The Re-encounter of Indianismo and Marxism in the Work of Álvaro García Linera

Javier Fernández, El Tren de la Historia, 2013
Javier Fer­nán­dez, El Tren de la His­to­ria, 2013

In his impor­tant arti­cle about the his­to­ry of Marx­ism and Indi­an­is­mo in Bolivia, Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era tells the sto­ry of the “missed encoun­ter of the two rev­o­lu­tion­ary rea­sons.”1 He presents the post-colo­nial Boli­vian con­text as a space of com­plex engage­ments for the Marx­ist tra­di­tion. One must con­tend, for instance, with the explic­it rejec­tion of Marx­ism in the case of Faus­to Reina­ga, founder of a force­ful and rad­i­cal cur­rent of “Indi­an­is­mo,” which has inspired the Indi­an­ista polit­i­cal par­ties and social move­ments since the 1970s. Reina­ga claimed that Marx­ism, espoused by the Movimien­to Nacional­is­ta Rev­olu­cionar­io (MNR) and the Boli­vian Nation­al Rev­o­lu­tion of 1952 (in which he had par­tic­i­pat­ed), did noth­ing for the eman­ci­pa­tion of Indi­ans, either the­o­ret­i­cal­ly or prac­ti­cal­ly. He pro­posed Indi­an­is­mo as the ide­ol­o­gy that would sup­plant what he came to regard as a use­less, “for­eign” the­o­ry. This “native” pro­pos­al, his­tor­i­cal­ly test­ed on the Andean soil, would instead put the Indi­an at the cen­ter of his­to­ry as its sub­ject and actor, empha­size the racial and cul­tur­al roots of oppres­sion in the Boli­vian soci­ety, and call for Indi­an Rev­o­lu­tion as the way out of this predica­ment.

One of the cru­cial dimen­sions of Álvaro Gar­cía Linera’s con­tri­bu­tion is to bring Marx­ism and Indi­an­is­mo togeth­er, in his explic­it recog­ni­tion of Reinaga’s impor­tance in the his­to­ry of Boli­vian eman­ci­pa­to­ry strug­gle and Indianismo’s cen­tral­i­ty to the cur­rent polit­i­cal project of the Evo Morales gov­ern­ment. Lin­era shows that Marx­ists and Indi­an­istas share par­al­lel con­cerns. Name­ly, they denounce the unjust exploita­tion of work­ers and peas­ants, who in the Boli­vian case hap­pen to be main­ly indige­nous, as well as their alien­ation from the means of pro­duc­tion, which results in their total depen­den­cy on the cap­i­tal­ist own­ers for the ful­fill­ment of their basic needs. Ulti­mate­ly, in the post-colo­nial Andean con­text, this alien­ation and exploita­tion are accom­pa­nied by epis­temic col­o­niza­tion, which robs the indige­nous sub­al­terns of their way of inhab­it­ing the world, dis­pos­sess­ing them of their lan­guage, knowl­edge, and cos­mol­o­gy. Thus, for Lin­era, Marx­ism can deep­en the con­tri­bu­tion of Indi­an­is­mo, and Indi­an­is­mo can sharp­en some of the posi­tions advanced by Marx­ism. Togeth­er the­se sets of ideas can shed light on the real­i­ty of the post-colo­nial con­text, and artic­u­late rel­e­vant polit­i­cal projects. In terms of the geneal­o­gy of Boli­vian polit­i­cal the­o­ry, one could say that Reina­ga relies on both the 18th cen­tu­ry indige­nous rev­o­lu­tion­ary Tupaj Katari and Karl Marx, despite claim­ing his total divorce from the lat­ter; Lin­era knows and pub­licly rec­og­nizes that he relies on Tupaj Katari, Marx, and Reina­ga. In the present excur­sus, tex­tu­al exam­ples from Reina­ga offer the back­ground for Linera’s deploy­ment of Indi­an­ista and Marx­ist ana­lyt­i­cal vocab­u­lary and for his projects of decol­o­niza­tion from the Vice-Pres­i­den­cy of the Pluri­na­tion­al State. As a con­crete exam­ple, we will look at how this dis­course con­cep­tu­al­izes and uses mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy as a means to over­come the colo­nial con­di­tion, by repair­ing the epis­temic dam­age of the Con­quest of the Amer­i­c­as and cen­turies of colo­nial­ism.

