The politics of “Andean-Amazonian capitalism”

State ideology in the Bolivia of Evo Morales

LAST OCTOBER, Bolivian president Evo Morales suffered his first defeat at the polls since 2002 as Bolivians voted for the first time ever in elections for judicial officials.1 Both the left and right oppositions called upon citizens to cast blank ballots as a form of expressing “no confidence” in the Morales administration. The results indicated 42 percent valid votes and 58 percent blank or spoiled ballots, with 20 percent of the voting population abstaining from or boycotting the process. 2

Various reasons informed the call to cast nulo (blank) ballots. For the right, it was a by-now-tiresome litany of reactionary grudges against economic and social change in Bolivia. For some, from both the center and the right, it was the fact that the judicial candidates were nominated by a congress controlled by the president’s political party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). Within radical and revolutionary circles, it was the government’s then-recent brutalizing and detention of indigenous marchers in Yacumo—as well as its unconstitutional treatment of indigenous peoples in an area of Bolivia slated for modernization—that spurred the social movements to rebuke Morales at the ballot box.

TIPNIS and neoliberalism
The heated confrontation last year between resident indigenous peoples and the Bolivian government over the question of allowing Brazilian multinational oil giant Petrobras to finance a superhighway through the Isiboro Sécure Indigenous National Park and Territory (TIPNIS, by its Spanish initials) is not the subject of this analysis.3 Yet the battle itself may serve to highlight how deeply neoliberal priorities remain ingrained within the political economy advocated and pursued by Morales and Vice President Álvaro García Linera.4

TIPNIS encapsulates many of the issues that prove decisive for characterizing the Morales administration. These include the political choices between meeting people’s needs and accumulating capital; the balance between industrial modernization and environmental stewardship; the treatment accorded to indigenous societies; and the repressive use of the state apparatus against progressive social movements. It also includes adherence to the laws of the constitution—however inadequate they may be from a revolutionary perspective—that the MAS itself, in collaboration with a handful of parties representing the national capitalist “opposition,” crammed down the throats of the social movements. The MAS repeatedly sabotaged calls from the social movements for a genuine Constituent Assembly that would have been composed of more inclusive, popular, and non-political party delegations.5

The TIPNIS struggle indeed reflects the general tendencies of the MAS’s political economy, which Jeffery R. Webber has brilliantly characterized as “reconstituted neoliberalism.”6 Reconstituting neoliberalism has meant that Morales prioritizes building a budget surplus, dampening down inflation, and accumulating international currency reserves. Despite fresh revenues from higher royalties paid by the hydrocarbon transnationals, fiscal policy has remained “austere,” especially between 2006 and the onset of the global economic crisis of 2008. While investment devoted to public infrastructure such as roadways has increased, “social spending [has risen] only modestly in absolute terms, and actually declined as a percentage of GDP under Morales.”7 Furthermore, “the social consequences of reconstituted neoliberalism—whatever the rhetoric of sympathizers on the international left—have been almost no change in poverty rates under Morales, and deep continuities in social inequality. Both of these axes persist as monumental obstacles standing in the way of social justice in the country.”8

Finally, reconstituted neoliberalism in Bolivia has entailed the administration’s promotion of labor flexibility—policies that force urban and rural workers to submit to the competitive requirements of an export-oriented capitalist economy—as well as resulting in an increase in the rate of exploitation.9 Together these phenomena have laid the basis for the state to co-opt the independence of unions and peasants’ organizations.

As the TIPNIS struggle unfolded from June to October 2011, and while the political fallout from the previous December’s gasolinazo still darkened the horizon (see sidebar), TIPNIS intersected with an ongoing ideological debate that shows no signs of abating. The dispute, which concerns the role and the priorities of the Bolivian state under Morales, recently reached its point of greatest clarity. Not surprisingly, the MAS’s economic program of reconstituted neoliberalism has now invented its own decrepit ideology of the state in the form of a self-justification penned by MAS’s in-house strategist and theoretician, Vice President García Linera.

García Linera’s “NGOism,” An Infantile Right-Wing Disorder10 is a sorry polemical response to Manifesto: For the Recovery of the Process of Change With and For the People, a document signed by thirty-nine “workers without rights,” “citizens without housing,” “intellectuals,” “water committees,” “activist collectives,” and others.11 Signatories of the Manifesto include some of the most prominent social-movement leaders in the country: Oscar Olivera, Rafael Quispe, Raquel Gutiérrez, Pablo Mamani, Yajaira San Martín, Raúl Prada, and many others.

NGOism, a 166-page sledgehammer published in July 2011 and wielded against the eight-page Manifesto, which appeared that June, illustrates the political implications of García Linera’s economic model of “Andean-Amazonian” capitalism. In this light, it’s worth recalling that García Linera’s post-electoral statements after Morales’s first presidential victory in 2005 left no doubt that “socialism” was not on the new government’s agenda. The “Andean-Amazonian” model never did consist of anything more than a plan to promote a familiar model of “state capitalism”—state-led capitalist development—alongside a recognition, when compatible with the government’s own interests in and requirements for capital accumulation, of the cultural realities of multi-layered modes of economic organization in various sectors of Bolivian society (the ayllus, the family, the informal sector, small business, and, of course, national and transnational capital).12

Embedded in practical form throughout NGOism is García Linera’s theory of the state, which, like his idea of “Andean-Amazonian capitalism,” offers little that differs from bourgeois society. Of course, one must join García Linera in applauding the Morales administration’s legal enfranchisement of the indigenous majority; its increase of royalty flows to the state treasury coming from oil and natural gas transnationals; its efforts to subject parts of the state bureaucracy to popular control (election of prefects, judges, etc.); and its new if still inadequate social welfare programs (the bonos).13 Yet, as we shall see, all of these measures remain harmonious with the interests of capitalism and are the only basis upon which García Linera, through the Morales presidency, manages to justify still having a job.

It is also laudable that sometimes, when faced with public outcry and militant opposition, the Morales government will choose to back down from its worst, most ill-considered and non-consultative decrees.14 Making such concessions, however, comes in the regular course of attempting to quell the potential for more devastating social upheavals; in any case, eventual concessions are usually preceded by an attempt at intimidation through the use of state violence against the social movements. This behavior represents nothing new. After all, the primary role of any form of capitalist state is to secure and to reproduce conditions that allow for capital accumulation. Sometimes this means the whip; other times it means compromise. Whatever the ultimate method, the state, the transnationals, and national capital are, for the most part, quite busy accumulating in Bolivia.15

Most troubling, aspects of NGOism recall dimensions of the official ideologies that undergirded state theory in such places as Russia under Joseph Stalin, Cuba under Fidel Castro, or the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. In certain sections, NGOism enshrines the state as a god-like power. And the state exerts its power not so much over national and transnational capitalism, but rather over workers and campesinos themselves.

