By Jorge Sanmartino
July 21, 2008, some 15 days before the recall referendum, the Bolivian
Workers Central (COB) initiated an indefinite general strike with roadblocks and permanent protests until its pension law project is
approved by Congress. It was the most important protest that the COB has
organised in years. Jamie Solares, the most radical of all the COB
spokespeople, even maintained that if the law was not approved the COB
would call for a “protest vote”. The current executive secretary of the
Departmental Workers Central of Oruro (COD) was the executive
secretary of the COB until 2006.
a combative tone, Solares tends to invoke Lenin to justify some of his
own actions. Could we therefore invoke the advice of the old Bolshevik
leader in order to explain what the COB is doing today? Because its
indefinite general strike, blockading the main highways in the country,
blowing up bridges with dynamite and direct confrontation has cost
the lives of two miners in Huanuni and more than 30 injured.
repression was ferocious, with rubber bullets, and if a delicate
equilibrium between workers and peasants existed until now, it is
possible that it is rapidly breaking down. The government insists that
it did not give the order to repress.
wins? Disconcerted, looking to one side and the other, blockade here
and there, strikes by the right and by the left, pickets on both sides.
A few days out from the recall referendum. It is curious, because there
is not a single radical left militant in Bolivia who does not know
about the destabilisation process that the Evo Morales government is
facing at the hands of the right.
his monumental work History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky
described the political and tactical capabilities of Vladmir Lenin, his
ability to interpret each political moment, each conjuncture, because
definitively, in politics as in war, you cannot obtain your strategic
objective if you do not correctly read critical conjunctures. Trotsky
relays to us the case of the siege of the Kerensky government by
General Kornilov’s troops. The masterful formula of Lenin was to fire
against Kornilov over the shoulders of Kerensky. He could not directly
oppose himself to the head of the provisional government while his head
was in danger off rolling not at the hands of the soviets but of a
restorational coup. Lenin contested with Kerensky the leadership of the
struggle against the coup.
Solares reminded me of this anecdote. He put the history of that coup
attempt in the mirror. He inverts it. Solares fires against Kerensky,
leaning his rifle on the shoulder of Kornilov.
met Solares in October of 2006, at a meeting of recuperated factories
and Latin American unions in Caracas. We stayed in the same hotel, the
Anauco, where all the other foreign delegations were. I was introduced
to him in the lobby and we talked for at least half an hour. It was
Morales had assumed the presidency in January that year. Solares told
me, as if he was talking to a friend, that the COB was ready to
overthrow the government if it did not comply with the October agenda.
He said, moreover, that he would give them three more months. No more.
The only thing left to resolve, he argued, was the issue of
armaments. Solares dedicated himself to impressing radical tourists
with his proletarian army made out of cardboard. I left my bottle of
beer on the table and left. Solares was the comedy that the drama of
the glorious COB of the past had left as residue.
Bolivian radical left wants the “campesino government” to accept the
workers' demands. If we could give them some advice, from the lessons
that Lenin left us, we would say that they should try to achieve the
unity of the workers and peasants and not the eternal hate that the
great national, peasant and indigenous majorities are on the verge of
feeling towards the COB. A wound that might not heal for a long time.
the COB had placed itself at the head of a campaign for the re-election
of the president, participating together with the immense majority of
the people in defence of their government under siege by superior
forces from inside and outside, the COB could receive, the following day,
the enthusiastic support of many Bolivians for its proposed
pension law, or at least one that overcomes the neoliberal
insufficiency of the government’s project. Moreover the COB would be in
a better position if eventually it was left with no other option but
to go to a national strike.
could accuse the COB of aiding the right if it did as its mentor
Vladmir Illich did? But no. When Evo Morales accuses the COB of aiding
imperialism, something that Lenin avoided by firing against Kornilov
over the shoulders of Kerensky, Jamie Solares responds by saying that
“the only faithful instrument of international imperialism and
submissive servant of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is Evo Morales”,
in passing feeding the ultrarightist slander that Evo Morales is a
puppet of Chavez. He said this, word for word.
Other groups on the
radical left, fortunately very small, have called for an “active
boycott of this illegal and reactionary referendum”. Given that the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS)
government is weak in the face of the right, given it does not use the
weapons at hand to combat the right, then let the right win. How
could we classify this position without adding qualifying adjectives?
Bolivian government has been facing a permanent process of
destabilisation for a long time now. The local right wing, under the banner
of “autonomism”, and maintained by the US administration, has time and
time again lashed out in order to wipe the indigenous president off the
map. A few days out from the recall referendum, new marches, hunger
strikes, blockades of airports, pickets and warnings to not step foot
in Sucre are other actions to impede the referendum going ahead, given
that the right is set to be the lose at the ballot box. They have said
that no matter what the result of the referendum is, they will continue
with their autonomy plan. Civic activists and university students from
Tarija yesterday took over the El Sol hotel, where the Venezuelan
soldiers were meant to stay. The Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee hosted
a hunger strike “until the government returns the funds from the Direct Tax on Hydrocarbons (IDH) to
us”. Leading the picket is the
agroindustrial businessowner and civic president Branco Marinkovic.
true that in order to stop the right it is necessary to adopt more
radical measures in all spheres: handing over land to the peasants,
improving salaries and people’s living conditions, and even the most
widest and combative popular mobilisations possible, something that Evo
continues to have doubts about. But none of this can be promoted from
the kerbside on the other side of the path that the Bolivian people
have begun to walk down and feel as their own. The radical left, if it
hopes to have any role that will deserve to be rescued by history, will
do so only on the condition of knowing against who and from where they
need to take aim in the current circumstances.
[Jorge Sanmartino is a member of Economists of the Left, the Gramscian Association and the Praxis Current. Translated from the Spanish original at Rebelion by Bolivia Rising.]