In Bolivia:

“Either a Socialist Revolution or a Caricature of a Revolution”

by Celia Hart


“Great things are born small
Their power is in their growing”
—Rabindranath Tagore

[In honor of International Women’s Day, March 8, we are posting this translation of a major article by one of today’s most significant women in the international left, Celia Hart, daughter of an outstanding woman leader of the Cuban revolution, Haydee Santamaria. The Spanish-language original was first posted on January19, 2006, on the web site www.rebelion.org

[While I take responsibility for any failings in the translation, my thanks go to Eduardo Quintana and Carlos Feliz for their invaluable assistance in the month-long effort to bring this article into a form in English that we hope will contribute toward clarifying issues in dispute concerning the prospects for revolution in Bolivia and in all of Latin America.—George Saunders]

It seems that today, as the future is beginning to unfold in the Americas in an ever more radical way, with an indigenous man now in power in enigmatic Bolivia, the impassioned words, not always well remembered, of the Second Declaration of Havana are resonating like echoes of the Big Bang when first the world was born.

Above all, this is true when we hear those words [of the Second Declaration] as spoken [by Che Guevara], in his particular tone, that Argentinean who came from the south to Mexico, helped make the revolution in Cuba, then went precisely to Bolivia, to conclude his labors of love.

In 1964, in the halls of the United Nations, wearing his guerrilla uniform and speaking in the voice that to this day stirs our hearts, Che read from this Declaration in the name of the Cuban people [as follows]:

For all the grandeur that was the epic of struggle for Latin American independence, for all the heroism of that struggle, an even greater epic has fallen to the lot of today’s generation of Latin Americans, one that is even more decisive for all of humanity. Because that was a struggle to win freedom from Spanish colonial power, from a Spain that was in decline, invaded by Napoleon’s armies.

Today, what faces us is a liberation struggle against the most powerful imperial metropolis in the world, the most imposing force of the world imperialist system, so that we must do a service for humanity that is much greater than our forbears had to do.

But this struggle, more than that earlier one, will be carried out by the masses, by the people; the masses are going to play a much more important role than at that earlier time. Individual leaders now have and will have less importance than they had in that earlier struggle.

The epic that lies before us will be written by the hungry masses, the indigenous peoples, the campesinos without land, the exploited workers; it will be written by massive numbers of progressive activists, the honest and brilliant intellectuals of whom there are so many in our long-suffering lands of Latin America. It will be a battle of the masses and of ideas; an epic which will bring forward our peoples, despised and mistreated by imperialism, our peoples who until now have been unknown, unrecognized, but who are already beginning to awaken from their slumber. We were regarded as a lowly herd, both impotent and submissive; but already Yankee monopoly capitalism has begun to fear this herd, this gigantic herd of two hundred million Latin Americans, and to see in them its gravediggers.

“This great humanity has said ‘Enough!’ and is starting to move” (as stated in the Second Declaration of Havana). The above photo shows a Caracas mass march on Int'l Women's Day 2006, demanding U.S. troops get out of Iraq now.

The overwhelming electoral success of Evo Morales has given rise to a flood of polemics. From one end to the other, on the spectrum of so-called left opinion, quite distinct positions have been espoused—leaving aside the ridiculous splutterings from the right. It is hardly worth wasting words on those miserable utterances!

If the criticisms from the right provoke any sentiment, it is one of laughter mixed with pity. Because the heights of Olympus have been reached by a representative of the wretched of the earth bearing the heavy burden of millennial aspirations. And officialdom is forced to receive him with all the usual ridiculous pomp and circumstance, and they are forced, with their Colgate smiles, to pose in photos with him, and they are forced to set the table for him with a flood of Baccarat crystal goblets. This world tour of Evo Morales has helped us laugh once again at the venerable formalities of diplomacy. But then, that is not what we are here to talk about.

The revolutionary commentators have focused their attention and expectations on what has been occurring in this country of Bolivia during the last few years; and on the statements made by Evo Morales and his executive [leadership team], especially the question of the coherence or ambivalence of those statements.

Fortunately we have many excellent writings that describe the facts as such—from the battle against privatization of water in Cochabamba in 2000; to the battle in the Chapare region in 2003 [2002?] in defense of the coca leaf, in which a dozen coca-leaf growers were killed; to the battle in La Paz [in February 2003] against [IMF-imposed] income tax increases, resulting in 34 deaths; and of course, the mammoth demonstrations for nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas [in September–October 2003], forcing former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to take to his heels [and flee the country] at the cost of nearly 100 killed.

[Translator’s Note: Sanchez de Lozada was succeeded by his vice president, Carlos Mesa.—G.S.]

But the Carlos Mesa solution proved hard to swallow for the people of Bolivia, who knew their own strength and had nothing to fear because their parties and organizations understood, once and for all, their reason for being, and [in May–June 2005] they sent Carlos Mesa flying from his presidential seat.

