James Dunkerley - Evo Morales and the Third Bolivian Revolution

James Dunkerley discusses Evo Morales and the Third Bolivian Revolution at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. Dunkerley is the author of the seminal history of Bolivia Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952-1982 (1984). He is Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is also Professor of Politics at Queen Mary. This is a speech he gave

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Transcript of Dunkerley's speech

James Dunkerley

But that it’s been in revolution or in a quasi revolution versus for sometime and that hasn’t been widely understood. Bolivia has been depicted much more expansively as a problem. As a problem, that of social disorder and as a problem of failing to adhere, if you would like, to the broad tenets of the Washington Consensus, whereby we would have smooth operation of liberal democratic institutions, we would have a reasonably high degree of consensus about that and there wouldn’t be continual disorder. In the past the idea of continual disorder has usually been associated with the Bolivian Armed Forces and the mechanism of the Gulf (audio break) included that. Since 1982 the problem of social disorder has been rising but not usually through military threats or through military intervention of public life. The mechanism in the last seven or eight years has been the bloqueo or the road block undertaken by popular forces often associated with social movements or trade unions particularly with the Cocalero movement, cultivators of Coca principally in the valleys around Cochabamba and La Paz and therefore the problem of Bolivia in recent years more difficult perhaps for liberal and progressive academics to explain has been why there is being this constant social mobilization, very often overthrowing or challenging policies and people that had been elected by popular mandate and under the constitution. Now when Diego said I needed no introduction I was deeply moved but of course, it made me feel my years and the fact of the matter is I first gave a presentation not actually in this hall but in the Old Institute of Latin American studies in 1980 and then I asked this question. So I am afraid this is 20 something years ago. The newspapers trot out the mathematics of disorder, all of it we have found as incorrect. I probably wouldn’t have said that bit now but still true. But do not pose the question that if disorder is so prevalent might it not be order itself. Could there not be a system in the chaos? Should it not be understood less as interruption than as continuity? So well my first use of the word revolution is as a heuristic device, to stop those thinking of disorder as disorder and more as order. You know, we are in a revolutionary epoch in which these things should be more regularly expected and where order or continuity of civic and public institutions is more surprising. That way around you are voicing the question Bolivia maybe less – maybe still in conflict but it maybe less problematic to understand. The second way in which it might be, the idea of revolution, of course, this clashes with – the definitional, the type definitional devices that descend from the American, French, the Mexican, Cuban, even Nicaraguan revolutions down into a set of images - - which only apply very inexactly to Bolivia. But Bolivia has had its own revolutions which cohered more directly to, the first two any way, to those images of the French and let’s say and the Bolshevik, insurrections. So the third revolution, I am saying today is different to the first two and distinct from them but I believe that it is a revolution. In key ways, as I said to begin with, in terms of political crisis and chaos I think it’s unanswerable. Seven years, overthrow all the resignation of a whole clutch of presidents and cabinets, concern by all the neighboring countries. Institution of constituent assembly, long periods, month-long periods where the civil society wasn’t operating properly, I think in those terms it seems to me unquestionable. In terms of a political transformation you will have seen if you had a chance to look at the handouts that the parties, particularly the MNR party which was at the head of the 1952 revolution and which was the government that was removed by popular mobilization in October 2003 has taken a hell of a beating. And that’s true of the whole I think party tradition in Bolivia and we have now not a replacement set of parties, but a replacement movement, a replacement mindset and to some degree replacement of public energies. I think also that in – as a revelation I am quoting here, as I said, I am doing entirely unoriginal derivative from a manuscript of a wonderful book that you will be able to see very shortly written by Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson from New York University where they also talk about what they called subjective transformation, where people think differently about themselves and about the wider world and the kind of utopias or concrete utopias that they think are worth the trouble fighting for. And that’s the paradox of this revolution that, there has been popular mobilization and widespread civic disorder, very often at the detriment to the prejudice of the very organizations, resources and institutions that the protestors would like to have an equitable share of. So the very thing at the moment that they want to get into to be involved with – they are destroyed. And of course, that makes their political or has made the political tasks that’s – that much more difficult. This political revolution is a paradox of the (war). Okay. Now the two Bolivias I mentioned, I disagree with, because