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Héctor Lucero

Bolivian Agrarian Reform

Its Situation and Tasks After Six Years

(December 1959)

From Fourth International (Amsterdam), No. 10, Summer 1960, pp. 40–52.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

IV [1]
The “Failure” of the Agrarian Reform

Dual Power and Production

Six years after its official promulgation, the agrarian reform has not fulfilled its promises of a considerable increase in production and in peasant well-being. Its enemies are speculating on its “failure.”

In the first place, experience demonstrates that any revolution, and any agrarian revolution, at its beginnings brings in its wake a fall in production until a reorganization on new bases has been made. Dual power does not make a climate propitious for raising production, living standards, and productivity. It is a climate of uncertainty, struggle, and lack of effective leadership in the life of the nation. It is in the interest of the revolution to pass as quickly as possible through the stage of dual power and set up the new workers’ and peasants’ power which reorganizes on new socialist bases the country’s entire economic and political apparatus.

Now in Bolivia dual power has been prolonged since 9 April 1952. Although the capitalist power controls the cities, although the workers’ and peasants’ power appears to be covered over, held in check, braked, there nonetheless continues to exist a climate of uncertainty, of lack of centralized leadership. In this situation it is impossible to obtain a sustained increase in production either in industry or in agriculture. This fact is brought up by all the capitalist theoreticians of the MNR in order to demand a more reactionary policy. In one thing they are quite right: it is necessary to overcome dual power. But the problem is: who will liquidate it, and in favor of whom? will the capitalist power finish off the workers’ power of the trade unions and militia and impose capitalist-imperialist law, or will the workers’ power finish off the capitalist government and the reigning disorder and impose its own proletarian order? [2]

It has already been observed how the peasant was abandoned by the state, how the agrarian reform was slowed down, both in granting title-deeds and in aid to producers, and how the agrarian economy was left to its own fate and tied down to the same age-old backwardness as always. And lastly other factors have determined the crisis in agrarian reform.

Agrarian Reform and Industrial Development

Agrarian production is closely connected with the development of the economy as a whole, and first of all with that of industry. Lenin and Trotsky, basing themselves on the experience of the Soviet state in its first years, assigned primary importance to the relationship between industrial development and the increase in peasant production: the peasant, though he possesses the land, will not increase his production unless he obtains the industrial products he needs by the exchange of his farm products (i.e., bought with the money he receives for them).

Agrarian reform, by incorporating broad peasant sectors into the money economy, the market, potentially creates a greater demand for industrial articles. But if industry does not satisfy this hope, the agrarian economy closes in on itself, folds up into a subsistence economy, and lowers its acquisitive capacity. This is the beginning of a vicious circle, for, with the shrinking of the market, industry produces less, gives work to fewer workers, satisfies even less the needs of the countryside – which continues to close up still further into a subsistence economy.

Bolivian industry can satisfy the peasants’ needs only to a very small extent, nor has there been, of course, the slightest more or less radical planning or orientation of its production in connection with this problem. [3] In the first stage (1952–1956), inflation worked against the peasant, for prices of manufactured articles always rose faster than those of agricultural products. But in the second stage (since 1957) stabilization did not arrange the situation either: the abrupt shrinkage of the consumers’ market in the cities and the new rise in industrial prices had a direct repercussion on the peasant economy.

Relationship with the Market

The relationship of the peasant with the market since the reform has been more uncertain even than before. The landowner fulfilled this function, and, though he got away with the better part of the product of peasant labor, there did exist a traditional system of relations of exchange between town and country. The disappearance of the landowner from the greater part of the Bolivian countryside broke off this link, which was not replaced by another equally centralized one. The dispersal of the small peasant economy weakened this contact with the national market and injured production.

Aside from the peasants who go to offer their products directly in fairs in the towns and cities, there exist middlemen who come to the producing areas to buy harvests. In this form of marketing, the peasant has to yield to the middlemen a very high percentage of the price paid by the consumer for his products (although previously his percentage was even less, since the landowner got away with the greater part). This injures both the producer and the consumer, narrows down the market, and conspires against production. [4]

Cooperatives, which ought to have been a first step toward a more profitable relationship with the market, both for peasant consumption and for the marketing of farm products, were not developed by the government.

A limited number of cooperatives were set up. [5] But these, for the most part, functioned not as cooperatives but as “cuperativas” [6], as they were then described. The government assigned each officially registered cooperative a “cupo” of consumers’ products (sugar, flour, rice, tocuyo [coarse cotton cloth], etc.), priced in dollars at the official rate (190 Bolivianos), while the dollar was quoted at Bs 6,000, 7,000, and finally up to 12,000 on the black market. Of course many of these “cooperatives” existed only on paper, to obtain cupos, and even in the real ones the cupos served to a large extent only to enrich a few favored ones, while only a fraction of these low-priced articles reached the peasant.

But with monetary stabilization, the cooperative movement did not succeed in developing, either: the real point is that this movement cannot be developed from above, but only by mobilizing the peasantry, setting into operation its own capacity for initiative. But the peasantry cannot be mobilized for one thing and held back for another, and that is the drama of any capitalist government.

What also conspired against the growth of a genuine movement of cooperatives was the political use that the government and the reaction wanted to make of them. Their intention, with the open support of the clergy, was to set the cooperatives in opposition to the trade unions, the cooperative movement as a counterweight to and substitute for the trade-union movement, till the union movement was finally replaced by the cooperative movement. The peasant resisted this campaign, aimed against his main instrument of defense and struggle, and the discredit therefor fell on the cooperatives.

Foreign Trade

Another problem that directly affected agriculture was its relationship with the world market, in the prices of its products (even though they were not destined for export), and in the importation of machines, fertilizers, etc.