L’êtat c’est moi (I am the state)16
The debate between the authors of the Manifesto and the author of NGOism is condensed in this chart.

Before delving into some of the core features of this debate, however, it is instructive to observe how García Linera’s style and rhetoric identify the Morales administration and the MAS with the state itself. For García Linera, the erection, consolidation, and defense of the state is the Bolivian revolution. Yet the patrician tone of his prose, coupled with an argumentative strategy of deliberate obfuscation, simply serve to highlight the deficient concept of “people’s,” or revolutionary, democracy to which García Linera holds.

As noted above, the criticisms leading to Morales’s repudiation in the judicial election emanate from both right and left. Their substance, of course, differs dramatically from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Notwithstanding such important details, García Linera seeks to paint the whole opposition with the same brush, referring to them collectively as los resentidos (the resentful ones).19 Sometimes he distinguishes between los resentidos and los críticos (the critical ones), but neither the basis for this distinction nor who exactly belongs to which camp is ever clarified. Sometimes the old guard of neoliberal politicians counts among the resentidos, especially in García Linera’s discussion of electing judges. In most passages, however, “resentidos” designates social movement leaders who started out as Morales supporters—as well as figures who once worked in the Morales administration—but who became disaffected and chose to part ways. These progressive figures—and not prominent right-wingers—are in fact the authors of the Manifesto. And since NGOism is a direct reply to the Manifesto, progressive critics and dissenters surface as the “infantiles” whom García Linera accuses of suffering from “a right-wing disorder.”20

NGOism goes so far as to smear some radical progressives, such as Oscar Olivera—who explicitly refused an offer to become Minister of Labor under Morales in 2005—with the label of resentido today. Olivera is a crítico of the MAS government (see sidebar), but García Linera attempts to cast him as an embittered political wannabe for having once considered the idea of running for Senate on a MAS ticket in 2002. (Olivera eventually decided not to run, since he could not negotiate satisfactory conditions with the MAS leadership.)

In NGOism, García Linera attributes the title of “Government of the Social Movements” to himself and to Morales ad nauseam. There exists a degree of empirical truth here, since it was on the wave of the social movement struggles that Morales and the MAS won power in 2005. Yet to claim such a title today, when the social movements themselves are finding it increasingly necessary to square off against the Morales administration, constitutes sheer arrogance. TIPNIS furnishes the most recent evidence of this. But so too do the gasolinazo, the paltriness of salary increases, the insufficiency of social programs in light of social need, and the advantage accorded to corporate miners and to transnational oil and natural gas extractors over state miners and enterprises. All of these realities of the two Morales administrations represent key symptoms of neoliberal sclerosis at the center of the so-called “Government of the Social Movements.”

The bile accumulated in García Linera’s belly is so sour that, in a passage in which “resentidos” clearly refers to the authors of the Manifesto, the vice president finds “deplorable the intellectual wretchedness and political dwarfishness with which the resentidos wish to cover up this evidence with a list prejudices, lies, and ignorant statements.”21 (The evidence in question concerns the state-owned oil company, YPFB, and we will return to this subject shortly). At another point, addressing predominantly right-wing resentidos on the issue of electing judges, García Linera lets slip a fatal equation that reveals exactly how he thinks of the relation between the state and the “people” in Bolivia.

And if there is still much to do in order to construct a new and transparent judicial system that truly serves society, in this stage of transition it is the logic of the working people that prevails, the State, as the synthesis of the common interest, cannot, nor should it, lose to anyone, and the defense of the public patrimony stands above the defense of private or personal interest. (My emphases.)22

Notice how seamlessly here the concrete political agency of “working people” morphs into an implacable “logic,” which then condenses workers’ collective power into the form of an invincible state. The state, therefore, is cast as the highest expression, not of workers’ and campesinos’ self-activity, but rather of some abstract “logic.” Presumably, even workers and campesinos have no right to revolt against this state (the state “cannot” and should not “lose to anyone”). And why should any worker or campesino want to revolt anyway, since the Morales state already embodies their thoughts, protects their collective wealth, and tends to their needs? After all, under Morales and García Linera, the state comprehends the “logic” of workers and campesinos. The state understands their logic even better than they do, as the TIPNIS struggle illustrated.

State and revolution?
NGOism—along with other pro-government organs such as Federico Fuentes’s posts concerning TIPNIS on Bolivia Rising23—target non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the progressive Bolivians associated with some of them (for example, Oscar Olivera and the Fundación Abril) as US-inspired instigators of conflict who function in league with transnational corporations. Reactionary NGOs certainly exist, and no doubt some numbers and statistics that appear in the Manifesto were obtained from studies and publications of (non-reactionary) NGOs. But it is preposterous to insinuate, as García Linera does when discussing the YPFB, that the Manifesto’s authors have fabricated their criticisms of the Morales government for the purpose of currying favor with the multinationals.

Where does this dance of false numbers come from in the hands of supposedly well-informed intellectuals who are concerned over the finances of one of the most important State enterprises? Could it be that they speak of these statistics because they want to appear as official spokespersons for the transnational enterprises that have been nationalized?24

It would be easy to get lost in a numbers game when contrasting NGOism and the Manifesto. Whose statistics are more accurate? How were they calculated? Whose are ideologically motivated? Numbers alone, especially disputed ones, can be made to tell many tales. For example, it is true that there is less economic inequality today in Bolivia than in 2005, when Morales was first elected president. But 2005, still a neoliberal year, registered a decline in inequality from a peak in 2002. And although further declines were recorded for 2007 and 2009, inequality still remained substantially higher than in 1991, a few years into the classic neoliberal period that is usually dated from 1985 in Bolivia.25 Add to this that “social spending in real terms rose only by 6.3 per cent between 2005 and 2008, and declined as a percentage of GDP from 12.4 to 11.2 over the same period,” and the bloom falls off the rose of NGOism’s claim of miraculous revolutionary deeds under Morales.26

Focusing on statistics in this context would be failing to see the forest for the trees. Whether the combined internal and external debt is x or y, or whether government deposits in foreign banks earn x percent or y percent, we should instead ask what exactly such disputed figures between NGOism and Manifesto mean for the key questions posed by the debate. In whose interests does the Morales government primarily rule? What is the driving force of its political economy? All rhetoric of a “Government of the Social Movements” aside, to what extent can we speak of a state in which workers and campesinos truly exercise hegemonic control?

