For a United, Plurinational, Communitarian State and the self-determination of the originaria nations, indigenous peoples and campesinos

Vision of the Country commission majority report

Movement Towards Socialism, June 5, 2007-05-08


The Bolivian people, with its plural composition, expressed in the entirety of Bolivians, pertaining to urban communities made up of different social classes and the indigenous peoples, originario nations, campesino, and intercultural and Afro-Bolivian peoples, have manifested their will to reconstruct the identities of the indigenous nations and peoples whose historic and cultural pre-existence has suffered from a permanent exclusion during colonial and republican life, having had ignored their rights to ancestral territories, institutions, judicial systems, politics, languages and culture.

On the other side, the economic and social inequalities have deepened the differences and social injustices, institutionalising a political and judicial system which has excluded the great majority.

Because of this, the valiant Bolivian people have conformed a Constituent Assembly to which it has given the mandate to "refound Bolivia" and construct a state based on the principals of sovereignty, dignity, complementarity, solidarity, harmony and equality in distribution and redistribution of the social product, where the common good predominates in the search to "live well; of respect for economic, social, judicial, political and cultural diversity of all its inhabitants; generating collective well being, with healthcare, work, education and housing for all.

A plurinational, communitarian state which integrates and articulates itself within the objective of constructing a Great Latin American Community and which is a spokesperson and inspirator for peace and integral, harmonic development and the self-determination of our peoples.

Therefore, the Constituent Assembly declares and approves the Bolivian Political Constitution of the Plurinational, Communitarian State:

Political Constitution of the Bolivian State

Chapter 1 - Fundamental basis of the state

Article 1 (the state)

i. Bolivia is a united, plurinational, communitarian state, which is free, independent, sovereign, democratic, social, decentralised and with territorial autonomies, based on plurality and political, economic, judicial, cultural and linguistic pluralism.ii. Is sustained on the values of unity, solidarity, reciprocity, complementarity, harmony, equilibrium, social and gender equality in participation, distribution and redistribution of products and social goods in order to "live well".

Article 2 (Pre-colonial existence)

Given the pre-colonial existence of the indigenous peoples and originario nations and their ancestral dominion over their territories, this constitution guarantees their free self-determination which is expressed in the will to conform, and being part of, a united, plurinational, communitarian state, and in the right to self-government, their culture and reconstitution of their territorial entities within the framework of the constitution.

Article 3 (Bolivian people)

The Bolivian people are made up of Bolivians, pertaining to urban communities made up of different social classes and the indigenous peoples, originario nations, campesinos and Afro-Bolivians.

Article 4 (Sovereignty)

Sovereignty resides in the entirety of the Bolivian people, is inalienable, indivisible and imprescriptible, and from which emanates the functions and attributions of public power; it is exercised in a direct way and by means of their representatives in the terms that this constitution establishes. The functions of the executive, legislative, judicial and social plurinational organs cannot be concentrated in any of these.

Article 5 (Principals and supreme values)

i. The state assumes and promotes as ethical-moral principals of a plural society: ama sua, ama llulla, ama qhella, nitaq sapa (don't be a thief, liar, lazy or individualist), Sumaj Qamaña (live well), ñandereko (harmonious life), Teko Kavi (good life), Ivi Maraei (dreaming society) y qhapaj ñan (noble path or life).

ii. This constitution establishes as supreme values: liberty, equality, transparency, human dignity, justice and social peace.

Article 6 (Function and aims of the state)

The state has as its aims and essential functions:

a) the construction of a just and harmonious society, founded on decolonialisation, with full social justice, without exploited or exploiters, and the consolidation of plurinational identities.

b) guaranteeing the well being, development, security and protection, and equal dignity of individuals, nations, peoples and communities, fomenting mutual respect and intercultural dialogue.

c) reaffirming and consolidating the unity of the country, preserving as historic and human patrimony the plurinational diversity which exists within it.

d) repairing and compensating the indigenous peoples, originario nations and campesinos for damages and historic injustices, guaranteeing their participation in the construction of the institutionality of the new state.

e) guaranteeing the compliment of principals, values, rights and responsibilities recognised and consecrated in this constitution.

f) assuring Bolivians access to education, healthcare and work.

Article 7 (Form of government)

i. The united plurinational, communitarian state adopts a participatory, representative and communitarian democracy as its form of government.

ii. Political organisation is based on the principal of the participation of the Bolivian people in the making of decisions, via their own mechanisms and those established in this constitution; the individual and social responsibility of the mandate; the revocability and alternation of positions at all levels of the state.

iii. Sovereignty is exercised via the following mechanisms of democracy:

a) participatory via assemblies and open town meetings, prior consultation, referendum, plebiscites, citizen's legislative initiatives and revocation of mandates.

b) representative via the election of representatives by universal and secret vote, guaranteeing parity and alternation between men and women.

c) communitarian via election, designation or nomination of representatives via traditional norms.

