Monday, April 28, 2008

Bolivia: The Oligarchy Prepares a Major Challenge on May 4th

By Jorge Martin
Monday, 28 April 2008


The oligarchy in Bolivia has launched a major challenge to the Evo Morales government in the form of a referendum on an "Autonomous Statute" in the Eastern Department of Santa Cruz. The Statue, if passed in this unconstitutional referendum, would give Santa Cruz amongst others, the right to pass its own laws, particularly on issues like land reform, control revenues over natural resources located in the region, set its own budget and most important of all, create its own security forces. The plan of the oligarchy, as explained by Santa Cruz's prefect, is that this would be followed by similar referendums in Beni, Pando and Tarija, the other Departments that make up Bolivia's Media Luna Oriental (Eastern Crescent).

In effect, what the coalition of wealthy landowners, capitalist agribusinesses and key sections of the Bolivian ruling class are attempting is a unilateral declaration of independence so that they will not have to implement the laws passed by the MAS government of Evo Morales, particularly in relation to land reform and hydrocarbons. This is a very powerful coalition, that has been described as the "100 clans", which controls large amounts of land (25 million hectares as opposed to 5 million hectares which are in the hands of 2 million poor peasants), meat packing plants, the profitable business of soy bean plantations, the country's main banks and media and the main private industries. They are defending their class interests and they are prepared to go until the end and use any means necessary.

They have used the issue of "autonomy" to mobilise mass support for what in reality is a rebellion of the slaveholders, to use Marx's expression. At the same time they have been arming thousands of young people, recruited from the sons of the wealthy and from lumpen elements, in what can only be described as the fascist gangs of the Union Juvenil Cruceña. With a strong element of racism against the "Highland Indios", people with dark, indigenous, skin have been beaten up, lists of MAS activists pasted on the main square in Santa Cruz, a city where only right-wing political activity is now allowed. Evo Morales himself has been called a "monkey" by leading figures in the Santa Cruz "Civic" Committee.

There are clear indications of involvement of the US embassy in this movement of the upper class. At the beginning of April Evo Morales denounced the fact that the government had discovered an office of the CIA within the presidential palace. This had been set up by a former high-ranking officer of the national police who, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, was passing vital information to the CIA. A government minister also denounced the fact that 93 million dollars of USAID had gone directly to opposition groups and organisations in the last year.

But how did we get to this point? As a by-product of the revolutionary movement of the Bolivian workers and peasants in 2000-05, the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) of Evo Morales got a resounding victory in the elections in December 2005, with more than 53% of the votes against 28% of his closest rival. Even in Santa Cruz the result was good for the MAS, with 33%, even though it lost to Podemos with 41%.

As we said at the time, "the hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants voted for the MAS with a clear idea in mind, that Morales will deliver on the ‘October Agenda', that is, the demands that led to the October 2003 uprising. These are, mainly, the nationalisation and industrialisation of gas, land reform, reversal of neo-liberal policies and, for some, the calling of a Constituent Assembly."

What policies did the MAS government implement? If one thing has characterised the Morales government over the last two years it has been vacillation. Every step forward taken in the right direction (nationalisation of gas, raising the minimum wage, providing school children with free milk, raising the pensions) was met with fierce opposition from the capitalist class and imperialism. Faced with such opposition the government retreated half a step, called for negotiations and generally conciliated. This only encouraged the oligarchy to step up its campaign, created confusion amongst the supporters of the MAS (the masses of workers and poor peasants from the indigenous majority) and demobilised them. The oligarchy was able to seize the initiative and even win a base of support amongst the masses in the Eastern Crescent.

