After the Water War

By Oscar Olivera

The institutional framework does not allow for transformative change. Despite all the progress that we may have experienced on issues related to water, especially in reclaiming water as a “public” good, there is a gap between the expectations of the social movements and reality.  Practical changes that stem from an emancipatory perspective from below have crashed against an institutional framework inherited from neoliberalism, which aims to obstruct, confound and reorient social transformation. The pace of change of the institutions is a far cry from the pace of the people in struggle. …
The social movements that fight in defense of water and life must maintain, at all costs, their autonomy from parties and their political independence. The reason is that the real issue is not the capture of state power but the creation of new pathways from the grassroots up.  The state and the market economy exist, and they are not likely to disappear despite our best hopes and actions to the contrary; therefore, liberal democracy can run its course, electing bad rulers or better ones—this should not be a central issue in the agenda of social movements. An important issue, perhaps, but not a central one….
The social movements organize to change the world from the bottom up.  Politics resides in action, in everyday life, not in some institution. Who has the right to decide on our present and on the fate of the population, on the commons, on work, on living conditions? There can be only one answer to this question: the common people. We decide and we do, we discuss and we act. It is not enough to simply resist. We need to exist again, to build here and now the world in which we want to live tomorrow.”