Article 8 (Constitutional primacy)

This constitution guarantees the applicability of the principals of constitutional primacy, regulatory hierarchy, legality, efficacy, citizen participation and social control of the plurinational public power.

Article 9 (Religion)

Bolivia is a secular state that respects and guarantees religious pluralism, freedom of religion and the exercising of the spiritual practices sustained in the diversity of cosmos visions.

Article 10 (Languages)

The official languages of the united, plurinational, communitarian state are Spanish and all the languages of the indigenous people and originario nations: Aymara, Araona, Zamuco (Ayoreo), Baure, Bésiro, Canichana, Cavineño, Cayubaba, Chácobo, Chimán, Ese ejja, Guaraní, Guarasu'we (Pauserna), Guarayu, Itonama, Leco, Machineri, Mojeño-trinitario, Mojeño-ignaciano, Moré, Mosetén, Movima, Pacawara, Quechua, Maropa (Reyesano), Sirionó, Tacana, Tapieté, Toromona, Puquina (Uru-chipaya), Weenhayek, Yaminawa, Yuki, Yuracaré.

The state guarantees, protects and foments their development in each of the regions where they are spoken.

Article 11 (Symbols)

The symbols of the united, plurinational, communitarian state are: the red, yellow and green flag; the whipala; the national anthem; the coat of arms; the insignia; the flower of the kantuta and the flower of the patujú.

Foundations of the Proposal

We, the indigenous peoples, originario nations and campesinos, today have the challenge of participating in the refoundation of Bolivia, constructing a new country based on the peoples as collective subjects, towards the construction of a plurinational state, which transcends the liberal and mono-cultural state model founded on the individual citizen.

Bolivia, like the rest of the states of Latin America, has constructed a liberal model characterised by the imposition of western culture, which has marginalised and weakened our originaria cultures and our political and judicial systems. The politico-administrative division has imposed borders that have broken traditional territorial units, fracturing autonomy and control over land and natural resources. A uniform judicial system and foreign models of government and administration has been imposed, which favour the interests of the market and deprive the peoples of their means of subsistence, and therefore deteriorates the quality of our lives. But despite centuries of imposition, we have resisted and maintained our identities, that is why today, different nations, peoples and cultures inhabit Bolivia, with the right to a solidarity-based and peaceful co-existence: that is why we propose founding a united, plurinational state.

We understand that the plurinational state is a model of political organisation for the decolonisation of our nations and peoples, reaffirming, recuperating and strengthening our territorial autonomy, in order to reach a full life, to live well, with a solidarity-based vision, and in this way be the motors of unity and social well being for all Bolivians, guaranteeing the full exercise of all rights.

Fundamental to the construction and consolidation of the plurinational state are the principals of judicial pluralism, unity, complementarity, reciprocity, equality, solidarity and the moral and ethic principal necessary to end all types of corruption.

Our decision to construct a plurinational state based on indigenous, originaria and campesino autonomies, should be understood as a path towards our self-determination as nations and peoples, to define our own communitarian policies, and social, economic, political and judicial systems and, within this framework, reaffirm our structures of government, election of authorities and administration of justice, respect other ways of life which differ in their use of space and territory.

Juridically, our proposal is based on the collective rights consecrated in international human rights treaties, such as Convention169 of the International Labour Organisation. Our right to land and natural resources is especially important: we are looking to put an end to large land estates and the concentration of land in a few hands, and the monopoly over natural resources for the benefit of private interests.

The structure of the new plurinational state model implies that within the public powers there is a direct representation of indigenous peoples, originario nations and campesinos, according to their customs and traditions, and citizens via universal vote. At the same time, it is necessary to determine the form in which to articulate the distinct levels of the public administration and territorial autonomies.

It is a united state because it:

1) preserves the territorial integrity of the country.

2) is not a federal state.

3) is indivisible and inviolable.

4) preserves unity between Bolivians.

5) respects economic, political, social and cultural diversity.

It is a plurinational state because:

1) the national is diverse and not mono-cultural.

2) its economic, social, judicial and political organisations recognise and articulate all the indigenous peoples, originario nations, campesinos, and intercultural population of the countryside and city.