Even when the MAS leadership attempted to use the mass movement against the right wing, it did so in an indecisive way, avoided a serious confrontation and stayed firmly within the narrow limits of bourgeois legality (at a time when the oligarchy was happy to break their own laws in order to defend their land, interest and profits). This was the case for instance one year ago in Cochabamba. When the prefect of Cochabamba (the area where the MAS was born and had massive support in the 2005 elections) came out in favour of autonomy, the MAS leaders called for massive mobilisations of protest. The prefect used the police against the demonstrators and that was the spark that lit the fire. The enraged masses gathered in a massive cabildo abierto in the main town square voted to expel the prefect from the department and to give themselves a new government. What was the response of vice-president García Linera? He argued that the prefect should be respected because he had been legitimately and democratically elected and that the people should go back to their homes. Such a policy could only have two effects: to disorient and demobilise the workers and peasants and to further encourage the oligarchy.

And so it happened. Earlier this year, after many negotiations, the mediation of the Catholic Church, meetings and talks, etc., both the government and the oligarchy announced the calling of a referendum: the government in order to pass the new Political Constitution of the State (as drafted over many months of legalistic disputes by the Constituent Assembly, but only passed at a session which was boycotted by the opposition), and the Santa Cruz oligarchy in order to pass their own Autonomous Statute in a direct challenge and in contradiction with the Political Constitution of the State (CPE). Then, the National Electoral Court ruled that, because of procedural matters, both referendums were unconstitutional and had to be cancelled. The government probably breathed a sigh of relief; this was a way of avoiding a confrontation that they did not want to face. They accepted the ruling.

However, the oligarchy, emboldened by each concession on the part of the government, felt strong enough to defy the ruling and go ahead with its own referendum on autonomy. Since then there have been constant skirmishes between the central national democratically elected government and the decisive section of the country's ruling class represented by the Santa Cruz Departmental government and the Santa Cruz Civic Committee (led by wealthy landowner and agro-capitalist Branko Marinkovic).

A few months ago there was the incident over who controlled the Santa Cruz airport. After having sent the Army to take it over, the government, once again, backed down and effectively handed it over to the Department.

More recently there was a conflict over the decision of the government to block exports of basic foodstuffs in order to face rising prices and scarcity at home. Marinkovic is one of the country's largest cattle ranchers and soybean producers (for the export market). The oligarchy replied with a bosses' lock-out and threatened a national lock-out of the transport industry. The government eased the blocking of exports.

Then the Santa Cruz Department disconnected the computers dealing with its budget from those of the national government. The national government cut off money transfers to Santa Cruz.

But in all these battles, the only one force than can save the Bolivian revolution and also the MAS government, has been absent: the masses of workers and peasants. The miners' union and several peasant organisations made an appeal to the government to use all means necessary to stop the May 4th referendum in Santa Cruz. They clearly saw it as a threat to all they had fought for. What was the answer of the MAS leaders? When asked about it, Garcia Linera replied that the referendum was "just an opinion poll" and when Evo Morales was asked what he was going to do about it he said literally: "Nothing. I believe in the consciousness of the Bolivian people".

The oligarchy is launching a serious and well-organised challenge to the government of Evo Morales and the government is basically burying its head under the sand. It is not even clear that the aim of the ruling class is to split the country. Why should they do that? So far they have managed to get a stronghold in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija. They also have strong positions in Cochabamba and Sucre, and even the prefect of the capital La Paz has now come out in favour of autonomy for Santa Cruz. There are certainly more extreme sections of the oligarchy (represented by Marinkovic's Civic Committee) that would not hesitate in going all the way towards independence. But others are probably thinking that on the back of this movement they can force the overthrow of the Morales government and put an end to the revolutionary movement of the masses, and then they would not need to split the country.

However, not all is lost in Bolivia. At any time, all these reactionary provocations can lead to a massive movement of workers and peasants. Herein lies the only hope for the future. As in the case of Venezuela, appeals to dialogue, conciliation, the bringing in of mediators, did not prevent the ruling class from organising one attempt after another to overthrow the Chavez government. In each occasion it was only the mass mobilisation of workers and peasants in the streets that defeated the counter-revolutionary attempts. In Bolivia in the last few years the masses have shown over and over again their willingness to sacrifice in the struggle for a better future, they have overthrown three governments, faced the army and the police. In April 1952 the miners single-handedly defeated and crushed the army in what was the beginning of the Bolivian revolution. That feat can be repeated again on condition that a clear lead is given. A massive show of strength can disband the forces of reaction.

