Bolivia: between the coup and the pact

Social unrest, reports of fraud. Evo´s resignation and departure from the country. Proclamation of an illegitimate president and increased street fighting. Agreement between the coup government and the MAS for elections without Morales or García Linera. What is happening in Bolivia? What debates are there? An independent position of the anti-capitalist and socialist left.

In the context a strong rise in the class struggle in Latin America, a coup was carried out in Bolivia, during which Evo Morales resigned. Imperialism and its local partners saw the opportunity to provoke a change of course and, through it, also discourage the continental surge of struggle. In its favor, it had the strong social discontent that the MAS government had accumulated over the years, as a result of not responding to social demands, adopting a policy of agreements with extractivist corporations and businessmen, promoting the bureaucratization and co-optation of social organizations and finally attempting to reelected Evo to a fourth time, after this was rejected in a plebiscite. That combo eroded the government´s base of support and the most reactionary right stepped into the spotlight with their plans, seeing that it was their moment.

The social discontent that had accumulated over time, was expressed during the first days of the coup, when important social sectors did not come out in the government´s defense. On this basis, we nonetheless believe that Evo Morales’s decision to leave the country was mistaken, disbelieving the people´s capacity to confront the coup and not resorting to workers’ and peasants’ organizations to organize the resistance and protect his own life. The explanation that he left in order to pacify and avoid a bloodbath does not resist a serious analysis. Since his departure, there has been blood, death and repression. Beyond the differences, it was a phenomenon similar to Perón´s exit from Argentina when faced with the 1955 coup. He left with similar arguments and achieved a similar result, which was paid by the workers that led the resistance to the coup without their leader.

Senkata and the heroism of the masses

The struggle against the coup, from the moment that the armed forces asked Morales to resign, became the central political axis. The irruption of a coup planned by reactionary civil and military sectors under the tutelage of the US and the OAS, posed the task of confronting and defeating the coup, as the priority of the labor, indigenous and peasant movements. Thus we participated in various actions against the coup in Argentina.

As always, it is during the most critical moments and greatest tensions, that it becomes clear who is who. It is no coincidence that at the peak of the coup´s greatest repression, the rich history of struggle of the Bolivian people has come to light in all its splendor, with the Wiphala flag as its emblem. In the genuine mobilizations of mining and peasant sectors, the strikes, the assemblies and councils of great representation, thousands came together to organize the fight against the coup and to demand Áñez´s resignation. That social force, which Morales did not trust when he left, displayed its strength as never before, at times pushing the coup government against the ropes.

In this heroic resistance, the blockade of the Senkata hydrocarbon plant stands out. There, thousands cut the supply to the coup plotters and besieged La Paz, which depends exclusively on the fuel distribution of that plant. For several days they faced a siege and bloody repression, after which thousands marched to La Paz, carrying their dead comrades at the head of the mobilization. From these blockade actions, like others in Cochabamba, emerged the best examples that gave rise to new Cabildos with the participation of various states. It was the highest point of the resistance to the coup and demonstrated that the coup leaders did not have their victory assured.

From direct struggle to the pact

In contrast to the genuine working class, indigenous and peasant resistance that unified Morales’s social base with thousands more who, being critical of Evo, wanted to defeat the coup, came a new and serious political mistake of the MAS leadership. Instead of thoroughly promoting the struggle and the organization to defeating Áñez and Camacho, they decided to pact, negotiate and issue a common call, under the explicit recognition of the coup government, for new elections without Morales or Linera.

While the confrontation with the coup leaders gained ground in the streets, the parallel negotiation that was voted over the weekend initiated a new political moment, marked by the attempt to dismantle the anti-coup uprising and show the world a certain reestablished order for the new elections; the MAS leaders´ appeal to pacify the country, calling for actions to be cancelled; and the majority of the COB leadership meeting with the illegitimate government to support this road map, which is a road of treason.

This route chosen by the MAS leadership, in addition to having very uncertain results in the future, halted and dismantled the struggle against the coup right at the moment that it was most necessary to intensify it. It will be recorded in the history of Bolivia as their final massive capitulation after a long series of inconsistencies. For the time being, there are still resistance actions in diverse areas, reports of fierce repression and demands for justice. The process towards the elections will not be calm but marked by political and social instability, leaving an open ended perspective.