“¡Indios de Bolivia, uníos!”2 With the­se words, Faus­to Reina­ga con­cludes his Man­i­fiesto del Par­tido Indio de Bolivia pub­lished in 1970. Here, he calls togeth­er the Indi­ans of Bolivia to join in a strug­gle again­st the “white-mes­ti­zo chola­je3 rep­re­sent­ed by both the tra­di­tion­al elite, and the lead­er­ship of the post-1952 Nation­al Rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment – both of whom, accord­ing to him, ignore in equal mea­sure the neces­si­ties of the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion. The dis­avowal of Marx­ism and the the estab­lished Left is at the heart of Reinaga’s doc­u­ment. How­ev­er, as the lan­guage of the brief quote above imme­di­ate­ly sug­gests, this stout nega­tion is both nec­es­sary for Reinaga’s ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tion­ing, and at the same time incom­plete, method­olog­i­cal­ly speak­ing. The con­tin­ued pres­ence of the for­mal and rhetor­i­cal com­po­nents of the Marx­ist tra­di­tion with­in Reinaga’s text symp­to­mati­cal­ly sig­nals to the fact that the Marx­ist cat­e­gories of analy­sis are still active in and nec­es­sary to his read­ing of his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly as he exam­i­nes the con­tin­u­ous con­di­tions of oppres­sion and exploita­tions that the Boli­vian indige­nous per­sons endure.

Reina­ga puts for­ward the idea of “Two Bolivi­as” locked in a bat­tle to the death: Indi­an Bolivia and white-mes­ti­zo Bolivia (Bolivia del “chola­je blan­co-mes­ti­zo”).4 The desired out­come of this bat­tle would be the oust­ing of the mes­ti­zo colo­nial lega­cy and the for­ma­tion of an Indi­an state; it would also be a cul­mi­na­tion of a “hid­den” cur­rent, the true his­tor­i­cal strug­gle of the two above-men­tioned “races.”5 The influ­ence of the­o­ries of decol­o­niza­tion, espe­cial­ly the work of Frantz Fanon, is evi­dent in Reinaga’s texts, and is seen specif­i­cal­ly in his rejec­tion of the ide­ol­o­gy of mes­ti­za­je that was adapt­ed at the state lev­el in Bolivia after the Rev­o­lu­tion of the 1952 and regard­ed by Reina­ga as a tac­tic of forced assim­i­la­tion of the Boli­vian indige­nous peo­ples.6 Although Reina­ga had been a vocal sup­port­er of the left-lean­ing and union-backed Movimien­to Nacional­is­ta Rev­olu­cionar­io par­ty (MNR) before the Nation­al Rev­o­lu­tion of 1952, he came to think it had failed to offer polit­i­cal and social equal­i­ty, or even full cit­i­zen­ship, to the indige­nous and peas­ant work­ers. Instead, in the name of mod­ern­iza­tion and devel­op­ment, its failed Agrar­i­an Reform forcibly sub­sumed and pri­va­tized the indige­nous coun­tryside in order to cre­ate more eas­i­ly exploitable campesinos. For Reina­ga, the main out­come of this reform was the intro­duc­tion of class divi­sion where there was once social uni­ty, lead­ing to noth­ing less than the destruc­tion of Indi­an­ness itself.7 The appar­ent cor­rup­tion of the left­ist elite in their pri­vate lives only fur­thered Reinaga’s dis­gust.

Reinaga’s frus­tra­tions with the after­math of the 1952 Rev­o­lu­tion made him dis­tance him­self rad­i­cal­ly from Marx­ism, deem­ing it just as harm­ful as “Yan­kee impe­ri­al­ism” for the con­scious­ness of the Indi­an, who is, for him, the true sub­ject of his­to­ry.8 Indeed, he con­clud­ed that this sub­ject must shed all for­eign ide­olo­gies in order to achieve eman­ci­pa­tion, going as far as to famous­ly declare that he would have pre­ferred that his ear­lier Marx­ist writ­ings had nev­er exist­ed.9 Nonethe­less, Reinaga’s con­cept of the Indi­an Rev­o­lu­tion is a pro­duct of a simul­ta­ne­ous dia­logue with and rejec­tion of his Marx­ist past. In addi­tion to his ener­get­ic sup­port for the Boli­vian Nation­al Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Move­ment and the par­tic­u­lar type of Marx­ism it embraced, Reina­ga trav­eled to the Sovi­et Union in 1957 and pub­lished an ecsta­t­ic work on the won­ders of the “real social­ism” titled El Sen­timien­to Mesiáni­co del Pueblo Ruso (1960). This engage­ment could not help but leave its traces on Reinaga’s lat­er work.

As we have already glimpsed, the lan­guage of the Man­i­fiesto del Par­tido Indio is haunt­ed with Marx­i­an turns of the phrase: for instance, Reina­ga calls the Indi­ans the true pow­er, the “mid­wife of his­to­ry,” there­by adapt­ing direct­ly Marx’s metaphor for the pur­pos­es of his own argu­ment. But, of course, the use of the metaphor and the poet­ic apos­tro­phe is a symp­tom of even deep­er indebt­ed­ness to the Marx­ist con­cep­tu­al uni­verse. Most notably, Reina­ga is con­cerned with the role of ide­ol­o­gy in the repro­duc­tion of Bolivia’s par­tic­u­lar exploita­tive social rela­tions: “the super­struc­ture, the ide­o­log­i­cal sys­tem of the West, is an iron machin­ery, which, relent­less, cap­tures the Indian’s brain, like a spi­der traps a fly.”10 He uses the con­cept of “super­struc­ture” to explain fur­ther in the text how a lit­er­ate Indi­an is not an Indi­an any­more; if he is to get to pow­er, it will be as a mes­ti­zo, not as an Indi­an.11 When speak­ing of the destruc­tion and sub­al­ter­ni­ty of “pre-Amer­i­can” cul­tures, as he calls the indige­nous civ­i­liza­tions, Reina­ga points to the con­quis­ta­dors’ reshap­ing of the labor force and the refunc­tion­ing of exist­ing soci­eties for pri­vate accu­mu­la­tion as the means by which the mate­ri­al dev­as­ta­tion and epis­temic destruc­tion of indige­nous peo­ples was brought about.12

Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era rec­og­nizes Reina­ga as “the most influ­en­tial and rel­e­vant intel­lec­tu­al of Indi­an­is­mo in the for­ma­tive peri­od of this ide­ol­o­gy,” there­by grant­i­ng him a place among the found­ing fathers of the process of change led by the Evo Morales gov­ern­ment since 2006. In Linera’s words, “The fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tion of this peri­od is the rein­ven­tion of Indi­an-ness, but this time not as a stig­ma but as a sub­ject of eman­ci­pa­tion, as a his­tor­i­cal project, as a polit­i­cal plan.”13 How­ev­er, in his 1999 essay “The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo and Our Present: Four The­ses on its His­tor­i­cal Actu­al­i­ty,” Lin­era marks his dis­tance from Reinaga’s eth­nic rad­i­cal­ism and strate­gi­cal­ly draws away from the local­ly speci­fic analy­sis char­ac­ter­is­tic of Indi­an­ista writ­ings by empha­siz­ing the glob­al dimen­sion of cap­i­tal.14

Linera’s essay is an exer­cise in epis­temic decol­o­niza­tion on the lev­el of both form and con­tent. It dis­plays what in Span­ish could be called “el afán de teoría,” or “the­o­ret­i­cal dri­ve”: Lin­era care­ful­ly, pur­po­sive­ly, almost does not men­tion either South Amer­i­ca or Bolivia in his analy­sis. The prob­lems tack­led by the text and the ten­den­cies ana­lyzed are phrased in a lan­guage that makes it applic­a­ble glob­al­ly, apart from the obvi­ous rel­e­vance to the region or the con­crete coun­try that is work­ing its way through its post-colo­nial con­di­tion. This text arguably bypass­es the divi­sion into cen­ter and periph­ery in terms of the pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge. The ero­sion of this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion becomes pos­si­ble due to the glob­al­iz­ing ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal­ism, which both solid­i­fies the hold on the forces of pro­duc­tion and dialec­ti­cal­ly opens up the new ten­den­cies of resis­tance.

Gar­cia Lin­era offers two nar­row argu­ments from with­in this land­scape that con­nect the hard­core Indi­an­ista ide­ol­o­gy of some­one like Reina­ga to a Marx­ist analy­sis. The­se are: 1) the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal enslave­ment that the world­wide expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism implies, and 2) a deeply con­nect­ed issue, the ques­tion of tech­nol­o­gy as a means of pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge.

In Linera’s vocab­u­lary, the plan­e­tary (plan­e­tar­io) nature of cap­i­tal­ist expan­sion refers to the dou­ble truth that glob­al­iza­tion is an old sto­ry, and that cap­i­tal­ism trans­forms all spheres of life.15 The expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism over the last 500 years affect­ed much more than just the eco­nom­ic dimen­sion of human exis­tence. In fact, the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion mod­i­fies every sphere of human expe­ri­ence and envi­ron­ment in order to increase the pro­duc­tion of sur­plus val­ue. This includes the affec­tive rela­tion­ships between peo­ple, as well as the human rela­tion­ship with nature, with space, and very tan­gi­bly, with time. In Linera’s words:

Cap­i­tal­ism does not devel­op the means of pro­duc­tion indis­crim­i­nate­ly, but muti­lates them, repress­es them so that they only fol­low the path of val­oriza­tion of val­ue… there­by comes the one-sid­ed devel­op­ment of the tech­ni­cal pro­duc­tive forces at the expense of the sym­bol­ic and asso­cia­tive pro­duc­tive forces, or the recur­rent con­ver­sion of the pro­duc­tive forces into destruc­tive or harm­ful ones (like weapons for war)…There are no neu­tral or naive pro­duc­tive forces, but there is a col­lec­tion of dis­pos­i­tives, which lim­it abil­i­ties, pre­scribe behav­ior, priv­i­lege this or that kind of knowl­edge [saberes].16

