Advance the Struggle to Defeat the Coup in Bolivia!

November 25, 2019
In Bolivia, a coup took place that forced the resignation of the president Evo Morales and established the Senator Jeanine Áñez as interim president, relying on the Armed Forces. Currently, the strong popular resistance against the coup continues, responded by a harsh repression. In this frame, Evo Morales, exiled in Mexico, calls to the dialogue “with all agents” to “pacify the country.”
By Alejandro Iturbe
The process taking place in Bolivia shows us a highly contradictory combination of facts, with rapid changes of meaning. There was an erosion process of a mass sector with Evo Morales, and before the attempt of fraud by the government in the recent election, an essentially progressive mobilization began, composed mainly by the middle-class urban population, rejecting him.
On this base, the leaders of the right-wing bourgeois opposition (especially Luis Camacho, from Santa Cruz de la Sierra) doubled the bet: they did not accept Evo’s proposal of new elections and started demanding his resignation through the hierarchy of the Armed Forces (FFAA,) establishing a coup.
The posterior facts developed this military coup disguised under a “democratic coverage.” The Senator Áñez took the interim presidency breaking the criteria stipulated in the Bolivian Constitution (without parliamentary majority). The photo of her inauguration shows clearly how her real support is the hierarchy of the Armed Forces.
The coup resistance demonstrations are being harshly repressed, first by the Police and then together with Army troops, with a number that already reaches dozens of deaths, 500 wounded, and a non-specified number of detainees (including parliamentarians and MAS and neighborhoods’ and peasants’ organizations). The repression to the blockade of the gas container bottling plant in Senkata (El Alto) left 8 deaths and then repressed the massive convoy transferring the coffins to the cemetery. It is not by chance that one of Áñez’s first ten measures was to release the Armed Forces from the “penal responsibility” for such repression.1
In other words, in Bolivia there was a violent change of the political regime, in which the institutions of the bourgeois democracy (although previously deformed by Evo and the MAS’ leadership) were replaced by a regime relying on the FFAA and repressive counter-revolutionary actions against the mass movement. To us, this clearly configures a coup, that should be fought without hesitation as a present, urgent task.
A coup that expresses the decision of the big bourgeoisie of ending Evo’s Popular Front government, but which also has a racist content, of white bourgeois hate against indigenous peoples. It is not by chance that the wiphala (historical indigenous flag, symbol of the multinational state) was burnt by pro-coup white middle-class groups.
The current situation
The situation of the new regime emerged from the coup seems to not be consolidated yet, and the new government faces several difficulties to do so.
The first and main reason is a massive resistance that the harsh repression does not seem to be able to break, so far. The core of this resistance are the Neighborhood Councils of El Alto’s towns, and the most popular neighborhoods in La Paz.2 Columns of peasants from the interior of this department as well as from Potosí and Cochabamba are also arriving in La Paz. Also, in Cochabamba there were strong clashes with the Chapare peasants, with several deaths.
La Paz is blocked in fact, and begins to suffer lack of food and fuel provisions, which makes the situation tenser.3 The government tries to end this situation, and one of the battles took place in the Senkata plant (El Alto,) a gas container bottling plant, essential for the daily life of the La Paz people. With an Army troops operation that left several dead people, the government was able to take some trucks out of the plant and guarantee the provision, but as a response to the blockade they sent reinforcements with bigger popular contingents.4And then there was the bloody repression of the convoy taking the coffins.
Another element is that symptoms of crisis in the rank and file of the FFAA are becoming evident, with soldiers adhering to the demonstrations against the coup and even a segment of them marching to La Paz with the Cochambamba column.5
Before this situation, the coup government continues adding contradictions. One of them is that to increase the repression up to the level required to defeat the resistance against the coup all the way, presents the risk of breaking the Army in half. The second one is that the international context forces it to “make up” the coup with an “institutional solution” (electoral). In this frame, Jeanine Áñez announced the call for elections for January 20, in an attempt to decompress the situation.6
Evo calls to “conciliate and dialogue” with the pro-coup
So, the conditions for the development of a struggle that can defeat the coup are given. The great problem is that Evo and the MAS’ leadership policy is not so.