As for prices, the importation of a series of agricultural products (rice, wheat, potatoes, etc.) with cheap dollars, though it helped consumption in the cities (and also, especially, those who distributed the cupos and foreign exchange), meant a ruinous competition for production inside the country, harmed the establishment of a normal exchange between town and country, contributed to the reduction of cultivated areas, and helped to accentuate subsistence economy in the rural regions and dependence on foreign trade by the entire country.

As for machinery, fertilizers, insecticides, etc, the primitivism of methods of cultivation had already rendered traditional the scantiness or non-existence of any investment by the country in these departments. Up until 1953, imports of farm machinery represented scarcely 5% of capital goods imports, and 1% of total imports (in a mainly agricultural country!). At that time an increase took place, on the one hand through the machinery brought in by the SAI for its work, and on the other through a series of bloc purchases carried out by agreements with foreign trading companies. But these agreements were destined, not so much to mechanize the rural regions, as to enrich a few favored ones, since, apart from the fact that the machinery was bought at high prices and was in many cases unusable, the adjudication of a tractor, for example, at the official price, was not going to be made generally to the producing peasant but to some “influential politician,” who made a highly profitable deal out of it. The mechanization of the rural regions became a farce, and the dollars destined therefor just went into private pockets. [7]

Monetary stabilization brought an end to deals based on the official exchange rate. But the importation of farm machinery and tools was also frozen. As importation is now free, the country’s foreign exchange is used by importers for products for which there is a solvent market, i.e., those destined for the well-off classes, mainly, apart from foodstuffs. For the peasant, a tractor, which once was a mirage, has now become an impossible dream.

The development of production in a period of agrarian reform has a close connection with foreign trade, and requires a state monopoly of this trade in the hands of the workers and peasants, guaranteeing that their resources shall used first of all for the real needs of development. Without this, there is no progress in farm production, however much land may be distributed. This is another experience confirmed by the Bolivian revolution.

Investments in the Rural Regions

The agrarian reform requires increased investment in agriculture, not only in machinery, but also in roads, irrigation works, education, and all the other aspects that have been pointed out. Without this investment, and a parallel and proportionate development of local and national industry, the agrarian reform remains stagnant and shut in on itself.

In a agriculture that scarcely goes beyond the subsistence level, where the landowner has been driven from the rural regions, there exist no normal reserves for investment. These resources can be provided or mobilized only by the state. But if the economy functions on capitalist bases, if capital accumulation is limited to private hands, if the private banks continue to control essential credit, investment is not going to reach rural regions convulsed by the revolution and in the hands of insolvent small peasants who – what is WOTS© – are not even “legally” occupying their lands. [8]

With “Bolivian-style” agrarian reform, the rural regions have partially escaped from normal capitalist functioning. Capitalism and its state will invest there only when there are re-established free disposal of the land and the possibility of obtaining and accumulating profits.

The empiricism of the MNR regime toward the rural regions and the agrarian reform in its first years, imposed on it to a large extent by its being overwhelmed by the mass movement, has been replaced by the conscious determination to re-establish capitalism there. This is a political, rather than an economic, operation. Guevara is the theoretician of this attempt, in the only form that is possible and suitable to capitalism: not merely a just plain return of the former latifundists, which has already become impossible, but rather a recognition of the distribution of land as an irreversible fact yet opening the way to a new concentration of farm property in capitalist hands, depriving the peasants once more of the richest lands by “legal” means (court actions, mortgages, usury, and, in the background, the armed forces) and maintaining the stratum of middle and poor peasants needed to provide cheap manpower for the new agrarian bosses. Guevara is the champion of the struggle against “dual power,” “agrarian anarchy,” “peasant fortresses,” and “agrarian caudillos.”

But it is an economic operation as well. The peasantry today has the forces, decisiveness, and weapons to resist too obvious attempts to turn the clock back. But its impoverishment, the abandonment of the countryside, the growing destitution – these are factors of demoralization that the government are consciously cultivating. The excessive subdivision d the subsistence economy not only render impassible even the slightest accumulation by the poor peasant but also create conditions favoring conflicts among the peasants themselves.

The enormous waste of farm manpower, current in all backward countries [9], has not been solved, but indeed aggravated, by the situation in the Bolivian rural regions. “The fund of accumulation hidden in underemployment” is completely wasted. The capitalist government needs to demobilize the countryside politically: that is its most imperious, most pressing, most urgent need. Thus it cannot try to mobilize it economically – far from it. Not only does it not know how to do so, nor does it have the necessary interest, instrumentalities, and authority, but indeed directly it neither can nor finds it suitable to do so.

The landowners, at the time of the revolution, ceased to absorb a considerable part of farm income (although the landowner sector was not suppressed in all regions). Despite the fact that other abuses and exactions against the peasant continued (through judges, functionaries, police, taxes, trade-union bureaucracy, etc.), they were less than before.

With these resources – not to mention others that exist – not only was it possible to raise the peasants’ living standards much more, but also to develop a fund of accumulation, added to the centralized receipts produced by the nationalization of the mines, for economic development.

The Failure of the “Progressive” Bourgeoisie

But the intention of the MNR was to create a “progressive” bourgeoisie by means of the redistribution of national income through inflation and currency control, channeling these benefits into private hands. The resources, in the form of credits and exceptionally cheap foreign exchange which the state turned over to this “bourgeoisie,” were in practice to a large extent wrenched by means of inflation from the most numerous productive sector, the peasantry. This “bourgeoisie” did not have a safe and profitable field of investment in Bolivia, and even less in its rural regions, and the capital that the government turned over to it fled the country or was used only for speculative ends. The former current of private mining went on, which places Bolivia among those countries “exporting capital.”