3) it respects, guarantees and promotes the identity, government, judicial pluralism and intercultural integration of each of the nations and people of the countryside and city.

4) it respects the diversity of forms of political representation.

It is a communitarian state because

1) the Bolivian community is economically, politically, socially and culturally diverse.

2) it promotes communitarian, cooperative and associative forms and strategies of organisation of society under the principals of solidarity, reciprocity, democracy, complementarity and equitable distribution of the social product in order to "live well".

3) it is comprised of various forms of communitarian existence in the countryside and cities. These communities are also regional and local.

If the state is united, plurinational, and communitarian, then…..

1) it recognises freedom of religion and the exercising of spiritual beliefs and practises of the nations.

2) its official languages are the languages of the indigenous people, originario nations and campesinos and Spanish.

3) the plurinational symbols are: the red, yellow and green flag, the whipala, the national hymn, the coat of arms, the insignia, the flower of the kantuta and the flower of the patujú.

4) its international relations are based on principals of equality and self-determination of the people, solidarity, economic integration and complementarity between states and nations, mutual respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression, and non-intervention of a country in the internal affairs of another.

5) it searches for a social, communitarian economy for the "well being" of all the population, communities and individuals.

6) the economic system respects and protects private initiative and just retribution for invested capital.

7) the economic is based on the principals of: efficiency, productive complementarity and equal distribution, avoiding the concentration of wealth.

8) all forms of private monopoly or oligopoly as well as anti-micro-enterprise collusive practices are prohibited.

9) it guarantees food sovereignty.

10) it generates policies against inequality and other forms of social and economic exclusion, promoting the eradication of poverty, dignified work, just retribution and prices for products.

11) the state respects, protects and foments forms of reciprocity, redistribution, complementarity, solidarity, interchange or barter as actual institutions of the communitarian economy.

12) it recognises, protects and promotes all communitarian and collective forms of economic organisation

13) recognises and respects private initiative, as along as it contributes to the social-economic development of the country, and does not put at risk the economic independence of the state.

14) the private economy should be environmentally sustainable, a source of dignified work, and should not aggravate inequality or increase poverty.


Richard Fidler said...


Given that the indigenous peoples inhabiting Bolivia have achieved their greatest success politically within the existing Bolivian state, they would be ill-advised to abandon that foothold in favour of some hypothetical, less realizable state form that would have to be hewed in part out of one or more other states.

As an indigenous majority within Bolivia, they have every interest in using the control of the government they have gained through the MAS and its allies to refashion the Bolivian state. And that appears to be what they are now doing.

The ?Vision of the country commission majority report?, posted by Federico on his Bolivia Rising blog, is an extremely important statement which, if incorporated in some form into the new Constitution, will mark an historic advance not only for the indigenous peoples of Bolivia but for all ?original [or aboriginal] nations?. For example, it will be very relevant to some current debates in Canada, and particularly in Quebec, as I will indicate below.

The preamble makes clear that the proposed constitution is to ?reconstruct the identities of the indigenous nations?, which have suffered permanent exclusion through a colonial and republican system that has overridden their ?ancestral territories, institutions, judicial systems, politics, languages and culture?.

The document redefines Bolivia as a ?united, plurinational, communitarian state?. It recognizes some three dozen ?official languages?, all but Spanish being languages of the indigenous peoples, and pledges state protection and development of those languages ?in each of the regions where they are spoken?.

It indicates clearly the meaning of each of the defining terms.

?United? means a common territory of all Bolivians; the explicit rejection of federalism is a constitutional check on the ?autonomist? aspirations of the Spanish and mestizo elite in Santa Cruz, strengthened by the statement that this state is ?indivisible and inviolable? while respecting ?economic, political, social and cultural diversity?.

?Plurinational? means the state is ?diverse and not mono-cultural? and ?guarantees and promotes the identity, government, judicial pluralism and intercultural integration of each of the nations? within Bolivia.

?Communitarian? means that the state ?promotes communitarian, cooperative and associative forms and strategies of organization of society under the principles of solidarity, reciprocity, democracy, complementarity and equitable distribution of the social product in order to ?live well?.?

These provisions ? and there is much more in this statement, which should be studied closely by all of us ? open the door wide for the adoption of affirmative action measures and programs to enhance the status and development of the indigenous majority in Bolivia. And they yield nothing to regional separatism.

The argument (advanced by Soliz Rada, apparently) that a plurinational state will lead to the break-up of Bolivia by giving the white-skinned, pro-imperialist economic and commercial elite a constitutional pretext to establish an ?autonomous? or independent national state of their own can only be true if each ?nation? within this ?plurinational? state is seen as an exclusive category with a right of national self-determination that trumps the right of self-determination of every other nation sharing all or part of the territory of Bolivia. It identifies nation with distinct territory, and presumes that more than one nation cannot share a common territory.

Historically, the concept of the right of national self-determination originated in the epoch of the rising bourgeoisie, which had a class interest in asserting its control over territory to the exclusion of the feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchs. Nation became identified with territory and, where possible, a common public language, to facilitate transport, communications, a common tariff, and all the other attributes of the bourgeois state. Marxists initially developed their thinking on the national question on the basis of this reasoning, and early discussions (even as late as Stalin?s in 1913) tend to remain within that framework of viewing the national question as fundamentally a problem of completing the bourgeois-democratic revolution in the advanced capitalist countries.

As Marxists began to study the phenomenon of imperialism, however, they soon realized that in most of the world the national question was more complex and took other forms than it did in Europe. The colonial structures rode roughshod over the languages, cultures and traditions of the indigenous peoples, whose anti-imperialist revolt in turn unfolded within the framework of a struggle for national identity and national liberation that could, with proletarian leadership, go beyond capitalism and move toward socialism while attempting to preserve and enhance national identities rooted in precapitalist conditions. In the colonies and semicolonies, local capitalism, to the degree it developed at all, was integrally bound up with the interests of imperialism and offered nothing to the indigenous peoples but assimilation and further oppression.

And even within the advanced capitalist countries, indigenous and once precapitalist peoples are now organizing themselves under the banner of ?nation? and cultural, linguistic and territorial expressions of national sovereignty. This is true in the majority of European countries, including Spain, Britain, and even France ? the classic countries of predatory imperialism. Their struggles destabilize capitalist rule and can create important openings for anticapitalist advance.

These new nations and nationalisms, unfolding within existing state frameworks established by imperialism or the triumphant bourgeoisie, are primarily concerned with achieving sovereignty over all matters of concern to their national identity: language and culture, of course, but not necessarily exclusive control of their own state. In some instances, they may coexist within a given state with a particular minority nation or a broader movement asserting its own national demands in the form of a struggle for its own independent, territorial state. Most Bolivians, for example, have a common interest in defending and promoting control and development by Bolivians over their natural resources. Their success in achieving this goal will help provide a basis for state promotion of the national identities (language, culture, customs, etc.) of the indigenous peoples within Bolivia.

In Quebec we have a further example of how indigenous struggles intersect with the national struggle of the French-speaking Québécois, a minority within Canada (24%) but the overwhelming majority (83%) of the population of the province of Quebec. The Québécois national struggle is one for control of the territory of that province, exclusive of control by the Canadian state over jurisdictions integral to the national identity of the Québécois. This is generally defined as a struggle for Quebec ?sovereignty?. For decades now, polls and a referendum have shown that a majority of Francophone Quebeckers support the formation of a sovereign state, although opinions differ among them as to possible forms of association that might be established with the rest of Canada following a declaration of sovereignty or independence. (Only a minority support full independence without some formal association.)

But the Quebec nationalist movement came up against a problem almost from the time it began to develop its modern expressions, in the 1960s. Most of the territory of the province of Quebec itself is inhabited primarily by indigenous peoples, and these peoples have asserted their ?sovereign? rights over the northern regions and territories they inhabit, in opposition to the hydro-electric and other development projects that are crucial to the economic prosperity of Quebec industries and cities in the south.

In Canada, the indigenous peoples now refer to themselves as ?First Nations?; many assert their right to constitutional recognition and status on a par with the English and French colonizers and their descendants. In Quebec, this has resulted in conflicts of respective sovereignty aspirations of native and non-native peoples.

In the mid-1970s, the pro-federalist Liberal government was forced by Cree Indian opposition to hydro-electric dam development to sign a wide-ranging agreement promising autonomous Indian and Inuit development of wide areas of northern Quebec; this was the first of the modern ?treaties? signed by a white government in Canada. It has been followed by other, similar treaty agreements between the Quebec government and native nations. In the mid-1980s, Quebec?s National Assembly, on the impetus of the pro-sovereignty Parti Québécois government, formally recognized the existence within Quebec of a dozen indigenous ?nations? with certain rights to the use of their language, control of schools, exclusive hunting and fishing rights, the formation of development corporations owned and controlled by natives, etc.

Quebec is the only province to have recognized the indigenous peoples as nations in this way. In recent years, some native leaders have begun to identify with the goal of a sovereign or independent Quebec, in the belief that one will be created and it is best to participate in that development in order to provide indigenous input in defining the respective rights and obligations of the nations within the nation.

