Burdens of a State Manager

policiaIn the open­ing salvos of Latin America’s uneven lurch to the Left in the ear­ly twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, Bolivia dis­tin­guished itself as the region’s most rad­i­cal socio-polit­i­cal ter­rain.1 Left-indige­nous move­ments in the coun­try­side and cityscapes alike threw the state into cri­sis and brought two suc­ces­sive neolib­er­al pres­i­dents to their knees – Gon­za­lo Sánchez de Loza­da in 2003, and Car­los Mesa in 2005.2 Evo Morales’s par­ty, the Movimien­to al Social­is­mo (Move­ment Towards Social­ism, MAS), leapt into the pow­er vac­u­um opened up by this series of revolts, and there has been seri­ous debate on the Left as to how best to but­ton down the cen­tral polit­i­cal dynam­ic of the coun­try ever since. In a coun­try where 62 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion self-iden­ti­fied as indige­nous in the 2001 cen­sus, Morales became the first indige­nous pres­i­dent through the Decem­ber 2005 elec­tions with 54 per­cent of the pop­u­lar vote, assum­ing office in Jan­u­ary 2006. He repeat­ed this extra­or­di­nary elec­toral suc­cess in Decem­ber 2009, with 64 per­cent, and again in Octo­ber 2014, with 61 per­cent.

The pro­lif­ic writ­ings of Vice-Pres­i­dent Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era offer one win­dow into the com­plex­i­ties of the polit­i­cal, ide­o­log­i­cal, and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ments that have tran­spired since Morales first assumed office.3 With that in mind, the fol­low­ing detailed expo­si­tion and crit­i­cal inter­ro­ga­tion of the core argu­ments advanced in his 2011 book, Ten­siones cre­ati­vas de la rev­olu­ción [Cre­ative Ten­sions of the Rev­o­lu­tion], is meant to shed some light on what is at stake in the com­pet­ing char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of the “process of change” unfold­ing in Bolivia since 2006.4 If for many read­ers, only pass­ing­ly famil­iar with the coun­try, Gar­cía Lin­era might seem to rep­re­sent Boli­vian rad­i­cal the­o­ry tout court, in fact his intel­lec­tu­al out­put over the last nine years has been com­par­a­tive­ly shal­low, heav­i­ly deter­mined by his role as sec­ond-in-com­mand of the state appa­ra­tus. The rich and demand­ing provo­ca­tions of his ear­ly work have large­ly been eclipsed by man­age­r­i­al apolo­gia.

Still, Cre­ative Ten­sions is arguably the most impor­tant and sophis­ti­cat­ed intel­lec­tu­al state­ment Gar­cía Lin­era has made since he became vice-pres­i­dent. The text embod­ies, I would argue, most of the core fea­tures that dom­i­nate com­mon inter­pre­ta­tions of the Boli­vian process on the inter­na­tion­al Left. This is no acci­dent. Gar­cía Lin­era has care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ed the transna­tion­al dis­sem­i­na­tion of his per­spec­tive on the con­junc­ture. Slavoj Žižek, Enrique Dus­sel, Bruno Bosteels, Michael Hardt, David Har­vey, and Mar­ta Har­neck­er are just a few of the inter­na­tion­al intel­lec­tu­als of the broad Left invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in state-spon­sored forums with the vice-pres­i­dent. His work has been fea­tured in New Left Review, and there is now a major edit­ed col­lec­tion of his writ­ings avail­able in Eng­lish.5

Gar­cía Lin­era is reg­u­lar­ly invit­ed to speak at events spon­sored by var­i­ous cur­rents of the Left through­out West­ern Europe, but par­tic­u­lar­ly in Spain and France. For Íñi­go Erre­jón, one of the lead­ing fig­ures in the ascen­dant Podemos par­ty of the Span­ish state, Gar­cía Lin­era is a guid­ing intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal light. The Boli­vian vice-president’s intel­lec­tu­al influ­ence reach­es deeply into the North Amer­i­can Left as well, as exem­pli­fied in his recent head­lin­ing of the Left Forum in New York City. The renowned Argen­tine Marx­ist Atilio Borón relies heav­i­ly on Gar­cía Linera’s recent writ­ings in his award-win­ning 2012 book, Améri­ca Lati­na en la geopolíti­ca del impe­ri­al­is­mo [Latin Amer­i­ca in the Geopol­i­tics of Impe­ri­al­ism],6 and the promi­nent Brazil­ian the­o­rist Emir Sad­er is per­haps the Boli­vian politician’s most well-known intel­lec­tu­al par­a­clete in Latin Amer­i­ca. One could eas­i­ly go on.

Giv­en the promi­nence of Cre­ative Ten­sions with­in the vice-pres­i­den­tial oeu­vre, it is worth­while to unpack some of its most crit­i­cal ana­lyt­i­cal ele­ments and to assess them along­side rel­e­vant aspects of the con­crete his­tor­i­cal and empir­i­cal record. A close read­ing of this text high­lights the neces­si­ty of devel­op­ing alter­na­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of the present Boli­vian con­junc­ture. Any seri­ous alter­na­tive would need to adhere vig­or­ous­ly and cre­ative­ly to the broad tra­di­tion of his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism and indige­nous lib­er­a­tion, as well as the spir­it of com­bined lib­er­a­tion on dis­play in the 2000-2005 left-indige­nous cycle of insur­rec­tion. In oth­er words, we still require stark­ly con­trast­ing intel­lec­tu­al foun­da­tions to those on offer in Cre­ative Ten­sions if we are to cap­ture both the rev­o­lu­tion­ary essence of the 2000-2005 rebel­lions, and the set­backs they expe­ri­enced once Evo Morales assumed the pres­i­den­tial office in 2006.

Revolutionary Chronologies

Gar­cía Lin­era sets the stage in the open­ing pages of Cre­ative Ten­sions by list­ing some of the his­toric con­quests osten­si­bly achieved by the Morales gov­ern­ment already by 2011, or one year into the sec­ond admin­is­tra­tion. Neolib­er­al­ism had been defeat­ed. There had been a recov­ery of social and state con­trol over pub­lic wealth, which in the ortho­dox neolib­er­al peri­od of the 1980s, 1990s, and ear­ly 2000s had been con­cen­trat­ed in pri­vate hands. The Morales regime had put a deci­sive end to the rit­u­al sub­or­di­na­tion of gov­ern­ment deci­sion-mak­ing to the Amer­i­can embassy and inter­na­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions (IFIs), such as the World Bank and the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF).