Those resources, centralized and nationalized, would have been sufficient to give the initial impetus to a harmonious development of industry and farming. Instead, industry and farming have gone in a parallel way, but in the other direction: crisis and falling off of production.

What has failed in Bolivia is not agrarian reform but capitalist agrarian reform, administered and directed by the capitalist state. What exists in reality is not a failure but an agrarian crisis. What has reached a crisis is the contradiction between the agrarian revolution, out of capitalist control, carried out by the peasantry, and the continued existence of the capitalist state power and economic structure of the country. The agrarian crisis is the expression in the rural regions of the crisis of dual power.

This crisis capitalism wants to solve in its own favor by a political and economic operation. These are today the bases, as we shall see below, for a worker-peasant alliance.

The Worker-Peasant Alliance: Its Bases and Tasks

Agrarian Reform and Permanent Revolution

The Bollivian experience is conclusive: thorough development of the agrarian reform is incompatible with the continuance of the capitalist regime. In spite of its non-socialist nature, the logic of the development of the agrarian reform in this period and in backward countries is anti-capitalist. Either there is set up a workers’ and peasants’ government that from the seat of power upholds and develops the peasant revolution, or the bourgeois government will soon confront the peasant masses with a sabotage of any advance of agrarian reform, in open or tacit alliance with the landowners.

The illusion of the petty-bourgeois parties and of the theoreticians of bourgeois development in backward countries is that agrarian reform, the destruction of feudalism in the rural regions, and the turning over of the land to the peasants, create an internal market for industry and provide the bases for a development of capitalism and the industrial bourgeoisie.

But the first effect of “Bolivian-style” agrarian reform is not to create a broad market (that comes later, if there is development), but to liquidate one of the bases of capitalist strength, investment, and accumulation: the alliance with the landowners, their direct appropriation of unpaid peasant labor.

The agrarian reform upsets the balance of power between the national bourgeoisie and the proletariat. On the one hand, as it is the peasant masses who impose agrarian reform by their armed mobilization (and if not, a real agrarian reform and genuine distribution of the land are not achieved), the proletariat gains an ally that is powerful and in full movement. On the other hand, the liquidation of the economic and political power of the landowners deprives the weak national bourgeoisie of what is – apart from imperialism – its best ally against the advance of the masses.

The development of the peasant revolution speeds up the capitulation and sell-out of the national bourgeoisie to imperialism, its last sure ally against the masses.

In its turn, the peasant revolution, the armed mobilization of the peasantry to win and defend its land, the support given by the peasantry to the regime that emerged from the April revolution (which the peasantry understands as being for the defense of its conquests and its lands), the workers’ and peasants’ alliance in the COB and in mass actions – these have been the absolute base for the maintenance of the revolution.

Without the peasants’ weapons, without the peasants’ unions, without their de facto alliance with the miners’ and workers’ trade unions (despite the sabotage of the leaderships), in a word without dual power, the revolution would long since have been defeated in Bolivia by the capitulation of the petty-bourgeois leadership to the pressure and blows of imperialism and reaction.

Without dual power, under a stable and purely capitalist power (however “progressive” and “democratic” it might have been), the agrarian reform, together with the revolution, would long since have perished.

But, inversely, the maintenance in Bolivia of the capitalist state, of the capitalist regime, is every day objectively working against agrarian reform.

Unless it is accompanied by other measures in an anti-capitalist direction, the agrarian reform will remain isolated and blocked, and with begin to disappoint and disperse the enthusiasm of the masses. Nevertheless, this is not the process of a single day: a peasantry that is armed and occupies its lands in an agrarian country shows a capacity for resistance that can last many long years even though it has not solved the problem of power, especially if the resistance and basic cohesion of the proletariat in its trade unions are maintained, even if it does not go forward.

The Question of Power

The problem of power becomes the (key question for the triumph of the peasant revolution and for the agrarian and industrial development of the country. The capitalist power is incapable of pulling the country out of its feudal backwardness and of developing capitalism. As Lenin demonstrated in State Capitalism and the Tax in Kind, workers’ power is the only one that can develop “capitalism,” under the control and direction of the workers’ state, in a backward country.

Trotsky says the same in the second thesis of The Permanent Revolution:

In respect to countries of retarded bourgeois development, especially colonial and semi-colonial ones, the theory of the permanent revolution means that the integral and effective solution of their democratic aims and of their national emancipation can be conceived only by means of the dictatorship of the proletariat, this class seizing power as the oppressed nation, and above all of its peasant masses.

But the problem of power raises the problem of the worker-peasant alliance, without which the struggle for workers’ power in a backward country is inconceivable.

The worker and peasant alliance is the basis of the Latin American revolution. The precondition for its establishment is that the proletariat calls to the struggle, and itself struggles, with its programme for agrarian reform and the defense of the sharing-out of the land, calling on the peasants to fight for the workers’ power, for the workers’ and peasants’ government, that will support and defend the sharing-out of the Hand. [Editorial in the Revista Marxista Latinoamericana, no. 9]

This is the fundamental premise for the worker-peasant alliance in the struggle against the national bourgeoisie, the oligarchy, and imperialism. But in Bolivia, since the April revolution, in the situation of the sharing-out of the land and dual power, this premise needs to be complemented by a programme that shows the peasantry that a favorable outlook for the reform already begun lies in the workers’ power, in a transitional programme between the present stage and the workers’ and peasants’ government.

