AT BLOWS WITH THE STATE: Shaping Territory and Affinity During the Revolt


AT BLOWS WITH THE STATE: Shaping Territory and Affinity During the Revolt ( A martillazos con el Estado: Conjugando el territorio y la afinidad durante la revuelta)
The scuffles with normality advanced one after the other until they became so complex that it was impossible not to realize that we were facing a revolt. It was not only the structures of capital that were burning, nor was it just windows or cop cars that were shattering all at once. Something else was cracking, a crack that allowed the dying order of authority to literally fall apart at our feet.
It is into precisely this crack and its first bits of rubble that we want to delve more deeply–opening up questions that aren’t necessarily new and might not even have answers so that we ourselves, comrades from other territories, and comrades in other historical moments may discover some hints to confront our own contexts. We do not fear questions without answers, but rather failing to ask enough questions or abandoning the correct ones.

A new cycle of the Social War has opened and along with it infinite possibilities. It is in this universe of possible worlds that territory, affinity and their temporality become key elements to delve into.
Social War in its Territory and Rhythm
There is no shortage of texts that point to a reality in which authority and power are completely dispersed throughout an infinite number of relationships and interactions within the globalized economy. The intangible nature of said relationships seems to be their main characteristic.
By rule, this premise is followed by its grave conclusion: It is not possible to strike because there is no longer anywhere to strike. If to these texts we add the virtual nature of connections and dependencies together with identity politics, we have the perfect storm to plunge any struggle into complete asphyxia. Where is power?  Everywhere and nowhere; A ghost as invisible as it is omnipresent, it begins to feel natural, unalterable and perpetual.
The beautiful devastation of the ongoing revolt, while complicating certain analyses, has also managed to simplify other realities, making them evident and clear.
Domination needs to be exercised in different dimensions–from globalized economies and impositions of dominant culture to repressive tactics and extractive industry. It is real that the winter palaces can no longer be taken over to automatically topple the prevailing order.  While this fact is evident, there is no denying the understanding that domination uses and occupies a physical space. A territory.
The administration of States within national sovereignty is nothing other than the control of a given territory by a power that requires infrastructure mounted on a specific playing field – with its social and geographic particularities – upon which it administers oppression.
The State, capital, power and its agents are assembled as an occupation troop within this given territory. This occupation can be resisted and fought without ever aspiring to supposedly independent and resolved islands of freedom. A real exercise of struggle for liberation is possible in a concrete space and place, which is to say, in a territory.
Control by domination is woven on different levels, from national borders to cities and neighborhoods. It is upon this urban geography of control and power that we ourselves have generally unfolded within anti-authoritarian struggles. Although the struggle in rural or semi-rural territories has clearly had its own dynamics in the fight against extractivism and other expressions of power that deserve to be reflected upon, these are not subjects of analysis in this text.
The city is the expression and apex of civilization–the centralization of power at the administrative and symbolic level. It is within the city, with its rhythms and physical spaces, that we develop our struggles, our bonds of affinity and complicity along with all their opportunities and disadvantages. To get concrete: to go to a squat, a library or a talk we can cross the city without issue because of its own means and infrastructure organized along its own rhythms. The same fate befalls anyone organizing a demonstration, putting out propaganda or carrying out actions that are preceded by our moving within the city, knowing and adapting ourselves to its rhythms in order to alter and interrupt them.
It is within the urban functioning that normality was interrupted and sabotaged, but also where we met, wove networks, built bonds of companionship and complicity in any place we chose. We assembled ourselves within the urban rhythm to develop our antagonistic expressions.
Some may seek to escape this basic contradiction by investing in a kind of countercultural self-management limited mainly by one-dimensional daily life, flirting with the comfort of a new ghetto, urban tribe or alternative lifestyle that, without confrontation, is easily recuperated by domination.
October 2019 changed the stage in the territory dominated by the Chilean State, forcing new questions and raising new possibilities to carry our negations to the limit of what is possible in the destruction of this world and the creation of other possible realities. The practice and difficulties in a specific territory during a period of revolt arm the destructive passion.
Informal Paths of Affinity, Their Temporarily and their Advantage 
The development of relations of affinity and informal organization has been explored in depth in many texts of the anarchist current. Quite a lot has been written about the free association between individuals, rejecting categories imposed by domination and its thousands of segmentations. Having to organize with individuals just because they participate in the same work, find themselves in the same situation or belong to the same country partly reinforces imposed categories(1).
[1 One of the perverse mirrors of this dynamic is the grouping based on identity categories, whose struggle is for the recognition and respect of this identity by the system.]