Adolfo Gilly, in a memorable article in La Jornada, referred to Bolivia as “the first revolution of the twenty-first century.” Gilly wrote:

In the Bolivian insurrection [of October 2003] an unprecedented combination of styles of action, both ancient and modern, made their appearance, a new way of using the force of the people. Rather than trying to explain the Altiplano insurrection by comparing it to revolutions of the past, we need to analyze it in connection with the social transformations and forms of capitalist domination that have emerged during the last decade of the twentieth century.

If we do this, what we discover in the violent and victorious Bolivian insurrection of October 2003 is the first revolution of the twenty-first century. Let us try to decipher its content, its driving forces, and what it presages.

[Author’s Note: See Adolfo Gilly, “Bolivia, una revolución del siglo XXI,” in the Mexico City daily La Jornada, March 2, 2004.]

That observation will serve as my point of departure.

Any analysis that tries to assess the future of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia must take into account the fact that a revolution was unfolding before things came to the ballot box. And the ballot box was one of the solutions found to a conflict so profound that its outcome does not necessarily depend on the relevance or irrelevance of Evo Morales.

Atilio Boron has pointed out:

Morales faces an extraordinary challenge. He knows very well that, as Jose Carlos Mariátegui warned, socialism in Latin Americ will be a heroic undertaking and that it cannot be a “carbon copy.” It will have to find the strength to create, to seek its own path. As was said by the Venezuelan Simon Rodriguez, one of the most lucid intellectuals of Latin American independence, “Either we invent or we will fail.” Evo will have to be inventive, and to act with resolve, if he does not want to fail. Fidel himself said more than once, in earlier days, that “every time we copied [other countries] things went badly for us.” If there is anything original and inimitable in the history of nations, it is revolution. No revolution can be a “carbon copy.”

People may object to the introduction of the term “revolution” into this discussion. In the classical abstract model imagined by many on the left this term is associated with the violent conquest of political power, with the revolutionary “deed” par excellence, leaving out of view the longer process—often a subterranean and silent one—that has led to this victory. An unknown quantity is left waiting; nothing theoretical [can be said about it] for certain: “When and how does a revolution commence?” In a speech Fidel gave at the University of Concepcion in Chile, during his visit to that country in 1971, he referred to this topic, and by extension, to the complex dialectic that intertwines reform and revolution:

“The revolution has different phases. Our program of struggle against Batista was not a socialist program, nor could it have been a socialist program, realistically, because the immediate objectives of our struggle were not at all socialist, nor could they have been. Such objectives would have gone beyond the level of political consciousness of Cuban society at that phase. They would have gone beyond the level of what was possible for our people in that phase. Our program at the time of Moncada was not a socialist program. But it was the maximum social and revolutionary program which our people could act on [plantearse] at that moment.”

[Author’s Note: See Atilio Boron, “La encrucijada boliviana” [The Bolivian Crossroads] on the Rebelión web site, December 28, 2005.]

This analysis leads me to a number of different observations:

In the first place, [it’s correct to say that] no revolution has ever been a carbon copy of another. At the same time, however, if the truth be told, all revolutions have been identical on one essential matter, and that is, the taking of power. A socialist revolution inevitably implies the taking of power, depriving the oligarchy of its property. How this is done, what methods are resorted to—such things of course will vary; the Russian worker may do it one way and the indigenous Bolivian another; but that is a matter of form, not of essence.

Second, if by a stroke of luck or as the result of a convincing speech or of requesting politely, the [international] bourgeoisie, the transnational gas corporations, the White House, and the IMF could be convinced that they should go home and accept the fact that Bolivia is for the Bolivians, that would be much better! That would mean that we had truly entered a new phase of human evolution.

But I very much doubt that that will happen.

I’m sure the example of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela will be held up to me as an objection. But so far in Venezuela there has been no need to nationalize the petroleum that finances the marvelous social programs of Hugo Chávez and his government. All they had to do was put a stop to the outright theft of oil. The revolution in Venezuela was started by Hugo Chávez and other patriotic elements of the military. The twenty-first century has thus presented us with a revolution that started upside down [in an opposite way from the usual pattern].

Third. If we are going to quote from José Carlos Mariátegui—returning now to Comrade Atilio Boron and the useful term “carbon copy,” and the sense of the heroic, which seems to function like the joker in a pack of cards—I can cite a counterargument from Mariátegui himself:

All those who, like Henri de Man, preach and promote so-called ethical socialism, based on humanitarian principles, instead of contributing in some way or another to the moral elevation of the proletariat, are paradoxically working without an awareness of the proletariat’s civilizing role. The road of “moral socialism,” with its antimaterialist discourse, only throws us back into the pit of the most sterile and teary-eyed humanitarian romanticism, the most decadent apologetics [or attitude of pity] for “the pariahs of this world,” and the most sentimental and inept plagiarizing from the Gospel text about “the poor in spirit.”

