Friday 15 June was a day filled with violence at the campus of the university, Universidad Mayor de San Simon de Cochabamba.
A battle took place between the students organised in the student organisation ‘Universitarios de la Federación Universitaria Local’ (FUL) and hired thugs in the service of the office of the Prefect and a small group of right-wing students.
Why is it so important for the right wing to maintain its control of the university?
The elite needs to keep control over society and enables them to maintain the capitalist system. Education, now and in the past, is a central element in maintaining the dominance of the ruling class. The majority of people who graduate from these institutions come out ready formed and conditioned to keep on reproducing the capitalist system.
For the right wing the best way to maintain this domination is to give the impression that democracy and participation exists while the fundamental reality is totally different. But when the class struggle heats up, like is the case in Bolivia today, all the contradictions come out into the open and become more obvious. The right wing, confronted with this situation, quickly loses its democratic mask and shows its real face.
It is also true that for those who are part of the entourage around the university defending the system gives them the possibility (through corruption) to get access to enormous amounts of money which they get paid in the form of salaries or which they simply rob.
The elections for the Chancellor and vice-Chancellor are a farce.
The university administration pretends to organise democratic elections for the positions of Chancellor and vice-Chancellor of the university. In reality it is an anti-democratic election, the votes of 55 students have the same value as the vote of one lecturer, yet the administration has the nerve to label this as a democratic election. For years the students have been demanding that these weighted elections be replaced by free and democratic elections in which every vote has the same value. The university administration has simply refused to take the demands of the students into account.
Clearly the elections for the Chancellor and vice Chancellor are a farce and the only thing that the administration wants to do through these ‘elections’ is to give fake legitimacy to something which is totally anti-democratic and illegitimate. When the administration and its hangers on saw that the students would not accept these kinds of elections any longer they decided that the hour had struck to drop the democratic mask.
The hour of the thugs and of repression had arrived
The administration, together with the Prefecture (which has no business interfering at the university) prepared to impose the elections and mobilised its thugs to physically attack and beat up the students who were against the elections. The members of the FUL had no other choice than to defend themselves against this aggression, which led to a pitched battle all over the campus and in the buildings of the university.
The right wing came prepared to crush the students and brought different weapons to the campus: clubs, sticks of dynamite, firecrackers, powerful noise grenades, Molotov cocktails, bottles and stones and, as we have learned from the written press, several amongst them had fire arms. The only thing the thugs did not expect was that the students were equally prepared for a confrontation. The struggle lasted all day, from morning ‘til nightfall.
The thugs hired by the administration stripped the university bare.
Finally the students won the battle and saved the university only to discover the terrible state in which it had been left.
The offices of the students’ organisation had been totally destroyed including all that was in them: computers, photocopiers and documents. Some of the faculty building suffered the same fate which demonstrates the type of people who had been contracted by the administration and the right wing to impose its elections; these were basically thugs, thieves, gangsters and people without any morals at all.
The class struggle is becoming sharper in Bolivia
The right wing is not prepared to give up its privileges. It is hiring thugs to intimidate the social movements and put a break on their aspirations for change. The social movements thought that with the election of Evo Morales their situation would change for the better, but, until now, a bit more than a year after his elections, this has not been the case. As a consequence the contradictions are sharpening day after day.
The right wing, on the other hand, is clearly preparing and armed to defend its interests and they do not hesitate to hire gangsters and thugs to do their dirty work for them.
The necessity to organise defence committees
The events last Friday 15 June and the events on the 24 and 25 of May in the central square of Cochabamba, ‘Plaza de 14 de Septiembre’, when thugs beat up whoever opposed the policies of the right wing have demonstrated that it is urgent that all the social activists and different campaigns begin to discuss the necessity to organise Defence Committees. As the name implies these committees will have as its task to defend the social movement against the attacks from the Prefect and his hirelings.
We cannot accept the violent repression organised by the right wing and we need to continue our struggle for social change that the workers, peasants, indigenous people, the poor townspeople and students need with urgency.