First of all, we understand the need to organize ourselves for survival or minimum resistance in certain contexts, but we see that to go from this to characterizing such approaches as revolutionary and confrontational is inherently impossible. In the struggle against power, a part of the anarchist tendency has rejected those categories that are imposed on us as to the where, how and with whom to link and relate. Affinity then opens up as a path that breaks with pre-existing categories and makes us meet among those who have common visions in certain dimensions of reality, surpassing categories and segments.
The affinities forged in the experiences of struggle can organize themselves in different ways. Permanently questioning the established structures is an inseparable part of the anarchist struggle, so it is necessary to identify the vices of formal organization in order to build other ways of connecting. To safeguard the organization as an end in itself above the individuals involved, maintaining the organizational structure above the wills of the individuals, or the form of democratic decision-making where the minority is swept away and the antibodies of the organization expelled, can only bring us to the scaled reproduction of a political party, the germ of the State and its structures born in our hands.
For us, the incentive of informal organization lies in its mobility, the instability of its components and their dynamism. The organization does not have to be maintained or last beyond what the affinities and wills determine, being a momentary vehicle in time that dissolves once the objective is fulfilled. Informality makes its functioning variable but stable and permanent in the struggle against power.
Some may point out that establishing links of affinity and informal organization as a priority in our political work only obeys the current context of domination (strongly modernized and technologized societies, citizenship, minimal sense of community or class, etc.). They might consider it the easiest method for developing the revolutionary struggle in the present conditions, a sort of opportunism wherein affinity and informality are only a useful method for the present context, but in another historical moment these forms would change or simply become obsolete. Today informal affinity group, yesterday trade union, tomorrow political party or platformist organization, etc. 
Those who approach this “opportunism” or who forge relationships of affinity from the ease of their context, are unaware of the antiquity and depth of affinity groups and informal associations throughout the struggle against authority. One need only take a look at our past to find that they are easily traceable in every context; small minorities that naturally opted for this form of organization continue to compose the black thread of anarchic struggle. 
Affinity is not a vehicle but a decision in itself, the atom of what we conceptualize as the negation of authority.
If to these reflections we add the temporal factor that can also be understood as means and ends, the discussion acquires a practical significance concerning our development, wagers and expectations in the present. 
There are those who understand the ways of organizing and relating as a method for the struggle that will allow us to conquer an idea of freedom, of how we want to live, in the future. Today we organize and fight as we can for the prosperous future that will one day arrive. Looking to the future is key to this vision. 
Other positions state that our bonds and methods are based in the possibilities of the current moment. These positions yearn for previous historical moments where other elements were more prevelant–The union strikes, the processes of large organizations, the military discipline of certain groups. Their method is in their possibilities, longing for a past that is no longer there. 
On the other hand we observe those who emphasize the importance of maintaining coherence in the means and organizational forms of the present for a supposed future, where the end must be directly in line with the means. The future has to be traced from the present. 
Strongly nourished by certain elements of nihilism where negation is the compass, we can continue feeding positions in which temporality and the classic means/ends relationship begin to disappear. The future does not exist, it cannot be found and it may not even be possible to reach it. The fulfillment of a free world may never happen. The means, in this case informal organization and relationships of affinity, become an end in themselves. The future is the present, and it is in the present that the break with society is established on all grounds.
Of course, that logic can lead to escapism in an alternative way of life where we feel satisfied and fully convinced that we are doing our best, or in the worst case merely living in “freedom”. But the vision we are interested in strengthening is a resolution of the offensive, of attack here and now, of a permanent yearning among those who understand that anarchy is not only a tension nor a fulfillment, but also today and not tomorrow, in all the contexts that may arise in our present.
The revolt explodes… This time the monuments fell at our feet, the banks and ministries burned today, not in a hypothetical tomorrow. How much benzine do we need to finish setting the Capital on fire? How many more hammers are needed to destroy the State? Is it time to strengthen affinity and informality in the struggle against power?
Ruptures in Revolt: New and Old Fires, New and Old Questions
Revolt is not a riot, not even a generalized riot revolt is the colossal rupture of multiple aspects in which the functioning and normality of power sustained itself. It is the peace of cemeteries split apart by thousands of cracks. It is the simultaneous, sporadic and uncontrolled fires that burn the structures on which the necropolis sustained itself. The revolt is not the complete destruction of their world, but the start. Before living through a revolt, we did not know the dimension of that concept, even having participated in generalized riots with high levels of violence.