The pseudo-Christian and humanitarian doctrine of so-called ethical socialism, which anachronistically tries to oppose itself to Marxist socialism, can be a more or less lyrical and innocuous exercise by an exhausted and decadent bourgeoisie, but it cannot be the theory [of the working class], of a class that has “attained its majority,” that has come of age. These mediocre, altruistic, and philanthropic speculations are totally alien to Marxism, and utterly opposed to it…It is in the class struggle of the ascending proletariat that all the elements of the sublime and the heroic reside. The proletariat must rise to the level of the morality of the associated producers. This morality is quite distinct and remote from the morality of slaves, which the gratuitous professors of morality, horrified by the materialism of the workers, persist in trying to promote.

[Author’s Note: See José Carlos Mariátegui, “Sentido heroico y creador del socialismo” (The Sense of the Heroic and the Creator of Socialism), in Vol. 1 of the collection Pensamiento de Nuestra América (The Thought of Our America), Havana: Casa de las Américas, 1982.]

More than once we will have to say a harsh word, perhaps exaggerated, about what Mariátegui called “the sense of the heroic.” Nor am I inclined to subscribe to every jot and tittle in the works of any great thinker. But for some time now I have been increasingly interested in the way Mariátegui is portrayed as a thinker who is supposedly opposed to Marxism somehow; he is used as a justification for a certain “autochthonous” or “indigenist” reformism, etc. What’s “heretical” in Mariátegui, just as with Che, Rosa, Trotsky, and so many others, is precisely his well-rooted, consistent Marxism, and not the reverse.

Fourth. Let me reply to the comment Boron made about Fidel Castro and History Will Absolve Me [that is, the 1953 program of the July 26 Movement, as expressed in Castro’s speech at his trial after the attack on the Moncada military base]. Repeatedly the assertion seems to be made that we can’t call for socialism immediately in Bolivia because that would not be consistent with what Fidel was calling for in 1953. I don’t agree with this last point. The Moncada program was a program designed for a socialist revolution. A revolution conceived in the only way it is possible to conceive it — the dynamic concept of permanently unfolding revolution. Let us look at what Fidel said when he spoke on this same subject in 1988:

But yes, at that time already “we were Marxists.” If we were able to interpret the reality of our country, it was because we had already learned Marxism-Leninism…Our Moncada program already was a preamble to socialism, and we already were socialists and Marxist-Leninists, even if we hadn’t “reached the corner” [of our street].

[Author’s Note: See Fidel Castro, “Encuentro con los partidos de izquierda” (Meeting with the Parties of the Left; Mexico, 1988), cited in the book by Carlos Tablada, El pensamiento económico de Ernesto Che Guevara (The Economic Thought of Che Guevara), Havana: Nuestra América, 2005, p. 39.]

Fidel’s revolution not only reached the corner [of the street] but made the rounds of the whole city. If socialism had not been included among the objectives of the combatants [the July 26 Movement’s fighters], they could not have achieved even one of their goals. It’s as simple as that. They adjusted their actions to the concrete necessities. This is nothing more nor less than a classic case (almost the best case) of the permanent revolution. [And of the transitional method — G.S.] Otherwise, I don’t see how the revolutionary government could have nationalized industry, carried out the agrarian reform, and done everything else it did, and continues to do. Of course if we didn’t do this [immediately] on January 1, 1959, but did it instead over the course of the next few months as the process was rapidly radicalizing, we still arrived at the First Declaration of Havana [in September 1960] with the project of socialism as something obvious. Not even the most naïve thought this would not be socialism. The Cuban people condensed this reality into a single chant:

“If Fidel’s a Communist,
Better add me to the list.”

That’s what it’s about: to keep the process moving, pushing it toward socialism in a permanent way. Evo Morales and his government have all the [most favorable] conditions in the world to do that. There is no need to conciliate the Santa Cruz oligarchy or the Spanish and Brazilian multinational corporations. The people who elected him with an overwhelming majority are asking exactly the opposite.

Some comrades on the left have gone so far as to angrily denounce, unnecessarily, what I consider a magnificent piece of writing by James Petras, even though I don’t subscribe 100 percent to what he says.

[Translator’s Note: Petras’s article, entitled “Evo Morales: All Growl, No Claws?” may be read on the CounterPunch web site for January 4, 2006. — G.S.]

I take this opportunity to point out that fortunately we have many different points of view, and I find it counterproductive when people sling slanderous epithets such as “extremist” or “perverse” just because an article by someone expresses their opinions. James Petras, just like Atilio Boron or anyone else on the immense spectrum of the left, is merely carrying out his duty to present facts and draw appropriate conclusions, whether we agree with them or not.

Ultimately, the workers of Bolivia will have the final say, but all well-intentioned reflections are useful for us, and without doubt the reflections by Comrade Petras are well intentioned.

We can simplify the polemic hidden behind all the commentaries on Bolivia (despite the errors implicit in any simplification); we can boil it down to the following question: “Will Evo Morales push the socialist revolution forward in Bolivia or will he remain within the limits of reforming capitalism?”

New Names for Socialism—Pretexts for Reformism?

