The Pink Tide Turns Black: The failure of the two step strategy in Bolivia

Analysis of the Fascist coup in Bolivia as the result of the failure of pink tide governments to bring change.

Submitted by Ivysyn on November 14, 2019

The "pink tide" movement in Latin America continues to disintegrate, this time in Bolivia. This is at least the second time it's disintegration has lead to Fascism. While in Brazil Fascism presented itself in the misogynist caudillo strong man of Jair Bolsonaro, in Bolivia it presents itself in the pronouncements of the misogynist, nationalist, religious zealotry of Fernando Camacho. Some on the left have called for support of the Morales government against the Fascists and have argued that now is not "the right time" to criticize it. This ignores that the Fascism of Camacho and his coup are the product of the failures of Morales and his "Movement Toward Socialism" party.

Camacho, who is the president of Santa Cruz's "Civic Committee" has invoked god and the bible in calling on Morales to resign (which he recently did, though not in written form). He argues for a classic Fascist vision of national rival for Bolivia through the strengthening of societal hierarchies such as men's control over women. On top of this the police have mutinied against the government and melded into protests, while the army will need to be bought off for either Camacho, or Morales. Morales has stated that this is all the result of the CIA engineering a coup against him and many on the international left have bought this line. While there is truth to this it paints Morales and his government as victims of foreign meddling, rather than the crisis' ultimate catalyst.

The Morales MAS government is one of many in a "Pink Tide" that spread throughout Latin America at the beginning of the century. Other examples are the Brazilian Workers' Party "PT" and Chavez and the PSUV in Venezuela. These were "leftist" governments that rose on the heels of mass movements in Latin America against neoliberal policies of resource extraction. The left has long argued for taking state power and using it to change society via election, or insurrection. Immanuel Wallerstein referred to this as the "two step strategy". The pink tide has played out this strategy at a grand scale in Latin America, to the same disappointing result that this strategy has always produced.

As always the pink tide was very successful in the first step of taking state power. Left wing parties and officials rose in many countries on the continent. They failed at the second step of social change. To hold state power in the capitalist world system is to be a vessel for the capitalist world economy. The system of states is mechanized for the world economy's interests and development. A state must accumulate capital in order to buttress it's power as compared to other states in the system. Thus the extractivist policies that pink tide was supposedly taking power against were continued. One example is Venezuela's over reliance on oil export. In Bolivia the Morales government has ignored the plight of indigenous people in protecting their sacred land from economic development. The state also brought the mass movements that had delivered leftists and left-wing parties to power under bureaucratic command. In Bolivia this has created rampant clientelism between the state and social movements. In 2011 the Morales government's response to a march for the defense of indigenous land displayed both the continuation of neoliberal policy and the the state-social movement osmosis. The Morales government maintained good relations with business oligarchs and sacked indigenous leaders in the National Council and the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, two historic indigenous organizations, replacing them with new ones.

Despite Morales' pronouncements of coup it was he who engineered a coup against indigenous activists. This lack of social change has demobilized social movements and created a disaffected population, one that Fascists can appeal to while social movements remain immobilized and thus unable to counter them. In Brazil Bolsonaro used the crises of street violence and economic failure to appeal for a national revanchism through a strong man state. In Bolivia Camacho has used the corruption of the government to appeal for the same. Despite the hopes of many misguided leftists we can't turn back time to before the failure of the pink tide and even if we could we would simply be awaiting the same failures in the future.

Both the left in the west and in Latin America need to reconcile with the failure of the two-step strategy and move toward building an international socialist movement which does not rely on taking state power to change society. In the west this will mean making the necessary critical appraisals of the pink tide and radical movements taking state power more broadly. In Latin America it will mean social movements breaking their osmosis with the state, resisting clientelism, and organizing on a basis of rank and file control. The latter seems already to be moving in this direction. Even a union close to the Morales government has called for his resignation and members of the feminist organization Mujeres Creando have appraised the situation as a faction fight between Fascism and the state which produced it. In one of their words, let the two sides fight each other to the death while we construct a viable antisystemic movement the world over.

Historical Capitalism, Wallerstein