Bolivia’s 18th of Brumaire

Mineros del Comibol en marcha protesta desde Oruro hasta La Paz en el año 85

Analysis of the 2019 coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia, placing it in the longer historical context of Morales' political career as well as the more recent events preceding the coup.

Submitted by Mike Harman on July 27, 2020

In 1852, Karl Marx narrated the coup d'etat carried out by Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew, Louis Napoleon, who ended the brief Second French Republic and gave way to the Second Empire. One of the great virtues of the German author's text lies in its value as a historical study. Indeed, far from the vulgar view of Marxism as an ideology solely based on a two side padlocked monolithic class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, trapped within the mechanical development of abstract economic forces, this work emphasizes the role played by political agents, individual and collective, in the historical process itself. The analysis employed to represent the different interclass alliances in the political transformation which would lead to the coup of Louis Napoleon is tremendously rich and nuanced, thus dividing the different factions of the bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and proletariat into small groups that, on many occasions, had conflicting interests. Therefore, far from the supposed economic determinism that is usually ascribed to the vulgarized versions of Marxism, in the text there is a considerable degree of autonomy granted to the ideas, ideologies and elements that, within the Marxist academic lingo, are referred to as "superstructure."

There are two reasons as to why I begin this article on last year's political crisis in Bolivia by praising Marx’s opus. The first, because the 18th of Brumaire is one of my favorite historical works. The second, because in all the articles I have read, especially those that could be pigeonholed into a “critical left” perspective, I have missed something similar to the rigor Marx employed to describe the different social groups involved in a political process, how they reproduce their own logics and to what extent they can fall prey to their own contradictions. Certainly, a large part of the commentators who have narrated the current political turmoil in Bolivia often portrayed row after row of cookie-cutter analysis. A story that already bores by the number of times it has been repeated; CIA and foreign intervention. While it is true that there is a great fondness in the US State Department for placing and removing democratically elected presidents in Latin America, and have caused an untold amount of death and suffering in the continent, this has had an adverse effect on the capacity for political analysis on the left, which has contributed to it being the primary element which feeds their interpretations on any development that occurs in any Latino countries. As the Spanish proverb goes; “for a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

So what is happening in Bolivia? If we start at the end, we can briefly summarize that a political cycle that had lasted for 14 years concluded when President Evo Morales was forced to flee the country and go into exile in Mexico in early November of 2019. Simultaneously, on Tuesday, November 12, Jeanine Áñez, vice president of the Senate and representative from the Beni department belonging to Unidad Democrática (UD), declared herself interim President of the Bolivian Republic without legislative quorum, since the party of Evo Morales, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), still maintains a majority in both cameras. How did we get here?

The making of an indigenous bourgeoisie

In order to understand the different social, economic and political dynamics that have taken us to the present moment, it would be necessary to take a small and brief tour through the history of Bolivia from 1982, when the military junta that had been ruling the country for a few years was forced to resign, thus inaugurating a long and uninterrupted “democratic period” after a succession of military governments which dated back to 1964. The transition to liberal democracy meant the establishment of a political structure characterized by a multiparty system, the emergence of a powerful legislative power and an evolution towards municipal and regional politics. The great population diversity within the country helped in shaping a legislative representation where no absolute majorities in any of the chambers could be formed, so the recourse to coalitions and multi-party pacts was very common. In this sense, it could be said that the Bolivian bourgeoisie successfully made its transition from a military junta system to that of a liberal democracy.

The economic transition, however, was not so fluid. The economic mismanagement of the military junta had resulted in an external debt for Bolivia which represented 83% of its GDP in 1983. In addition, Bolivia's state production par excellence, tin, had declined greatly and, in 1986, private mineral exploitation exceeded the production volume of Comibol (Mining Corporation of Bolivia). In this context, the first president of the liberal democratic government in the 80s, Hernán Siles Zuazo, chose to increase the total volume of native currency in circulation in order to control the costs that the decrease in tin production meant for the state. This caused an inflationary explosion that reached 8170% of its nominal value in 1985, leading to a decrease in tax collection value of the Bolivian state. The 1985 elections would result in the defeat of Siles Zuazo in favor of Víctor Paz Estenssoro, historical founder of the MNC (Nationalist Revolutionary Movement). Ironically, it would be Estenssoro himself who would introduce the liberalizing economic measures in Bolivia which would dismantle the developmentalist state he had helped create in the 50s and 60s. The turn towards more liberal economic measures responded to the need of mitigating the impact of hyperinflation and the burden on the state coffers which the now depressed state-run tin industry had become. Thus, with the New Economic Plan of 1985, “neoliberalism” was introduced in Bolivia and reigned free until the beginning of the 21st century. Estenssoro devalued national currency, liberalized prices along with wages and the state controlled exchange rate, along with a significant cut to public spending. These changes were not enough to help the Bolivian economy recover and would lead up to a recession. Nevertheless, the inflationary process was reversed, which gave Estenssoro enough legitimacy to continue scrapping state bureaucracy, culminating in the almost complete dismantling of Comibol and the mining unions. To frame a better picture of this process, the number of workers in the state mining complex in 1985 was 27,000, the following year only 7500 would remain. The dismemberment of Comibol coincided with a spectacular fall of the international tin market, which made the International Tin Council file for bankruptcy in 1985. Despite the continuous demonstrations called by the agonizing mining unions, the dismantling of the State bureaucracy and the attacks on the living conditions of workers continued without any respite.