Lin­era here describes the process of priv­i­leg­ing only one route of devel­op­ment – the tech­nolo­gies that pro­mote val­oriza­tion of sur­plus-val­ue. The “asso­cia­tive and sym­bol­ic” knowl­edge that is left aside and deemed use­less is the ances­tral knowl­edge of the indige­nous peo­ples, such as the tra­di­tions of com­mu­nal work and com­mu­nal child care, or indige­nous heal­ing prac­tices that rely heav­i­ly on psy­cho­so­mat­ic ben­e­fits attained through ref­er­ences to the spir­i­tu­al real­i­ties; also mar­gin­al­ized, of course, are indige­nous laws, sci­ences, and cos­molo­gies. In this notion of cap­i­tal­ism as a world order whose suc­cess depends on muti­la­tion of knowl­edge, his cri­tique is con­cep­tu­al­ly tied to Reinaga’s Indi­an­ista argu­ments, as well as to more con­tem­po­rary Indi­an­istas like Felipe Quis­pe, and to the wider dis­course on decol­o­niza­tion.17 In Linera’s essay, Marx­ism and Indi­an­ism com­ple­ment each oth­er in show­ing the direct link between the expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism – or of 500 years of glob­al­iza­tion, if you like – and the impov­er­ish­ment and reduc­tion of knowl­edge on a world scale through the mech­a­nism of “muti­la­tion” of pro­duc­tive forces. 18

Lin­era thus shows that a Marx­i­an analy­sis of the pro­duc­tive forces is cen­tral for under­stand­ing the phe­nom­e­na of col­o­niza­tion and indige­nous mar­gin­al­iza­tion. Their one-sid­ed cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment favors tech­no­log­i­cal pro­gress over oth­er saberes (types of knowl­edge), but this devel­op­ment also unwit­ting­ly opens the door to a cer­tain cor­rec­tion of this imbal­ance. Lin­era argues at length again­st the idea that the extra­or­di­nary devel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies either sig­nals the vital­i­ty of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, or that it auto­mat­i­cal­ly promis­es the ways of artic­u­lat­ing resis­tance. Tech­nol­o­gy in itself does not promise any­thing; it is the use of it, access to it and con­trol over it that influ­ence the dis­tri­b­u­tion of pow­er and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of eman­ci­pa­tion. But he rec­og­nizes, of course, that much extant tech­nol­o­gy has been his­tor­i­cal­ly devel­oped with­in cap­i­tal­ism and bears the mate­ri­al mark of that pur­po­sive devel­op­ment as a tool for the extrac­tion and accu­mu­la­tion of val­ue. Hence, one of the impor­tant tasks that the cur­rent Boli­vian “process of change” entails is wrestling tech­nol­o­gy from the cap­i­tal­ist log­ic of accu­mu­la­tion of val­ue and adapt­ing it for the pur­pos­es of the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal decol­o­niza­tion (on the ide­o­log­i­cal plane), and for the use and ben­e­fit of broad sec­tions of pop­u­la­tions (in a prac­ti­cal sense).

Gar­cía Linera’s polit­i­cal posi­tions on tech­nol­o­gy are thus based on insights into its devel­op­ment gleaned from his read­ing of Marx, as well as from the above-cit­ed Indi­an­ista denun­ci­a­tion of col­o­niza­tion as a “rob­bery” (“despo­jo”) of the indige­nous nations of their ances­tral knowl­edge and tech­nolo­gies. In a coun­try like Bolivia, marked by a post-colo­nial con­di­tion, this longue durée of loss and pri­va­tion is inex­tri­ca­bly linked to the country’s cur­rent periph­er­al posi­tion in the world cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.19 Thus, two burn­ing demands were explic­it­ly artic­u­lat­ed dur­ing the recent pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in Sep­tem­ber of 2014 (of course, not for the first time in Boli­vian his­to­ry): the demand for indus­tri­al­iza­tion that would bring added-val­ue to the country’s nat­u­ral resources, such as gas and extract­ed min­er­als; and the demand for gen­er­al access to new tech­nolo­gies, espe­cial­ly com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies. Because the­se demands are framed with regard to the long his­to­ry of colo­nial­ism, they acquire a dimen­sion beyond util­i­tar­i­an log­ic. In the dis­course of the Evo-Álvaro cam­paign in 2014, the promise to bring indus­tri­al­iza­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies to Bolivia is con­nect­ed in a chain of equiv­a­lences with such larg­er and more abstract con­cepts as nation­al dig­ni­ty of the Boli­vian peo­ple.20

In this vein, we can make sense of one of the Morales administration’s most ambi­tious projects: the Ciu­dade­la del Conocimien­to y la Tec­nología (“Citadel of Knowl­edge and Tech­nol­o­gy” – even the name sounds grand). This is a gov­ern­ment project to build a com­plex train­ing facil­i­ty in Cochabam­ba, which would house a col­lege for com­put­er engi­neers, a sci­ence research hub, a soft­ware build­ing lab­o­ra­to­ry, and a lithi­um bat­tery fac­to­ry. Thus, Bolivia will train its own intel­lec­tu­al elite and will not need to import brains – or soft­ware – from abroad; nei­ther will it export one of its most cov­et­ed nat­u­ral resources, lithi­um, with­out first pro­cess­ing it. In a MAS cam­paign ad for the Citadel of Knowl­edge, the speak­er declar­es: “The Mil­lenary Peo­ple with Advanced Tech­nolo­gies is an Invin­ci­ble Peo­ple.”21 Mil­lenary: infused with the pow­er of the ances­tral indige­nous, pre-colo­nial con­nec­tion to the land. Invin­ci­ble: endur­ing in the face of the forces of ever-expand­ing cap­i­tal. The image of bro­ken chains fig­ures promi­nent­ly at the top of the screen and “links past and present through the trope of knowl­edge as a tool for lib­er­a­tion,” as Rober­to Pare­ja notes.22

