Bolivia is at a crucial juncture. The counter-revolution is using all its weapons to break the back of the Evo Morales government.
The oligarchy was defeated and demoralised after the revolutionary uprising of May-June 2005 and the victory of the MAS in the December 2005 presidential elections. But the reluctance of the Morales government to go beyond the limits of capitalism was used by the oligarchy to go on to the offensive. What they feared was not so much the MAS government, but the aspirations of the masses of workers and peasants that supported it.
Every vacillation of the Morales government (particularly personified in vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera, the ideologue of "Andean capitalism") was understood by the oligarchy as a sign of weakness and a signal to go on the offensive. This allowed them to reorganise their forces and spread their social basis of support amongst the petty-bourgeoisie and backward layers in the regions they control, mainly in the "Eastern crescent" around Santa Cruz.
Since the elections to the Constituent Assembly, a year and a half ago, the oligarchy has tried to block its proceedings using parliamentary and extra-parliamentary pressure. The MAS has made concession after concession. They agreed to rules which state that every article must be passed by a two-thirds majority, and these have allowed the oligarchy to prevent any advances simply by refusing to vote.
Then they agreed to hold the sessions of the Constituent Assembly in Sucre, far from the reaches of La Paz and El Alto, the heartland of the Bolivian revolution. The oligarchy used this opportunity to promote a political conflict over the issue of which city was to be the capital. They argued that after more than 100 years Sucre should be again the seat of parliament and the government. At the end of November, they used reactionary gangs to place the Constituent Assembly under siege. During the clashes that ensued, two pro-oligarchy demonstrators were killed by unknown gunmen. The oligarchy needed "martyrs" in order to continue whipping up the frenzy of their social base and blamed the police and the Morales government for these two deaths.
Faced with threats of being lynched by the right-wing mob, MAS deputies withdrew from Sucre and continued the sessions of the Constituent Assembly in the mining district of Oruro, boycotted by the right wing. They passed a draft of the new constitution which the right wing refused to recognise, despite the fact that it guarantees private property rights and "autonomy" for the country's departments, a demand of the oligarchy through which it wants to ensure control over oil and gas resources in the regions they control in order to hand them over to the multinationals.
The right wing also declared its visceral opposition to a new government decree guaranteeing a monthly subsidy of 25 dollars to elderly people over 60 years of age, financed with the oil revenues from every region. The oligarchy attacked this as an "assault on the departmental budgets" and has refused to implement the decree in the regions they control.
As part of their reactionary agitation around these issues they have organised so-called "regional strikes", at the end of August, in November and December, with mass rallies and hunger strikes.
Despite all this, the government has insisted on its appeals for calm and reconciliation, which can only serve to spread demoralisation amongst its own ranks.
The oligarchy's plan is to erode support for the Morales government and wait for the ranks of workers and peasants to become demoralised and passive, thus creating the conditions for a counter-offensive. They are also trying to win enough points of support in the army to launch a coup, though this seems to be ruled out in the short term. At the same time they keep pushing the card of secession from Bolivia of the departments they control.
As the comrades from the Corriente El Militante in Bolivia say: "this is the result of two years of mistakes and vacillations of the MAS government in the face of the multinationals, imperialism, the oligarchy and the right wing, which seemed to have been pushed to one side by the 2005 elections. This is the result of having abandoned the Pulacayo Theses, the teachings and analysis of Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz and of other revolutionaries in the country's history".
What should be done faced with this situation? The alternative is to mobilise the worker and peasant masses, not only on the basis of slogans but also with concrete and practical measures to break the economic rule of the pro-imperialist ruling class.
We leave the last word to the Bolivian comrades who explain:
"Faced with the onslaught of the right wing and with their political and economic sabotage, the government must go onto the offensive, basing itself on the mobilisation of the masses. First of all breaking with any idea of reaching deals with the right wing; abolishing all the laws of the decade of neo-liberalism, which only brought misery; nationalising the banks, big companies and farms which are at the forefront of the right wing's economic war; centralising the economic resources in order to launch a plan of social works which can guarantee jobs for all and development of the country's infrastructures.
"On the other hand we appeal to the COB trade union, the factory workers' organisations, the vanguard of the miners and to all social organisations and MAS activists not to remain passive:
- to set up self-defence brigades to prevent a counter-revolutionary coup;
- to call and prepare a national general strike by holding mass demonstrations all over the country in order to defend, reorient and deepen the course of the revolutionary process.
"A strike that should be
- against the oligarchy, the right wing, imperialism and their sabotage, in defence of the revolutionary process;
- for the abolition of all the decrees that introduced the neo-liberal policies;
- for a new system of social security based on a proper pensions law and social security cover for all;
- for the nationalisation of all natural resources under democratic control of the workers themselves;
- for the nationalisation of the big food companies, the latifundia and the banks starting with those that are involved in the economic sabotage;
- the people must take the initiative again through Peoples' Assemblies"