Bolivia not socialist

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Bolivia: Why Evo Morales is no answer



Despite having plentiful deposits of natural gas and other resources, Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. While an almost entirely white hand-full of people control obscene amounts of money, seventy percent of Bolivians, including most of the Indian majority, live in poverty, with 50% living in what the government terms conditions of misery.[1] Anti-Indian racism is rife, and in rural areas only 20% of Bolivians have access to running water[2], 15% have access to electricity, and less than 1% have a sewage system.[3]

Over the years, one government after another has implemented the neoliberal policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), severely cutting already low public spending, and granting multinational corporations the right to exploit the country’s natural gas for very little compensation.

In the last three years the pressures felt by the poor Bolivian majority finally led them to rebel, and confront the very system which causes their misery. They took to the streets and openly clashed with the government’s forces of repression multiple times, ultimately leading to the early end of two presidencies.

The last such event, known as the Second Gas Wars, which took place in the months of May and June of 2005, saw the entire country shut down by workers, peasants, and Indians who raised the demand “workers to power!” These oppressed Bolivians arguably had the ability not only to depose then-president Carlos Mesa (which they did succeed in doing), but also seizing power! Unfortunately, a large portion of them were duped into falling back and supporting the presidential candidacy of former coca farmer and indigenous politician Evo Morales, under the assumption that he could implement their demands once president.[4]

On December 18, in elections which drew international attention, the people of Bolivia elected Evo Morales as their new president.

Because Morales has repeatedly denounced the neoliberal model of capitalism which has been imposed on most of the global south by the imperialists and their bankers (read: the IMF), and poses the threat of becoming a key ally to Cuba and Venezuela in their opposition to U.S. imperialism and efforts to create an integrated Latin American economic bloc, the imperialists and capitalists (and of course their press and other media) have attempted to drum up anti-Morales hysteria with a number of gross exaggerations of his goals and abilities.

On the other hand, many, both inside and outside of
Bolivia, see the election of Evo Morales as an answer to the numerous problems facing the country and its people; but, as we’ll show in this article, it’s no answer for even the most basic of them.

Don’t believe the hype
The bourgeois press has taken every chance to point out that Morales “admires Fidel Castro”[5]; and liberal publications like Progreso Weekly continue to refer to the newly elected president as a “socialist peasant leader,”[6] even though the MAS itself doesn’t claim to be socialist!

As Bolpress pointed out, “On the question of socialism ... he [Alvaro Garcia Linera, Morales’ Vice-president] has worked hard to convince the electorate that he will never mention this word again.”[7]

And in a July issue of MR Zine, Suan Spronk writes, “It should not be a surprise that García Linera winces at the mere mention of socialism, since the MAS never has been a socialist party, despite the name. The most coherent economic policy that the party has ever had is its anti-imperialist stance to fight US plans for coca eradication in the region.”[8]

Morales and Garcia Linera themselves are the first to quell the exaggerations from all sides of the political spectrum, saying, “We should admit that
Bolivia will still be capitalist in the next 50 to 100 years.”[9]

They have also “assur[ed] the business community that [they will] protect property rights,”[10] and promised that they “would never ‘extort’ foreign investors.”[11] While up until 2004, the MAS didn’t even support nationalization, they are now raising the slogan “nationalization without confiscation”.

These plans for “nationalization” are nothing like what the oppressed Bolivian people have actually been struggling for (i.e. expropriation of the transnational gas companies), despite Evo’s claims that “The natural resources can't be given away, can't be privatized, they belong in the hands of the Bolivian state!”[12] Instead, he’s aiming to reform the state’s deals with “big business, landowners, and transnationals” as a part of a “collaborative program” in the name of “reinventing democracy” and “Andean capitalism.”[13]

As Abraham Delgado, a water activist from the city of
El Alto put it, “They talk about nationalization, but in reality it's not nationalization -- 80 percent stays in the hands of the corporations... we stay in the same system, the same model.”[14]

But these facts haven’t stopped many on the left from being over-ambitious, and trying to make Morales into something he’s not.

It the latest issue of their newspaper, Workers World, the Workers World Party in the
U.S. proclaimed that “The indigenous peoples of Bolivia, dispossessed and poor, proudly attained the nation’s presidency for the first time ever on Dec. 18. After more than a century of their social and economic exclusion by U.S. transnational corporations, in cahoots with the country’s oligarchy, Evo Morales of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) was elected president.” [15]

As if now, by some magical transformation of class relations through a bourgeois election, the workers, Indians, and peasants of
Bolivia finally control their country!

In the same article they remark, “El Alto, a famous bastion of resistance to neoliberalism ... was proclaimed capital of the Bolivian Revolution of the 21st century during strikes last June [the Second Gas Wars] that deposed former president Carlos Mesa.”

But, what they fail to mention is that Morales and the MAS were actually allied with
Mesa just a short time earlier!

When thousands of oppressed Bolivians shut down the country during the First Gas War in 2003, after then-president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada’s army killed several protestors, Morales and the MAS refused to join in. Instead, they not only supported
Mesa’s (who was vice president under Sanchez de Lozada) succession to power, but also supported his fraudulent gas referendum, which didn’t even offer nationalization as an option![16]

From the outset of the First Gas Wars, the MAS put its electoral ambitions above all else, discouraging any hint of rebellion or popular action. It has effectively continued on this path right up to the present.

This “has caused Bolivian sociologist Carlos Crespo to describe Morales as "Lula-ized," and to call MAS ... just "a presidential vehicle."”[17]

Even “Party insiders in Bolivia report that, over the past few years, the MAS is following a similar path to the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, Workers Party – Brazil), slowly transforming from a social movement party towards an electoral machine geared solely towards the election of Evo as president. Its repeated failure to embrace popular demands and endorsement of neoliberal leaders, such as former President Carlos Mesa and temporary President Eduardo Rodríguez, are testament to the gulf that exists between progressive social movements and the party.”[18]

“Evo is like [President Alejandro]
Toledo in Peru. Nothing will change for the Indians if he is president,” said Felipe Quispe, head of the Pachakutik Indigenous Movement and general secretary of the United Farm Workers' Union of Bolivia. “We will rewrite history with our own blood.”[19]

Revolution is the only solution
While it’s true that Evo Morales elected by the largest percentage of votes in the history of his country (54%), there were many who didn’t vote at all; and even many of those who did vote have vowed to rebel again if their demands aren’t met.

“Various social groups and leaders, including a recent politically-embarrassing public announcement by a MAS Senator, have given a MAS government varying time periods of three to six months to comply with the demands of the Bolivian people, specifically on the issues of gas and the constituent assembly. Failure to make significant progress, they promise, will bring renewed social protest from [the] MAS' own current supporters.”[20]

Alejo Veliz Lazo, a well known Indigenous leader, First General Secretary of the Bolivian Peasant Workers Unique Syndical Confederation (CSUTCB), and councilor for the Cochabamba Peasant Workers’ Unique Syndical Federation (FSUTCC), agrees, “Look. Right now ASP (Assembly for the Sovereignty of the Peoples) as an organization is not thinking about December, but we are thinking about getting out of this situation in order to try and organize and define an ample front that is being proposed by grass-roots organizations, the Confederation of Urban and Rural Teachers, COB, CSUTCB, the Miners National Federation and others such as the Regional Workers Union and the rural associations in El Alto. All of them are working to build an ample front as a proposal given the circumstances. We hope this comes through. ASP is betting on this and we will support it. I reiterate that other candidates are really out of focus; they don’t have the stature to fulfill the demands of the Bolivian people.”[21]

He continues, “The people have never supported the elections. The people were playing another role and they were part of a different dynamic. The people have been fighting for years and they started to see some historical proposals on the horizon, more concretely since February 2003, then in October 2003 and ending up in what May and June 2005 have meant. The Bolivians had two very clear proposals: the nationalization of the oil industry as a first pillar, and the Constituent Assembly as the second one. These were the pillars for which the people fought till the last consequences. I would say, they were very close to get them, but according to my judgement the Bolivian oligarchy, those who have the political, social and economical power, spotted the almost insurmountable danger. I would say this fight just needed a little push, and then they come with the oligarchic proposal that says, “no, we better bring the elections earlier and that will fix this.”

“I think that the bad thing here, because I have no doubt the oligarchy has to impede this process, is that these people’s uprising that almost ends up with a victorious uprising is brutally betrayed by the MAS. I would say specifically by Mr. Evo Morales because this man is fighting with us, he is in the trenches with us: the COB (Bolivian Workers Union), the Mine Workers Union Federation of Bolivia (FSTMB), the CSUTCB, the rural and urban teachers, and all the organizations that joined this fight with the demands for nationalization of the oil industry and a Constituent Assembly. Right then and there Mr. Evo Morales leaves the circle and surrenders to the oligarchic proposal, the proposal of the dominating classes, the transnational corporations and hydrocarbon companies, and they go and say: “OK, let’s have the elections earlier”. He already knew that this was a game of the then President Carlos Mesa, whom he has always been in bed with for he has been part of his government. This naturally stops the movement because one of the sectors had important progress, but he walks out, discourages the people and then finally withdraws calling early elections.”