I think it’s a slope. I know Richard is going to disagree with me, because he has written about them. And I have quoted him in this piece so you better read it quickly and make sure that how wrong I am. But I think the slogan has been used equally by the – sort of what I would call Aymara fundamentalists in the Altiplano and by the forces of, I think, it’s fair to say regional reaction in Santa Cruz to blocking the other literally and as an unproblematic competitor or even enemy. The fact of the matter is though that there are at least three Bolivia’s and if I don’t mention the word tinkle before the end, will you remind me? There are at least three Bolivia’s and arguably more and this is a passing phase of dichotomy, which the Government and Evo Morales is trying to overcome and again if you look at the statistics what you will find is that, it’s difficult to argue the case that all the population of the Eastern Lowlands around Santa Cruz is white, is pro-capitalist, is pro the export of oil and gas to the globalized economy and is essentially in pursuit of – just not the Washington Consensus, but a wider program of possessive individualism suitable for liberal capitalism. On the one hand and on the other hand all the population of the valleys and the outlands around the altiplano, the Southern Andean Plain are indigenous, are rooted in collectivist activity, cultures, agriculture – against the market of – against liberal capitalism and/or against Bolivia. Quispe - Felipe Quispe who began this two Bolivias, (indiscernible) some four, five years ago himself and he is not – he is an important figure and I would place him to the left of Evo Morales and I would like to distinguish him from Evo Morales in that he actively includes or has actively included an armed option, has been jailed for guerilla activity. And he is deeply ambivalent about the very existence of the Republic of Bolivia. Evo Morales is not. Evo Morales and the mass stand for the re-foundation of Bolivia. They haven’t actually referred to revolution that often or as often as I have already. Yeah, what they say is they wish to refound Bolivia. And this is where if he knew it – I think President Chavez’s support for Morales would be embarrassed temporarily, because the re-founding of Bolivia means going back and rewriting the constitution of 1826, that Simon Bolivar did write for Bolivia and by extension for many other of the emerging nation states of the region. In that constitution it is very clear I can’t remember, its in the article and, of course, if you like a copy of the article just give me your e-mail address and I will e-mail it to you. In the constitution it says everybody born within the territory of the Republic of Bolivia is a Bolivian, full-stop. Then it says everybody born, every Bolivian who can read and write is a citizen, full-stop. Morales’s approach is that everybody born within the Republic of Bolivia, whether they can read or write and they should be able to read or write, and be helped to do so is a citizen. It’s a very simple proposition, but in that country it is still a revolutionary proposition. And that's why if you like my bar for a revolution is quite low but getting there is going to be quite high. There are some literacy rates; there are some malnutrition rates, in – in the hand-out and they are staggering. And if you compare them they are roughly the same level as Nicaragua which is definitely is the least advantaged state in mainland Americas. So the re-foundation of Bolivia must rely upon white citizenship and it cannot rely upon two Bolivias. But it is accepting of the existence of the Republic of Bolivia. Now, Aymara fundamentalism rejects the Republic of Bolivia and when it confuses, it did in the 1980s around a tangible proposition. It’s for the establishment of a polity known as Kollasuyo. A pre Colombian, a pre-European politics. And when he is at his most energetic Felipe Quispe who is from Achacachi close to the Lake Titicaca will come out with some statements that border on racist repudiation of Mestizos and whites. Doesn’t work consistently, but he is driven from time to time into that position. I would be very grateful to hear from anybody who reads the Bolivian newspapers if they could give me any such statement from Evo Morales, I’ve never seen it. He is depicted as an indigenous leader, and he, of course was born with Aymara as his native town. But he moved with his father – with his family to Northern Argentina at quite an early age. Lost his fluency in Aymara and when he went to work in – in Chapare with the Cocaleros, he acquired the fluency in Quechua and all the time, his language of default and his adulthood has been Spanish. Now, that makes him a pretty usual Bolivian, actually it doesn’t make him so abnormal. Most Bolivians over time, at least as the history of the Republic have been bi or trilingual, it’s going down now. But actually, as it’s gone down, I am not sure if this statistic is in your hand out, self identification of ethnicity has gone up as indigenous. So we are having a people who feel more indigenous but on pro-rata lack the language skills. This would be perfectly normal, in a modern world and it’s just as true for Ecuador and Peru, I think. Now, Evo Morales forms the government, constituted under the 1994 constitution and popularly elected December 2005 with an overwhelming an unprecedented majority, more than half of the vote. No question of second rounds, no doubts about the mass or fairness or you know – you know, any putative favors of – and it was the most, single most decisive electoral, free electoral victory in the history of the country. So, he on that basis should also want to rule to the country in order to secure and