[Editor's Note: This document was discussed, amended and voted in July by the 2006 World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency. Most of the text was originally written as a draft in October 2005 in preparation for the Congress. In the process of discussion it was redrafted in February and then amended at in July. This has to be taken into account when reading it. For example the section of the document on Mexico was written long before the great revolutionary events that have been unfolding over the past couple of months. The document actually predicted that such a movement would break out if the ruling class attempted electoral fraud. September 2006]
Crisis of the ruling class
The sickness of the system expresses itself in politics, culture, art, philosophy, and economy. In the final analysis, this is an expression of the impasse of a system that is incapable of developing the productive forces any further. It has the stink of decay about it in the same way as the regime of the Bourbons, or of the Roman Empire in the period of its decline.
The Liberals of the 19th century used to say that the people get the government they deserve. That is not strictly correct, but it is certainly true that the ruling class has got the leaders it deserves. In the past Trotsky said that the real religion of the British ruling class was not Christianity but national arrogance. But at least the national arrogance of Lloyd George, Baldwin and Churchill was accompanied by a degree of intelligence.
It is no coincidence that the period of the senile decay of capitalism produces leaders like Bush, Blair and Merkel. Some might ask what is the point in mentioning the intellectual ability of George Bush, or rather the lack of it? Does not Marxism base itself on the general historical processes, which in turn are determined by the stage of development of the productive forces? The answer to this question was given long ago by Marx and Engels, who explained that men and women make their own history, although, contrary to the belief of the idealists, they are not entirely free agents in the historical process and must function within the range of possibilities that are, in the last analysis, determined by economic factors.
It is not at all correct to say that the personal qualities of the bourgeois leaders play no role. Such a statement is like saying that the personal qualities of the general staff play no role in warfare. It resembles the barren scholastic caricature of Marxism of those formalists who argue that because socialism is historically inevitable, there is no need to build a revolutionary party and leadership. As a matter of fact, not only do the personal qualities of Bush and Blair play a role in shaping events, they also reflect objective reality. Lenin explained that a man at the edge of a cliff does not reason.
The immense power of the USA has gone to the head of the ruling circles in Washington. Their conduct resembles the gunboat diplomacy of British imperialism in the past. George Bush and the clique of rabid right wing reactionaries that now dominates the White House took advantage of the terrorist actions of September 11 to launch military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. The actions of US imperialism have provoked a wave of anti-Americanism everywhere and opened up a whole series of contradictions that will have the most serious repercussions within the USA in the next period.
In most of the world, we see a total inability to develop the productive forces as in the past (China is the most important exception). This shows that capitalism is no longer capable of playing a progressive role. There is reaction at all levels, not just in politics, but also in culture. We see the distilled essence of this reaction in the USA. A degenerate clique of obscurantist religious fundamentalists is running the most advanced country on earth, the most scientifically developed in history. Under the slogan of "intelligent design", they are advancing the ideas of Creationism.
Middle class moralists have a superficial view of the world situation. They wring their hands and lament: "what a terrible world we live in!" They do not understand that all these horrors are only the outward symptoms of a deeper crisis, a crisis of the system itself. Such ugly phenomena have always accompanied every declining system on its way to extinction, as any student of the history of the Roman Empire and the decline of feudalism will be well aware. But just to see the negative side of things is entirely unscientific. It is also useless in practice. These people resemble a bad doctor who limits himself to complaining about the symptoms exhibited by his patient instead of providing a scientific diagnosis of the disease and suggesting a remedy.
Marxists do not adopt a moralistic attitude to the phenomena that we see before us. We understand that these symptoms are the necessary product of a socio-economic system that has outlived its historical usefulness and is exhibiting all the signs of a terminal sickness. It is the inevitable result of the death agony of capitalism. To tell the truth, it is a system that ought to have been overthrown long ago. The old society is dying on its feet and the new society is struggling to be born.
The task of the Marxists is to do everything in our power to cut short this convulsive process that is threatening to undermine civilisation and human culture and to develop and help the forces of a new society. That is to say: we must help the working class, starting with its most conscious elements, and the youth, to understand the tasks posed by history and to fulfil its historic mission, the conquest of power and the socialist transformation of society.
