The victory of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) in the Bolivian general election in October is a great result for the popular forces in Bolivia as well as anti-imperialist forces in Latin America and around the world.
Following the coup and the exile of President Evo Morales in November 2019, the attempts by the regime of Jeanine Áñez to criminalise the struggles of the working class and Indigenous peoples of Bolivia has failed to defeat the MAS electorally. The Bolivian army’s leadership has been thoroughly discredited, having backed last year’s coup. The newly elected government of Luis Arce, a former minister of the economy under Morales, must purge the army and the state forces in order to restore its credibility in the eyes of the Bolivian people.
Last November’s coup was justified by a fraudulent audit by the Organisation of American States that claimed the MAS had manipulated the election of October 2019. The OAS has long been little more than an agent for Yankee-imposed “regime change” in Latin America. So inconsistent was the OAS audit that even members of the US Congress have pointed to irregularities.
The ousting of Morales was backed by Christian fascist groups motivated by an intense hatred of the Indigenous “heathens,” who form the backbone of the popular forces.
The racist regime has responded disastrously to the covid-19 pandemic, leaving Bolivia in third place out of 150 countries in the number of people per million who have died from covid. The coup leadership has persecuted Indigenous Bolivians, and state forces have perpetrated at least two massacres against them, killing twenty-two people.
Áñez has pressured prosecutors to conduct investigations into more than a hundred people linked to the Morales government on charges of supposed sedition. Even now former electoral officials remain under house arrest in Bolivia, based on nothing more than the sham OAS audit of the 2019 election.
The Bolivian elections have significant implications for the balance of forces in Latin America. Twenty-one years ago Hugo Chávez rose to power in Venezuela. There was much talk at the time about “socialism of the twenty-first century.” In 2002 Chávez was reinstated following a failed US-backed coup.
The Venezuelan government lifted millions of people out of poverty, but it did not encroach on the power of the pro-US comprador class, which had ruled the country for decades. The destabilisation of Venezuela orchestrated by right-wing forces since Maduro took office showed that this was a serious error.
But the Bolivarian movement is still in power in Venezuela; and the efforts to sabotage Bolivia’s democracy have been dealt a crushing blow. Bolivia will now re-establish good relations with Venezuela, and is likely to ally itself with left-wing governments in Mexico and Argentina.
Twenty years ago the United States was still celebrating the “end of history”; its disastrous “war on terror” had yet to be declared. But the United States no longer has the same vice-grip on its so-called “back yard” in Latin America. It is an empire in terminal decline.
The experiences of Latin American countries offer compelling evidence of the nature of state power and the severe limits of the electoral process for overthrowing the capitalist system. The forces of reaction will regroup unless the popular governments in Bolivia and Venezuela destroy the material basis of the power of landlords, commodity barons and agricultural monopolies by taking industries into public ownership and liquidating internal enemies, who are more than prepared to engage in violence with weapons purchased from their imperialist masters.
Furthermore, communist and anti-imperialist movements must scrutinise their own strategies for building working-class power. The essential difference is between transformative demands and reformist ones. Capitalist states can tolerate a shift to the left in their parliaments, for this is just one component of where state power lies. Transformative demands undermine the dictatorship of capital and strengthen the hand of the working class; reformist ones can be accommodated by the state without altering its nature or the balance of class forces in the slightest.
The ruling class is not infallible, and, as the present crisis of capitalism deepens, its weaknesses as much as the strengths of the popular forces must be seized on by those who want to achieve socialism.