The answers to these questions lead us unavoidably to the much-touted policies of “nationalization” that have been carried out in Bolivia. After all, doesn’t “nationalization” amount to “socialism”? Closer scrutiny of Morales’s decree and accompanying media circus on May 1, 2006—the day on which Morales ostensibly “nationalized” Bolivian hydrocarbons—suggests a more complicated scenario. Indeed, as indicated above, the Manifesto accuses the Morales government of permitting the hydrocarbon fields to remain under the power of the transnationals.27 If we can gain clarity on the actual substance and effects of the gas nationalization, we can also immediately perceive the neoliberal patterns that inform the government’s fiscal and social policies, as well as its stunted practice of democracy.

When the state oil company YPFB, a legacy of Bolivia’s 1952 nationalist revolution, was privatized in 1993, neoliberal President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada divided it into three companies: two dedicated to exploration and production and one to transportation. Sánchez de Lozada’s original plan was to break up YPFB and to re-structure its pieces with 51 percent public ownership and 49 percent private ownership. Not only did the reverse turn out to be the case after negotiation—51 percent private and 49 percent public ownership—but also large sums in the YPFB reserves and infrastructure were simply handed over gratis to transnationals such as British Petroleum and Enron.28 Subsequently, in 1999, Sánchez de Lozada’s neoliberal successor—the torturer General Hugo Bánzer—sold YPFB’s only two refineries to Petrobras (Brazil), finishing off the liquidation of YPFB. As should be obvious, this left Bolivians “with no decision-making power over the capitalized firms.” Moreover,

the foreign companies that took over Bolivia’s oil and gas industry never invested in modernizing its domestic infrastructure or its technical capacity, finding it more profitable to export Bolivia’s natural gas as a cheap raw material to be processed in Argentina or Brazil. While capitalization brought Bolivia a swath of new foreign investors, the promised trickle-down wealth creation never came.29

The percentage of royalties paid to the state by the multinationals under the Morales administration has grown substantially—and this is not negligible. But how else, if at all, has “nationalization” advanced Bolivia on the “road to socialism”? Very little. Morales and García Linera know full well that the way out of impoverishment for Bolivia is through ceasing to export raw crude (oil and natural gas) to processing plants in Brazil, Argentina, or Venezuela (or to European or US-owned intermediaries, for that matter) where it is refined into and transported as value-added products (petroleum, fertilizers, etc.) to the world market. If these natural resources are to become the fulcrum that helps to lift the nation out of the ranks of the poorest countries, the value must be added in Bolivia.

But the new contracts that Morales and García Linera have negotiated with the ten major oil multinationals operating in Bolivia contain no commitments for future investments, and specifically, make no provision for the foreign corporations to contribute to building the domestic infrastructure of oil and gas extraction, production, and transportation in YPFB. It is important to understand that the three companies and two refineries carved out of the old YPFB compose only slightly more than 10 percent of Bolivian oil and gas production in the best case. Thus, the vast amount of oil and gas wealth still remains in foreign hands. What is extracted by the foreign operators is by law turned over to the state YPFB bureaucracy for accounting and pricing (internal and external), but basic policies and controls on extractive means, labor relations, volume produced, environmental impact, and re-investment of profits in domestic infrastructure remain in the hands of the transnationals.30

Meanwhile, rather than expropriating existing refinery and production capacities—or at the very least requiring the current transnational profiteers in Bolivia to build new ones for YPFB—the Morales government is apparently waiting until it has accumulated enough state capital to construct its own value-added facilities. This tells us two things: (1) the core dynamic of MAS economic policy is capital accumulation; and (2) the majority must wait and suffer deprivations while the minority and—just as significantly—the state itself go about feathering their nests under a poorly theorized “transitional phase” of “Andean-Amazonian capitalism.”31 García Linera himself chides critics in this regard, scolding them that it takes a billion dollars to build a petrochemical plant. But he knows that the transnationals could readily afford to build such a plant for YPFB, all the while continuing to suck the country dry.32

In the longer term, the key issue for the gas sector is whether foreign investors will increase their investment in the industry, or simply bide their time. Some companies, like British Gas, have made clear their unwillingness to invest more. Without continued investment, Bolivia’s reserves are threatened with continued depletion, with the country poorly placed to meet its contractual commitments to supply gas to both Brazil and Argentina while having sufficient supplies to meet its own needs at the same time. Others, however, including Petrobras, made promises that they would speed up the process of investment to avert the possibility of energy shortages in Brazil, which is Bolivia’s main market for natural gas and, in the short term, remains highly dependent on Bolivian supplies. Important discoveries of Brazilian offshore gas in 2007 and 2008 will, however, reduce that dependence substantially.33

One tires quickly of all the sanctimonious verbiage that fills NGOism. There is so much to criticize in it, and yet it is pointless if the projected audience is the government itself. The Morales government will not change without sustained and accelerated popular revolt against its central economic policies. The government has already put itself and its natural resources on “blue-light special” for extractive capitalism, whether the boss is named Repsol, Petrobras, Zafrom, Jindal, Total, Vintage, Mitsubishi, FMC, or Chemetall. Last May, for example, it sweetened the terms of new natural gas contracts in order to lure back private foreign investment in hydrocarbons, which dropped from $865 million in 1999 to $271 million in 2009, particularly after the Morales nationalization. Thus, despite reining in some of the worst practices of classical neoliberalism, the government has sold its key resources—and continues to do so—on terms that are still more favorable to capitalism than to Bolivia’s workers and campesinos.

Two key moments under Morales’s administrations may serve as final illustrations of the skewed priorities that inform its political economy, as well as its frequent authoritarian disregard for genuine democratic practices. Other than re-nationalizing the Vinto smelter near Oruro at a time when it was still owned by the fugitive-from-justice Sánchez de Lozada, and other than nationalizing one mine in Huanuni, nothing has been done toward carrying out Morales’s campaign promise of re-nationalizing the mining industry. Such reneging on campaign promises to rebuild the state-owned sector of the mining industry led to a fratricidal confrontation between public- and private-sector miners in Huanuni during October 2006. The MAS government turned a deaf ear over the course of several months to entreaties from public-sector workers to move ahead on re-nationalization, as well as to warnings that transnational interests were inciting the private-sector workers (known as cooperative miners) to seize publicly owned mines. When the private miners finally attacked the Huanuni state miners, the government intervened on the side of the private miners.34

Prior to TIPNIS, the government’s Supreme Decree 748 of December 26, 2010, offered the most recent and deepest insight into the relations between the state, the people, and the economy under Morales. The government justified its 73 percent hike in consumer gas prices primarily as a way of stopping contraband petroleum dealers from buying gas products in Bolivia at low, internally set prices and then moving them across borders to sell them at the much higher external price levels allowed by the Bolivian government. In NGOism, García Linera repeats this excuse, trying to make it seem that the government had no intention of hurting ordinary working people. But anyone with Evo’s and Álvaro’s brains had to know that such a measure would pose critical hardships for workers, campesinos, small business owners, bus and taxi drivers, schools, hospitals, and other ordinary people. In the ensuing demonstrations that forced the government to rescind Supreme Decree 748, the response that best crystallized the opposition’s message was voiced by Oscar Olivera and others: “Álvaro, we already told you: The people come first, and later the statistics and numbers.”35