Latin America - the key to the world revolution
Within the general context of world capitalist crisis we have the particular crisis of Latin America. This is at present the continent where the revolutionary process has gone furthest and has practically acquired a general character. This reflects the impasse of capitalism in Latin America. Its vast resources, which are more than sufficient to solve all the problems of its people, have been plundered by imperialism with the connivance of the local oligarchies.
The total foreign debt of Latin America rose from 37 percent of GDP in 1997 to 51 percent in 2002. In one year alone (2003) the foreign debt was the equivalent of 186.6 percent of the total export earnings of the entire continent. In this way a potentially prosperous area of the globe is being bled white by imperialism. Millions of men, women and children are being reduced to poverty, degradation and hunger. The figures for economic growth are increasing. But the masses see no benefit from this growth. This is the objective basis for the rapid upsurge of the revolutionary movement that is spreading like a forest fire from one country to the next.
The reformists and pacifists are hypnotised by the "absolute" power of US imperialism. But the power of the USA, although phenomenal, is not unlimited. This is shown both in Iraq and also in Latin America. Of Latin America we said six years ago that it was the key to the world revolution, and we took the necessary organisational measures to react to this fact. We see here the vital importance of perspectives. Latin America clearly shows the limits of US imperialism. In the past, whatever Washington said was put into practice. But the attempt to foist the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement on Latin America failed miserably. And Bush got a very hot reception in Buenos Aires when he went to the Summit of the OAS. Washington is alarmed. They feel that control of Latin America is slipping out of their hands.
Of course, this does not mean that the imperialists will just remain with arms folded. They are already intervening, and not only with words. The Colombia Plan, which was supposed to be part of the so-called War on drugs, is in reality a war against the guerrillas. It is also an attempt to create a base for US imperialism in Latin America, from which to launch interventions against other states, in the first place, Venezuela. They have turned Colombia into an armed camp, injecting vast sums of money and also sending arms and so-called advisers to prop up the reactionary regime of Uribe. The Venezuelan Revolution is what most worries Washington. It has gone quite far, but state and key parts of the economy are still in bourgeois hands. Therefore it can still be reversed, and this is the main aim of US imperialism.
A continental revolution
A characteristic common to every country in Latin America is the enormous acceleration in the pace of events. The whole continent is moving in the direction of revolution, and this movement is unfolding at a quickening pace. In the space of just six months we have seen important events in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Mexico, and important developments in Venezuela.
If nature abhors a vacuum, this also is true in politics. In the absence of leadership from the old traditional parties of the working class, all kinds of peculiar aberrations can occur, particularly in the less developed ex-colonial countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution are incomplete. The problems of the masses are too excruciating to permit delay. On the other hand, the configuration of class forces is more complicated than in the older, more developed capitalist nations of Europe and North America. Thus, all kinds of peculiar variants are possible.
These variants appear to cut across the established patterns and depart from the well-worn paths of history. The illusion is created of something absolutely new and original. But in reality this is not so. All the attempts to discover a "third way" between capitalism and socialism have failed and must necessarily fail. Either the proletariat takes power into its hands and sets about the radical reconstruction of society, or sooner or later, capitalist reaction will strangle the revolution. There are no exceptions to this iron law of history.
In Latin America the revolutionary wave has gone further than anywhere else. It is a genuinely continental process, in which events in one country affect events in every other country. The Venezuelan Revolution has become the main point of reference. Now Evo Morales has won the elections in Bolivia with 54% of the votes, representing the will of the masses to change society. This represents a major turn in the situation. The might of the USA is being challenged in one country after another.
However, in the absence of powerful Marxist-Leninist parties, the masses must try to find a way out, seeking an alternative to the present impasse that condemns them to servitude and misery. They turn to parties like the PRD in Mexico, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay and the Bolivarian Movement in Venezuela. The masses demand solutions to their problems. They will test these parties, leaders and movements. Only on the basis of experience can they arrive at the necessary conclusions.
The attitude of genuine Marxists towards the masses is not that of haughty condescension. We do not issue ultimatums to the masses but proceed shoulder to shoulder with them, explaining what is necessary at each stage and helping them to draw correct conclusions, while simultaneously striving to push the movement forward. Our slogan is that of Lenin in 1917: "patiently explain". Only in this way can we overcome our weakness and find a road to the masses.