The tin crisis had a very important and unforeseen impact on the socio-economic development of contemporary Bolivia. The significant increase in the volume of unemployment, without a labor reintegration plan for this new mass of “idle workers”, generated a huge expansion of the informal economy inside the country which gravitated around the cultivation and exploitation of coca leaves. Illegal coca production helped greatly to mitigate the social impact of Estenssoro's liberal reforms. It was the shift towards a parallel economy of coca production that primarily benefited indigenous peasants, who were beginning to resume the labor organizing role of the former mining unions by creating new trade union associations of peasants and small landowner colonies. The growth of the coca economy was sustained by the rise of the Tupac Katari Revolutionary Movement, an autonomous indigenous organization which had emerged in the late 1970s. Among the most relevant peasant unions was the CSUTCB (Single Trade Union Confederation of Peasant Workers of Bolivia), which managed to obtain a significant representation within the COB (Bolivian Workers Central), the largest union in Bolivia. These transformations played a fundamental role in the Bolivian trade union evolution which transitioned from an industrial urban labor model to a purely small agrarian indigenous peasant one based on small private landholdings. To get a better idea of ​​the importance of this illegal industry, it should be noted that, by the end of the 80s, illegal Bolivian coca exports matched all legal exports. However, the tightening of the War on drugs in the US and the emergence of Peru as a competitor in the coca market caused Bolivian coca production to decline during the 1990s.

Nevertheless, the Bolivian economy managed to pivot and focus its productive forces on two new economic areas. On the one hand, natural gas, which would be exploited by the state-owned enterprise YPFB (Bolivian Fiscal Oil Reservoir), on the other, the intensive exploitation of agricultural products such as soybeans. In 1972, a gas pipeline linking the department of Santa Cruz to the Argentine border had been built, later on in 1999 it was expanded to link this very same department with Sao Paulo. In 2008 the change in Bolivian export goods was already evident, with a noticeable decrease in minerals and a clear rise in hydrocarbons along with commercial crops. The impact of these changes in the social and economic fabric of the country came to characterize income geographical distribution, favoring the development of the lowland regions to the detriment of the highlands, making Santa Cruz the most important commercial area inside Bolivia. This shift contributed to the general expansion of the Bolivian economy, although in absolute terms it remained in the bottom compared to the rest of Latin American economies in terms of GDP per capita.

