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(en) Ireland, WSM* Workers Solidarity #91 - Changes in Bolivia - The victory of Evo Morales

Date Wed, 12 Apr 2006 11:03:52 +0300

The victory of Evo Morales in the presidential elections in Bolivia in December
has underlined once more that across Latin America there is a demand for change.
The first significant victory came back in 2002 when Lulu, the leader of the Brazilian
Workers Party was elected to power after a long and arduous campaign that stretched
back almost two decade. It is claimed that Lulu's victory and his pronouncements about
making Brazil a fairer society sent `shivers' through world stock markets.
Although different in origins and style, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has had a
similar impact on the world stage ­prised by those seeking radical change; at-
tacked by those connected with business and financial institutions. Chavez is
former army officer and was first elected to power in 1998.
Despite repeated efforts at destabil-
ising his regime, including one al-
most successful coup attempt, he has
remained in power. He is widely hailed
among Venezuela's poor and in 2004
survived a rightwing inspired referen-
dum aimed at driving him from office.

Evo Morales is of a similar ilk. His Move-
ment To Socialism is an alliance of
indigenous activists and peoples' move-
ments whose declared aims are for the
nationalisation of the natural resources
of Bolivia and the setting up of a proper
representative parliament. Although nei-
ther of these demands might appear to be
radical, in terms of Bolivian society and
history they are. Just over 100 identifi-
able families control the most of wealth
and resources of Bolivia, which remains
the poorest society in South America.


The rise to power of Morales, Chavez
and Lulu (among others) has come at
the end of a long and sustained period of
conservative rule in the Latin American
region. Brutal dictatorship, fixed elections
and repression have been repeatedly used
to stem any popular pressure for change.
However since the early 90s and following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has
been a gradual and slow return to normal-
ity. Although open and fairer elections
have been back in favour, all they have
resulted in is the imposition of neo-lib-
eral policies in the region. The disastrous
impact of these policies ­ privatisations,
cutbacks, and subsidies of the wealthy
- together with the overwhelming and
persistant sense that nothing has really
changed in the region is feeding this new
upsurge in electorate support for what
are perceived to be `radical' left leaders.
The recent victories then, in this sense,
are important in terms of what they
represent. Popular movement are recov-
ering their confidence and the election
successes reflect the fact that people
want and demand change. But the big-
gest question of all remains ­ what can
be achieved through electoral successes?
Bolivia is one case in point. Although
Morales' victory has been widely hailed
and celebrated, it is recognised and feared
by many of his supporters that he won't
`dare' to push forward towards the nation-
alisation of Bolivia's wealth. Leave aside
for a moment the question of whether
nationalisation would be of any use to
the workers of Bolivia. The problem that
Morales faces it that to suggest nation-
alisation would be to `provoke' the wealthy
elite who will not tolerate handing over
any of their money. Ditto with the demand
for a legitimate parliament. So in
a sense then Moralez may well have been
elected `to power' but he has in fact very
little `power'. He holds office on condi-
tion ­ and this condition is that he will
not implement what he really stands for.
As anarchists have repeatedly pointed
out, it is one of pitfalls off electoral
success. For radicals to stay in power
they must renege on their programme.

A different and worse example of
the pitfalls of electoral politics comes
from the situation in Brazil. Since Lulu
came to power in 2002 the process
of compromising to stay in power
has accelerated at a rapid pace. Last
year Lulu's Workers Party was implicated
in a process of widespread corruption ­
paying parliament members for theirs
votes to seal majorities in votes. Secret and
underhand deals are rife with Lulu him-
self `taking the advice' of a number of
economic advisors and abandoning
the platform on which he was elected.
Last year he implemented a series of
neo-liberal polices that specifically hurt
the poor. His radical sheen is well gone.
Although `the electoral road' is touted as
a means for bring about change, it has
disappointed repeatedly. More to the
point it needs to be borne in mind that
the electoral movement is not as such the
movement. Rather they have capitalised
on what is already happening across the
region. Important grassroots movements
have emerged which while diffuse in struc-
tures nevertheless are clear in their de-
mands ­ change will have to come. As one
Moralez supporter put it. "If Evo doesn't
deliver, we will rebel again.' In Bolivia as
elsewhere it is these grassroots movement
that hold the long-term key to the creation
of a revolutionary movement.

From Workers Solidarity 91, March/April 2006
PDF file online at http://www.struggle.ws/pdfs/ws/
* Anarchist federation
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