In Uruguay, we had the election of the Frente Amplio (FA) on the basis of five general strikes, although Tabare Vasquez is a reformist of the Lula type. In the case of Brazil, the opposition to Lula's policies took two years to materialise. In Uruguay it has appeared even more quickly, after only one year. The Communist Party, which is the main party in the FA, has opposed, publicly and in Congress, some of the actions taken by the government and there is a ferment of criticism in the ranks of the FA itself. Peru is also heading in a revolutionary direction. We have seen an insurrection in Ecuador, which overthrew the government and an insurrectionary movement in Bolivia, in which the only thing that prevented the seizure of power by the working class was the absence of leadership.
In Ecuador, a small and impoverished country, we see the enormous revolutionary potential of the masses. In 2000, the revolutionary movement in Ecuador first alerted us to the developing revolutionary situation in South America. (See our articles and documents from that period.)
It would have been possible to carry out a peaceful revolution in Ecuador at that time. The workers and peasants had the power in their hands but they did not know they had the power. It slipped through their fingers. But the masses had not been defeated and the ruling class was forced to free Lucio Gutierrez, the army colonel who had joined the masses during the insurrection. He then went on to win the elections at the end of 2002. However, for the masses nothing changed. The power of the ruling elite remained intact. The richest 20 percent controls 60 percent of the GDP, while the poorest 25 percent accounts for just 4 percent. Forty-six percent of the active population is either unemployed or underemployed. A similar number have no access to running water.
Now a mass insurrectionary movement after just two years has ejected Gutierrez. He was discredited when he accepted the policies dictated by the IMF and the World Bank. This was inevitable. Whoever comes to power is faced with a clear choice: either act in the interests of the masses, which means confronting the bankers and capitalists, or capitulate to the capitalists and attack the living standards of the masses. Gutierrez chose the latter and that was the cause of his downfall.
Gutierrez's declaration of a state of emergency did not prevent 50,000 people from coming out onto the streets. In the moment of truth the power of the state could not prevent his overthrow by the masses. He was hastily replaced by the vice-president, Alfredo Palacio. This will solve nothing. There is a questioning not just of this or that government, but also of the capitalist system and the bourgeois democratic regime. But in the absence of a revolutionary party, nothing has been resolved. Since 1994, three presidents have been removed by mass actions. This fact alone expresses the impossibility of achieving real or lasting stability on a capitalist basis. New movements are inevitable, which will again pose the question of power.
Peru is also in a deep crisis. The judiciary, the congress, and all of the other official institutions of the bourgeois State are unpopular and are discredited. The public debt is equal to 47% of GDP. The levels of poverty are similar to those in Bolivia, and Peru could be the next to follow in Bolivia's footsteps at any moment.
The presidential elections reflected the discrediting of the traditional parties, when in the first round, the indigenous candidate, Humala, obtained first place ahead of the candidate of the right, Lourdes Flores, and ahead of APRA, who remained in second place.
Imperialism and the Peruvian bourgeoisie panicked and launched a dirty campaign against Humala to guarantee Alan García's victory. Certainly, they did not fear Humala, who made every effort to moderate his tone to reassure the ruling class that he wasn't a dangerous adventurer. However, they knew that if Humala had won the election, the masses would have seen things differently.
There exists the increasingly widespread sentiment that things cannot continue as they have before. The support for Humala is an expression of this. That is why patience with the government of Alan García will not last long. The idea that "we must do the same as in Bolivia" will become the dominant idea among the masses.
Brazil and Chile
Brazil is a geographical and economic giant and a regional superpower, a continent inside a continent. Developments in Brazil are followed with interest in the rest of the continent and also in the Left throughout the world. The electoral victory of Lula aroused enormous enthusiasm in the masses. But Lula has carried out pro-capitalist policies. His capitulation to imperialism and the IMF has provoked a mood of discontent and criticism in the working class movement and that of the landless peasants, especially the advanced layer of activists. This is leading to a growing process of inner differentiation.