The 90s inaugurated as well a series of relevant political transformations, with the emergence of two new populist parties and a greater mobilization by indigenous sectors protesting what they considered to be an unequal distribution of state income, the need for greater regional autonomy and state protection of communal properties. In these circumstances, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada would become President in 1993. The growing power of the indigenous bourgeois elites was made obvious by the fact that Lozada’s party, MNR, needed the support of the Kataristas in rural areas in order to form a government. The investiture of Lozada marked the beginning of indigenous bourgeois participation within Bolivian state capitalism, resulting in the first serious restructuring of the state since the democratic transition, translating into the Popular Participation Law of 1994 and Decentralization Law the following year. These laws granted effective power to the indigenous bourgeoisie by providing them with greater political and economic autonomy inside their controlled municipalities, which increased in number with the creation of 311 new ones. Thus, two thirds of the municipalities and departments of Bolivia were occupied by indigenous peasants and small landowners. These reforms led to the convergence of coca trade unionists inside the Bolivian political landscape, including an Aymara indigenous leader of the Federation of Tropic Cocaleros, Evo Morales, who would end up creating the political party MAS (Movement towards Socialism). These new indigenous political movements proposed an adjustment of Bolivia’s national identity so that the new energizing role that the indigenous bourgeoisie played within Bolivian society would be recognized, shaping the beginnings of a nationalist indigenous ideology. Despite these concessions to the indigenous bourgeoisie, Lozada continued his program of economic dismantlement of state assets inaugurated by Estenssoro, beginning with the privatization of YPFB in 1996. The escalation in state privatization processes culminated in several bold attempts to privatize basic goods, which presented tremendous popular resistance, displayed in the 2000 “water war” and the 2003 “gas war”, in which dozens of people died. Violence between the opposition sectors and police in the capital forced the traditional Bolivian bourgeois elites to “extend an invitation” to Lozada for him to resign, resulting in his succession by his vice president Carlos Mesa. These privatizations paved the way for the electoral victory of MAS in 2005, managing to coopt popular discontent to boost its political movement. Thus, the elections gave absolute majority to Evo Morales and his party, in coalition with the MIP (Pachakuti Indian Movement), with 56% of the votes. Evo's victory led to a break with the former multiparty system, since most of these parties disappeared. In addition, the triumph of the MAS and MIP indigenous coalition brought to light the geographical fracture which had been taking place between for a long time between the highlands and the “Media Luna” (half Moon) -the lowland departments that make up Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija- which, in social terms, translated into the collision between the indigenous bourgeoisie, which was being increasingly incorporated into the bureaucratic and administrative apparatus of the Bolivian state, and the typically white bourgeoisie of the eastern regions, responsible for the management of hydrocarbon exploitation and commercial crops.

Evo and the “masismo”

If we refer to the indicators which are normally used by economists to measure social and economic development of different regions, it could be argued that Morales' administrations have achieved numerous successes. The Bolivian economy has experienced a sustained growth with a GDP average of 4.9% from 2005 to this day, coupled to a value rebound in Bolivian exports market, due to the increase in gas production and the value increase in minerals owing to Chinese industrialization and its consequent increase in demand. These economic conditions have given way to various nationalization programs such as natural resources like gas and oil, as well as telecommunications companies along with electric companies. At the same time, private pension plans have been eliminated and resources such as iron and lithium have been incorporated into state run complexes, with the creation of public companies such as YLB (Bolivian Lithium Deposits). This has led to an overwhelming increase in the collection of royalties derived from gas and minerals produced by state-private enterprises, allowing an increase in public spending, cleverly taken advantage of by the Morales’ administration to fund its social programs. Among the greatest achievements quoted by the “masistas” are the notable reduction in illiteracy, especially in the indigenous sectors, currently 3.7% from an initial 13.28% in 2005. Another figure also frequently quoted is the one referring to poverty reduction. In this case it has gone from 38.5% and 60.6% of extreme and moderate poverty respectively in 2005 to 15.2% and 38.5% in 2018. Although an impressive achievement, national poverty levels remain very high compared to other Latin American countries1. Finally, the regional economic sectors have achieved a high degree of integration within the urban centers, facilitating the appearance of a urban mestizo petit-bourgeoisie consolidated within the state administration which functions as a link between the indigenous bourgeoisie of the highlands and the white landowners of the "Media Luna".

If Morales’ tenure has been so successful, it would be normal to think there are no compelling reasons for popular discontent, right? Not so fast. It is true that the decade and a half of masista governments have brought improvements in the quality of life for a large part of the Bolivian population which was completely destitute. Nevertheless, when we talk about structural economic changes, the masismo failed to implement any kind of noteworthy transformation. The diversification and development of an independent industry from hydrocarbons and minerals exploitation has been insignificant, with 48% of the state budget derived from taxing and royalties of natural gas operations. Bolivia’s very poor alternative industrial capacity has had a conspicuous impact on the national export industry itself, since they depend on foreign companies to set up the necessary operational infrastructure and survey materials and logistics to explore new minerals and hydrocarbons deposits, forcing them to keep copious amounts of foreign currency. To this must be added the problem of constant search for foreign investors reluctant to deal with Bolivia owing to the fear of future nationalization plans carried out by the government. This lack of investment and diversification has had a clear impact on the perpetuation of Bolivia’s informal economy, which is considered one of the largest in Latin America, with 88% of the population without a pension plan. Massive schooling has led to a fairly pronounced migration pattern to large cities, especially around the economic centers of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. The latter has been integrated into the economic area of ​​the Mato Grosso soybean exploitation in Brazil, joining the bourgeoisies on both sides of the border. The distinct development of these regions due to increased agriculture and hydrocarbon exports has generated tremendous regional income inequality. Thus, the La Paz-Cochabamba-Santa Cruz axis provided 93% of the taxes collected by the state in 2009 and produced 71% of its GDP. To this we must add the abandonment of the old mining centers of the Potosí-Oruro region, where more than 60% of the population is indigenous and lives in extreme poverty. This last socio-economic transformation has played a fundamental role in the development of the current political conflict in Bolivia.

