Alvaro Garcia Linera: Geopolitics of the Amazon -- Patrimonial-Hacendado power and capitalist accumulation

Introduction and translation by Richard Fidler

December 2012 -- This essay first appeared in English in five parts at Richard Fidler's Life on the Left and has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Álvaro García Linera is one of Latin America’s leading Marxist intellectuals. He is also the vice-president of Bolivia — the “co-pilot”, as he says, to President Evo Morales, and an articulate exponent of the government’s policies and strategic orientation.

In a recent book-length essay, Geopolitics of the Amazon: Patrimonial-Hacendado Power and Capitalist Accumulation, published in September 2012, García Linera discusses a controversial issue of central importance to the development process in Latin America, and explains how Bolivia is attempting to address the intersection between economic development and environmental protection.

The issues he addresses are of great importance not only in Bolivia but throughout Latin America, and in fact in most of the countries of the imperialist periphery. They are especially important to understand in the “First World,” where there is an increasing campaign in parts of the left to turn against the progressive and anticapitalist governments in Latin America on the ground of their alleged “extractivism.”

García Linera examines the classic Marxist criteria on the forms of appropriation of nature by humanity. “Extractivism,” he shows, is not synonymous with underdevelopment. Rather, it is necessary to use the resources gained from primary or export activity controlled by the state to generate the surpluses that can satisfy the minimal conditions of life of Bolivians and to guarantee an intercultural and scientific education that generates a critical mass capable of assuming and leading the emerging processes of industrialization and economic development.

A major theme of the book is to refute the allegations in the opposition media that the TIPNIS highway between Cochabamba and Beni is intended for the export of Brazilian products to the Pacific via Bolivian territory. The book clearly demonstrates that the route is intended as part of the national unification of the country.

Geopolitics of the Amazon has attracted wide attention throughout Latin America. In a recent review, the eminent Brazilian sociologist Emir Sader says “it refutes each and every one of the allegations of the opposition in his country and their international spokespersons.” He describes it as “an essential book, without which it is not possible to understand the present phase of the Bolivian process and the root of the conflicts affecting it.”

The book has sparked fierce debate in Bolivia itself, including a lengthy response by Raúl Prada Alcoreza, a former comrade of García Linera in the Comuna collective.

There is an extensive literature on these issues now being produced in Latin America. Another example is a book, El desarrollo en cuestión: reflexiones desde América Latina. It includes articles by some of the authors cited in the debate between García Linera and Prada.

Geopolitics of the Amazon has attracted commentary in Quebec, including a favourable review by André Maltais in the widely read L’aut’journal. A compendium of articles by the legendary Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui recently published in Quebec also includes writings by Álvaro García Linera. More of his texts may be found online (Spanish only) on his website.

I am publishing my translation of the full text of Geopolitics of the Amazon. To see the Table of Contents, click here. A glossary of terms and acronyms appearing in the text will be found here.

García Linera’s footnotes are included as well as a few of my own, the latter signed “Tr.” I have substituted English-language references, where available, for texts cited in the notes.

Muchas gracias to Federico Fuentes and Cristina Rojas for their diligent and critical reviews of my draft translation. I am of course solely responsible for the final text, published here.

Part 1: Revolution and counterrevolution

The whole course of the ... revolution ... strikingly confirmed one of Marx’s profound propositions: revolution progresses by giving rise to a strong and united counter-revolution, i.e., it compels the enemy to resort to more and more extreme measures of defence and in this way devises ever more powerful means of attack.

V.I. Lenin[1]

By Álvaro García Linera

I want to welcome the initiative taken by Ana Esther Ceceña, and all the comrades who have commented on her article,[2] in opening the debate around the present political situation in Bolivia. The thoughts of each of the participants not only demonstrate the interest and greater or lesser revolutionary engagement with the events, but also help to shed light on the complexity of the political processes and possible ways to advance them.

* * *

It was Lenin who pointed out that any real revolutionary process will generate an even greater counterrevolution. This means that any revolution must advance in order to consolidate itself, but in doing so it arouses forces opposed to its advance that block the revolution, which in turn, in order to defend and consolidate itself, will have to advance further, arousing even greater reactions from the conservative forces, and so on indefinitely. In Bolivia, in the last 12 years, we have experienced an ascending revolutionary process which, emerging from organized civil society as a social movement, has affected and traversed the state structure itself, modifying the very nature of civil society.

This is a revolution that is political, cultural and economic. Political, because it has revolutionized the social nature of the state, having enshrined the rights of the indigenous peoples and given concrete expression to those rights through the actual occupation by the indigenous peoples of the state administration. We are talking about an act of social sovereignty that has made possible the conversion of the indigenous demographic majority into a state political majority; a modification of the social and class nature of control and hegemony in the state. This is in fact the most important and significant transformation in the country since its birth, a country characterized until very recently by the exclusion of the indigenous citizenry from absolutely all of the decision-making structures of the state. But it is also a radical political and cultural revolution, because this indigenous imprint on public decision-making as a state power has been the work of social movements and organizational methods derived from the trade-union, communal and plebeian nature of the indigenous-popular world. That is, the presence of the indigenous-popular world in the conduct of the state since 2006 has been concretely expressed not as a mere individual occupation by indigenous and popular representatives within the state but as an organic transformation of the state institutionality itself through the presence of organizational structures of the indigenous-popular community in the decision-making and deliberative structures of the state. Whereas during the last 100 years the masses built the citizenship of rights through their trade unions (and thus we used to speak of a trade-union citizenship),[3] now the takeover of state power by the social movements is a takeover of the state power by the union. And that is why the election today of authorities of the executive, legislative or judicial organs in fact proceeds fundamentally through processes of deliberation and the assembly-like structures of the agrarian unions, the rural communities and guild, popular and neighbourhood organizations of the society.

And we say economic revolution, because within a short historical period the structure of ownership of social resources and of their uses has been radically modified. Until seven years ago, Brazil, along with three oil companies, controlled 100% of the ownership of hydrocarbons and 30% of the GDP, while the state controlled only 16%.[4] But today, the Bolivian state controls 34%[5] of the GDP and 100% of the ownership of hydrocarbons throughout the chain of production. More than 10 million hectares in the hands of latifundistas, politicians and foreigners have been recovered by the state and handed over to indigenous peoples and peasant communities, putting an end to the latifundist nature of the lowlands agrarian system. Now that the hydrocarbon, electrical, telecommunications and in part the mining and metallurgical industries have been nationalized, the economic surplus, previously concentrated in a handful of foreign and private firms, goes directly to society through rents, cash transfers, services and productive state investment. In 2011, 1.2% of the GDP[6] was transferred directly to the most vulnerable sectors of the country (children, seniors and pregnant women) through this system of social protection. While in 2005 only 629 million dollars annually were invested because the economic surplus went abroad, today the state governed by the social movements invests just over 5 billion dollars, and with that we have beaten illiteracy;[7] in the rural diaspora, the difference between rich and poor has been reduced by exactly one half,[8] while the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty has fallen from 38.2% (2005) to 24.3% (2011).[9]

But, you will say, “obviously the structure of ownership of the means of production and public assets has changed, and the distributional structure of the economic surplus has been transformed, but the mode of production has not been altered.” And of course, fundamentally it has not been altered. How can we expect that a small country that defends itself day after day from the counterrevolution, organizes the unification of a profoundly fragmented and corporate-dominated society, carries out the most important political revolution in its history, alters the structure of ownership and economic distribution, all within six years — yes, within six years — can, in isolation, change a mode of production that took more than 500 years to establish itself and continues to expand even today? Isn’t it intellectually nonsensical to demand this, in this space of time? And does it not demonstrate a mistake of basic historical location? Isn’t it more sensible to discuss what type of tendencies are being driven forward in Bolivia to promote a transformation in the mode of production, in tune with the changes that each of us is making in other countries with the same objective? We will return to this question at the end.

Each of the political and economic changes that have been achieved within the country’s revolutionary process has directly affected the foreign governments and corporations, capitalists, business people, elites and privileged social classes that have been monopolizing the material assets of the society, the political resources of the state, and the symbolic assets of social power. The dismantling of racial whiteness as capital, as a material component (or “asset”) of the class structure and class domination (so characteristic of all colonial societies) has smashed not only a centuries-old racialized imaginary of command over the indigenous peoples, but has also eroded a property, an “asset” that for centuries allowed a small caste to acquire power and legitimacy in the systems of political-cultural command and economic ownership.[10] This classist decolonization of society, anchored in the deeper habitus of all social classes, has radically modified the structure of political power and has unambiguously displaced the constituent dominant classes of the old state. This has led to the enraged reaction of the old ruling elites seeking to weaken and overthrow the government of President Evo Morales by every means: economic (freeze on bank deposits, 2006; sabotage of production, 2007-09, food boycott, 2007-08), political (sabotage in the Constituent Assembly, 2006-08; referendums in the autonomous regions, 2008; presidential recall vote, 2008), and armed (attempted coup, 2008; separatism, 2009).

There has not been any governmental measure in favour of equality, national sovereignty or redistribution of wealth that has not had a counter-action from the conservative forces. And in this inevitable reaction to the revolutionary measures it is possible to single out two forms:

First, the one in which the forces displaced from economic and political power act as an organized class body with its own spokesmen, slogans and organizational forms. Examples are the energy and food boycotts launched by factions of the foreign and national business community, acting as an organized political force through its federations or confederations, in opposition to the government measures. In this case it is relatively easy for the social movements to figure out the difference between popular and anti-popular objectives and to polarize the conflict; accordingly the key to confronting the counterrevolution lies in the reaffirmation of popular unity against their class enemies and the use of democratic and revolutionary methods to achieve victory.

Secondly, there is the type of measures in which the reactionary forces act in a diffused way, indirectly, and through popular or middle-class social sectors. In this case, the contradiction does not assume a polarity between popular and anti-popular forces but is contained within the popular movement itself, that is, it occurs “among the people” as Mao Tse-tung would say,[11] and the counterrevolutionary forces are in control, complicating the correct handling of the contradictions.

In that case, the reactionary action does not have a conservative class subject, but it channels its expectations and needs, taking advantage of the mobilization of the segment of the popular camp itself that, in its attachment to corporatist or individualistic perspectives — often without realizing it — serves the interests of its own enemies who by and large will end up turning against them. To some extent it is a strategy of colonial mobilization and domination: using the contradictions within the popular bloc to set two factions of the popular forces against each other from within and materially and symbolically establish the domination of the “dominant third party” upon the exhaustion and defeat of one or both of them. This is what happened in the colonial invasion of the continent. That is how colonial domination was consolidated, and how the republican peace was imposed on the emerging neocolonial states. A less euphemistic variant of this logic of intra-popular confrontation is the one used by the news media, portraying conflicts with great drama and media hysteria in order to mobilize “public opinion” against popular governments.

The tragic course of history so unfolds that the counterrevolution can come hand in hand with a faction of its own builders which, without necessarily advocating it, may as a consequence of the exacerbation of its corporatist, regional or sectoral particularism, and without taking into account the general configuration of overall social forces nationally and internationally, end up defending the interests of the conservative forces of the right and undermining its own revolutionary process. That is precisely what came to happen with the so-called “TIPNIS march.”

The Amazon and patrimonial despotic power

When one observes Bolivia’s geography, four regions can be clearly distinguished: the altiplanicie [high plateau], which comprises the departments of La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí; the valleys, in Cochabamba, Tarija, and Chuquisaca; the Chaco, south of Santa Cruz and east of Tarija and Chuquisaca; and the immense Amazon, which includes the departments of Pando, Beni, the north of La Paz and Santa Cruz.

One third of Bolivia is Amazon, and it is by far the most isolated region of the country. Whether through wars or unjust treaties, Bolivia has lost some 750,000 km2 of its Amazon,[12] an area equivalent to more than three times that of the department of Beni (213,564 km2). The highest number of indigenous nations in Bolivia live in the Amazon region, but the population density is low; according to the latest Population and Housing Census (2001), less then 4% of the total indigenous population of Bolivia lives in the lowlands, and in particular in the Amazon.

map 1

The heirs of great hydraulic cultures, the indigenous nations of this region were not central to the organization of domination during the Colonial period, and can be said to be part of the vague colonial frontier; thus the institutions of colonial domination of both lands and labour force, which transformed the economy and society in the lowlands and the altiplano, had only a marginal presence in the Amazon, which was considered a “frontier.” However, the institution that did take on the job of recruitment and elusive discontinuous domination over the Amazon indigenous nations was the Catholic Church, through the “reducciones” [confined reservations] of the Jesuits and later the Recollets and Franciscans.[13] The Jesuits managed to capture peoples throughout Chiquitanía (Chiquitanos), Moxos (Moxeños, Trinitarios, Yuracarés, etc.), and also in the Chaco, but intermittently between what is now Bolivia and Paraguay. In 1767, the Spanish Crown expelled the Jesuit missions; by 1830 they were partially replaced by the Franciscans in their presence on the Amazon frontier. The reservations were authentic artisanal fortresses built to assemble the indigenous population who were hunted down in the jungles, “tied up and then taken to the missions, often to Concepción or Santiago de Chuiquitos,”[14] and it was there that the indigenous souls were moulded and their productive habits modified. While the missions were unable to control the Amazon territory, its natural resources or social organization, they did manage to permanently alter the political, spiritual and economic organization of a great many nomadic indigenous nations. The missions were precisely the point of departure for the annulment of the traditional religious authorities, the institution of the cabildo, and the gradual transition to a sedentary lifestyle of the Amazon peoples. For example, the Jesuit production schemes favoured approaches that were almost ascetically capitalist (they incorporated accounting, registries, reinvestment, dimensions, schedules, days, proportions, in various industries such as agriculture, tile and brick making, ceramics, weaving, cattle raising, etc.). Nor should we forget that the Jesuit reservations were to a large degree self-sufficient and sold their surpluses.

After the abandonment of the Jesuit missions and the decline of the other missions in the 19th century, the republican state presence in the Amazon was weak. For example, it was not until the early 20th century that the Sirionó were permanently contacted; the Ayoreos continued to be nomads to a large degree until the Seventies; and it was not until the battle of Kuruyuki (1892) that the colonial-republican state finally managed to “defeat” the Guarani, notwithstanding that relations with them date back to very early in the Colony. Even after the founding of the Republic, the Brazilians were crossing the border to capture Indians as slaves, without the state being able to prevent this activity.

In reality, it was at the end of the 19th century, in the republican stage (when, through the institution of the hacienda, enclave economies were established for the harvesting of rubber, quinine, chestnuts and wood), that a generalized offensive was launched against the indigenous peoples of the Amazon through the expropriation of their territories, their forced recruitment as labourers and the definitive subjugation of their political and cultural structures. It is estimated that in the case of rubber alone — in the first peak period (1870-1917), the second (1940-47) and the third (1960-70) — some 6,000 persons with their families[15] were employed in rubber tapping. In the course of all those years, about 80,000 persons were displaced throughout the Amazon region, from Santa Cruz to Beni and Pando especially.

In the early 20th century, rubber accounted for up to 15% of state income.[16] All of this wealth generated through the harvesting of rubber was the product of the rubber tappers, the majority of them indigenous peoples who were forcibly recruited and trafficked by dozens of businessmen — both Bolivians and others of German, Portuguese, English and Japanese origin:

“It is common knowledge that the indigenous peoples were forced to work for meagre pay which in many cases simply went to the sustenance of the rubber tapper but not his family if he had one. Especially given the exorbitant prices of the products they received in return. In other cases, as frequently happens , they were baited with alcohol to take other advances and articles from the company store, false pretences being used to bind them to a lifetime of exploitation. With the rising debts, the lying pretences would stretch like bubble gum.... And even worse, when the rubber tapper died, his debts were passed on to his wife or children as an abusive inheritance imposed by the bosses and contractors under the applicable Debt Law.... In 1914, the newspaper La Voz del Pueblo, commenting on this malicious pettifogging, reported: ‘There have been cases in which indigenous peoples have left for the rubber regions and when one died the boss went back to the deceased’s home village to present the widow with the imaginary debt, violently taking away the sons of majority age and, if there was no family, throwing her out of her miserable hovel in payment of what she was alleged to owe.’...”[17]

From the second half of the 19th century to 1938, there was a kind of political trial of strength between the ranchers, rubber producers and government authorities, on the one hand, and the Franciscans on the other, to get the latter to “lend” indigenous peoples for production (of rubber in the north, and for harvest and seeding in the south) and to work in public works. Finally, in 1939 the missions were secularized, supposedly because of the death of an engineer at the hands of the Siriono. The description of this people in Holmberg’s classic book[18] dates from the second decade of the 20th century, when they were still nomadic. The Ayoreos engaged in major migrations during the Chaco War, fleeing to the north as a result of the pressures on them in the war.

