it is a hyper-politicised place outside political parties and all of this is already a great deal. I have no idea what course it is going to take because it has a life of its own.

In an unprecedented way, is the expropriation from the state of the concept of parliament and I like that a lot because the state has historically been expropriating from social movements categories, processes and everything else: today we do it the other way around.

Is this expropriating logic on the part of the state that you point to, is it what you have called “machocracy” or “state council logic” on other occasions?

Statism is buried in the very marrow of Bolivian folk tradition. It is ironic that in a society where the state is colonial and small, that the logic of making demands of the state is taken as the highest political expression of mass movements. In the case of the councils (municipal or regional), it is a form of right-wing populism that moves masses through frustration and resentment, and that serves to build other forms of caudillismo and mould the will of the mass by the will of a small circle of interests. This is how it works in Bolivia, a place where the culture of social mobilisation is very strong. Machocracy is one of the names of the real formal democracy that we live in and it doesn’t matter how many women are a part of it, because that does not change its character of machocracy, although I also very much like the term necrocracy used by Paul B. Preciado.

I think that the left is in a terminal crisis. The idea of absorbing feminist, environmentalist, animalist, indigenous and other struggles, so as to reinvent itself, is a failed idea because they incorporate these struggles without changing the paradigm and without being willing to deepen the debate. They make offers to all of these movements so as to legitimise themselves, from a perspective that has expired with the twentieth century. Today it no longer holds. It is not makeup that is missing, but the need to invent new methods, new organisational paradigms. It is necessary to formulate utopias and unleash political practices where they come together collectively.

As far as I am concerned, the definitions of left and right do not serve me, not because of neutrality, but because of they have expired and because they induce us into a simplistic binary logic. The right has opted for a fascist proposal and is feeding upon a delirious, fanatical Christian discourse that reads the Bible literally and openly proposes a theocracy. In the case of the left, it has become a mere scenario for what is possible, something that differs very little from the right, that has no proposal against neoliberalism and that constantly needs to use the ideas that we in the social movements produce to be able to say something and to negotiate these ideas, casually mutilating them in the event. This pendulum doesn’t interest me, and nor the logic of the lesser evil.

Continuing with your analysis of the patriarchal structure that runs through these state-centric logics, could you explain what you have called “gender technocracy” is and how it functions?

Gender technocracy has been the body composed of professional women, of women belonging to international organisations and NGOs who have introduced into Latin America the grounds for the transformation of the social force of women into a support for the neoliberal model and a buffer for the application of structural adjustment policies. It was born in the 1990s and it survives until today.

As regards the patriarchal and colonial character of the state, it is a chronic, stagnant and foundational evil that goes through different historical moments. Accordingly, it is not a matter of obtaining “rights” or “feminising” with women spaces of the state: it concerns a deeper question.

What we have to overcome is the fixation that the relationship with the state is the only relevant political relationship. It is urgent as feminists to build relationships with society, spaces of autonomy, forms of politics that transcend what the state can understand. It is urgent at the same time to decompose the question of “women”. Intersectionality is a valuable instrument, but I think that we have to reinvent these categories and make them much more complex. A woman does not represent another woman, except biologically; but not under any ideological criteria. And the place of transgenders erodes and challenges the concept. In the Women’s Parliament, trans women contributed to the discourse not with a voice of difference, but with a substantial analysis; many were those who came with their own voice to turn everything upside down. Without them, it is impossible to speak of Women’s Parliament.

Are these processes that you describe the ones that would be captured by your concept of “de-patriarchalisation”? What is this complex process, what feminist hammer has begun to de-structure the distinct apparatuses of power which we considered untouchable? What relationships are there between decolonization processes and de-patriarchalisation?

De-patriarchalisation is a complex concept born in the context of the Bolivian constituent assembly, a scenario in which the hegemonic liberal idea that issues are to be resolved by the rhetorical granting of rights or by their enunciation was reiterated. In response to that, I formulated the thesis of de-patriarchalisation. It has the power to relocate feminisms outside the liberal discourse of rights and on an anti-systemic level. It is not about feminising, but de-patriarchalising. De-patriarchalisation is an alternative to the idea of equality, of inclusion and rights, and is intended to open a new matrix of struggles and proposals, because it questions the structures.