Anoth­er ele­ment of this con­cern with tech­nol­o­gy is the Boli­vian telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite, Tupaj Katari, named after the 18th-cen­tu­ry indige­nous rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and launched in Decem­ber of 2013 as a result of coop­er­a­tion between Bolivia and People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na. The image of this device in cam­paign adver­tise­ments, real and oper­a­tional, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reminds the audi­ence of two things. First, it makes his­tor­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant the anti-colo­nial strug­gle, rep­re­sent­ed by Tupaj Katari, that still con­tin­ues today. Sec­ond­ly, it shows that the gov­ern­ment ful­fills its promis­es – one of which was fur­ther­ing Bolivia’s self-reliance in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions through launch­ing of its own satel­lite. Thus, this grand project of the Citadel of Knowl­edge acquires the dimen­sion of real pos­si­bil­i­ty and not just of a utopi­an ven­ture, as it could seem at first glance. With a rhetoric evoca­tive of Indi­an­ista dis­course, and with a spot­light on knowl­edge and tech­nol­o­gy, the iconog­ra­phy and the mes­sage of the cam­paign con­nects this dis­course back to Reinaga’s rad­i­cal demands. The announce­ments, with their ref­er­ence to the “mil­lenary” and “invin­ci­ble” peo­ple, clear­ly quote Reinaga’s dia­tribes and oblique­ly give vis­i­bil­i­ty to the indige­nous Boli­vians – how­ev­er this sec­tor of the pop­u­la­tion might be con­crete­ly defined – in the government’s project.

Of course, the opti­mistic tone of the ads that cel­e­brate the­se accom­plish­ments is char­ac­ter­is­tic of the gen­re, so to speak, and is not to be con­fused with Gar­cía Linera’s the­o­ret­i­cal reflec­tions on the mean­ing of tech­nol­o­gy for Bolivia’s “process of change” and its pos­si­bil­i­ties of mov­ing beyond cap­i­tal­ism. As he dis­cuss­es in his book Geopolíti­ca de la Ama­zonía (2012), the role of tech­nolo­gies is ambigu­ous in today’s Bolivia. He explains that a bal­ance must be nego­ti­at­ed between the use of extrac­tive tech­nolo­gies for gen­er­at­ing nec­es­sary rev­enues, and the move­ment away from such tech­nolo­gies in order to curb Bolivia’s depen­den­cy on transna­tion­al cap­i­tal. Lin­era explic­it­ly rec­og­nizes the fact that Bolivia must sur­vive in a cap­i­tal­ist world as an, albeit mar­gin­al, “Andean-Ama­zo­ni­an” cap­i­tal­ist coun­try, and he reminds read­ers that Marx was ridi­cul­ing the utopi­an thinkers who thought that there exist­ed “islands” immune to the world­wide dom­i­na­tion of cap­i­tal. One can­not hope to escape the cap­i­tal­ist nature of the exist­ing pro­duc­tive forces so eas­i­ly. This argu­ment, which has been at the heart of some polit­i­cal con­tro­ver­sy in Bolivia today, is bet­ter under­stood if we take into account Linera’s com­ment vis-à-vis the use of tech­nol­o­gy in Geopolíti­ca de la Ama­zonía:

It is naive to believe that extrac­tivism, non-extrac­tivism, or indus­tri­al­ism are a vac­cine again­st injus­tice, exploita­tion, and inequal­i­ty, because in them­selves they are nei­ther mod­es of pro­duc­ing, nor mod­es of man­ag­ing wealth. They are tech­ni­cal sys­tems of pro­cess­ing nature by means of labor, and can be present in pre-cap­i­tal­ist, cap­i­tal­ist, or com­mu­ni­tar­i­an soci­eties. Only depend­ing on how the­se tech­ni­cal sys­tems are used, and how the gen­er­at­ed wealth is man­aged, can eco­nom­ic regimes exist with either less or more jus­tice, with exploita­tion or with­out exploita­tion of labor.23

The big ques­tion Lin­era is tack­ling here, writ­ing from the seat of pow­er, is: how do we fur­ther the project of decol­o­niza­tion bound up with “move­ment towards social­ism” and away from cap­i­tal­ism? And how do we do that while also pro­vid­ing for the press­ing every­day needs of the pop­u­la­tion? How do we use tech­nolo­gies – which, due to the his­to­ry of their devel­op­ment with­in cap­i­tal­ism, have ingrained in them the log­ic of accu­mu­la­tion of val­ue – in order to move beyond this log­ic?

In the con­clu­sion of the Geopolíti­ca de la Ama­zonía, and in an attempt to answer this ques­tion, Lin­era dis­cuss­es Pres­i­dent Evo’s goal for 2025: that no resource would be export­ed from Bolivia with­out hav­ing been indus­tri­al­ly processed, with­out added val­ue. “This will require a pro­found sci­en­tific-tech­no­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try and a nev­er before seen invest­ment in knowl­edge. And of course we will do it,” says Lin­era.24 The tri­umphal tone of this con­clu­sion may be damp­ened by the fact that this book was writ­ten main­ly as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the con­fronta­tion of the MAS gov­ern­ment forces and the indige­nous sec­tors that were not “walk­ing togeth­er” with the gov­ern­ment any longer and were opposed to a large devel­op­ment project of build­ing a high­way through indige­nous ter­ri­to­ries and a Nation­al Park. How­ev­er, it neat­ly illu­mi­nates Gar­cía Linera’s key ide­o­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tion to the Boli­vian process of the past decade, as it pairs the Marx­ist analy­sis of the mod­es of pro­duc­tion with an implic­it respon­se to a demand artic­u­lat­ed by the Indi­an­istas like Faus­to Reina­ga and Felipe Quis­pe. In line with the government’s rhetoric and pol­i­tics of decol­o­niza­tion, Gar­cía Lin­era brings to the fore­front the neces­si­ty of repairs for the epis­temic and tech­no­logi­co-mate­ri­al dev­as­ta­tion that the indige­nous nations suf­fered at the time of the Con­quest and dur­ing the fol­low­ing cen­turies of exploita­tion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion; and, here, he does so pre­cise­ly at a moment when the “Indi­an­ista” ori­en­ta­tion of the gov­ern­ment is being acute­ly ques­tioned.


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


  1. Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “El des­en­cuen­tro de dos razones rev­olu­cionar­i­as: Indi­an­is­mo y Marx­is­mo”, in Cuader­nos del Pen­samien­to Críti­co Lati­noamer­i­cano, no. 3, (Buenos Aires : CLACSO, Decem­ber, 2007). 

  2. Faus­to Reina­ga, Man­i­fiesto del par­tido indio de Bolivia, (La Paz: WA-GUI, 2007 [1970]), 84. 

  3. The term chola­je, like mes­ti­za­je, was a caste des­ig­na­tion dur­ing the colo­nial peri­od through­out Span­ish Amer­i­ca, refer­ring to a mix indige­nous, Iberi­an, and some­times African racial her­itage. Today, its speci­fic valence varies by region, but still gen­er­al­ly refers to the fact of racial mix­ture. It is there­fore left untrans­lat­ed. – Ed. 

  4. Reina­ga, Man­i­fiesto, 84. 

  5. Peter Bak­er, in his doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion at Tex­as A&M Uni­ver­si­ty (work in pro­gress), views the inter­pre­ta­tion of Faus­to Reinaga’s project as a rewrit­ing of Boli­vian his­to­ry and uncov­er­ing of the “hid­den” his­to­ry of the strug­gle between the con­tend­ing “races” or “Nations,”viewed as one of the main axes of this writer’s agen­da.  

  6. José Anto­nio Lucero, “Fanon in the Andes: Faus­to Reina­ga, Indi­an­is­mo and the Black Atlantic.” Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Crit­i­cal Indige­nous Stud­ies 1, no. 1, 2008. 

  7. “La Refor­ma Agraria de Bolivia es un fraude…No lib­era al indio. Lo esclav­iza; lo destruye. La Refor­ma Agraria ha con­ver­tido el lat­i­fun­dio en mini­fun­dio; la “sayaña ser­val del pon­go” en propiedad pri­vada; al indio – ances­tral­mente social­is­ta – le ha hecho indi­vid­u­al­is­ta. Ha lle­vado a la sociedad del indio, que es una comu­nidad mile­nar­ia, la lucha de clases; lucha de ricos y pobres. Para el indio social­is­ta la ‘lucha de clases,’ no solo es una regre­sión a la bar­barie, sino es su destruc­ción. El impe­ri­al­is­mo y el chola­je blan­co-mes­ti­zo con la Refor­ma agraria se han prop­uesto destru­ir a la raza india!” Reina­ga, Man­i­fiesto, 59-60. 

  8. “El impe­ri­al­is­mo yan­qui y la podredum­bre del chola­je comu­nista o anti-comu­nista.” Faus­to Reina­ga, Man­i­fiesto, 66. 

  9. Faus­to Reina­ga, La Rev­olu­ción India, (La Paz: Fun­dación Amáu­ti­ca Faus­to Reina­ga, 2001 [1970]). 

  10. “La super­estruc­tura, el sis­tema ide­ológi­co del Occi­den­te es una maquinar­ia fér­rea que implaca­ble se apodera del cere­bro del indio, como la araña de la mosca.” Man­i­fiesto, 64. 

  11. Reina­ga there­fore enun­ci­ates, avant la let­tre, the prob­lem for­mu­lat­ed by Gay­a­tri Spi­vak in her sem­i­nal essay “Can the Sub­al­tern Speak?” reply­ing neg­a­tive­ly to the ques­tion, and explain­ing why such an accul­tur­at­ed Indi­an will not prop­er­ly fur­ther the Indi­an cause. Reina­ga is often con­tra­dic­to­ry, how­ev­er; else­where, he writes “An Indi­an is always an Indi­an” (“indio, indio siem­pre”). But it is impor­tant that he puts forth the argu­ment that inte­gra­tive cul­tur­a­tion is harm­ful to the Indi­an cause, since this is where he dis­cuss­es the func­tion of ide­ol­o­gy using the con­cept of super­struc­ture. 

  12. “…las ‘fieras blan­cas’ del Occi­den­te, han sub­yu­gado nues­tra vol­un­tad y han mane­jado nue­stros bra­zos. Han implan­ta­do la propiedad pri­vada y han llenado nues­tra cabeza con la his­to­ria de nue­stros con­quis­ta­dores. De Fran­cis­co Pizarro a Paz Estenssoro, españoles y mes­ti­zos-blan­cos han sido para nosotros – los indios – una furia destruc­tora. Ellos destrozaron nue­stro sis­tema social comu­nista, edi­fi­cado en diez mil años, cien siglos. Ellos degol­laron a nue­stro Inka Atahuall­pa; vio­laron a nues­tras vír­ge­nes; redu­jeron a ceniza nues­tras leyes; asesinaron a nue­stros dios­es; nos impusieron san­gre y fue­go a Cristo, el Dios de los con­quis­ta­dores; saque­aron nues­tras mon­tañas de plata y oro; nos despo­jaron nues­tra tier­ra, y nos obligaron a látigo y bala a cul­ti­var para ellos…” Reina­ga, Man­i­fiesto, 61. 

  13. “El aporte fun­da­men­tal de este período es la rein­ven­ción de la indi­an­i­tud (sic), pero ya no como estig­ma sino como suje­to de eman­ci­pación, como designio históri­co, como proyec­to políti­co.” Gar­cía Lin­era, “El des­en­cuen­tro,” 5.  

  14. Lin­era explains this dis­tance through a the medi­at­ing fig­ure Felipe Quis­pe Huan­ca, alias “El Mal­lku”, the present lead­er of the MIP par­ty (Movimien­to Indi­ge­na Pachaku­ti), who lost the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to Morales in 2006. For Lin­era, Quis­pe is the faith­ful heir to Reinaga’s Indi­an­is­mo, and Linera’s move­ment away from the rad­i­cal Indi­an­ista pro­pos­als can be traced in his pro­gres­sive dis­tanc­ing from Quis­pe in both dis­course and in polit­i­cal life. Both had been lead­ers of the EGTK, and both pub­lished with the Ofen­si­va Roja press, print­ing house of the Tupa­jkataris­ta Move­ment. Yet, after their impris­on­ment, Linera’s “The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo and Our Present: Four The­ses on its His­tor­i­cal Actu­al­i­ty?” was to mark the begin­ning of a new polit­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal cycle with Grupo Comu­na

  15. “Plan­e­tary”: Lin­era is pos­si­bly using the the­o­ret­i­cal vocab­u­lary that remits to the work of Kostas Axelos. Lin­era describes the process of glob­al­iza­tion in terms of con­crete and abstract man­i­fes­ta­tions, where the con­crete refers to the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of labor for cap­i­tal, and the abstract dimen­sion refers to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of labor to resist cap­i­tal – a poten­tial which uni­ver­sal­izes as the dialec­ti­cal coun­ter­part of the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of labor. 

  16. “El cap­i­tal­is­mo no desar­rol­la indis­crim­i­nada­mente las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas, sino que las muti­la, las reprime a fin de que éstas solo sigan la ruta que poten­cia la val­orización del valor…de allí, ese desar­rol­lo uni­lat­er­al de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas téc­ni­cas, en detri­men­to de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas sim­bóli­cas, aso­cia­ti­vas, o la recur­rente con­ver­sión de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas en fuerzas destruc­ti­vas o noci­vas (como armas des­ti­nadas para la guerra)…No hay pues fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas ingen­u­as o neu­tras, [sino hay] un con­jun­to de dis­pos­i­tivos que con­striñen habil­i­dades, pre­scriben com­por­tamien­tos, pri­or­izan tales o cuales saberes…”Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “Es el Man­i­fiesto Comu­nista un arcaís­mo políti­co, un recuer­do lit­er­ar­io? Cua­tro tesis sobre su actu­al­i­dad históri­ca,” in La poten­cia ple­beya. Acción colec­ti­va y las iden­ti­dades indí­ge­nas, obr­eras y pop­u­lares en Bolivia, (Bogotá: Siglo del Hom­bre Edi­tores, 2009), 92. All quotes from Gar­cía Lin­era are my trans­la­tions, since this paper was writ­ten before the recent pub­li­ca­tion of Linera’s anthol­o­gy Plebian Pow­er, Col­lec­tive Action and Indige­nous, Work­ing-Class and Pop­u­lar Iden­ti­ties in Bolivia, (Chicago: Hay­mar­ket Press, 2014). Empha­sis added.  

  17. As Quis­pe argues, many indige­nous tech­niques and knowl­edges were lost as a result of the Spaniards’ cru­el man­age­ment of the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion: “The arrival of the Spaniards destroyed our cos­mic Aymara reli­gion, our gods; they have invad­ed our sacred places…they also had to tram­ple our cul­ture, our art of war, etc…” [“La lle­gada de los españoles destruyó la religión Aymara cós­mi­ca, nue­stros dios­es, han inva­di­do los lugares sagrados…También han tenido que pisotear nues­tra cul­tura, arte mil­i­tar, etc.”] Felipe Quis­pe Huan­ca, Tupaj Katari Vive y Vuelve…Carajo! (La Paz: Ofen­si­va Roja, 1990): 6. 

  18. For more on epis­temic col­o­niza­tion from Boli­vian the­o­rists, cf. Sil­via Rivera Cusi­can­qui (from the point of view of anthro­pol­o­gy and oral his­to­ry); Juli­eta Pare­des and Maria Galin­do (with focus on fem­i­nism); Xavier Albó (anthro­pol­o­gy, soci­ol­o­gy, lib­er­a­tion the­ol­o­gy); and the ex-mem­bers of the Grupo Comu­na: Luis Tapia, Raul Prada Alcoreza, Oscar Vega (each one is a strik­ing­ly orig­i­nal the­o­rist, and they use a het­ero­ge­neous and rich the­o­ret­i­cal tool­box, Marx­ism, decon­struc­tion­ism, Fou­cault, Bour­dieu). 

  19. Boli­vian soci­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans (Sil­via Rivera and Gar­cía Lin­era, among oth­ers) use Fer­nand Braudel’s ter­mi­nol­o­gy of “his­to­ry of long dura­tion” to speak about the colo­nial lega­cy that can­not be eas­i­ly over­looked when ana­lyz­ing even recent events in Bolivia.  

  20. Mike Ged­des explains the suc­cess of the pre­vi­ous Evo-Álvaro cam­paigns in Gram­si­can terms, “The MAS hege­mon­ic project, as pre­sent­ed by Gar­cía Lin­era, thus fore­grounds decol­o­niza­tion as an umbrel­la beneath which sev­er­al ele­ments can be brought togeth­er – deep­en­ing democ­ra­cy, redis­trib­ut­ing wealth, sup­port­ing alter­na­tives to cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions, eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­i­ty – in a way which can appeal to a broad hege­mon­ic bloc.” Mike Ged­des, “The old is dying but the new is strug­gling to be born: hege­mon­ic con­tes­ta­tion in Bolivia,” Crit­i­cal Pol­i­cy Stud­ies 8, no.2 (2014): 6. 

  21. Cam­paign ad that presents Ciu­dade­la del Conocimien­to y Tec­nología: “El pueblo mile­nar­io con la tec­nología de avan­zada,” accessed Octo­ber 21, 2014. 

  22. Rober­to Pare­ja, “The citadel of knowl­edge: tech­nol­o­gy, space, pow­er,” Espa­cios de circulación/ Spaces of Cir­cu­la­tion, post­ed Octo­ber 31, 2014. 

  23. “Es ingen­uo creer que el extrac­tivis­mo, el no-extrac­tivis­mo o el indus­tri­al­is­mo son una vac­u­na con­tra la injus­ti­cia, la explotación y la desigual­dad, porque en si mis­mos no son ni mod­os de pro­ducir ni mod­os de ges­tionar la riqueza. Son sis­temas téc­ni­cos de proce­samien­to de la nat­u­raleza medi­ante el tra­ba­jo, y pueden estar pre­sen­tes en sociedades pre-cap­i­tal­is­tas, cap­i­tal­is­tas o sociedades comu­ni­tari­as. Úni­ca­mente depen­di­en­do de cómo se usen esos sis­temas téc­ni­cos, de cómo se ges­tione la riqueza así pro­duci­da, se podrán ten­er regíme­nes económi­cas con may­or o menor jus­ti­cia, con explotación o sin explotación del tra­ba­jo.” Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, Geopolíti­ca de la Ama­zonía, (La Paz: Vicepres­i­den­cia del Esta­do Pluri­na­cional, 2012), 107. 

  24. “Ello requerirá de una pro­fun­da trans­for­ma­ción cien­tí­fi­co-tec­nológ­i­ca del país y de una inver­sión nun­ca antes vis­ta en conocimien­to. Y por supuesto que lo hare­mos.” Gar­cía Lin­era, Geopolíti­ca de la Ama­zonía, 112. 

Author of the article

teaches at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, at Middlebury College. Her book Rethinking Community from Peru: the Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas came out in 2014 from Pittsburgh University Press.