In Bolivia, afterwards in Cuba, and further in other countries of Latin America, the case occurs where the strength of the mass movement carries out a thorough agrarian reform – which the bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie would never have carried out – based on dual power or the beginning of dual power, but the lack or weakness of a revolutionary Marxist leadership prevents it from culminating in workers’ power. A bourgeois regime is set up, but paralleled by a beginning of workers’ power, and shaken in its foundations and in its possibilities of stability by the peasant revolution. This situation is the typical result of the gap existing between the highly revolutionary objective conditions and the backward subjective conditions, in the formation of a revolutionary workers’ leadership of the masses.

The Bases of the Worker-Peasant Alliance

It is under these conditions that it is necessary to raise the question: What is the programme for advancing the worker-peasant alliance and, along the way, building this leadership?

It does not take the peasant long to see that the agrarian reform is not a panacea. It is agitated as the basic measure and the masses mobilize behind it, but it needs to be complemented by other measures or it founders. Economic development that raises farm production and peasants’ Hiving standards after the reform is added as one of the bases for the continuation of the alliance.

With the agrarian reform half made (the land distributed for the most part, but nothing more), the peasantry has to see in the workers not only the guarantee and the leadership of the struggle for the land as a centre, but also the support and the orientation and leadership for its economic development. It is by its own narrow economic interests that the peasantry measures the results and advantages of the alliance. It knows that in the proletariat it has the guarantee against a return of the latifundists, and therefore it supports it. But it needs something more to go forward against the capitalist government responsible for the crisis in the agrarian reform.

The alliance, if it is to go forward, needs to be based not only on a resistance to an open return to the former regime of the bosses, but above all on a struggle against the capitalist government and their influence on the peasantry. The solutions and means for raising the alliance to the level of this struggle must be based on the current situation and the current stage.

The worker-peasant alliance has not been broken, but it has ebbed. It is maintained as a front of resistance, of defense of gains already won. It needs to be converted into a front for an advance toward new revolutionary positions.

The cause of this ebb is not merely the policy of the leadership, however great its responsibility may be therein. It is also the ebb in farm production, the retreat toward subsistence economy, the abandonment of peasant needs. The government are aware that these are all factors leading to dispersal. They are profiting by the inactivity and submissiveness of the official labor leadership, its abandonment of the rural regions, in order consciously to accentuate them.

After six years of official agrarian reform, the peasantry has not been able to raise its living levels, its production; it is finding out from experience that land alone is not enough, either with or without title-deeds. That is not what it was expecting from the agrarian reform.

From now on, the workers’ movement must appear in factual action as the guide and practical aid, in plans, in methods of struggle, for raising production and the peasantry’s living levels. It must show in practice, even on a small scale, that only the workers’ and peasants’ power can guarantee the peasants’ gains and improve their situation. The peasantry, which already possesses its land to a large extent, will be won over to the struggle for the workers’ power, against the capitalist government, if from now on the workers’ movement demonstrates the methods and possibilities that this power will have for increasing the production and well-being of the peasantry.

Workers’ Power and Agrarian Development

The problem is not simply one of plans. There are plans in many books, and even the CEPAL proposes a series of measures needed to improve the situation in the Bolivian countryside. The problem is, rather, who will apply the plans, what forces and with what methods. That is what will make the peasantry decide: practice, and not just plans. And that is, in synthesis, what constitutes the programme: the measures, the methods, and the forces that apply them.

The problem, then, is a problem of power: who will govern, and for whose benefit. Measures for raising farm production cannot reach the farming regions from above, from the capitalist power. This power cannot, however good the plans it may work up, mobilize the forces for carrying them out. And – the main point – it does not even want to do so.

This sense of initiative can be awakened, mobilized, and led to develop its full creative capacity only by the workers’ power. Workers’ power is not in contradiction to peasant mobilization; on the contrary, it needs it for policy and for the economy. Capitalist power is in contradiction to any mobilization in the rural regions. While it is developing an intense campaign for dispersing and politically demobilizing the peasants, it cannot mobilize them for production.

And, in an agrarian country, without the mobilization and participation of the masses, there is no increase in production, and even less in farm production.

State power is necessary to apply the programme for developing agriculture, and for fitting it in, in a balanced way, with the programme of industrial development. Only on a basis of nationalized industry is it possible to combine both aspects without disparities and convulsive crises. [10] State power is necessary to orient and adequately distribute capital resources, always scant in a backward country, to organize and carry through an investment policy in accordance with the needs of development. Without an investment policy, without an order of priorities in the investment of resources, the programme cannot be anything but an abstraction. This policy and these priorities can be solved only from the position of power.

State power is necessary, lastly, to control and use the resources of credit and foreign trade, without which no development of agricultural production is possible.

This power must be based on proletarian democracy, to ensure the contribution of the whole creative spirit of initiative of the masses and to place under its control the properly balanced development of the different branches of the economy.

The democratic participation of the masses is necessary for the solution of the economic, political, and social problem of the plan: the balance between what industry receives from the agrarian economy and what it gives it; the correlation between accumulation and consumption, between the funds for the construction of basic capital and the funds for wages; the distribution of the national income. Proletarian democracy is necessary both as an economic stimulus and as a factor in the well-balanced development of the plan [Michel Pablo: Economic Problem of Transitional Regimes, in Dictature du proletariat, démocratie, socialisme (Editions de la Quatrième Internationale), p. 26]

Where to begin

But the central problem at the present level is: From where and with what forces should we, today, set out to reach power? How is the worker-peasant alliance organized for the struggle for power?

A trial balance concerning the worker-peasant alliance may be struck at a less elevated level: that of the peasantry’s own interests. To re-establish the alliance, it is necessary to take as a basis the peasantry’s interests at this stage, which are: to ensure its right to the land and its gains; to raise its production; to sell its products and be able to acquire what it wants from the cities.

If peasant confidence in the proletariat is to be built up for the struggle against the capitalist government, the peasant must see in the worker an effective aid for an increase in his production and in his living levels. He must see that the worker can really help him in just those matters in which the capitalist power has abandoned him.

