Alvaro Garcia Linera: “We want a capitalism with a big state presence”

Pablo Stefanoni, May 18

Almost as soon as he starts to talk, Bolivian vice president Álvaro García Linera allows on to see his previous profession as university lecture in sociology come through. Nearly 16 months after the arrival to government of Evo Morales, he is an authorised spokesperson on the strategic objectives of the process in march. In this role he affirms that his government aims for “a capitalism with a big state presence”. In this interview he reveals that the objective to “get to 30% to 40% of the GDP being in state hands”.

Pablo Stefanoni - What type of state is your government aspiring to?

Alvaro Garcia Linera - When we assumed power, we received a state that did not own a single enterprise. Our aim is for the state to assume an active role. In one year we have recuperated state control over hydrocarbons, mining and telecommunications. From 6% of the GDP, the state now controls 19%, and is today the principal economic actor in Bolivia. The objective is to reach, at least, 30% or 40%.

PS - Is this a return to the developmentalism of the 1950s?

AGL - No. We are thinking about a pluralist modernisation, not that of a single road like in the ‘40s and ‘50s. There exist different dynamics of modernisation: that of the modern industrial economy, of urban family micro-enterprises and that of the communitarian campesino economy.

PS - And how do you achieve that?

AGL - Widening the working class base, with the state playing a very strong role in the development of new industries, and in supporting communitarian economic forms. I don’t believe, like the archaic and vanguardist left do, that socialism can be imposed by decree or by pure voluntarism, rather, it comes through the real movement of society. That is what I mean by the concept of “Andean capitalism” as a stage of transition. It might be something frustrating for those with a radical and idealist discourse, but it is being theoretically honest.

PS - What changes have occurred for the indigenous peoples up until now?

AGL - There is an image that sums it all up: recently, in Pocoata, Evo Morales asked an indigenous child what he was going to do with his Juancito Pinto bonus (aimed at tackling the problem of children not finishing schooling). The child responded with a ferocious forcefulness: “I am going to prepare myself to be like you”. Before the indigenous people viewed themselves as bricklayers or easy targets for the police.

PS - But certain sectors continue to talk of the same old government of the “blancoides” [white] middle classes….

AGL - It is clear that the star programs of this government are directed towards the indigenous and campesino sectors. But it is true that the predominant colonialism in our country left indigenous people out of the areas necessary to run the state. Decolonise the country means to reverse this. Evo recently asked rural professors: “teach our brothers mathematics, physics and chemistry, it is your fault that I do not have indigenous functionaries in my government”. The indigenous peoples, in their own way, are searching for modernity and social inclusion. I don’t agree with the romantic and essentialist discourse of some intellectuals and NGOs about the indigenous world.

2 comments:

Korakious said...

How is this state economy to be administered though? Will it be just a bunch of state owned industries, like in the welfare states of the West, or will there be genuine democratic control from below, in order to prepare the road for socialism?

Anonymous said...

Vice-President Linera:

"AGL - It is clear that the star programs of this government are directed towards the indigenous and campesino sectors. But it is true that the predominant colonialism in our country left indigenous people out of the areas necessary to run the state. Decolonise the country means to reverse this. Evo recently asked rural professors: "teach our brothers mathematics, physics and chemistry, it is your fault that I do not have indigenous functionaries in my government". The indigenous peoples, in their own way, are searching for modernity and social inclusion. I don't agree with the romantic and essentialist discourse of some intellectuals and NGOs about the indigenous world."

This is essentially the point I was making the other day with regards to CONAIE and the indigenous movement in Ecuador. The indigenous want to modernize IN THEIR OWN WAY. In other words,they are seeking some form of social inclusion. And this, almost by definition, means a strong, interventionist state (in Ecuador, as well as Bolivia).

I would rather draw some sort of comparison to the civil rights movement of the 1960's in the United States, but imagine that King had not been shot, and had successfully launched the poor people's movement in alliance with the trade unions and militant factions of the white working class. This would mirror, in some respects, the alliance between the mestizo left and the CONAIE in Ecuador. (Since I don't know Bolivia I cannot say how applicable this comparison would be there).

Besides, I know Macas. We got drunk together a few times. He joked once about how he got so drunk at a party that he left his hat. Indigenous never leave their hats behind. Anyway, Macas is politically savvy and quite the leninist. Incidentally, CONAIE held back from participation in the Correa government (Macas was offered the vice-presidency), not because they are zapatista-like anarchists, but rather due to their mistrust of being manipulated behind the scenes and sold out, which is what happened in the last government of President Gutierrez, which had strong CONAIE involvement with the Pachakutik party, but was disempowered by Gutierrez, who succeeded in splitting the indigenous movement and weakening the indigenous party. Gutierrez had formed a left-indigenous-military junta, promised to revoke the neo-liberal policies of his predecessor, and then reversed himself after meeting with the US embassy, and threw in instead with the military and dollar neoliberalism. CONAIE has yet to recover from this. Macas reassumed leadership of the CONAIE afterward and his more moderate predecessor was kicked down. Macas led CONAIE during the '90's, but he even mentioned to me in 1992 that he was getting tired of all the political work and wanted to go back to his farm. IMHO, the best kind of leninist is a reluctant one.

Greg