Are not the new names with which socialism is being baptized merely pretexts for reform within the framework of capitalism? [For example,] such tag lines as “socialism of the twenty-first century,” “Andean socialism,” and all these other roundabout expressions.

In an October 7, 2005, interview with Bolpres, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said:

Andean capitalism is like imagining modernity within capitalism for a period that’s medium to short term, but a modernity in which the communitarian, artisan, and semi-mercantile potential will develop their special, particular capacities for producing and distributing wealth and creating technology and know-how. This economy of the indigenous community, of settlers, of small producers, is linked with classical capitalism, but that is not a reason for it to be crushed or subsumed or brutally denied recognition.

But we are talking [not about preserving some form of capitalism; rather we are talking] about how rapidly Evo will or will not take measures of a socialist nature. Indeed, the revolution is a process, and it is measured by variables that are dynamic. Every moment in time should be more socialist than the immediately preceding moment. That should be our way of measuring. In that sense, the article by James Petras offers us very thorough experimental data [as a basis for evaluating progress or lack of progress toward socialism].

Certain other statements by the above-mentioned vice president have caught my attention—having to do with his definition of the new term “Andean capitalism.”

This is an academic definition that I have used and that expresses in a practical way the fact that Bolivia, because of its special characteristics as a society, cannot make a transition to socialism without first passing through a stage of capitalism. Socialism is the extreme maturation of capitalism, but in our country there is no capitalism. In Bolivia 70% of the urban workers are employed in “the family economy” [that is, the informal economy of street peddling and hustling — G.S.]. Socialism cannot be built on such a base; it requires large-scale industry as a material base, but that’s exactly what we don’t have. And we can’t build socialism on the base of a rural population, 95% of which lives off a traditional communitarian economy.

[Translator’s Note: Garcia Linares’s term “communitarian economy” apparently refers to the communal landholding system that persists among the indigenous majority in Bolivia’s rural areas, above all in the Altiplano.—G.S.]

Andean capitalism is a system founded on the reality in Bolivia, where the potentialities of the indigenous, the peasantry, and “the family economy” lend themselves to a perspective of developing the national economy and modernizing the productive forces.

[Author’s Note: García Linera, “Entrevista a Bolpress” (Interview with Bolpress), October 7, 2005.]

So that means that socialism can be built only in highly developed countries! My God, in order to reach those heights, Lenin, Mao, and Fidel would have to renounce what they achieved! More than that. [It must be asserted] precisely that Che Guevara did not choose Bolivia and contribute his efforts there for the purpose of building “Andean capitalism,” as it is being defined. Nothing good can come of such views expressed by a vice president who has risen to a place in the government of a country where the masses, lacking a clear-visioned leadership, have nevertheless managed to wrest power from their rulers precisely for the sake of absolutely radical measures, and it is entirely possible for such measures to be carried out.

Guillermo Almeyra put it well in a recent article: “The success of Morales cannot be explained by the lack of clarity in his program; and least of all can it be explained by the slogan of ‘Andean capitalism,’ which his vice president, Álvaro García Linares, pulled out of the hat purely for the sake of the elections and which will fade from sight before this year is over.”

[Author’s Note: See Guillermo Almeyra, “Evo, los analistas y algunas sugerencias” (Evo, the analysts, and some suggestions), in the Mexican daily La Jornada, January 8, 2006.]

To repeat what García Linera said:

“[Andean socialism] is an academic definition that I have used and that expresses in a practical way the fact that Bolivia, because of its special characteristics as a society, cannot make a transition to socialism without first passing through a stage of capitalism. Socialism is the extreme maturation of capitalism, but in our country there is no capitalism.”

In Bolivia there is no capitalism? But what is it that exists in Bolivia if not the most brutal form of modern “neoliberal” capitalism?!

And what he says about “stages”…it strikes me as very familiar, and very annoying. The vice president didn’t invent this concept: “In order to have socialism, it’s necessary to build capitalism.” [Translator’s Note: The same thing was said by the Mensheviks in Russia, by reformist Social Democrats throughout the world, and by the Stalinists.—G.S.] Does this mean going from neoliberal capitalism to “Andean capitalism” and then to socialism? A 21st-century version of the theory of stages? I hope not.

Che Guevara went to Bolivia because he considered it the weakest link in the chain. I don’t think he wanted to strengthen that weak link. Never at any moment did Che “accept the idea that in Latin America [or in the world, I would say—C.H.] our tasks consist of building a ‘national revolution’ or a ‘democratic’ or a ‘progressive’ one, or ‘capitalism with a human face,’ or that socialism should be left to the day after tomorrow. Che stated categorically, and in a highly polemical way, that if it was not a socialist revolution that was being established, it would be a caricature of a revolution, that in general it would end in a fiasco or a tragedy, as had happened so many times.”

[Author’s Note: The quotation is from Néstor Kohan’s book Ernesto Che Guevara: Otro mundo es possible (Ernesto Che Guevara: Another World Is Possible), Buenos Aires: Editorial Nuestra América, 2003, p. 57.]