By 2011, as nev­er before, indige­nous and mes­ti­zo (mixed race) cit­i­zens had equal say in the man­age­ment of state pow­er. The cor­rupt polit­i­cal class asso­ci­at­ed with the imple­men­ta­tion of neolib­er­al­ism had been defeat­ed through the implo­sion of their tra­di­tion­al polit­i­cal par­ties. Var­i­ous right-wing con­spir­a­cies ema­nat­ing from bour­geois auton­o­mist forces in the east­ern low­land depart­ments of San­ta Cruz, Tar­i­ja, Beni, and Pan­do had been defeat­ed, secur­ing once more the inte­gral uni­ty of the Boli­vian nation-state.7 In the place of these prob­lems of the past, the “Process of Change” had – through a com­mit­ment to pluri­na­tion­al­i­ty, indige­nous ter­ri­to­r­i­al auton­o­my, and a plur­al econ­o­my – brought to life a new, com­mu­ni­tar­i­an repub­li­can­ism root­ed in the growth of the col­lec­tive wealth of all Boli­vians.

A fun­da­men­tal con­ti­nu­ity, accord­ing to Gar­cía Lin­era, links the extra-par­lia­men­tary begin­nings of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process in 2000 and its con­sol­i­da­tion in the var­i­ous admin­is­tra­tions of the Morales gov­ern­ment. The process, from this per­spec­tive, con­sists of five stages, through which we can track the his­tor­i­cal deep­en­ing and exten­sion of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary epoch, full of poten­tial and insta­bil­i­ty.

Phase I – 2000-2003

The ana­lyt­i­cal high­lights of the first phas­es of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary epoch in Gar­cía Linera’s account broad­ly par­al­lel the con­tours of most rad­i­cal accounts of the left-indige­nous cycle of revolt in its open­ing years. Aspects of my own his­tor­i­cal sur­vey in Red Octo­ber are indebt­ed to a whole series of his jour­nal­is­tic and the­o­ret­i­cal writ­ings com­posed over that peri­od.

The first phase begins in 2000 with the Cochabam­ba Water War against the World Bank-dri­ven pri­va­ti­za­tion of munic­i­pal water ser­vices in that city. A punc­tu­at­ed process of rur­al and urban mobi­liza­tion cul­mi­nates in the pop­u­lar seizure of the city and the emer­gence of local­ized forms of dual pow­er. The movement’s suc­cess­ful rever­sal of the pri­va­ti­za­tion of water marks the first defen­sive vic­to­ry of left-indige­nous forces in Bolivia since the intro­duc­tion of neolib­er­al restruc­tur­ing in 1985. The strate­gic hori­zons of the Cochabam­ba insur­rec­tion and the reper­toire of coor­di­nat­ed road block­ades, civic strikes, street bat­tles, and urban pop­u­lar assem­blies begin to rever­ber­ate through­out the rest of the coun­try over the next few years.

The Cochabam­ba Water War reveals the fun­da­men­tal weak­ness of the neolib­er­al regime and sev­er­al of the key pil­lars of state dom­i­na­tion begin to irrev­o­ca­bly unrav­el. The insti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of Boli­vian neolib­er­al­ism begins to come apart at the seams with the ter­mi­nal decline of the three main­stream par­ties respon­si­ble for its gov­er­nance – in the form of coali­tions and pacts – since 1985. The legit­i­ma­cy of neolib­er­al ideas recedes as the promised tide to lift all boats fails to arrive. The rulers can no longer con­tin­ue rul­ing as they have, and the ruled will no longer accept the estab­lished frame­work of dom­i­na­tion. The cor­re­la­tion of forces begins to change.

Draw­ing, with­out acknowl­edge­ment, on the work of Boli­vian anthro­pol­o­gist Sil­via Rivera Cusi­can­qui, Gar­cía Lin­era argues that the Cochabam­ba moment brings togeth­er a set of long and short term con­tra­dic­tions.8 The long term con­tra­dic­tions accu­mu­lat­ed over cen­turies. They involve a clash between a mono­cul­tur­al state run by white and mes­ti­zo elites and a pluri­na­tion­al soci­ety in which a major­i­ty are indige­nous peas­ants and work­ers, as well as a cen­tral­ized state in prac­tice, against a pop­u­lar appetite for a decen­tral­ized soci­ety.

The short-term con­tra­dic­tions run­ning in and through those of the longer durée include the pop­u­lar demand for the nation­al­iza­tion of nat­ur­al resources against the neolib­er­al regime’s com­mit­ment to per­sis­tent pri­va­ti­za­tion, as well as the monop­o­liza­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er in the hands of tra­di­tion­al neolib­er­al par­ties and the appetite from below for social democ­ra­ti­za­tion which emerges with the first expe­ri­ence of pop­u­lar pow­er in the neolib­er­al epoch. The sub­al­tern class­es have in this moment begun to con­test the ter­ri­to­r­i­al, ide­o­log­i­cal, and sym­bol­ic con­trol of soci­ety.9

Phase II: 2003-2008

The sec­ond phase endures for five years of what Gar­cía Lin­era, draw­ing on Gram­sci, calls a cat­a­stroph­ic equi­lib­ri­um. The regime of state dom­i­na­tion is par­a­lyzed. Two pow­er blocs emerge, with com­pet­ing projects for pow­er. An east­ern low­land bour­geois bloc mobi­lizes around an auton­o­mist agen­da but ulti­mate­ly desires to regain con­trol over the nation­al state, and to deep­en and extend the neolib­er­al project ini­ti­at­ed in pre­ced­ing decades. A nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc of left-indige­nous forces that began to take form in Cochabam­ba in 2000 extends over the com­ing years and achieves region­al hege­mo­ny in the West­ern high­lands, includ­ing the cap­i­tal city of La Paz. The high points of this emer­gence are the so-called Gas Wars of 2003 and 2005, in which the entire west­ern part of the coun­try is repeat­ed­ly shut down for weeks on end as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple mobi­lize and suc­cess­ful­ly oust pres­i­dents Sánchez de Loza­da and Mesa in suc­ces­sion. But nei­ther bloc enjoys suf­fi­cient ide­o­log­i­cal, social, eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, or mil­i­tary pow­er to reign over the oth­er and con­sol­i­date itself on a nation­al scale. Thus an embat­tled equi­lib­ri­um per­sists. There’s sand in the gears of the old rou­tines of dom­i­na­tion, but no viable machin­ery of the pop­u­lar is yet able to take its place.10

Phase III: 2006-2008

It is in phase III that Gar­cía Linera’s account begins to diverge from oth­ers on the Left. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, the moment of the Decem­ber 2005 elec­tions is one of gen­er­al­ized polit­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al dis­pu­ta­tion inside the Boli­vian Left, as the chal­lenges of relat­ing to a ris­ing elec­toral rhythm of events begin to sup­plant those of nav­i­gat­ing the unleashed ener­gies of street bar­ri­cades.

