THE CONTINUING STRUGGLE IN BOLIVIA
According to a report from Juventudes Libertarias (Anarchist Youth) dated June 17, 2001, about twelve thousand mine workers armed with dynamite occupied the city of La Paz demanding the expulsion of mining multinationals from Bolivia. Of course, the unions played their proper social role as “the vanguard of compromise”, promoting the idea that negotiating with the national bourgeoisie is the best way for the workers to gain their demands.
At about the same time a truckers’ strike closed down most of the country’s highways for seven days. And more recently, factory workers began their own action in the face of a failing economy.
As is always the case, the unions and other progressives have been pushing a program of nationalist class collaboration, trying to convince the exploited that their interests are one with those of the Bolivian capitalist class, that slavery to a local master is better than slavery to a foreign master—the same old lie used over and over again to prevent revolution.
But a significant part of the Bolivian economy relates to the cultivation of coca, largely for traditional us in its unprocessed form. Using anti-drug policies as an excuse, the Bolivian government, with some significant assistance from the United States, is seeking to eradicate coca cultivation in order to appropriate these lands for multinationals. In response, farmers have formed self-defense committees. Government attacks and repression are pushing the farmers toward an armed uprising—a large-scale insurrection that could easily develop without forming a specialized military wing, since current developments are in the direction of a generalized arming of the rural population.
In the Yungas region, one of the main areas of traditional coca cultivation, the government recently attempted military invasion to eradicate coca plants. As soon as they heard of this, local farmers came together and drove the troops out to the border of the region.
On June 21, peasants of the Altiplano region set up roadblocks to protest their situation of poverty. The government sent in the military and two people were killed and several others wounded. The peasants have said that they are not going to back down in the face of such repression, but are prepared instead to arm themselves and move their struggle in an explicitly revolutionary direction. They proved that this is not just talk when they attacked power line towers with dynamite in response to the two murders.
On July 2, impoverished debtors took over three government buildings: the department of People’s Defense, the office of the Catholic archbishop and the banking supervisory agency. The debtors, among whom were women involved with the anarcha-feminist group Mujeres Creando (Women’s Initiative), were armed with dynamite and molotov cocktails. In the banking authority they took top-level functionaries hostage in their office tying bundles of dynamite to them. In addition to these occupations in La Paz, people also occupied an archbishop’s office in the city of Sucre and there were a street protests in Tarija. A large number of these poor debtors are peasants who are already suffering from intense poverty and would find themselves starving in the streets were the banks to foreclose on their loan. Their immediate demands are the total cancellation of their debts, an end to the suits against them and an end to the impounding of the few things they have. Their method of struggle is that of direct action and attack. Their struggle has been going on for some time, starting as peaceful protests, but becoming increasingly intense as the method of attack proved increasingly necessary. Previous to this latest occupation, there have been attempts to burn banks. The situation of the poor debtors is desperate and many are prepared to take the most extreme steps necessary to end their misery.
The social struggle in Bolivia is intensifying. As generally happens in such situations, the true colors of everyone involved are being exposed. The unions and progressive groups attempt to pacify the exploited, but reality exposes the worthlessness of compromise. And in the face of the cowardice of their so-called representatives, the exploited of Bolivia are beginning to act for themselves. As the anarchist of Juventudes Libertarias say: “Violence is justifiable, insurrection is indispensable.”