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Bolivia: Making the Revolution

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February 2004 marks one year from the re-opening of the revolutionary struggle in Bolivia when workers’, peasants and youth began their uprising against the hated president ‘Goni’ Sanchez de Lozada. In October, peasants and workers blockaded La Paz forcing Goni into exile. He was replaced by Carlos Mesa who called for a truce. Mesa has failed to deliver on the COB demands and has used the time to stabilise his rule. On 22 January the COB met and called for a mobilisation in 20 days to prepare for a national general strike on 21 February to bring down Mesa and put in place a Popular Assembly. Here we argue that there is mass support to go beyond a Popular Assembly to a real Workers’ and Peasants’ State if a revolutionary leadership can be created. We support our sister group POB in this task!

COB ends truce with plans for general strike

In a meeting that lasted all day, delegate after delegate of 42 of the 65 COB (Bolivian Workers’ Centre) affiliates, including miners, transport workers, teachers, shop assistants and civic committees, called for the unity of all the popular forces in Bolivia to be mobilised to launch an indefinite general strike in 20 days to bring down the Mesa government.

Jamie Solares a miners leader of the COB said that Bolivia was a colony of the US and that Mesa was continuing the same policies as Goni on behalf of US imperialism. He said that it was an emergency situation, and that the time for theory was past and time for action had arrived to build a great popular assembly to take power.

He had invited the peasant leaders Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe to meet with the COB to build a united front against the government. Morales was visiting the Chapare region where more than 200 died in the war against the selling of the gas in October. Morales replied condemning the COB plan to attack parliament were he is a member. He said that the COB plan was to make a coup that would only invite the US to make its own military coup. But when some of his supporters present spoke in favour of participating in parliament and the referendum on selling the gas they were booed. Quispe, for his part, did not come to the COB meeting but immediately came under pressure from the militant peasants of the Altiplano and quickly endorsed the call to bring down Mesa.

Most speakers called for the COB to build grass roots support for strike action to replace the government with dual power organs, repeal the gas agreement with the multinationals, nationalise industry and provide free health, education and pensions. Delegates from the media said that it was necessary for the people to replace the leadership. They questioned Morales claim to defend democracy. What democracy? We can expect no solutions from parliament! The workers union leader Roberto de la Cruz of El Alto (the working class town above La Paz) who was not at the COB congress challenged Morales to say which side he was on, the peoples or imperialism.

The students also made the call to organise to fight for power, to prepare the general strike with blockades in February, to split the army and win the support of the military rank and file. In an separate meeting of youth organisations on the 25th January in El Alto many resolutions were passed in support of the COB call for a general strike, including re-nationalising the gas, exprorpriating the multinationals, the US out of Iraq and for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

The miners cooperatives representatives warned that if the workers and peasants were not united they would face a military coup d’etat. Other workers warned the leadership of the COB that they would be thrown out unless they provided militant leadership. The pensioners delegate spoke of the need to finish with the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist system.

Speaking for the artists and writers a delegate put the position of POB (Poder Obrero – Workers Power) calling for the renationalisation of the mines and the gas and oil, but under workers control which the program of the COB does not raise. He said that the unfinished revolution in Bolivia could not rely on the support of the anti-neoliberal governments who had just met at Monterrey, or the WSF, because Bolivia was not facing neo-liberalism. The enemy was the capitalist system and the drive of imperialism and its lackey Mesa government to rob Bolivia of its gas. The answer was to create a popular assembly of the workers, peasants and rank and file military to prepare for an insurrection and not a Constituent Assembly which was an example of parliamentary cretinism.

The POB comrades speech was in part echoed by the regional bodies of the COB – the CODs or local workers’ confederations of Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Beni, Huyuni and Montero. The government of Mesa was rejected. The gas law was rejected and the demand raised for gas to be under national control. War was declared against all the imperialist multinationals. The COB had to begin educating the masses for the national mobilisation. The CODs would provide the leadership along with the COB national executive to unite the forces to bring down the government and put in place a government of the COB representing the workers, peasants and rank and file military.

The resolutions passed ended with the demand that all the sectors declare an emergency, and organise within 20 days for an indefinite general strike to demand a 3% salary rise for all government workers, and a new monthly minimum wage of $820 up from $55.

From General Strike to Workers Power

It is clear to the people that Mesa is continuing to act like Goni as the open US agent in Bolivia. His class interest is to do a deal on behalf of Bolivian capitalists with imperialism that allows some share of the gas to be retained in Bolivia and trickled down to pacify the poor. But imperialism will not allow enough gas wealth to be kept to feed the children of the poor. US imperialism can only survive by taking the maximum super-profits from the Bolivian gas. The Bolivian children will continue to beg on the streets in their thousands.

The rank and file of COB have rejected the truce with Mesa and are calling for a ‘workers’ and peasants’ government.’ But this means different things to different camps. On the right, the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) led by Evo Morales who represents the coca growers in the tropical east of Bolivia believes that it is possible to mobilise the people to force the Bolivian state to strike a deal with imperialism for a larger share in the gas wealth than Mesa can deliver. This will enable the coca growers to cultivate their land in peace and prosperity.

That is why Morales has used Chile’s demand to share in the proceeds of the gas being piped across its territory to activate Bolivian national resentment of the defeat in the war with Chile in the late 19th century. Morales does not agree to the strike action on February 21 because he believes he can be elected president in Mesa’s place and win these concessions from imperialism. For him a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ government’ is a left social democratic government led by the peasant bureaucracy rather than the national bourgeoisie. He fears that to go any further and allow workers and peasants to really take power would bring down an imperialist military coup on his head.

