Bolivia: The Empire Oversees Another Coup
24-11-2019: It was one of the fastest nullifications of an election result for decades. On October 20, Bolivian President Evo Morales was re-elected with a margin of 10 percentage points, only to resign on November 10 in the face of a right-wing opposition with links to the US Empire. The opposition groups claimed the election results were fraudulent, but statistical analysis found that there were no irregularities with the process or counting of the votes. One of the opposition groups has members of a Christian fascist organisation from Santa Cruz, a hotbed of US government linked separatism. The main opposition candidate in the election, Carlos Mesa, is a named member of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington based “think tank” funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Organisation of the American States (OAS), a Cold War alliance of Latin American anti-communist governments led by Washington, chimed in with the call for “new elections”. After reported raids on his home, Evo Morales and former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera have fled to Mexico, which offered them asylum.
US in regime change frenzy
Over the last eight years, the US ruling class has left no stone unturned in efforts to overthrow and depose governments from countries around the world seen to be too independent, or resistant to global US domination. In Libya, the US used NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) to destroy Green Libya, leaving a hellhole in its aftermath. In Syria, the US and its Western allies armed and funded barbaric ISIS mercenaries in an effort to remove the Syrian government. Here they were defeated by a combination of military and political defence from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. Seething from this loss of face, Washington redoubled its regime change machinations, repeatedly attempting a coup in Venezuela, fostering fake uprisings in Sudan and Algeria, and funding faux “human rights” fronts in Cambodia and Thailand, to name but a few. Most brazenly, Wall Street has overtly and covertly backed ultra-violent right-wing separatists in Hong Kong, in a vain attempt to spread political unrest throughout China.
Unfortunately, the faulty political basis of Morales and his (misnamed) Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) offered Washington the easiest path to install domestic right-wing collaborators at the crucial time. Evo Morales was the first indigenous President of Bolivia, in a nation where the majority of the population are indigenous. Morales and Linera managed to govern Bolivia for 13 years, repeatedly winning elections, sometimes by landslides. The MAS government used redistributive social-democratic policies which resulted in some gains for Bolivian workers and the poor. Under Morales the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate was a steady 4.9% per year, and per capita GDP grew by over 50%. Poverty fell from 60% in 2006 to 35% in 2017. Unemployment nearly halved, the minimum wage increased threefold, and social transfer payments were given to millions of poor Bolivians, enabling many to enter full-time education for the first time. Such measures were the basis of the popularity of the Morales government, especially amongst the Indian majority.
Reformism no solution
At the same time, the Morales government made repeated concessions to the agribusiness class and sought partnerships with capitalist industry in order to spur growth. It is not entirely wrong to use private sector capital to develop agriculture and use mineral resources, but it was often done at the expense of Bolivian workers, with little regard for the environment. In fact, Bolivian workers had to struggle and often strike against the Morales government, and in response Morales had little hesitation in sending in heavily armed police to severely repress them. In 2016, the COB (Bolivian Workers Central) trade union body called a strike in response to Morales closing Enatex, the state-run textile company, causing the loss of 1000 jobs. Hundreds of workers were arrested by the police repression ordered by the MAS government. In 2013, miners launched a general strike against the Morales government for continuing the anti-worker pension scheme of the previous government, demanding “retirement with dignity”. The police repression was severe, with the arrest of 400 miners, with the Morales government in some cases demanding prison terms of up to six years! In 2011, some 5000 rural teachers embarked on strikes against the Morales government for a reasonable wage increase. The COB had to settle for less than their demands, after hundreds of riot police were unleashed against the teachers, resulting in nine wounded.
The police Morales ordered to repress striking workers were the same police who in turn turfed Morales when the signal was given. Far from “socialism”, the Morales/Linera government was reformist at best, which used the armed forces of the bourgeois state against workers when they saw fit. There was no effort to build workers’ power, or workers’ militias, because Morales only sought a few reforms within the capitalist system, regardless of his rhetoric. Morales may have railed against capitalism, against US imperialism, and against the extreme danger of climate collapse in words – but his loyalty was always with the very system he denounced. Bolivian workers paid a heavy price for this. Now, Bolivian workers and the poor are left almost defenceless to face the fascist right, in paramilitary or government form, while Morales and Linera themselves have deserted the sinking ship.
Workers in Bolivia, and their peasant and Indian allies, need to politically break with MAS before they can take steps forward in their defence. Workers internationally need to resolutely oppose the US backed coup, while offering no political support to the remnants of the legacy of Morales. It is another lesson that capitalism cannot be reformed, and that real socialism begins with workers in power.
 Ibid, 2.