The miners of Huanuni, in a statement on April 4th clearly identified the danger: "The wealthy oligarchy, a minority composed of land owners and multinational businessmen... with the massive resources derived from their economic power and the open support of countries aligned with the US have started a serious offensive to recover all the political power they lost during the bloody struggles of 2003 and 2005"

But they add: "The national government of the MAS, is also responsible for this situation for having allowed this small minority of the rich to reorganise and raise its head again. This oligarchic minority is so powerful because they have the economic power they derive from the exploitation of our natural resources, like the hydrocarbons, mining, the land, etc. If the government does not take over these resources for the state, these vampires will continue to be powerful and will ensure the continuation of unemployment, poverty and the misery we have lived in for the last decades."

And they end up with a clear appeal for action: "Only the application of the Agendas of 2003 and 2005 will guarantee the disarming and the defeat of the oligarchy. The Huanuni miners demand that the government takes the boldest measures to disband the fraud of this autonomy referendum, and to apply once and for all real structural changes in the country. The miners, loyal to our tradition of revolutionary struggle, demand that the government gives us the necessary means and resources to smash the "civic" and business cliques which throughout the country, and particularly in the Eastern Crescent, fool the people and want to fill the country with hatred, blood and division".

One lesson must be learnt above all: the last two years of the MAS government prove in a conclusive manner that no middle way is possible, no "Andean capitalism" can be built. Even the timid measures of the Morales government have led directly to this rebellion of the slaveholders. The only way forward is the expropriation of the land, banks and industry under the democratic control of the working people of Bolivia, linking up with the revolutionary movements taking place throughout Latin America.RENEGADE EYE

30 comments:

Larry Gambone said...

The ruling classes are super patriots as long as their ability to bully and exploit remains untouched. When that happens - To Hell with the nation! Move my money out of the country, or if need be, break up the country to preserve my ability to steal. How much longer is humanity going to tolerate this band of psychopaths, megalomaniacs and narcissists?

Graeme said...

Morales is actually part of the working class, he doesn't just represent them. The movement must take this opportunity to crush capitalism, or it will once again gain power.

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

Always that we go in to your blog learn something interesant a strong embrace of your friends of Reus Catalonia

sonia said...

Hopefully, Bolivian people will be smart enough not to listen to Jorge Martin's pol-potish advice. Throwing oil on the fire is not the solution. The disastrous example of Venezuela, where Chavez's "reforms" have produced nothing but misery and food shortages, are having a moderating influence on Morales.

Btw, Morales never promised to implement Communism (as Martin is advocating). He came to power representing the interest of small coca growers, who were facing extermination under the previous pro-American, anti-drugs (and therefore anti-capitalist)administration.

thepoetryman said...

Morales is actually part of the working class, he doesn't just represent them. The movement must take this opportunity to crush capitalism, or it will once again gain power.

Yes. Morales is working class, more than mere representation.

I'm with graeme. the movement must act now or suffer the fate of the "c" word.

thepoetryman said...

Oops... Meant to italicize Graeme's comment above ("Morales is actually...again gain power").

Peace.

Renegade Eye said...

Sonia: I met someone who recently lived in Bolivia. He showed me a video he took, of totally unarmed pro-Morales demonstrators being beaten by armed thugs. Just as Jorge said, these groups are of a fascist nature. I think personally what is happening on the ground, is more explosive than Venezuela. The movement in Bolivia is more from below. Bolivia was the first country to get a win over neoliberalism in 2000 at Cochabamba.