It is necessary for the workers’ movement to organize the political defense of the peasantry against the offensive of the capitalist government. It must appear, permanently and openly, as its political ally in the cities and the mines, facing up to the government, calling the peasants to its aid, preventing the sending of troops to the rural regions.

But it must also show itself, in factual actions, to be the only firm hope for the peasantry’s economic interests, to get out of the present situation of crisis. It must thus prove the unity that exists between the immediate individual economic interests of the peasantry, and its support to and participation in the political perspective of the worker-peasant alliance. There is no other way of winning over the peasantry as an ally, not onlly to defend the positions already won, but also to go forward against the enemies who are threatening these positions – the capitalist government and imperialism – and to defeat them.

Pacts and agreements must be worked out between the unions of the peasants and the workers (miners, factory-workers, railwaymen, truck-drivers), so as to supply the pulperías [11] with farm products, to supply the peasant fairs with industrial products at cost prices, to ensure cheap transport for products in both directions, etc. The bank employees, for example, must carry out studies concerning the peasants’ credit needs, and require, through their unions, that the banks extend these credits. The workers’, peasants’, and university unions must make studies and plans for the necessary investments in fertilizers, seeds, irrigation works, etc., in order to raise production quickly and at low cost, and to draw up an adequate policy of investments for the country’s income, as the workers’ controls in the Mining Corporation and in some mines (Huanuni, for example) have already begun to do in an elementary way. The peasant unions, with the help of university people, technicians, et al., must broadcast and apply elementary measures for an increase in production. Together with the workers’ unions, they must guarantee the marketing of farm products at a better price for the peasants, without middlemen, through the pulperias of the mines and factories. Together with the professors’ and primary teachers’ unions, they can adopt measures for overcoming illiteracy and developing teaching, in which the capitalist state shows no interest or initiative, and demand the resources for carrying this out. The teachers, in exchange, will be guaranteed the support of the rural regions for their own problems and demands, as will the other sectors. Similar actions and agreements can be considered with the oil-workers, public-health workers, building-trades workers, mutual-aid associations, etc.

The trade unions must be brought to function as the elementary organs of power on the economic plane. Even with all their limitations, a few successes will have great importance, and will open up the prospect of coming out the other side of an extremely long period of dual power.

In this way, workers’ power will go on raising and building itself inside the situation of dual power, and raising and building the confidence of the great masses in themselves and in the workers’ power.

Without state power, it is obvious that these experiments would be inevitably limited and would not provide an overall and lasting solution for the problems of the revolution. But successes achieved in them, together with unity and support between the workers’ and peasants’ struggles, will show the way for re-establishing the worker-peasant alliance in the struggle for workers’ power. They will show how immense the possibilities of the workers’ and peasants’ power could be. The peasant will see this in practice much more than in explanations or general propaganda.

The workers’ radios, the miners’ radios, constitute a valuable medium for broadcasting and propagating these experiences of unity between workers and peasants. The peasantry needs to be informed, to be consciously won over, right down to its last bases, for the alliance with the workers. The miners’ radios are the instrument for breaking down its isolation, for giving an impulse to its national unification, for uniting it with the struggles of its class brothers in every corner of the country. A campaign by the miners’ unions to provide radio sets to the peasant unions and centres all over the country would have an immense echo, if the peasants know that they can hear broadcasts and news about themselves in their own language, Quechua or Aymara. The possibilities in radio, much broader than those in newspapers, are very vast indeed.

And the same time the central organ of the worker-peasant alliance, the COB, has to be reorganized under new conditions and for new tasks – not, however, as a dependency of or a negotiator with the capitalist power, but as its enemy, as the national centralizer of the power of the unions and militia, now dispersed throughout the country.

The task of politically pulling the peasantry away from the MNR and its government has to he speeded up. Every strike by the factory-workers and miners must call for peasant support, must strengthen itself with this support, which is today of immense importance. It is necessary to revitalize the departmental centres, the emergency committees, as local organs of the worker-peasant alliance, of leadership for the movements, of regional centralization of the workers’ and peasants’ power.

A National Congress of Peasants and a National Congress of Worker and Peasant Labor must be the culmination to seal the alliance and impose its programme on the country.

All these tasks are necessary for once more raising up the worker-peasant alliance and its programme, for pulling the revolution out of its stagnation, for making use of the new mobilizations that are shaking the rural regions, and for preventing them from losing themselves in a confusion that is increasing the symptoms of decomposition of the revolution after so many years without a way out.

The precondition, the prerequisite, for the achievement of these tasks is that of workers’ leadership, the adequate and timely participation of the revolutionary Marxist leadership as the centre of regroupment and stimulus for all the revolutionary forces that the government and their bureaucracy are endeavoring to paralyze and disperse.

The Revolutionary Party and the New Workers’ Leadership

Need of New Leadership

The struggle fully to re-establish the worker-peasant alliance is connected with the struggle for a new workers’ and peasants’ leadership, both trade-union and political. The present leadership has no interest in this alliance; indeed, it is dangerous for itself and for its party, the MNR. But the struggle for the worker-peasant alliance is developing jointly and along the same paths with the struggle for a new workers’ leadership. Decisive therein is the conscious role of the revolutionary Marxist vanguard, the Partido Obrero Revolucionario. [12]

The role of the revolutionary party is indispensable not only in organizing the worker-peasant alliance for the struggle for power, but also in maintaining it after power, to organize and develop production, to build the workers’ state and socialism.

The workers’ state and the building of socialism cannot be developed without the high and conscious participation of the great worker and peasant masses. Proletarian democracy provides the framework for this participation, but the revolutionary party furnishes the conscious orientation, discusses and sets the goals, wins and guarantees for the workers’ vanguard the right to direct the process, and above all ensures a close contact between the broad masses and their leadership.

The agrarian problem is, more than any other, a problem of conscious mobilization, of awakening the spirit of creative initiative and the participation of the great peasant masses. Without this, it is impossible to overcome the gap that separates the age-old backwardness of the rural regions from the highest task of our epoch, the building of socialism. Without the revolutionary party rooted in the masses, this mobilization is impossible; the lever and the tools are lacking.

The role of revolutionary party does not fall on it from heaven the day after the seizure of power. The party itself builds it in the struggle for power, while it is building itself. Without the leading participation of the cadres formed by the revolutionary party in all sectors of the masses, in the economic and political tasks of the workers’ state, there is no building socialism. And without the participation of those cadres among the main sectors of the masses in their struggles against capitalism, there is no struggle for power.

For the struggle for power and for the building of the workers’ state and socialism, the revolutionary Marxist party, the POR, needs to form and develop right in the present stage this staff of cadres.

For the development of the peasant revolution and of the worker-peasant alliance, it needs to form a staff of peasant cadres, rooted in the main sectors of the peasantry, in Ucureña, in North Potosi, in Achacachi, in Ghuquisaca, etc. The party needs to build its own peasant organization, its peasant fraction. In the development of this fraction a fundamental part will be played by the support and experience of the miners’ fractions, especially for close contact between the mines and the rural regions, which the party is trying to consolidate.

The peasant fraction must function in a centralized way on the national and departmental levels, hold its own meetings and conferences (like the last conference at Ucureña), publish its own newspaper. The goal of the peasant cadres of the party in the immediate next stage must be to win positions of union leadership, so that therefrom, with the support of the party leadership and its other organisms, they can begin to demonstrate in practice the application of the transitional programme for the rural regions, spur on the struggles in other sectors, and help on the worker-peasant alliance. From the positions of leadership in the miners’ unions that the party wins, it must help on this same process in the rural regions.

Starting out with a few unions, setting up revolutionary leaderships in various unions, peasants’ or miners’ (and also in other sectors) the party must from these vantage-points launch a campaign for the resurgence of the worker-peasant alliance, transform this union or these unions into a bulwark for the farm regions’ demands and problems, begin to apply measures of pacts, alliances, and practical aid to the peasantry, put into practice – even on a limited scale – some of the transitional measures, some of the immediately applicable points of the programme, of the organization of production, etc., and hold the union up as a practical example of what it is possible for other unions and centres to do. This policy will give an enormous strength to the new leadership, even though its base may in the beginning be only a single union. It will thus put to use in its favor the whole immense force that is represented today – and more every day – by the peasantry, mobilized and ready to fight.

The Opportunity for the POR

The other workers’ leaderships – Stalinism, Lechinism – have totally abandoned and failed the peasant revolution. In face of it, they have demonstrated their complete impotence. This is one more advantage for the revolutionary Marxist leadership, the POR, which has shown itself to be the only one that has arisen to guide and provide solutions to the struggles and problems of the peasants at this stage. The road is wide open to the POR to win positions in the peasants’ unions, to build and develop its staff of peasant cadres.

The POR was the only party to give its support to the peasants of North Potosi when the whole reaction was carrying out a national campaign against them. The POR was the only party to call for cessation of the struggle between Ucureña and Cliza, simultaneously demanding the withdrawal of the army from the rural regions, mediation by the workers’ movement, and the calling of a Peasant Conference to solve the problems. The POR was the only party which, right from the first moment, came to the open defense of the peasants of Achacachi, while the other workers’ leaderships were drawing back and echoing the government’s campaign of ca’lumny against the peasants. The orientation of the POR, in its leaflets, in its newspaper, in its delegates at Achacachi, was decisive in keeping up peasant resistance and preventing it from withering away in confusion, lack of orientation, and, especially, isolation. The POR broke through this isolation and broke up the government’s first attempt to hem in Achacachi.

The peasants of Ucureña, of Cliza, of Chuquisaca, of Potosi, and of Achacachi, have shown on each occasion that they are aware of and answer the appeals and guidance of the POR. Nobody can now erase from peasant consciousness the task accomplished, in Achacachi, in Ucureña, in all the zones of peasant mobilization.

The POR needs now more than ever to organize and develop its staff of peasant cadres, to harvest and organize all this prestige and authority, to transform itself into the leading force of the peasant revolution. All possibilities are open for the accomplishment of this task.

The struggle for a new leadership of the revolution is not simply the precondition in order to struggle for the resurgence of the worker-peasant alliance: both struggles must be developed, and develop and influence each other mutually, opening up greater prospects for a new bound forward of the Bolivian revolution, for delivering new and thorough blows against capitalism and imperialism, for strengthening the power of the workers’ and peasants’ unions and militia, and winning over still broader masses to the conscious struggle for their own state power.

The Programme of the Peasant Revolution at the Present Stage

A) Economic Problems

1) Complete transfer of the land to the peasants. Recognition of the ownership of the land by the peasants who occupied it, without any further judicial procedures. Division of the remaining latifundia.

2) Distribution to the peasants of the elementary tools for tillage, to modernize methods of land-cultivation without a big initial capital investment. Manufacture of these tools by industry, thus providing work for sectors that are paralyzed or semi-paralyzed (for example, Pulacayo). Gradual introduction of tractors and other farm-machinery.

3) Mass introduction of seeds selected by the state with the collaboration and participation of the peasant unions.

4) Mass introduction, in the same way, of the use of natural and chemical fertilizers, to intensify production and the most advantageous use of cultivatable land, eliminating the long periods of fallowness now common.

5) Construction of irrigation works, wells, drainage ditches, dams, and defenses against floods, with the contribution of state capital and the organization by the unions of paid peasant labor. Provision of pumps for bringing up water.

6) Abundant cheap credit, the nationalization of the Banco Agricola and an increase in its capitalization, setting up agencies in the main peasant centres, and formation of its board of directors with workers’ and peasants’ representatives. Nationalization without indemnization of private banking, with workers’ control, to put its resources at the service of the country’s needs.

7) Technical aid to the peasantry, with specialized personnel under union control. Requests for the sending of agrarian technicians by the workers’ states, especially those which have recently lived through the experience of their own agrarian reform (China, Jugoslavia, etc.), and also planning technicians.

8) Construction of roads and bridges to get production to market, with capital contributed by the state and organization of paid peasant labor by the unions.

9) Request for credits, in money and machinery, to the workers’ states, for the development and mechanization of agriculture (the Peasant Federation of La Paz has already asked that the Soviet offer of credit be accepted and used for this purpose).

10) General development of the organization of producers’, consumers’, and sales cooperatives, based on the successful experience of countries like China. State aid for the formation of cooperatives, in technicians and in money. Reorganization of the Dirección de Cooperativas, suppressing its whole sterile bureaucracy and designating representatives of the workers and peasants. Request to the workers’ states for aid in the form of specialists in cooperativism. Organization of production and marketing of manufactured articles by the peasantry in order to utilize integrally the time in which it is not occupied with farm tasks. Setting of prices by the state for each harvest, before sowing, in accordance with a plan of agricultural development worked up by the peasants’ and workers’ unions of the entire country. Elimination of all middlemen in marketing.

12) Plan of agrarian development, including all the foregoing points, worked up by the unions, with technical help, which visualizes solutions for the problem of the scarcity of land in relation with population growth: plans for colonization (voluntarily accepted by the peasants and with complete backing by the state for their installation and first years of stay), for agricultural technification (even on an elementary scale), for the intensification of crops, occupation of manpower in public works for the rural regions (such as those indicated above), and for development of industry. Working up of simple plans on the provincial and local scales, for the peasants and farm unions of each province and district. The general plan of agrarian development must necessarily be coordinated with the state monopoly of foreign trade and the plan for industrial development.

B) Social Problems

1) Organization of labor and mutual aid by the peasants themselves, through their own organisms such as unions, committees, etc.

2) Construction of schools, in the form already indicated.

3) Struggle against illiteracy in children and adults. Teaching to read and write in their own language, Quechua or Aymara. Improvement in the number of primary teachers, in their training, and in their pay.

4) Medical and sanitary attention. Construction of dispensaries and hospitals in or near peasant centres. Educational campaigns about sanitary norms and elementary hygiene.

5) Raising of the level of living and comfort in the rural regions, the state collaborating with the peasant in the construction and improvement of his house, his domestic utensils, his dietary habits, etc. Extension to the rural regions of workers’ social gains such as social security.

6) Suppression of all abuses by authorities and functionaries against the peasantry (the peasant unions themselves must organize this task, directly punishing those responsible).

7) Emancipation of peasant women. Inclusion of women in the peasant unions, their life and functioning, their leaderships. Formation of Peasant Women’s Committees in the unions to attend to specifically feminine problems. Participation of women in the militia, organizing auxiliary corps and women’s battalions.

8) Struggle against racial and anti-peasant discrimination in the cities and the state apparatus, and drastic punishments of any persons who keep up these practices.

9) Cultural and political campaign by the miners’ radios, in alliance and agreement with the peasant unions and centres, in Quechua and Aymara. Installation of peasant radios and adequate receiving sets in each peasant union and district.

C) Political Problems

1) Trade-union democracy. Union independence from the state and the governing party.

2) Struggle against the bureaucratization of peasant leaders and against union abuses and dictatorships and terrorist methods.

3) Development of the peasant power through the regular functioning of the agrarian unions and centres as the highest and sole authority in each district, solving all problems.

4) Re-enforcement of the militia, increase in peasants’ arms, centralization of the militia by centres, and democratic election of their chiefs and officers by the rank-and-file itself.

5) Withdrawal of any army forces from the rural regions. Propaganda among the military garrisons that may be sent into the rural regions, calling on the soldiers to fraternize with the peasants and go over to their militia in case of fighting.

6) Expulsion from the rural regions and from the country itself of the imperialist agencies SAI and SCIDE.

7) Holding of a National Congress of Peasants, to discuss and approve the programme of the agrarian revolution at the present stage, and to unify peasant forces on a national scale to impose it.

8) Worker-peasant alliance, through the support of the workers’ trade unions for the peasantry’s programme and mobilizations, and the solidarity of the peasantry with the workers’ mobilizations and demands, setting as the maximum goal the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ power to ensure and guarantee all gains.

9) Holding of a National Congress of Worker and Peasant Labor, to discuss all the problems of the country and the revolution, reorganize the COB, establish the programme of the worker-peasant alliance, and impose its solutions as the highest organism of the revolution and the masses.

10) Workers’ and peasants’ government, based on the workers’ and peasants’ unions and their armed militia, as the democratic organs of power and government of the laboring masses in the entire country.

