Statement by Workers’ Voice – La Voz de los Trabajadores, November 11th 2019
- On November 10, 2019, there was a Coup d’état in Bolivia, after the leadership of the armed forces demanded the resignation of the now former-president, Evo Morales. Undoubtedly, this coup represents the interests of the capitalist class, as it tries to control the country’s explosive social mobilization while guaranteeing the return of the traditional elite to power. It is also evident that there have been elements of brutal racist violence in anti-government protests and police and paramilitary actions—after all, the Bolivian oligarchy has used white supremacist ideology to oppress the majority of the population since colonial times. All impositions of capitalist interests are a setback for the working class. We categorically condemn this blatant coup and urge all socialist and progressive sectors to do the same. This is yet another proof that, when the ruling class deems it useful or necessary, it will use the capitalist state to impose its interests over any “democracy”. The power of the capitalist class lies not in in parliament and the presidency, but in its control of the means of production and the repressive apparatus of the state.
- It is also true that there are serious indications of fraud and irregularities during the October 20th elections in which Evo Morales was supposedly reelected for a fourth period. The Bolivian constitution, written and approved under the Morales government, only allows for one reelection. Morales tried to modify the constitution through a referendum but narrowly lost the vote. It was therefore necessary for the Constitutional Tribunal (controlled by MAS loyalists) to rule that implementing term limits would violate the president’s political rights. The fact that there was a coup orchestrated by the far right does not mean that the October 20 elections and other forms of concentration of power are legitimate or democratic.
- The historic growth of the Bolivian economy during the last 12 years is the result of a capitalist, extractive development model—the exportation of non-renewable natural resources (natural gas and minerals) and agroindustry (primarily soy). This has been implemented under an alliance between the state and international capital to supply the demand of new centers of capital accumulation (primarily China). While Morales managed to negotiate a higher percentage of the extractive rent for the state and to invest it in redistributive programs that helped to reduce poverty and inequality, the class structure has always remained intact. The legitimacy of this reformist development model—more or less the same one that was implemented by the PT in Brazil, Chavismo in Venezuela, Correa in Ecuador, etc.—depends on the rate of profit of extractive capitalism in order to fund redistributive policies like cash-transfers to the poor. Thus, these governments must co-opt or repress popular resistance to protect the interests of transnational capital, as happened during the struggle between indigenous communities and the Morales government over the construction of a massive highway through the Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécure (TIPNIS) in 2011.
- When the material base of this development model is destabilized—the Chinese economy slows down, international commodity prices fall—the contradictions of the political project become more acute. On the one hand, welfare programs are cut and neoliberal policies begin to be implemented (e.g. Evo cuts subsidies on gasoline, Ortega and Rouseff introduce reactionary pension reforms). On the other hand, as reformist governments lose legitimacy and electoral power, they increase the repression of social mobilization (police violence, stigmatization of all opposition as part of a right-wing or imperialist conspiracy), accelerate the concentration of state power (executive control of the legislative branch), and rely on anti-democratic methods to grab onto power (electoral fraud, corruption, unethical alliances with right-wing sectors).
- It is fundamental to build a united front to combat the coup d’etat in Bolivia and the return to power of traditional oligarchies throughout the region. But the uncritical romanticizing of reformist leaders like Evo Morales, Lula da Silva, Cristina Kirchner, and Daniel Ortega by the international Left is an enormous error. For more than a decade, most of the Latin American Left uncritically supported the reformist wave, allowing the far right (Bolsonaro, Mesa, Guaido) to capitalize and co-opt the inevitable discontent and resistance against government repression, corruption, and attacks on the living conditions of the working class.
- Returning to the past (reelecting Lula, Morales for a fourth term, Cristina Kirchner as de-facto President) will not resolve the region’s crisis—not only because the development model they implemented requires the destruction of the environment and the exploitation and repression of working people, but also because the conditions of the international economy can no longer sustain the growth of the 2000s commodities boom. Rather, the task of the Left is to learn from these experiences and build a new political project—one based on class independence, the structural power of mass strikes and direct action, and a genuine socialist program.