70% live in overcrowded circumstances.
90% No shower or bathtub.
64% No electricity.
72% No indoor plumbing.
59% No running water.
33% No healthcare access.
05% Roads paved.


Morales ran on a much more reformist program than Chavez. Unfortunately some on the left in Bolivia, didn't support him electorally. He didn't run as a communist, and he'll never be one. Even with his small reform, slow evolution program, his opposition will make him into Allende, unless he takes the steps Jorge (pronounced Jordy) recommends.

In the Communist Manifesto Marx says capitalism is theft. Labor is increasingly socialized, while owning less and being able to buy less of the products they produce.

I saw how Morales's opposition behave im raw video footage. They are the Pol Pots.

Larry: They would get their autonomy in Colombia, if I was Morales.

Graeme: Morales is too nice a guy for his position. He believes in the parlimentary road, when he is dealing with people who are organizing criminal elements into death squads.

Poetryman: We'll see your May 04th poem my friend.

sonia said...

Ren,

his opposition will make him into Allende

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's precisely because Morales is so careful, that he has a chance to avoid Allende's fate. Allende was a fool. He surrounded himself with nazis, who ultimately betrayed him. Remember, it was Allende who promoted Pinochet, hoping that Pinochet would be his attack dog to destroy the right-wing opposition.

You can't fight evil with evil. Even if you win, like Castro or Lenin, the evil wins too, and you're back to square one.

If Morales won't listen to the advice of real nazis like Jorge Martin, and tries to be fair to everybody (even to the right-wing secessionist opposition), he might succeed with his reforms without creating a Pinochet in the process.

troutsky said...

I love how sonia creates whatever "history" might be useful to her argument.

The real issue with autonomy for the crecent is that the most productive land and valuable resources exist in the region. Morales should counter with an offer of land elsewhere (higher)or plane tickets to the US. Then surround and impose embargo on the entire area.

Just Some Guy said...

o/t - Kewanio Che Keekeru, Renegade Eye!

sonia said...

Troutsky,

sonia creates whatever "history" might be useful

Do you actually read history books ?

When Allende came to power in November 1970, Pinochet was a minor brigadier general stationed in a small base in a remote village of Iquique.

But he was immidiately promoted by Allende to Division General in January 1971, and named General Commander of the Santiago Army Garrison. A year later, Allende appointed him General Chief of Staff of the Army. And the following year, Allende named Pinochet as Army Commander in Chief.

It was one of the fastest promotions any officer has ever experienced.

And while promoting Pinochet, Allende refused to support moderate army leaders like Carlos Prats, Mario Sepúlveda Squella and Guillermo Pickering, accepting their resignations shortly before the Pinochet coup.

The reason: they were known as "constitutionalists", fanatically devoted to obeing the law. Allende knew he couldn't count on them to seize dictatorial power himself.

But Allende knew that Pinochet and his friends hated the "constitutionalists". They hated democracy and admired dictators. When Castro visited Chile in late 1971, he got a warm welcome from Pinochet and his friends, and a very cold one from Prats and other "constitutionalists". Allende continued to promote those officers he thought were the most friendly towards Castro.

Morales should.... impose embargo on the entire area

To do that, Morales would have to do the same thing as Allende and surround himself with ruthless military leaders, ready to overthrow the Constitution. They might help Morales to become a dictator.... or they might get a better offer from the CIA, like Allende's protegee did in 1973...

Tere said...

It is always very sad that the power of money to win the game, you need to spend several generations to change the situation, at least Evo Morales will be the precedent for the poor does not conform with their destiny.

roman said...

Larry Gambone,

How is holding local referendums to bully and exploit to use your words?
A referendum is the surest way, if done honestly, to find out what the wishes are of the people. Morales is a socialist but not a Stalinist. Central Committee rule is not part of his governing policy or style. Is it my imagination or are you yearning for those Uncle Joe "rule by decree" days to come back. Jam the rules down the peoples throats whether they want it or not?
Not even the poorest Bolivian peasant finds that very appealing.

Renegade Eye said...

Happy Mayday Everyone

Just Some Guy: Thank you for visiting. Like I said at your blog, today is the day to listen to Symphony No. 3 (Shostakovich).

Tere: I like your new "handle" better than your old. It's easier to spell. I think Evo Morales is a unique leader. I have disagreements with him, but don't question his integrity.

Sonia: This was written by trotskyist Alan Woods, two years before Pinochet came to power.

Thus far, the forces of Reaction have been cowed by the sweep of mass radicalisation. The army has remained cautiously in the sidelines.

This has given Allende the possibility of claiming for the Chilean army a "special", "democratic", "non-political" character. From the moment he took office, Allende has constantly flattered the army and its general staff. The pay of the armed forces has been increased. Allende has made a special point of attending big parades, distributing medals, lavishing praise on the army. He fondly imagines that this grovelling will endear him to the general staff. But perceptive bourgeois observers can see further than this self styled "Marxist":

"It has been said that Allende, by flattery and increase of pay has already neutralised the armed forces. This seems to be an over-statement. What he has done is to keep the Army out of politics while he maintains the constitution. If he were to go beyond it, no-one can predict what would happen." (The Sunday Times, June 14th)

So convinced is Allende in the omnipotence of his manoeuvring with the tops of the army that he modestly declined the opportunity of staffing it with his own supporters after the assassination of General Schneider - which he was constitutionally entitled to do.

Allende's sole act of interference with the armed wing of the state was the disbanding of the infamous "Mobile Guard" - a kind of mobile gendarmerie used for suppressing strikes. But the Caribineros remain - "a professional corps equipped with modern, heavy armaments, communication, transport and an efficient bureaucratic organisation. It comprises 30,000 men, distributed all over the country in specialised units."

Nothing has been done to touch the old bourgeois state machine. Indeed, an act passed in the last days of the old regime makes it illegal for Allende to remove the old officials!

However, Allende's slavish respect for Authority - in the form of an Army jackboot - will not save his skin when conditions permit the counter-revolution to raise its head. The tops of the Army, Police and Civil Service are linked by a thousand threads with the landlords, bankers and capitalists. Undoubtedly, the sympathy of the rank-and-file workers in uniform is with the government. But behind their backs stands the officer with his stick and revolver. The passive sympathy of the soldiers will be of no avail unless the hold of the officer caste is broken. Yet Allende persists in propping up the general staff with his own authority.


Roman: Self determination that divides the working class, shouldn't be supported. The autonomy movement is based on racism.

lacoladeldiablo said...

Mayday greetings for you.
Nice post, interesting comments

sonia said...

Ren,

My point was that Allende was trying to win over the Army. Well, thank you for validating and confirming my point with your text:

From the moment he took office, Allende has constantly flattered the army and its general staff. The pay of the armed forces has been increased. Allende has made a special point of attending big parades, distributing medals, lavishing praise on the army.

Obviously, that Alan Woods was a very perceptive fellow, anticipating that Allende will be devoured by his own attack dogs. Too bad Allende didn't listen to him.

sonia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Gambone said...

For all his use of Marxist language, Allende was in fundamental ways a social democrat and a Chilean nationalist. As the former he believed in peaceful and parliamentary change, as the latter, that somehow Chile was “different” and that the ruling class and the military would respect the Constitution. What he forgot was that this is a class war and the ruling classes will kill as many workers as is necessary to maintain their dominance. In fact, there is no crime they won't commit to keep their power over us. Tragically, he should have known from Chilean history where it was normal for the army to massacre striking workers, the worst of which was in Iquique in 1907 where 2500 peacefully protesting nitrate workers were machine-gunned to death.

Renegade Eye said...

lacoladeldiablo: Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sonia: Allende promoted Pinochet, because he feared him. He wasn't like Chavez, who would mobilize the masses, if he had to.