While the huge territorial expanses subject to the semi-nomadic wanderings of some of the Amazon indigenous nations allowed the existence of family systems of production and autonomous authority, they could not prevent the consolidation of the territorial power of the landowners, ranchers and private resource extraction firms which over the last century became established as a real power in the Amazon. The consolidation of this estate-based land ownership in the Amazon regional power structure occurred at a time when the governing mining and latifundista elites of the highlands were founding — so to speak — the extractivist latifundist, and later Amazon ranching, enclaves along with the state structure. The republican state thereby became a latifundist state and the private latifundio became a regional power of the state, giving rise to the hereditary nature of the state power in the lowlands. Strictly speaking, the state abdicated its class “autonomy” and became an extension of the family legacy of the businessmen and latifundistas. Thus, through ranching and the extraction of rubber and quinine, now chestnuts, lumber, or simple possession of lands, big landowners and businessmen have over the last 150 years consolidated a landholding and hereditary territorial power structure over all the urban and rural inhabitants of the region. The state would delegate regional political power to the landowners, for whom the ownership of political life would be yet another of “the assets” of the estate or company; and the state would receive a portion of the rent of the land from the extractivist activity in the Amazon. In the early 20th century, this rent accounted for 5 to 15% of the state income.

The agrarian structure of Santa Cruz prior to 1952, described by Nicolás Laguna,[19] is a mould that with slight variations recurs in the Amazon regions of Beni and Pando, including since 1952:

“The big landowners (between 20 and 50,000 hectares or more, only small portions of which were cultivated and on which they generally had no title) were the hacendados, who preferred to call themselves finqueros. Their haciendas were not commercial plantations but instead nearly autonomous and self-sufficient productive units, relatively isolated, in which the use of machinery and improvement of the land were almost non-existent. The hacendado and his family lived on them with their workers who remained there throughout the year. The self-sufficiency of the finca enabled the finquero to live well and obtain whatever he did not produce with the small income he got in exchange for selling his surpluses in the local market. Those living and working in the finca were the jornaleros [labourers] who, in exchange for a house and meals, and in some cases a wage, were to cultivate the employer’s lands; in addition, they might work small parcels (no more than a hectare) for themselves. There were also pequeños propietarios [small proprietors] (no more than 20 hectares, generally 8 to 10, of which no more than 5 were cultivated), who were few in number and cultivated the land with their families, seeking self-sufficiency and independence, although normally they performed odd jobs during harvest and seeding. The inquilinos [tenants] rented lands (one to three hectares) from the finqueros in exchange for 10 to 20% of their production, cultivating lands that the finquero was not using in order to bring in some extra income without too much effort or loss. The tolerados [“tolerated ones,” or colonizers], the true pioneers of the east according to Heath, occupied lands in the unoccupied strips of the fincas and cultivated them until they were evicted. The finqueros allowed these occupations for a time since the tolerados cleared the forest, planted fruit trees, improved the area and were hired as jornaleros at harvest and seeding times. Conditions had hardly changed since the time of the prospectors of El Dorado or Gran Paitití; the security and prestige of the finqueros, whose wealth counted for little in any other part of the country, based themselves on ownership of the land and servitude, spending practically their entire income to maintain the traditional form of life to which they were accustomed. The land had no value in commercial terms (which is why no one took the trouble to acquire legal title) and was non-negotiable in terms of status, security and self-sufficiency.”

In the Amazon, until fairly recently, the employer or hacendado was the lord of everything within his purview, using the violence of paramilitary forces to occupy lands and impose his law over the surrounding peons, indigenous peoples and poor peasants.[20] To the degree that power was structured around the land and its violent occupation, a conservative employer logic — the most conservative in the country — prevailed in the Amazon region. And consistent with this the hacendados, lumbermen, landlords and their intermediaries had established, since the beginning of the republican state, a sort of pact with the rulers to exercise, through their family and local networks, a limited state presence in the area; lands, state resources and impunity had become to a large degree the hereditary form of the state in the Amazon. As such the state appeared as an extension of the family influences of a small hacendado, rubber, rancher and lumber elite, wielding state violence to legitimize and impose their ownership as employers over the population.

This patrimonial-hacendado power in the Amazon is even now the most conservative and reactionary form of regional domination existing in the country as a whole. In a certain form, the figure of the landlord personifies the most despotic powers in existence: not only is he the owner of the land, he is also the one who hires workers and purchases wood from the forest, the provider of market goods to the remote populations, and the influential politician whose family monopolizes public responsibilities and as such is the provider of public lands and public favours to a population that is lacking in everything: lands, property, public authority and the state. So the landlord is not infrequently as well the axis of popular rituals such as the celebration of festivals and weddings or the one who determines whether and where your children will be educated. The entire warp and woof of hereditary colonial power converges in the figure of the hacendado and his ubiquitous and paternal command. And while the dispersed indigenous organization has maintained its local autonomy at the level of its small towns, councils, union centrals and subcentrals, it has not managed to convert itself into a leading force at the local or regional level, much less challenge the hereditary-landowner authority and command structure.

In fact, faced with the ongoing hacendado-corporate encroachment, the indigenous communities, in order to be able to preserve some part of their territorial occupation, have had to come to terms with the structure of dominant landowner power in a subordinate and vertical manner, as do the other popular classes. Hence the very discourse of legitimation and regional identification has been until recently that issuing from the nucleus of the regional employers’ power.

In the Amazon, then, it is not the indigenous peoples who have taken control of the territorial power, as occurred years ago in the highlands and valleys, where the peasant unions and communities have performed the role of indigenous micro-states with a territorial presence, and in reality were the material foundation for the construction of the present Plurinational State. In the Amazon region, things occurred in a very different way. The despotic landowner order predominates and neither the indigenous organizations nor the peasants or the workers of recent creation have managed to create an organizational or discursive counter-power that begins to crack this hereditary-landowner system.

A partial modification of this system of despotic landowner domination has been produced by the NGOs, which have managed to create a clientelist relationship with the indigenous leadership, promoting levels of interregional organization like the Regionales Indígenas or the CIDOB itself.[21] But to the extent that those levels of organization, with little contact with the Amazon indigenous bases, function exclusively with external (NGO) funding, which pays the salaries of the leaders, in reality they actually develop as NGOs, reproducing mechanisms of clientelist cooptation and ideological and political subordination to the funding agencies, most of them European and North American, as in the case of USAID.[22]

While in the first world countries NGOs exist as part of civil society — in most cases funded by transnational enterprises — in the third world, as in the case of Bolivia, various NGOs are not really NON Governmental Organizations but Organizations of Other Governments on Bolivian territory; they are a replacement for the state in the areas in which the neoliberalism of the past initiated its exit, encompassing such sectors as education (through the attempts at privatization or through the convent colleges) and health (for example, Prosalud of USAID). The NGO, as an organization of another government and possessor of financial resources, defines the subject matter, the focus, the line of funding, etc. based on the priorities of this other government, constituting itself as a foreign power within the national territory. It could be said that the neoliberal system in the periphery has been shaped between a state that is reduced in its capacities and its power of economic and cultural intervention (through privatization and downsizing), NGOs that have replaced it in specific areas (social, cultural, struggle against poverty, indigenous peoples, environment, etc.) and a private foreign economic sector that has been appropriating public resources.[23]


In fact, some NGOs in the country have been the vehicle for introducing a type of colonial environmentalism that relegates the indigenous peoples to the role of caretakers of the Amazon jungle (considered extraterritorial property of foreign governments and corporations[24]), creating de facto a new relationship of privatization and alienation of the national parks and Communitarian Lands (TCOs) over which the state itself has lost custody and control.[25] In this form, whether by means of the hard power of the property-owning despotism that controls the processes of intermediation and semi-industrialization of Amazon products (lumber, alligators, chestnuts, rubber, etc.) or through the soft power of the NGOs, the indigenous nations of the Amazon are being economically dispossessed of the territory and politically subordinated to external discourses and powers. In short, economic and political power in the Amazon is not in the hands of the indigenous peoples or the state. Power in the Amazon is in the hands, in part, of a landowner-business elite, and in part, of foreign businesses and governments that negotiate the care of the Amazon jungles in exchange for a reduction in taxes and control of biodiversity through their biotechnology.

Notes for Part 1

[1] “Lessons of the Moscow Uprising,” Complete Works, Volume 11, p. 172. [Note by editor: “Lenin cites the proposition put forward by Marx in his Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 139).”] – Tr.

[2] “Debates que tejen emancipaciones,” by Ana Esther Ceceña, published in Rebelión (26/05/2012). Available at:

[3] “For the workers, mainly miners and industrial workers, for at least 50 years (1940-1990) the union was the organizing network of class identity and accumulation of experience as a class... the assimilation of class experience came exclusively through the union, and that, in the last analysis, was all the workers had with which to confront life, repression and death. The union was the sole enduring place in which to experience the ups and downs of collective existence; it was the sole ongoing network of support, friendship and solidarity, and the authentic place in which to assert themselves as a collective body. What the workers did in history from 1940 to 1990 was done as trade unionists; the union was the instrument of their struggle, in which they made a revolution (and that is no small thing), they won rights, they won healthcare and housing, they protected their families, they buried their dead. Hence its durability and pre-eminence in the construction of working-class memory....” – Álvaro García Linera, “Sindicato, multitud y comunidad. Movimientos sociales y formas de autonomía política en Bolivia,” in Tiempos de rebelión, Comuna y Muela del Diablo, La Paz, 2001.

[4] Public enterprises 1% and Public administration 15%. (UDAPE)

[5] Public enterprises 19% and Public administration 15%. (UDAPE)

[6] UDAPE, Informe 2011.

[7] In 2006, 823,256 of the country’s inhabitants were illiterate, but by 2008, thanks to the “Yo, sí puedo” Literacy Program, 824,101 people had been taught to read and write, and Bolivia was that year named a “Territory Free of Illiteracy.” In 2009 it started up the National Post-Literacy Program.

[8] In 2005, the richest 10% of the population earned 30 times more than the poorest 10%, while in 2009, the richest 10% earned only 15 times more than the poorest 10%. (UDAPE and INE)

[9] UDAPE, Informe 2011.

[10] On the concept of ethnicity, in this case “racial whiteness” as a form of capital and of the material components of the class structure in colonial societies, see Álvaro García Linera, “Espacio social y estructuras simbólicas. Clase, etnicidad y estructuras simbólicas en la obra de P. Bourdieu,” in Bourdieu Leído desde el Sur, Alianza Francesa/Instituto Goethe/Universidad de la Cordillera/Plural editores, La Paz, 2000.

[11] “Two types of social contradictions — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves — confront us. The two are totally different in their nature.... In the conditions prevailing in China today, the contradictions among the people comprise the contradictions within the working class, the contradictions within the peasantry, the contradictions within the intelligentsia, the contradictions between the working class and the peasantry, the contradictions between the workers and peasants on the one hand and the intellectuals on the other, the contradictions between the working class and other sections of the working people on the one hand and the national bourgeoisie on the other, the contradictions within the national bourgeoisie, and so on.... The contradictions between the enemy and us are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic...” On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, Speech delivered by Mao Tse-tung, February 27, 1957.

[12] To Brazil, by treaties (1867) and by the Acre War (1903), 490,430 km2; and to Peru, by diplomatic treaties (1909), 250,000 km2.

[13] The purpose of the missions was to shield the indigenous peoples from “the dangers of turning into beasts” and to “improve them, that is, to humanize them through education as a first step toward their Christianization”: José de Acosta, “De procuranda indorum salute I”, quoted in Fran Helm, La Misión Católica durante los siglos XVI-XVII: contexto y texto; UCB/Verbo Divino/Editorial Guadalupe, Bolivia, 2002. In the case of the Jesuit missions, the objective of having control of the spiritual authority was combined with guaranteeing a stable economic base that would secure the maintenance of the catechumen [religious pupils] and avoid their dispersion. See F. Armas Asin, Editor; La invención del Catolicismo en América. Los procesos de evangelización, siglos XVI-XVIII, Universidad Mayor de San Marcos, Perú, 2009. Also, Jonathan Wright, Los jesuitas.Una historia de los soldados de Dios, Debate, España, 2005. On the presence of the Jesuits in Chiquitos and Moxos, see Javier Baptista, “Las Misiones de los Jesuitas en Bolivia: Mojos y Chiquitos,” in Manuel Marzal and Luis Bacigalupo Editores, Los Jesuitas y la Modernidad en Iberoamérica. 1549-1773, IFEA/Universidad del Pacífico/Fondo Editorial de la Pontificia Universidad Católica, Peru, 2007. On the Franciscans, see Padre Fray Bernardino Izaguirre, Historia de las misiones franciscanas, 12 volumes, 1619-1921, Lima, 1922.

[14] Alcide D’Orbigny, “Viaje a la América Meridional”, Volume IV, PLURAL/IFEA/IRD/Embassy of France in Bolivia, La Paz, 2002.

[15] Oscar Tonelli Justiniano, El Caucho Ignorado, Premio Nacional “Serrano” 2009 de Investigación en Historia, Editorial El País, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 2010.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., p. 112.

[18] Allan R. Holmberg, Nomads Of The Long Bow: The Siriono Of Eastern Bolivia, American Museum, 1969.

[19] “La burguesía cruceña. Concentración y centralización de capital y organización corporativa empresarial en el departamento de Santa Cruz (1988-2005)”. Draft thesis of Nicolás Laguna, Sociology, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA), pp. 47-48.

[20] The borders of the haciendas were often defined in gunfights using hired thugs.

[21] CIDOB since its birth has depended on direct funding from international cooperation through NGOs. Thus the NGO APCOB (Apoyo para el Campesino Indígena del Oriente Boliviano) received money from USAID and the Ford Foundation through the NGO Culture Survival in the 1980s for the creation of the CIDOB, as did other indigenous organizations in Peru and Ecuador: Cultural Survival, Final Report, “Strengthening pluralism: a combined human rights/grass roots development program for Indians of Latin America and the Caribbean Basin,” 1987. In the 1990s, the director of IBIS-DINAMARCA said they supported the creation of CONAMAQ under the ethnic model of the CIDOB because they needed an organization of that type in order to be able to work cooperatively. Likewise, the CSUTCB was identified as a class organization with a discourse from the Seventies, with which they could not work. And in an OXFAM document we can read: “The ayllu is a form of Andean organisation [that maintains] principles... opposed to the peasant unions, which are organisational forms imposed on the ayllus [...].” Quoted in Andolina, Robert; Radcliffe, Sarah; Laurie, Nina, Development and culture: Transnational identity making in Bolivia, Political Geography 24 (2005) 678, at p. 695.

[22] The process of delimitation of TCOs and “social control” of the subsequent saneamiento process after 1996 was for the most part financed by the Danish bilateral cooperation organization DANIDA. From 2005 to 2009 this agency invested more than $13.36 million, of which $2.4 million was assigned to a technical project of the CIDOB, the Centro de Planificación Territorial Indígena (CPTI). In the highlands, the same scheme was applied with the NGO ISALP, which received $700,000 during the same period. Other NGOs like CEJIS and AVSF receive similar funding in the framework of other components of European assistance. U.S. funding did not participate directly in supporting the TCO but did in many wooded areas in the context of the BOLFOR project and the individualized pruning in areas of coca leaf cultivation, in collaboration with the European Union. (Source: Ministry of Foreign Relations, DANIDA 2004, Component 2: Saneamiento y titulación de tierras comunitarias de origen, Document Ref. No. 104, Bol.808.200, DANIDA).

