Bolivia

Manifesto to the Nation of workers, peasants and poor peoples

June 08, 2009

Thousands of issues of this Manifesto were circulated by the Bolivian section of the Fracción Trotskista-LORCI- during the peasant and workers’ revolts back in April

Forward with the Political General Strike and the road blockades!

After the great events of April and September of 2000; the bourgeoisie has come out badly wounded. The ruling régime established in 1986, based on agreements, pacts and compromises among the different cliques of the ruling classes, is rapidly falling apart due to the effects of an economic crisis that no longer allows pacific co-existence among different bourgeois sectors. The likelihood of the fall of government became real during these two important events; first due to the failure of the state of siege and the victory of the people of Cochabamba, and later on due to the road blockades by the peasants who kept the country paralyzed for several weeks. If the government has not fallen yet its because the workers who control the levers of the economy: gas and oil industry workers; public transport and railroads workers; electricity and water workers and those at banks and factories have by and large remained passive. For such a reason, after these great battles between the classes, the bourgeoisie has rushed to launch a counteroffensive, seeking to stop the development of the various conflicts engaging itself in negotiations and preventive repression, seeking to strengthen its regime, granting new and more important concessions to discontent bourgeois sectors, as the U$S 323 million bailout, for paying back bank debts and funding cheap credits programs (La Razon, March 27). Every time the workers, peasants and the poor are defeated in any struggle for particular demands, the bourgeoisie takes advantage of this rebuilding their institutions and preparing the repressive forces for a likely workers and people’s upheaval (Pulso, March 23). The demands of farmers during September as well as the demands of the people of Cochabamba of "free water for all", have both been ignored. The Unified Set of Demands raised by the COB shall not be completely fulfilled- as it happened before. The small tenant peasants at Oruro have been given some miserable crumbs, and those coming from Cochabamba en route to La Paz were repressed before making half of their march. Industrial workers at La Paz are gassed each time they come out to struggle. The Yungas in La Paz are militarized more and more each day. We must end this situation. We have to learn that not a single demand of workers, peasants and the poor will be met by this government subservient of bankers, the bosses and international financial capital. We must prepare for a great national struggle that, unlike April and September when only the rural mass movement took part of them, all sectors of the working class movement in the cities are brought into the fray, to definitely get rid of Banzer’s government and his henchmen from MIR and UCS. Several bourgeois sectors seek for an institutional reshuffle or else a call to anticipated elections. These spoke out in the last businessmen congress in Santa Cruz. However this it is a new attempt, in case the government is eventually knocked down, of deceiving workers once again, possibly luring them with the promise of a government headed -if need be- by the MNR. Workers must step up the fight that should culminate in a government of the working class and people’s organizations built in the heat of these combat; i.e., a government responding to the interests of the people’s majorities that cannot be any other than a government of workers and peasants. We, rural and urban workers together should step up the fight to culminate in a Political General Strike with road blockades that may once and for all impose our just demands.

In order to prepare ourselves for this battle it is very important that those organizations who claim their commitment to real and profound changes, as the COB, the different peasant union organizations, headed by Mallku, Veliz, or Morales, as well as the leaders of the Coordinadora del Agua y la Vida de Cochabamba (Forum for Water and Life of Cochabamba), and the various industrial, electricity, water distribution organizations etc., call immediately for grassroot meetings at all work places to unify the different sectors in a common struggle. The preparation and organization of such a combat is vital, and it should start with the election of revocable and accountable delegates, in the road to build a chief of staff of the workers and the people: a National Strike Committee or a National Struggle Committee. Such committee should decide on an emergency workers plan, in line with the one we are proposing below. Finally, to stop the attempted crackdown of the armed forces and the police, the workers, peasants and popular organizations should fight for the dissolution of the corrupt national police forces and the whole repressive state apparatus: for self-defense committees and the arming of all workers.

The Committe of Cochabamba, the COB, the CSUTCB, and all the unions that claim being combative, must open discussions to organize a true General Political Strike with road blockades, to oust Banzer from government and to impose a transitional government of workers, peasants and peoples organizations.

For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly!

Since the events of September, several sectors of bourgeoisie argue about the need to the Constitution of the republic. Both political and bosses sectors have asked Banzer and his government to resign. When the Santa Cruz forum ended back in March, the Bolivian bosses, have argued in favour of a constitutional reform to legitimate the attacks they have been carrying out for decades against the labor movement: they want to legitimate the expropriation of the land and the water, labor flexibility, the sell-out of all natural resources to multinationals, the cuts in health and education, etc.