If we want to go to the immediate causes, the clearest starting point is Evo’s “conservative turn” during his second term (2010-2014). After the approval of the Political Constitution of the Plurinational State in 2009, Morales felt he had the sufficient legitimacy needed to carry out numerous reforms in order to implement a plan of modernization “from above”, typical of many Latin American developmentalist states in the 50s and 60s. This new course taken by the government meant the reinforcement of the executive branch to have ample room when implementing their development projects. Being the region of Potosí-Oruro one of the most depressed, this developmental direct state intervention stood in clear contradiction with the concessions of autonomy which had been previously granted to indigenous communities decades before.

One of the first clashes was the TIPNIS conflict. The Bolivian state wanted to launch an infrastructure project that would cross the TIPNIS (Isiboro Sécure Indigenous Territory and National Park) to link Cochabamba and Beni. This state run project was intended to include Bolivia within the IIRSA (Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America) linked to Brazilian capital, so that 80% of the project financing would come from the BNDES (Brazilian National Bank of Development) and construction contracts were given to Brazilian construction conglomerate OAS. The project itself would have other consequences such as the expansion of heretofore restricted coca exploitation area​s and possible hydrocarbon deposit prospection in previously protected locations. The apparent disregard in conducting a proper ecological viability study of the project and the isolation of the local indigenous communities in any type of decision-making led in 2011 to a large indigenous march which headed to La Paz as a protest. This march was driven by certain sectors of the “media Luna” bourgeoisie opposed to Morales’ administration in order to create greater tension between the party and its own base. The march ended with harsh police repression and the government itself forced the Minister of Defense to resign as a gesture of goodwill in September 2011. Although the more outwardly racist and reactionary sectors within the white lowlands bourgeoisie would be in clear opposition to Morales, he was cunning enough to establish ties to his own administration with other agricultural entrepreneurs across the lowlands who had a more pragmatic view. An example of this new understanding was the signing of the Decreto Supremo 3973, which extended exploitation concessions within protected areas of the Amazon to the white agro-bourgeoisie. In recent months this embarrassing relationship came to light in the wake of last summer's fires in the Amazon, which led Morales to use cheap PR stunts to present his administration as an "ecosocialist government", however, many sectors of the Bolivian left which supported Morales were not sufficiently convinced, resulting in further undermining government base support.

Along this avenue of incidents, two recent events can also be considered relevant in the continued erosion of Evo Morales’ government indigenous support.

The first incident would be the one regarding the lithium deposits in the Uyuni Salt Flat. According to the latest surveys, lithium reserves in the Andean country would consist of 9 million tons, among the largest in the world. The state-owned company YLB started selling a lithium exploitation project in 2018 but it was not very well received by international investors. On the one hand, nationalization projects caused a certain degree of uncertainty for companies that wanted to venture into this enterprise. On the other hand, the Uyuni salt flat has numerous lithium reserves but of difficult access, contrary to what happens in Chile and Argentina, which would not give it a sufficient competitive edge. However, in the last three years the Bolivian government has been able to close two contracts for the exploitation of lithium in Uyuni that would amount to 3 billion dollars with a Chinese company, Xinjiang TBEA Group, and a German company, ACI Systems These contracts, like that of the TIPNIS, were formalized only between the government and the foreign multinationals, ignoring the indigenous mining communities of Potosí, which caused deep discomfort within the region. The grievance did not only come from the lack of inclusion of these groups in the negotiations, but also because they considered that these international companies lacked sufficient operating experience, as well as agreement conditions which were very unfavorable for YLB. Thus, the Comicipo (Potosí Civic Committee), headed by Marco Pumari, former member of the MAS youth party converted into opposition figure after a series of corruption scandals, called for a general strike with the aim of breaking the contracts. This "civic strike" found wide acceptance in a region which has been stagnant for decades, being hit today by a new depression due to the general fall in mineral prices, in which only a decade ago a group of miners had assaulted the Prefecture of national taxes with dynamite. The miner mobilizations forced Evo to terminate the government contract with the aforementioned companies2.