[23] That is the project promoted for the poorest countries of the world by the World Bank and the IMF, supported by the United States and the European Union. It ensures that dependency is sustained, sovereignty is minimized or nullified and the transnationals appropriate the wealth of the world.

[24] This relationship between some environmental NGOs, the protection of parks, and the mechanisms of transnationalized capitalist accumulation, we will see a bit later.

[25] The process of saneamiento performed by the INRA was financed almost exclusively with foreign funds until 2008. The European cooperation agencies (of Denmark, Holland and the EU) undertook to pay 36% and USAID 23% of the costs in the planned areas (2008). The rest was distributed among agencies of the UN, multilateral funds, private interests and the Bolivian state. These proportions began to change in 2009, with the access of the applicants in communitarian lands to the resources of the IDH and an increase of funding from the TGN beginning in 2008, which among other things allowed the securitization of various applications by highland TCOs that had been rejected by external funding sources notwithstanding a formal application. (Sources: SIG database of the Deputy Ministry of Lands concerning INRA planning, 2008. Unidad de Planificación del INRA, 2011.)

Part 2: Capitalist subsumption of the Amazon indigenous economy

Finally, in addition to the vertical nature of this despotic power there is a territorial dependency of the regional power structure itself. The major part of the Bolivian Amazon lies in the department of Beni, and the major productive activities in the region today are ranching, timber extraction and chestnut harvesting.

It is estimated that there are 3.5 million head of cattle in Beni, 41% of the national total. The historic markets for this production, which powers the activity of small and medium ranchers and farming communities, are the highlands of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí, and the Cochabamba and Chuquisaca valleys. However, the meat processing chain is not situated in the area where most of the production occurs. Although the cattle are raised in Beni, the final sale and processing are carried out in Santa Cruz. So while a three-year-old calf costs 2,315 Bolivianos (Bs.)[1] in Beni, the same animal is worth Bs. 2,790 in Santa Cruz, and that is where more than 90% of the Beni cattle are processed. Thus the producers in Beni are subordinated to intermediaries who deliver the cattle to Santa Cruz, and in addition to the price of the processed meat, which regulates the market price of the chain of cattle production both downward (to the rancher in Beni) and upward (to the final consumer), they are in the hands of a business stronghold well-known for its right-wing political trajectory. The three largest slaughterhouses in Bolivia are in Santa Cruz: Fridosa, owned by Beltrán de Lazo; Frigor, owned by Monasterio; and the Chiquitano abattoir. These slaughterhouses regulate the price of meat nationally. Thus the major economic activity in the Amazon region, which depends almost exclusively on meat processing, is dependent on a small group of businessmen who not only hold this Beni regional production captive but also fix the prices of cattle on the hoof and of meat for mass consumption by families.

Something similar occurs with the other extractive activities in the Amazon. If you take a close look at the origin of the businessmen, warehousemen or marketing companies in the country, a large number come from Santa Cruz;[2] and the transportation and processing of the products of these activities, and with them the generation of major volumes of added value, are carried on outside of Beni.

On the whole, we are dealing with a business bloc that emerges from big hacienda property and has begun to diversify its productive activities, consolidating itself in the semi-industrial processing of raw materials and livestock from the Amazon. This bourgeoisie, a participant in the despotic-hereditary rationality of the old Amazon power structure, has inherited all of the habits of the landlord class: the abusive relationship with the peasants and indigenous peoples, a violent local authoritarianism, the hereditary link with the state power, and the conservative mentality. In some ways it reminds one of Marx’s comment, in reference to the feudal landlords who became businessmen in 19th century Germany, that “The mode of living, production and income of these gentlemen [...] gives the lie to their traditional pompous notions.”[3] Irremediably reactionary thanks to their ownership of land, their mode of living and political action, but completely bourgeois in their entrepreneurial economic activity.

This has enabled them to divide their conduct toward the indigenous peoples. When it is matters of land occupancy or the organization of local political life, the landowner despotism is what prevails; the indigenous peoples and peasants are treated as one more accessory of their property, and they unscrupulously impose their opinions on them with no negotiation whatsoever. But when it involves business, as in the purchase of timber, chestnuts, alligator skins or livestock, this bourgeoisie is capable of subordinating its racist prejudices to market logic and establishing mechanisms of market domination through which it has always considered the indigenous peoples as its vassals or inferiors. This mercantile “generosity” has meant that the relations of domination over the indigenous peoples have been reworked and formally subsumed under capitalist development.[4]

The relation between hacienda land ownership and capitalist production in the east and the Bolivian Amazon has led to a specific way of formally subsuming the non-capitalist work of the small peasants and indigenous producers to capitalist relations through the imposition of a specific type of land rent.

The agro-industrial–agrochemical-merchant capitalist nucleus subordinates the non-capitalist agrarian modes of production through the imposition of prices at the time of sowing, harvesting and marketing of the cultivated or harvested products, and through the monopoly of processing (timber, chestnuts) and credit. This applies to soy, sugar, cattle, sunflowers, sorghum, corn, and to timber, chestnuts and alligator hides. To some extent the actual development of Beni, sustained by cattle raising, is limited by the huge transfer of regional rent to the elite that monopolizes the processing of the meat and the fixing of its sale prices on a national level. This is an elite that derives rent from distribution (but not in production) and is thus a landholding class in itself.

Hence it is no surprise that the major separatists have been the agro-industrialists Marinkovic, Monasterios, Matkovic, Costas, Nayar, etc., who still possess huge expanses of land, their wealth derived primarily from this appropriation of the rent of the land, and not so much from the possession of the land — which in reality is unproductive — which is why it was subject to reversion. Generally speaking, there are very few production units of more than 5,000 hectares devoted to agriculture and major cattle-raising lands are scarce as well, given the 5 hectares per head of cattle required by law. The lands are usually for fattening the herds, and their ownership is maintained until roads are built, improved or projected (as in the case of the Lowlands project), after which they are sold parcel by parcel both to small and medium producers and to Mennonites, Brazilians and Russians. That is the process, for example, in the impressive parcelling out of land (50-200 hectares) in the north and east of Santa Cruz (San Julián, Cuatro Cañadas, Montero, etc.).

On the other hand, making the most of the relations and hierarchies of class and nationality, the business-landowner class has integrated the management of the indigenous TCOs into the supplying of raw materials for their industrial activities. A large number of the TCOs in the lowlands sell wood illegally to the lumber companies and the infinite number of sawmills that exist in their interior, generating a market subsumption of these Community Lands to extractivist business activity through the application of various mechanisms of extra-economic coercion that reduce purchase costs and raise business revenues. A significant number of the leaders of the indigenous marches of 2011 and 2012, such as [Fernando] Vargas and [Youci] Fabricano, hold formal indictments for the illegal sale of wood going back years, including the sale of wood from the TIPNIS itself,[5] considered until recently as the “lungs of the world”; lungs now perforated by the illegal extraction of wood and leather, as if by nicotine-induced cancer.

And insofar as the indigenous peoples have not invaded the processes of transformation of raw materials that exist in the large new indigenous territories, the timber, alligators, chestnuts, rubber or fish products continue to be purchased by the lumber mills and landholding businesses at ridiculous prices and under the same “enabling”[6] modalities of the traditional economic and social dependency of the past. The same thing is happening in the growing provision of other means of existence (sugar, salt, flour, clothing, steel tools, gasoline, etc.), that the enabler, hacendado, businessman or merchant provides to them; and, holding the monopoly for the transfer of these products, delivers them to the indigenous peoples for 5 to 10 times more than the market price.

In a short period of time, millions of hectares of the TCOs that are located in a large part of the Amazon are being newly integrated within the mechanisms of seigniorial and hereditary domination by the businessmen-hacendados who use the leaders as intermediaries for the depredation and economic dependency of their communities. We have termed this formal subordination of the TCOs and the parks to the generation of profits for businessmen-hacendados the subsumption of indigenous territories and natural resources to internal capitalist accumulation. And when the TCOs and national parks are subject to the circuits of capitalist accumulation (profit) of foreign companies, we speak of a subsumption of indigenous territoriality and nature to external capitalist accumulation. The Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure is no exception to this situation of formal subsumption of the indigenous economy and of nature to capital accumulation.

The Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS)

The TIPNIS is an area of the Amazon located on the border between two departments: southern Beni (an entirely Amazon department) and northern Cochabamba (region of valleys). It contains a diversity of ecosystems thanks to its widely varied altitudes, the outstanding ones being the rain forests known as the Bosque Nublado de Ceja, the Bosque Húmedo, the Bosque Pluvial Subandino, the Bosque Húmedo Pedemontano, and the Bosque Húmedo Estacional, and the marshy palm groves, flood plains, and bogs of Cyperáceas as well as a large number of lakes.[7]

For more than a hundred years the determination of the limits between the two departments was the source of numerous regional conflicts, and one of the reasons why Barrientos, the military dictator, issued a Decree (No. 07401, 22 November 1965) declaring a zone situated between the Isiboro and Sécure rivers a National Park (PNIS).[8]

In 1990, in the wake of the indigenous peoples’ march of many lowlands peoples, another decree[9] was issued creating the Territorio Indígena, which was to include the entirety of the national park. Seven years later, on April 25, 1997, the Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria (INRA, the agrarian reform institute) issued resolution 000002, which created the legal entity known as the Tierra Comunitaria de Origen (TCO).[10] But because indigenous peasants of the valleys as well as ranchers were present within it, an executive order, the Título Ejecutorial TCO-NAL 000229, was issued in June 2009, during the seneamiento process that recognized 1,091,656 hectares as belonging to the TIPNIS TCO.[11]

The principal inhabitants of the Parque Nacional Territorio Indígena Isiboro-Sécure are the following three indigenous nations:

1. The Moxeña-Trinitaria nation.

It is said that the Moxeño people originate from the Arawak people, who are thought to have developed the great hydraulic culture of the Amazon plains. They are the major population within the TIPNIS, and they engage in agriculture and cattle-raising, in addition to hunting, fishing and gathering. They maintain some links with the market, especially in Trinidad, that are now part of their basic strategy of economic reproduction. They are organized on the basis of the nuclear family.[12]

2. The Tsimán (or Chimán) nation.

This is a people who rebelled against the Jesuit reservations; their present economic structure is based on agriculture, hunting, fishing, gathering and the sale of calves. They also work as labourers for the cattle ranches and the forestry companies.

3. The Yuracaré nation.

This is the oldest nation in the southern Amazon region. The Spanish Jesuits encountered them initially when they ventured into this zone in the late 16th century.[13] Their present economic activity is centered on agriculture and fishing with regular links to the market. Their organization is centered on the nuclear family.

While all the communities are engaged in agriculture, there are some that apply a pattern of special occupation that involves the settlement, relocation and formation of new communities.[14] According to reports in the 1990s, about 40% of the communities assessed in 1992 had disappeared a decade later. However, in recent years there has been a major consolidation of large communities owing to the dynamic growth of agriculture partially linked to the market. The major products of the indigenous economy are rice, cassava, corn, bananas, cacao and fruit trees.[15]

According to the data in the 1993 First Indigenous Census, Isiboro-Sécure Pilot Area, of the 4,563 inhabitants of the Park 68% were Mojeño, 26% Yuracaré, 4% Tsimán and the remaining 2% of other ethnic origin.[16] The results of the 2001 Population and Housing Census showed a reduction in the indigenous population of the TIPNIS lowlands to 3,991 persons as of that date.[17]

As regards the system of internal organization — on the basis of the nuclear family — of these peoples, the cabildo (a type of community assembly) is the organizational form among the Mojeños; in the case of the Yuracarés and Tsimánes, however, the organization is more flexible, and is oriented around the leaders of the family and communal clans.[18] It was not until 1987 that a supra-communal organization arose, the TIPNIS Subcentral, followed later by another in the southern zone of the Park, the CONISUR. These were the bodies that were most representative of the lowlands indigenous peoples within the TIPNIS.[19]

Apart from these indigenous nations that inhabit the National Park, there are two populations that also live in its interior (one of them is also of indigenous origin, but from the highlands):

4. Aymara-Quechua Andean migrant population.

The presence of Andean indigenous peoples in what is now the southern region of the TIPNIS goes back to pre-colonial times, but it was in the early 20th century, and particularly from the 1960s on that this increased. Beginning in the 1970s a road was built that extended to the Yuracaré community of Moleto within the National Park.[20] The majority of the inhabitants of Aymara-Quechua origin are organized in community agrarian unions affiliated in turn to centrals and the peasants’ federation. They are agricultural and occupy about 92,000 hectares, or 7% of the total area of the TIPNIS.

5. “Creole” population of Beni.

Within the Park as well there are approximately 25 cattle ranches in a 32,000 hectare area located at the confluence of the Isiboro and Sécure rivers.[21] The local indigenous population is hired from time to time by the hacendados, who control the major flow of business in the local economy.

Along with all the traditional activities that the indigenous communities carry on in the TIPNIS, in recent decades they have expanded into other kinds of intensive economic activities directly linked to the industrial processing market: lumbering and gathering alligator hides.

In the case of the wood industry, the ones involved are the indigenous peoples with rights to the regulated use of the distinct varieties of trees that grow in the TCO, although because this is also a National Park there are legal restrictions on its indiscriminate use; obviously, in the absence of the state these cannot be enforced. According to the reports by the leaders themselves, it is clear that the major portion of the high volumes of the cutting and processing of wood in the TIPNIS is illegal and affects the entire territory.[22] In the recent trips we made there, we could make out roads, tractors, trucks and mobile sawmills within the so-called “nucleus zone” or “virgin zone.” Until a few months ago, there were various forest concessions in the interior. For example, the company ISIGO SRL had a concession of 34,307 hectares near the community of Asunta, and 34,937 hectares in Oromomo. The Huanca Rodríguez company held 24,869 hectares in concessions in the south of the TIPNIS, while another lumber company, SURI SRL, had 40,762 hectares in the same “virgin” nucleus of the National Park.[23]

As if that were not enough, there are various other forest concessions to companies like Cimagro, Hervel, Fátima B, Fátima A and PROINSA,[24] which safely and systematically induce these lowlands indigenous peoples themselves to pillage the forest within the TIPNIS, to supply themselves with wood, so that subsequently they can process and market the developed products in the local and international markets.

Likewise, the hunting of alligators is an activity carried on by the indigenous peoples, but one that is directly linked to business interests. It is estimated that each year 1,500 alligator hides,[25] after being processed, are converted into luxury articles for sale in European markets.

In the north-eastern TIPNIS, at the confluence of the Isiboro and Sécure rivers, three companies — Bolivian Leather, Bolivian Croco, and Sicuana Indígena SRL, responsible for purchasing the alligators captured by the indigenous peoples — process them for later sale.[26] Since there is no state presence in the Park, it is safe to asume that the number of alligator hides exceeds the number officially reported by these companies, making this activity a transaction that is negotiated between indigenous leaders and companies.

map 4
map 5
map 6
map 7

Also within the TIPNIS there is an airport for the exclusive use of wealthy foreign tourists, who for $7,600 can enjoy the use of a luxurious private hotel,[27] engage in private fishing and purchase the native handicrafts. Paradoxically, the indigenous peoples never use this airport, and the river has become their sole means of transport, along which it takes seven to ten days to reach a populated centre in which to make their own purchases.

Similarly, within the National Park, aerial photography has detected other clandestine landing strips, possibly linked to various illegal activities, mainly narco-trafficking.

As one can appreciate, while the TCO has allowed the ownership of the land and the use of its resources by the Amazon indigenous peoples, the major resources of the TIPNIS — alligators, forests, cacao — form the lowest and worst paid link in a chain of business procurement, processing and marketing. As in other regions of the Amazon, the work of the indigenous peoples (as providers of raw materials) and the natural wealth of the TIPNIS have been formally subsumed in processes of capitalist production heavily integrated with international markets. Thus the community ownership of the land has also become the lowest link in the corporate chain of value production and capitalist accumulation.

map 8
map 9

Plurinational State and dismantling of the Business-Patrimonial power

This system of ultra-conservative regional power in the Amazon, constructed over more than a century, has only recently, since 2006, broken down. When the old ruling classes lost control of the national state to the popular indigenous-campesino social movements, the system based on landed estates suffered a mortal blow. The alliance of political power with hacendado landlord and extractivist corporate interests, the material basis of the despotic regime in the Amazon region, was broken, creating a possibility of regional “dual power”: on the one hand the hacendado-business classes, on the other the government structure with power of decision over economic resources and lands, triggering increasing conflict and social struggle throughout the lowlands.