Likewise, those sectors disguised in left robes as the Movimiento Sin Miedo are intent upon saving this discredited democracy for the rich promoting constitutional changes, but without the will to address to the big economic and social problems affecting the people. Such policies put forward by former judge Costa Obregón, a "fighter" for real honesty and transparency in institutions as justice, the parliament, etc.; i.e., the fundamentals of this democracy. He counted with the collaboration of other "leftists" as the Communist Party of Bolivia, Partido Socialista Uno, and other groups who are once again trying to save democracy by means of making some cosmetic changes on it.

While the representatives of the ruling classes play the game of "democracy", wide sectors of the mass movement trust that their sufferings will finish if a Constituent Assembly is convened. The continuous statements of the leaders of Coordinadora del Agua y la Vida de Cochabamba reflect such mood, as well as the document passed after the Congreso de las seis Federaciones del Tropico Cochabambino, declaring that issues such as the land, territory, coca plantations, the re-nationalization of companies, etc., should be worked out by a Constituent Assembly. The democratic illusions are also reflected in the ambiguous stand of the various union federations and organizations leaning on the fair demands of the mass movement overestimate the actual power an eventual Assembly could have.

The revolutionary Marxists of the LOR-CI support the democratic aspirations of the mass movement, but unlike all these sectors, we argue that there cannot be any Constituent Assembly able to fulfill the needs of workers and the oppressed people of Bolivia - if it is convened by the present government and political regime. It is utopian to suppose that the current régime and government will allow a real Constituent Assembly to discuss the big national issues such as the foreign debt, the agrarian demands, etc., when this same regime based on behind-the-scenes maneuvers by the traditional bourgeois parties (DNA, MIR, UCS, MNR, CONDEPA, NFR, etc) who brought the country to this situation in the first place. This regime based on bribes and perks is responsible for all the restrictive and repressive measures against the democratic participation of workers. This regime and government have broken even the most elementary rules of "their" democracy, preparing a scandalous fraud in the upcoming elections such as the gerrymandering last February. They were the ones who imprisoned, repressed and murdered workers in the countryside and the city in the months of April and September last year, not to mention Amayapampa, Capasirca, etc. These are the reasons why we fight for a Constituent Assembly called by a provisional government of labor organizations, built on the ruins of the revolutionary fall of the current régime and its representative, the Banzer’s government. In this sense, the policies of Olivera and other representatives from labor and people’s organizations of convening a Constituent Assembly to find a solution for all national problems, reveals itself as an imposture because they do not raise the slogan of a Political General Strike to oust the government. The nation-wide generalization of the experience of the Coordinadora del Agua y la Vida de Cochabamba based on democratic meetings and revocable delegates should be the firs task for anyone wanting a real change. So should be the creation and development of self-defense bodies of the mass movement, as the only reassurance the will of most workers, the peasants and the people be respected.

Oscar Olivera lies to the workers and the people when he talks of a Constituent Assembly to solve the great problems of the country, while refusing to prepare and organize the Political General Strike on the base of the independent organization and mobilization of workers. The Partido Obrero Revolucionario also refuses to fight for Revolutionary Constituent Assembly upon the fall of the current regime and government.

For a workers emergency plan

The international economic crisis, deepened by the slowing down of the US economy that grew at a 4% rate for a whole decade, together with the agriculture crisis in Europe, are strengthening the protectionist tendencies in several European countries, causing drops of the stock markets and deepening the recessive tendencies striking our continent since the 1997 crisis. This situation has led to renewed anti-working class plans of imperialism and the local ruling classes that might deepen the economic crisis and fuel labor resistance, as the mid-March general strike in Argentina proves.

Given the gloomy economic prospect, we are likely to see several conflicts that might undermine the imperialist order. The weakened US government; the new flare-ups of war in Chechnya; the new conflicts in the Balkans; the Palestinian uprising and the likelihood of all-out war in the Middle East; etc., are all elements causing great world instability.
In our continent the economic crisis and the recessive tendencies in several countries threaten to get worse, particularly in the Southern Cone, where MERCOSUR has turned useless. US imperialism wants greater colonization, a drive materialized in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA); and their more aggressive foreing policy- for instance, the Plan Colombia.

While for the representatives of big international capital, of the states, of all bourgeois cliques is business as usual, massive struggles are questioning these austerity drives as a whole, as those in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and recently in Argentina. Likewise, hundreds of thousand of young anti-capitalists in the imperialist heartlands come out on struggle, first it was Seattle in the USA, later London, Paris, Niza, Melbourne, and in February Cancun, Mexico.

These movements are strong allies of the struggles of the semi-colonial peoples such as ours. The Bolivian workers and the poor should support and be part of this new vanguard with high revolutionary potential in the heart of the empire.

In this situation of growing economic insecurity, the national bourgeoisie is preparing new harsher attacks against the workers and the people. Hence we make an urgent call to them raise a strategy to fight back the IMF-sponsored austerity drive, supported by the local ruling classes.
We workers should begin by breaking away with imperialism; be the economic, political and military ties. The economic plans implemented in the past two decades in the continent are proof positive that the governments and bourgeois parties alike do not flinch when it comes to making the people and the workers pay for the crisis; this was also true in the last national crisis in March in Argentina. The payment of the foreign debt and its interests -one that has only enriched the bosses, governments and their cronies and multinationals- has become one of the greatest looting in the Bolivian and continental contemporary history. Therefore, the workers and the people should fight for the non payment of the fraudulent debt and put all available resources to the service of a true liberation and national reconstruction. The imperialist interference in the last two decades and the re-colonization of Bolivia has led imperialism to push ahead with the expropriation of the lands of the peasants by means of the Act INRA, the Forest Act and the reforms to the Mining Code. All this legislation was strongly questioned and fought against by the peasant movement last September. Likewise, the interference of imperialism with the complicity of the DNA, MIR, MNR etc. has led to constant slaughters against our people with the only intention of controlling the juicy monopoly of the drugs traffic. Now they are seeking to escalate this offensive with the construction of a military fortress in the Yungas region (Sta. Ana de Huachi), as part of the "Colombia Plan" for Bolivia. The revolutionary Marxists hold there are no possibilities of an integral solution for the agrarian question unless we break with imperialism. For that reason, the workers, the peasants and all the people should fight to drive the DEA, CIA and all the economic, political and military agencies of US imperialism out from Bolivia. The starting point is the demand for the free production, commercialization and industrialization of the coca leaf.

Down to the INRA Act! and all the regulations that favor and cover up for the expropriation of the lands of the peasants and the aboriginals.
The failure of the 1953 MNR-sponsored agrarian reform has been confirmed by the misery of the rural masses along these decades. The revolutionary Marxists fight for the collectivization of the land and its subordination and integration to a national development plan to feed and produce for the whole nation. However, in the face of the permanent attempts at expropriation on the part of capitalist speculators, we are ready to defend and fight for the land under the conditions that the rural movement considers necessary.
Also, the government’s intention to commercialize the water hits the miserable economy of the peasants hard; against this we should demand that the use of water be organized according to the traditions of the different communities.

For the past two decades the take-over of multinational companies producing cocoa, coffee, chestnut, etc. have led workers in this branch to semi-slavery conditions due to the monopolistic control of these companies setting the prices and wages at will. The uprising of entire families in the town of Caranavi last year revealed the degree of exploitation they are subjected to, pointing out objectively that workers and peasants should impose, to end this situation, the state monopoly of foreign trade.

All these measures mentioned are the first steps for a movement of national and social liberation that cannot be carried out behind the backs of the oppressed majority of the nation. As the national crisis in September has shown, no real liberation struggle by all the oppressed nation can be pursued without the active participation of the Aymaras and Quechua communities. That is why workers must defend the right to self-determination of the oppressed minorities.

The imperialist take over of the past decades, has deepened the extremely parasitical role of the national bourgeoisie, where the financial and speculative capital has seized the main levers of the economy, displacing the old weak productive sector and making the whole productive apparatus extremely vulnerable to the ups and downs in the international economy. The extremely parasitical role of this social sector was seen once more after the last congress of the bosses in Santa Cruz, where they demanded the deepening of neoliberal measures against the workers and the people, while demand more protectionist measures for their business, demanding even that the $7 billion worth of international reserves of the country be used to bail out their juicy businesses. While the bosses, bankers, speculators, etc., all try to avoid the national and international economic crisis, squeezing the workers once again, these should put forward a program that starts by defending the conquests we have. One that makes to the capitalists pay for the crisis.

The workers must impose a sliding scale of wages for all sectors, both state or private workers, to catch up with the ever increasing cost of life.
Faced with the permanent attempts at increasing labor flexility and wage cuts by means of more unemployment, we must demand the distribution of all working hours among all hands available, without cutting wages- imposing it onto the capitalists and their state.
To fight back the permanent speculation on the price of gasoline and fuel, we need to re-nationalize the oil companies and all privatized utilities without any compensation, putting them to work under direct control of the workers, at the service of the whole national productive apparatus, unlike today, when this is used for the profiteering of the few.

During the last year we have seen how the national speculative financial system has sent thousand of small borrowers to ruin, with high interests rates that eventually lead to repossessions of the wretched households. This situation contrasts with the last governmental scheme to save the big and middle bosses that will assign several hundred millions of dollars to help this sector. It is necessary to put an end to the speculative and unpopular financial system, introducing a single State Banking controlled by workers.