Phase III, as Gar­cía Lin­era con­cep­tu­al­izes it, notably cor­re­sponds with the first peri­od in which he is for­mal­ly inside the MAS par­ty – he was nev­er a mem­ber until accept­ing the vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­da­cy in late 2005. Where­as some crit­i­cal observers saw the dynam­ic of the 2005 elec­tions as one which imme­di­ate­ly posed the dan­gers of bureau­cra­ti­za­tion and coop­ta­tion of the 2000-2005 rev­o­lu­tion­ary epoch – a poten­tial damming of the flood of com­bined lib­er­a­tion – Gar­cía Lin­era sees fun­da­men­tal con­ti­nu­ities with phase II.11

For the Vice Pres­i­dent, the sym­bol­ic order of the uni­verse is over­turned as the first indige­nous pres­i­dent of the repub­lic assumes office in Jan­u­ary 2006. The capac­i­ty for mobi­liza­tion revealed in the 2003 and 2005 Gas Wars is par­tial­ly trans­formed by a new ter­rain, one in which social move­ments are now present with­in the state appa­ra­tus. Still, over­lap­ping log­ics con­nect phase III with the sec­ond phase, espe­cial­ly inso­far as the cat­a­stroph­ic equi­lib­ri­um has not been resolved, and indeed can­not be resolved mere­ly through the elec­toral suc­cess of one of the two com­pet­ing socio-polit­i­cal blocs. The sym­bol­ic over­turn­ing of the old order embod­ied in the rise of the first indige­nous pres­i­dent has brought about the loss of gov­ern­men­tal pow­er for the old polit­i­cal elites, but the eco­nom­ic pow­er of the dom­i­nant class­es and their exter­nal allies still enjoy ulti­mate, infor­mal con­trol of state pow­er. The gov­ern­ment is con­trolled by insur­rec­tion­ists, where­as state pow­er – its eco­nom­ic and insti­tu­tion­al log­ic as an appa­ra­tus of cap­i­tal­ist repro­duc­tion – is still in the hands of the dom­i­nant class­es.12

Phase IV: 2008-2010

A fourth phase unfolds between 2008 and 2010 and marks for Gar­cía Lin­era a “point of bifur­ca­tion,” or the Jacobin moment of the rev­o­lu­tion. Two irrec­on­cil­able projects are set against one anoth­er in com­bat for hege­mo­ny with­in soci­ety. They are forced to square off in this stage, to open­ly mea­sure the strength of their num­bers in unmedi­at­ed con­fronta­tion. There is no oth­er exit here but for one to come out on top.

The most intense moments in this naked show­down play them­selves out between August and Octo­ber 2008. Over these few months the con­ser­v­a­tive east­ern low­land bloc launch­es a civic-coup attempt in an effort to desta­bi­lize the Morales admin­is­tra­tion. Air­ports are seized in the low­land depart­ments; offi­cial state build­ings are attacked in these areas; and gov­ern­ment planes are pre­vent­ed from land­ing in parts of the coun­try. The civic-coup attempt reach­es its apogee in a mas­sacre of peas­ant sup­port­ers of the gov­ern­ment in the depart­ment of Pan­do.

The gov­ern­ment then counter-mobi­lizes its social base. The coup-plot­ters lose momen­tum as the trav­es­ty of the peas­ant mas­sacre is linked to the gov­er­nor of Pan­do, an impor­tant fig­ure in the east­ern low­land bloc. The coor­di­na­tion of their social base frag­ments rapid­ly, and they are forced to capit­u­late. The gov­ern­ment marks its vic­to­ry with the expul­sion of the Amer­i­can ambas­sador, Philip Gold­berg, from the coun­try fol­low­ing accu­sa­tions of his involve­ment in the desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign.

This is the point of bifur­ca­tion. The pop­u­lar defeat of the east­ern low­land insur­rec­tion­ists by the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc is con­sol­i­dat­ed through the pass­ing of a new Con­sti­tu­tion in Con­gress in Octo­ber 2008, fol­lowed by its approval in a pop­u­lar ref­er­en­dum. Final­ly, Morales wins the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Decem­ber 2009 with an his­toric 64 per­cent of the pop­u­lar vote, ush­er­ing in the fifth phase of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process which con­tin­ues into the present.13

Gar­cía Linera’s care­ful depic­tion of the fourth phase offers a neat jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the oft-employed offi­cial expla­na­tion of the slow pace of reform ini­ti­at­ed by the MAS gov­ern­ment dur­ing its first term in pow­er. On this view, the Right was too strong in 2006 for the state to move for­ward with full nation­al­iza­tion of nat­ur­al gas and oth­er strate­gic sec­tors, or to offer a gen­uine trans­for­ma­tion of agrar­i­an land tenure and social prop­er­ty rela­tions, or to ini­ti­ate a tru­ly par­tic­i­pa­to­ry and trans­for­ma­tive Con­stituent Assem­bly; instead, nego­ti­a­tion and com­pro­mise with the east­ern low­land bour­geoisie was nec­es­sary. Even with such nego­ti­a­tion and mod­er­a­tion, the civic-coup attempt revealed the bel­liger­ence of the Right and the sound­ness of the mea­sured hes­i­ta­tion on the part of the gov­ern­ment.

A more plau­si­ble inter­pre­ta­tion might be that in the recent his­to­ry of Bolivia the Right had nev­er been as weak as it was in the open­ing months of 2006. It had been utter­ly defeat­ed polit­i­cal­ly and ide­o­log­i­cal­ly through the events of 2000 to 2005. Had bel­liger­ent forces from the east­ern low­land been capa­ble of pulling off a mil­i­tary coup, it would have hap­pened in Octo­ber 2003 or June 2005, at the height of the con­sti­tu­tion­al crises brought on by the Gas Wars. So a counter-rev­o­lu­tion in the Chilean reg­is­ter of 1973 was not in the cards.

The MAS gov­ern­ment had a mobi­lized social base and faced a polit­i­cal­ly defeat­ed oppo­si­tion in 2006. Had it encour­aged social mobi­liza­tion and inde­pen­dent self-orga­ni­za­tion for deter­mined class strug­gle in the cities and the rur­al areas, much deep­er trans­for­ma­tion may have been pos­si­ble. The civic coup of 2008 might nev­er have hap­pened.

Else­where in South Amer­i­ca, the dynam­ic of extra-par­lia­men­tary activism was in its strongest state of recent decades. US impe­ri­al­ism, mean­while, was over­stretched mil­i­tar­i­ly in the Afghanistan and Iraq, and the glob­al com­modi­ties boom had ini­ti­at­ed an unsta­ble moment of rel­a­tive auton­o­my for South Amer­i­ca vis-a-vis the usu­al dic­tates of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tions and inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal.

Instead of rec­og­niz­ing this oppor­tu­ni­ty, how­ev­er, the Morales gov­ern­ment active­ly reigned in its social base, decel­er­at­ed social and eco­nom­ic reform, and used its polit­i­cal hon­ey­moon to nego­ti­ate with an effec­tive­ly defeat­ed Right, allow­ing time for the latter’s reartic­u­la­tion. As a result, what had been an anaemic east­ern low­land oppo­si­tion in 2006 was by 2008 a renewed polit­i­cal force – by now actu­al­ly capa­ble of desta­bi­liz­ing the process of change for a peri­od, even if ulti­mate­ly too clum­sy to retake state pow­er alto­geth­er.