maintain not just a program of social change but his majority support. I suppose here, I am not going to mention it very often but I suppose we could make some analogies with the Venezuelan case of President Chavez who also won a significant electoral victory, just nearly a year later. But there is one big difference that Chavez didn’t face really tough opposition and it was surprisingly shock at the end. But for a long time, the Venezuelan opposition had – had not – been operating, if you like very efficaciously. Morales won a real election battle. And he won it on terms that were open and recognized. And the reason for that was that during this phase between 2000 and 2005, there weren’t just different policy options available. What do we do with nationalized industries? What do we do with our relations with Chile? What do we do with the cultivation of cocoa and our relations with Washington? All of those issues were there, they were on the table. But they were fired up by the fact that over the previous period, there had been a radical imposition of what we can, for the purposes of argument although Diego, will probably want to correct me on this, called a neo-liberal package radically imposed at a time when Bolivia was for the first time in almost a century finding natural resources of real consequence which required quick policy implementation and weren’t just epherial debates in a seminar or lecture like this where you might or might not think it will be a good idea to attach them at 18 or 50 or 98 percent. It really mattered very much indeed what the policy was and who won the election around. As this turns out the people who fought for the two Bolivian slogan and tried to – if you like to divide the electorate and the country as a whole lost out in this election that wasn’t just – it wasn’t just Felipe Quispe, it was also the rightwing headed by Horacio Quiroga and Quiroga made a number of elementary mistakes in the campaign at the end of 2005. One of these was to try and tarnish Morales with the fundamentalist rush in to say that he was fundamentally – moving forward by stealth if you like challenging the existing of Bolivia. Morales caught him out spectacularly when Quiroga said on TV - I mean he made a number of cross errors on TV but one of them I’m sure I’m doing the same but he said you prefer the wiphala which is the 49 squares of the – of the colors of the rainbow and which is taken as the kind of indigenous flag – you know, symbolic of the indigenous nations of this area of the Andes. You prefer that flag to the tricolor of Bolivia. And Eva Morales turned around and said, I – you have never served this country as a consequent. I swore loyalty to this flag everyday for two years as a consequent you know - very important moment – yeah. It meant that he could identify personally with something which if you like was unexpected and I would like to take that one step further and produce the paradox if you like which you might expect from somebody who as Diego alluded I have started the Bolivian Military which is an exotic activity not to be recommended on a regular basis but does pay dividends from time to time. I’m now going to quote some social – little bit of social theory. Well, I got a quite social theories – not talking very theoretically. A man who – a very dear friend and long gone I’m afraid Rene´ Zavaleta Mercado who writes some wonderful books, difficult to understand, trained in Mexico where they always make the life that little bit more difficult that it perhaps has to be as is Alvaro Garcý´a Linera by the way, a mathematician who is currently the Vice President of Bolivia. And then I came up with a proposition that I think is very engaging. It may help us unpick some of the apparent paradoxes of this revolution that doesn’t quite appear as such. He says the 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. Now, how much of time do we have? There are no numbers yet, is that right? Good. I do actually want to come to a number and Diego usually opposes three questions are asked - that three questions opposes three points. So that brings me to the third Bolivian Revolution. The – the normal way in which the three is arrived at in this context is by including, and this is what Hilton and Thomson do in their new book which will be out in a couple of months is by including the uprising of Tupaj Katari in 1781. And – and that's one reason why the second of these pages, you have a map perhaps the only thing one here which is a roadmap of La Paz. And La Paz is here, got eight – only eight roads for a – a city of three quarters of a million people. It got only eight roads that lead out and only three of those roads lead anywhere rather than to a local valley. So what that means is the bloqueo can do its job pretty swiftly and pretty economically. And in order to overrun the bloqueo if you like you – you probably going have to shoot people down which is what happened in October 2003. In that occasion they were seeking to stop the supply - the delivery of petrol down to the city center. In 1781, Tupaj Katari - because you don’t have to worry about these sorts of things, undertook a similar siege of 141 days of a – a town which was then of course a Spanish colonial center. And during this sieges that took place in 2000 and 2003, and even thereafter up to 2005 elections, many of the activist evoked Tupaj Katari. Not least of them, I have to say Felipe Quispe who was the first minister of education in the Morales Government, and has since left office and again he’s probably the closest figure to the kind of Elmira fundamentalists that ever has occupied public office under - with Morales. And a constant allocation there of the racial divide of - if you like to sort of activist tendencies on both sides. That's the first revolution for Thomson and Hilton. We share the second revolution being 1952, and I’ll come to that in a moment. But I don’t share – I think in 1781 was tremendously important and it just come back in terms of historical memory, much more than one might have anticipated. And books have been written about it, popular education is going on to the School, curriculum and so on and so forth. I don’t think there is much holding that back. But my point is that it’s not Bolivian. Simon Bolivar was born in 1783. So it - it’s got to be a revolt of Kollasuyo against Spain in my view or the revolt of Aymara and Cachou against Europeans. And that is of a different calibration in (indiscernible) I’ll be happy to discuss that with you. I think more important although less heroic and less easy to capture is the idea of the first Bolivian Revolution, being the independence period, being a true revolution there. And I again would like to put it to you this afternoon, it’s not a moment, it’s an event. Sometimes it’s quite useful to – you know, toss up history as moments and events and events that morph into moments and so and so – processes. I would say the first Bolivian Revolution, 1809 when you have the first veto from Pedro Domingo Murillo where he said creoles are in exile in their own land. To 1841 when with respect to ambassador Bolivia no longer was going to belong to viceroyalty of Peru and was going to be based upon the Audiencia de Charcas which would separate it from parts of Peru and certainly in that moment Battle of Ingavi from Peru and from the south from Argentina. This is – you know a very disputable point and it might be – a neutral, original proposition I am putting to you this afternoon, but I think it had some – I think it had some saliance in terms of – this idea that Bolivia is unviable. It’s a problem that has become so problematic and conflicted that its not viable and then it should be divvied up between its neighbors, you know. That might be – so to consider an exotic proposition from the – you know going back to the 1970s when the Brazilians and the Argentines both made – tried to have influence in La Paz and Santa Cruz. But I think its more important today because some Bolivians believe that too, you know, particularly in Santa Cruz and what's called the Media Luna which is the – which of these – on the first map – the five is Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz – coming to part of Chuquisaca and Potosí of course now Cochabamba in the middle has been wavering over that. So it’s not just a social division here or propositions of ideology, resource and public policy, there is a regional and spatial one with the Media Luna, half moon of course – on to the east – stalking around to the east of – seeking to change, if you like, the internal configuration of the Republic. In my view it’s not viable for them to drive out to the ultimate proposition which is cessation. Why not? Too many ambassadors in the room for me to expatiate on this as I like to but let me to say that if you want the gas you are going to have the problems in the conflict with it, yeah and that might not be a particularly good thing to be importing at the same time. Okay, I would like to just wrap in a few minutes, if I may. I confirm my point, yeah – the second revolution and the third revolution, that relationship, I think it is important to – we ought to take same commonsense of 1952 and 2000 and 2007. Politics for those of you who know the story well, but it is a story that – it is an – such a pleasure to repeat because Bolivia doesn’t get discussed very much in public and the 1952 revolution hasn’t had a particularly full historiography, I mean it deserves a better one that’s its had, I am guilty as much as any. 1952 was a revolution that the Americans at first permitted to occur and then decided to curb and curbed very efficiently indeed. First of all by soft power or conditionality through an IMF loan and then by home power, a coup and various massacres of miners and campesinos in the 60s and 70s. The revolution though is one that Evo Morales and the mass feel they need to complete. They don’t just need to re found Bolivia – the original republic they need to qualitatively improve what happened between 1952 and 1964, okay. That revolution was essentially a nationalist one – essentially mestizo and essentially a subset if you like of Cold War neo-colonial engagements. It did three basic things. Nationalize the tin mines - the large tin mines. It produced universal electoral suffrage and it introduced the agrarian reform in the highlands and in the valleys but not in the east of the country. Perhaps now I am going to a close but difficult to see how you might link those policies, some of them introduced quite efficiently, most of them subject to ambush and decay, to the ones that have been introduced in the last 15 months – in the modern context where tin although the price is going up is replaced effectively by hydrocarbons and particularly by natural gas. Great advantage for Bolivia is that natural gas needs a pipeline and very little else, you could liquefy if you want to and then put it on the ship. Tin needs a great deal of processing and exporting – and so Bolivia lost out in – what I think is called the value chain in that process badly. A greater reform was absolutely vital and remains I think at the heart of the compact that kept popular mobilization of such a low-level for so long. It could be argued with Che Guevara by moving into the valleys West of Santa Cruz picked a poor area because the aggrerian reform had affected those valleys if he had gone to the East, he might have had a lot more support. Richard will correct me on that one too, because he knows the case very well he is there. Nevertheless, what we can’t I think agree is that green reform was important to consequential for a country where least half of the population is in the country side and the least half of the working population works in fairly low grade subsistence agriculture. The vote. The vote didn’t matter that much in the ‘50s, because there was no consequential opposition, you know, wasn’t allowed to be. Bolivia in the 1950s was a bit like Mexico in the 1950s. There was an official party – there was an official opposition and the official opposition never prospered, was allowed to exist, but not allowed to compete. It was unable effectively to compete officially. What has happened since is that electoral and a constitutional politics have acquired a great – have had undergone a surge of popularity, people knows the voting is counting and it’s important. So my third Bolivian Revolution will always have voting in it – will have elections in it – will be part of – if you like – it will have a liberal democratic element. But that won’t be exclusive and it won’t monopolize the forms of participation. Why? Because at the end of the second Bolivian Revolution we had a whole series of – there was a list for you here down – I will read it too carefully which is lots of army officers, almost all of them belong to the army of the noce triste one or two don’t – I would like to settle up Jose Torres or somebody didn’t. But that repressive army may if you like by virtue of its dictatorship made the vote count a lot more. So those people know who value popular participation will not want to give up – something that was hard one in the campaigns against military dictatorships in the ‘70s and ‘80s. So Morales seized that forml vote given in 1952 by the MNR as not a real one which he needs to hold on to and make work. That’s not to say that he lacks as some have indicated an authoritarian character. It’s not to say that his instinctive – this instinctive repertoire is the fault is that of a union leader and of a popular leader, because these people elected to power in 2005 had no experience in government whatsoever. They were having to learn from scratch – they really were having to learn from scratch in that perspective a revolution too as it in Cuba for one moment to the next people who are in opposition had no idea has to you know run a ministry were suddenly faced with the operation of running a government which is never easy at the best of times and is doubly hard when you want to change the country that you are ruling. So I believe that factor is also want the links the second and third revolutions. Diego need to draw too close with a point about Chile. Last week we had a – rather moving – little event or it wasn’t little, its packed house in celebrating the career of – premier of British social scientists working on Chile Alan Angel and the ambassador was there and so on and so forth and the matter came up about Bolivia’s relations with Chile and these are difficult. They don’t have formal diplomatic relations at the moment and yet many of the problems that Bolivia has faced and currently does face could I think be solved in a regional context where Chile plays a fuller part and a more supportive role. And I would argue that today a Chilean Government is about the best government the Bolivian’s could hope for in terms of striking a deal whereby they might realize these rich resources which they possessed on the market - world market and repatriates the revenue in ways they say fit whichever ways they might be. In this case it would seem most Bolivians prefer to be devoured on to municipal level – I mean to the local government but also into public good such as health and education. Now, of course this involves Peru as well. The lands that Bolivia might usefully – most usefully use were once Peru’s – you know we have there for to go back to – not just the treaty of 1904 between Chile and Bolivia, the treaty of 1929, the arrangements of Tacna-Arica and so and so forth. So my – my final point is – is that in precise terms – but more broadly that this Bolivian Revolution is and has to be seen in an international context. President Bush I think – as I speak is flying down to – in his little visit - not so little visit to Columbia, Brazil and Mexico, he is not going to the smaller countries, that’s perhaps a wise move. He is going to Uruguay, yeah. He got a – he will get a good reception from (indiscernible). Morales is often seen as part of this pink tied. Chavez, Morales – perhaps Ortega and of course Fidel Castro before and – in some sense he is more symbolically after his ill – after he fell ill because of course we got this very startling images of him. I hope that what I have said this afternoon might persuade you of the idea that – that can’t be ruled out but it’s not the prime driver of what has happened in Bolivia. The primer driver of what has happened in Bolivia is essentially Bolivia. But what has happened elsewhere has given Morales and given mass government - given the Bolivian voters if you like a – a slightly more favorable context than they might otherwise have expected. So I am not really convinced by people – I told the Casimiro that this is all irresponsible populism that’s contagious and so like a domino effect. But I wouldn’t rule out the fact that as the United States has to reassess its Latin American policy in terms of both its deficit and – substantive deficit in recent years and the existence of the conflict in Iraq. So, the pink tie has more consequence than we might initially have thought. And I shall end there.

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