Anarchist Analysis Of Bolivian Uprising


The recent events in Bolivia have to be viewed in context of the emergence of new social actors: indigenous uprisings, the small traders many in running their own business, often in the informal sector of the economy, the farmers be they coca farmers or not, are the new living forces. During the Anarchist Meeting in Porto Alegre, 2001, we had analysed and give examples of, the fact that in the closest years the social conflicts in Bolivia would somehow have to do with the clash of interests between the indigenous and peasants interests and those of the gas concessions.

This moment is arrived, although there is not the needed and desired strength building, there is nonetheless processes that are unfolding.

The events were triggered by a series of local conflicts in different regions of the country; the spark arose from a hunger strike and protest from the indigenous from the high lands, who demanded the freedom for a detained leader, while in other parts of the country, different conflicts were going on. The arrogance and criminality from the government was such that – while the indigenous leader was freed and the indigenous demonstrators from western Bolivia were about to withdraw- it gave the order to the army to get in the Warisata community, without mercy, provoking a massacre. It is noteworthy that the Warisata are a community with an extraordinary tradition in self-management who had began a self-managed education program back in the 30ies.

>From this moment on, inevitably, the forms of protest became harsher and more massive and in geometrical progression.

It’s curious to remark that this arrives while the indigenous leaders from this high plateau region were having their leadership questioned (both Mallku and his opponent Loayza), because of negotiations about the payment of electricity in the communities, and other suspicions of corrupt behaviour. Something similar was occurring with the ‘cocalero’ leader, Evo Morales, who was in real risk to loose the leadership of the hermetic peasants federations of the Chapare (his ‘Bunker’), that began no longer acknowledge his leading role from the moment he yielded to the “castro-chavism”, which launched a political campaign in South America. One month ago, Morales was able to avoid that his party (MAS) suffers a split between the indigenous sectors who accepted to enter in it and the high ranking hierarchy of peasant leaders from the same party, a split which is still at risk, it is only in waiting.

In fact, the indigenous MAS parliament members had announced the division of the party and their return to the indigenous bases.

Among this confusion, the Warisata massacre, in the middle of the Aymara plateau (the coca growing farmers almost didn’t participate in these uprisings), has given oxygen to the above mentioned leaders and both were able regain political prestige, to the eyes of public opinion.

The situation has become really uncomfortable to the political parties, given the fact that the streets were full the whole of social sectors and not only groups, institutions, etc.

This was used for his own benefit by the leader of the once powerful COB (Bolivian Workers Confederation) who made an appeal to all the sectors when those – including the miner workers carrying dynamite batons- had already decided to mobilise themselves in solidarity with the victims and demanding the destitution of the president Lozada.

This has shown clearly that the bases had gone beyond their leaders. For the moment being, they have put an halt to their particular demands and only put forward two general ones: THE GAS BELONGS TO BOLIVIAN PEOPLE DESTITUTION OF THE PRESIDENT AT ONCE

In this instance, the city of El Alto (were our comrades have a militant and active presence), 1000 metres above La Paz, began a march and uprising, demanding the destitution and suffered a massacre (Sunday).

>From that point on, the conflict was general, with hunger strikes launched by sectors of the middle-classes, from the clergy, the employees and the students, forming strike supporting groups all around the country (at the moment more than 150), evoking 1978, when miners wives started a hunger strike which became general and ended with the fall of the dictator Banzer.

To this one must add the 34th anniversary of the second petrol and gas nationalization which belonged to Gulf Oil (the first one was in July 1937, against the Standard Oil, after the Chaco war), in a fight leaded by one of the most admired social activists in Bolivia: Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, murdered during the García Mesa coup.

With 70% of the population demonstrating in the streets, one can only nonetheless speak of an authentic people’s rebellion with insurrectional character without having a social project, and not able to build one, in a true revolution.

>From their side, the political opposition and their re-oxygenated leaders have regained the offensive, with their holy trinity demands: Constituent Assembly Referendum on gas Changes in the Petrol and Gas Bill

Concerning these points our position as anarchists is the following: - In spite of our differences with their leaders, we have adopted the principle of the MAXIMUM CONSENSUS with all the social and political forces from the people’s and opposition side.

- To accept the Constituent Assembly, but grounded in a model of the COB from the times of its foundation, horizontal and grass-roots participation, where all the citizens sectors have their say.

This should be an useful space for strength building from the social forces; to get political experience; knowledge and learning of the present day productive processes; for taking sides and for debating in pluralism within the national, regional and international aims; this with the goal of developing in practice the self-management procedures upon the economy and the natural resources.

Nevertheless, it is not the first experience of this kind that the Bolivian people had, and there is the possibility that this Constituent Assembly becomes a very conflictive space, like in 1971, when the reactionaries and bosses blocked all the initiatives, so the Constituent Assembly can become a frustrating process and yielding totalitarian or dictatorial adventures.

Concerning the referendum on the gas issue, it will have a solely political character, because:

- One must continue to develop the conscience in various segments of the population, to avoid that to “nationalise” the gas becomes the same as to “State property and management” of it.

- Self-management of the Natural Resources: the gas and all other resources must be self-managed, allowing the participation of all the parts of the population in the general definition of the policies, and establishing the priorities from which the indigenous communities will benefit, who have their ancestral territories where those resources are.

We think it is important to create a communication network from and for the people (like, in the past, the radios of the miners, which were managed by our comrade Líber Forti) that is able to inform in useful time, supporting people’s education initiatives and creating the conditions for public discussions and debates.

Concerning the Petrol and Gas Bill, there is no doubt it is made to benefit the petrol corporations (and to give subsidies to the great ranch owners) and disregards the ownership from the indigenous people and their territories, and therefore, instead of modified, it should be abolished and a new one built by consensus which is respectful of the above mentioned principles.

While we write this report, Lozada is writing his resignation letter, and meanwhile in La Paz 100.000 people debate how one can go ahead, in a sort of open assembly.


Quilombo Libertario

[* translator’s note: the text was written some hours before the former president Lozada resigned. But the contents are substantially as interesting now as then]