In the centre are the current leaders of COB such as Jaime Solares, and Filipe Quispe who represents the impoverished Quechua indian peasants of the altiplano. They are being pushed left by the mass rank and file militancy of COB and the grass roots revolutionaries who dominate the regional CODs. Since 1946 the COB has had in its program demands that originate in the Pulcayo Theses based on Trotsky’s transitional program for a workers’ and peasants’ state. Against this revolutionary program, Solares adopts the position of the labour bureaucracy that wants a return to the Popular Assembly of the 1970s, in the form of a Constituent Assembly that will write a new bourgeois constitution. Essentially the labour bureaucracy is petty bourgeois, and sees itself as a ‘middle class’ able to guide the Bolivian people to national independence. Its model is a petty bourgeois government that represents the national unity utopia of the popular or patriotic front, like that of 1952 and 1971 in Bolivia. They hope and pray that imperialism will come to terms with a radical popular front government and not smash it as has always happened in Latin America. Like all petty bourgeois politicians unless they are kicked aside by the revolutionary workers and peasants they will be used by the bosses to strangle and kill the revolution.

The camp followers of the labour bureaucrats are the centrist former Trotskyists of POR-Lora whose class compromises always betray the workers at the crucial hour. POR-Lora provides a left cover for the labour bureaucracy sowing illusions in workers that ‘democratic’ imperialism can make concessions to progressive anti-neo-liberal governments based on the unions in Latin America. The centrists are more dangerous than the open reformists as they speak about socialist revolution but act for the counter-revolution. For them a COB-led Popular Assembly would be a ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Government’.

But their ‘Popular Assembly’ was and will always be a popular front joining workers and peasants to the petty bourgeois parties defending private property. Workers may call for a Constituent Assembly to defend bourgeois democracy against fascism or military dictatorships. But when workers are on the offensive, the Constituent Assembly is a trap which prevents them advancing to seize state power. The POR-Lora allowed the COB to join a popular front government in 1952 during a revolutionary upsurge, the first major post-war betrayal by Trotskyists of a workers’ revolution. Today they disarm workers who are mobilising to take power, by covering up these past betrayals and by refusing to call for a Workers’ and Peasants’ government based on workers and peasants councils and militias.

Revolutionary Party

On the revolutionary left the POB (Poder Obrero Bolivia) demands a return to the Pulcayo Theses, for the formation at the base of the COB and CODs of workers’ and peasants’ councils, for the splitting of the rank and file military from the officers, and for the formation of workers, peasants and soldiers militias to take power and form a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. That is why the POB delegate at the COB meeting on the 22 January raised a number of transitional demands including the nationalisation of industry under workers control. This calls on workers to go beyond the COB demand for mere nationalisation of industry by the capitalist state. This is because even under a COB-led Constituent (Popular) Assembly the capitalist state can re-nationalise the oil and gas in the interests of imperialism to head off the revolution and prevent control over the profits from falling into the hands of workers. By raising the demand for workers control militant workers, peasants and youth are confronted with the necessity of going beyond capitalist nationalisation and of struggling to expropriate industry and land under workers and peasants control.

We see that an unlimited general strike beginning on February 21 can be the beginning of a victorious revolution. But for this to happen the rank and file workers have to take the Pulcayo theses and the POB program seriously. The program of the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie and the centrist betrayers to limit a ‘Workers and Peasants government’ to a Constituent (Popular) Assembly has to be defeated. The best militants have to join the revolutionary vanguard and carry its program into the base of all the workers, peasants and youth organisations. As the Solares leadership attempts to contain the strike short of these objectives it will have to be replaced by a revolutionary leadership.

The demand for workers’ control must mean that workers and youth occupy and manage industry, factories, gas and oil, health and education. It means that peasants must occupy the government departments that administer the land. It means that the rank and file of the military must mutiny against the officers and take control of the military apparatus. Such occupations will create a situation of ‘dual power’, in which the workers power can only be defended by armed workers and peasants smashing bourgeois state power. The seizure of power by the workers and peasants must be organised centrally as a Workers’s and Peasant’s Government based on workers’ and peasants’ councils and militias, and on the rank-and-file of the armed forces who come over to the revolution. A Workers’ and Peasants’ State in Bolivia will survive only if the workers of Latin America intervene to prevent the US from mobilising the state forces of its Latin American client states to smash the revolution.

For an indefinite general strike to bring down Mesa and to impose a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government!

Call on the coca growers of the tropical east of Bolivia around Cochabamba and Chapare break with Morale’s parliamentary cretinism and join the COB plan for a general strike!

Call on Bolivian workers and peasants to elect delegates to the Popular Assembly that are prepared to take power in the name of the workers and peasants organisations!

Build workers’ and peasants’ militias and for the rank and file of the military to take control of the state repressive apparatus!

Stop the chauvinist call for war with Chile over control of the gas pipeline!

Call on Chilean, Brazilian and Argentinean workers to blockade all gas stolen by the imperialists from Bolivia!

For a continental anti-imperialist workers bloc opposed to imperialism and to the anti-neoliberal WSF false international of Lula, Chavez and Castro!

For a new Bolshevik/Leninist International to lead the revolution in Latin America!

For a Socialist United States of Latin America!

 
From Class Struggle 54 Feb-March 04
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Written by raved

December 27, 2009 at 10:24 pm