Phase V: 2010-

The defin­ing fea­ture of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process since 2010, accord­ing to Gar­cía Lin­era, is the emer­gence of what he calls “cre­ative ten­sions” or con­tra­dic­tions. In this fifth stage, con­tra­dic­tions between two com­pet­ing projects for soci­ety are resolved with the vic­to­ry of the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc, but ten­sions remain with­in the con­sti­tu­tive sec­tors of the process of change itself. In this optic, the cre­ative ten­sions, if prop­er­ly man­aged, can help push along the course of the rev­o­lu­tion. They can pos­i­tive­ly rein­force one anoth­er and mutate into pro­duc­tive sub­jec­tive and objec­tive forces of the rev­o­lu­tion.

The point of ref­er­ence shifts momen­tar­i­ly at this point in the nar­ra­tive from Gram­sci to Mao, as Gar­cía Lin­era out­lines what he takes to be the pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary con­tra­dic­tions of the con­junc­ture. The fis­sures of the for­mer divide the sup­port­ing ele­ments of the nation­al-pop­u­lar project, on one side, and the array of impe­r­i­al forces lined up against it, togeth­er with the rem­nants of the recal­ci­trant domes­tic Right, on the oth­er. The sec­ondary con­tra­dic­tions are the cre­ative ten­sions inter­nal to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process itself. Specif­i­cal­ly, a four­fold array of cre­ative ten­sions among the peo­ple can be tran­scend­ed through demo­c­ra­t­ic and rev­o­lu­tion­ary means with­in the process of change itself.

(i) State-society relations

The first of the four involves the rela­tion­ship between state and soci­ety.14 The open­ing ide­o­log­i­cal move here is to advance the claim that the Morales admin­is­tra­tion is a “gov­ern­ment of social move­ments.”15 The state is con­cep­tu­al­ized in this sec­tion as a con­cen­tra­tion of deci­sion-mak­ing pow­er, coer­cion, bureau­crat­ic admin­is­tra­tion, and the ideas that artic­u­late soci­ety. Social move­ment, on the oth­er hand, is under­stood to be a democ­ra­ti­za­tion of deci­sion-mak­ing, involv­ing wide-scale and con­tin­u­ous social­iza­tion of delib­er­a­tive process­es, and the col­lec­tive self-gov­ern­ing of com­mon affairs by the low­er orders. A gov­ern­ment of social move­ments rep­re­sents a cre­ative ten­sion between the two, a dialec­tic, in which the simul­ta­ne­ous con­cen­tra­tion and decen­tral­iza­tion of deci­sion-mak­ing pow­er occurs. A gov­ern­ment of social move­ments exists in con­stant ten­sion between these two poles, between the nec­es­sary short-term monop­o­liza­tion of exec­u­tive action to achieve results, and the longer-term process­es of pop­u­lar demo­c­ra­t­ic deci­sion-mak­ing.

Here, too, we encounter the first men­tion of Gramsci’s notion of the “inte­gral state,” under­stood by Gar­cía Lin­era as the dialec­ti­cal over­com­ing of the ten­sion between the state as a machine of deci­sion-mak­ing con­cen­tra­tion, and a social move­ment as a machine of demo­c­ra­t­ic decen­tral­iza­tion.16 The achieve­ment of an inte­gral state will only be pos­si­ble over the long durée, and will depend on the per­pet­u­al motion of strug­gle from below for decades, per­haps even for cen­turies. This ten­sion remains alive in this way until, in a giv­en moment, the dis­so­lu­tion of the state into soci­ety occurs, and the his­tor­i­cal res­o­lu­tion of the con­tra­dic­tion is achieved.17

The notion of a “gov­ern­ment of social move­ments” is per­haps the most sin­is­ter turn in Cre­ative Ten­sions thus far, allow­ing as it does for the easy denun­ci­a­tion of any inde­pen­dent trade union action or social-move­ment for­ma­tion as, by def­i­n­i­tion, if not nec­es­sar­i­ly by con­scious deci­sion, an expres­sion of the inter­ests of the domes­tic Right and impe­ri­al­ism. If the gov­ern­ment is social move­ment, inde­pen­dent orga­ni­za­tions of the oppressed nec­es­sar­i­ly become sus­pi­cious.

(ii) Multi-class Bloc

A sec­ond cre­ative ten­sion cen­ters on the mul­ti-class char­ac­ter of the social bloc sup­port­ing the MAS gov­ern­ment. Here the fun­da­men­tal­ly pop­ulist tenor of Gar­cía Linera’s pol­i­tics by this stage come to the fore, as the dis­tinct class inter­ests of each com­po­nent of the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc are waved away as ulti­mate­ly non-con­flict­ual. Devel­op­ment, despite still being ruled by the log­ic of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion, can be under­stood as a vir­tu­ous cir­cle in which each com­po­nent part ben­e­fits, rather than a con­flict-rid­den, zero-sum game of exploita­tion.

We find in this sec­tion an explic­it endorse­ment of the inclu­sion of the nation­al bour­geoisie, or patri­ot­ic cap­i­tal­ists, in the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc.18 There will be ten­sions, Gar­cía Lin­era rec­og­nizes, between work­ers and cap­i­tal­ists, but the way to resolve this ten­sion is through the con­ver­sion of the mean­ing of “the peo­ple” to include all Boli­vians – with­out excep­tion – who sup­port decol­o­niza­tion, the pluri­na­tion­al state, equal­i­ty between peo­ples, com­mu­ni­tar­i­an­ism and the indus­tri­al­iza­tion of the plur­al econ­o­my. In these pas­sages Gar­cía Lin­era comes remark­ably close to argu­ing that key ele­ments of class con­flict can be over­come mere­ly through an ide­o­log­i­cal bat­tle of ideas. The full con­ver­sion of the nation­al bour­geoisie to the project of com­mu­ni­tar­i­an social­ism and decol­o­niza­tion hinges here on an ide­al­ist notion of re-edu­ca­tion.

The ten­sion at work in the mul­ti-class char­ac­ter of the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc, Gar­cía Lin­era rec­og­nizes, has to do with the dan­ger of broad­en­ing its social base so wide­ly that the hege­mo­ny of indige­nous work­ers and peas­ants is com­pro­mised. But this is under­stood to be an unavoid­able risk.19

(iii) Universal and Particular Interests

A third ten­sion piv­ots on the notion of the gen­er­al inter­ests of all of soci­ety and those which reflect mere­ly the inter­ests of par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als, sec­tors, or groups.20 Here we encounter the log­i­cal esca­la­tion and tight­ened exclu­siv­i­ty of the notion of a gov­ern­ment of social move­ments. After 2009, for Gar­cía Lin­era, once the cat­a­stroph­ic equi­lib­ri­um and point of bifur­ca­tion had been tran­scend­ed, there rose to the sur­face a ten­sion between the fur­ther insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion and con­sol­i­da­tion of the uni­ver­sal and gen­er­al demands of the social-rev­o­lu­tion­ary bloc, as embod­ied in the MAS par­ty, and the var­i­ous cor­po­ratist, sec­tion­al, frag­ment­ed parts of the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc.