This is not to say that relations between First Nations and Quebec nationalists are smooth; on the contrary. (At Oka, near Montreal, a struggle in 1990 by a native community to prevent illegal development by whites of a golf course on their land became a military-type standoff between native militants and Quebec police supported by federal troops.) But to the degree that Quebec nationalists manage to win the indigenous peoples as their allies, through meaningful recognition of indigenous nationhood, they will strengthen their struggle and weaken Ottawa?s attempts to use its constitutional jurisdiction over ?Indians and Indian affairs? to further divide the inhabitants of Quebec and use indigenous issues as a tool for mobilizing public opinion against the Québécois national struggle.

Quebec?s indigenous peoples are oppressed by both the federal regime and Quebec?s. Their struggle for self-determination is directed against both, albeit in different ways. What is emerging, however, is a concept of overlapping sovereignties, each respectful of the others? need for cultural and linguistic, etc. expression. Depending on the situation of each particular indigenous nation, this may or may not primarily take the form of a struggle for territorial sovereignty, although where the indigenous peoples have managed to retain some partial control over territory (reserves, occupation, etc.) they naturally seek to enhance that control.

But probably half of Quebec?s indigenous population are now city-dwellers, often far from their native communities. They are severely discriminated against as non-whites, of course, and any recognition of indigenous nations must find ways to encompass this urban and off-reserve population.

The parallels with the situation in Bolivia are obvious, notwithstanding many differences. But it seems to me that indigenous militants in Quebec and Canada, as elsewhere, can find much to ponder and to inspire them in current developments in Evo Morales? Bolivia.


Anonymous said...

Marxists also understand that material being precedes consciousness.
The socio-economic basis of indigeneity today is marginalized subsistence within global capitalism. It is futile to look to a bourgeois constitution that meets the needs of the indigenous, other than on reservations or refugees as in Chiapas.
A state that meets the collective needs of all peoples, can only be a state that expropriates the means of production i.e. a workers and peasants state.
A Constitution must reflect the existent social relations.

Dave Brown

Michael Lebowitz said...

Richard Fidler stresses the obvious centrality of indigenous struggles and identity reflected in the proposed new Bolivian Constitution... and its relevance to indigenous struggles everywhere. My reaction was different: an absolutely essential aspect in the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela is the focus upon the goal of full development of human potential and the explicit recognition that this is possible only through collective protagonism (ie., the concept of revolutionary practice). And, I've argued that this is the subversive element in the Bolivarian Constitution, a constitution which otherwise is supportive of capitalist relations, and that it has served very significantly in the struggle since its adoption. I was unhappy to see that the proposed Bolivian Constitution did not have a similar explicit subversive element to counter its acceptance of capitalist relations.
Michael A. Lebowitz

John Riddell said...

Hi Fred--

It seems to me that you are on the right track with regard to indigenous self-determination here.

For us, the whole point is unity of working people and the oppressed. Granting the right to self-determination to oppressed peoples is a step to stregthen that unity, and so it works against splintering, rather than encouraging it.

See the experience of Nicaragua. When the revolutionary government failed to respond to the aspirations of indigenous peoples, it opened the door to U.S. imperialism to break them from the revolution and to fragment the country. Measures to recognize indigenous rights, when they finally came, worked in the opposite direction.

There is a great deal on this question in the record of the Russian revolution. Note that the Bolsheviks were not at all hesitant to recognize Ukranian independence. And when the time finally came to create the Soviet Union, Lenin said that Ukranian independence was preferable to any union that violated Ukraine's national rights.

It's heartening that Bolivia is making headway in this direction. Surely it will have a great impact on indigenous peoples elsewhere in the Americas.


Federico Fuentes said...

Thank you very much to Richard and Michael for there thoughful and stimulating comment, it certainly got my brain juices flowing and have begun to write a follow up email i will post as i get more to work on my article for the next green left weekly [and Richard - makes me feel ashamed it has taken me so long to get back to you on the issue of similarities/differencies in the development of Canada, Australia and Argentina, promise i will get time to write something]

Just a quick response to a few points (written in a rush) and a comment about another issue that has now arisen in the CA and Bolivian politics more generally.

Also check out the article for this weeks GLW at

Whilst far from having the same positions that Soliz Rada has on many issues (for a good short summary of ASR's views see i have translated an interview with independent CA delegate (elected on the centre-right National Unity ticket) which more closely takes up some of ASR's concerns regarding some of the ideas on a plurinational state. Essentially it is that in the context of a real threat of disintegration of Bolivia (this is another interesting debate - are the right wing first and foremost interested in carving up Bolivia, or is this more a pretext for regaining ground to capture national control once again, with seccession a final option, ASR i think believes the first is more likely), a proposal that opens up the possibility or atleast idea that Bolivia could be carved up into 36 small indigenous republics gives fuel to the argument of the right wing that it is MAS' fundamentalism that is causing the fracture of Bolivia, allow them to look like defenders of the nation. by doing so the right wing can wing across middle class sections as well as win support amongst the military where territorial integrity weighs heavily on the minds of soldiers.

In the interview Lazarte who both aims his discourse at the mestizo and white middle classes and at the same time reflects a real sentiment amongst these Bolivia's says:

Q- What does it mean to recognise indigenous cultures as nations?

A - If they are nations, not only is their autonomy recognised, but also their right to self-determination. In terms of international law, this right involves territory. Those who say nation say territory, and territory is state sovereignty over that territory. Therefore, the right to independence and the right to secede are recognised. Morales opened a Pandora's box. To indigenise the state structures with ethnic nationalism will create problems in a country that is weakly integrated. It raises the possibility that small indigenous groups could declare themselves nations and reclaim their independence and make the non-indigenous a minority group.

(whole interview at

Meanwhile, responding to the question "Why do they fear indigenous autonomy?" Carlos Cuasase Surubi, an indigenous MAS senator argues that:

"The historic agenda of the originario, indigenous peoples of Bolivia is self-determination WITHIN THE ALREADY CONSTITUTED Bolivian state." my capitalisation

He outlines his what he thinks the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples means:

"Elect our authorities according to our traditions and customs. To promote our own judicial systems, our own mechanisms of conflict resolution.

We have the right to be obligatorily consulted prior to, and freely, in all the economic, social, administrative and legal projects that affect the lives of our communities and our cultures in our territories.

We have the right to express our free consent before plans and projects that affect us. That is to say, we have the right so that policies regarding land and territory, education, healthcare, productive projects, roadways, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons and minerals, exploitation of our forest resources, be previously socialised, discussed in all their aspects and regarding their environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts. From this widely informed and public process will emerge the collective decision of our communities expressed in consenting to these policies and projects or in the right to express our objections.

Not only do we have the right to compensation and indemnification, for the damages previous inflicted, but we also have the right to participate in the benefits of projects of extraction of all natural resources that are carried out in our territories. In case you did not already know, this right is already part of Bolivian law in the Indigenous Chapter of the Hydrocarbon Law, currently in force.

That is, we have the right to be taken into consideration, obligatorily, and not silenced, ignored or made invisible, as has occurred under all the republican governments. "

(full article here

You can get an idea of what MAS' proposal regard autonomy, aprticularly indigenous autonomy is here

But what is clear is that rather than a homogenous party structure, MAS more closely resembles a loose confederation of indigenous and campesino organisations, who retain their autonomy and in some cases diverge from each other.

One example is the debate over who should control natural resources, and which help further explain the difference between the (majority) nationalist wing and more (minority) indigenist wing in MAS. Or the difference between the indigenous people as best defenders and articulators of a necessary new Bolivia or those that call for a return to the Qollasuyu and for whom Bolivia as an entity means nothing more than continued oppression.

The proposal of the indigenous groups that are part of the Unity Pact - made up of five or more of the biggest indigenous, campesino and cocalero organisations - have been pushing that the new constitution state that property of land and renewable natural resources corresponds to the indigenous people and in the case of non-renewable resources, when they need to be exploited on their lands, they should have the final say on any projects.

Meanwhile MAS, and the majority of the Unity Pact state that propoerty of renewable and non-renewable resources should correspond to all Bolivians, and that their adminstration should correspond to the state, and that their is recognition of indigenous lands for them to make use of renewable resources..

That is should it be the indigenous people or the Bolivian people who control Bolivia's resources. More than a manuever against the right wing the supposed majority and minority reports coming out the comissions in the CA reflect some of these differences.

more on this later but one other issue to note which i think reflects the why even though the indigenous question is central to MAS, it falls more into the national-popular rather indigenist box (although obvious it incorporates both) is possibly the recent decision to introduce a former Army General into the position of President of National Customs of Bolivia (ANB). the person involved is Cesar Lopes Saavedra and who was Army general during the Gar War of 2003, where the military, under direction of the government of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, were responsible for 67 deaths and many more injuries.

Whilst some on the left - and right - have come out and condemned this talking of the final betray [again] of the social movements and a secret deal with Sanchez de Lozada's party MNR to exchange votes in the CA for his immunity, there seems like there maybe another possible explanation.

An article from La Razon raises some interesting issues. La Razon, the main daily in La Paz and probably national and linked to business interests with Spain and Repsol ie no friend of Morales and the movements, notes that Saavedra attended MAS pre-election rallies in September 2005, when no longer a general. It also notes that he has only been called as a witness and other article point out that he was not in a commanding role during this military attack.

A few days later La Razon reported on statements by the Bolivian army warning the commision regarding military affairs oin the constituent assembly of their position on article 208 which it seems the comission want to change. The armed sources aid they would not tolerate 3 things:
1)stop being the protectors of the constitution
2) the break up of the nation and
3) getting rid of complusory military service

current article 208 sayd the millitry defends national independence, security and stability of the republic and the honor and sovereignty of the nation. The new article wants to reduce the role of the military to pure external security.

This source, criticising the police, who under this possible new article would be entrusted with defending the constitution, saying they are corrupt, broken up nad inept.

The source then says:

"in the third world, national security signifies the sovereign right to do use natural resources, primary materials and the aquisition of financial and technological capacity to reach an integral development of the nation, via the exercising of an national politics which is independent of the centres of world power"

they add

"the struggle against any form of pressure including neocolonialism, represents the defense of economic interests, national dignity and opposition to ideologies foreign to our reality"

The same issues La Razon notes that last december the ministry of defence, the armed forces and the supreme council of national defense put their proposal forward to strengthen the article 208 to explicit say that the role of the army also included defense of natural resources. This is supported by the MAS leadership.

In a speech given by one of the most well-known writers on Bolivian history and with an immense knowledge on the history and reality of the Bolivian army, James Dunkerley, refering to the very important writings of Rene Zavaleta Mercado, an extremely important figure in Bolivia national history, he says (video of speech and crap transcription available at

".....Bolivia has two armies. You might want to say as one army that is schizophrenic but it has two armies. And I'm going to quote in the first army is the army that must feel and much emphasis those aspects of the nation that existed before nation itself overly behind its particulars such as the properties of the earth and the corporatist vision of the world. It is really mental very telluric that is - all this theories about nationhood and nationalism that relates to this you know. This is the army; I put it to you that took the San Alberto oil – gas field in first of May of last year of nationalizing. Right, properties of that subsoil you know hydrocarbons and they did so to the of course Wall Street was aghast, the city was aghast, it was all seeing to be infantile even by all of these nice liberal think tanks of Washington don't rock the boat, yeah. This army though I think had to make some kind of move like that. It may have been symbolic and it may have been theatrical, and it had to be unwound eventually because of – at least in technical terms business it was too complicated to raise the money to do the job that the theatre proposed. But the theatre itself was necessary. Now that's all well and good, we have seen that army from time to time, you know. The Commander of the troops Colonel (Rodie) Rodriguez, it's a lovely name - has been embargoed (Concord) to Washington has his visa withdrawn everything like that and is currently training his special troops in Venezuela and that army is now much closer to the Venezuelan army than – perhaps some of its members would even like – feel as a good for him, but they are definitely behind Evo Morales and don't represent in my view at the moment that the threat of a coup that I mentioned or over counter revolution cannot be discounted. I might just add that Juan Ramon Quintana who is the minister of presidency who has been behind this radical set of moves the last 15 or months is – was an army officer, was a colonel and has written a if you – if you Google and then you'll find a really fine oral history of – of the conscripts in his regiments in (indiscernible). So he is a kind of intellectual officer of that type. You don't find very often when you do find they are most – they are most impressive. So the later though has a second army. This is the army what he calls as a (indiscernible). This is the army that we are much more familiar with the dictatorships of the last 30 years in the southern part. And this is the army I put it to you this afternoon shot down 79 people on - in October 2003, when they were having a bloqueo in El Alto. So the same troops can do two very different things according to circumstances and that is the challenge you know faces us even though we are now moving forward with the elected government."

Perhaps this new appoint rather than being one more betray, is a further step in strengthening the first of the "two" armies in Bolivia, which is expressing itself in regards to the constitution and its role in national life? i think so

In solidarity


Richard Fidler said...

I think Michael has missed the point. What Fred Fuentes posted was not the proposed Bolivian Constitution, but only the proposal from a commission assigned to draft provisions governing the type of state structure. The majority proposal from that commission (Vision of the Country commission) had to determine such issues as whether Bolivia should be a federation (federal system), the status of the indigenous areas and "nations" they represent, what is meant by indigenous "autonomy", etc. No doubt there will be much else to the overall Constitution when the Constituent Assembly completes its work, and the final proposal is put to a popular vote.

It is by no means excluded that the Assembly will in fact come up with its version of "collective protagonism" or whatever it chooses to call the concept. But clearly, the indigenous question plays a far greater role in Bolivia's reality than it does in Venezuela's. The self-conscious movement of the indigenous peoples, which elected the MAS to government, is surely a manifestation of protagonistic action by powerful "collectives" -- referred to as "nations", and properly so, in Bolivia.

And where, by the way, is the Assembly's "acceptance of capitalist relations" to which Michael alludes? And in what context?

Don't expect the Bolivian Constitution to be a replica of Venezuela's. The process in each country is indigenous, and will reflect the social conditions, composition of the population, in each country. Michael has spoken strongly and correctly on the importance of recognizing the particular problems of building socialism in Venezuela. Surely we have to pay equal attention to the specificities of Bolivia's process, which has its own dynamic as well as many similarities.


Michael Lebowitz said...

It is definitely possible that I've mistaken the mandate of this particular commission. However, the report included the following:

6) the economic system respects and protects private initiative and just retribution for invested capital.

7) the economic is based on the principals of: efficiency, productive complementarity and equal distribution, avoiding the concentration of wealth.

8) all forms of private monopoly or oligopoly as well as anti-micro-enterprise collusive practices are prohibited.

This is what I have interpreted as 'acceptance of capitalist relations.'

Richard Fidler said...

The experience in Nicaragua, where the FSLN paid a terrible price for its failure to recognize the special needs of the Atlantic Coast indigenous peoples, is à propos, as John R. notes in his "response to Fred Fuentes". But I don't think the FSLN Autonomy proposal, through which they attempted (with only partial success, but it came belatedly) to correct the earlier errors of the Sandinista government, went beyond recognizing Nicaragua as a "pluricultural" or "multi-ethnic" state, rather than "plurinational" as Bolivia's constitutional proposal does.

The Declaración de Managua sobre Derechos Indígenas y Comunidades Etnicas, adopted by the National Autonomy Commission, in July of 1986, recognized "the multiethnic and multilingual character of the National States of the American Continent" (source: Memorias de un sueño: Autonomia de la Costa Atlántica, Managua).

Fred's question concerned the implications of defining the indigenous question in Bolivia as a "national question" in its own right. Did it unleash the perspective of the break-up of Bolivia? How do these indigenous nations see their relationship to the Bolivian "nation"? What about the indigenous groups in Bolivia whose vision is one of "return to Qullasuya and the reconstitution of the original indigenous territories"? There were elements of these issues in the way some Miskito leaders posed them in Nicaragua. But there is little discussion in the literature there (that I have seen, anyway) that approached the Atlantic Coast as a distinct "national question" in itself. And indeed, I don't think the indigenous peoples on the Coast defined themselves as "nations". They had not risen to that point of development.

A major difference between Bolivia and Nicaragua, of course, is that in Bolivia the indigenous peoples are the majority, and played the major role in the election of the MAS government. They are protagonists par excellence, not (as in Nicaragua) forgotten peoples almost totally overlooked by the revolutionists, who at best (initially) could see only a regional ethnic problem. In Bolivia, the relative demographic weight of the indigenous nations gives enormous importance to the relationship between their national struggle and the anti-imperialist struggle of Bolivia itself for national liberation.

With the awakening of indigenous peoples throughout Latin America (and in other parts of the world), and their increasing mobilization in their own name for their own needs as peoples, there will be an increasing tendency for those struggles to be expressed in "national" terms, and the indigenous peoples to define themselves as distinct nations. This gives added complexity to the anti-imperialist struggle, but also, potentially, greater force to the degree that it brings new, large contingents of fighters into the common struggle.


dave said...

You are all missing the point. Self-determination for nations, let alone indigenous people/nations is not possible within the framework of a bourgeois constitution.

However indigenous rights are worked out in the present state of Bolivia - cultural autonomy to secession - they are part of a bourgeois constitution.

Of course the political will of the separate peoples will be collective, but it will be framed by the law of individual private property.

This means that whatever sharing out of resources is arrived at will be a scramble for the small crumbs from the large crums of value that Bolvia can accrue under its current agreements with imperialist corporations.

The only resolution of national rights that meets the needs of the indegenous must come from the smashing of the bourgeois state by an armed worker/peasant mass so that the real self-determination of indigenous peoples can be fulfilled by a socialist state.

Dave Brown