The bourgeoisie and its government aims to break down free and public education pushing ahead with the Education Reform, the liquidation of the university autonomy or the systematic reduction of the national education budget has already caused the shut down of dozens of night-schools. The workers and the people have to fight for "Education for all", demanding the Education Reform be scrapped altogether and the education budget be increased right now with funds coming from the non-payment of the fraudulent foreign debt and progressive taxation of the rich. While the different governments reduce the meager national educational budget, the repressive forces of the state, the army and the police receive more money, as it can be seen in the last proposed budget.

All these measures shall not be carried out by the current representatives of the ruling classes, without superseding the Bolivian capitalist and semi-colonial state. The workers must fight for a government of their own, in alliance with the peasantry, the only way to ameliorate the wretched conditions of the oppressed and exploited classes. The revolutionary Marxists of the LOR-CI claim that there the agrarian question, national liberation, and all of the demands of the oppressed shall be fully achieved in a Workers and Socialist Republic.
Trotsky, the issue of a Constituent Assembly and Lora’s POR
On the months before September 2000, the discussions about a Constituent Assembly had not gone beyond the narrow limits of "progressive" intellectual circles or others who saw the democratic regime was fatally eroded, and looked for formulas to rebuild both the system and the illusions of the population in universal suffrage and the actual representation.

However, those who held such views, found their democratic preaching found an unprecedented echo during September, during the most important crisis of last year: the Coordinadora por el Agua y la Vide de Cochabamba voted along dozens of thousands of demonstrators in a city assembly, the need to oust the government and the need to convene a Constituent Assembly. However those who had assured that the illusions in formal democracy were a thing of the past in Bolivia, i.e., the loristas , were caught unawares.

After the events of September, where the main political discussion inside the labor and people’s organizations were about the Constituent Assembly, this group, far from trying to meditate about the meaning of this demand and to contrast it with the revolutionary experiences along the XX century, they concluded that they should oppose to the slogan of Constituent Assembly, replacing it for that of Popular Assembly.
However, reality is much richer and stronger that any mental construction of a man or group, however combative they can be. For the past 15 years the bourgeois democratic régime has relied above all on the passive trust of the rural movement in the democratic institutions. The NGOs were also instrumental in reinforcing democratic prejudices among the rural masses. The so-called "Participación Popular" scheme, along with other diverse formal concessions that the régime made to the peasants and the aboriginal movements on a cultural level. These included constitutional and judicial regulations that helped to co-opt the rural movement.

Later, when the rural masses awake to political life in the events of September, they do it imbued with a profound democratic desire, wanting respect for the will of the majorities. The concept of democracy based on number or quantity is a strictly formal democratic concept, it is from here that the demand for a Constituent Assembly gains its strength.

It is was an understanding of this situation which brought the great revolutionaries of the 20th century as Lenin and Trotsky to give paramount importance to the struggle for the formal democratic demands. Not only in semi-colonial countries without parliamentary tradition as Russia in 1917 or China in 1927-29, but also in countries with long parliamentary tradition as France in 1934 ("Action Program for France", 1934, León Trotsky). The Third International of Lenin and Trotsky and later the Left Opposition and the Fourth International understood that the struggle of the masses seeking satisfaction of formal democratic tasks (not to mention structural tasks) could lead to the creation of bodies for struggle and embryos of workers power as well as to the workers and people’s independent armament. In this way, the demand for a constituent assembly would be telescoped into the construction of a workers state. Likewise, the defense of these demands allowed revolutionaries to expose the reformist character of the petty bourgeois leaderships, both urban or peasant ones who refused to organize a serious struggle for these demands, trusting the regime’s institutions.

When Lora’s POR abandons these elementary lessons gives in and becomes an accomplice not only of Oscar Olivera but also of Costa Obregón, due to the impotence of its politics to expose the reformism of this individuals, who lean on important democratic illusions of the mass movement. It is totally sterile to suppose that the workers and the peasants who have not yet decided to go for a socialist revolution, when they put their hopes of social change in a Constituent Assembly. But we cannot believe the masses would fight for an elusive Popular Assembly- just because of Lora and his POR tell them to do so.
This sterility becomes an infantile disorder, since by demanding a Popular Assembly be convened, they turn their back onto important sectors of the mass movement, ignoring the concrete and real organizations the mass movement has built for the struggle, like the embryonic soviet-type Coordinadora del Agua y la Vida de Cochabamba -mainly during April 2000.

LOR-CI / April 9