Decolonisation is another major aspect of essential social transformation, from which we question the absence of analysis of colonial relations as patriarchal structures. I therefore maintain that it is not possible to decolonise without de-patriarchalising and vice versa. Connecting de-patriarchalisation with decolonisation has also been the way to intervene in fundamentalist nativism, itself unable even to recognise the political autonomy of women and which criticises, points to and ridicules the indigenous de-identification of many young women who do not wish to be the depositaries of “the tradition”, the “community” and the tyranny of social-cultural control.

You are very critical of a certain kind of feminism. You have even spoken of a “failed feminist revolution” and you defend looking for a term other than “feminism.” You have also questioned the beloved concept of “empowerment.” What do you mean by the failed revolution? What differences would there be between said empowerment and a truly horizontal, antagonistic and de-structuring process of disobedience?

Feminist discourse is being co-opted by states, political parties and business companies. In many cases, this co-opting is celebrated with triumphalism, and frankly, I am a little tired of clarifying that that feminism is not mine. Therefore, I am looking for a word that can represent that differentiation. The failed feminist revolution is very clear to see in the confusions and simplifications of the use of the gender category, such as, for example, in the idea of gender equity and others.

The concept of empowerment clearly represents the same problem. The analysis of power and power relations is abandoned and that of empowerment is automatically proposed, which is basically to tell us that what we lack, as those who are on the bottom, is power. The same is done with indigenous peoples, LGTBI populations, populations called disabled and others. It is an obvious trap, but it has spread in many scenarios. What I propose is to go against the tide by taking the floor and demanding not empowerment, but the disempowerment of bankers, judges, police, priests, doctors, psychiatrists, teachers and others. In the face of power you do not empower yourself, you rebel; that is the only way to de-structure any power relationship.

If the historical genealogy of feminism is presented to us as “a colonial western ideology”, what kind of unsuspected genealogies should Latin American feminists assume to not be considered a simple exotic appendix of white and European feminism?

We must state the multiplicity of genealogies, their parallel and simultaneous nature, and inscribe in history the decolonisation of the history of philosophy, art, humanity and science. There is no other way. So, for example, in my book There is no political freedom if there is no sexual freedom, in a chapter dedicated to the misnamed “indigenous” universe, I explore the Aymara language, to see how to say “man” and “woman”. And what one finds is not a gender duality or binary, but a complex multiplicity that was persecuted and excised by the Catholic Church in this part of the world in the early years of the colonial regime.

Beyond that, it is about writing, producing theory and reading the reality that contains us, not reading European authors and forcing the application of their theories and visions; something which is a canon of academic thinking in this part of the world. I do not understand how a historically critical review of Foucault’s History of Sexuality has not yet been done. Historically, in the Andean world, the eradication of idolatries has been of greater impact than the Victorian era, to cite only one example.

How, then, can feminism be redefined from different, subversive, radically combative, critical and anti-systemic matrices of thought and theoretical bases? Sometimes, you speak of an “intuitive feminism”, indigestible, resistant to appropriation and unacceptable, which gives rise to impossible, unusual and forbidden alliances. Could you describe to me how you conceive of this utopian horizon?

I am not able to do it in just a few words. I don’t think it’s about outlining an ideal society. I think that the idea of a final revolution from which we demand perfection is surpassed. I live in a society that combines the cult of sacrifice with the deepest hedonism. It makes sense because the most uncertain thing here is your own life, and this fact alone places you in the immediate present permanently.

We have the option of building tiny spaces that acquire an enormous value thanks to the utopian strength which they contain, thanks to the ability to make complex the limits of their relationship with society. Spaces like this are only possible if they are outside institutions, outside the logic of identity, whatever it may be, outside the logic of the demand for rights, whatever they may be. We have to propose to produce justice, health, economic systems or education, for example, from experimental, anti-state and anti-institutional autonomous perspectives. We, for example, conceive of ourselves as a factory for the production of justice, among other things, and at this point we have succeeded in making society itself recognise us in this way.

What I am saying, that may seem very strange, is our daily bread in Bolivia. To give you an example, the circuits of traditional ancestral medicine are more reliable, friendlier and more widespread than those that the state can grant and they operate under paradigms contrary to those of Western medicine. There, for example, the psychosomatic is structural, everything is psychosomatic beforehand. The doctor is frightening and has to dispute her/his credibility with that of the yatiri, who is seen at least in the Andean part of the country with more respect and credibility.