First, they left Bolivia and handed the government over without any resistance whatsoever. To avoid splitting the bourgeois army and encourage a resistance that could turn into a revolutionary struggle, Evo repeated the coward attitude of other nationalist bourgeois leaders, like Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina (1955) or Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (2002).
Now, Evo is proposing not to develop the popular struggle to defeat the coup categorically, but to make a “conciliation dialogue to pacify Bolivia,” with the Spaniard José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as mediator.7 The Bolivian people are leaving their lives in the streets fighting against the coup and Evo calls to conciliate with the murderers!
Another important element against the development of the struggle is the sad role of the COB’s leadership (Bolivian Workers’ Central,) a historical reference of the struggle processes in the country. First, the COB demanded the resignation of Evo at the same time the FFAA were doing so.8 Then, it refused to call for any force measurement, and does not call to participate in the demonstrations against the coup.
Some data informs that part of the industries of El Alto are paralyzed, but we do not know if this is because of their workers’ decision or because of the situation in the city. At the same time, a Huanuni miners’ leaders and representatives’ meeting defined to demand the COB to organize an extended meeting of the Central calling every segment of the population resisting against the coup to participate. After that, the population of this mining city blocked the Machamarca passage connecting the city to the district capital, Oruro.
The Multinational State
A complete analysis of the current situation demands, necessarily, a balance sheet of the last 12 years of the MAS administration and its responsibility for the current situation.
Evo Morales came to the political life as a leader of cocalero peasants from Chapare (Cochabamba region,) that by the end of the 1980s and during the ‘90s were harshly persecuted by several governments, following the U.S. imperialism’s policy. From that location, he founded the MAS-IPSP (Movement Towards Socialism – Political Instrument for the People’s Sovereignty,) which won the presidential election in 2006.
As an essential element in this election and regarding its mass influence, Evo, part of the uru aimará ethnicity, channeled the deep feeling of indigenous peoples in Bolivia (majority of the country) of centuries of oppression and pillaging of their wealth by part of imperialism and European descendants. In this frame, he appeared like a referent of the struggle in defense of the natural resources of the country – back then, natural gas.
For instance, before officially taking office in La Paz, he carried out an aimará ritual ceremony in the archeological site of Tiwanaku. In 2008, a new Constitution was passed, under which Bolivia was considered a Multinational State, and the use of the wiphala together with the official Bolivian flag was authorized. Indigenous people felt like, with Evo, they really had the power for the first time in Bolivian history. Evo betrayed their expectations many times, but the Multinational State was a triumph for these peoples.
Evo and the MAS leadership’s responsibility
However, the answer given by Evo’s terms to the matter of indigenous peoples’ oppression and the defense of natural resources was a bourgeois answer, without a real breakup with imperialism nor capitalism. He did not change the semi-colonial, capitalist nature of Bolivia, and so he did not cut the root of the problems.
We can characterize that his terms were clearly a bourgeois Popular Front, and in this frame they adopted some moderate nationalist measures. For example, they legislated a relatively high percentage of state participation in the exploitation of natural gas, but they exploited it associated to foreign companies like Petrobrás, and accepting a price much below the international market’s prices.9 They also allowed (they actually encouraged) the growth of private corporative segments at the expense of the state part of the tin mine in Huanuni, which gave place to harsh clashes between workers of both sectors.10
In 2007, he was willing to handing over major quantities of high quality iron ore from El Mutún to the Indo-British multinational company Jindal Steel and Power Limited.? The project was actually never implemented, and much recently he gave to the U.S. consulting company Arthur G. Mckee the task of elaborating a study for its exploitation.11
In other words, in the frame of not changing the capitalist nature of Bolivia nor ending the pillaging of natural resources, Evo’s terms tried to ensure for the Bolivian bourgeois state a bigger fraction of the income generated by those resources. This allowed him to stabilize and achieve some level of economic growth, implementing some infrastructure modernization and also giving concessions to the masses, like this reducing, in several percentage points, the traditionally high rates of poverty in the country.