If the inde­pen­dence of par­tic­u­lar­is­tic demands of social move­ments and unions are expressed, the dan­ger of a right-wing reartic­u­la­tion can­not be under­es­ti­mat­ed.21 By con­trast, the uni­fied con­sol­i­da­tion of the vic­to­ry of the uni­ver­sal­ist will, expressed in the pop­u­lar bloc and the MAS itself, would allow for the expan­sion and hege­mon­ic deep­en­ing of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary process. If cor­po­ratist and union­ist par­tic­u­larisms assume a dom­i­nant posi­tion in the actions of the peo­ple, it would mark the begin­ning of a degen­er­a­tive stage in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary dynam­ic. It would pro­vide a point of depar­ture for the con­ser­v­a­tive restora­tion of a busi­ness bloc, in oppo­si­tion to the peo­ple.22

With these con­ve­nient turns of phrase, the stage is set for a series of con­dem­na­tions. The indige­nous low­land strug­gle against the build­ing of the high­way through con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized indige­nous ter­ri­to­ry and a nation­al park is reducible to a par­tic­u­lar­is­tic expres­sion of sec­tion­al inter­ests against the uni­ver­sal­ist and rev­o­lu­tion­ary will of the MAS gov­ern­ment.23 Sim­i­lar­ly, strikes ini­ti­at­ed by the Boli­vian Work­ers Cen­tral (COB) are cor­po­ratist devi­a­tions from the gen­er­al inter­ests of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary-social bloc. A pop­u­lar mobi­liza­tion inde­pen­dent of the par­ty, in the impov­er­ished depart­ment of Poto­sí, is like­wise con­demned.24 Urban and rur­al teach­ers’ strikes are sim­i­lar­ly deemed out of order, and some­how set out­side the realm of gen­uine­ly work­ing class pol­i­tics. The notion of a gov­ern­ment of social move­ments, express­ing by def­i­n­i­tion the uni­ver­sal­ist will of the pop­u­lar class­es, obvi­ous­ly leaves lit­tle room for inde­pen­dent class strug­gle and self-orga­ni­za­tion. Omi­nous­ly, Gar­cía Lin­era clos­es this sec­tion with a call for the ide­o­log­i­cal elim­i­na­tion of resid­ual traces of the Right and Trot­sky­ism – lumped togeth­er – with­in the labor move­ment.25

(iv) Vivir Bien (Living Well), Ecology, and the Industrialization of Natural Resources

Ecol­o­gy is the weight behind the fourth con­tra­dic­tion. There is a ten­sion, Gar­cía Lin­era con­tends, around the government’s com­mit­ment to indus­tri­al­ize nat­ur­al resources – par­tic­u­lar­ly nat­ur­al gas and min­ing min­er­als – to meet basic needs, and its simul­ta­ne­ous pledge to sus­tain the envi­ron­ment and sup­port the indige­nous con­cept of vivir bien (liv­ing well), at the heart of which is a har­mo­nious rela­tion­ship with the pachama­ma, or Moth­er Earth. (Ibid., 62-71.) While this con­tra­dic­tion is some­thing that can­not be eas­i­ly escaped, Gar­cía Lin­era sug­gests that there has already been move­ment in the Boli­vian state under Morales of using the sur­plus gen­er­at­ed through indus­tri­al­iza­tion to remove itself grad­u­al­ly from the cap­i­tal­ist log­ic of pri­vate appro­pri­a­tion.26

This move­ment is seen as a com­mu­ni­tar­i­an-com­mu­nist foun­da­tion­al ten­den­cy toward the expan­sive devel­op­ment of the log­ic of use-val­ue, of the sat­is­fac­tion of human needs, as the prin­ci­pal dri­ver of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties. While it is a process that has expe­ri­enced set­backs, Lin­era argues, there has nonethe­less been a gen­er­al move­ment in the direc­tion of use-val­ue over exchange-val­ue, or the sub­or­di­na­tion of prof­it by human need as the dri­ving log­ic of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty.27 This is an extra­or­di­nary claim, which any­one even cur­so­ri­ly aware of the con­tem­po­rary dynam­ics of Bolivia’s polit­i­cal econ­o­my will have dif­fi­cul­ty tak­ing seri­ous­ly. How are we to rec­on­cile these pas­sages with the repeat­ed praise received by the MAS admin­is­tra­tion for its sound macro­eco­nom­ic man­age­ment, fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty, and extra­or­di­nary accu­mu­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al reserves from the likes of the World Bank, the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF), the Econ­o­mist Intel­li­gence Unit, the Finan­cial Times, and the Wall Street Jour­nal, among oth­er rep­re­sen­ta­tives of glob­al cap­i­tal. Have they all become com­mu­nists?

To sum­ma­rize, then, accord­ing to Gar­cía Lin­era a rev­o­lu­tion­ary process opened up in 2000 and went through a vari­ety of phas­es. It cul­mi­nat­ed in the elec­tion of Morales in 2005 and 2009, with its lat­est con­sol­i­da­tion work­ing its way through the Octo­ber elec­tions in 2014.28 Hege­mo­ny was achieved by 2010, after which ten­sions and con­tra­dic­tions of the process became cre­ative, inter­nal forces oper­at­ing with­in the nation­al-pop­u­lar bloc sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment. The Boli­vian “peo­ple” were thus unit­ed around pluri­na­tion­al­i­ty, indige­nous ter­ri­to­r­i­al auton­o­my, and a plur­al econ­o­my – involv­ing pub­lic, pri­vate, and social-com­mu­ni­tar­i­an forms of prop­er­ty, with the state pres­ence in the econ­o­my sub­or­di­nat­ing the oth­er forms of prop­er­ty. The process is in motion toward an inte­gral state, under­stood as the state’s ulti­mate dis­so­lu­tion into soci­ety, while the econ­o­my is mov­ing – even with set­backs – to one dom­i­nat­ed by the log­ic of use-val­ue over exchange-val­ue. Again, there is every rea­son to be sus­pi­cious of the post-2006 com­po­nents of this sto­ry, and it’s no sur­prise that a num­ber of left intel­lec­tu­als in Bolivia are increas­ing­ly insist­ing on a series of counter-nar­ra­tives. These, in turn, are con­sti­tu­tive parts of a wider debate unfold­ing in Latin Amer­i­ca on the char­ac­ter and con­tent of the New Left gov­ern­ments across the region.

Gramscian Wars of Position and Capitalist Continuities

In par­tic­u­lar, there is some­thing of a bat­tle over Gram­sci that is ongo­ing in con­tem­po­rary Latin Amer­i­ca. As against Gar­cía Linera’s use of hege­mo­ny and inte­gral state, crit­i­cal Latin Amer­i­can the­o­rists are return­ing to Gramsci’s notion of pas­sive rev­o­lu­tion in an attempt to con­cep­tu­al­ize the process­es of con­tain­ment occur­ring in many South Amer­i­can states present­ly occu­pied by left gov­ern­ments.