Reformism and possibilism in the 21st century

In the twentieth century, different revolutionary processes were stopped and then diverted by political leaderships that adapt to the prevailing system, abandoning any intention to change its essential political, economic and social structure. In the best cases, they granted some social measures, made partial changes and constitutional reforms that achieved some progress without questioning the capitalist essence of the existing order. In general, the political argument was the lack of international conditions, the absence of favorable correlations force or the existence of a strong right that prevented progress. A chain of justifications for political leaderships that do not have anti-capitalism and socialism in their strategy.

Evo y Linera’s Bolivia, which emerged from the 2000-2003 revolutions, was no exception. Since taking office, after implementing some social improvements, they turned their government project into a 21st century version of these reformist and possiblist conceptions that do not pass any test.

This policy has a theoretical foundation developed by García Linera, an intellectual who has written and spoken across the world on these issues, explaining that they were building a new type of plurinational state in Bolivia, with different classes and a new economic model. In an interview, Linera said: «In so far as no communal initiatives arise from society, we have to work with what exists and what we have are the entrepreneurs, who have to be strengthened, grow and generate more wealth. Get that chip out your head about when the government is going to strike and nationalize everything. That is not going to happen, that has failed and that is not socialism»(1). Thus, he confused the bureaucratic barbarities of Stalinism with the imperative need to put all the strategic resources of Bolivia in the hands of the working class and the people, instead of promoting a mistaken policy of class conciliation.

In another text, Linera added: «Once across the dividing point that radically restructures the correlation of forces between social classes, giving rise to a new block of ruling power in society, again we have to re-articulate and convince the rest of society, even the opposition that does not disappear, though their articulation will no longer be as ruling classes, but as defeated classes, that is, disorganized and without their own project … the formula is: convince and establish … in other terms , defeat the dominant project and integrate it, around the new dominant moral and logical schemes, to the rest of society. This is the formula for political hegemony, for the process of building a new form of state. ”(2)

In another text, he refers to the type of state that should be built; «The social process called ´state´ is a process of formation of hegemonies or class blocks; that is to say, of the capacity of a historical block to articulate in its society project, the classes that are not a leading part of that project … it can only work through the action of the whole of society, with the participation of all social classes»(3).

The main theoretician of the Bolivian process believes in convincing everyone, in integrating all classes into his state under construction. And he mistakenly believes, as the current coup shows, that these defeated classes will act in a disorganized manner and without a project. Linera essentially neglects the Marxist conceptions of the state, its class character and its obvious role as an institution of repressive institutions in the hands of capitalism, impossible to convince, making it necessary to crush and dismantle it in order to build a different transitional working class state opposed to capitalist forces.

The ferocity of the coup and of the entire state apparatus that Morales and Linera had headed until a just few days earlier, was a blow of reality that showed that the Bolivian capitalist state was still there, showing its true class character and bloodthirsty face through the army, the police and others institutions when they considered it convenient, driven by the same leaders of the Santa Cruz capitalists that had not been convinced of the construction of Linera´s inclusive state.

Evo said a few days ago that he regretted having equipped the army that now uses weapons against the people, demolishing the theory that he defends along with Linera of trying to build a different state without changing the country´s social, political, military and institutional bases. The laws of the revolution are concrete: either progress was to be made on the “October agenda”,(4) radicalizing change and defeating the entire Bolivian bourgeois apparatus, or this apparatus would act as soon as it had the opportunity to do so. That second hypothesis, unfortunately, is what we are witnessing.

A new time, a new left

Bolivia opens new and old debates that we will develope in other articles. For now, a new stage in the struggle of the Bolivian people opens up in everyday life. From the MST and the ISL, we will continue to support and participate in all actions that the people genuinely take against the coup plotters and against any measure that attacks their social and democratic rights. And we defend the right of Evo and Linera to return to their country. Every manifestation of the fight against Áñez-Camacho deserves the greatest solidarity and we will be there.

At the same time, drawing correct conclusions from what happened requires taking a political path that confronts all reactionary forces and is also critical and independent of the MAS and its leaders, who have not lived up to the political and social needs of the masses. It is time to build a new political force of the left, an anti-capitalist, socialist and internationalist organization to advance in the struggle for workers, peasants and the indigenous people of Bolivia to govern their country and democratically decide their future.

Sergio Garcia

(1) Interview in «El Deber».
(2) ¿Qué es una revolución? – García Linera.
(3) Estado, democracia y socialismo – García Linera.
(4) The October agenda was the program of fundamental change demanded by the Bolivian masses after the 2003 revolution that ousted Sánchez de Lozada´s government.