The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) prevailed in the Bolivian elections by a wide margin and is preparing to govern from 2020 to 2025. In a Bolivia marked by social polarization, the blue party received 20% more than former president Carlos Mesa, who was expelled from government in the revolutionary days of 2005. Much further behind came a deprecated “macho” Camacho, involved in allegations of corruption and reduced to the support of the Santa Cruz oligarchy, where the MAS also achieved a good result.
According to the quick count, the MAS will receive more than 52%, Mesa´s Comunidad Ciudadana, slightly over 31%, and Camacho 14%. In turn, there was a swath of null vote that expresses the lack of a left-wing alternative, in part because the electoral law, which comes from the Banzer government, acts to prevent the legality of independent alternatives for the working class.
A defeat for the Bolivian right
The result shows that everything done by the bourgeoisie to force a polarization that would take it to the second round, was not enough. Part of that line, endorsed by the Church and imperialism, was to “take down” three candidates, including de facto president Jeanine Áñez, who despite managing the State apparatus did not attain sufficient support to maintain her candidacy; and Tuto Quiroga, another disgraced former president. Both joined the call to unify the right-wing “useful vote” in Mesa. They aspired to provide governance to a government that was not to be.
The vote expresses that the right lacks a social base. The working people reject it and identify it as the main culprit of their sufferings, with racism and with surrender to imperialism.
It reached the government mounted on a process that was nor its own. It is now clear that it was a sector of the people that rebelled against Evo Morales last year, against the economic deterioration and Evo´s undemocratic attempt to perpetuate himself in power, disregarding the will of the majority that was expressed in the 2016 referendum.
The combination of hesitation, inaction and complicity of the MAS and the COB, and the absence of a political alternative to the left of the MAS, allowed the right to take over the government. But the sectors that rebelled against Evo would not support the right´s program of austerity or the Añez government.
The following months showed that she only came to steal, privatize, downsize and remove people´s gains. Her government´s health, educational, economic, labor and social disaster, motivated a constant siege of mobilization, and was a clear example of what the right in power looks like.
For this reason, a good part of the people resorted to voting for the MAS, demanding a social agenda. Seeking a response to popular claims like those of the mining city of Huanuni, where the State owes workers a debt of 90 million dollars in months of unpaid wages, as well as those of Colquiri and the Vinto company, where its workers and the people demand the pay of owed salaries without cuts.
The COB bureaucracy, the Federation of Miners, the leadership of indigenous, peasant and neighborhood organizations that aligned with Arce also acted. Without a left-wing alternative and faced with a feared return and continuity of the right, the vote was channeled by the MAS.
Arce was obliged to acknowledge the expectations expressed in that vote: “The people have many needs that we have understood and we have the obligation to work to meet all those expectations.” The rebellious and combative Bolivian people and its working class are going to demand that this become a reality, which will surely clash with the reality of the austerity that Arce intends to implement.
The inability of the right to raise a serious government and the willingness of Arce and the MAS to guarantee the needs of the bourgeoisie, explains why the latter now appeals to the MAS to apply a stabilization plan and capitalist government. This is shown by the affectionate greetings and wishes for success expressed by the UN and the OAS that, through the questioned Luis Almagro – who headed last year´s “audit” against Evo – now says he is sure that Arce “will know how to forge a bright future for his country“. Similar messages came from the European Union and the Trump administration, which congratulated Arce on his victory, with a clear message: “We hope to work in our joint interests.”
The MAS, for its part, also makes clear its willingness to comply with the bourgeois need to “pacify” and stabilize the situation. After their electoral victory, both Arce and Evo made a clear call for “national unity.” That is, a unity with the right, in an illusory class conciliation project that aims to achieve political and institutional stability. All the actions of the MAS since November, from the institutional recognition of the Añez government to voting its budget and laws, went towards demonstrating its capitalist reliability.
The bourgeoisie and imperialism seem to be content with entrusting this task to a government of Arce and the MAS. Because of their willingness to accept the task, and also because the electoral result gives the right a relatively stronger position. The MAS will have a majority in both houses of the Legislative Assembly, but it will no longer have the two-thirds supermajority it currently has, which will require further negotiation with the right.
The COB and the necessary independence to demand urgent measures
After betraying successive processes of struggle and making an agreement with Añez, providing a Vice Minister of Labor, the COB took part in today’s stabilization policy. This was recognized by the executive secretary of the federation Juan Carlos Huarachi when he explained the vote as the result of the 12 days of blockades and protests that they had carried out. The measure had originally demanded health, education, work, and for Añez to step down, but the COB accepted the policy of MAS and Evo to lift those blockades, which had pushed Añez to the verge of resigning, in order to divert all struggle to the bourgeois democratic elections and try to rebuild the battered regime.
The COB gambled on that “peaceful” exit, calling for mass voting and guarding the ballot boxes. That is why Huarachi now states that their first demand is to recover “the political stability” of the presidential and parliamentary management-capitalist regime.
However, the evident pressure from the rank and file leads him to threaten that “the time is short, very short” for the new government to respond, reactivate the economy, ensure job stability and income so as not to live in poverty, reincorporate the totality of dismissed workers and create jobs with a plan that nationalizes companies and resources under strict workers’ control and industrialization of resources such as mining.
The COB must maintain independence from the Arce government and the MAS, of a capitalist nature, that does not propose to advance in workers’ and socialist measures. Arce was already Morales’s Minister of Economy during 12 of his 14 years in office, without taking measures beyond the limits of capitalism.
The “national unity” of Arce and the MAS
When it is necessary to demand justice for the massacres perpetrated by the illegitimate government of Añez, Arce proposes “to govern for all Bolivians, to build a government of national unity, without hatred...” In a call for unity with the employers and the right to recover “the certainty to be able to develop economic activity of small, medium and large companies.”
One piece of information from the campaign is that Arce and Choquehuanca always dissociated themselves from Morales, saying that he should be held accountable for the accusations and charges against him. Thus, it was not surprising that Arce never named Evo in his thanks and victory speech. That is why it will be necessary to see if he does not end up being a new Lenín Moreno, like in Ecuador.
For his part, Morales gave a message by himself, with a carefully read written text. There he insisted on “putting aside the differences and sectoral and regional interests, to achieve a great national agreement with political parties, businessmen, workers and the State.”
Faced with a new edition of the frustrated reformist project to reconcile class interests that are opposed, the perspectives may be marked with the rejection of pro-imperialist policies and the classic right-wing austerity, with a vote for the MAS based on social demands, the betrayal of the COB and the rest of the Unity Pact organizations in diverting the struggles towards the electoral exit, and the need to apply a harsh austerity package, in an international context in which Bolivia’s main resources are in decline in terms of their value, such as oil, gas and minerals.
It is necessary to raise an agenda of urgent demands for health, a single national system with sufficient resources from the State, for education, jobs and social income. Demand that the COB, the Federation of Miners and other organizations propose immediate deadlines for their resolution. The same with the demand for justice in the face of corruption and the massacres like those of Senkata and Sacaba. The need to tax the rich, businessmen and multinationals. To face the ecocidal landowners and apply a necessary agrarian reform. To not pay the external debt to implement a social audit.
If the results of the elections demonstrate anything, it is the need to build a truly socialist and anti-capitalist political alternative, to respond to the needs of the working people that the MAS and the COB disappoint. To this end, it is necessary to advance the unity of the left to launch a political alternative of the working class and the people, not of capital and national and foreign businessmen.