A “state in transition”
In a sharply worded but nevertheless accurate assessment, Forrest Hylton writes:

Despite changes the regime seeks to represent, there are clear continuities in political culture as well as political economy, and in many ways, the new order looks increasingly like the old, at least at the level of practice. . . . It is difficult to conceive of any government channeling revolutionary dynamism into reformist sclerosis more effectively than the Bolivian government’s enthusiasm for mining and resource extraction.36

Hylton’s perspective contrasts with García Linera’s, which is diffused throughout the sardonic attacks on progressives in NGOism, but articulated in a more scholarly (and therefore opaque) fashion in his recent “The State in Transition.”37 In this essay, García Linera describes what he and Morales think they are doing in order to materialize the transition from capitalism to socialism at the political (i.e., state) level in Bolivia.38

García Linera begins by stating that he and Brazilian social theorist Emil Sader identify three axes of the concept of “relationship-state.” These are “the state as a correlation of political forces; the state as an institution; and the state as a general idea or collective belief [symbolic capital].”39 He immediately underscores what, in his view, is the “somewhat paradoxical nature” of the state:

There is nothing more material, physical, and administratively political than a state (with its monopoly of coercion and taxation as a foundational nucleus). On the other hand, there is nothing more dependent on collective belief in the necessity (conscious moment) or the inevitability (pre-reflexive) moment of its functioning. . . . The state is the most idealized totality of political action, since it is the only place in the political field where ideas materialize and have a general social effect—that is, where any decision immediately becomes a state matter in the form of documents, briefs, memoranda, financial resources, practical applications, and so on.40

This general view of the state is connected to García Linera’s concept of “bifurcation points,” a concept which has some positive aspects that may deserve consideration on another occasion. Suffice it here to say that García Linera locates the “bifurcation point” in the current period as having been nascent in the Water War of 2000, emerging “after the approval of the new constitution by the Constituent Assembly [in 2006] and [taking] off after the August 2008 referendum without a clear point of fulfillment.”41 Since that moment, Bolivia fully exists as a “state in transition”:

A state in transition is recognized by the ongoing uncertainty of political life, the conflictive and polarized nature of collective common sense, and the long-term strategic unpredictability of social hierarchies and positions. For eight years, Bolivia has been a living laboratory of the rapid and antagonistic transformation from one state form to another.42

But to what extent is this actually true? If one reads closely, what García Linera means when he writes of a transition from one form of state to another is “a radical displacement of the previous government elites and the social classes that made the basic political decisions . . . ; there has been a shift in the composition and an expansion of the administrative elites in the service of the state.”43 Thus García Linera is really describing, not a transformation from one form of the state to another—say, from a capitalist state to a socialist one—but rather the substitution of a new set of personnel for an older one in the existing state apparatus. To invert Hylton’s phrase, this amounts to “new wines, old bottle.” And it is this substitution of bureaucratic “elites”—“elites” is García Linera’s word choice—that García Linera attempts to pass off as signaling “a vast gap between the current and former system of state power. What is happening today in Bolivia is not, then, a simple change of power elites but a true substitution of one power class for another.”44 Yet the only evidence offered in “The State” for making the tectonic claim that the mass of laborers now wield state power over capitalism and imperialism in Bolivia is the composition of the new elites. No matter how long you ruminate on García Linera’s formulations in “The State,” you can’t get around the fact that his words describe changes in bureaucratic office-holders and not a transformation in the form of the state.45

In light of García Linera’s claim to be transitioning the state, one phrase in the quotation just cited merits fuller examination: “a true substitution of one power class for another.” It cries out as symptomatic that García Linera never explicitly defines exactly toward what he and Morales are transitioning the state. One assumes that it would be socialism, since their party’s name is the Movement Toward Socialism (but that particular s-word doesn’t appear in “The State”). In any case, there are many aspects of the vision of transformation presented in “The State” that are distinctly un-Marxist, in the sense of revolution from below, and which seem much more consonant with the top-down strategies characteristic of social democracy and variants of “third-world” Stalinism and even with Weberianism.46 Indeed, García Linera places his bet for state transformation on what he calls “‘a bureaucracy under construction,’ a type of synthesis of old middle-level civil servants and new ones who possess different educational capital and have attained their positions via ethnic and class networks that differ from those of the traditional bureaucracy.”47 And this new bureaucracy, he argues, has already created three crucial “mechanisms of state administration”:

social organizations are directly involved in the formulation of major public policies through meetings and congresses . . . ; social movement representatives are integrated into the various levels of the state administration . . . ; [and] finally, a new intellectual approach linked to the expectations and needs of this bloc of producers is being introduced to civil servants.48

One is tempted to exclaim: “Álvaro, enough already with the bureaucracy!” Let’s return for a moment to the following pearl of wisdom penned by García Linera that pinpoints the source of his fatally mistaken view that the Bolivian state is being transformed through the introduction of new occupants within the existing state bureaucracy:

The state is the most idealized totality of political action, since it is the only place in the political field where ideas materialize and have a general social effect—that is, where any decision immediately becomes a state matter in the form of documents, briefs, memoranda, financial resources, practical applications, and so on.49

The tautology and triviality involved in this quotation provides admirable evidence of a fine bureaucrat’s mind at work. One would have thought that the revolutionary self-emancipation of workers and campesinos represented “the idealized totality of political action,” the space within which thought and action, ideas and reality, come together in an electrifying unity to produce general social effects. The constitutions, the laws, the memoranda, the decrees, the expropriations of financial resources, the applications of wealth to human needs—these are the social after-effects of revolutionary self-activity and in fact are predicated upon such activity. They may eventually pass through a state apparatus as part of becoming institutionalized, but their motivation and substance are forged in the experiential crucible of revolutionary militancy.

The great falsehood at the heart of García Linera’s NGOism, as well the Achilles’ heel of his Weberian/Stalinist view of the state in “The State in Transition,” is the rosy assessment of the degree of influence (allegedly bottom-up) exercised by social organizations in “the formulation of major public policies.”50 If this power actually did flow bottom-up in the new Bolivia, you would not witness events such as TIPNIS. Nor would you see so many demands for wage hikes denied or parsimoniously attended. You would not have to countenance the continued cronyism and corruption; or the ingrained business unionism that, with state encouragement and patronage, stifles the emergence of a new labor struggle;51 or the backhanded slaps meted out to communitarian-popular organizations; or the eagerness and pride with which Morales and García Linera hoard their international reserve currencies, choosing to please the World Bank rather than to spend more on social programs and full-time job creation.

