The developments in Bolivia from the last week show that when the time comes for actual class confrontation, there’s a breakdown of the liberal logic about “nonviolence” and electoral politics being the solutions. These options are no longer feasible when the capitalist class is waging all-out war against the poor and working classes, as Bolivia’s capitalist class is now doing in partnership with the U.S. empire. As a result, Bolivia’s proletariat is now moving towards waging war on the bourgeoisie.
The Unified Syndical Confederation of Rural Workers of Bolivia has issued an ultimatum against the coup facilitators who have used terrorism to illegally force out a democratically elected leader. After encircling the seat of Government, the CSUTCB gave the president of the right-wing Pro Santa Cruz Committee Fernando Camacho 48 hours to leave the city of La Paz. As part of this operation, a crowd of armed Morales supporters marched into La Paz while shouting “Now yes! Civil war!” There have also been reports of pro-Morales and pro-Movement for Socialism forces gathering in El Alto and giving the police and military a deadline to restore democracy, after which they’ll form militias if their demands aren’t met.
These resistors plan to shut down major cities until Bolivia’s democratically elected president is restored to power. They haven’t taken this attack against them lying down, they’ve fought back hard. If we also want to have a fighting chance against the forces of exploitation, racism, and imperialism, we’ll need to become as militant as those in Bolivia’s worker-peasant movement.
The capitalists and the imperialists are ruthless. They will use any means necessary, whether fascistic paramilitary violence or engineered mass starvation or carpet bombing, to crush those who oppose them. This is why we revolutionaries must also become ruthless. And to become ruthless, we must reject the liberal myths that shame the oppressed into not using the tools they need to win.
Liberals claim that political violence is always wrong. Yet countless times in history, including during supposedly nonviolent liberation struggles like the ones in India and South Africa, justice has required some degree of violence on the part of the oppressed. And those who oppose violent resistance from the oppressed are usually the same people who condone the violence of the oppressors, from genocidal invasions to police brutality to systemically created poverty. The violent recent actions from the racist Bolivian bourgeoisie, which have amounted to anti-indigenous pogroms, are being underhandedly defended by those who support Morales’ ouster-all while the counter-attacks from Morales’ supporters are portrayed as detrimental by the Western media.
This is an attempt to gaslight the oppressed by calling them bad people when they fight back against the perpetual onslaught of violence against them. We’re told that we’re doing the wrong thing, or that we’re “as bad as the other side,” if we don’t stick within the parameters of dissent that the ruling class approves of. Not only are we not supposed to use violence to gain power, but every time we gain power we’re made out to be “dictators” and “authoritarians.” Evo Morales has been falsely denounced as a dictator despite his gaining power through nonviolent means, and it of course wouldn’t be any different if he had used violence to gain power. The proletarian and indigenous people who build nations of their own, whether those nations are the DPRK, Cuba, or any other socialist state, will always be cast as villains who approached revolution the wrong way.
At the same time, those who defend the systems of bourgeois rule and imperialism are exalted within capitalist society, even as they advance the most violent forms of oppression in existence. This is true even for the bourgeois allies who critique many aspects of capitalism. Figures like Bernie Sanders-who dislikes the worst symptoms of capitalism and imperialism while he seeks to perpetuate bourgeois power and reaffirms U.S. regime change narratives-can play the role as the “good capitalists” who want to make the system work. But it’s ultimately an illusion, one that’s reinforced by the claims that socialist leaders like Morales are tyrants.
This illusion-the one that depicts a world where the “nonviolent” liberal capitalists are morally superior to those who actually challenge the system-is behind both the Bolivia regime change narrative and the narratives that deter Americans from carrying out a revolution. The ruling class wants us to believe that if we simply try to vote in better policies while not challenging the beliefs behind capitalism, colonialism, and empire, things will turn out fine.
But Bolivia’s crisis demonstrates that the liberation of the people won’t come through electoral politics. It will come through mass civil disobedience. It will come through building organizations similar to the Movement for Socialism, such as the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It will come through unapologetically aligning ourselves with anti-imperialist forces like the Morales movement, the DPRK, China, and Palestine. It will come through equipping the global left with the same tools for armed self-defense that the pro-Morales militias have given themselves.
I see the coup in Bolivia as a wake-up call for those who seek economic, social, and environmental justice. It shows that the capitalists and imperialists, despite being in decline, are still vastly powerful, and that they’ll use brutal means to beat back resistance. It shows that for the people to win, we’ll need to do away with liberal reformist intuitions and accept the fact that revolution is war. And war requires a disciplined, hard-headed mentality, one that we can learn through taking example from the indigenous and poor people who are fighting for their future in Bolivia.
— — — — — — — — — — — - — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here: