Left-wing and bottom-up colonization

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Atawallpa Oviedo Freire
Andean Philosopher. Founding member of the Global Good Living Movement

Colonialism is usually believed to be proper to the right-wing and not to the left. This is another fallacy within the neocolonial binarism imposed on the world. A colonial system cannot give birth to decolonization, but rather to alternative neocolonial forms. While colonialism has not ended, it has acquired new forms of internal colonialism or coloniality. The left has not created or proposed a decolonization that implies breaking with the Eurocentrism that generates the system itself. The left is either neocolonial or a form of neocolonialism generated within the left-wing [translator note: hereinafter also referred as they, respecting the voice of the author].

From its origin, left ideologies were anti Abya Yala (the indigenous world), this is against indigenous ontologies and epistemologies, which are considered (using the same terminology of right discourses) as backward, primitive, magical. The objective of left ideologies was, then, to carry out a process of colonization spearheaded by Marxism, so millennial conceptions of the indigenous world would banish, replaced by theories from the European left-wing. Activism from the left-wing never considered learning from and, worse, leveraging its political action upon the indigenous world, because it was seen as inferior, basic, insufficient. Only up to recently, the indigenous thought is appreciated as a philosophy, however not through the endeavors of the left-wing. To these ideologies, Western philosophy continues to be the deepest and the best. The Latin American left-wing intellectuals are experts in the West, and even in Eastern philosophies, however they know very little about the land where they were born. To date, they have not “discovered” the Abya Yala.

Moreover, the «indigenous problem” was always a left-wing discourse, due that the indigenous cosmovision represented an obstacle to the crystallization of their dogmas. Thereof, the left-wind also believed that indigenous people needed to be civilized, cultured, educated, because their beliefs and attitudes did not conform to their lofty revolutionary mold. In recent past, when the left-wing intellectuals joined in the fight for agrarian reforms, they did it not only to get indigenous people out of the hacienda system, but to incorporate them to their schemes; to turn them into proletariats, deepening capitalism and thereby end a loop of backward productive forces.

The indigenous people had to de-indigenize themselves, leave what they had been for millennia to become part of the left-wing mass, the rearguard of the revolutionary struggle. But never the vanguard, since they were not the most advanced of the revolutionary class. They were not the «best children of the people,» otherwise the «glorious members» of the political bureau, the revolutionary party, and Marxist-Leninist leaders of the proletarian class.

500 years have passed and there is no major change, they [left-wing] are still determined to continue colonizing from the left-wing and bottom-up, while the right-wing does it as top-down. Until now, left ideologies have not made an ontological and epistemological turn, they continue to share the same structural and foundational compendia along the right ideologies, and their difference is only one of class. They continue to speak from Latin America, that is, from Eurocentric America and not from Abya Yala. They have not even investigated its ontologies and epistemologies. For this reason, both the right and the left wings coincide in accusing indigenous thought of being Pachamamista, Abyayalist, essentialist, ethnocentric, ethnocacerist, fundamentalist, among other labels.

The left-wing is also reductionist, trapped in a right and left dichotomy, however such contrast represents one among many (it is not even a central problem or the most elevated question). The fundamental one is a cultural dichotomy, with two entirely different founding myths. The Eurocentric and the indigenous are two totally exclusive paradigms. For this reason, in the last 500 years different forms of colonization have not managed to end the indigenous cultures, neither from the actions of the white right-wing nor from the mestizo left-wing, both stances define themselves as white-mestizo and not as indo-mestizo. Until now there is no left ideology that promotes, strengthens, deepens indigenous rationality, as something central and primordial, it is often a peripheral issue. Both ideologies still do not understand Choquehuanca’s speech, when he took office as Bolivia´s vice president.

They continue, stubborn, with their outdated «class struggle,» which means assaulting power from above to impose the revolution through a dictatorship. And when they have been in power, they dedicate themselves to persecuting and assassinating social movements, especially the peasant and indigenous movements. The neocolonialist left continues to live in petty bourgeois forms and means, they have not entered into agroecological forms of production, in forms of bioconstruction harmonic to life, they do not promote ecovillages, cooperatives, communities, etc. That is, they do not dedicate themselves to building/rebuilding the community fabric from below, from the everyday life, from basic ways of life, as the Zapatistas and others have done. They just keep waiting to seize power from above, by the arms or electorally. The one that does not live this other world, only speaks from rhetoric and not from their own experience. Their speaks from the dogmatic head and not from the rooted heart.

Fifteen years ago, the indigenous world put the Good Way of Living on the table and the left-wing tried to claim it as its own, tried to empty the concept from its content and put it a “leftist mark,” under labels like community socialism or identity communism, etc. Now, they hardly talk about it anymore, because in reality they are not interested in indigenous rationalities, this whole thing only serves them as folklore and souvenirs. Indigenous people only serve, to them, as physical force, not as intellectual and theoretical force to design the transformation processes.


In the recent electoral race, they have launched against the indigenous movement and particularly against [the indigenous political party’s candidate] Yaku, under different arguments, but in the end against. Not as a contribution but as an attack. In either more or less aggressive fashion. This is not incidental or a casual event, it is a reflection of neocolonialism, it is a clear expression that Eurocentrism continues to shape the population, both from the right and from the left wings, a twofold attack to the indigenous movement. For both groups, indigenous people are wrong because they do not act or conform to their dogmas, because they think from themselves and not from the «scientific truths» of the left or from the «developed thinking» of the right.

They keep repeating insidiously that Yaku supported the coup against Evo and that he was in favor of Añez. The truth is that Mallku and many Bolivian indigenous leaders criticized Evo for wanting to remain in power, even though people denied him that possibility in a plebiscite. However, with an anti-democratic maneuver Evo managed to be once again a presidential candidate (which he later acknowledged was wrong), and won by fraud, something that to date has not been disproven.

Some people say there was no fraud in Bolivia because Arce won. The MAS won because it is the only large left-wing party, because the Bolivian people voted against the right, because they voted for the party that represents them despite Evo, because they voted for Choquehuanca, whom Evo removed from his government because he did not agree with many situations of his government. This is why he did not want him to run for president either, but since there was the possibility that the MAS could split, he reluctantly agreed to give him the vice presidency.

The dispute within the MAS, between the progressive-left wing and the wing of the Suma Qamaña or Living Well is well known. Something similar happens in Ecuador, with the difference that the Ecuadorian left-wing has its own parties, while the indigenous movement has its own. Otherwise, Pachakutik would be a powerful party and the disputes would be internal and not external, as it is now the case.

The dogmatic left-wing says that Yaku is a CIA agent, that he has sold to the banker Lasso, that he really is part of the right-wing, that he is a fascist pachamamist, and so on. It does not surprise me, these are the discourses of a neocolonial left-wing, which is wounded because now the indigenous movement disputes the leadership of people´s struggle and of the revolutionary theory, which they used to lead and believed it their exclusive realm. Hurts them that the indigenous movement is no longer their indigenous arm for their Marxist revolution and for the construction of their socialism-communism, that is, to build a failed Eurocentric system throughout the world and not to strengthen the indigenous community system that have lasted for thousands of years, which is still alive and latent, although diminished.

The racist left-wing dares to tell Yaku that he is not indigenous, because in their arrogance they want to continue classifying and qualifying who is or is not indigenous, just as they pigeonhole who is or is not a revolutionary, who is advanced or not, who is true or not. This is the petty bourgeois ego in its everlasting expression. They want to disqualify me under the argument that I cannot speak about indigenous issues because I am not indigenous, that is, the racist left ideology, like happened 500 years ago, it continues to classify people by phenotype and not by their convictions and ways of seeing the world. As a matter that they know that I have the name Atawallpa since birth, they do not attack me with that argument (as happens with Yaku), but rather they accuse me of being a false half-breed for having denied the West. Pure colonial racism, which the monarchists imposed 500 years ago, but they continue operating with the same apartheid.

The left-wing focuser accuses Yaku of having made an agreement with Lasso and of not having launched an insurrection. Once again it is present the adventurer urge. The indigenous movement barely achieved a 20% at the polls. Hence, it would have been a suicide to march into an insurrectional romanticism, without at least a 50% of people’s support to the indigenous movement to sustain such a process. They accuse the indigenous movement of selling itself out in the October 2019 revolt, not having taken advantage of the momentum to overthrow President Moreno. Who would have replaced him?

Perhaps the right-wing politician Nebot, who was promoted by former president Correa to take over the country due to Moreno’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Perhaps another runner to continue stealing from the State. Perhaps Leonidas Iza to give the opportunity to a racist Ecuador to strike him down and immediately remove him from power. They still do not understand that the first thing to do is a cultural revolution to change the mentality of the population, and then think about playing at the major leagues, otherwise the disastrous experiences lived in other countries would only be reproduced. Yaku can promote that cultural revolution from a legally recognized government.

After the elections’ first round, some intellectuals have appeared defending the indigenous movement, but confessing that they voted null because there were some gaps in Yaku’s proposals –of course, Yaku is not perfect like them. Other academics who said that they did not support Yaku because they do not believe in the elections, now appear to defend him after the large percentage that he obtained and that they believed would be low. This unveils petty bourgeois opportunism.

Consequently, the left-wing does not believe and cannot accept that it is neocolonial and petty bourgeois, there is no self-reflection that it has not carried out a process of comprehensive decolonization. All the while, in the many years’ experience of the left-wing, only the forms have changed, but they continue to follow the same basic schemes as always, which throughout the world have not proven to be an alternative, and they want to drag the indigenous movement into that mud. They continue to live as petty-bourgeois and not in decolonized forms, so these are all pretty words.

Personally, I had to accept that I live in a colonial system, that I was educated colonially and that I was a petty bourgeois myself. From there I was able to begin a process of integral decolonization through the Andean philosophy, which contrasts to a Eurocentric philosophy of liberation. I have been doing this consciously for 30 years, departing from my left-wing involvement during my time at the university, and I still see that I have petty-bourgeois lags. While the left has not proposed such transformation, even worse to actually start such conscious process.

As long as the Latin American left-wing does not self-decolonizes, it will continue to reproduce the same dogmas that come from Europe. Meanwhile in Europe itself there are people who are in the process of de-Eurocentrization and they go to Abya Yala to unlearn so it is possible to relearn and begin decolonization. Similarly, this is replicated with entire indigenous world around Mother Earth (the African Ubuntu, the Asian Swaraj, etc.), in order to have more elements and to be able to bring back the indigenous European. There is a great awakening of the Celtic movement and other European indigenous cultures, in clash with the rest of the world that seek to end the ancestral from both right and left wings. This is the irony and the paradox that we live.

Thus, as long as the binarist left ideologies continue to believe that Marxism is the only way, or else the best way, they will stumble over the same stone again. We do not deny Marxism, but we do not believe that it is the most revolutionary, even the only way. As long as the left-wing Eurocentrists continue to deny, ignore, reject indigenous philosophy, and only keep thinking from the left ideologies box, neocolonialism will continue to reproduce itself in new ways. We already see how many indigenous people have embraced the theories that come from the left and the right wing, every day Felipillismo [betrayal to kindship] increases more. Now, we must not only confront the right-wing and the Eurocentric left-wing but also the felipillos and the malinches [another historical algorism for betrayal to kindship].

At this moment the struggle we have is not only of class or ideological, but cultural, paradigmatic, foundational, ontological. The racist and petty bourgeois left-wing will continue to attack the indigenous movement from the outside and within, because deep down they are not willing to change their paternalistic, extractivist, positivist, rationalist assumptions. We face this struggle, including the 200-year-old left-wing dogmas, with the knowledge built in more than 20,000 years by the human being of the Abya Yala.

[This is not a professional translation but a favor to a friend, reciprocating his willingness to support my own academic work. I took some writing freedoms that I considered would help the translation, several in consultation with the author]

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