So what kind of state, and what kind of democracy, prevail in Bolivia under Morales? Political theorist Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar provides a concise answer:

For many people, the massive electoral support for Evo and his political party MAS signified, above all, the possibility of expanding and consolidating communitarian-popular power. In Bolivia, especially between 2006 and 2008, people expressed that they wanted to take charge of public affairs according to other logics—much more direct, horizontal, and on smaller scales—that would allow communities, and by connection, the nation, to re-appropriate the common wealth that had been stolen by multinationals and their domestic allies.

However, the Bolivian government has effectively ignored or denigrated the logic and form of communitarian-popular politics—the very force that brought Morales to power in the first place—while privileging traditional forms of representation and participation, particularly political parties. . . . The Morales administration has governed under a liberal format, unwilling to break ties with the traditional mode of politics that has served elites so well. Morales wanted to retain the traditional political system, simply putting himself at the head. This has forced his government to continually search for new ways to co-opt and/or subordinate previously autonomous social organizations.52

Indeed, the MAS squandered its opportunity to help to create a genuinely new type of state when it sided with the established political parties over and against the alternatives proposed by many of the social movements during the debate over the format of the Constituent Assembly.53 So instead of an economy transitioning to socialism, Morales and García Linera have implanted a reconstituted neoliberalism that prioritizes capital accumulation over social equality and well-being. And instead of a state in which the mass of workers and campesinos democratically plan and control politics and production (uniting politics and economics under the power of the laboring classes), Morales and García Linera have maintained a state that is primed to serve the interests of the bureaucracy, the national bourgeoisie, and the transnational extractors.

García Linera, Lenin, and nationalization
In “The State in Transition,” García Linera comments that “Lenin’s thoughts on the 1918–1920 period” prove “particularly instructive” for thinking about the challenges of transitioning the Bolivian state in current world circumstances.54 While specific titles by Lenin are not referenced, it is easy enough to diagnose from García Linera’s essay as a whole what he draws from Lenin’s analyses of that time, especially with regard to the vexed question of nationalization.

Consonant with Lenin’s concern with, and García Linera’s previous emphasis on, constructing a new state bureaucracy, García Linera persistently advocates the introduction and pursuit of greater measures of accountability and control over the major industries. Nationalizations facilitate such measures insofar as they provide a singular vantage point from which the state, as guardian of the public patrimony, can ensure the repatriation of (a negotiated percentage of) profits from joint public-private (state-transnational) ventures, the judicious use of state funds allocated to privately contracted operators in mixed public-private enterprises, the elimination of fraud, and the equitable social distribution of an industry’s products.

Nationalization is not the same as expropriation, in which property is simply seized from the capitalist class, which is then cut off from profits and managerial authority alike. Under nationalization, old bosses and private command structures largely remain in place, whereas expropriations put workers “in the driver’s seat” (to recall the wonderful lyric of recently deceased poet/songwriter Gil Scott-Heron). Nationalization can be a revolutionary step, but its sphere of effects is administrative. Expropriations are more revolutionary, for they imply the direct exercise of workers’ class power and self-determination.

It strikes me that García Linera takes his model of nationalization, with its administrative emphasis, from Lenin’s discussion of the nationalization of the banks. Lenin’s position on this question is consistent from 1917 throughout the period up to 1920.

Nationalization of the banks, which would not deprive any “owner” of a single kopek, presents absolutely no technical or cultural difficulties…. If nationalization of the banks is so often confused with the confiscation of private property, it is the bourgeois press, which has an interest in deceiving the public, that is to blame for this widespread confusion…. What, then, is the significance of the nationalization of the banks?… Only by nationalizing the banks can the state put itself in a position to know where and how, whence and when, millions and millions of rubles flow. And only control over the banks, over the center, over the pivot and chief mechanism of capitalist circulation, would make it possible to organize real and not fictitious control over all economic life, over the production and distribution of staple goods, and organize that “regulation of economic life” which otherwise is inevitably doomed to remain a ministerial phrase designed to fool the common people…. All that is required is to unify accountancy.55

Lenin’s idea here is that the unification of accountancy and its consequent establishment of state surveillance over the banking industry will lay the groundwork for the gradual evolution of nationalized banking toward the expropriation of the capitalist wealth accumulated in banks (“finally to obtain millions and billions for major state transactions, without paying the capitalist gentlemen sky-high ‘commissions’ for their ‘services’”).56 By analogy, this scenario underwrites García Linera’s claim regarding the triumph of the Bolivian state over imperialism in the case of the nationalization of oil and gas extraction. Revive and re-nationalize YPFB; give it accountancy and control; and in twenty years, oil and gas production will become duly expropriated. As we have seen, however, contractual provisions that favor the oil industry, substantially vitiates such a scenario, while other weaknesses in the new contracts further imperil Bolivia’s ability to achieve its own (value-added) industrialization of oil and gas.57

The severest limitations of García Linera’s attempt to enlist Lenin as one of his avatars in theorizing “the state in transition” derive from (1) the ill fit between the period of Lenin’s writings and the period of the MAS’s electoral ascendancy, and (2) García Linera’s failure to understand the specificity of Lenin’s ideas on the nationalization of oil and what Lenin in fact had in mind when urging the need to establish “state capitalism” in 1918.58

Lenin called for a “new phase of the struggle against the bourgeoisie” in April 1918.59 He did so because of the virtual collapse of Russian industry. Given the devastation caused by World War I and the outbreak of armed counterrevolution spearheaded by the United States, Lenin sought a solution in

an extended period of joint management with privately owned industry…. He thought that future economic development would proceed chiefly by way of mixed companies, state and private, the attraction of foreign capital, the granting of concessions, etc.; i.e., capitalist and semi-capitalist forms of production controlled and directed by the proletarian state.60

It is important to remember that Lenin always viewed this shift in policy as a necessary retreat (but a retreat nonetheless); that his strategy assumed that the expropriation of the Russian bourgeoisie had in large measure already occurred; and that a “proletarian state” was already in existence. Such were the concrete conditions under which Lenin pushed his program of “accountancy and control” to the forefront of the struggle against the bourgeoisie:

We are faced with a new and higher form of struggle against the bourgeoisie, the transition from the simple task of further expropriating the capitalists to the much more complicated and difficult task of creating conditions in which it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie to exist, or for a new bourgeoisie to arise. Clearly, this task is immeasurably more significant than the previous one; and until it is fulfilled there will be no socialism…. We have decreed and introduced throughout Russia the highest type of state—Soviet power. Under no circumstances, however, can we rest content with what we have achieved, because we have only just started the transition to socialism, we have not yet done the decisive thing in this respect.