You are also very critical both of the discourse of inclusion, as well as that of the politics of identity. I return to a question that you yourself have asked: do identities really constitute a subversive threat against the patriarchal, colonial, capitalist and hetero-sexist system?

As a lesbian I got bored of lesbian-feminist collectives and their ability to forever repeat discourses. Identity is always a homogenizing envelope, in many cases it becomes testimonial and victimising, other times it becomes a scenario for fundamentalisms. I am convinced that only if we build complex political subjects based on what I have called “unusual alliances”, can we find more accurate means to dismantle the structures, logics and dynamics of oppression. Identity politics and spaces turned into fixed places with official scripts from which it is impossible to escape are part of neoliberal politics.

I believe, for example, that it is heterosexist to demand equal marriage rights for all, not only because of the undeniable history of marriage as a property contract, but because it results in the reiteration of the patriarchal family structure, even if it is comprised of two mothers or two fathers. This is one of the best examples of identity politics closing their agendas in a very short and conservative circuit. Of course, the opposition of the fascist right and the churches to equal marriage rights gives the latter a margin to present itself as an instrument of destabilisation, but it is a narrow margin.

I am not willing to lose a second of life in an identity politics, although I present myself publicly as a lesbian. In my case, this makes sense outside scenarios of demanding the rights of the difference, to become indigestible discourse. In this way, yes.

Your posture has always been very critical towards Evo Morales. Can we explain the current situation from the perspective of a perverse Cainism, a Manichaean and polarized logic that has marked the events of recent months in Bolivia?

In Bolivia, after the overthrow of Evo Morales, a polarizing and fascist-making vision of groups has installed itself: you are with me or you are against me; an alleged dichotomy between the left represented by Evo Morales and the right represented by the current government. The confrontation has been cruel and there have been two massacres so far, with the cities of the country being militarised. In the Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), there has been a stampede, with almost everyone fleeing, and anonymous people, such as the current president of Senate, Eva Copa, a social work student from the public university of one of the poorest cities of the continent, El Alto, they have assumed very difficult responsibilities.

The thesis of the coup d’état which presents Morales as a victim of imperialism is a thesis that we do not accept. In Bolivia, there has been a coup d’etat and the CIA is in the country. But the political crisis is much older and the MAS has not had the ability to read what was happening because of the power binge. The caudillismo of Evo Morales has been opposed by forces of the right with another antagonistic caudillo. Caudillismo is therefore a leading political protagonis of the crisis and must be debated in depth.

Those who have struck against the Morales government were his own allies in the region of Santa Cruz, a region of feudal landowner structures that burned the Chiquitano forest in August of this year with projects for meat export to China and expanding the agricultural frontier for the production of necrodiesel. The fundamentalist churches that are part of the coup have also been his allies, which is why abortion has not been decriminalised in Bolivia and why the gender identity law was declared unconstitutional, making it useless for the trans population because it does not guarantee more that the change of name in the identity document, without any guarantees for the exercise of any other right.

Raising a space outside that binary, polarizing and fascist vision has cost us all kinds of threats, all kinds of insults and has placed us in a place that many people applaud and need, but that is very visible and exposed, while a great critical mass has taken refuge in silence. I cannot help saying that it is very easy to comment from outside the country about what is happening. It is very comfortable and necessary for the international left to victimize Evo Morales and continue to feed a toxic polarization because in this they pursue their own vaccination against all criticism. To be against political binarism and against fascistisation is not to assume neutrality. I have to call dozens of people to get them to talk on the radio, when they prefer to keep quiet, but I still air every morning. If there is a voice today denouncing everything that is being committed in Bolivia, it is us; if there was a voice against the fascism that was taking hold, it was us, but that does not mean that we take the side of Evo Morales.

It is a conflict that has many layers. There is a new war for control of raw materials, in this case lithium; there is a promise of return to white supremacy, therefore it is an openly racist process; there is a re-legitimisation of the violent male as the principal agent or protagonist, such that there is a promise to regain the power of control over women; there is an openly homophobic and misogynistic promise; there is a promise to guarantee land control for landowners and agribusiness. In short, many fields for which the Evo Morales government was also not an alternative. Bolivia needs to get out of the imprisonment coup d’état/no coup d’état, of Evo victim or evil.

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