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Juan Robles

Nazi-Stalinist Alliance and Miners’ Defeat

Bolivia Witnesses Intense Social Drama

(11 July 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 28, 11 July 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Bolivia is the scene of an intense social drama, where all the international as well as national contradictions converge, and where the mine workers struggle against imperialist exploitation as well as against the backward feudalism of the country and the domination of the feudo-bourgeoisie. In this traditional and spontaneous struggle, the native Bolivian proletariat is confronted by “teachers” and “leaders” who exploit its sacrifices, its readiness for struggle and its revolutionary heroism for their own corrupt ends, and divert it from its true historic road.

The Bolivian petty bourgeoisie is a typical representative of its class in all of Indian America. Hungry and impoverished, it seeks social betterment through continuous military conspiracies, uprisings and “native revolutions.” It desires to displace those who hold state power, the source of national income, for its own benefit.

But the change it demands is only a question of a change of guard, of a change in the men and groups who govern, while the base of the capitalist regime remains intact. “Criollo” politics is only a naked and cynical struggle for power as a means of enriching a new, small clique at the expense of the brutalized, exploited and backward masses.

These military uprisings and conspiracies, at times supported by the social struggle of the oppressed masses, are what the native petty bourgeoisie calls a nationalist “revolution.”

Nazis-Stalinists at Work

Under the ideological influence of German Nazism, the petty bourgeoisie embraced a homegrown Nazi program and created a party, the MNR (Revolutionary Nationalist Movement). When German Nazism went down before Allied arms, the Villaroel regime could not survive and fell apart under the weight of a popular revolution. But confronted in the recent past by a rightist government, and supported by the powerful Peronist influence, the defeated native Nazi party regained its influence and constituted itself the chief opposition force. Its strength lay mainly in the unions created by the defunct Villaroel regime as a prop to its rule.

In addition, the Stalinist party, the PIR (Party of the Revolutionary Left), the fighting vanguard against the Villaroel regime in the 1946 revolution, now has instructions to struggle against all the pro-American governments in accordance with the change in the international situation, and to support all the “anti-imperialist” movements in order to utilize the Indo-American proletariat as cannon fodder in Stalin’s cold war against Washington.

The native proletariat is not aware of and does not understand the complex international situation. It struggles against the Bolivian feudo-bourgeoisie, against the “Rosea” (as the right is known in Bolivia), against the Yankee “gringos,” who personify imperialism in acting as the agents of the Patino mine enterprises. It understands very well that a majority of shareholders in Patino are American and that Bolivian tin is sold principally to the United States and Great Britain.

Armed Putsch

After a brief first period of “workers’ socialism,” represented by the PSOB (Socialist Workers Party of Bolivia), the Bolivian working class fell under Stalinist influence and then came under the sway of the Nazi MNR. Now the miners and industrial unions are controlled by the Nazi clique, the railroad workers by the Stalinists. The working-class Left has been displaced by the petty bourgeois, anti-working class forces which exploit the proletariat for their own interests.

While the PSOB, exhausted by an internal crisis, remains isolated and incapable of mass activity, the POR (Revolutionary Workers Party), official section of the Fourth International, has become the left wing of native nationalism. The workers’ movement, caught between two fires, that of the dominant feudo-bourgeois opposition, spontaneously tends to move to the left of the petty-bourgeois opposition, acting as cannon fodder for Pcronism and Stalinism.

During the elections this past May 1, the MNR rushed 200 to 300 armed men into the main plaza of La Paz to attack the government building, imitating the tactic of the popular revolution of 1946 against the Villaroel regime. But the armed struggle lacked both revolutionary intensity and popular support and was defeated.

Then the MNR decided to push the masses into a general strike in the same manner as the trade-union federation and the PIR had done in 1946. The PURS government (Socialist Republican Union Party), aware of the preparations and of the powerful Peronist support behind the MNR, decided to take energetic measures, that is, intervene in the traditional manner of the feudo-bourgeois state as the gendarme.