There is a growing mood of radicalisation among the workers and peasants, expressed in a wave of occupations of land and factories. There have been a series of crises and splits. The recent scandals have exposed the corruption of the right wing reformist PT leaders. This has deepened even further the internal crisis of the PT. A section of the activists are bitterly disillusioned with Lula and his capitulation to the pressure of imperialism and big business. Nevertheless, the mass of workers and peasants see things differently. They see no alternative to Lula and the PT. Therefore all the left splits are condemned to impotence.
If there had been a strong Marxist opposition current, they would have gained big support and would by now possibly be in a position to win a majority of the Party. Unfortunately, the ultra left sects that entered the PT early on have thrown away this opportunity by provoking a series of premature splits. But the process is not over. There is a movement to occupy factories and land. And there are still big possibilities inside the PT for a tendency that has clear ideas and knows what it is doing.
For the last few years Chile has been presented by the apologists of capitalism - and even by a section of reformist leaders - as the most stable and prosperous country in Latin America and as a model to imitate. However, like in Argentina in the 1990, the alleged "Chilean miracle" in reality hides one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in the continent and the limitless exploitation of the workers and the people. Everything has been privatised and the country's wealth (particularly copper) has been handed over to the imperialist multinationals on a silver plate.
For the last two decades, the leaders of the right wing of the SP have imposed on the working class rank and file of the Party a policy of class collaboration with parties of the bourgeoisie, like the Christian Democrats (DC) in the "Concertacion". The policies of Lagos and the right wing leaders of the PS divided the left, helped the ruling class to keep control and have been an obstacle to a more speedy recovery of the Chilean working class. However, the social contradictions are accumulating in an unbearable way and sooner rather than later will come to the surface. The memory of the revolutionary traditions of the 70s has not died and will reemerge with redoubled strength.
The results of the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential elections (at the moment of writing the second round has not yet taken place) reflect the clear tendency towards social polarisation. The socialist candidate added to the candidate of Juntos Podemos, a front set up by the CP, the MIR and other small left groups, got more than 50% of the votes, and the sum of the votes of the two right wing candidates is around 48%. Within the ranks of the Christian Democracy (DC), a bourgeois party that historically has tried, through demagogy, to maintain a certain social basis amongst the people, there are clear signs of a right-left split.
Michelle Bachelet, the new SP leader, was a minister under Lagos and has not challenged his policies, although she has been forced to use a more left wing language on certain occasions. Discontent with the right wing reformist leadership of the SP has been expressed in their defeat on a number of votes in the last Congress and the growth of those currents, such as Socialists like Allende, that advocate a more left wing programme. These currents reached 47% of the votes at the last party Congress, though the composition and leadership of these currents is heterogeneous. Within some sections of the Communist rank and file, the idea of a united front with the SP left wing is winning ground and this could change the whole situation. But what is needed above all is for the rank and file of the SP and CP to fight for a clear and unambiguous Marxist programme and policy.
Mexico was the one country that seemed immune from the dynamic of the rest of Latin America - mass mobilisations were not on the agenda. The right wing PAN was firmly in power, the economy was doing well and was firmly welded to the USA. But in the space of just a few months the whole position has been reversed. The mass movement against the "desafuero" completely transformed the situation. 1.2 million people came out onto the streets of Mexico City in support of the PRD leader Lopez Obrador.
What happened in Mexico shows the incorrectness of the idea that only economic factors can lead to revolutionary movements. In fact, the shocks that spark off an insurrection can come from a number of different sources. Here the movement began as a political and legal scandal, like the Dreyfuss case in France. The attempt of Fox and the ruling class to block the candidature of Lopez Obrador and put him on trial for corruption brought the masses out onto the streets.
Washington fears the coming to power of a "Mexican Chavez". In reality, the comparison is not accurate. Lopez Obrador is no Chavez, and is striving to prove his loyalty to Washington. Yet the fears of Washington are well founded. Bush is right to be terrified - not of Lopez Obrador, but of the masses that stand behind him. Trotsky pointed out that under certain circumstances, reformist leaders could be pushed to go further than they intend. That is what Washington fears. Despite his subjective intentions, Lopez Obrador is under the pressure of the masses to improve their conditions. Washington understands only too well that the masses can push Lopez Obrador to go beyond what he intends.