The decisive thing is the organization of the strictest and country-wide accounting and control of production and distribution of goods. And yet, we have not yet introduced accounting and control in those enterprises and in those branches and fields of economy which we have taken away from the bourgeoisie.61

If we compare the historical context of Lenin’s writings in 1918–1920 to the historical context of MAS politics during García Linera’s period of “bifurcation” and the so-called “transitional” state (2000–present), the contrast could not be greater. Is there anything resembling a “proletarian” (workers’ and campesinos’) state, democratically designed and controlled from below, in Bolivia? What exactly has already been “expropriated” by Bolivian laborers from the national and transnational capitalist class in terms of means of production (land, fabriles, banks, mines, petrochemical plants, machinery, etc.)? Despite undoubted meddling and sabotage by the CIA, the US State Department, and European goons and assassins, as well as homegrown fascists, is there anything like a war economy and utter economic isolation that would force Bolivia into balking at aggressive acts of expropriation of the properties of the imperialist extractors of natural resources? Does Bolivia need to curry favor with bourgeois specialists and technicians in the oil and gas industry, and does it therefore fear going too far in alienating the affection of the profiteering transnationals? It shouldn’t—Bolivia has an abundance of its own specialists, plus it can count on support and personnel from highly trained and militant sectors of politically experienced Venezuelan and Brazilian oil workers.

The incongruity between concrete historical contexts unmasks as repellant and disturbing García Linera’s identification of the need to promote a new state bureaucracy as the main revolutionary task in the current conjuncture. Along with the preponderance of evidence gleaned from the arguments of NGOism and from various actions of the Morales administration, it raises the suspicion that the real attraction of Lenin’s writings for García Linera here is the extremely questionable rationale these writings furnish for one-party and even one-man rule, with its concomitant dissolution of decentralized forms of popular struggle and control.62 The 1918–1920 period in Russian history, known as “war communism,” is emphatically not an appropriate model for Bolivia’s way forward today.

Be that as it may, in the case of the hydrocarbon industry, García Linera’s bureaucratic state project at the very least puts the cart before the horse—the accounting before the expropriation—and so deceives the mass of laborers into thinking that “socialism” is all about bureaucratic efficiency and control. This is one way in which warped social formations develop—ones that claim to be “socialist” or “Marxist” and are usually led by a middle-class cadre of intellectuals and professionals. These formations are borne out of political practices that cultivate economic structures which eventually ossify as pillars of “state capitalism.” A new ruling class thus emerges as a bureaucracy that derives its class power from its direct control over state property.

The year 1918 in Russia and Europe is not Latin America in 2011—or even in 2000, for that matter. Just as the MAS invoked a bogus theory of stageism to justify its timid position in the face of the possibilities for a genuinely new state opened by the Gas Wars of 2003 and 2005, so also does it now mortgage the future of Bolivian workers and campesinos to either the transnational extractors of the present, or a nascent but all-too-easily-entrenched state bureaucracy of the future.

García Linera would have done better to ponder at some length Lenin’s assessment of the nationalization of the oil industry from 1917. This is a lengthy quotation, but I believe it hits home.

Take the oil business. It was to a vast extent “socialized” by the earlier development of capitalism. Just a couple of oil barons wield millions and hundreds of millions of rubles, clipping coupons and raking in fabulous profits from a “business” which is already actually, technically, and socially organized on a national scale and is already being conducted by hundreds and thousands of employees, engineers, etc. Nationalization of the oil industry could be effected at once by, and it is imperative for, a revolutionary democratic state, especially when the latter suffers from an acute crisis and when it is essential to economize national labor and to increase the output of fuel at all costs. It is clear that here bureaucratic control can achieve nothing….

If anything real is to be done bureaucracy must be abandoned for democracy, and in a totally revolutionary way, i.e., war must be declared on the oil barons and shareholders…. The initiative of the workers and other employees must be drawn on; they must be immediately summoned to conferences and congresses; a certain proportion of the profits must be assigned to them, provided they institute overall control and increase production. Had these revolutionary-democratic steps been taken at once, immediately in April 1917, Russia, which is one of the richest countries in the world in deposits of liquid fuel, could…have done a very great deal…to supply the people with the necessary quantities of fuel.63

It’s not too late for Bolivian workers and campesinos to take oil and gas production into their own hands and thereby to forestall the continued dominance of the extractors or the rise of the new bureaucracy. It’s not too late for them to make their own state.