For the Ital­ian-born, Mex­i­can-based the­o­rist Mas­si­mo Mod­one­si, for exam­ple, the South Amer­i­can pas­sive rev­o­lu­tion today involves a process of mod­ern­iza­tion pushed for­ward from above, which par­tial­ly and care­ful­ly rec­og­nizes demands com­ing from those posi­tioned below; through this process, the state man­agers guar­an­tee the pas­siv­i­ty or sub­or­di­nate coop­er­a­tion of the pop­u­lar move­ments. New state-soci­ety rela­tions are built up by these regimes, cre­at­ing pre­car­i­ous but sur­pris­ing­ly last­ing equi­lib­ri­ums that func­tion for the repro­duc­tion of extrac­tive cap­i­tal­ism amid an expan­sion­ary peri­od in com­mod­i­ty prices. At the top of the new con­fig­u­ra­tion of pow­er rests a charis­mat­ic pop­ulist along­side the insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nisms of bureau­cra­ti­za­tion.29

In the Boli­vian case, Luis Tapia, a for­mer com­rade of Gar­cía Lin­era with­in the group of polit­i­cal the­o­rists known as Comu­na, has per­haps done more than most to advance this argu­ment. He tries to under­stand how a rad­i­cal left-indige­nous insur­rec­tionary process that over­threw two neolib­er­al pres­i­dents through mass mobi­liza­tion was con­tained and redi­rect­ed into the con­sol­i­da­tion of a state-cap­i­tal­ist process of mod­ern­iza­tion from above, built on an alliance with multi­na­tion­al cap­i­tal inter­est­ed in extract­ing nat­ur­al resources dur­ing a com­modi­ties boom.30

Mod­one­si and Tapia are ulti­mate­ly more con­vinc­ing than Gar­cía Lin­era in every dimen­sion of the present con­junc­ture. Rather than an inte­gral state under­stood in the mode of the vice-pres­i­dent, Bolivia has meta­mor­phosed into a pro­to­typ­i­cal com­pen­sato­ry state.31 Amid a com­modi­ties boom dri­ven by China’s (slow­ing) dynamism, aggre­gate eco­nom­ic growth has been steady in Bolivia, aver­ag­ing 4.8% between 2006 and 2012, with an ini­tial apex of 6.1% in 2008 and a low of 3.4% in 2009, in the imme­di­ate fall­out from the world cri­sis. In 2013, the coun­try hit a new recent high of 6.8% growth, and is expect­ed to be among the top three coun­tries in growth in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean in 2014. Accord­ing to fig­ures from the Nation­al Sta­tis­tics Insti­tute of Bolivia, gas exports con­sti­tut­ed 52.8% of total exports in the first trimester of 2013, fol­lowed by indus­tri­al man­u­fac­tur­ing (24.2%), min­ing (17.2%), and agri­cul­ture (4.5%). Last year, the coun­try logged a record peak of for­eign direct invest­ment, again most­ly in gas. The Morales era has wit­nessed an unprece­dent­ed accu­mu­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al reserves and rel­a­tive­ly low lev­els of infla­tion.32

The MAS gov­ern­ment has been able to cap­ture a big­ger share of the rent gen­er­at­ed from this com­modi­ties boom than did ortho­dox neolib­er­al regimes of the past, due to mod­er­ate increas­es in the tax­es and roy­al­ties exact­ed from multi­na­tion­al petro­le­um com­pa­nies, even if this doesn’t war­rant the label “nation­al­iza­tion.” As a result, there have been notable declines in pover­ty and extreme pover­ty, and improve­ments in health and edu­ca­tion. Offi­cial gov­ern­ment fig­ures sug­gest an impres­sive fall in pover­ty from 60.6% of the pop­u­la­tion in 2005 to 45% in 2011, and extreme pover­ty from 38.2% to 20.9% over the same peri­od. Rur­al areas have been most affect­ed, with extreme pover­ty falling from 62.9% in 2005 to 41.3% in 2011.33 It is quite unsur­pris­ing in this con­text that the gov­ern­ment remains pop­u­lar elec­toral­ly, but these trends in no way sub­stan­ti­ate the much more far-reach­ing claims advanced in Gar­cía Linera’s Cre­ative Ten­sions.

In what is per­haps the sin­gle most impor­tant essay to date on the eco­nom­ics of the Morales admin­is­tra­tion, Car­los Arze and Javier Gómez sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly expose the polit­i­cal con­tra­dic­tions and empir­i­cal incon­sis­ten­cies at the heart of Gar­cía Linera’s Cre­ative Ten­sions, with­out actu­al­ly cit­ing the text.34 Of their many insight­ful obser­va­tions, let me just point to their dis­cus­sion of the so-called plur­al econ­o­my. Using the offi­cial cat­e­gories of the plur­al econ­o­my denot­ed by gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, devel­op­ment plans, and the writ­ings of Gar­cía Lin­era, Arze and Gómez mea­sure the present weight of the state, pri­vate (for­eign and domes­tic), com­mu­ni­tar­i­an, and social-coop­er­a­tive units of pro­duc­tion in the struc­ture of the Boli­vian econ­o­my. They show how the biggest over­all weight in the struc­ture is that of pro­duc­tive units pri­vate­ly owned by Boli­vian cit­i­zens – that is, domes­tic cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion units, account­ing for 55 per­cent and 53 per­cent of Boli­vian gross domes­tic prod­uct (GDP) in 2005 and 2010 respec­tive­ly. In 2005, the sec­ond sec­tor of rel­a­tive mag­ni­tude was that of for­eign cap­i­tal, with 22 per­cent, leav­ing the state with 14 per­cent, the com­mu­ni­tar­i­an sec­tor with sev­en per­cent, and the social-coop­er­a­tive sec­tor with two per­cent.35

In the struc­ture of the econ­o­my in 2010, what we can see imme­di­ate­ly is that the most impor­tant change has been that of the pres­ence of the state, increas­ing to 19 per­cent of GDP. The five per­cent change can be account­ed for with ref­er­ence to the decrease in the pres­ence of for­eign cap­i­tal by three per­cent of GDP, and of pri­vate Boli­vian cap­i­tal by two per­cent. The com­mu­ni­tar­i­an sec­tor accounts for mere­ly 7 per­cent in 2005 and drops to one per­cent by 2010, while the social-coop­er­a­tive sec­tor increas­es from 2 per­cent in 2005 to three per­cent in 2010.36

This sit­u­a­tion is a con­se­quence of the lim­it­ed para­me­ters of the process­es com­mon­ly referred to as nation­al­iza­tion. They have been cir­cum­scribed, in real­i­ty, to the recov­ery of major­i­ty shares for the state in cer­tain com­pa­nies pri­va­tized dur­ing the 1990s. Because nation­al­iza­tion has not meant the expro­pri­a­tion of pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions, and has also not meant the reestab­lish­ment of state monop­oly in any sec­tors of the econ­o­my, many for­eign and nation­al pri­vate enter­pris­es con­tin­ue par­tic­i­pat­ing in a hege­mon­ic way across var­i­ous branch­es of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty.37