The second relevant event is the clash between Evo and his most faithful base, the Yunga coca farmers. The conflict stems from the Coca Law of 2017, a regulation introduced by the state to expand the diminished access to the domestic coca market of the Chapare farmers to the detriment of the Yunga farmers. These two indigenous agricultural small landowner factions reached an agreement within the state by which financial compensation would be offered to the Yungas, who initially accepted. Though reluctance persisted within the Yunga peasant unions, which caused the government to overplay its hand and exert pressure inside peasant organizations in hopes of inducing internal change more agreeable with the state. This was the case with organizations such as La Paz Association of Coca Producers (Adepcoca). Morales’ administration, in order to undermine the Yunga coca farmer’s bargaining position, also fostered parallel dissident organizations loyal to the government and created new coca markets which would be closed off to official unionized peasants. This prompted the Yunga official unions to repeal the new Coca Law as unconstitutional and provoked the total mobilization of coca farmers to block roads and highways, leading to direct confrontations with the police.

The October elections

In this context of capitalist modernization “from above”, the independent social movements and trade unions that had brought Evo Morales and MAS to power were absorbed by the state, producing the gradual erosion of their social and political bases. By implementing an state capitalist dirigiste paradigm, Evo helped strengthen his position within the party and the executive, while alienating the indigenous bourgeoisie that he had come to represent within the state. Parallel to this process, the political crisis which ended with mass protests after the October elections started to take place.

In February 2016, the famous referendum was held in which the approval or rejection of the draft constitutional amendment was to be put to vote with the aim of allowing the president, or vice-president, of the Bolivian State to run for re-election for more than two consecutive terms. The "no" ended up winning with 51% of the votes. The following year, a petition was filed in the Constitutional Court to suspend the articles which referred to term limits based on the American Charter of Human Rights. In a way, this petition can be understood as anti-constitutional since it explicitly requests that articles of the constitution itself be ignored based on a general “human rights” convention, which is not as binding as the national constitution itself. However, the Constitutional Court approved this motion and allowed Evo to run again for the 2019 elections. This event catapulted the electoral campaign of ex-vice president, Carlos Mesa, who became the face of the opposition capitalizing on the popular discontent, emanating from the urban mestizo petit-bourgeoisie, who came to be organized in the following months under the umbrella of the 21-F opposition movement.

The apparent electoral fraud which occurred during the recount only contributed to add more fuel to the fire. Amid accusations of coup by Morales against the opposition, and fraud by the opposition against the government, there was no choice but to seek intermediation through an official independent audit called by the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), who found the vote recount process “vitiated with nullity”. The opposition sectors close to Carlos Mesa took to the streets of La Paz, the children of the "revolution from above” masista. Far from enjoying the blessing from local law enforcement, protesters confronted the police in regions like Cochabamba. Evo in turn provoked them and urged his base to surround urban areas. The situation escalated until days after the initial confrontation, when local police rioted against orders they received from their superiors. Nevertheless, the army remained faithful to Evo, making very public statements. The situation continued for 12 days until it reached its turning point on November 2, when the most radical sectors from the Santa Cruz bourgeoisie decided to join the mobilizations and demanded the support of the armed forces and the police.

This is the image which the left has conjured up to describe the multifaceted opposition movement, since it paints quite a terrifying picture. The leader of the Santa Cruz Civic Movement, Luis Fernando Camacho, aka “macho Camacho”, an agricultural entrepreneur hailing from the lowlands, is part of a Santa Cruz bourgeois nucleus with numerous political and economic ties to the evangelist movement which led Jair Bolsonaro to power in Brazil. Among his hobbies, one can point to the creation of a philo-fascist paramilitary youth group, the Cruceñista Youth Union (UJC), who have a soft spot for patrolling the streets wearing swastikas and beating indigenous people who support, what they deem, “leftist agendas”. Camacho embodies the relics of an arcane white colonial bourgeoisie which has been losing power since the Agrarian Reform of 1953, but especially after the end of Bolivia's military juntas, in favor of the indigenous bourgeoisie.