Under pressure from Washington, Fox attempted to prevent Lopez Obrador from standing in the Presidential elections this year. They accused him of corruption. This is an absurd accusation. Even if it were true, everyone knows that all Mexican politicians take money. The masses know this and they also know why they only picked on Lopez Obrador and that is why they poured out onto the streets to protest.
After 20 years of brutalisation, mass poverty and unemployment in the embraces of its northern neighbour (NAFTA, etc.) the masses are seeking an alternative. Between 1994 and 2002 10.7 million have left to look for work in the USA. That is over one million a year. From 1994 to the present, accumulated unemployment in Mexico has reached 9.4 million. Over the past 12 years, wages have fallen 65 percent. Therefore, they immediately rallied to the side of Lopez Obrador in the biggest mass demonstrations since the 1930s.
There were spontaneous mass meetings in plazas, often without anyone in the PRD calling them. There were banners in the poorest neighbourhoods against the "desafuero". Lopez Obrador addressed mass meetings all around the country. In the end Fox was forced to beat a hasty retreat. If he had not done so, the movement could have acquired insurrectionary dimensions. This was an important defeat for Fox and the Mexican bourgeoisie. It represents a major change in the situation. This has raised the confidence of the masses, and it will be difficult to demobilise the workers once they are organised. People in Mexico are talking about politics - in the markets, on the metro, etc. This is a symptom of the beginnings of a revolution. Consciousness is being rapidly transformed.
Thanks to the PRD bureaucracy Fox remained in office. Since they were prevented from overthrowing Fox by direct action on the streets, the masses proceeded to move onto the electoral plane. This document is being written before the Presidential elections, but unless there is massive electoral fraud, or Lopez Obrador does something very foolish, he ought to win by a decisive majority. The bourgeois parties are now in crisis - not only the PAN but also the PRI.
The Fox government is in crisis. Never has there been a Mexican government with so many cabinet changes. As a result of the resistance of the workers' movement, every counter-reform imposed by Fox has been stopped by the masses. The PAN itself is a very divided party, hated by the workers. The PRI is also in a deep crisis. According to the polls, the PRD has 36%, the PAN 24% and the PRI 22%. The bourgeoisie is running out of options and is now sending trusted people into the PRD to make sure it does not drift to the left.
In these conditions the ultra left sects are, as usual, playing a pernicious role. At a time when the masses are attempting to unite to kick out the hated Fox government, the sects are uniting - against Lopez Obrador! This sectarian madness is being enthusiastically supported by the Zapatistas. Together they have organised the so-called Other Campaign to sow confusion amongst the students and middle-class elements. This campaign can only benefit Fox, whom the mass of workers and peasants are fighting to defeat. These ultra-left policies and methods will only serve to isolate the Zapatistas from the masses even more, totally discrediting them in the eyes of the workers and peasants.
An electoral victory of the PRD would impel the whole movement forward. It would represent a break in the situation. It would also enable the masses to see in practice how unworkable reformist policies are. They would be able to compare words with deeds. Therefore the only permissible policy for the Mexican Marxists is to fight against Fox, for a PRD government, but to demand that a government elected by the votes of the workers and peasants must break with capitalism and imperialism and carry out a socialist policy.
Under conditions of crisis and with an aroused working class, a sharp polarisation will take place to the right and left. This will inevitably be reflected in the ranks of the PRD. The Mexican ruling class is attempting to control the PRD with its own people. Lopez Obrador has been surrounded by a clique of ex-PRI people. This is already provoking friction within the party. The rank and file is protesting against the right wing elements that are taking control. In the front line of this struggle is the Marxist tendency represented in Mexico by El Militante, which is a revolutionary point of reference for worker and youth activists. The presence of an organised Marxist current is a fundamental element in this equation.
It is not impossible that the bourgeoisie, in order to keep Lopez Obrador out, may resort to a manoeuvre. They may corrupt some of the PRD leaders and provoke splits at regional level. They can also resort to electoral fraud. But if they do, and the masses conclude that they have been cheated, the way will then be open to an unprecedented upsurge in mass actions that will make the country ungovernable. Sooner or later, they will have to hand power to the PRD. That will be the beginning of an entirely new situation in Mexico.