According to reliable sources, this caused an internal crisis in the PURS and the temporary withdrawal of President Hertzog, who opposed a “strong” policy.

The leaders of the Miners Federation, all members of the MNR, Lechin, Torres, Grover, with the exception of Lora and Vargas (the latter being affiliated with the POR), had prepared their combat groups to forestall the coming arrests by means of a general strike and the seizure of hostages from the mining companies’ personnel. The government sent military detachments to the mines and besieged the headquarters of the miners’ union, where the hostages were being held.

Mine Workers Go on Strike

The mine workers found themselves caught between the two enemy fires, and in addition carried the brunt of the struggle between the feudo-bourgeoisie and the Nazi petty bourgeoisie. The miners’ strike extended to Catavi and to all the other mining centers, both because Lechin’s clique had prepared for this find because of the workers’ indignation over the Catavi massacre. The mine workers were followed by the factory workers, also controlled by the MNR.

The important working-class sectors of Oruro and La Paz, the drivers and printers, were opposed to the strike. The key was in the hands of the Stalinist PIR, which controlled the railroad and transport workers. Forgetting the Nazi past of the bosses of the Nazi-controlled unions and their ties with the MNR, forgetting their persecution by the Nazis and the attempt against the life of their leader, Jose A. Arze, the FIR chiefs sent the railroad workers on strike with the demand for the return of the “union leaders” and “respect for the workers’ organizations.”

The Nazi-Stalinist alliance was effected under the pressure of the South American Stalinist leadership against the interests of the Stalinist party itself, which would be the first victim of the MNR, in case of victory. A propaganda campaign that included the Stalinist circles of the CIO in the United States was launched in behalf of Lechin, depicting the notorious Nazi criminal as a simple trade-union leader.

In spite of this alliance, which represented a majority of the organized working class, the spontaneous resistance of the independently organized workers’ sector defeated the “Nazi revolution.” Both the drivers and the transport workers resisted the strike. The railroad workers limited themselves to a brief demonstration of solidarity, as did the factory workers. The MNR was once again defeated, leaving hundreds of dead and wounded workers on the field of battle. The assault on a Bolivian frontier garrison by an armed MNR group was the epilogue of a defeated putsch.

False Theories and Defeats

The proletariat was defeated not as a conscious socialist force but as an army under Nazi-Stalinist command. The independent socialist and trade-union sector did everything possible to save the working class from defeat, to preserve its forces for the authentic´working-class and socialist struggle. Unfortunately, their organizational weakness could not prevent the tragic events. However, their attitude played a role in shaping the spontaneous resistance of the proletariat to the Nazi-Stalinist alliance. If this position had been supported by the POR, Bolivian section of the Fourth International, perhaps the defeat would have been prevented.

But the policy of the POR was determined as much by the false theory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Bolivia as by the false policy and the criminal alliance between Lora and Lechin. Lora, a POR deputy in Parliament, declared that the MNR plays a “reformist” role that is unconsciously “revolutionary,” and that he considered it necessary to “push” the MNR by means of the POR and the unions toward the “democratic revolution.”

The poor fellow did not realize that the POR had become the vanguard of the MNR, and he himself secretary and counselor of the Nazi boss, Lechin. By means of this tactic, the PORista, Lora, became a national deputy, thanks to Lechin and the blessings of the MNR. His service to the MNR culminated in the preparation of the “revolution” and the seizure of hostages, and led to the massacre of workers. His ambition was to become “general director” of the Patino mines, “nationalized” by the MNR.

Poor Lora, the “native Marxist,” forgot that the democratic-bourgeois revolution was inherent in the war of independence carried out by Bolivar and San Martin; that one cannot reverse the wheels of history, and that the only social revolution in South America will be the workers’ and socialist revolution, which will finish the delayed and unsolved problems of the democratic revolution.

The native proletariat pays with massacres for the errors and ambitions of its petty leaders. Perhaps this bloody disaster will serve as a lesson in the struggle for the socialist revolution.

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