The revolutionary state put an end to the delivery of lands to the property-owning classes, took land away from the latifundistas and turned over a large share of this land to the ownership of indigenous communities and nations. From 1996 to 2005, 5 million hectares were granted to the indigenous peoples of the lowlands; but between 2006 and 2011, these grants amounted to 7.6 million hectares and an additional 1.4 million hectares were expropriated from the hacendados, radically transforming the structure of ownership in the Amazon region. While 20 years ago the medium-sized private companies possessed 39 million hectares, they now have only 4.1 million hectares.[28] However, this structural modification in property relations on the land has not been sufficient to dismantle the despotic hacendado-business power, since there is a need to dismantle the supply and corporate processing mechanisms that are strangling the indigenous peoples’ economy.

Hence the revolutionary government, in addition to modifying the structure of land-holding, which dissociated the routine of the hacienda from state action, has promoted state mechanisms of regional governance that operate independently of the dominant bloc in the territories, facilitating resources to the municipalities, credit to the campesinos and investment funds to the indigenous peoples, and establishing supply firms that regulate the prices previously monopolized by the local employers, providing means of water transportation for peoples living along the rivers, building public roads (previously the property of hacendados), etc. And since the state in the last five years has tripled its investments and social expenditures, its presence has begun to be felt independently, in the form of rights, cash transfers and redistribution of wealth, whereas in past times the little that the people had was thanks to the “favours” of the local bosses, the political machine, or the NGOs.

The state has operated independently of the land-owning classes and that has initiated a process of collapse of the old conservative managerial order in the Amazon. An intense class struggle has begun to unfold, and little by little it is reconfiguring the new regional power relationships. The presence of a state detached from the land-holding classes, expressed in social rights and with the function of redistributing the expanding common resources, has dealt a mortal blow to the hacendado-patrimonial structure in the Amazon, triggering an intense struggle for reconfiguration of territorial power in the region. To a certain extent it can be said that since 2006, with the Government of social movements and President Evo Morales, a kind of democratic revolution has occurred from “below,” based on the initiatives of the campesinos, indigenous peoples and popular urban sectors, and from “above,” from the state, that is now helping to unfetter and deploy the vital energy of the peoples and popular social classes in a region characterized until quite recently as being the most conservative in the country, dominated by a regime of despotic hacendado power.

As in any revolutionary process, the state not only condenses the new correlation of political and economic forces of the emerging society, of the successful social struggles, but in addition becomes a material and institutional subject that helps to promote new social mobilizations that transform the structures of domination still present in certain regions and spheres of the society. The present role of the Government of social movements in the Amazon, Chiquitanía and Chaco, in which previously there existed modes of hereditary domination based on ownership of the land, is precisely that: to help clear the road for the local popular and indigenous forces to deploy their emancipatory capacities in opposition to the prevailing regional powers.

This rising revolution in the regional power relations in the Amazon, Chiquitanía and the Chaco, has unleashed a violent and aggressive counter-revolutionary reaction. In the case of Chiquitanía and the Chaco, landlords like Anderson or Monasterios participated directly in the attempted coup d’état of September 2008, when they tried to create a parallel government in the four lowlands departments: Pando, Beni (both of them in the Amazon), Santa Cruz and Tarija. And in fact these same actors, in complicity with outside powers that do not want to lose extraterritorial power in the Amazon, are the ones that were behind the recent TIPNIS marches.

Notes for Part 2

[1] The Boliviano (BOB), or Bs, currently trades at approximately 7 to 1 U.S. dollar. – Tr.

[2] For a history of the rubber hacendados-businessmen in the early and mid-20th century, including Añez Romero, Suárez Arana, Soruco, Franco, Zambrana, Velasco, Justiniano, Landivar Roca, Toledo Suárez, Kreidler, Amelunge, Elsner, El Hage, Durán Ortíz, Roca Ayala, Vaca Diez, Monasterio Da Silva, Bowles Darío Gutiérrez, etc., see Oscar Tonelli Justiniano, El Caucho Ignorado, Editorial El País, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 2010. According to the author, a major share of these families who settled in the Amazon north to engage in rubber production are native to Santa Cruz.

[3] Karl Marx, “The Trial of the Rhenish District Committee of Democrats,” February 8, 1849, in Marx & Engels Collected Works, Vol. 8, p. 323.

[4] On the concept of formal subsumption and actual subsumption of the work process and production process under capitalism, see Karl Marx, Capital, Book I, Chapter 6. [In English, see also Marx, Capital Vol. I (Vintage edition, 1977), Appendix: “Results of the Immediate Process of Production.” – Tr.]

[5] Qué se esconde detrás del TIPNIS. La Paz, 2012.

[6] “Enabling” (habilito) has to do with the advance in money and cash to initiate an undertaking that, in the case of the lowlands peoples, is converted into an advance on future production or ownership of raw materials that are found in the TCO (wood, chestnuts, rubber, etc.).

[7] Vargas, Cynthya; Molina, Wilder; Molina, Miguel, “El territorio indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécure (TIPNIS) en un escenario con la carretera San Ignacio de Moxos-Villa Tunari. Análisis de los posibles efectos sociales, ambientales y políticos de la carretera en el TIPNIS.” Project MAPZA-GTZ, 2003.

[8] Decreto-Ley Número 07401, Gaceta de Bolivia.

[9] Decreto Supremo Número 22610, 24 September 1990, Gaceta de Bolivia.

[10] Variously translated in English as “Original Community Land,” “Native Communal Land,” “Traditional Communal Land,” or some other combination of these terms. Often just “TCO” in English. – Tr.

[11] Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica para el Desarrollo Integral y Sustentable del Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure. TIPNIS, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Agua, Servicio Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Cochabamba, July 2011.

[12] Ibid., p. 23.

[13] Hans Van den Berg, En Busca de una Senda Segura. La Comunicación Terrestre y Fluvial entre Cochabamba y Mojos (1765-1825), PLURAL/Universidad Católica de Bolivia, La Paz, 2008.

[14] “Dos concepciones del territorio: indígenas y colonizadores en la zona de colonización del TIPNIS”, in Orozco, Shirley; García Linera, Álvaro; Stefanoni, Pablo. “No somos Juguete de Nadie”. Análisis de la relación de movimientos sociales, recursos naturales, Estado y descentralización. Agruco/COSUDE/NCCR Norte-Sur/Plural, La Paz, 2006.

[15] Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica, op. cit.

[16] Quiroga, María Soledad; Salinas, Elvira, “Áreas protegidas y territorios indígenas en la Amazonía boliviana”, Grupo de Reflexión y Acción sobre el Medio Ambiente, mimeo, La Paz, 1996.

[17] Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica, op. cit.

[18] “Dos concepciones del territorio: indígenas y colonizadores...” op. cit.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica... op. cit.

[21] Ibid., p. 29.

[22] Attached to the official web page of the CIDOB, until June of this year, was a denunciation of the illegal sale of a substantial amount of wood in the TIPNIS to logging companies by the leader Marcial Fabricano between 2000 and 2003.

[23] Qué se esconde detrás del TIPNIS, op. cit.

[24] Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica… op. cit. p. 173.

[25] Ibid., p. 170.

[26] Qué se esconde detrás del TIPNIS, op. cit.

[27] Ibid.

[28] INRA, Informe 2012.

Part 3: The historic demand for construction of a road to unite the Amazon valleys and plains

But first let us analyze the history of the demand for construction of this highway that would have to pass through the TIPNIS. Is it true that it is part of a sinister plan for “inter-oceanic corridors that would pillage the forests and suck us into the vortex of the Brazilian empire,” as the recipe of some NGOs would have it?[1]

The historical need for a road connecting the Andean zone with the Amazon region, through what used to be called the “Mountains of the Yuracarees,” now the Isiboro-Sécure park, dates back more than 300 years.

In 1763, the Royal Court of Charcas, with the intention of expelling the Portuguese who were repeatedly invading the left bank of the Iténez river, ordered that a route directly connecting Cochabamba with Moxos be explored. The objective was initially military in nature, to put an end to the already expansionist attitude of the Portuguese who were trying to occupy the province of Moxos. The route between Cochabamba and Moxos (Beni), without passing through Santa Cruz, would allow rapid movement of troops against the Portuguese advances.

The Jesuits report that in the early 1700s there had been a road that went from Colomi, the Ajial, descending to the Mission of Santa Rosa and the Mission of Loreto (in the province of Moxos). They assert that it took about six days to travel along the road bringing in “a load of flour, wine, baskets of biscuits and other things for the Mojos.”[2] Beginning in 1766, a number of expeditions taking this route as a reference were carried out from Tarata, Colomi in the lowlands and from San Ignacio in the plains of Moxos. In 1781 a secure and stable transit route was established between the regions, which functioned for a little less than a decade until it was gradually abandoned on the ground that it lessened trade between Santa Cruz and Moxos and reduced the spiritual attention provided to Moxos by the Bishop of Santa Cruz.[3]

The strictly geopolitical arguments both for the construction of this road and for its rejection call for the closest attention. On the one hand there were those who favoured a road to join the central Andean region with the immense and unreachable Amazon region (and precisely for that reason the object of external ambition); and on the other hand there were those who opposed the road in order to defend the economic and political-spiritual power that the established elites in Santa Cruz exercised over Moxos. These two counterposed readings have returned 250 years later in the debate over the highway through the TIPNIS, but with new actors.

Between 1790 and 1825, when the independent Republic was established, there were various attempts to find new lines of communication between the two regions, although none were successful in obtaining the necessary funds. In 1825 the Liberator [Antonio José de] Sucre ordered that the settlers in Cochabamba be consulted about the most important measures that the Liberator [Simón] Bolívar could implement in the region’s interest. The response was the linking of Cochabamba with Moxos.[4] The result of these decisions is not known, but all indications are that lack of resources and political instability stifled the strategic outlook for the territorial cohesion of Bolivia. Years later, Bolivia lost about 191,000 km2 of the Amazon (War of Acre) from what had been initially part of the independent Republic.

In 1832, the French explorer Alcide D’Orbigny returned to travel these routes from Moxos, passing between the Isiboro and Sécure rivers, that is, the present National Park in the lands of the Yuracarés, to arrive at Cochabamba, leaving some detailed accounts of the geography and inhabitants of the region.[5] In 1915, settlers in Beni, in a letter to the President of the Republic with an extensive argument against the abandonment of the region, again posed the need for construction of the road between Cochabamba and Trinidad. Starting in Colomi, they argued, “there is an old road from there to the confluence of Sesarsisama with the Isiboro, port Sucre, 160 km approximately, or 210 km from Cochabamba. In Moleto a wide path has been opened for 25 to 30 km [and] from there to San Lorenzo, a mission town on the Sécure, there is no road or path, for a distance of about 125 km, and from Sécure to Trinidad [there is] meadowland with a road that is passable in the dry season.”[6]

In 1920, under Decreto Supremo of 2 October 1920, Bautista Saavedra announced the opening of the “Cochabamba to Moxos” road under the Regiment of Zapadores.[7] This regiment was under the command of the then Colonel Federico Román, and at the end of 1920 left Todos Santos in the Chapare, heading for Moleto. Initially they were to cruise along the Eteremasama river, later the Isiboro river, and then, 35 kms north of the river, arrive at Moleto. This part of the journey was not difficult because “there was a path” that was widened. From there they had to travel along the Ichoa river and later walk “approximately 14 leagues through the midst of the forest” to arrive at the Sécure river, in a journey that took 49 days. Later they set off toward the north-east and after 20 days “it was as if a large window had suddenly opened to let the light come pouring in on the tired soldiers”; they had arrived at the meadowlands of Moxos. From there they headed to San Lorenzo and later to Trinidad.[8] Notwithstanding the efforts made, the route did not go further and Román and his Zapadores were later assigned to work on the route that would unite Cochabamba with Santa Cruz.

In 1928, a member of parliament from Beni, in a memorable speech, stated: “Bolivia has been given the harshest lesson with the lack of attention to the eastern region…. The disaster of Acre, this loss of 191,000 km2, is a severe blow to Bolivia, and the greatest offense to the invitations to create works that would bind the nation….” The deputy then raised the need not only for a road between Cochabamba and Beni, but also that the railroad that was to connect Cochabamba with Santa Cruz should also follow a route from the Chapare to Beni.[9]

When the Chaco War erupted, the country as a whole was called on to defend this territory. In one of the most self-sacrificing mobilizations, troops of young soldiers recruited in Guayaramerín, Riberalta, Cobija and Rurrenabaque were initially deployed to Trinidad and from there, going up the Ichilo river, they reached the Chapare, in the port of Gretel, and later Yapacaní and Santa Cruz. This column of about 7,000 Beni soldiers, under the command of the then general Federico Román, which was to defend the country in late 1933 and early 1934, used rivers and routes previously travelled between Beni and the Chapare to reach San Carlos, Santa Cruz and later the Chaco.[10] Years later, in 1998, the Yucumo-San Borja-San Ignacio-Trinidad section was declared fundamental route 602 (D.S. 25134); in 2003, the National Highway Service incorporated the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway as a route complementary to the Fundamental System of highways (D.S. 26996); and on 24 October 2003 President Mesa enacted Law No. 2530, which established authorization for the Executive Power to seek funding for the construction and paving of the Cochabamba-Trinidad highway. Finally, in 2006, a Law of the Republic again established the construction of this road as a priority.[11]

IIRSA: The farce of empty chatter

I have mentioned some of the numerous antecedents of this highway in order to refute the fallacy that its construction is intended as part of the IIRSA plan to “subject our peoples.” This highway was proposed as a strategic necessity to unite the altiplano and the Amazon centuries before the existence of the “geopolitics of the IIRSA”; and if one has the courage and intellectual honesty to take a careful look at a map of Bolivia, he or she will realize that if indeed there is some measure that disrupts the present geopolitics of foreign occupation of the Amazon, it is precisely the construction of this road.

The IIRSA Plan was designed to create inter-oceanic corridors linking eastern Brazil with the Pacific Ocean and the markets of Asia. The Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway does NOT link the main trunk road of the country (La Paz-Cochabamba-Santa Cruz) with any Brazilian highway or motorway. Trinidad is 338.6 km from the Brazilian border — yes, 338.6 kms from the highway closest to Brazil! No shipment of Brazilian soy or lumber will reach any port with this highway, the only things that will reach Trinidad or Cochabamba are Bolivian persons and products, which at present take two or three days to go from one place to the other, but with the new road will do this in four hours.

It has been said that the IIRSA Plan subjects entire regions to the expansionist plans of the Brazilian economy. What the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway will do is establish the presence of the Bolivian state in the Amazon where, in its absence, what predominates are the existing powers, the landlords and lumber companies (many of them foreigners). Up to now, in fact, in the Amazon border regions the children attend classes and listen to the radio in the Portuguese language.

The highway will be like a staple force uniting two regions of the country separated from each other for centuries; their dissociation allowed the loss of territories a century ago and more recently the substitution for the state of illegal actors, hacendados and foreigners. So it involves a mechanism for achieving territorial control of the geography by the state and the establishment of sovereignty.

If there is any danger of submission to external powers, it is precisely the absence of a state in the Amazon. In the highlands, the substitute for this absence was the communal-state or trade union-state; that is, by the communal self-organization of society that took on the management of local community issues, internal political affairs and the social protection of their members. But in the lowlands, in general, and in the Amazon region in particular, this absence of the state in terms of rights and protection has resulted in the formation of the landowner-despotic power over the communities and the indigenous peoples and the subsequent penetration of foreign powers which, on the pretext of “protecting the Amazon,” the “lungs of the world,” etc., have extended an extraterritorial control — via some environmentalist NGOs — over the continental Amazon, considered the largest reservoir of water and biodiversity in the world.