The anti-indigenous rhetoric and Christian fundamentalism of these individuals can generate a confusing picture about the actual composition of the government’s opposition groups. It is essential to emphasize the decisive role which the support of the indigenous bourgeoisie, who grew tired of Evo Morales, played in this new configuration of opposition alliances which compelled the army, looking after its own institutional interests, to force Evo to resign. Proof of this is the picture of the hug between Marco Pumari, leader of Comicipo, and Camacho. In addition to this, the latter has publicly apologized for the burning of the Whipalas -indigenous flags-. After the overthrow of Morales and the unconstitutional self-proclamation of Jeanine Áñez as interim president, Bolivians are still waiting for new elections to be called. Meanwhile, attacks on worker’s living conditions were implemented immediately with the proposal of the Senate to audit the Unified Healthcare System (SUS) and the approval of a decree that frees the military from legal repercussions if they use force to "pacify" protests, already resulting in several massacres, such as the ones that have taken place in the Alto costing eight young Bolivians their lives. Thus, the opposition alliance forged between the indigenous and cruceño bourgeoisie has pivoted rightward from Carlos Mesa’s position, leaving an uncertain and terrifying future for Bolivians.


The story told is inextricable from the current development of global capitalism. In a context of crisis and trade wars, the Bolivian developmentalist and extractive economic model began to destabilize. While it is true that in absolute growth indicators there have been improvements in Bolivia, it is still the second poorest country in Latin America with considerable economic inequalities, both socially and territorially.

To describe the “Movement towards Socialism” (MAS) as a "socialist success" is to hinge on a very myopic analysis. The nature of this movement has always been fundamentally nationalist, without no more apparent leanings to “socialism” than a slightly more equitable distribution of state revenues, which were extracted in turn by brutally exploiting their own natural resources to the detriment of the indigenous worker communities and their ecosystems. In fact, Capital has done very well during Morales' tenure, through agreements with different multinationals and aligning itself with the interests of other expansive capitals such as the Chinese and Brazilian. Banks have had a good run, almost tripling their profits from $ 120 million to 330. However, Bolivia's export model still suffers from the same weaknesses as most Latin American economies, depending greatly on the fluctuation in the value of goods exported and imported. Since 2014, trade, fiscal and debt deficit have significantly increased.

Consequently, certain sectors of the Bolivian capitalist elite, who never managed to feel comfortable around MAS populist policies, bated their time to carry out a direction change in the state. Having endured the political crisis of 2008 against the autonomist sectors of the "Media Luna", MAS became increasingly dependent on the figure of Evo, adding to that the economic dirigisme character of Morales’ executive branch. Morales's mistake was to offer an opening to opposition sectors, by insisting so relentlessly on his own continuity in office, who took the opportunity to begin their assault on the presidency.

It is the spontaneous nature of the inception of these revolts, which quickly turned into a coup and now civil conflict, where one can make out that there is no looming shadow of a “hostile foreign state”. The root of the problem is found within the contradictions of Bolivia’s state capitalism and its management under MAS. The current Bolivian debacle can be framed within the crisis of the so-called “pink tide” socialist movements. "So-called" since they have not posed any threat to capitalism, rather they have been a continuation of state income accumulation, obtained through the commodification and brutal exploitation of nature in their respective countries. A process which in turn has made these regions ever more dependent on an international capital circulation market governed by imperialist powers through the necessity of constant foreign investment. How in the world could this be considered anything close to a truly revolutionary socialist project? As we have already seen, Western and national companies kept exploiting with impunity Bolivian natural resources such as the Uyuni salt flats or the soy farms in the lowlands, the only real difference is that now the indigenous bourgeois elites have secured their piece of the cake. Nevertheless, the caciques and the authoritarian and repressive power of the State over the life of workers are still there. Criticizing the legacy of Morales and the contradictions of the masismo does not imply approving the violence unleashed against MAS supporters and regular working people, or endorsing the ideology and tactics of the opposition group now led by the extremist faction of the Cruceño bourgeoisie. Far from that, the uncritical and manichaean vision of recent events in Bolivia as a conflict between “pure innocent natives” and “unhinged fundamentalist racists” not only does not help at all, but it perpetuates a tremendously paternalistic vision of Bolivian society forgetting that there are moving parts within the social fabric of the country that, despite what Morales’ supporters believe, have an agency independent of the whims of the CIA and the US state department. Only the development of true working class organizations and institutions unhindered from ties to the State and bourgeois political agendas can truly begin to pave the road to worker emancipation.

Originally posted in Spanish at

Translated into English by the author.

Image: Miners from Comibol marching from Oruro to La Paz, 1985


Lucky Black Cat

3 years 3 months ago

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Submitted by Lucky Black Cat on February 6, 2021

This is a very informative article. Thank you Mike for posting it and thank you to José Lastra Zorrilla for writing and translating it.