These splintering cracks occur in different places, which leads us to a completely different understanding of territory with which to ask ourselves questions as new as they are old. October burns and shakes the prevailing order in Santiago, Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Concepción and other large cities that become the urban epicenters of the revolt. It is no longer so easy to move around the city, crossing it completely not only has thousands of obstacles (from the repressive – curfew, attempted police checkpoints – to those caused by the destruction of the city or as a result of the countless demonstrations). Time travels at its own speed and the mere journey means abstaining from other activities. 
Spontaneously, the territory becomes a relevant force due to the urban interruption and the prominence of action in each district and neighborhood. The multiplicity of looting occurs at the territorial level; demonstrations and riots arise instinctively in the main streets near where people live. The center of the city is transformed into a new territory in dispute, which is complemented by the daily and routine action in the periphery and residential areas.
In unison with this panorama, territorial assemblies emerge and multiply, organized autonomously and responding to multiple needs. The initial motivations of the assemblies range from organizing the next barricades, to noise demonstrations against the curfew, to knowing how the neighbors are doing, to organizing health centers in the face of the countless number of wounded, and finally trying to give a political perspective and a political approach to the revolt. The assemblies are made up of people from the same territory, be it neighborhood, town, blocks, etc., who with different positions begin to organize themselves horizontally, outside of any political party and in an open manner.
Far from idealizing them, it is important to recognize that the assemblies have adhered to different political tendencies, so there are more autonomous assemblies and others with more liberal discourses. Many times they have charged themselves with forming petitions to negotiate with the State (mainly on the topics of health, education, retirement, etc.), and this is how the climax of these negotiations leads them to hedge their bets on a constituent assembly to reform and – why not say it – strengthen the State.
Within the assemblies where each opts for a different path and different positions, initiatives have arisen with clear features of self-management and autonomy within the territories of the State (occupy a property, manage collective needs and seek solutions outside the State).
The revolt was a break with the usual forms of combat, at least in the territorial dimension in terms of the sporadic incursions into certain areas of the city, repeating days of riots or overflowing protests. The revolt broke and shattered rhythms, notions of time and space, helping us formulate questions with the sole purpose of tearing down their world.
How can we combine affinity with territorial perspectives where connection lies mainly in geographic location? Where do they intersect and where do they diverge? Can we ignore the territorial initiatives or focus all our efforts solely on these spaces?(2)
2 Questions present in “More than two months of revolt against the State of Chile: Quick balance sheets, instinctive projections and permanent negations”.  Kalinov Most/.Kalinov special revolt, January 2020.
Intertwining Territory and Affinity
These questions, which are practical but also theoretical, only lead us to new questions, telling us that we are on the right track. There is no certain future, there are no answers, guidelines or formulas to follow. 
The territorial is not defined by our wills but by our neighborhood, where we find ourselves, where we live or develop most of our activities. Affinity, on the other hand, takes as its point of departure that our bonds have to be with those we have and those we build points in common with, basic agreements for specific aspects.
Territory is made up of particular problems and unique situations of tension where power expresses itself in everyday life in different ways, sometimes more basic and simple (repressive police presence) or other times in a much more complex way (power dynamics, drug trafficking, religious and/or neighborhood authorities). The great symbols of power are far away – the infrastructure, the arteries of the system and the economic chokepoints are protected by distance. One must travel to fight them, as has happened several times during the revolt when demonstrations, protests and riots made incursions into commercial neighborhoods. The State and power insert themselves into the territories via necessity, normality and the powerlessness to intervene in day to day exploitation.
Territorial encounter and bonds of affinity can at first glance be read as contradictory or even dichotomous. But their confluence can lead to exceptionality in the thoughts and actions of struggle.
In the neighborhoods and territories, the attacks on police stations, the communal kitchens, the street fighting, the assemblies to resolve basic needs have multiplied. The affinity groups within a territory, even if they already existed, have grown or have moved. Many times we are lucky enough to build new affinities based on the context of revolt, other times we are fewer numerically or we are scattered throughout the city, all of us moving to a particular territory. It would be short-sighted not to visualize the force that the territorial dimension takes in a revolt and in the possibilities of unleashing the insurrection. Affinity has to know how to contemplate this dimension when the occasion arises; It is in those moments of absolute and complete rupture that the strength and the context in certain places can bring out the best of itself for the destruction of the world of authority. 