  1. Juan Evo Morales Ayma won the presidency of Bolivia in December 2005 after a narrow defeat in 2002. He was re-elected to the presidency with an overwhelming 64 percent of the vote in 2009.
  2. “Votos nulos y blancos alcanzan 60%,” Los (Cochabamba, Bolivia), November 11, 2011.
  3. For the best analyses of the TIPNIS conflict, see Jeffery R. Webber, “Revolution against ‘progress’: The TIPNIS struggle and class contradictions in Bolivia,” International Socialism Journal, January–March 2012. See also Isabel Rauber, “Reflexiones acerca del proceso del carrertera del TIPNIS,” Rebelión, October 4, 2012. For succinct background and political perspective, see Sarah Hines, “An indigenous struggle against Morales,” Socialist Worker, October 29, 2011. For a detailed history of the TIPNIS conflict, see Dario Kenner, “Controversial highway plan resisted by Bolivia’s peoples,” Bolivia Diary, September 21, 2011. See also Kenner’s follow-up “President Evo Morales officially signs off TIPNIS law,” Bolivia Diary, October 26, 2011. Both Kenner essays can be accessed at
  4. See Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar, “Competing political visions and Bolivia’s unfinished revolution,” Dialectical Anthropology 35 (2011): 275-277: “I take as a point of departure the growing conflict between indigenous peoples in Bolivia and multinational corporations, particularly those in extractive industries…. The progressive government of Evo Morales, who was brought to power by groups opposing multinational corporations, is now acting in the interests of multinationals. Worse yet, such policies, looking more and more like those of governments past, are couched in revolutionary rhetoric designed to disguise this reality.”
  5. The vote and the relentless political pressure protestors sustained during their march to La Paz finally forced Morales to concede to the demand that the superhighway not pass through TIPNIS. Immediately following the judicial election, Morales had said the highway project would indeed proceed as planned. A day later, however, government officials qualified Morales’s statement to indicate that he was open to negotiation. By October 25, Morales and García Linera backed down completely and promised that a new route would be found for the Petrobras highway so as to circumvent TIPNIS. It must be noted that such consultation and a search for alternatives, as mandated by the Constitution in its articles on indigenous rights, should have been carried out before Morales signed the construction contract with Brazil—but in fact none took place. See Kenner, “Morales officially signs off TIPNIS law.”
  6. See Jeffery R. Webber, “Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism,” International Socialist Review, September–October 2010, 35–44, available at See also Webber, From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Class Struggle, Indigenous Liberation and the Politics of Evo Morales (Chicago: Haymarket, 2011), 153–229.
  7. Webber, “Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism.”
  8. Mark Weisbrot, Rebecca Ray, and Jake Johnston, Bolivia: The Economy During the Morales Administration (Center for Economic and Policy Research, December 2009), 16. Quoted in Webber, “Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism.”
  9. Webber, “Bolivia’s reconstituted neoliberalism.”
  10. Álvaro García Linera, El Oenegismo: Enfermedad Infantil del Derechismo (“NGOism,” An Infantile Right-Wing Disorder) (La Paz: Vicepresidencia del Estado and Presidencia de la Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional, 2011), available at
  11. Alejandro Almaraz et al., Manifiesto: Recuperemos el Proceso de Cambio Con y Por el Pueblo (Manifesto: For the Recovery of the Process of Change With and For the People), no. 1 (June 2011), available at
  12. See García Linera, “Sindicato, multitud y comunidad: movimientos sociales y formas de autonomía política en Bolivia,” in García Linera et al., Tiempos de Rebelión (La Paz: La Muela del Diablo, 2001), 9–79. My translation of the section of this essay on “la multitud” appears in Oscar Olivera and Tom Lewis, ¡Cochabamba! Water War in Bolivia (Boston: South End Press, 2004), 65–86. With the exception of Mariana Ortega Breña’s translation of García Linera’s “The state in transition,” all translations are my own, as are any italicizations added for emphasis, unless otherwise indicated.
  13. The bonos are social benefits paid to poor families with children (Bono Juancito Pinto); to poor retirees and the elderly (La Renta Dignidad); and to poor mothers who have children under the age of one year (Bono Juana Azurduy).
  14. Regarding the gasolinazo, Isabel Rauber writes, “The people didn’t take to the streets to oppose Evo, but rather to say NO to any attempt to govern without their participation, to ask him to rectify and to recognize them. And in an act of humility which evidences his great wisdom as well as his roots, Evo reversed his decree. And recalling his promise at [his inauguration] at Tihuanaku, he repeated his promise to ‘rule by obeying.’” “Los pies, la cabeza, y el corazón de Evo Morales,” Rebelión, January 3, 2011.
  15. See Graphic 9 on page 67 of NGOism for the growth in Bolivia’s net international currency reserves. See also Rebecca Ray, “Bolivia: GDP slows amid strong manufacturing and faltering hydrocarbons,” Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 1, 2011:“Gross fixed capital formation has risen at a 9.7 percent annual rate so far in 2011. . . . Bolivia’s GDP slowed to a 2.4 percent annualized growth rate (seasonally adjusted, quarter-over-quarter) in the second quarter, but it still saw robust growth in a few sectors: logistics, manufacturing, and public administration. From an expenditure perspective, most of the quarter’s growth was due to rising gross fixed capital formation, which has risen at nearly a 10 percent annual rate so far in 2011. Both exports and imports contributed negatively to overall growth, although the trade surplus remained essentially unchanged…. Bolivian GDP grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the second quarter, down from 3.1 percent during the previous three months. Year-over-year growth fell from 5.7 to 4.4 percent. The economy is now 10.5 percent larger than its previous peak in the third quarter of 2008.” The fall-off in hydrocarbons can be explained by world recession and decreased demand. In January 2011, Morales offered new incentives to attract foreign investment, offering “to reimburse 100% of the cost of successful exploratory drilling in Bolivia by private oil and natural gas companies.” See Merco Press, “Bolivia back steps and offers new deal to attract foreign oil companies,” January 6, 2011, available at In any case, profits for Exxon and Petrobras were substantially up again at the end of 2011.
  16. Louis XIV was King of France and Navarre, 1643–1715.
  17. Almaraz et al., Manifesto, 7.
  18. García Linera, NGOism, 166.
  19. NGOism at times fully equates left-wing criticism with right-wing calls and actions for restoring for Bolivia to its pre-Morales days. “There’s a curious similarity between the críticos and the restorationist right. A curious concubinage between the logic of the restorationist course of action and the logic of the resentidos course of action.” (63).
  20. García Linera, NGOism, 7.
  21. Ibid., 46.
  22. Ibid., 117.
  23. Federico Fuentes maintains the blog Bolivia Rising and is a regular contributor to Green Left Weekly. He is a prominent advocate of the social processes underway in Bolivia under Morales and in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez. Especially relevant to the present discussion are Federico Fuentes, “Bolivia: solidarity activists need to support process,” Bolivia Rising, November 22, 2011, and “Bolivia: NGOs wrong on Morales and Amazon,” Bolivia Rising, September 25, 2011, both available at See especially the recent exchange between Fuentes and Webber in the International Socialism Journal: Jeffrey Webber, “Revolution against ‘progress’: the TIPNIS struggle and class contradictions in Bolivia,” and Federico Fuentes, “The Morales government: neolioberalism in disguise?,” available at
  24. García Linera, NGOism, 59.
  25. The GINI coefficient is a measure of economic inequality, with 0 indicating perfect equality and 100 complete inequality. GINI coefficients for Bolivia during these years were: 58.5 in 1997; 57.8 in 1999; 60.2 in 2002; 58.2 in 2005; 57.3 in 2007; 58.2 in 2009; and 42 in 1991. In comparison, Ecuador’s GINI coefficient dropped from 61.8 in 2003 to 46.9 in 2010, while Peru’s dropped from 54.7 in 2002 to 48 in 2009. “GINI Index,” Index Mundi,
  26. Webber, From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia, 198.
  27. García Linera, NGOism, 3.