The major enemy of the presence of the protector state in the Amazon region at present is the international imperial-corporate structure, which has converted environmental management in the world into the most lucrative deal in favour of the industrialized countries of the North and the biotechnology companies. Today not even the Latin American states have as great a presence in the Amazon as these companies, research institutes of European and North American universities, and NGOs funded by other governments and by those same foreign enterprises.[12]

map 10
map 11

What is paradoxical and shameful is that some “environmentalist leftists” mouth off about the famous IIRSA Plan without understanding that behind their furious rejection of the state presence they cover for the now unobjectionable presence of foreign governments and companies in control of the Amazon. In fact, the real danger in the Bolivian Amazon regions is not the IIRSA — that exists only in the fevered imagination of the environmentalists — but the actually existing rule of the industrialized capitalist countries over the Amazon resources as an environmental reserve purchased to compensate for the destruction of the environment in the North. The camouflaged threat is that USAID and the U.S. State Department will make us think that the Amazon belongs to “everyone,” when in reality what they are saying is that it belongs to their government and their companies. The danger is that state sovereignty will be replaced by the foreign alienation of territorial control in the Amazon, and that the right-wing environmentalist discourse will legitimate the absence of the state using the argument of environmental protection.

The accusations that the famous Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway is supposedly part of the IIRSA Plan are ridiculous and intellectually decadent. It was not and never will be! The existing official documentation for this Integration Plan, published from 2005 to 2010, makes no reference to this highway.[13] It refers to sections to complete the highway from Puerto Suárez to La Paz, but in no document is there any mention of entry to Moxos. The map available from the IIRSA is really quite eloquent about the highways that are of interest to the organizers of that project, and one will not find there any route from Villa Tunari to Moxos.

Where is the famous highway that is going to subject us to the geopolitics of the IIRSA? Where is the highway that “is intended to hand over the Amazon to foreign agro-export businesses”? The Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos route is not in the IIRSA Plan. Those who disparage this revolutionary government, as well as the officials of the NGOs opposed to its construction, are well aware of this. They are all equipped with offices with internet connections, they know how to read and to interpret maps. However, they all yell in unison, on all sides, “IIRSA,” “IIRSA,” “IIRSA.”[14]

Why are they lying to the people? Why are they misleading society with their insults and falsehoods? Why are they resorting to such deceptive means to make their case? What class of writers are these people, who for months have been sounding off and spilling so much ink with the phantom of the “geopolitics of the IIRSA”[15] or of the “IIRSA highway,” when they know that it has never been incorporated in that project? What lies behind this hysterical discourse based on a lie? At what point does reason go missing and give way to insults and deliberately misleading statements?

A farce of empty chatter. That is the naked truth about the infamous campaign that seeks to associate the Villa Tunari-Moxos highway with the IIRSA. And falling for it are many gullible people in various parts of the world who, more on the alert for the disqualifying adjective than for the truth, have been caught up in a dark scheme of tricks and camouflage. Sun Tzu[16] recommended that we “beat the drums to the left” in order to “attack on the right”; and here, concerning the highway to Moxos, a whole rightist coalition has accused the Government of “submitting” to corporate and foreign requirements when in reality they are the ones who, with their lies, end up being the most servile defenders of the business, hacendado and imperial interests — precisely the ones opposed to nationalization of the Amazon territory.

Very well, but does that mean we do not need to protect the environment? Of course we need to do that! Our Constitution says so and we have enacted extraordinarily advanced laws along those lines. The Government as a whole is concerned with balancing the need for generation of wealth in order to redistribute it, with the obligation to preserve the procreative nucleus of the natural basis of the planet. But that is a decision and a task of OUR state, of our legislation, of our Government and of our public state policies. The Amazon is ours, it belongs to Bolivians, not to North Americans or Europeans, nor to the companies or NGOs that claim to be “teaching us to protect it.” If they want to protect the environment, let them do so with THEIR forests, rivers and hills, and not meddle in how we decide to care for our own natural surroundings.

After all, if the European companies and the U.S. government are so concerned about the environment and the conservation of the world’s forests, why do they not stop consuming wood and drastically reduce their auto industry and all types of production that emit CO2 into the environment? Why not stop importing minerals whose production contaminates the natural environment? Why not stop importing foods whose production promotes deforestation of millions of hectares of jungle? If they were to close those markets we would drastically reduce deforestation and global warming, and there would be no need to blame the poor countries, as they are now doing, to make them shoulder the burden.

Are we Bolivians having problems with the protection of Mother Earth? Probably. But those are difficulties that we ourselves will know how to resolve; we will never accept the principle of shared sovereignty in any piece of Bolivian territory. Whoever at this point is opposed to the presence of the state in the Amazon is in fact defending the presence in it of the United States. There is no in-between position: that is the dilemma in which the fate of control over the Amazon region is being played out in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.

Characteristics of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway

Now let us look at the characteristics of this highway. First, it is 306 km long, and will allow the area’s inhabitants to reduce the travel time from the plains to the Andean valleys by 90%. The existing southern end, 103 km, is unpaved. The existing northern section, 143 km, is also unpaved. This means that only 60 of the 306 km, less than 19% of the total, does not yet exist as a highway section.

But we should add that 116 km of the highway would have to cross through the Isiboro Sécure park,[17] 56.6 km of which now exist as a passable road, and 42.6 km as a passage for cattle; that is, within the TIPNIS there now exists as an unpaved road 85% of the total length that is to be constructed. So we are talking about an extension through the forest that requires opening barely 16.7 km to unite the Amazon with the valley.

As the reader will appreciate, the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway is not going to destroy a “virgin forest,” because within the Parque Nacional 85% of this stretch of highway already exists; and if we take into account the width of the highway, the total number of hectares of forest that would be affected is 200. Also, in order not to affect the core of the Park and the mobility of the living creatures within it, the plan is to build an ecological highway in this 16.7 km section (the gradient could be raised or in some cases the highway could run underground).

map 12

In President Evo’s recent trips with reporters from various media, they have verified that to go from the Chapare to Moxos the only viable route is the one that goes through the centre of the Parque Isiboro-Sécure, since on the right side and beyond it we have countless lakes, bogs, permanently flooded areas, ravines and rivers that continually change their course, which makes a stable route for travel technically impossible. And on the left side, there is a steep mountainous area, equally or more unstable than what there is in the stony area in the present Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway.[18] The natural setting is such that the only viable and natural route for travel between the valleys and the Amazon plains is the one that crosses through the TIPNIS. And in fact that is the route that was used by the Yuracaré indigenous nation, the Jesuits and all the settlers who over the last 400 years sought to unite the two regions.

Of course we all want to protect the environment, and there are numerous examples in the world of highways that cross through natural parks without destroying the habitat: the Parque Braulio Carrillo in Costa Rica, the Parque de Protección Alto Mayo in Peru, the Parque Nacional Los Cuchumatanes in Guatemala, Tahoe National Forest and Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the Naturpark Homert in Germany, the Parque Naturel Régional du Vercors in France, and many more.

map 13
map 14

Some people, resorting to the classic racist and criminalizing arguments, point out that the damage to the TIPNIS is not the physical construction itself, but the use that the highlands Quechua-Aymara indigenous-peasants are going to make of the highway. They argue that the park will be invaded by peasants who “will clear the forest and grow coca for narcotrafficking.” We have been hearing those prejudices voiced by the U.S. government and the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], in order to expel peasants in years gone by, as well as by the landholding elites of the lowlands as a means of discourse of cohesion and conservative regional legitimation in opposition to the presence of indigenous peoples from the highlands. But that the same arguments are used by some environmentalists or pseudo-leftists denotes an irreparable intellectual poverty. Three linked fallacies can be distinguished in this prejudice, and we will now list them.

Notes for Part 3

[1] This can be gathered, for example, in the following quotations:

“Since 2003, the highway has been part of the IIRSA corridor from sea to sea linking Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, parallel to the Secure Petroleum Bloc, on which the petroleum firm Repsol signed a contract with the government of Bolivia in 1994, purchasing the rights of exploitation for 30 years. Awarding continuity to the IIRSA plan, the Morales government enacted Law No. 34777 of 22 September 2006, which provided: ‘A national and departmental priority is declared to be the development, from the Study to the Final Design and construction, of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos section, accompanying the Cochabamba-Beni highway of the Fundamental Road System….’; “Costos sociales y ambientales de la Carretera Villa Tunari - San Ignacio de Moxos,” Anuario del Servicio de Noticias Ambientales SENA-Fobomade, 2010.

“Inasmuch as the mega-initiative of the IIRSA has been clearly and repeatedly rejected by the Indigenous peoples and social organizations in both its spirit and the form in which it is being developed, the ABC [Administradora Boliviana de Carretereas, the highways department] and the Ministry of Public Works continue to promote the inter-ocean corridors with few or no measures of social and environmental protection…. Among the highways packages is the construction of the San Ignacio de Moxos-Villa Tunari highway, which crosses the Parque Nacional y TCO Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS), which is the subject of a recently enacted law endorsing the contract for the completion of its construction by OAS, a Brazilian company….”; Marco Octavio Ribera Arismendi, “Crónica ambiental 2007-2011: Retrospectiva y actualización de problemáticas priorizadas”. LIDEMA, La Paz, 2011, pp. 141-142.

[2] Testimony of Father Felipe de Rojas, Cochabamba, 14 April 1765, in Hans van den Berg, En Busca de una Senda Segura. La Comunicación Terrestre y Fluvial entre Cochabamba y Mojos (1765-1825), PLURAL/Universidad Católica de Bolivia, La Paz, 2008.

[3] “En busca de una senda segura...”, op. cit.

[4] “In July, Sucre made the same request to the commune of Cochabamba, seeking information on the measures that Bolívar could implement to the benefit of the region, especially the steps to be taken to remove the obstacles to the progress of agriculture, industry, trade and the arts. Three days later, the cabildo replied with a petition asking that the system of potable water be improved, that taxes on urban and rural property be lowered, and that the businessmen in the city be allowed to deal directly with the region of Moxos instead of channelling all legal trade through the city of Santa Cruz” – William Lee Lofstrom, La Presidencia de Sucre en Bolivia, Caracas, 1987. Also, in 1826, the Liberator Sucre approved the Law of 13 October, which word for word established, in its first article, that it authorized “the executive power, through adjudication of lands, concession of privileges to the settlers now under its protection, and other appropriate means, to promote the opening of the road from Cochabamba to Yuracarés and Mojos.”

[5] “Viaje a la América Meridional,” op. cit.

[6] Propuesta para Apertura, Arreglo y Conservación del Camino de Cochabamba a Trinidad por Corina, Isiboro, Moleto, Sécure y San Lorenzo: El Heraldo, Cochabamba 1915.

[7] The Supreme Decree of 2 October 1920, of the Bautista Saavedra government, establishes in article 1 that “all the Yuracaréz families living in the forests of the region of that name and those who, having fled the missions and industrialists, remain in the forests, should form village nuclei on the road that the Zapadores Regiment is opening from Mojos to Cochabamba.”

[8] Rodolfo Pinto Parada, Rumbo al Beni, Proyecto de Pavimentación Carretera Santa Cruz Trinidad [Proposed paving of a road from Santa Cruz to Trinidad], La Paz, 2001.

[9] M.E. Saucedo Sevilla, member of parliament for Trinidad, Cercado e Iténez, La Vialidad Chapare-Beni, Páginas parlamentarias [parliamentary record], La Paz, Bolivia, 1928.

[10] Rumbo al Beni…, op. cit.

[11] Law No. 3477, of 22 September 2006. Art. 1, “The development of the study and final design and construction of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos section, accompanying the Cochabamba-Beni highway, is declared a national and departmental priority of the Fundamental Road System.” Gaceta de Bolivia.

[12] Thus, some NGOs have become the means for the developed capitalist countries to attain territories and resources which otherwise could not be attained without negotiations or agreements with other national states. Those resources are biodiversity, genetic matter, minerals, oil, gas and strategic territories. It is easier to negotiate with an indigenous people through a local NGO, funded by another country, than to establish a state-to-state relationship. That is why the NGOs finance projects. Or does anyone think that cooperation by Europeans or, worse, USAID, is intended to provide resources for a “civilizing alternative to capital,” for “another possible world,” for “post-capitalism” or the specter of “communism”? Of course not! On the contrary, those capitalist countries and their agencies reveal an imperialist attitude; suffice it to look at the focus of the projects of USAID and the U.S. State Department in reference to the indigenous peoples. Their documents show the intention of purchasing the loyalty and defence of the latter in the news media. Also manifest is their objective of turning the indigenous peoples against the Revolutionary Government of Evo Morales: “La Embajada de los Estados Unidos: Canapés y Territorios Indígenas,” Periódico Plurinacional Nº 6, Vicepresidencia del Estado, La Paz, August, 2011.


[14] As can be appreciated in the following quotations:

“The history of the highway has to do with the project of the South American Regional Initiative (IIRSA); the IIRSA has its origin in the first summit of the Presidents of South America held August 30-September 1, 2000 in Brasilia…. The IIRSA contemplates inter-oceanic corridors linking the Atlantic with the Pacific, making possible the transportation of merchandise between the two oceans. While the argumentation explaining the IIRSA project speaks of integration between the countries involved, voices have been heard from the beginning charging that the project is part of the strategy for domination by the United States of America, and there have also been criticisms of the project as part of the expansion of the emerging power of Brazil. The highway that crosses the TIPNIS forms part of the inter-oceanic corridors, and accordingly of the IIRSA project as well….” (Raúl Prada, “La defensa de los derechos de la Madre Tierra en el TIPNIS”. 15/08/2011.)

“This megaproject is beneficial above all to the big Chinese, U.S. and now Brazilian companies, so this highway is part of the IIRSA. There are other things too that are being violated, in relation to the environmental issues and biodiversity, now that we know there is an exquisite biodiversity in this sector, but it is important that citizens begin to realize that we have to defend places like that.” (Ajax Sangüeza, President of Fobomade, in an article, “Fobomade se une a defensa del Tipnis y rechaza la construcción de la carretera”, published in La Patria, 9 August 2011.

[15] Phrase of Pablo Dávalos in the comments on “Debates que tejen emancipaciones”, by Ana Esther Ceceña, published in Rebelión (26/05/2012). Available at:

[16] Referring to the Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tsu, who wrote “The art of war.”

[17] The Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (PNIS) was created under Decreto Ley (DL) No. 07401 of 22 November 1965. Later, under Decreto Supremo 22610 of 24 September 1990, the PNIS was recognized “as indigenous territory of the Moxeño, Yuracaré and Chimán peoples, who have inhabited it since ancient times, constituting the necessary socio-economic space for its development” and from then on its name changed to that of Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS).

[18] Informe Técnico; reconnaissance of the area of construction of Section II of the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos Highway, by Gabriel Durán, Eng., 2012.

Part 4: Colonialist fallacies

The first fallacy is the argument that with the highway the coca leaf producers will invade the TIPNIS. There is at this point no type of coercive measure that prevents them entering the Park using the roads that already exist within it; however, they are not doing so. Moreover, the unions of coca producers were the very ones that in 1990 defined with the government a “red line” within the TIPNIS that they voluntarily agreed not to cross. Since then, any compañero who crosses that line, instead of counting on the support of his union and federation, is liable to be removed from where he is living by the law enforcement agencies, as has happened in recent months. Compliance with this demarcation is now the responsibility of the coca leaf producers themselves, and not the result of any public force or law that prevents them from approaching.