Larry: I agree. Do you think Evo Morales is similar to Allende?

sonia said...

Ren,

Allende promoted Pinochet, because he feared him.

In that case, Allende would be an insane idiot. You don't promote people you fear. It's a suicidal strategy.

I don't think Allende was an idiot, though. He was hopelessly naive, but he promoted Pinochet knowing that he was an SOB, but he was hoping that this particular SOB would be working for HIM.

He wasn't like Chavez, who would mobilize the masses

Allende was trying to mobilize the masses on September 11, 1973, but the masses were cheering Pinochet instead. I know people, Communists, who were in Chile during the coup.

Larry,

the ruling classes will kill as many workers as is necessary

The working class had turned against Allende in 1973 (like the German working class turned against Communists in 1933, and the Polish working class in 1980).

Your Pollyanish version of history is amusing, but completely phony. The real history is much harsher...

Larry Gambone said...

He may be a bit social democratic in his politics but 1. I don't think as a worker he has any illusions about the ruling classes ability to murder 2. As originally part of a mass movement, and put in power by one, I think he will call on the people.

Renegade Eye said...

This is BBC's report on the referendum.

Nicholas said...

Off topic comment to Renegade

Dearest Ren,

I am wondering why you feel it is necessary to have the "Not available in China" sticker on the site. I feel it is getting a little close to the bourgeois anti-China propaganda that is really rampant at this point. With all the titular communists on the site I might think that you would have received a few comments on this. Is this not giving in to the current chic of "China is the slave-house of the world" milieu? But I suppose you will argue that China is capitalist and does not need defending.

I only take the time to write because you write me
Regards

sonia said...

Ren,

You better listen to Nicholas. This criticism of China must stop. Trotskyists like yourself must immediately stop criticizing successful Communist governments and close ranks with other leftists in singing the praises of China's glorious Communist leaders.

And if you refuse to listen to Nicholas, at least don't let any strangers carrying an ice pick into your house...

Renegade Eye said...

Nicholas: It's good you are back blogging.

Be sure to read my post about Tibet. I doubt it fits into either the bourgeoise movement with Mia Farrow or the Chinese bureaucracy.

There are two processes occuring.
1) Chinese imperialism vs US imperialism.

On that I'm neutral.

2) Chinese bureaucracy vs Chinese workers right to free speech and other movements from below.

That is a different question. It's not reactionary to call for democratic rights etc. Why let US imperialism coopt such issues.

Sonia: Stalinism is not the issue, but ultraleftism.

Nicholas said...

Sorry my friend but what Chinese imperialism? Remember the class issue. Imperialism is the division and re-division of the world by imperialist, meaning capital exporting capitalist states, with private ownership in the means of production, and backed by military force. it is not imperialism then when a bureaucracy invests/exports capital.

There is plenty to criticize about the way the Maoists/Stalinists have misruled China, including as you point out stifling workers speech. But the (unpleasant truth? for some) is that China is not a capitalist state, therefore we cannot simply dismiss it as every other left current in the world has done (except of course for the Spartacists) and refuse to defend it as we would a corrupt labor union against capitalism.

To Sonia, I have no intention of closing ranks with the Chinese bureaucracy, I would like the workers to replace them.

Ciao
Gratzi

Renegade Eye said...

Nicholas: I'll reply another time. If you email me at the address at my profile, I'll send links.

Larry Gambone said...

The Sparts are still around? (Or as we used to call them "the Start-a-cist League") It figures that they would support state capitalist China. (And this is where I feel I can use the term without blushing!)

Just Some Guy said...

I don't know, Renegade Eye... it used to be that people had some confidence in Venezuela's election system... but it's been FIVE months since the last vote, and STILL NO OFFICIAL RESULTS. This doesn't bode well for the next election there. It's becoming positively Mugabe-esque...

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