“My sin was being indigenous, leftist, and anti-imperialist”

In capitalist society… democracy is always hemmed in by the narrow limits set by capitalist exploitation.

V. I. Lenin (1917)

As the brutal coup in Bolivia has yet again demonstrated, these suffocating limits on democracy are even narrower in nations under the boot of imperialism and neocolonialism.

Under the leadership of President Evo Morales and his party, MAS (Movement to Socialism), the poor and indigenous people of Bolivia have made enormous gains: lifting millions out of poverty, improving literacy, reducing unemployment, nationalising their natural gas reserves, and making Bolivia the fastest-growing economy in the region.

In direct reaction to these incredible successes, a fascist reaction has reared its ugly head. Much as in Venezuela, this opposition represents the organised white colonial reaction, enraged to see their privilege and authority being eroded. As ever, these minority forces are propped up and orchestrated by the US empire, against the majority of the people and their will.

Immediately following Morales’ re-election in October the right wing denounced the vote as illegitimate (while so far producing no evidence to support their claim). An explosion of fascistic violence erupted in the subsequent days and weeks, primarily targeting socialists, indigenous people, and labour organisers. In the face of this right-wing terror, and pushed by the military, the democratically elected president was forced to resign.

In the words of Morales himself, “my sin was being indigenous, leftist, and anti-imperialist.” His most offensive error was taking control of the country’s resources to utilise them for the people’s benefit, rather than that of foreign corporations. Under MAS’s leadership, Bolivia was undertaking the industrialisation of its lithium production, moving towards an economy based on producing value-added commodities rather than wallowing in chronic dependence on exporting raw materials and importing finished products.

Latin American countries (indeed all neo-colonial countries) have been dealing with this kind of structurally exploitative economic relationship with the imperial core for decades, and only left-wing movements led by the likes of Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez have pointed the way forward.

In order to hold fast this endemic exploitation, the dictatorial right-wing government now in power promises to reimpose the monopoly control of capitalist conglomerates over the country’s valuable resources—namely, the second-largest concentration of lithium on the planet. Global demand for the mineral is skyrocketing, and this trend is expected to continue.

The illegal ousting of Morales and his ministers comes one week after they broke off a lithium deal with the German corporation ACISA. In a recent statement, the company expressed its confidence that “our lithium project will be resumed after a phase of political calmness and clarification”—to translate: calm and clear for capital, terror and destitution for people.

That dozens of Bolivians have already been massacred in the streets in order to ensure Western domination of this increasingly prized mineral demonstrates the horrifying reality of Marx’s pronouncement that at birth “capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood.”

The electronic technologies created with this blood-soaked lithium will no doubt be marketed by Western companies as “eco-friendly” and “sustainable”; but the reality for our planet and its people is quite different. If total environmental collapse is to be averted we must seize economic and political power from the self-destructive capitalist class. The people of Bolivia have set out on that revolutionary path, reclaiming the land and resources that the imperialists have stolen and freeing it from the pressures of capitalist competition and overproduction.

Western corporations, watching mineral-rich Bolivia and foaming at the mouth, were furious that a few million politically conscious workers, peasants and indigenous people should so substantially affect their profit margins. The people of Bolivia are now experiencing their unforgiving revenge.

But the militant organising of the Bolivian masses has amply demonstrated their refusal to accept counter-revolution, having tasted the fruits of an alternative to neo-liberal, imperial domination.

The stakes of this struggle are truly global in nature. Those who stand against the left government in Bolivia stand against the struggle for climate justice and the survival of our planet. Only with the democratic ownership of the world’s major industries and resources can we move towards a sustainable relationship with the earth, such as Cuba has been pioneering.

Ravenous for short-term profit, and tied to the laws of competition, the capitalists in power will not allow even the destruction of our planet to upset constant accumulation and growth. But victories against their power are possible, as the people of Bolivia have demonstrated, and only by their renewed success can other countries hope to follow in rejecting the rule of corporate imperialism and monopoly capitalism and finally forge a socialist path.

Sources and further reading

  • Common Dreams, “Bolivian coup comes less than a week after Morales stopped multinational firm’s lithium deal,” at https://tinyurl.com/tt4wngh
  • Telesur, “Bolivia: Morales to industrialize lithium for battery experts,” at https://tinyurl.com/ta33oa7
  • V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, chap. 5.
  • Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, chap. 31.