The highway is not going to be the launching point for any supposed “cocalero invasion”; nor has any such “invasion” occurred even with the existing sections, because this is a Park and a territory of indigenous collective ownership, and it is the coca leaf producers themselves who as an organization have decided to respect this collective property. But in addition, the illegal production of coca leaf — regardless of the agreements of the producer federations with the Morales government — is not located along the edges of the highways, for then it would be eradicated immediately. The illegal cultivation occurs precisely beyond the reach of control by the state and the federations, in areas where there are no roads or pathways. It is precisely because of the illegal nature of this production (outside the areas defined by agreement between the peasant federations and the government) that it occurs where law enforcement — by the state or the unions — cannot go, that is, precisely where there are no roads, paths or public control. If there is anything that the presence of a highway in the Park will promote, it is the departure of the illegal crops, including the production of coca paste, the base for cocaine, which throughout these years has been detected in areas of the TIPNIS in which there are no roads or a state presence.[1] Furthermore, in his recent message to the people of Bolivia on August 6, 2012, President Evo Morales announced the creation of a Regimiento Ecológico [Ecological Regiment (of the Armed Forces)], whose mission will be to protect the national parks and prevent any type of illegal occupation by peasants in the TIPNIS.[2]

The second fallacy, with even more reactionary implications than the first, is the one that seeks to artificially oppose “lowlands indigenous peoples” to “lowlands and highlands campesinos.” The first, remote from markets, are good people who contemplate nature, while the second are illegal predators, bad people, merchants and destroyers of nature. This cartoon dualism was for decades used by the Amazon and eastern hacendados to erect a barrier wall around their latifundios against the presence and migration of the indigenous peasants from the highlands. At its height, this anti-peasant xenophobia went so far as to consider instituting a passport requirement for Aymara and Quechua seeking to enter Santa Cruz.[3] This regionalist landlord ideology has been taken up again by the environmentalists in the debate over the TIPNIS, to create a hostile atmosphere toward the highlands indigenous-peasant movement and in particular in opposition to the coca leaf producers. This xenophobia goes to such limits that it unashamedly defends a type of ethnic inbreeding, considering it a “crime” if Yuracarés marry Quechuas or Aymaras. Basically, this is the colonial fallacy of the construction of “pure races,” now put in postmodern language.

But this second colonial fallacy, moreover, is woven around the separation of “good” indigenous living in a Tierra Comunitaria from “bad” peasants who hold individual family property. Let us look at this.

Colonial domination involved the looting of lands, control of labour itself, but above all control of the collective identities of the dominated society, which are the subjective forces that ultimately unite people around common objectives and shared forces of technical and associated production. To name is to unite and to separate; it is to define, map, territorialize and control. Naming from outside or self-naming are part of the basic scheme of the method of domination and emancipation in general. And when the naming territorializes the territorialized subject from outside, we are confronted with the most devastating method of domination, which is precisely colonial domination.

The first thing Spanish colonialism did was to re-signify and re-locate the world of people and things: territorially, “the West Indies,” cities; administratively, the viceroyalties, governorships, etc.; economically, the distribution of powers, the encomiendas, the mita; in religion, the churches, the new faith, the new moral prohibitions, the new spiritual balms; in language, the dominant language and the new general language. And as a legitimation of this material reconfiguration of life, the soul and the collective I, was to appear Indianness: “the Indians” as a new colonizing identity intended to sweep away the collective I of the many original nations, their roots and their memory. To designate is to dominate, and colonialism de-nominated everything, dismantling stone by stone the ancient societal structure, and where it could not do so, it superimposed on it in order to subsume it, like the temples that were erected on top of the Waka’s[4] or the colonial institutions that were superimposed on the remaining local communal structures.

The colonial re-categorization of domination was not substantially affected by the passage from colony to republic. The originarios, yanaconas, forasteros and mestizos of colonial times[5] were now indios, blancos and mestizos of republican times.[6] These were tributary categories, imposing delegated identities on the social reality. In both cases, the intention was to classify the dominated, to identity them as such and thereby impose on them the image the dominator himself had of them; and thereby to reaffirm the domination. No objective or scientific classifications exist. Any identitarian classification is political, and the tributary, numerical, territorial justification is simply an artefact of legitimation of that political decision, whether of domination or of emancipation.

Revolutionary nationalism, in its renewed colonial obsession to homogenize the dominated, was not to alter the expropriated nature of the identities inherited from the Colony: indios and forasteros became “campesinos,” a subject of subjugation characterized by its labour activity, which sought to bury the vigorous culture, social roots and self-identification of the original peoples in a new profusion of categories.

The emancipating and self-identifying impulse of the peoples came years later, at the hands of the cultural productive forces, memory, language, history and skin. In the beginning the appeal was to an oppressor category, that of the Indian, as a means of self-identification. “They have dominated us with the name of Indian. With the name of Indian we will free ourselves,” said the emerging intellectuality motivating indigenous national self-identification. This was not a retreat to the old names, but precisely a radicalization of them, to convert them into their opposite: from nomination of domination to denomination of emancipation. The point of rupture was the political will to self-identify, to superimpose on the Collective I constructed by others (by the dominant) the Collective I constructed by oneself (by the dominated); thereby dismantling at that very point the domination itself.

Indianness as identity was a cry of emancipation that revolutionized the Bolivian ideological-political panorama from the 1970s on. Indigenous identity was the discursive repertoire that reorganized the meaning of the Bolivian revolution, and came to refer to the political and cultural, that is historic, appeal by the immense majority of the people — not only of the farm workers but of the labourers, shopkeepers, transportistas [bus and truck operators], students and professionals, subalternized by their condition of work and their skin, by their name, language and place where they lived. In the emancipatory re-invention of the Katarista-indianista Indianness a long process was initiated of constructing an historic bloc and a discourse of social and general mobilization that would modify the content of the revolution in Bolivia as an anti-colonial, anti-neoliberal and democratic revolution with a socialist-communitarian horizon.

Years later, the indianista identity would mature, clarifying the territorial and historical composition of Indianness as identity of indigenous-First Nations with names and roots: the Aymara nation, Quechua nation, Guaraní nation, Chimán nation, Leco nation, Mosetén nation, Pacawara nation, Sirionó nation, etc. It moved from a generic identity of Indianness to an historic identity of indigenous nations that did not stop in the highlands and valleys but extended to the plains, the Amazon and the Chaco, creating in the last two decades a web of political forces mobilized around the indigenous national identities, the material foundation of the present Plurinational State.

The transition was not easy. From the emancipatory discursive construction of the Seventies, it moved to the indigenous self-organizing materialization of the originary indigenous campesino federations and confederations of the Eighties. And from there to the construction of the political will to take power by means of the transformation of the union-communal organic structure into an electoral political instrument in the Nineties, to advance to the taking of power by the social movements in 2006.

This construction of this emancipatory identity with a will for power needed two decisive ethical-political moments. The first was the construction of the indigenous national identity as the national demographic majority with political visibility. In this the contribution of the Tupak-Katarismo of the Ayllus Rojos of the Nineties was decisive, because it began to appeal politically to the indigenous subject in an inter-class manner, that is, as a nation in whose interior cohabited various urban and rural social classes: campesinos, transportistas, intellectuals, professionals, owners, artisans, etc., but united and inter-acting on the cultural-historical basis of identity as Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranis, etc. The numerical validation of this socially visible indigenous majority population came about through the huge urban and rural indigenous peoples mobilizations of 2000, 2001, 2003 and the results of the Population Census of 2001, which established that 62% of Bolivians are indigenous.

The second decisive ethical-political moment for the taking of power by the indigenous-popular movement was the candidacy of Evo Morales at that precise historical moment with the ability to tap into the existing sentiment at the appropriate point, which allowed the socially visible demographic majority to become a political majority in the leadership of the state. The indigenous identity that had decolonized and raised to power the popular subject in Bolivia was now an urban-rural and transclass identity united around an indigenous nucleus as the expression of the material certainty of its majority and its hegemony. But this has produced an attempt by pseudo-environmentalism and a handful of abdicating ultraleftists to return to the method of identitarian colonization through the numerical inferiorization of the indigenous peoples. In a desperate and inelegant ideological somersault, they reduce “the indigenous peoples” to those who live in communitarian lands [Tierras Comunitarias], leaving the rest of the population as “non-indigenous.”

In a reactionary attempt to separate “good indigenous peoples” from “bad peasants,” they argue that only those who live in the communitarian lands are indigenous peoples, in as much as those who own family lands are now campesinos[7] — not to speak of those who live in the city. Thus, as if by some cheap magic, the indigenous majority conquering in the name of emancipation and a national-general revolutionary political project, dissolves into some tiny population centres dispersed in the lowlands that barely amount to 3.7% of the Bolivian population over the age of 15 (2001), and in the highlands, 4.5%.

Attempting to justify the unjustifiable, the pseudo-environmentalists regress 400 years in the political history of the indigenous nations, turning them into minority subjects susceptible to wardship and vassalage. There are two errors behind this gimmicky inferiorization of the indigenous nations. The first is the shyster blindness that reduces the identitarian force of the indigenous peoples to the legal classification of Tierra Comunitaria de Origin (TCO). The TCO is a legal category, not a social structure or an identity.

We all know that in the agrarian world (in both lowlands and highlands), even in areas of greater parcelization of land and individual titles, there are areas of collective use (pasture lands, community lands) and likewise common resources (watersheds, rivers, lakes, etc.) over which no type of private ownership is exercised.[8] Similarly, there is a system of legally protected communal authority over many aspects of life, individual property, and a labour system involving mutual assistance (roads, schools, ayni, minka, etc.). The agrarian unions in the Chapare are an example of this social system.

In like manner, although the land in the TCO is legally the common property of all those living in the community or communities, the labour system is similar to that in any community of individual property owners: production is based strictly on family and individual labour. Agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering, which provide the day-to-day means of life, are carried on through the family and not the community. And in the lowlands, the systems of joint work for public necessities such as schools or roads, or for swapping labour, are not strongly established.

Generally speaking, in neither the lands under family ownership nor those owned by the community are there permanent communitarian production processes. The majority of the work activities required for the satisfaction of the basic needs of the community members are conducted on the basis of the individual family. As for the few activities of public utility that do employ collective labour systems, these are primarily in the highlands, the valleys and the Chapare, whether on TCOs or on lands that are individually owned.

The belief that the TCOs are the only spaces of communitarianism is a legalistic illusion typical of those who confuse the reality of things with a literal reading of the words. Common legal ownership does not define what is peculiar to the community. Individual ownership of land co-exists with common possession of lands, and with communitarian systems of authority and communitarian labour techniques. That is what occurs, for example, in most of the highlands regions, the nucleus of the Aymara indigenous identity. Thus to classify a community as “indigenous” by virtue of common ownership of property, and as “campesino” because they do not have that, is merely intellectual scribbling with disastrous counterrevolutionary implications. To convert the indigenous peoples into a dispersed minority living in TCOs is to eliminate this country’s major political achievement of state-effected decolonization: the construction of the indigenous political force as a majority urban-rural force; but it is also to substitute the bare legal category for the productive and social reality, ignoring the real objectivity of the revolutionary communitarian-communist tendencies present in the distinct socio-productive organizations of the urban and rural labouring classes.

Lastly, to reduce the category of indigenous peoples to relevance to a TCO is to remain imprisoned in the illusion of a lawyer who dreams of substituting one’s linguistic devices for the reality of things; and in this case to make a legal category, the TCO, the nucleus of a social identity.

Social, and even more so national identities are political artefacts of mobilization with a state projection that can find support in specific social practices such as language, common history, memory, territory, economy, etc., but have the virtue of articulating a cross-class collective will around objectives of self-determination.

What can those pseudo-environmentalists tell the Aymara of Omasuyus or Villa Ingenio in El Alto — the backbone of the social mobilizations of October 2003 — who rose up, died and won waving whipalas and celebrating their indigenous identity? That they are not indigenous peoples because they do not have a TCO? That is ridiculous. But what is not ridiculous is the reactionary implication of this conservative metaphysics: the fragmentation of the indigenous movement, the minimization and isolation of the indigenous peoples, the ideological and political disarmament of the indigenous peoples, and the judicialization of the indigenous peoples. In short, this entire conservative narrative leads inexorably to the impotence and death of the indigenous political subject. That is the big dream of the hacendado right wing that is being implemented in words and action by the former leftists who have developed into organic intellectuals of the restoration of colonialism.

Finally, the third fallacy: environmentalism vs. capitalism.

As is well known, any human activity — from building a house to growing food, hunting and even walking and breathing — affects nature. No one lives solely in contemplation of nature, as naïve environmentalism argues, because those who did would not live long. Life is a process of metabolic transformation of nature that affects the environment, and in the process the living being transforms itself. In general, nature too is affected, which can result in catastrophes that in turn end in further change. Over time, human beings have formed societies that differ from each other according to how they produce and use the collective wealth resulting from their particular relationship with nature. To each material mode of production corresponds an organic relationship with nature. Some societies have created modes of life-sustaining relationships with their surrounding nature, such as the communal forms studied by Marx under the name of Rural Community and Agrarian Community.[9] In those cases, nature is presented as an organic extension of society itself, as a living being in the presence of which the exchange of advances in labour and reception of productive processes takes the form of dialogues and rituals of mutual re-production in time.

But within these distinct communal forms of society, civilization and production, there also exist variants that may produce a greater or lesser impact on the natural environment. Agrarian societies, a form of social community, have an economic system that in the framework of that mutually life-sustaining relationship with nature produces a greater impact on the environment than the gatherer societies (another communal form of society).

To the degree that they introduce agriculture combined with domestic industry, agrarian societies — as in the case of the Aymara and Quechua communities — have to partially reduce the forests in order to obtain foodstuffs, while the gatherer societies, for example the Yuracarés or Chimanes of the lowlands, supply themselves with what the forest offers them, and while they sometimes resort to agriculture it is on a minor scale, and they maintain their nomadism. So the effects of deforestation they generate are also reduced. Clearly, at bottom both productive systems maintain a similar pattern of organic and life-sustaining exchange with nature, which prevents us from differentiating them between those who “pillage” and those who live in “harmony” with nature, as the pseudo-environmentalists do, echoing the hacendados’ anti-campesino ideology. The demographic expansion of both societies will also have a decisive influence on the pattern of relationships to the environment. The immense lakes constructed in their hundreds by the ancient Amazon nations of pre-colonial times, between Ascensión de Guarayos and Rio Madre de Dios in Pando — and which surely helped to feed and protect them from the continual flooding of the rivers on the Amazonian plain — are monumental human works whose presence and modification of the environment is still visible today.

But there also are societies in which nature is presented as a mere reservoir of things to be exploited as usufruct by human beings, that is, as an inert object that can be transformed by labour but in relation to which one has no ethical or material responsibility of continuity. And if we add to this that the guiding purpose of the productive processes is not the satisfaction of material needs but the unlimited accumulation of monetary profit (valorization), we are confronted with the capitalist mode of production. In that case, nature is presented only as inert raw material for the purpose of profit; which means that if the destruction of nature or of life itself (in wars, for example) generates monetary benefits, then it is useful for capitalism.

However, it is not by definition that capitalism destroys nature — as right-wing environmentalism holds. What capitalism does by definition is to generate profits in a few private hands: “valorizing value,” as Marx put it.[10] And if in order to fulfil this objective it is necessary to kill living beings, crush societies, annihilate and destroy the nature that lies in its path, capitalism will no doubt do this. And if, to generate capital (profit) in a few hands, it is necessary to preserve nature or protect the life of the workers, capitalism will also do this for the purpose of continuing to accumulate surplus value. It is very important to specify the founding logic of this system: profit (value which self-valorizes incessantly), because if indeed whenever its productive forces are becoming forces of destruction of life and the planet, the irresistible drive for profit can lead it to “preserve” nature, if that is what guarantees the necessary rate of profit. Only in this way is it possible to understand that while in some parts of the world there arise technical forces destructive of nature (hence the greenhouse effect), in others it can encourage a hypocritical “defence” of the environment through its market policies: “carbon credits,” “green economy,” exchanging debt for protection of forests, etc., which basically are nothing more than various methods of commoditization and capitalist subsumption of the temporary conservation of forests in the countries of the South, in order to produce profits for the big transnational corporations of the North through the purchase of certificates of carbon emissions reduction in order to obtain tax reductions, credit approvals and increased rates of profit.