But he did not change nothing deep, and so he prepared the basis that led to the current situation. For example, he never fought the reactionary bourgeoisie from Santa Cruz. On the contrary, he always conciliated with it and made permanent economic and political concessions, like allowing them to burn part of the Bolivian Amazon.12
At the same time, during all these years he strengthened the political role of the bourgeois FFAA: “The Armed Forces were frequently invited by Morales to his government events, even if the matter was not directly linked to the uniform….”13 He even defended the Army for its “anti-imperialist vocation.”14 So, basically, he conciliated with and even strengthened those who are now establishing a coup.
The electoral fraud was a trigger
In the frame of this profound balance sheet, Evo’s government is also responsible for lightening the wick used by the pro-coup. The limits of his bourgeois response to the deep issues in Bolivia generated an erosion among segments of the mass movement, whose expression was an electoral decline: in 2016 he was defeated, although for a small difference, in a referendum that would have authorized him to run for a fourth presidential term that is not stipulated in the current Constitution.16
Despite this, he imposed a resolution from the TSE (Supreme Electoral Court) authorizing him to run for president in the last election.17 During the ballot, the partial results showed that, even being above his main opposition candidate, Carlos Mesa, he would not get enough votes to avoid the runoff. In that moment, the ballot was suspended, and later the TSE informed that Evo had won in the first round and he declared himself re-elected president.18
The evidence of fraud by the government and TSE were a trigger for the demonstrations called by the main opposition candidate, Carlos Masa, against it, like this opening the process we have been analyzing.
Debates inside the left-wing
In Brazil and other countries, several left-wing organizations compare what is happening in Bolivia to the process that took to Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016, which they define as a “coup” as well.
This comparison is incorrect. In Brazil, the entire impeachment process happened in the frame of Constitutional institutions, without intervention of the Armed Forces nor Security Forces. Michael Temer took office, the vice-president that had been elected in coalition with Dilma, and then presidential and legislative elections took place in the terms stipulated by the Constitution. So, there was no change in the democratic bourgeois political regime, and therefore it is a fallacy to talk about a “coup” in such case.
In Bolivia, as we have seen, the process was the opposite: there was a coup because there is a break of the democratic bourgeois constitutional political regime through violent methods, and the replacement for another regime, repressive and relying on the Armed Forces. This characterization of the current process does not change even if in the future, for national or international political reasons, they are forced to call for new elections.
To these organizations, the characterization that what happened in Brazil was a “coup” served and serves the justification of capitulating to Lula and the PT, in the frame of analyzing the world situation as “signed by a reactionary offensive of imperialism and national right-wings against popular governments.” We have argued against this understanding and policy in several articles in this site.19
And the opposite mistake
Some left-wing organizations from Bolivia and other countries in Latin America consider that there was no coup, that the essential element is a “popular insurrection” before the electoral fraud of the MAS, which forced EVO’s resignation, and from there on the process continues through “regular institutional rails.” Thus, the current task is not the struggle against the coup but the “preparation of a COB and peasants’ government.” We think that this reasoning is doubly incorrect.
On one side, it is wrong in the field of analysis and characterization of the process as a whole, which we approached in the previous paragraphs. On the other side, which is even more dangerous, it is wrong in the field of the concrete policy that emerges from this. The definition that there was no coup in Bolivia leads to an incorrect proposal, as it does not call to concentrate forces to defeat the present and immediate forthcoming danger.
The revolutionaries must have, as a permanent north, the strategy of the working class and people seizing the power for a socialist revolution. But this strategy only becomes a present, immediate task in very precise circumstances, that we call “revolutionary situation.” For instance, what is happening in Chile today.
Outside this specific situation, we try to encourage the workers and masses’ struggle and organization for their most felt needs. Such as confronting the bourgeois and governments’ attacks to employment, labor conditions and living situation of the masses; or the defense of nature before the destruction caused by capitalism.
These are proposals of tasks that change according to reality and the feelings of the masses. In all of them, through mobilization and organization, we seek to use them as “preparation” (steps forward) in the prospect of workers and the people seizing the power.
There was a coup: the immediate task changes
When a coup like the one in Bolivia takes place, the task of confronting it is urgent, because if the coup consolidates, it will mean a harsh defeat for workers and the masses.
Until a few days ago, the main task was to confront Evo’s bourgeois government, and more specifically, his electoral fraud. But a coup changes the situation abruptly: the task we propose to the masses must change rapidly. Although we might seem reiterative, it is an urgent, vital task because of the reasons exposed above: the future for the next years will be defined in this battle.
To the revolutionaries, to confront a coup of this nature must combine two different planes. First, as the IWL-FI Statement points out, “the broadest unity of action” with every one willing to confront the coup and defeat it. This includes bourgeois sectors, although our call is made, specifically, to the masses’ organizations.
Second, “we do not place any confidence” in these bourgeois leaderships, in this case Evo Morales, and we call the masses not to trust them as well, and trust only their own mobilization and organization. In this regard, we “prepare” a workers’ and masses’ government.
It is not a new political combination. It was the one proposed by Lenin in August 1917, before Kornilov’s coup against the bourgeois government of Kerensky (“to shoot against Kornilov relying on Kerensky’s shoulder”,) and Trotsky in Spain before the armed uprising of Francisco Franco against the Republic (“to be the best soldiers in the struggle against Franco”).
In other words, today, in Bolivia, the best way (actually, the only way) of “preparing” the strategic task is to confront and defeat the coup. Because, if it triumphs, such possibility will be further and harder to achieve. On the contrary, if the masses defeat the coup, the possibility of workers’ and the masses seizing the power will be much more realistic and closer, as the Russian Revolution showed after defeating Kornilov’s coup.
Any other policy, although dressed as a “red” proposal in appearance, is not only wrong as it is almost criminal, because it calls the masses not to fight against this serious, present, real threat.
The current tasks
As we pointed out before, the main task today is to continue and develop the struggle against the coup. This means the broadest unity of action with every one willing to confront it, including leaders, cadres and militants of the MAS. We do it calling not to trust Evo Morales, who, as we saw, is calling to “conciliate” with the pro-coup.
A necessary step in this regard is the centralized coordination of all points of struggle that exist today. The Huanuni miners’ proposal can be an alternative to move forward in this path, adding to the extended meeting also the Federation of Neighborhood Councils from El Alto, as well as the CSUTCB (Sole Bolivia’s Union Federation of Workers and Peasants). It is necessary to demand the COB to abandon its current policy, and as it did many times in the past, to lead this struggle. And if the current leadership is not willing to do so, we need to go over it.
On the other hand, the level of repression demands, as a priority matter, the organization of self-defense of demonstrations against the coup. Specially, it is necessary to deepen the elements of crisis emerging among the rank and file of the Armed Forces, calling soldiers and sub-officials to disobey the repression orders and to change sides to the struggle against the coup, as part of them did in Cochabamba.
In the world, we call to develop a broad campaign of demonstrations in repudiation to the coup and in support of popular resistance, like the one carried out a few days ago in Buenos Aires, called by the Bolivian community and several Argentine political union and social organizations, with the participation of thousands of people. In this demonstrations, we need to demand from our governments to not acknowledge the coup government of Jeanine Áñez and break relationships.
Before the coup, we defend free elections in Bolivia, without any restriction to candidatures, including Evo Morales or any other representative of the MAS. In this frame, we affirm our full political independence regarding Evo, the MAS, and its bourgeois nature.
We said that there is a possibility of defeating the coup. If, despite Evo’s conciliation policy, this struggle is victorious, a completely different situation will open in Bolivia, with workers and the masses to the offensive. As we said, it will be a step bringing us closer to the true solution for the country: the seizing of power to establish a workers’ and peasants’ government to begin the construction of real socialism: a Multinational, Multi-ethnical Workers’ State.
Translation: Sofia Ballack.
[2] For instance, see: y
[4] y
[5] For instance, see: y
[9] For instance, see: y
[14] [10]
[15] On this matter, see, for instance: y
[19] For instance, see: y

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