We cannot abandon our affinities because “chile woke up” and move to forms that we reject at their core. On the contrary, it is the moment to strengthen them, strengthen the discourse, consolidate it, give everything and move away from immobilizing positions that continue to persist such as: “the people are not ready,” “the conditions are not right,” or paternalistic positions that seek to guide the paths or intervene and show the “real way to fight.” The streets are in flames, the banks destroyed, the pharmacies and supermarkets looted, the moments and conditions are forever and the forms of struggle are there, in the smoldering ruins.
Relations of affinity are incubated and strengthened, but they can also be coordinated and empowered by shattering temporality, excuses and idealistic contexts in order to, through a reading of reality, be able to enjoy freedom today, right at the moment of confrontation and destruction of the State and power.
In the present context of revolt, to situate the territorial assembly in opposition per se to the existence of affinity groups is a false dichotomy while – for now – they can complement and even enhance each other in aspects of confrontation, autonomy and indicators of territorial control. Affinity in the territorial sphere can enhance spaces of rupture, negation and construction of free relations. It is a necessary wager for those who see a crack there to deepen. These affinity groups can function outside of the territorial assemblies, coordinate informally in common objectives or even in a completely autonomous way while recognizing the existence and activities of both within a territory.
Some Traces and Shades in the Territories: “Le Comuné”, Territorial Control, or Bubbles and Islands of Freedom
With the advance of the revolt, Plaza Dignidad became a stage upon which the combat intensified in the very center of the city, and it quickly took on territorial notions from the point of view developed above. Territorial assemblies and different initiatives (4) combined with the multiform action of affinity groups while the neighborhoods and towns simultaneously continued to gain strength.
[3 Plaza Italia, renamed Plaza Dignidad during the revolt, is located in an area that is not exactly residential but has become a symbol and the epicenter of the protests. Despite not being a residential neighborhood, some people have gone to spend the night and live in the square and its surroundings during the revolt]. 
The development of this struggle leads us to a question that is not posed in the future but in the present. The intensification of this territorial form immediately leads to the concentration of repressive forces in a sector that they seek to control. This repressive enclosure has different characteristics in Plaza Dignidad than in the communities; the first of these places is not a residential or permanent housing area while in the second, the repressive pressure becomes a constant alongside the need to satisfy the basic requirements of daily life. 
When the intensification of the conflict develops in some determined neighborhoods, managing to accost the forces of repression in the sector (5), these areas have quickly been militarized and recaptured from their boundaries.
Faced with this reality, it is necessary to reiterate the rejection of creating fiefdoms, castles or bastions of combat against the State, because the military force of those in power is infinitely greater than that of the insurgency. On the other hand, to believe in establishing bubbles of freedom within the system is a mirage and a false oasis.
Theoretically, islands of freedom cannot be free as long as exploitation and oppression exist, but also tactically this approach is disastrous when it comes to confronting state onslaughts. In view of this, it is important to look at other historical experiences linked to territory where we find Territorial Control created from autonomy within the Mapuche pueblo or expressions of territorial takeovers exercised during the dictatorship and the beginning of democracy.
4 These expressions range from handing out food to demonstrators, concerts, collective and community activities, to covering different needs with solidarity and mutual support initiatives.
5 Particularly in the case of sectors in Lo Hermida or Pudahuel, where for days in a row the police station and all the police forces in the sector were attacked, leaving the territory under the control of the inhabitants, who had, among other things, health posts for the wounded and food collections.
The struggle is based in a territory and to succeed in expelling the scheme of the State, even partially and momentarily, from a territory allows us to think of the possibilities of living without it. It opens the way, far from petitioning and negotiation. The multiplication of this exercise does present a chance to get out of asymmetry by opening new focuses always from and for the destruction of power relations and their structures, resolving the day to day far away from its institutions. 
In this territorial dimension, affinity becomes the door to and the axis for connection, escaping from notions of popular power, central committees or large federations of “free communes.” Understanding freedom and the development of the individual and their links as a priority, affinity relations aim to empower subjects in total freedom. If we detach ourselves from these notions and tools in order to link ourselves in the territory, mortgaging the present for some future where the development of the individual is integral, we will not only be digging our own grave but digging it with the same shovel used by other comrades in other historical moments. Our present is the future.
The strengthening of territories in revolt is inevitable and beneficial in the struggle against the State. Disputing the territorial dimension turns out to be one of the many axes upon which combats in the revolt develop. In spite of being able to organize for minimum survival needs in territories or other imposed categories, it is in the neighborhood, in the community or in the territory in which we develop where we can strengthen affinity groups, their notions of relationship and their coordinations, leading us to develop the conflict without mortgaging our history, forms or informal anarchic trajectories.