These pseudo-environmentalist policies are not contradictory to capitalism; on the contrary, they are inherent to it, and this environmentalism for the poor is profitable for it and therefore useful to promote. If destroying the environment in the North and protecting some forest in the South — but accepting this as clean, as part of its corporate activities — generates profits, this pseudo-environmentalism forms part of the capitalist machinery. The tragic thing in all this is that this planetary farce of a capitalism that is strategically destructive of nature, but tactically a preserver of environmental niches, has as its executors in its scheme of capitalist profit an army of well-intentioned environmentalists — their salaries paid by multinational corporations — who “preserve” the forests in the poor countries and at the end of the day deliver extraterritorial environmental surplus value to the mega-business that will raise the price of its shares even higher on the stock market. Thus, while the major share of the tax exemptions of the big company in the North raise its rate of profit, a tiny portion goes to the environmentalists who go out of their way to ensure that the inhabitants of the forest in some country of the South, like the TIPNIS, continue to live in absolute marginality, avoiding the state so it won’t disturb their “harmonious” poverty, finishing off a sinister planetary mechanism of “environmental” capitalist accumulation.

Who has the power in the Amazon?

Throughout this brief analysis we have seen the convergence of the four distinct forces that have interacted in connection with the domination of the Amazon. Let us list them, not in order of historical presence, as we did in the text, but in order of predominance and geopolitical power in the region.

1. Foreign corporations, which have created a novel category of surplus value: environmental surplus value, in connection with the extraterritorial appropriation of the Amazon’s biodiversity, which allows them to raise their rates of profit in their countries of origin without having to modify the destructive technical-productive pattern of the biodiversity, which would require spending millions and millions of dollars on a new world-wide technical basis. These firms continue to maintain in place the same destructive technical forces and they get substantial tax reductions and elimination of penalties whenever they hold “carbon credits” in their name. Thus, by “protecting” this or that area of the Amazon jungle, they reduce their corporate production costs, raise the rate of profit for the shareholders, and escape the need for a radical switch in the contemporary technical and productive base, characterized by the destructiveness of the natural basis of social production.

Similarly, many foreign corporations that control “their forests” extraterritorially get the advantage of having a gigantic laboratory free of charge for obtaining genetic material for the biotechnology industry, without having to pay any taxes, patent fees or royalties whatsoever or to make any prior investment. The “protection of forests” under the aegis of foreign corporate conglomerates has become an “environmental” mode of capitalist accumulation.

2. Governments of the more developed capitalist countries, who through this corporate environmentalism are managing to establish cordons of control over numerous areas of enormous wealth in existing natural, biological, mineral and hydrocarbon resources precisely in these areas of high biodiversity. The presence of foreign military bases near these regions forms a part of the extraterritorial rings of protection that the U.S. government in particular is deploying in Latin America.[11]

In the case of the Bolivian Amazon, we have not only the largest reserves of fresh water in the entire country, but also the largest concentration of biological diversity, petroleum reserves and a large part of the so-called Precambrian shield[12] with extensive deposits of gold, nickel, iron, uranium, etc.

3. The hacendado-business bloc that is processing Amazon raw materials. This is a business elite simultaneously linked to landed property, the old political parties of the hereditary right wing, the purchase and processing of cattle and the processing of Amazon raw materials such as wood, chestnuts, rubber, alligator skins, etc. It is a regional bourgeoisie that over the years has created a kind of captive regional market for its raw materials supply business. The Beni cattle industry is monopolized by the processing and price-fixing of the slaughterhouses in Santa Cruz. Likewise, in the harvesting of other Amazon products such as wood or chestnuts, this bourgeoisie operates as a monopoly purchaser which, at the time when the TCOs were being revived as spaces for negotiated provision of raw materials by the indigenous leaders, was able to monopolize — through this brokerage function — the ground rent resulting from the extraction activity; and in some cases, through the extra-economic coercion exercised over the indigenous inhabitants, to obtain as well a further surplus value because the payment for the work of the indigenous labourer was below his subsistence level, his living conditions generally being the responsibility of the work of his family as a whole. So we have a combination of mechanisms of appropriation of land rents, surplus value generated by the worker and a share of the wage of this indigenous labourer, which produces an extraordinary profit in the hands of this corporate-landowner group.

That is why defence of this captive Amazon regional market, preservation of extra-economic bargaining mechanisms for raw materials supplies, and the reproduction of the despotic-landowner relations, are the geopolitical priorities in those matters that involve its class interests.

4. The Amazonian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as a group, some of which have created over the last two decades a clientelistic network of indigenous leaders through which they express the corporate environmentalist discourse in the various communities. Possessing fine humanitarian intentions — and good salaries for such missions — they form a small army that is ideologically the disseminator of the right-wing environmentalist discourse, and economically the material expression of an environmental capitalist accumulation.

Educated in opposition to any type of state presence in the Amazon forests and plains, and adversaries of any autonomy of the indigenous movement that would erode the networks of cooptation of the leaders, some NGOs have launched a kind of local environmentalist crusade the actual effect of which worldwide is the consolidation of the lucrative business of reducing taxes on the transnational corporations in exchange for protection of forests.

The combination of these four forces makes up what we can call the arch of Amazon power and domination.

map 15

In resistance and opposition to these forces of domination, the sectors that have taken distinct initiatives in struggle form part of the bloc of the indigenous-campesino and popular movement:

The indigenous peoples, fundamentally through the great mutual efforts toward unification of their regional struggles and demands, which help to overcome their territorial dispersion and low demographic density;

The campesino movement, through the struggle for democratization of access to the land and political autonomy from the bosses, this in turn generating an immediate response by the landowner power in the massacre of campesino leaders in El Porvenir in September 2008; notwithstanding that, the movement has persevered in its self-organization;

And finally, the popular movement, through the free-flowing micro-business, cooperative and transport activity, which complicates the regional scenario of class struggles, cracking the old traditional order of things.

Accompanying this social upheaval in the Amazon the revolutionary state, which from day one has sought to further strengthen these social struggles, not only has dismantled the hereditary state (having separated possession of land from the administration of the state), but with the new Constitution has proceeded to expropriate latifundios[13] and redistribute lands. Today, for the first time, we have national and departmental assemblies in Beni, Pando and Santa Cruz, with representatives of campesinos, indigenous peoples, merchants, transportistas, and of the people in general. Political representation has ceased to be an attribute of big property or business activity.[14] And parallel to this, the state presence has been extended, in the sense of laws and the monopoly of coercion. Social programs have been created, like the Bono Juancito Pinto, the Renta Dignidad and the Bono Juana Azurduy, and there are now hospital boats on the Amazon rivers. Thousands of people who since birth lacked the necessary documentation now have it, free of charge. Indigenous-peasant communities have received direct transfers and free dental care for children in places devoid in the past of state authority or law. But in addition, one of the most important processes of relocation of regiments and troops in the country’s military history has been carried out. Military units have been created in the Amazon. In Pando, in the last four years, the military presence along the border has been tripled; the Bruno Racua Regiment and Conjunto Amazónico Command have been created; and the personnel of the Company in San Joaquín, the naval base in Magdalena, and the naval headquarters in Ramón Darío have been increased significantly, in addition to the formation of the engineers’ battalion in Roboré. Likewise, the military posts have been reinforced in Cocos Lanza, San Fermín and General Camacho in northern La Paz, and a military garrison has been built in Ixiamas. And a unit of governmental management has been formed: ADEMAF, which has united military and civilian efforts and been deployed throughout the Amazon, consolidating the application of laws and sanctions in places where hitherto the only law was the personal fiat of some landowners.

The Rurrenabaque-Riberalta highway, now in adjudication, and the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway, are objective expressions of this territorial enlargement of the state presence. They fall within the framework of a set of broader state policies for recovery of state sovereignty, understood as the full exercise of state laws and benefits in places where until recently forest companies, hacendados or narcotraffickers were the major authority in a kind of micro-republics of illegality.

The highway stitches together a national geography split between two major geographical blocs, the Altiplano and the Amazon. It will allow the face to face encounter of two regions of the country that up to now have been living back to back. The highway will nationalize a fundamental territorial space in Bolivia, in which foreign governments and companies, foreign citizens and landlords, have held more authority, knowledge and power than the Bolivian state itself. With the highway, the real geography and the ideal geography of the state (present in maps and agreements) will tend to coincide.

When we talk about real geography of the state we are referring to verification that its authority is one of public order with effective compliance and social legitimation. The highway then presents itself as a material force of territorial sovereignty of the state and, with that, as a technical mediation of the enlargement and defence of the laws of the population of the Amazon in general and the TIPNIS in particular.

To some extent, of course, the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway creates a new geopolitical state axis running from north to south, conjoining the extensive geography and Amazon society. The capitalist adversary of this nationalization of the Amazon is huge and brings to bear its enormous private material interests. Accordingly, at stake for the revolutionary state is its territorially verifiable sovereignty, and for the opposing powers their money, their personal revenues, their businesses and their domination. Hence the obvious virulence of the attack by the conservative internal and external forces against that nationalized state presence in the Amazon territory. It will be a long struggle with numerous battles along the way.

Notes for Part 4

[1] See the newspaper El Día, “Coca y cocaína en el Tipnis,” 13 January 2012.

[2] See the newspaper Los Tiempos, “Gobierno anuncia creación de regimiento ecológico de las FFAA,” 7 August 2012.

[3] See the newspaper El Diario, “Senadores cruceños plantean uso de pasaportes para ingresar a SantaCruz,” 16 March 2006.

[4] Apparently a reference to the ancient Maya center, known from Mayan inscriptions as Waka', and known today as El Perú, which was once an important economic and political center of the Mayan world and formed one corner of a triangle of major sites that also included Calakmul (Mexico) to the north, and Tikal to the west. – Tr.

[5] Eraclio Bonilla Editor, La Cuestión Colonial, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2011. See also “Consolidación del Orden Colonial,” in Historia general de América Latina, III, 2, Unesco/Editorial TROTTA, España, 2001 and M. Carmagnani; A.Hernandez; R. Romano (Coordinadores), Para una Historia de América I: Las Estructuras, Colegio de México/FCE, Mexico City, 1999.

[6] Rossana Barragán, Espacio Urbano y Dinámica Étnica. La Paz en el siglo XIX, Hisbol, La Paz, 1990.

[7] As is seen, for example, in this quotation from Raúl Prada (in the article “En torno al TIPNIS”):

“The TIPNIS conflict has illustrated the new political, social, economic and cultural fronts that have emerged in the critical context of the process: on the one hand, defending the rights of Mother Earth, are the originary indigenous nations and peoples, especially the movements and organizations of the indigenous peoples as such, with their own forms of organizations, forms of representation, rotating leaderships, their own norms and procedures, ancestral institutions and native cosmovisions, supported by new adolescent and urban movements and by historic movements such as the regantes, the water and gas warriors; on the other hand, supporting the section of the highway through the TIPNIS, are the campesino organizations, those organized in unions (CSUTCB, CNMCIOB “BS”, CSCIB); the entire compesino conglomerate, led to some extent by the cocalero federations. This entire ensemble, more or less unified, but differentiated and plural, motley as it is, which was part of the so-called “popular bloc,” and that now finds itself rising in the runaway ascent of a new emerging bourgeoisie, nouveaux riches and new intermediaries in the circuits of capital, the merchants, genetic modifiers, smugglers, traffickers, including those involved in narcotrafficking, in constant displacements toward unexpected alliances with the agro-industrial interests of Santa Cruz, the intermediary bourgeoisie, the banks, the transnational enterprises in hydrocarbon and mining, the Brazilian construction firms and the Brazilian government….”

[8] Hans van den Berg, La tierra no da así nomas. Hisbol, La Paz, 1993.

[9] Karl Marx, El Porvenir de la Comuna Rural Rusa, Pasado y Presente, México 1980; Karl Marx, Cuaderno Kovalevsky (newly published in Spanish), Ediciones Ofensiva Roja, La Paz, 1989; Los Apuntes Etnológicos de Karl Marx, Siglo XXI/ Editorial Pablo Iglesias; Spain, 1988. [In English, see Teodor Shanin, Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and ‘The Peripheries of Capitalism’, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1983, and Lawrence Krader (ed.), The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, Assen, The Netherlands, Van Gorcum & Comp. B.V., 1974. – Tr.]

[10] Karl Marx, Capital, Book I: The Process of Production of Capital, Vintage, New York 1977.

[11] Ana Esther Ceceña, Hegemonía, Emancipaciones y Políticas de Seguridad en América, Programa Democracia y Transformación Global, Lima, 2008.

[12] See Salomón Rivas Valenzuela, “Las maravillas del precámbrico,” publisher unknown, Santa Cruz, 2007. And check out Jevan Berrangé, “The eastern Bolivian mineral exploration project. Proyecto Precámbrico,” in Episodes, Vol. 1982, N°4.

[13] Through the reversion and expropriation of lands, the state has recovered around 2 million hectares. And through the restructuring of lands, about 10 million hectares in the lowlands have been recovered for the indigenous peoples and peasant communities.

[14] In those three departments, 45% of the representatives in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly come from social movements. Similarly, in the departments 21.4% of the departmental assembly members are from social movements.

Part 5: Once again on so-called 'extractivism'

Since Marx, we know that what characterizes and differentiates societies is the way in which they organize the production, distribution and use of the material and symbolic resources they possess. In other words, the mode of production[1] is what defines the material content of the social life of the distinct human territorial collectivities (nations, peoples, communities), within which there can be differentiated the historically specific form in which each of their components develop, and the manner in which various existing modes of production interrelate within the same society.

A mode of production is a web of social relations that involves specific forms of material relationships between the means of labour (tools), the objects of labour (“raw materials”), the labour force (the worker), the product of labour (result), the ownership of each of those components, the mutual relations of control or dependency, the technical organization of labour processes, the social use of the product of the work, etc. In each of these relations, which are part of the mode of social production, human beings are linked with each other and with nature through material means that are nothing but nature modified by social labour.

This means that there is a natural dimension in any productive social activity, and a social dimension in any creative natural activity; or if you prefer, the social is a component of the natural metabolism. In that sense, the way in which we human beings relate to nature forms part of the characteristics of a specific mode of social production.[2] In any case, human activity is possible solely through the transformation of nature, whether in the form of a hut or a city, a sown field or some sidewalks, a dam or a turbine, an axe or a dump truck; everything, absolutely everything, since life has existed on this planet. Natural and social life necessitates processing nature to extract the biological components of its reproduction and the material components of its tools. The human being by nature transforms and affects the surrounding nature; that is the invariable and trans-historical natural condition of any mode of production. However, what socially differentiates one mode of production from another is the way in which the human being relates to nature. All rural-based modes of production, prior to capitalism, without exception, have drastically affected and modified the natural environment. It is sufficient to see in our country the very large number of terraces in the Andes that guarantee the nourishment of millions of inhabitants in the Altiplano and the valleys,[3] the monumental system of ridges[4] or the artificial lakes of the Amazon that even now characterize the panorama of the plains of Beni. The major concentrations of humans have radically modified the environment in order to reproduce themselves. But the big difference that separates these environmental transformations from those that capitalism introduces to nature today is that the non-capitalist societies provided for the re-productive capacity of the modified environment and the continuity of what existed as a reservoir of goods of use (use values) for future generations. The organic and living conceptualization of nature that characterized these societies is derived from this manner of transforming it for collective purposes.

Capitalism, in contrast, reverses the reference coordinates of the environment with society. Nature is now a reservoir of material vehicles of exchange value, of profit. While in the other modes of production it is the great source of the means of life, of the use values that are sought after, under capitalism it is simply the material pretext for the exchange values (profits) that direct production. And destroying, protecting, pillaging, conserving are simply collateral, interchangeable components within a single social purpose: profit, the uninterrupted and infinite valorization of capital. And this logic is the founding objective that runs through everything: societies, persons and nature. Ultimately, with that objective capitalism is presented as a primary destructive force of human nature, and then of nature in general.