“Our proposal was there. What will the coming elections solve if we haven’t changed the rules of the game? The Constituent Assembly was meant to radically change the constitutional order that we have lived for 180 years with the same Spanish models, and we haven’t changed anything. And that was our proposal, that it was the time to call for a Constituent Assembly and at the same time to nationalize the oil industry, because this is one of the most important resources for the country’s economical take off. And we were, I repeat, betrayed.”

And he’s right, just as we explained in Volume 1, Issue 3, of The Free Press (Bolivia: A revolution betrayed). All illusions and idealistic well wishing must be put aside. History tells us that there’s only one solution for the problems facing the Bolivian people; and it’s isn’t Evo Morales’ presidency!

Recent events (and Morales’ betrayal) have shown more than ever that it is not possible for the exploited Bolivian masses to liberate themselves while working within the limits of capitalism.

The path of working people, Indians, peasants, and all other oppressed sectors of the Bolivian people is clear: organize even stronger than in the past, shut down the country again, and forge the Constituent Assembly as the first step in seizing power!

Because, as we said at the close of the Second Gas Wars, “In order to solve the problems of centuries of poverty and exploitation, and to break free from the clutches of imperialism, [the working people, peasants, Indians and other oppressed Bolivians] must wrestle the power from the hands of the ruling class through a genuine socialist revolution, and establish a state in which they have the power!”[22]

[1] Jimmy Langman, Sad state of roads a sign of Bolivia's rocky path to development, Dallas Morning News, April 7, 2000
[2] Country Profile: Bolivia, Library of Congress, Federal Research Division, August, 2005
[3] Jimmy Langman, Sad state of roads a sign of Bolivia's rocky path to development, Dallas Morning News, April 7, 2000
[4] For a more in depth analysis see: Ricardo Santiago, “Bolivia: A Revolution Betrayed, Again,” The Free Press, Volume 1, Issue 3.
[5] Alan Clendenning, “Gas reserves could ease
Bolivia's poverty,” Miami Herald, December 22, 2005.
[6] Saul Landau, “
Bolivia’s election deserves a history lesson,” Progreso Weekly, December, 22, 2005.
[7] Miguel Lora Fuentes, "Alvaro García Linera: 'El capitalismo andino es un paso intermedio para imaginar el socialismo'," Bolpress,
October 7, 2005.
[8] Susan Spronk, “
Bolivia: Elections and Left Strategy,” MR Zine, July 7, 2005.
[9] Gretchen Gordon, “Evo Morales Becomes
Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begins,” Znet, December 19, 2005.
[10] Fiona Smith, “Election may disrupt
U.S. drug war,” LA Daily News, December 18, 2005.
[11] “Leftist claims victory in
Bolivia,” BBC News, December 19, 2005.
[12] Gretchen Gordon, “Evo Morales Becomes
Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begins,” Znet, December 19, 2005.
[13] LOR-CI, "La burguesía teme a las expectativas que un gobierno
del MAS podría despertar en las masas." Rebelión, October 1, 2005
[14] Gretchen Gordon, “Evo Morales Becomes
Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begins,” Znet, December 19, 2005.
[15] Berta Joubert-Ceci, “Morales wins big, vows change,” Workers World, Volume 47, Number 50.
[16] Forrest Hylton, "The Ghost of Gonismo: 'Popular Participation' in
Bolivia's Gas Referendum," Counterpunch, July 20, 2004.
[17] Christian Parenti, “
Bolivia's Battle Of Wills,” The Nation, June 16, 2005.
[18] Susan Spronk, “
Bolivia: Elections and Left Strategy,” MR Zine, July 7, 2005.
[19] Christian Parenti, “
Bolivia's Battle Of Wills,” The Nation, June 16, 2005.
[20] Gretchen Gordon, “Evo Morales Becomes
Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real Challenge Begins,” Znet, December 19, 2005.
[21] Ivan Ignacio, “The December 2005 elections are just an abortion, because the people have never asked for it,”
[22] Ricardo Santiago, “Bolivia: A Revolution Betrayed, Again,” The Free Press, Volume 1, Issue 3.

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