December 1959


1. For the first part of this article, see our Spring issue.

2. In its already quoted study, the CEPAL sets forth a certain understanding reached by the bourgeoisie on the problem of the fall-off in production. It states:

Nevertheless, it is not unfavorable meteorological conditions alone that can completely explain the great reduction that has occurred in tilled areas. Other factors have had a more decisive influence on the development of agriculture in recent years. Among them there must be pointed out in the first place the faulty way in which the decree of agrarian reform has been applied up until now. The adjudication of lands, in accordance with the norms of this decree, has gone forward at an extraordinarily slow rhythm. The lack of experience and organization in carrying out this kind of work, the almost total lack of surveying personnel, and the relatively complicated procedures for the granting of title-deeds and the distribution of lands, are some of the causes that have motivated this slowness. As a result of this and of the natural post-revolutionary agitation that has existed in the country in these last years, a climate of uncertainty has been created in the countryside, both among the former landowners and among the very peasants favored by the reform. The former have become frightened by the open hostility shown toward them by the peasants, who invade their properties and in fact do not let them come back to their estates. Even those who have done so run into serious difficulties in obtaining laborers. The peasants, for their part, feel insecure because they do not possess legal title, and are afraid of losing at any moment the ownership of the lands which are now being adjudicated. Besides this, they have lacked the necessary technical and financial aid to contribute effectively to their settling themselves down in their new properties. As a result of this prevailing insecurity and the lack of a well-balanced programme of application of the reform, the greater part of the lands directly worked by the former estate-owners has been left practically untilled, and today is used only for grazing – often harmful for the soil – of the peasants’ livestock. In this way, the only lands that continue to be tilled in a permanent way are the former little plots, sayanas, aimed mainly at providing foodstuffs for their owners – which leaves only a very limited part thereof for sale in the markets. This explains the great contradiction that has occurred in the offer of foodstuffs in the urban centres during these last years. In other words, the subsistence character of Bolivian agriculture has become even further accentuated.

3. Industry brings in only 9% of the total national income. But not even its scant development is properly profited by: while factories close, or others cut down production, there exists, for example, an urgent need for tools of a simple sort for agriculture, which is not furnished by national industry, though this is entirely within its present possibilities.

4. According to the CEPAL, a calculation made by the Servicio Agricola Interamericano in May 1956 shows the following break-down in the price of oranges at that date in the city of La Paz:









Market semi-wholesaler


Individual city retailer




5. According to Deputy Lopez Avila, there existed in 1957 some 400 cooperatives, “of which only some 30-odd deserve to be so described: the others are simply buying and selling clubs, have no culture, have no organization, and have not even been taught the basic principles of cooperativism.”

6. The play on words comes from the term “cupo,” a kind of quota.

7. “The existence of an artificially low official exchange rate meant also a considerable stimulus for the importation of equipment in an indiscriminate manner, not subject to any plan. It has been possible to judge in 1956, when a good part of the existing equipment was paralyzed for lack of repair parts and the lack of personnel specialized in handling it.” (CEPAL, in the aforementioned study)

8. The landowners had at their disposal a certain amount of credit which is at present refused to the peasant. For that matter, farm credit was always very low in Bolivia. The CEPAL calculated that between 1950 and 1955 the loans accorded by the Banco Agricola reached less than 0.5% of the total value of Bolivian farm and stock-raising production. Then the supervised credit of the SAI was set up, “which meant a certain increase, but this went by preference to capitalist exploitations in Santa Cruz, and is granted to poor peasants only in minute amounts and with political conditions.

9. But in a country with a huge population of underemployed peasants (it would be more correct to say: village inhabitants), it is not necessary to start with huge capital investments in order to achieve a substantial increase in the average productivity of labor. For what else is underemployment if not the fact that in such backward countries half or two-thirds of the population, living in the villages, are only really working 150 to 200 days a year! (The First Five-Year Plan of India estimated the number of adult males in Indian agriculture at the staggering figure of 70 million people!) The rest of the year, they do nothing. Now if it were possible to give them something to do during the rest of the year, some productive purpose which does not need huge fixed equipment, their annual production, and thus their annual productivity, would tremendously increase. In fact, while doing nothing, they continue to eat. It would be sufficient to give them a little bit more to eat, while getting them to work, in order to treat the largest part, if not the whole, of their increased production as social surplus product, as a social investment fund. [Ernest Germain, The Industrialization of Backward Countries, in our issue No. 4, Autumn 1958.]

Although in Bolivia the population problem is far from being raised in the same terms, it is indubitable that there exists semi-employment or underemployment of the peasantry (64% of the population, at least), which has been much aggravated by the economic retreat provoked by the monetary stabilization imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

10. In the case of backward countries, nationalization of the principal means of production and adoption, right from the beginning, of commercial methods and practices, must be completed as quickly as possible by two supplementary measures: the planning of a speeded-up industrialization, gradual collectivization, of the agrarian economy, especially in accordance with the possibilities of industry. [Michel Pablo: Economic Problems of Transitional Regimes, in Dictature du proletariat, démocratie, socialisme (Editions de la Quatrième Internationale), p. 22]

The socialist renovation of agriculture will be carried out, naturally, not by cooperatives considered as a new form of organization, but by means of cooperatives based on general industrialization. That is to say that technical and socialist progress in agriculture cannot be separated from an increasing predominance of industry in the country’s general economy. [Leon Trotsky, Toward Capitalism or Toward Socialism?, quoted by Michel Pablo, op. cit., p. 23]

There is no doubt but that a harmonious and well-balanced solution of these problems is definitively possible only within the framework of the socialist unification of Latin America, and not in each country isolatedly; but, at this stage, the revolution and the struggle for power have their own rhythms and problems in the various countries.

11. Once literally “company stores,” these almost sole sources of low-priced supplies of foodstuffs, clothing, and other necessities, can still be used, especially in the isolated mining complexes, even after nationalization, to bring pressure on the workers by manipulation of prices, shortages, etc.

12. For fuller development of this section, see the very important Letter from the Secretariat of the Latin American Bureau of the Fourth International to the XVIth Conference of the POR, in March 1959, on whose fundamental formulations this section is based.

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