One component of the modes of production is the technical form of the relation of the human being with nature. This includes, firstly, the tools, the machine-tools that mediate labour with the raw material, and also the complexity of the transformation of that raw material, of the given or previously transformed nature. In this first component of the technical form we are talking about the characteristics and type of the productive forces (simple or complex; technical, organized, symbolic, etc.; collective or personal; artisanal, mechanical or industrial; intellectual; domestic, regional or universal, product of the social-world intellect, etc.). To some extent, this is the substantial technically evolving nucleus that differentiates the distinct social modes of production.[5]

In the case of the complexity of the transformation of nature, this can range from the extraction of the natural raw material (renewable like foodstuffs, wood, rubber, or non-renewable like minerals, hydrocarbons, etc.) to the manual, artisanal or industrial processing of that raw material or, at a higher level, when the “raw materials” are symbols and ideas and they are processed through the production of new, more complex ideas and symbols.

All societies and modes of production have in their own way those distinct levels of “raw materials” processing. If we conceptualize “extractivism” as the activity that simply extracts raw materials (renewables or non-renewables), without introducing greater transformation in the work performed, then all societies in the world, capitalist or non-capitalist, are also to a greater or lesser degree extractivist. The agrarian non-capitalist societies that processed iron, copper, gold or bronze on a greater or lesser scale had some type of specialized extractivist activity, complemented in some cases by the simple or complex processing of that raw material. And even societies that lived or are living from the extraction of wood and chestnuts in combination with hunting and fishing maintain a type of extractivist activity in relation to renewable natural resources.

Capitalist societies themselves have distinct levels of extractivist activity[6] which with the passage of time have given rise to activities of industrial processing. In certain cases, some societies have quickly passed to the production of ideas and symbols as their main productive activity. That implies an appropriation of the intellectual productive forces for processes of capitalist valorization (profit). But also, the non-capitalist ancient societies used modalities of this form of production of collective goods. Mathematics, astronomy, irrigation engineering[7] or religious ritual itself, which the Andean-Amazonian, Mayan or other civilizations developed, are social factories of ideas that worked on ideas and symbols.

What establishes differences in the historical epochs, and between the societies that have a similar general mode of production, is the specialization in their productive activities; that is, how they participate in the mode of territorially organizing the international division of labour.

There are countries that began as producers of raw materials, then moved to the phase of industrializing the production of raw materials and now tend to concentrate in scientific-technological production and services. A good many European countries, and North America, have gone that route. Other societies, from being producers of raw materials for the world market (primarily exporting “extractivist” economies), to the degree that the countries in the first group have displaced their industrial production to the periphery, have moved to activities complementary to their extractivism, to selective industrial processing, becoming the workshops of the world. Examples are Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, India and, in part, China.

But there are also societies, such as most of those in Latin America and Africa, that have remained in the primary-exporting sphere — fundamentally extractivist, or extractivist and agricultural. The capitalist world system is dynamic and continually reconfiguring in a conflictual way the geographical distribution of the distinct productive processes in terms of profit rates, access to markets, availability of a labour force and natural resources. Generally speaking, the colonial or post-colonial societies tend to be located in the primary-export area, but there are also numerous examples of colonial societies that have transitioned to the area of industrial processing (Brazil, Mexico, etc.), including the production of knowledge (South Africa, and in part China), although that does not mean they are no longer capitalist. This means that even when ceasing to be extractivist, capitalism does not end, as it can be extractivist or non-extractivist. So the central debate for the revolutionary transformation of society is not whether or not we are extractivist, but to what degree we are going beyond capitalism as a mode of production — whether in its extractivist or non-extractivist variant.

Within capitalism as a world-wide mode of production, each of these labour specializations of the countries and regions forms part of a similar scheme of predominance of the world capitalist system. And the revolutionary socialist processes that developed over the last 150 years have inherited as a condition of possibility and limitation — during the time they existed — this location in the international division of global labour. The Paris Commune, the Soviet Republic in the time of Lenin, or Mao’s China, did not break with this world-wide material base. They could not do that. Instead, what they did was to take as their point of departure their location in the division of labour and the level of their productive forces, so that from there they could begin to revolutionize the internal economic structures through a long process of socialization of the conditions of production, and to promote an even greater and longer process of revolutionary transformation of international economic relations. Lenin’s extraordinary reflections about the predominance of capitalism — in the midst of the Russian socialist revolution — and the implacable international division of labour, notwithstanding the presence of Soviet Russia,[8] are of the necessary scope and depth to understand the relevance of the contemporary revolution from the standpoint of socialism, but also the difficulties and limitations that any emancipatory process must confront in any part of the world, including that of the Bolivian Democratic-Cultural Revolution.

In contrast to a naïve ultraleftism that thinks a society can escape world domination by itself, Lenin and Marx remind us that capitalism operates on a world scale, and can only be overcome on a world scale.[9] So struggles and efforts for the socialization of production in a single country are simply that: efforts, battles and dispersed skirmishes that convey an historical intent but can triumph only if they expand to become struggles on a world scale. Communism either is world-wide or it will never be. And while there is a general predominance of capitalism, within it there are glimmers and tendencies of struggles of a potential new mode of production that cannot exist locally, and can only be present as just that: a tendency, a struggle, a possibility, for its existence is conceivable only on a worldwide geopolitical scale. The illusion of “communism in a single country” was just that: an illusion that brought disastrous consequences for the workers of that country and for the expectations of revolution in the 20th century.

Socialism is not a new mode of production that would coexist alongside capitalism, territorially contesting the world or one country. Socialism is a battlefield between capitalism in crisis and the tendencies, potentialities and efforts to bring production under community ownership and control.[10] In other words, it is the historical period of struggle between the dominant established capitalist mode of production and another potentially new mode of production. The only mode of production that will overcome capitalism is communism, the assumption of community ownership and control of production of the material life of society. And that mode of production does not exist piecemeal, it can only exist on a world scale. But until that happens the only thing that is left is the struggle.

This brief basic reminder of the logic of revolutionary processes is important because there are some who criticize us for submitting to the international division of labour, as if we could break from that division in a single country (Stalin’s illusion) and simply by wishing it. No contemporary revolution has been able to break the world division of labour, nor can it do so as long as there is no social mass politically mobilized and sufficiently extended territorially (at a global level) and technically sustainable to modify the correlation of the world’s geopolitical forces. So before we start tearing our hair out over the actual operation of the “capitalist division of labour,” the most important thing is to erode that division of labour through the territorial expansion of the world’s revolutionary and progressive processes.

Similarly, the Bolivian revolutionary process is criticized for remaining at the “extractivist” stage of the economy, which is said to maintain activity harmful to nature and to seal its dependency on world capitalist domination.

There is no historical evidence that certifies that the industrialized capitalist societies are less harmful to Mother Earth than those that devote themselves to the extraction of raw materials, whether renewable or non-renewable. Moreover, the information on global warming fundamentally refers to greenhouse gas emissions by the highly industrialized countries.[11] And as to the possibilities of regions that could exist in autarchy from the capitalist order, Marx more than 100 years ago made fun of some utopians who thought they could create social “islands” that would be immune from relations of capitalist domination. He ironically pointed out that perhaps some recently formed coral island in the South Seas[12] could fulfill this utopian requisite, but the rest of society was in one way or another already subject to the dominant economic relations.

Just as the extractivism of our societies is an integral part of the networks of the international division of labour, the industrial processing of raw materials or the knowledge economy are part of the same world capitalist division of labour. Neither extractivism nor non-extractivism is a solution to this worldwide domination. It is in fact conceivable that in the future construction of a communitarian mode of production, in which the whole of the common resources, material and immaterial, are produced and administered by the producers themselves, there will exist some countries and regions that are extractivist.

Therefore, it is naïve to think that extractivism, non-extractivism or industrialism are a vaccination against injustice, exploitation and inequality, because in themselves they are neither modes of producing nor modes of managing wealth. They are technical systems of processing nature through labour, and can be present in pre-capitalist, capitalist or communitarian societies. Economic systems with greater or lesser justice, with or without exploitation of labour, will only be possible depending on how those technical systems are used, how the wealth thereby produced is managed.

The critics of extractivism confuse technical system with mode of production, and from this confusion they go on to associate extractivism with capitalism, forgetting that there are non-extractivist, industrial, societies that are completely capitalist!

We can have extractivist societies that are capitalist, non-capitalist, pre-capitalist or post-capitalist. And similarly, we can have non-extractivist societies that are capitalist, non-capitalist or post-capitalist. Extractivism is not a goal in itself, but it can be the starting point for overcoming it. To be sure, condensed within it is the entire territorial distribution of the world division of labour — a distribution that is often colonial. And to break that colonial subordination it is not sufficient to sound off with insults against that extractivism, to stop producing and drive the people into greater misery, so later the Right returns and without modifying extractivism partially satisfies the basic needs of the population. That is precisely the trap of the unthinking critics who call for non-extractivism, who in their political liturgy mutilate the revolutionary forces and governments of the material means to satisfy the needs of the population, generate wealth and distribute it fairly, and thereby to create a new material non-extractivist base that preserves and amplifies the benefits of the labouring population.

Like any emancipation, to escape extractivism we have to start from it, from what, as a technical form, it has done to the society. At present, for us as a country, this is the only technical means we have to distribute the material wealth generated through extractivism (but in a way that differs from the preceding), and in addition to allow us to have the material, technical and cognitive conditions to transform its technical and productive base. Because if not, how will extractivism be overcome? By stopping production, closing the tin mines and gas wells, and retreating from satisfying the basic material means of existence, as its critics suggest? Isn’t that rather the route toward increasing poverty and the direct road to the restoration of the neoliberals? Isn’t that what the conservative forces most desire — tying our hands in the revolutionary process by rejecting extractivism — in order to strangle that process?

By overcoming extractivism we are not going to overcome capitalism. If only things were so easy! If that were the case — as some of our critics childishly believe — the United States would be the first communist country in the world! But be careful, that does not mean that overcoming extractivism cannot help the ongoing revolutionary processes. It can help, firstly, because the phases of industrialization or production of knowledge help to create a greater economic surplus that can be redistributed in order to satisfy the needs of society; secondly, because it can help to reduce the harmful environmental impacts; and thirdly, because it equips society with greater technical-productive capacity to control the overall production processes.

But in any event extractivism does not condemn us to capitalism nor does non-extractivism deliver us directly by the hand to socialism. It all depends on the political power, on the social mobilization capable of guiding the productive processes — extractivist or non-extractivist — toward increasing communal ownership and control over their operation and the social distribution of the resulting wealth.

And in this task, in an initial stage, isn’t it possible to use the resources produced by the state-controlled raw materials export activity to generate the surpluses that can be used to satisfy the minimum living conditions of Bolivians, and guarantee an intercultural, scientific education that generates a critical intellectual mass capable of taking over and leading the emerging processes of industrialization and the knowledge economy? Will socialism be knocking at the door if Bolivia stops producing raw materials? By dropping “extractivism” prematurely, would Bolivians have the material and intellectual resources to proceed immediately to the industrial and cognitive stages of production? Isn’t the uncritical condemnation of so-called extractivism in fact seeking to leave the Plurinational State poor and defenceless so it is unable to respond to the expansion of social rights that has arisen in the revolutionary process initiated in 2000?

It is necessary to go beyond the stage of being mere raw materials producers. That is clear. But that will not be achieved by regressing to the situation of state begging that characterized Bolivia until 2005, when the wealth we generated was in the hands of the foreign corporations. It will not be achieved by paralyzing the productive apparatus, opposing the surplus that comes from raw materials and regressing to an economy of self-subsistence that not only leaves us at a level of greater defencelessness than before, delivering us to the total abdication of any inkling of sovereignty (which requires as a material base that the country can live and eat from its labour), but in addition will open the doors to the employer-neoliberal restoration that will be presented as what can indeed satisfy the basic material demands of society.

Behind the recently constructed “extractivist” criticism of the revolutionary and progressive governments, then, lies the shadow of the conservative restoration. It is our view, however, that this criticism is best countered, in the first place, by meeting the urgent needs of the people, increasing the essential social benefits of the labouring classes and, on this basis, creating the cultural, educational and material conditions to democratize control of the common wealth, even to the point of going beyond the state institutions by establishing community ownership and control of property and social production itself within a perspective of deepening social mobilization and gradually overcoming extractivism. In the process, it is necessary at the same time to build a new technological base for production of wealth that will help to overcome extractivism.

And that is precisely what we are doing as a government: generating wealth[13] and redistributing it amongst the population[14]; reducing poverty and extreme poverty[15]; improving the educational status of the population.[16] And parallel to all that, we are beginning industrialization. In the case of hydrocarbons, through investment in two separate natural gas liquids plants: one in Gran Chaco, which will go into production in 2014, and the other in Río Grande, to begin in 2013. Furthermore, we have the Urea y Amoniaco [urea and ammonia] plant, costing $843 million, which will begin operating in 2015; an ethylene and polyethylene plant to begin production in 2016, and another for conversion of gas to liquid which is to begin functioning in 2014.[17] And we have taken major steps in relation to the industrialization of lithium. With Bolivian scientists and technology, the semi-industrial production of potassium chloride was begun in August this year, and before the end of the year the same will occur with lithium carbonate. By 2014 we are planning to have huge industrial production of potassium and lithium, as well as cathode and battery plants.[18]

The objective the President has recently put before all Bolivians is that by the bicentenary of Independence (i.e. by 2025), no materials produced in this country will be sold without some type of industrial processing, without some added value. This will require a profound scientific and technical transformation of the country and an unprecedented investment in knowledge. And we will do this, of course.

Obviously, this is not a simple process. It will take years, perhaps decades. The important thing is to reorient the direction of production, without overlooking the fact that today it is necessary to satisfy as well the pressing basic needs, those which were precisely what led the population to undertake the construction of state power. And that is what we are doing in Bolivia.

Notes for Part 5

[1] Karl Marx, Capital, Book I, The Process of Production of Capital, Vintage, New York 1977.

[2] Karl Marx, “Forms which precede capitalist production,” in Grundrisse, Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy, Section Two, Vintage, New York 1973.

[3] John V. Murra, El Mundo Andino. Población, Medio Ambiente y Economía, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, Peru, 2002.

[4] Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Knopf, 2005.

[5] Álvaro García Linera, Forma Valor y Forma Comunidad, aproximación teórico-abstracta a los fundamentos civilizatorios que preceden al ayllu universal, CLACSO/COMUNA, La Paz, 2009.

[6] Jan de Vries, The Industrious Revolution: Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the Present (New York, 2008). Also, David Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (New York, 1998).

[7] Hans Horkheimer, Alimentación y obtención de alimentos en los Andes Prehispánicos, Hisbol, La Paz, 1990.

[8] Lenin, “Eleventh Congress Of The R.C.P.(B.), March 27-April 2, 1922,” in Collected Works, 2nd English Edition, Moscow 1965, vol. 33, pages 237-242. See also the exhaustive analysis of the Soviet economy in the Leninist phase, in Charles Bettelheim, Class Struggles in the USSR, First Period: 1917-1923, Monthly Review Press, New York 1976 (Translation by Brian Pearce).

[9] K. Marx, F. Engels, The German Ideology, Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 5.

[10] Etienne Balibar, On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, New Left Books, 1977.

[11] “El Cambio Climático en América Latina y el Caribe”. Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, 2006.

[12] Marx, Capital, op. cit.

[13] In the last six years of President Morales’ administration, the GDP has increased from $9.5 billion to $23.7 billion, and the average income of Bolivians from $1,000 in 2005 to $2,238 in 2011. UDAPE, Informe 2012.

[14] In the last six years, the percentage of GDP directly transferred in cash transfers to the population has reached 1.1% on average (UDAPE). And if we compare the figures for 2010 with those for Latin America, Bolivia’s percentage (1.57%) ranks first, ahead of Ecuador’s (1.17%), Mexico’s (0.51%) and Brazil’s (0.47%), among others.

[15] In six years, the proportion of the population living in poverty has declined from 60% to 48%, and extreme poverty from 38% to 24.3%. Extreme poverty in the urban areas has declined from 24% to 14%, and in rural areas from 62% in 2005 to 43% in 2011. UDAPE, Informe 2012.

[16] We defeated the age-old illiteracy in 2008. The percentage of GDP devoted to education this year is 8.21%. In 2005, the universities were receiving $164 million in transfers from the state. In contrast, in 2011 the public universities received $385 million. Ministry of Economy and Finance, Informe 2012.

[17] Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Informe 2012.

[18] Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy, Informe 2012.