  28. Aaron Luoma and Gretchen Gordon, “Turning gas into development in Bolivia,” in Daniel Fireside et al., eds., Real World Latin America: A Contemporary Economics and Social Policy Reader (Boston: Dollars and Sense/NACLA Collective, 2008), 118–19.
  29. Ibid., 119.
  30. See Fernando Ignacio Leiva, Latin American Neostructuralism: The Contradictions of Post-Neoliberal Development (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 231: “In the case of Bolivia, the nationalization of oil and gas has been undermined by ‘Annex F’ to the decree nationalizing the country’s oil and gas. Multinationals agreed to a contract where they became service providers and the state oil company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos [sic], became the proprietor and assumed possession and control over these resources. Such annex, however, transforms the contracts for operation with the oil companies into contracts for shared production, so that the private oil companies can carry out exploration activities on their own in the name of YPFB.” Leiva references former oil minister Andrés Soliz Rada as the source of this information: Soliz Rada, “La Nacionalización Arrodillada,” Bolpress, April 1, 2007.
  31. Leiva, Latin American Neostructuralism, 228, 230: “Bolivia’s formulation for an alternative to the present order is based . . . on strengthening the capacity of the state to capture via the tax system part of the nation’s economic surplus and redirect it toward micro and small producers in rural areas and cities. . . . Doesn’t such a development strategy require the existence of a national bourgeoisie? . . . The Bolivian and Venezuelan processes have also been critiqued because they are not revolutionary enough, and though they might increase state influence over the economy, they do not explicitly aim to the revolutionary transformation of property or social relations of production.”
  32. There are serious proposals to advance the industrialization of gas in Bolivia by 2015. See, for example, Saúl J. Escalera, Industrialización del gas en Bolivia: Saga de una ilusión nacional postergada (Cochabamba, Bolivia: July 2010), available at “The fundamental reason that the [industrialization of gas] is not happening is that for four years (2006–2009) the presidents of YPFB have not known how to value the ideas and efforts of the technical personnel of the GNI [National Hydrocarbon Industrialization Council] to turn the EBIH [Bolivian Oil Industrialization Company—a proposed state-owned industry separate from YPFB] and YPFB into efficient and modern companies of international category in the business world of the hydrocarbons; a highly competitive world, where there is needed the collaboration of highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary professionals. . . . It is evident that this lack of will by the various presidents of YPFB and of the National Government itself has greatly harmed the country in its efforts to build diversified industries on the basis of natural gas, with thousands of new jobs, the development of the regions producing hydrocarbons and, ultimately, national development; that without managing to be a ‘Kuwait’ or a ‘United Arab Emirates’ of Latin America, it could have positioned itself among the major developed hydrocarbon industries of the Southern cone of the South American continent.” Escalera is an ex-director of the GNI.
  33. John Crabtree, “Bolivia: playing by new rules,” in Reclaiming Latin America: Experiments in Radical Social Democracy, Geraldine Lievesley and Steve Ludlam, eds. (London: Zed Books, 2009), 100.
  34. Forrest Hylton, “Old wine, new bottles: in search of dialectics,” Dialectical Anthropology 35 (2011), 243–47: “In terms of its relationships with labor, the government favored business unionism as opposed to co-gobierno or workers’ control, and its nationalization of mines in Vinto and Huanuni merely ratified what workers had accomplished on their own. . . . Indeed, cooperative miners, arguably the most reactionary of popular sectors, caused the MAS government great embarrassment when they attacked miners in the state sector without fear of reprisal from their ally, the Minister of Mines, whose appointment was a quid pro quo for electoral support from the cooperative sector.”
  35. Oscar Olivera, Marcelo Rojas, Abraham Grandydier, Aniceto Hinojsa Vásquez, and Carlos Oropeza, “An open letter to Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera against the gasolinazo and for the self-governance of our people,” Narco News Bulletin, November 30, 2010.
  36. Hylton, “Old wine, new bottles,” 244.
  37. Álvaro García Linera, “The state in transition: power bloc and point of bifurcation,” Mariana Ortega Breña, trans., Latin American Perspectives 173, Vol. 37, No. 4 (July 2010), 34–47.
  38. There is an important discussion to be had among the revolutionary left about what constitutes a (or “the”) transition from capitalism to socialism. The bibliography and tradition here are lengthy—running from Marx and Engels, to Lenin and Trotsky, on to Althusser and his epigones—but I cannot enter into that dialogue here. At best I can only hope to suggest that the path currently pursued by the Morales administration is not one of transition to socialism, at least under conditions of advanced globalization and late capitalism.
  39. García Linera “State in transition,” 34-35, my emphasis and insertion.
  40. Ibid., 35.
  41. Ibid., 37.
  42. Ibid., 37, my emphasis.
  43. Ibid., 38–39.
  44. Ibid., 39.
  45. For insight into the theoretical dimensions of this discussion of ­bureaucratization in relation to the role of an urban intelligentsia and the professional classes, see Tony Cliff, “Permanent Revolution,” International Socialism Journal, First series, No. 12 (Spring 1963), available at This essay is accessible in a slightly revised and reprinted version as “Mao, Castro, Che, and the national movements” in Cliff, Marxism at the Millennium (London: Bookmarks, 2000), 37–47.
  46. On the affinities between the top-down strategies of social democracy and Stalinism, see Hal Draper, “The two souls of socialism,” New Politics Vol. 5, No. 1 (Winter 1966), 57–84, and Duncan Hallas, Trotsky’s Marxism (Chicago: Haymarket, 2003), 77–92. By “Weberianism,” I mean a methodology of social analysis that locates the state bureaucracy as the primary source of both the problems and ­solutions of the ills of social stratification, and, in a related context, one which privileges “methodological individualism” over Marxist dialectics.
  47. García Linera “State in transition,” 39.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid., 35.
  50. Ibid., 39.
  51. Almaraz et al., Manifesto, 7.
  52. Gutiérrez Aguilar, “Competing political visions.”
  53. The best theorist from the social movement perspective of the period of the Water War and Gas Wars, as well as of alternative forms of the Constituent Assembly and State, is Oscar Olivera. See Olivera and Lewis, ¡Cochabamba!, 105–59 and 175–89. For other related proposals, see also Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar et al., Democratizaciones Plebeyas (La Paz: Muela del Diablo, 2002); Félix Patzi Paco, Sistema Comunal: Una Propuesta Alternativa al Sistema Liberal (La Paz: Comunidad de Estudios Alternativos, 2004); and Forrest Hylton et al., Ya Es Otro Tiempo el Presente: Cuatro Momentos de Insurgencia Indígena (La Paz: Muela del Diablo, 2003). For an amazing eyewitness account of the 2003 Gas War, see Luis A. Gómez, El Alto de Pie: Una Insurrección Aymara en Bolivia (La Paz: HdP, Comuna, and Indymedia, 2004).
  54. García Linera “State in transition,” 36.
  55. V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 25 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), 330–31; italics in original.
  56. Ibid., 332; italics in original.
  57. See note 30 for an explanation of Annex F.
  58. Please observe that the term “state capitalism” in Lenin’s usage does not refer to the concept of “bureaucratic state capitalism” as developed by later Marxist thinkers in their attempts to understand the economic dynamic of the Soviet Union under Stalin. See Tony Cliff, Lenin: Revolution Besieged, 1917–1923 (London: Bookmarks, 1987), 69.
  59. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27: 244.
  60. Cliff, Revolution Besieged, 69.
  61. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27: 244–45; italics in original.
  62. On war communism, see Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888–1938 (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 79, quoted in Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993), 304.
  63. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 25: 336–37; italics in the original.


Issue #103

Winter 2016-17

"A sense of hope and the possibility for solidarity"

Interview with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
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