That’s the dilemma in Bolivia: it either becomes socialist or it will totally lack meaning, other than as a step backward.

Of couse Bolivia cannot be compared with Brazil or Argentina [in terms of industrial development]. That’s simply a matter of arithmetic. Social reforms, however profound they may be, are not enough for the building of socialism, which is what people are demanding in Bolivia, whether or not they have read one syllable of Marxist writing.

[The Cuban semi-official journalist and commentator] Jorge Gómez Barata asserts:

The centuries-old backwardness of Bolivia offers opportunites of achieving certain national goals, not necessarily class goals, but goals that need to be tackled from a broadly-based platform, such as the reassertion of sovereignty over the country’s natural wealth, without resorting to premature expropriations or confiscations that are not strictly necessary.

[Author’s Note: Jorge Gómez Barata, “Despertar con Cuba” (Wake Up with Cuba; apparently a radio or television show), January 9, 2006.]

No! I don’t agree with this statement, though made by an excellent journalist.

For a nationalist bourgeoisie with a populist outlook, this might be the way to analyze things. But it was not for the sake of such reconciliation between opposing classes that the people of Bolivia shed their blood in taking over La Paz [the country’s capital city]. The only opportunity that is afforded by the backwardness of Bolivia, in my opinion, is the opportunity to move forward as quickly as possible to nationalize hydrocarbons [gas and oil], to convene the Constituent Assembly, to legalize the growing of coca leaf without restrictions, and to unrelentingly smash the domination of the multinationals, which have condemned this country to such misery. It is not true that extreme wealth and terrible poverty can coexist. I’m afraid this has been clearly demonstrated by the past century and more.

Either a socialist revolution or a caricature of a revolution. And may it be achieved (God willing), on this third attempt, by the working people of El Alto, the Chapare, La Paz, etc., who will become in both word and deed the masters of their country and who at this hour already are the masters of our most sacred dreams.

The “Peaceful Road” to Revolution?

Another aspect that has been commented on a lot these days, in connection with Bolivia, is the question of “the peaceful road to revolution.”

Bolivia itself was the first to demonstrate the impossibility [of a “peaceful road”]. It rose up in wars [the “water war,” the “gas war,” etc.], as the protagonists in those actions themselves described them. A vast, aroused multitude poured down from the highlands to demand justice. They didn’t require Evo Morales or anyone else to wage those wars.

[In regard to the question of a “peaceful road,] I honestly don’t see how it would be possible that the owners would peacefully hand over their properties, happily surrendering the keys to their factories and businesses to the people of Bolivia.

Let’s look at what Che said:

Is it possible or not that the present conditions on our continent will allow us to achieve it [socialism] by the peaceful road? We unequivocally deny it. In the majority of cases it is not possible. The most that could be managed would be the formal capture of the bourgeois superstructure of state power, and the transition to socialism of any government which, under the established conditions of bourgeois legality, had reached formal state power, would have to be carried out through an extremely violent struggle against all those who would seek, by one means or another, to eliminate it and prevent its progress toward [establishing] new social structures.

[Author’s Note: See Ernesto Che Guevara, “Tácticas y estrategia de la revolución    latinoamericana” (Tactics and Strategy of the Latin American Revolution); written in October-November 1962; first published in Verde Olivo [publication of the Cuban Rebel Armed Forces], October 6, 1968.]

That’s why I don’t think anything that has happened is absolutely new to revolutionary thought. However impossible it is for me to believe, there seems to be a resurgence of the slogan…“peaceful coexistence.” But no. This Stalinist “theory” has run out of time and money, and it has been tossed into the dustbin of history, where mistaken conceptions molder. Nonetheless, many people like Garcia Linares continue to strike those dissonant chords.

In a kind of parody of the [Third, Communist] International, which was founded by Lenin but later dissolved by Stalin, something was promulgated which, when you hear it today, sounds for a moment like a real novelty: “The working class and its vanguard, the Marxist-Leninist party, seek to make the revolution by peaceful means.” [Translator’s Note: This was a pronouncement, originating with Stalin, that was widely publicized by the Khrushchev-era Communist Party of the Soviet Union and reiterated in the Brezhnev era.—G.S.]

The Bolivarian revolution [in Venezuela], which is not even socialist, has already encountered violent resistance—especially in 2002. It does not occur to me that, given this example, when the multinationals are expropriated in Bolivia, its proprietors will remain at peace. Peace is not the music we have been hearing in… La Paz [even though the city’s name means “peace”].

In fact, Evo Morales has made some statements about Che which disturb me, despite everything about the cocalero leader that is worthy of admiration. I find it disturbing that anyone should express such sentiments at this point in time, and even more so when it comes from the mouth of a person on whom the revolutionaries of Bolivia are betting their lives. A Bolivian should never say the following: “In recalling the guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara, who died in Bolivia, the Bolivian socialist leader [Evo Morales] said that ‘the only discrepancy between us is that he took up arms,’ while the social movement that Morales respresents came to power ‘by winning votes.’”

