Guatemala: “Political Unity” in the Imaginary of the Traditional Left

Ollantay Itzamná

Indians and peasants cannot call for unity. The only ones qualified to call for unity, and to indicate the political route to the Indians, are the Indians and peasants. Indians and peasants should not call for unity, nor for any kind of political articulation. This is the other ideological conviction that prevents them from attending, not only the socio-political articulation assemblies that CODECA and CPO have been holding for nearly a year, but also inhibits them from participating in the demonstrations and plurinational strikes called by indigenous and peasants.

Guatemala is a tropical country, co-inhabited, in its great majority, by native peoples, where liberalism made two failed national revolutions to modernize and develop the country.

After the violent interruption of the second liberal revolution (which the US suspected to be socialism), revolutionary proposals of socialist tendency emerged, headed by “mestizo vanguards” although genetically indomestizo, which systematically denied the quality of “revolutionary subjects” to the indigenous people.

Both in theory and in the praxis of the classic lefts of the country, in order to be a political subject, the indigenous had to stop being indigenous, “go through school” and thus become “Guatemalan”. In the same way, the peasant, in order to become a Guatemalan citizen, had to leave the countryside, migrate to the cities… and thus become a “citizen”.

In fact, neither the liberal revolutionaries nor the revolutionaries of the traditional left were able to “citizenize” the peasants, nor convert the indigenous people into “Guatemalans”. Much less, to make the “revolutions” they promised.

When indigenous people and peasants become socio-political subjects

In this context, and with the weight of the congenital evils of the bicentennial creole Republic, in Guatemala, indigenous and peasants, from their communities organized in resistance, rose up socially and politically to the “revolutionary vanguards”, and proclaimed themselves socio-political subjects and announced the construction of a “plurinational revolution”, with a plurinational State.

Since 2012, faced with the realization of the neoliberal political intentionality of the Peace Accords (1996), the indigenous and peasant communities in resistance to neoliberalism, being repelled in their demands in the ideological narrative of the lefts, decided to abandon the old lefts and create their own political organization (political instrument, Movement for the Liberation of the Peoples MLP, in 2018) and move towards the “plurinational revolution” for Good Living.

The political instrument, which raises as its ideology: the reconstruction of the Common House to ensure welfare for Mother Earth and welfare for human beings, without economic resources, nor guidelines of the old left, achieved in general elections of 2019 the historic 4th place. Never a political organization, in this “country of revolutionaries” had managed to get so far.

The hundreds of communities organized in resistance to neoliberalism, in spite of having a political arm (MLP), never stopped doing “direct and constant democracy” in the streets, in community assemblies, constant training spaces, etc.

These communities, before, during and after the electoral process, continued organizing, raising awareness and mobilizing their neighbors under the demand of “Let’s go for the process of Popular and Plurinational Constituent Assembly for the construction of the Plurinational State for Good Living”. They clamor, clamor, call for the articulation and “socio-political unity” of the social and political organizations of the left in Guatemala. But, the traditional political left (catalogued as neoliberal) anchored in the URNG and WINAQ, and the immobilized social left accommodated in the non-governmental organizations supported by the “apolitical” international cooperation, never went, nor do they go to the calls for articulation/unity for the construction of the plurinational State.

Why does the “revolutionary vanguard” not listen to the call for plurinational unity”?

The plurinational actors are not revolutionary subjects. For the revolutionary vanguard, the indigenous and peasants are not political subjects, much less revolutionary. Therefore, they are not qualified to nuclear/articulate any kind of revolution in Guatemala. “The Indians have to educate themselves to be proletarians, and the peasants must become citizens in order to be subjects”, is apparently the shared certainty of the aging revolutionary vanguard.

They are still suspicious of the human qualities of the natives. As children of colonial modernity, the revolutionaries of yesteryear still doubt the anthropological quality of the indigenous and the peasant. For them, the indigenous man or woman who does not know how to read or write, who does not speak the official language, or who does not have academic degrees, even if he or she is baptized, is perhaps a homunculus. But not a human being.

Indians and peasants cannot call for unity. The only ones qualified to summon to the articulation, and to indicate the political route to the Indians, are them. Indians and peasants should not call for unity, nor for any kind of political articulation. This is the other ideological conviction that prevents them from attending, not only the assemblies of socio-political articulation that CODECA and CPO have been holding for nearly a year, but also inhibits them from participating in the demonstrations and plurinational strikes called by indigenous and peasants. When did the URNG or WINAQ, or the NGOs accompany mobilized peasants and indigenous people in the streets and in the duels?

They despise the community as if it were a pre-modern phase. They believe in society, but not in the community. For them, the community is the primitive phase of humanity. Therefore, no political or economic action of resistance of the indigenous communities is, nor should be approved as valid. For this reason, the political power of the communities was wasted and historically discarded by the traditional left. What prevails is the individual vanguard that seeks to crown its existence with some position of popular election.

Electoralism as the only political strategy. The political left, as a rule, invests in times of constant street struggles carried out by the communities in the countryside. It only appears in times of electoral campaigns looking for votes. In this sense, they function as business parties, under the logic of electoralist representative democracy.

Perhaps, apart from the racialized ideology, this strategy is another reason why the traditional left does not understand or listen to the communities and peoples in constant collective action in the streets.

A popular and plurinational constituent process is the way forward.

The truth is that, despite the ideological and strategic assumptions (dysfunctional with the great dispossessed majorities in Guatemala) of the traditional left, the communities and peoples that promote the popular and plurinational constituent process make their own path of liberation, constituting themselves not only as socio-political subjects, with their own political organization, but also agreeing on their own horizon and theoretical framework (ideology) according to the contingencies of the Earth system.