In oth­er words, this is a “plur­al econ­o­my” in name only. With­in the struc­tures of con­tem­po­rary Boli­vian econ­o­my, fur­ther­more, Arze and Gómez demon­strate how the share of the total social prod­uct going to labor has decreased in rela­tion to the sur­plus being expro­pri­at­ed by pri­vate cap­i­tal. This fact cor­re­sponds with a tech­ni­cal increase in the rate of exploita­tion of the work­ing class­es, even as var­i­ous social indi­ca­tors and mark­ers of liv­ing con­di­tions have improved as a result of a spike in accu­mu­la­tion in the con­text of a (recent­ly declin­ing) glob­al com­modi­ties boom.38

The notion of a plur­al econ­o­my advanced by Gar­cía Lin­era and oth­ers with­in the Morales admin­is­tra­tion can­not account for the ten­den­cies of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion with­in cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion. The con­tra­dic­to­ry dynam­ic between large scale cap­i­tal­ist enter­pris­es in the extrac­tive indus­tries and forms of small­er scale pro­duc­tion-for-the-mar­ket which are sub­sumed into cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion, caus­es an array of unsta­ble devel­op­ments across inter­me­di­ary class sec­tions in Boli­vian soci­ety. Street ven­dors, pet­ty extrac­tivists, small-scale indus­tri­al pro­duc­ers, and medi­um-scale pro­duc­ers involved in com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture for export, all at incip­i­ent lev­els of accu­mu­la­tion, are increas­ing­ly mak­ing polit­i­cal demands on the Boli­vian state to improve their com­pet­i­tive prospects on the mar­ket.39

In the absence of struc­tur­al changes to social prop­er­ty rela­tions under the Morales admin­is­tra­tions, these kinds of demands have lead the state toward poli­cies of improv­ing the prof­it mar­gins of these pet­ty sec­tors at the expense of waged labor: depres­sion of salaries, fur­ther pre­car­i­ty in labour rela­tions, flex­i­bi­liza­tion of ter­ri­to­r­i­al rights to self-deter­mi­na­tion of rur­al indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, relax­ation of envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions, and loose imple­men­ta­tion of the law vis-à-vis con­tra­band import-export activ­i­ties and the nar­cotics indus­try.40

Fur­ther­more, the favor­able evo­lu­tion of own-account work­ers over the last sev­er­al years – through access to cred­it and sub­si­dies, among oth­er mea­sures – has allowed some seg­ments of this lay­er of the pop­u­la­tion to trans­form them­selves into small-scale cap­i­tal­ists, who then accu­mu­late prof­its through the exploita­tion of waged labour. Such phe­nom­e­na are observ­able in min­ing, con­tra­band trade, com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture, and urban trans­port sec­tors, among many oth­ers areas of the con­tem­po­rary Boli­vian econ­o­my.41

In such an envi­ron­ment, as Arze and Gómez point out, it is dif­fi­cult to dis­cern any move­ment toward com­mu­ni­tar­i­an social­ism or vivir bien. Instead, what is notable is a typ­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion of depen­dent cap­i­tal­ism, in which for­eign cap­i­tal dom­i­nates an extrac­tive sec­tor des­tined for export mar­kets, while a lay­er of small­er domes­tic cap­i­tal­ists assumes a struc­tural­ly sub­or­di­nate posi­tion; both of these sec­tors, mean­while, live off the exploita­tion of Boli­vian labor­ing class­es. The state is not “inte­gral” here, at least in the man­ner envi­sioned by Gar­cía Lin­era. Rather it is a typ­i­cal cap­i­tal­ist state which ensures, as best it can, the repro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion.

What’s more, the idea of a “pluri­na­tion­al state” in this con­text rep­re­sents lit­tle else than the bour­geois notion of the state as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the “gen­er­al inter­ests” of soci­ety.42 As we come full cir­cle to the core con­cepts ani­mat­ing Gar­cía Linera’s Cre­ative Ten­sions, we arrive face to face with the text’s most basic eva­sion – that the cap­i­tal­ist class and state appa­ra­tus in a “plur­al econ­o­my” will resist any and all inroads on capital’s total dom­i­na­tion.

This arti­cle is part of a dossier enti­tled Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era: A Boli­vian Marx­ist Seduced.

  1. An ear­ly ver­sion of this paper was pre­sent­ed at the eighth annu­al con­fer­ence of His­tor­i­cal Mate­ri­al­ism, How Cap­i­tal­ism Sur­vives, Novem­ber 6-9, 2014, Lon­don. Thanks to Felipe Lagos for orga­niz­ing the pan­el on the work of Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era and invit­ing me to par­tic­i­pate. I also pre­sent­ed a ver­sion of this paper as part of the Devel­op­ment Stud­ies Sem­i­nar Series at SOAS, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don in late Novem­ber 2014. Thanks to Adam Hanieh, Lean­dro Ver­gara-Camus, and Dae-Oup Chang for their insights on that occa­sion. Final­ly, edi­to­r­i­al com­ments from Robert Cavooris and Asad Haider also sharp­ened the text. 

  2. For the best accounts of the 2000-2005 peri­od in Eng­lish, see For­rest Hyl­ton and Sin­clair Thom­son, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Hori­zons: Past and Present in Boli­vian Pol­i­tics, Lon­don and New York: Ver­so, 2007; Raquel Gutiér­rez Aguilar, Rhythms of the Pachaku­ti: Indige­nous Upris­ing and State Pow­er in Bolivia, Durham and Lon­don: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2014. My own inter­pre­ta­tion of the peri­od is offered in Red Octo­ber: Left-Indige­nous Strug­gles in Mod­ern Bolivia, Chica­go: Hay­mar­ket, 2012. 

  3. Gar­cía Lin­era was born in Cochabam­ba in 1962, and trained as a math­e­mati­cian while in uni­ver­si­ty in Mex­i­co. Upon return­ing to Bolivia he par­tic­i­pat­ed in the short-lived Ejérci­to Guer­rillero Túpaj Katari (Túpaj Katari Guer­ril­la Army, EGTK), as a con­se­quence of which he spent five years in jail, between 1992 and 1997. He was nev­er charged and was tor­tured while impris­oned. Upon his release he became a soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at the main pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty in La Paz, a pro­lif­ic writer on polit­i­cal affairs and social move­ments, and one of the most impor­tant TV per­son­al­i­ties of the 2000s, per­pet­u­al­ly mak­ing the rounds of the evening-news pro­grams and talk shows. Before becom­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Gar­cía Lin­era was one of the most promi­nent fig­ures in the mul­ti-ten­den­cy Boli­vian Marx­ist intel­lec­tu­al col­lec­tive, Comu­na, along­side Luis Tapia, Raquel Gutiér­rez Aguilar, Oscar Vega, Raúl Pra­da Alcoreza, and oth­ers. 