[Author’s Note: See the January 4, 2006, report by the Spanish news agency EFE headlined “Morales dice Bolivia ejercerá derecho de propiedad sin confiscare” (Morales says that Boliva will protect the right of property without confiscation).]

Evo Morales came to power as a result of the formidable mass actions in his country [a general strike, with roadblocks shutting down most of the country, in September-October 2003, at the cost of nearly 100 dead], while he remained in Europe. As for [the suggestion that Che should not have been] taking up arms, I don’t know what the Heroic Guerrillero should have been doing in Bolivia—singing the “Marseillaise”?

I will certainly take this opportunity to condemn with all the force I can muster and to appeal to all those who call themselves revolutionaries to also condemn the recent declarations about honoring the pharisaical, pro-Yankee military assassins who supervised the capture and murder of Che in La Higuera.

According to a report in La Jornada of January 6, 2006:

“The Bolivian military men who captured and assassinated the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla fighter Ernesto Che Guevara in 1967 will be declared meritorious patriots ‘deserving to be honored by their country’ [benemeritos de la Patria] and will not have to retire from the public offices they currently hold, according to official sources quoted by Erbol (the news agency Educación Radiofónica de Bolivia).

“‘The members of the new government are Guevarists, but they recognize the importance of the Bolivians who defended their country in 1967, people who offered their lives to save us from Communism,’ asserted Deputy Carlos Nacif, former president of the Commission on Defense Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies and one of the sponsors of the measure.”

In Bolivia, if people sincerely want to take the road of human dignity, the term “meritorious patriots” must be ruled out as a way of referring to the assassins of Che. May the first resolution of the the Contituent Assembly [renounce this term]! If this term continues to be applied to those who in their own words sought “to save Bolivia from Communism,” shattering the life of the best revolutionary in the history of the world, in that case…may this country rise up again, flexing its muscles even more powerfully this time! And if that doesn’t happen, they will not have the right to carry Che’s image in their mass demonstrations. The Bolivian revolutionaries of today have great responsibilities on their shoulders.

Jorge Martin was right on the mark when he wrote [in December 2005]:

[…when the question of power was posed sharply in October 2003—and more recently in May-June of this year [2005]—it was not solved decisively in favor of the workers and peasants. This failure has allowed the ruling class to divert this huge revolutionary energy into the safer channels of parliamentary and presidential elections.]

The leadership of the workers’ and peasants’ organizations played a key role in this. On the one hand Evo Morales’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) has always insisted on a parliamentary road. Evo Morales, who was absent from the movement in October 2003, helped prop up President Mesa. When the latter [in turn] was faced with a mass revolutionary movement [in May-June 2005], Morales helped the ruling class find a constitutional way out in the form of President Rodriguez.

On the other hand, the leaders of the more radical workers’ and peasants’ organizations, because of their lack of a clear perspective at the crucial moment, were also responsible for wasting two crucial opportunities. The leadership of the Bolivian Workers’ Union (COB) even made a very sharp analysis of their own shortcomings during the October 2003 movement. “If the workers did not take power it was because of the lack of a revolutionary party,” they said, and they were completely right. At that time there was a nationwide general strike with road blockades across the country, while a mass of angry workers and peasants, with the armed miners at the forefront, gathered outside the Presidential Palace in La Paz demanding the resignation of the then-president, Sanchez de Lozada.

[Translator’s Note: See the article by Jorge Martin entitled “Bolivian Elections—What Postion Should the Marxists Take?” Bolivian Elections — What Position Should the Marxists Take? on the Labor Standard web site, “New Articles for the Week of December 18, 2005.”]

The overwhelming popular support for Evo Morales is not, in my opinion, for “a personality.” Not this time. The people voted with the hope that their demands, expressed since 2000, would be carried out. The people have outlined a program which now Evo Morales and his leadership team must uphold. The program of government has been legitimized in the streets, and no other program will do. The new government doesn’t have too many options.

Unlike the Russian revolution, and the Cuban, this is a revolution that was born in the silent resonance of “the lower depths,” that “comes from the earth,” [desde el sonido sordo de la tierra]; it did not come from a political leadership, which, undeniably, was provided by Lenin and by Fidel Castro. The April Theses and the Moncada program, in this case, have been written by anonymous voices and by the anonymous blood that has been shed. All the government has to do is refer back to the uprisings and in a couple of hours its program will be written. Can this program be carried out? Can Evo Morales measure up to the circumstances that require him to be the legal arm of this revolution? This time (fortunately) social welfare measures will not be enough. The elected government must fundamentally transform the society in order to accomplish the demands that the immense majority elected it for. And these demands, my friends, can only be carried out by moving toward a socialist revolution.

To me it is clear that [full] socialism in one country is impossible. But Bolivia can carry out a truly socialist revolution without the least hesitation. It would be one more step [in an international process], perhaps the decisive step in Latin America.