If, as seems most likely, Lopez Obrador wins the presidency he will be confronted with an economic crisis that will force him to choose. The crisis was postponed due to a brief respite based on the US recovery, but it will aggravate the conditions of the masses that are already desperate. It will be similar to the situation in Spain after the declaration of the Republic in 1931 and will usher in dramatic developments in the same way.
Revolutions can be sparked off by any number of things: a stock market crisis, a financial collapse, a war, a serious political scandal, a terrorist act. The insurrection of December 2001 was the result of financial collapse. President de la Rua was compelled to flee in a helicopter from the roof of his presidential palace. But these events immediately brought to the surface all the contradictions that had been accumulating beneath the surface of Argentinean society for decades.
Argentina shows the way in which an apparently stable situation can be transformed in the space of 24 hours. This was supposed to be a model country from the standpoint of capitalism and imperialism. The Argentine bourgeoisie followed slavishly all the recipes of the IMF and the World Bank. It was hailed as a success story. But the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards at the first gust of cold wind of the world economy.
The origins of the collapse in Argentina must be sought, not within its national frontiers but in the world market. This is the other face of globalisation. The shock waves from the Asian collapse first affected Russia, provoking the collapse of the rouble in late 1998. Then it affected other weak currencies, like the Polish zloty and finally forced Brazil to devalue its currency. This placed unbearable strains on the Argentinean peso, which was tied to the US dollar. Since Brazil was Argentina's main export market, this spelled ruin. The result was a financial collapse that overnight signified bankruptcy for a large number of Argentinean citizens.
The collapse of the government opened the floodgates, preparing the way for the active intervention of the masses. We said it was the beginning of the Argentinean revolution. We explained that the ruling class was too weak to move towards reaction at that stage, and that the revolution would be prolonged for a number of years, with ebbs and flows, before a final solution could be imposed one way or another.
In December 2001 a spontaneous insurrectionary movement of the masses overthrew the de la Rua government, but in the absence of a strong revolutionary party, the initiative passed to the bourgeoisie. But we warned from the beginning that unless the workers moved to take power, the bourgeoisie could succeed in diverting the movement along parliamentary lines, and that the calling of elections would mean the victory of a "left" Peronist, which, at that time, appeared to represent someone like Saá. In the event, it was not Saa but Kirchner, who was elected. But the prognosis was absolutely correct and confirmed in practice.
Kirchnerism is an extremely unstable phenomenon, riddled with internal contradictions. Despite his nationalist gestures, Kirchner is unable to break decisively with US imperialism, which holds all the cards in its hands. He has attempted to manoeuvre between the classes and between imperialism and the Argentine masses.
Washington, fearful of the revolutionary potential of the Argentine masses, originally opted for a wait-and-see attitude. But now Bush is tightening the screws. Argentina is subject to heavy pressure to pay its debts. This it cannot do. According to the official statistics, 38.5 per cent of the population are still living in poverty in what was once the tenth industrial nation on earth. The recent mass demonstrations against Bush's visit to Argentina is a warning of what will happen if Kirchner tries to pay the imperialists by placing new burdens on the masses. The stage is set for new revolutionary upheavals and a further polarisation between right and left.
Inevitably, following the crash, there has been some improvement of the economy, just as a stone dropped from a great height will inevitably bounce. In the past three years GDP rose by 27%. This means that the Argentine economy has now reached the same level as before the crisis began. Investors have gradually recovered their nerve. The partial revival of the economy has created favourable conditions for an upswing of the economic struggle. However, these statistics do not tell the whole story. The conditions of the masses have not improved significantly. Jobs and wages are much worse than before. The levels of poverty are perhaps the highest in the recent history of Argentina. With inflation again increasing and eroding wages, the role of the unions acquires supreme importance.
Kirchner, in the old tradition of Peronism, balances between the classes and even leans on the masses to strike blows against imperialism and the ruling class, and has even criticised the military, but without changing anything fundamental. He has skilfully made some concessions to the working class and in 2005 wages rose. This is only a pale caricature of the policies carried out by Peron in the past. But the world situation is very different now. When Peron came to power there was an almost unlimited demand for Argentine beef and wheat in post-war Europe. The Argentine capitalists could afford to make concessions. That is not the case today. Now Argentina has a huge external deficit. The IMF will tighten the screws, demanding cuts and austerity. So far Kirchner has managed to manoeuvre. But this cannot be maintained indefinitely.
The working class, having passed through the school of Kirchnerism, is now entering the stage as an independent force. Our Argentinean comrades put forward the slogan of a left trade union tendency, which has found an echo among the advanced workers. Faced with an upsurge of the industrial struggle, the bureaucracy of the CGT has been compelled to put itself at the head of the movement. But its motor force is the movement from below. The union militants have shown their instinctive understanding of what is necessary by organising the Left Trade Union Current. This has succeeded in grouping union militants from sectors like the metro workers, the railway workers, teachers, health workers and others. These are the people who must be won to Marxism if the Argentinean Revolution is to triumph.
Bolivia has been living through a revolutionary situation since October 2003. Time after time the masses have moved to take power into their hands but were frustrated by the lack of a revolutionary leadership. This was admitted in so many words by one of the leaders of the COB trade union confederation, who said: we did not take power because we did not have a revolutionary party.
The events in Bolivia in May/June 2005 are extremely rich in lessons. There are several important characteristics we must take into account. As in other countries, petty bourgeois intellectuals in Bolivia wrote off the working class as a force in society, focusing instead on the coca growers, peasants, and other layers. But it was the workers' organisations that played the key role - the COB and the miners organised what amounted to a national insurrectionary movement twice in the space of 18 months, overthrowing two governments: Losada and Mesa.
The marvellous Bolivian proletariat played the leading role, placing itself at the head of the nation and mobilising all the other oppressed and dispossessed masses behind it. The workers staged mass demonstrations, centred on El Alto, calling for an indefinite general strike. All the elements of workers' power were present. The miners marched on the capital armed with sticks of dynamite. The "cabildo abierto" was in effect, a soviet. This movement directly posed the question of power.
In reality power was in the hands of the workers in the summer of 2005. In its colossal sweep, the movement went far beyond the initial demands for the nationalisation of gas. What they were striving for was a workers' and peasants' government. They threw down the gauntlet before a terrified ruling class, which was unable to respond. The rank and file of the MAS was deeply affected and radicalised. The leadership was losing control.
The unspeakably reactionary, corrupt and rotten Bolivian ruling class was not even able to launch a civil war against the revolution. They lacked a sufficient base in society and the armed forces to do so. Instead, they threatened to secede, to divide the living body of Bolivia, that is: to destroy Bolivia as a nation. That is the real meaning of the "patriotism" of the Bolivian landlords and capitalists. However, this would be intolerable even for the Bolivian general staff. It was an astonishing confession of moral and political bankruptcy. By this action alone, the Bolivian bourgeoisie publicly declared its unfitness to rule.
It would have been a relatively easy matter for the leaders of the COB to take power out of the trembling hands of the bourgeoisie. It would have been sufficient to form a national committee elected by the popular assemblies or cabildos, and to declare it the national government, placing the old government under arrest. In the given conditions, this could have been accomplished without bloodshed or civil war. Any attempt on the part of the Bolivian bourgeoisie to break away would have easily been suppressed. The way would be open to carrying out a successful socialist revolution in Bolivia, which would have been the starting point for a socialist revolution throughout the Andes region and Latin America as a whole. Unfortunately, yet again the COB leaders showed that they were unprepared. They backed away from the seizure of power.
As a result of the failure of the leadership, this magnificent movement was finally diverted onto the electoral plane, as we predicted. The bourgeoisie cannot continue to rule as in the past. It has suffered a rude shock and is still reeling from it. It has two black eyes but it has not yet been decisively defeated. It has taken a step back in order to regroup its forces, preparing to launch a counter-offensive in the future when the mass movement ebbs. And the masses, when they saw that the leaders had no intention of taking power, shrugged their shoulders and proceeded to vote for Morales as the next best thing.
Unfortunately, many in the vanguard took an ultra-left position and boycotted the elections. They failed to understand the process. The masses want to change society. They are filled with a burning indignation against imperialism and the rotten Bolivian ruling class. The workers' leaders could and should have taken power. But they vacillated, lost time, lost the initiative. Then the masses said: "OK, the COB didn't want to take power, so we'll go to the elections and see what happens with Evo."
