Two views on Evo Morales and class struggles in Bolivia
An important exchange between two leading analysts of class struggles in Bolivia, Jeff Webber and Federico Fuentes, has appeared in the British journal International Socialism. Webber views the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales as an instrument of neoliberal reaction; Fuentes says this government “has presided over a process of change that has brought many advances.”
The opening section of the Fuentes article is republished below.
For the entire exchange, see:
- Jeffery R. Webber: “Revolution against ‘Progress’: The TIPNIS Struggle and Class Contradictions in Bolivia.”
- Federico Fuentes: “The Morales Government: Neoliberalism in Disguise?”
- Federico Fuentes: “Bolivia: Challenges along Path of ‘Governing by Obeying the People’.”
As Fuentes notes, I reviewed his text and contributed some suggestions. Webber also responds to my article: “Progress in Bolivia: A Reply to Jeff Webber.”
Because of health issues, this blog has been published infrequently since February. Regular publication will be resumed in May. Among the projected articles:
- “Lenin-Era Policy on Financing the Capitalist State.”
- “Marx, Engels, and the Occupy Movement.”
- “Zinoviev at his Best: Halle 1920 (review)”.
- “The Curious Conversion of the U.S. SWP (review).”
The Morales Government: Neoliberalism in Disguise?
By Federico Fuentes
For more than a decade Bolivia has been rocked by mass upsurges and mobilisations that have posed the necessity and possibility of fundamental political and social transformation.(1) In 2005 the social movements that led the country’s water and gas wars managed to elect a government that since then has presided over a process of change that has brought major advances.
Among these are: the adoption of a plurinational state structure that for the first time recognises the country’s indigenous majority; regaining sovereign control over vital natural resources and initial steps towards endogenous industrialisation; an ongoing agrarian reform; and the development of social programmes that have substantially improved the lives of ordinary Bolivians. Democratic rights have been reinforced; forms of self-government by indigenous communities established; and electoral processes expanded to include popular election even of the judiciary. Not least in importance, Bolivia has also become a prime participant in the movement for Latin American anti-imperialist unification and sovereignty and emerged as a major leader in the international fight against capitalist-induced climate change.
In his recent article in this journal, “Revolution against ‘Progress’”,(2) Jeffery Webber offers a harsh critique of the MAS government, illustrating it by reference to recent conflicts between the government and some indigenous groups involving environmental and development issues. His conclusion: the government remains committed to a neoliberal programme based on “fiscal austerity”, “low inflationary growth”, “inconsequential agrarian reform”, “low social spending” and “alliances with transnational capital”, among other policies. As such, it shares “more continuity than change with the inherited neoliberal model”.
These are sweeping assertions, and many are questionable. Webber criticises the government’s supposed “fiscal austerity”, yet omits the fact that budget spending has increased almost fourfold between 2004 and 2012. He attacks the government for seeking “low inflation” and “macroeconomic stability”, but what is his alternative: high inflation and macroeconomic instability? These were certainly traits of previous neoliberal governments. Furthermore, is it “inconsequential” that in its first five years the Morales government presided over the redistribution or titling of 41 million hectares of land to over 900,000 members of indigenous peasant communities?(3) And if the government’s policy can be simply defined as one of forming alliances to benefit foreign transnationals, why is the Bolivian state currently facing 12 legal challenges in international courts initiated by these same companies?…
References (by F. Fuentes)
1. Thanks to John Riddell and Richard Fidler for their suggestions while writing this article.
2. Webber, Jeffery R., 2012, “Revolution against ‘Progress’: The TIPNIS Struggle and Class Contradictions in Bolivia”, International Socialism 133 (winter). Except as indicated, all quotations attributed to Webber are taken from this article.
3. Rojas Calizaya, Juan Carlos, 2011, “Tierra, propriedad y poder.”