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L. Velasco

A Triumph for Trotskyism in Bolivia

(15 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 5.
Translated by Mary Bell.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LA PAZ, Nov. 15, 1946. – Although Bolivia is a small, semi-colonial country of 3–4,000,000 inhabitants, of whom 80 per cent are native peasants completely isolated from civilized life, the development of the Bolivian labor movement is worthy of being studied and utilized by the American working class.

After the political revolution of July 21, in which the people of La Paz destroyed the creole Nazi-fascists, hanging President Villaroel from a lamp-post, the tri-partite committee of workers, teachers and students handed the power over to the supreme court of the district, “to constitutionalize the country” and convoke the elections. This committee, led by the Stalinists of the PIR (Party of the Left Revolutionaries), was totally unable to control the new government assembly and ended up in complete impotence by handing power over to the capitalists.

In spite of the fact that the PIR defended the slogan of “national unity,” in spite of having been the initiator of the Democratic Anti-Fascist Front (DAF), an alliance of the PIR with the capitalists, the Stalinists have been kicked out of the DAF. Thus forced into isolation, assuredly on the orders of the Kremlin, which is trying to build a strong fifth column in South America, the Stalinists called for the program of a UNITED FRONT OF THE LEFT through the CSTB (Bolivian Workers Federation of Labor). They invited the Marxist parties, the PSOB (Bolivian Socialist Workers Party), and the POR (Revolutionary Workers Party, section of the Fourth International), together with the university federation and the miners’, builders’ and railroad workers’ union, to form a front around the PIR. The purpose was to enable them to launch the presidential candidacy of Jose Antonio Arze, the Stalinist leader, by proposing the vice presidency for G. Navarro (Tristan Maroff), leader of the PSOB, according to unofficial accounts. Nevertheless, the Stalinists did not break with the ruling class but used the fantasy of the left front as a shadow-boxing maneuver.

The Miners Fight Back

Meanwhile, very important events were taking place in the Bolivian labor movement. The crisis in Bolivian mining – the lack of a market for tin – forced the mining capitalists to close some of the mines and the mine workers faced the prospect of hunger. One of the Hochschild mines, “San Jose” in Oruro, did not wish to pay the legal indemnities owing to the workers. Other mines also threatened the workers with lay-offs.

The workers responded with the threat of occupying the mines and operating them for their own use. The miners’ congress meeting in Pulacayo came out in favor of the sliding scale of wages and the forty-hour work week and expressed its lack’ of confidence in the government assembly and especially in the “labor” minister, the Stalinist Alcoba. The delegates from the labor ministry, dominated by the Stalinists, were expelled from the miners’ congress. The delegates resolved to fight for a workers’ government, which alone can emancipate the working class. The congress declared the Stalinist PIR, a party of the middle class, thus unmasking even the Stalinist union bureaucracy as an instrument of reaction and of betrayal of the working class. The miners’ congress proposed the creation of a WORKERS CENTER, a new union form, directed by the union of mine workers. The congress also proclaimed as a program the nationalization of the mining industry by a workers’ government and the taking over of all the mines which do not conform to the labor legislation and which threaten the workers with lay-offs.

The action of the miners was inspired and led by the POR (Fourth International) which took advantage of the defeat of the Nazi regime and succeeded in gaining influence among the miners, heretofore dominated by the Nazi-fascist bureaucrats and bullies. By this mass action the Trotskyist movement made itself a political factor of great importance, the first Trotskyist movement in Latin America which leads the mass labor movement and openly opposes Stalinism and the capitalist class. The valiant action of the native Bolivian miners is also worthy of note as an obvious proof that Stalinism is losing the proletariat as a social base and sliding toward the skilled workers and the middle class.

The picture would be incomplete if we did not consider the dangers which lie in waif for the young Bolivian working class. The leaders of the POR propose the slogan of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, realizable only under the dictatorship of the working class, a revolution which in its development will pass over to the socialist stage.

In a pamphlet titled Ends and Means of the Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution, the POR author quite reasonably submits to severe criticism the concept of the democratic revolution defended by the Stalinists, which they believe can be realized in alliance with the bourgeoisie through the medium of the “National Union.” Citing the Two Tactics of Lenin, the author argues quite correctly that the middle class is incapable of accomplishing the democratic revolution in Bolivia against the feudo-capitalists and that the feudo-capitalists, allied with feudalism and imperialism, do not want to undertake this revolution. Only a workers’ government, the dictatorship of the proletariat, can realize this revolution. The author, however, makes the error of considering the situation in Czarist Russia before the revolution as parallel, or almost identical to, the actual situation in Bolivia, a very great error, because Russia was an independent feudal empire with capitalism sufficiently developed, and a country of enormous expanse and enormous resources of its own. Bolivia is a poor, small, semi-colonial country, without capitalist industry and politically and economically dependent on imperialism.

Role of Trotskyists

In analyzing the situation in Bolivia and the working class movement, the other revolutionary party, the PSOB, came to the conclusion that only the socialist revolution can realize the delayed tasks of the bourgeois revolution, the nationalization of the land, the emancipation of the Indian and the conquest of real national independence, economic as well as political. Since the Bolivian feudo-capitalists are neither able nor willing to develop the capitalist industries, the democratic revolution will not be realized in Bolivia by the capitalist class, and still less by the completely impotent middle ciass. The Stalinist slogan of the democratic revolution as the next step, realizable by them in alliance with the progressive bourgeoisie is a political fiction. Only the socialist revolution, synchronized with the proletariat and South and North America, can end feudalism and introduce socialism in Bolivia.

Therefore, we see that the PSOB differs fundamentally from the POR in its estimation of the revolutionary perspectives. While the POR believes in the possibility of the democratic revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, almost without taking into account the international situation, the PSOB considers only the possibility of a directly socialist revolution, realizable only with the aid of the American working class, or at least the South American. The concept of the POR appears to us to be circumscribed by the theory of the possibility of socialism in a single country. It therefore runs the danger of falling into a political adventurism, isolated from international working class action. Thence derives the slogan of occupying and taking over in the mines by the workers inside the system of capitalism. Even the militants of the POR are not clear on this problem: some confine themselves to the taking over of the inactive or sabotaging mines, others are for nationalization of the mines under a workers’ government. Thence stems the danger of isolating the mining proletariat from the rest of the working class and exposing itself to a bloody defeat, thus fomenting Bonapartist and reactionary tendencies. The Bolivian proletariat is therefore not confronted only with the weak Bolivian bourgeoisie, but with powerful imperialism, which has its interests in mining and which dominates Bolivia economically and politically.

The revolutionary movement of the miners ought to begin by grouping around itself the entire working class, the native peasants, the middle classes and the artisans of the city, under the program of a working class united front, which would out-maneuver the Stalinists and later bring about a workers’ and peasants’ front. By eliminating creole Stalinism, the labor movement advances further toward final victory over the capitalists than by venturing a miners’ rebellion, isolated from the rest of the working class and peasant masses.

The immediate task is to cut off the Stalinist initiative of the left front by transforming it into a workers’ front, destroying Stalinism and isolating it from the working class. The nucleus of the workers front must be collaboration between the POR and PSOB, together with the miners, in order to attract the left-wing students, the building workers and the railroad workers, eliminating the Stalinists from the unions.

The workers’ front is a force capable not only of keeping in line the attacks of Nazi-fascist, feudo-capitalist and Stalinist reaction, but of maintaining political democracy and the social conquests of the workers, extending them and, rousing the native peasantry to reach the final victory together with the American proletariat.

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