The election result shows how out of touch the leaders of the trade unions and the vanguard were when they advocated abstention. 54% voted for Evo Morales (about 1.5 million votes) in a massive 84% turnout. This despite the fact that 1.5 million people, most of whom would have voted for Morales, had been taken off the electoral roles. He got 67% in La Paz, against 18% for the candidate of the ruling class. In the revolutionary storm centre of El Alto, between 70 and 80 percent voted for Morales. Yet this was a place where the MAS had no organised basis. The people that participated in the recent insurrection voted overwhelmingly for Evo Morales.
The attitude of the masses was quite understandable. The masses suffer from terrible problems that do not admit delay. They were not prepared to stand around and wait for the revolutionary vanguard to put its house in order. They saw a chance to hit out at the ruling class and its parties in the elections and they took it. They voted massively for Evo Morales. The victory of Evo Morales represents a major change in the situation. It was a shattering blow against the oligarchy and imperialism. The traditional parties were wiped out. Even in Santa Cruz, the stronghold of the oligarchy, the MAS won 33% of the vote. This shows the extreme weakness of reaction at the present time. In 30 years there has never been an election where the President of Bolivia was elected in the first round.
A vote for Morales was a vote to change society. Now the masses will wait to "see what happens". But they will not wait for long. What will Morales do? The diez medidas, i.e. his programme, express the idea of the petit bourgeois democratic revolution. Morales was elected after two general strikes and insurrections and he himself comes from the peasant and indigenous movements, which erupted in Bolivia in the second half of the 1990s. Other representatives of those movements are seated in the government, together with representatives of petit-bourgeois nationalism. This explains the growing confidence of the masses in the government, which has only been partially shaken by the crises of its first hundred days, such as the crisis of the LAB, the national airline.
The Morales government will be ground between two millstones. The masses want Evo Morales to take serious measures in their interests - to "nationalise everything". That is what they are expecting, and will continue to put pressure on the government to take the revolution beyond the bourgeois democratic limits. On the other side, he will be under merciless pressure from the oligarchy and imperialism. Washington is seriously concerned about the effects of Morales' victory, the alliance that Bolivia is building with Cuba and Venezuela, the effect that the initial measures of the La Paz government may have on the whole region. The nationalisation of the gas - albeit a partial one - stands out as an example and encouragement to the mobilised masses of Ecuador, for the turbulent situation in Peru, and it will not fail to have an effect also on the political future of Brazil, whose economy depends heavily on Bolivian gas. As we predicted some time ago, Bolivia is becoming ever more "the key to the Andean revolution".
Morales would have liked to conciliate, but the relationship with the masses is the only lever that his government has. His position is aimed at keeping the masses mobilised to defend the reforms against the attacks of imperialism and of the bourgeoisie, which still holds in its hands not only key sectors of the economy but also some important political positions. That is why his programme has already gone beyond his initial intentions, and also explains why Morales is promising to nationalise the mines, a demand that up until now had not been raised openly, also due to the divisions between the cooperative movement and the miners of the COMIBOL (the state mining company). The contradictions that are implicit in his programme will tend to become even sharper once the "battle for the land" begins, which within the context of the social make up of Bolivia remains the field where the conflict with the national bourgeoisie is the most direct.
The Bolivian revolution has begun and can last for some time - months if not years - with ebbs and flows. The problem is that the masses have failed to take power, but the ruling class and imperialism are not in a position - yet - to stage a coup. They are therefore compelled to play a waiting game, to manoeuvre, retreat, intrigue and play for time. That is the reason for the extremely cautious language used by Washington when speaking of Evo Morales. They still hope to buy him off, to neutralise him, to compel him to accept their conditions, and to compromise him in the eyes of the workers and peasants before overthrowing him. The fact that the USA pays ten percent of Bolivia's budget in "aid" gives Bush a lever he can use to secure this end.
The Bolivian revolution will unfold over some years during which periods of mass upheaval will be followed by periods of lull, when the masses are tired and disappointed. There can even be periods of reaction like the Bienio Negro in 1934-36 in Spain. But every lull will be followed by even greater and stormier upheavals. In the end, matters will have to be decided by a decisive victory of one class over another.
See also Part One, Part Two, Part Four, Part Five