Andrzej Rudzienski Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Juan Robles

World Politics

Bolivian Labor Squeezed Between
Capitalist and CP Reactionaries

(25 July 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 30, 25 July 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The MNR (National Revolutionary Movement) adventure in Bolivia, which culminated in a general strike and an assault on the Bolivian frontier at Villazon by a group of MNR members with the support and aid of the Argentine police, has ended in a defeat for the Bolivian workers’ movement. Unfortunately it will bear bitter fruit for the working and middle classes of Bolivia.

Now, even more than in the past, these political changes are the product of social and economic causes. Their frequency and irresponsibility are explained by the weakness of the bourgeoisie in semi-colonial countries, where the political structure lacks firm foundations. Political parties rise and fall away, exhaust themselves rapidly. The convulsive political life of the Republic of Bolivar conforms to the weakness of the ruling class, the Bolivian feudo-bourgeoisie.

The Political Equilibrium

The defeat of the miners, caused by the adventurism of the MNR in the Catavi mines, is being exploited by the feudo-bourgeois right, at whose head stand the Patino enterprises, the tin kings. Until the recent Catavi massacre there existed in Bolivia an equilibrium of social forces: the workers movement had come out of the revolution of July 1946 greatly strengthened by virtue of its decisive role in overthrowing the totalitarian regime of Villaroel. The big mining interests dared not ignore the power of the workers’ movement.

The Hertzog government based itself on this equilibrium of the social forces, trying to be the arbiter of the political struggle. This was the reason for the existence of certain aspects of political democracy and “respect for the trade union organizations.” Unfortunately, the strength of the workers’ movement was divided between the Stalinists of the PIR (Party of the Revolutionary Left) and the Nazis of the MNR. The mining bourgeoisie called this state of things “the trade union dictatorship.”

Foreseeing a new coup on the part of the Nazi-MNR based on its trade union strength, the mining capitalists proceeded to break the magic circle of the social equilibrium and to execute a cold coup, forcing President Hertzog to surrender the reins of power “for reasons of health.” They considered Hertzog incapable of adopting “energetic measures” against the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which is how the Patinista press described the Nazi dictatorship over the mine workers.

Now that the miners have been defeated and the power of the MNR agents over the mine unions destroyed, the Patinista press seeks to exploit the fruits of its victory. In the first place, the Patino group is opposed to Hertxog’s return, fearing that he would lose the fruits of victory. His successor, Urriolagiotia, an impoverished landowner from Sucre, representing the most reactionary clique within the Republican-Socialist Party which is now in power, positively pants with the desire to “finish off the rebels.” But this interim president with the beard and profile of a “noble Spaniard” does not satisfy the big mining interests, who desire the complete destruction of the workers’ movement. They desire not merely the destruction of the unions, but of the workers’ political resistance as well.

The Patinistas’ dream of the total prohibition of political parties and of a military dictator who will govern the poor country with the traditional methods of the native police, an inheritance from Spanish colonial rule. A military dictatorship of the right, supported by decisive sectors of the bourgeoisie, would replace the poor, weak Bolivian “democracy” and the exhausted, aborted “nationalist revolution” of the MNR.

The “cold” coup of the bourgeoisie enters, then, the third act of its realization: the first was the “license of Hertzog”; the second the defeat of the MNR, and afterward of the general strike; the third will be the military dictatorship of the feudo-bourgeoisie, the reactionary rule of the big mining interests headed by the Patino group under the auspices of imperialism.

Workers Pay for Defeat

The Bolivian proletariat, especially the miners, were defeated because they followed the directives and command of the Nazis and Stalinists, both anti-working class and reactionary forces. Now the proletariat must pay for the defeat to which they were led by the Nazis.

All the attempts to save the workers from this defeat were useless, not only because of the weakness of the independent Marxist forces, but because of the fatal situation dominated by the two anti-worker blocs. And now comes the bitter phase of “vae victis” (“woe to the vanquished”).

The Bolivian situation in its general features, therefore, reflects the fatal situation of the revolutionary proletariat crushed between two reactions: capitalist and Stalinist.

Andrzej Rudzienski Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 2 June 2021