The “recuperated factories” movement in Venezuela [in which factories shut down by the owners have been taken over by the workers and are being operated under workers control] and the radicalism that the Hugo Chávez government has been displaying; the absolute prestige enjoyed by the Cuban revolution despite all its current difficulties; the movements that are now gathering around a left that is disenchanted with President Lula et al.; the [coming ] elections in Mexico [in July 2006], with the real possibilities of victory for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but above all the impressive force that the “Other Campaign” can exert, a campaign whose main protagonists are the Zapatistas of the EZLN and which I certainly support with all my heart—all these movements will be the beneficiaries of a clear self-definement by the Bolivian revolution. Bolivia can set the continent on fire once again.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe we can say that Evo Morales is going to implement neoliberal policies, as the article by James Petras implies. This is something that I particularly do not believe. But neither am I completely sure that he will capitalize on all the possibilities for socialist revolution that have opened up in that country. Evo will have the possibility of governing with almost unlimited powers. On the right, they’ll have nothing to do but smile politely. [Morales doesn’t have a whole lot of people whom he’ll have to please, on the right.] But how strong the pressure is from the left! (And that’s great!) The social forces in Bolivia are to the left of the government. Fortunately all the great internal pressures that will be brought to bear on the government of Evo Morales will be, perhaps for the first time, very healthy revolutionary pressures. This time the nationalization of gas and oil without any concessions, the convening of a Constituent Assembly, and the rejection of any neoliberal [foreign trade or loan] agreements will be the demands of those who will insist that this government keep going [?] without ever trying to conciliate imperialism or the local oligarchy. It looks like we’re ready to flip the tortilla, and now our leaders must take the left into account much more than ever before. Halleluyah!

On another point I am more in agreement with James Petras—namely, that it doesn’t matter much whether Evo Morales wears a poncho or a coat with tails. We would fall into the same stupidity of capitalist formalities if we were to give any credit on this occasion to such superficial aspects of events. Far more important are the measures taken by the coca-leaf growers’ leader, or the compromises he makes. The question is not the clothes that Evo wears, or those of his uncles, or his humble grandmother in the Orinoca region. Much less is it a question of his indigenous origin. Andean folklore is not what is under discussion in Bolivia. Nor is it a matter of race. Evo has risen to power not because of his dark skin or his modest smile. He was raised to power on the crest of a revolution. Possibly the first revolution of the twenty-first century, as Adolfo Gilly stated in 2004. A revolution with or without Evo Morales.

Because, as Adolfo Gilly has also said:

A revolution is not something that goes on within the state or its institutions or among its politicians. It comes from below and from outside. It succeeds when the front of the stage is taken, with the violent strength of their bodies and anger from the depths of their souls, by those who have always been precisely outside and below; those who have always been forgotten; those who have been misled; those who the misleaders have considered merely a sum total of votes, an electoral clientele…It succeeds when they break onto the scene, put an end to politicking, and organize themselves through their own decision-making and knowledge; and when they, with both intelligence and violence, bring their own world into the world of those who have been giving the orders and running things; and when, as in this case, they do it to achieve their stated objectives. And whatever comes next comes next.

All that remains to be done by a revolutionary organization, which is supposed to provide leadership, as in the case of the MAS, is precisely to be on the same wavelength with the masses “from below and from outside.” And never to fear violence. As you can see for yourselves, officialdom is trying, little by little, to banish violence from revolutionary processes, constantly using such terms as “the peaceful road,” “electoralism,” and other stupidities.

Press Forward to Socialism

The MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo—Movement Toward Socialism, the political party headed by Evo Morales] has no historical mission other than to fan the flames of socialist revolution. In this country it would be a crime against humanity for anyone, through puerile or conformist considerations, to fail to press the people forward to rise to the summit, which the masses can reach through their own efforts. Today, in January, when Evo assumes the presidency, we will insist that this incipient revolution keep advancing and not stop halfway.

The organization that will emerge victorious in Bolivia is the one that will know how to open the way for the hopes and aspirations of the masses. These demands are much more serious and profound than the symbolic act of an indigenous person being received at the court of His Majesty [the king of Spain], which in reality is nothing more than a news item for the fashion magazines.

Evo and his party, the MAS, can do this. They have the governing power and all the necessary guarantees. But to do what they can do, they must remain true to the revolution. And as Che said, if it is not socialist, it will be a sorry caricature.

To paraphrase Jose Marti: The MAS must either definitively open the channel for the revolution or it will destroy the unchanneled revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg said in her 1918 pamphlet on the Russian revolution:

In this way it may be understood how in every revolution only those parties that have the courage to put forward the most advanced slogans, and to move ahead and accept all the consequences [for raising those demands]—only they will know how to take the leadership and to take power. This explains the lamentable role played by the Russian Mensheviks…, who despite at first enjoying extraordinary prestige among the masses, vacillated from one position to another for a long time and fought arduously to reject the seizure of power, refusing to assume the necessary responsibilities, so that they were finally driven from the stage with neither honor nor glory.

The only party that grasped the mandate and duties of a truly revolutionary party, and that, with the slogan “All power to the proletariat and peasantry,” assured the continuation of the revolution, was the party of Lenin.

[Author’s Note: See Rosa Luxemburg, “La revolución rusa. Un análisis crítico” (The Russian Revolution: A Critical Analysis), in the collection Sobre la revolución rusa (On the Russian Revolution), Mexico City: Grijalbo Publishers, 1980.]

[Translator’s Note: Compare Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution and “Leninism or Marxism?”(University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperback, 1961), p. 38.]

We hope that the MAS will measure up to this task. Certainly it can count on much more than the Bolshevik party could count on.

I will finish by quoting further from the Second Declaration of Havana:

But the hour of its vindication, the hour which it has chosen itself, has come, with distinction and precision, now, from one end of the continent to the other. Now this anonymous mass, this America of color, dark and taciturn, which is singing everywhere on our continent with the same sadness and disillusionment, now this mass is beginning definitively to enter into its own history, it is beginning to write that history with its own blood, it is beginning to suffer and to die to make that history.

For this great humanity has said “Enough!” and is starting to march. And its forward march, with giant steps, can no longer be stopped short of conquering its true independence, for which on more than one occasion people have died in vain. But today, in every instance, they will not die in vain. They will die, like those in Cuba, those at Playa Girón, for their own true, inalienable independence.

[Note: The Spanish text of Fidel Castro’s “Second Declaration of Havana” (“II Declaración de La Habana”) was printed in Obra revolucionaria, No. 5, February 1962.]

And at Playa Giron, already [in April 1961], we know what was being defended—the socialist revolution!

Let Evo Morales and the MAS defend the same thing in Bolivia! It is socialism alone (without any confusing modifiers like “Andean”) that will have the capacity to win justice for all the wretched of the earth.

“This great humanity has said ‘Enough!’ and is starting to move¨ (as stated in the Second Declaration of Havana).
The above photo shows a huge crowd, estimated by organizers at 750,000, in Mumbai (Bombay) on March 2, 2006, protesting Bush's visit to India.

Translator’s Notes

The Second Declaration of Havana was adopted by a National General Assembly of the people of Cuba, a giant crowd of more than a million people in Havana on February 4, 1962. The Declaration, written by Fidel Castro, was revolutionary Cuba’s reply to its expulsion from the Organization of American States, an action carried out at the prompting of the U.S. government.

The Second Declaration spoke of “two hundred million” Latin Americans. Today, nearly half a century later, the combined population of the former colonial lands of Latin America and the Caribbean, has reached nearly six hundred million.

On December 11, 1964, Che Guevara read passages from the Second Declaration of Havana at the end of his address to the UN General Assembly. For the English wording of the Second Declaration, we refer readers to the translation published in a special issue of The Militant dated March 5, 1962.

José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930) was the most prominent figure in the founding of the Communist movement in Peru in the 1920s; he also made important contributions to the application of Marxist ideas to Latin America in general. He had strong sympathies with the Soviet Left Opposition, but his untimely death in 1930 prevented a possible evolution toward support of the International Left Opposition. For more about Mariátegui, see Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present [meaning ca. 1980–1990], edited by Michael Löwy and translated by Michael Pearlman (Humanities Press, 1992).

Violent resistance encountered by the Venezuelan revolution in 2002. As is generally known, the propertied classes, the Venezuelan oligarchs and the U.S. imperial power behind them, attempted a coup in April 2002, removing the elected president, Hugo Chávez, for a few days, but he was restored to power by a vast outpouring of the masses of urban and rural poor people who had already benefited greatly by social reforms carried out by the Chávez government. In December 2002, the counterrevolution struck again, with a bosses’ lockout shutting down Venezuela’s key industry, oil. Again the massive response by the urban and rural poor, especially the workers in the oil industry and the industrial workers in general, foiled the bosses’ attempt to sabotage Venezuela’s economy. One of the leaders of Venezuela’s insurgent working class has said of the fight against the bosses’ lockout in December 2002–January 2003: “It was an all-out class war. And the workers won!”

Playa Giron—the Cuban name of the seaside town and beach on the “Bay of Pigs,” where some 1,500 armed, CIA-trained and financed Cuban counterrevolutionaries with U.S. logistical support landed early on the morning of April 17, 1961, with the aim of establishing a beachhead and proclaiming an anti-Castro government, to which the U.S. government could then funnel massive military and financial aid to reconquer Cuba and reestablish a pro-U.S. regime like that of Batista. Cuba’s revolutionary forces, led by Fidel Castro, defeated the invasion attempt within 72 hours, by the end of the day on April 19, capturing more than 1,100 of the counterrevolutionary combatants. The day before the invasion at Playa Giron, Fidel Castro openly proclaimed that the Cuban revolution was socialist and that the Cuban people would fight to preserve the socialist gains of their revolution. In his April 23 speech about the victory at Playa Giron and in his May Day speech of 1961 Castro confirmed the socialist character of the revolution and discussed extensively that central feature of the revolution.