  4. Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, Ten­siones cre­ati­vas de la rev­olu­ción: La Quin­ta fase del Pro­ce­so del Cam­bio, La Paz: Vicepres­i­den­cia del Esta­do Pluri­na­cional, 2011. 

  5. Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “State Cri­sis and Pop­u­lar Pow­er,” New Left Review II, 37 (Jan-Feb) 2006, 73-85; Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, Ple­beian Pow­er: Col­lec­tive Action and Indige­nous, Work­ing Class and Pop­u­lar Iden­ti­ties in Bolivia, Chica­go: Hay­mar­ket, 2014. 

  6. Atilio Borón, Améri­ca Lati­na en la geopolíti­ca del impe­ri­al­ism (Hon­dar­rib­ia: Edi­to­r­i­al Hiru, 2013). This text won the Pre­mio lib­er­ta­dor al pen­samien­to críti­co in 2012, spon­sored by the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment of Hugo Chávez. 

  7. Gar­cía Lin­era, Ten­siones Cre­ati­vas, 8. 

  8. See Sil­via Rivera Cusi­can­qui, Oprim­i­dos pero no ven­ci­dos: luchas del campesina­do aymara y quechua, 1900-1980 (La Paz: HISBOL-CSUTCB, 1984). 

  9. Gar­cía Lin­era, Ten­siones Cre­ati­vas, 12-14. 

  10. Ibid., 15-16. 

  11. For an analy­sis which empha­sizes the ear­ly signs that the MAS would seek to bureau­cra­tize, co-opt, and instru­men­tal­ize the epoch of 2000-2005 toward its own mod­er­ate, Cen­ter-Left ends, see Jef­fery R. Web­ber, From Rebel­lion to Reform in Bolivia: Class strug­gle, Indige­nous Lib­er­a­tion, and the Pol­i­tics of Evo Morales, Chica­go: Hay­mar­ket, 2011. 

  12. Gar­cía Lin­era, Ten­siones cre­ati­vas, 16-18. 

  13. Ibid., 18-22.  

  14. Ibid., 28-38. 

  15. Ibid., 28. 

  16. Ibid., 29. It is not my con­cern here to mea­sure Gar­cía Linera’s fideli­ty to Gramsci’s own under­stand­ing of the inte­gral state.  

  17. Ibid., 30. 

  18. Ibid., 39. 

  19. Ibid., 38-40. 

  20. Ibid., 41-62. 

  21. Ibid., 49. 

  22. Ibid., 48. 

  23. For a fuller treat­ment of this issue see Jef­fery R. Web­ber, “Rev­o­lu­tion against ‘Progress’: Neo-extrac­tivism, the Com­pen­sato­ry State, and the TIPNIS Con­flict in Bolivia,” in Susan J. Spronk and Jef­fery R. Web­ber, eds., Cri­sis and Con­tra­dic­tion: Marx­ist Per­spec­tives on Latin Amer­i­ca in the Glob­al Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my. His­tor­i­cal Mate­ri­al­ism Book Series (Lei­den: Brill Aca­d­e­m­ic Pub­lish­ers, 2015). 

  24. For cov­er­age of the Poto­sí con­flict see Jef­fery R. Web­ber, “The Rebel­lion in Poto­sí: Uneven Devel­op­ment, Neolib­er­al Con­ti­nu­ities, and a Revolt against Pover­ty in Bolivia,” Upside Down World, August 16, 2010 (accessed on Jan­u­ary 2, 2015).  

  25. Gar­cía Lin­era, Ten­siones Cre­ati­vas, 62. 

  26. Ibid., 67. 

  27. Ibid., 67-68. 

  28. Although Ten­siones Cre­ati­vas was pub­lished in 2011, the same basic lines of argu­ment are restat­ed in an opin­ion piece appear­ing after the elec­tions of Octo­ber 2014. See Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “El Nue­vo Cam­po Políti­co en Bolivia,” La Razón, Novem­ber 2, 2014 (avail­able online at: http://www.la-razon.com/suplementos/animal_politico/nuevo-campo-politico-Bolivia_0_2153784735.html (accessed on Jan­u­ary 2, 2015). 

  29. Mas­si­mo Mod­one­si, “Rev­olu­ciones pasi­vas en Améri­ca Lati­na: Una aprox­i­mación gram­s­ciana a la car­ac­ter­i­zación de los gob­ier­nos pro­gre­sis­tas de ini­cio del siglo,” in Mabel Thwait­es Rey, ed., El Esta­do en Améri­ca Lati­na: Con­tinuidades y rup­turas (Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 2012), 139-166. 

  30. Luis Tapia, El Esta­do de dere­cho como tiranía (La Paz: autode­ter­mi­nación, 2011). 

  31. Eduar­do Gudy­nas, “Esta­do com­pen­sador y nuevos extrac­tivis­mos,” Nue­va Sociedad, 237 (Jan­u­ary-Feb­ru­ary), 2012, 128-146. 

  32. Jef­fery R. Web­ber, “Man­ag­ing Boli­vian Cap­i­tal­ism,” Jacobin 13, 2014, 45-55. 

  33. Ibid. 

  34. Car­los Arze and Javier Gómez, “Bolivia: ¿El ‘pro­ce­so de cam­bio’ nos con­duce al vivir bien?” In Car­los Arze, Javier Gómez, Pablo Ospina, and Víc­tor Álvarez, eds., Prome­sas en su laber­in­to: Cam­bios y con­tinuidades en los gob­ier­nos pro­gre­sis­tas de Améri­ca Lati­na (La Paz: CEDLA, 2013) 45-167. 

  35. Arze and Gómez, “Bolivia,” 100. 

  36. Ibid., 100-101. 

  37. Ibid., 102. 

  38. Ibid., 133-143. 

  39. Ibid., 164. 

  40. Ibid., 165. 

  41. Ibid., 166. On such process­es of nov­el process­es of class strat­i­fi­ca­tion in Boli­vian soci­ety, see also William Neu­man, “A Col­or­ful Boli­vian Bas­tion, Float­ing Above it All,” New York Times, May 13, 2013. Avail­able online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/world/americas/a-colorful-bolivian-bastion-floating-above-it-all.html?pagewanted=all (accessed on Jan­u­ary 3, 2015); Andres Schipani, “Bolivia’s Indige­nous Peo­ple Flaunt Their New-Found Wealth,” Finan­cial Times, Decem­ber 4, 2014; Miri­am Shakow, Along the Boli­vian High­way: Social Mobil­i­ty and Polit­i­cal Cul­ture in a New Mid­dle Class (Philadel­phia, PA: Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia Press, 2014). 

  42. Arze and Gómez, “Bolivia,” pp. 165-167. 

Author of the article

teaches politics at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author most recently of Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia.