An explosion of revolutionary insurrections, uprisings and rebellions shakes the world. Millions of workers and peasants, impoverished sections of the middle classes and, standing out in their own right, the youth, have made it clear that revolution is not a thing of the past. The examples of Honduras, Haiti, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Hong Kong ... show an underlying trend and are the mirror in which the rest of the countries see themselves.
These movements are the fruit of a profound social and political crisis. Wild counter-reforms, privatizations, cuts, austerity, unprecedented inequality in the last sixty years and authoritarian attacks on the most basic democratic rights have had profound effects. The current struggles show a qualitative change, they are not mere protests. The conscience of millions of oppressed has undergone a breakthrough and there is a huge questioning of the capitalist order. In addition to putting numerous bourgeois governments against the ropes, even causing their resignation, they show the revolutionary potential that really exists for the socialist transformation of the world.
In all the countries mentioned there have been major general strikes that have paralysed economic and social life. All of them, without exception, have been imposed by the pressure of the movement from below, going over the bureaucratic leaderships of the unions that have been forced to call them. The protests have been so massive that the bourgeois media have not been able to hide their historical character.
Classist methods have predominated: strikes, occupations, roadblocks, mass mobilizations, assemblies and committees. In Lebanon or Iraq, unity in class lines has prevailed over sectarian tendencies, cornering fundamentalist organizations. In all of them, the insurgent masses have had to face the brutal repression of the state apparatus with inspiring courage.
Seeing Bolivian workers and peasants in El Alto, La Paz or Cochabamba resisting the onslaught of the coup plotters, Chilean youth responding with heroic determination in the streets of Santiago to the murderous government of Piñera, or the inhabitants of Baghdad taking to the streets again and again even though more than 500 people are counted dead by the repression..., we still have to listen to not few salon revolutionaries speculating about the lack of "socialist consciousness" of the masses.
As in the previous revolutions, the bourgeoisie has perfectly understood the nature of events and is acting accordingly. The task of the Marxists is not to lecture the masses, but to intervene vigorously with a programme, a tactic and a strategy that serves to advance towards victory.
The process of the development of consciousness and leadership
The parties of the reformist left, as well as others who call themselves "revolutionaries", do not cease to emphasize that the central problem of the present epoch is the low level of consciousness of the working class and the youth and their "loss of traditions".
Of course, the collapse of the Stalinist regimes had negative effects in all areas. In addition to encouraging a furious ideological counterrevolution and deepening the shift to the right of the traditional organizations of the labour movement, it allowed the imposition of the neoliberal agenda. The incorporation of millions of workers from these countries into the international division of labour and the opening of these markets to capitalist investment favoured a notable expansion of trade and "globalization”. The combination of these factors is behind the economic boom that lasted almost two decades.
However, the class struggle did not stop in 1989. Before the outbreak of the Great Recession of 2008 great events marked qualitative changes in the objective situation. The imperialist invasion of Iraq was one of them. Responded by a formidable mass movement in the West, the capitalist propaganda of "democracy, peace and prosperity" was questioned in an atmosphere of fury against the militaristic adventures of the great powers.
Also, the revolutionary crisis that shook Latin America, with its most advanced exponent in the Bolivarian revolution, the Argentinazo of 2001, the rise of the great mass struggles in Bolivia (2003-2005), in Ecuador (2004-2007), or the movement against electoral fraud in Mexico and the insurrection of Oaxaca in 2006, left bare the favourable correlation of forces to break with the capitalist order throughout the continent.
Subsequently, the Arab Spring offered a vibrant example of the strength of the masses. Bloody dictatorships were overthrown in Egypt and Tunisia, and the revolution spread to Syria, Libya, Yemen and even Morocco. Workers' strikes and mass demonstrations taking to the streets and squares were combined with action committees. Its international impact was tremendous and inspired mobilizations like those of the 15M in the Spanish state and many others. The Arab revolution sowed panic among the corrupt oligarchies of these nations and the U.S. and European imperialism.
The conditions for these outbreaks were incubated with the collapse of the living conditions of the population, structural unemployment — especially among the youth — and fierce repression. To despise the historical significance of those events is a crime. Marxists are absolutely oblivious to the aristocratic disdain of the experience of the masses.
All these processes put on the table the question of power and that is why the question we must ask ourselves is very concrete: what was the determining factor of its failure and of the temporary triumph of the counterrevolution? Was it the "absence of socialist consciousness" or the "maturity" of the masses, or was it the betrayals of the Stalinist, reformist and nationalist leaderships, and the lack of a revolutionary party capable of offering a strategy for the seizure of power?
Again, we need to remember the fundamental aspects of Marxist theory. To think that the working class and the oppressed enter into a revolutionary crisis with a finished scheme of struggle or with a clear consciousness of their political objectives is to deny the dialectic of history. Trotsky explains it in the prologue of his History of the Russian Revolution:
"The most indisputable characteristic feature of revolutions is the direct intervention of the masses in historical events. In normal times, the state, whether monarchic or democratic, is above the nation; history is the responsibility of the specialists in this profession: monarchs, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at decisive moments, when the established order becomes unbearable for the masses, they break down the barriers that separate them from the political arena, tear down their traditional representatives and, with their intervention, create a starting point for the new regime (...) The history of revolutions is for us, above all, the history of the violent irruption of the masses in the government of their own destinies (...) The masses do not go to revolution with a preconceived plan of the new society, but with a clear feeling of the impossibility of continuing to support the old one...”.
Consciousness never automatically expresses the maturity of objective conditions; in general, it is a melting pot that reflects conservatism and tradition incubated over generations. Only in moments of great upheaval does it undergo abrupt changes and catches up with historical development.
In every class society, the ideas of the ruling class, crammed with "common sense" to justify the established order, decisively influence the world outlook of the oppressed. The bourgeoisie exercises its power through its position in the social relations of capitalist production, which assures it of its ideological and cultural preponderance. And the petty bourgeoisie plays an essential role in transmitting these values.
In the Revolution the masses suffer the pressure of the past and, contrary to what sectarians and doctrinarians think, their consciousness cannot be brought up to the level of events except through painful experiences. Not all layers draw the same conclusions at the same pace. Political consciousness never matures so linearly and uniformly. In revolutionary events, the advance in consciousness develops in leaps.
The great difference between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the processes that we have pointed out does not lie in the quality of the "consciousness" of the masses that shaped them. The difference lies in the role of the Bolsheviks in Russia — which made it possible to fight the tendencies towards conciliationism introduced by the reformist leaders and successfully crown the overthrow of the bourgeois state — and the complete absence of a similar revolutionary leadership in Tunisia, Egypt, Venezuela or Bolivia.
The oppressed, particularly the working class, can only rely on its own forces to put an end to the old regime. But to gain that confidence they need to have a clear perspective, which only a firm and bold leadership can provide. The role of a revolutionary party becomes the most decisive objective factor of all.
Not asking for miraculous attributes from a previous "socialist consciousness" of the masses is key to orienting oneself correctly in current events.
The Great Recession of 2008 represented a turning point in history. The measures adopted by the governments and central banks of the great powers, the financial bailout, the exponential increase in public debt and an aggressive agenda of cuts have failed to create the conditions for solid and lasting growth; the contradictions of the world economy have become more unbearable, preparing a relapse with unpredictable consequences.
This is the material basis that explains the current developments. We are not facing a passing political crisis: what is in question are the forms of bourgeois domination of the last decades and, more specifically, those that were consolidated after the collapse of Stalinism. The arrogance of the ruling class after the fall of the wall has become a grimace, and euphoria has become uncertainty.
The attempts to neutralize the revolutionary uprisings of the past few months have followed a common pattern. First, the bourgeoisie and its governments have resorted to the most brutal repression. In Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile we have seen the use of the military and police State machine with savage violence that has left hundreds dead and thousands wounded and detained.
When repressive measures fail or act as a whip, increasing the determination of the masses, the ruling class puts into play all the resources and experience that the monopoly of political power gives it. Then the leaders of the reformist organizations of the left come into action, which, despite suffering a very marked erosion and having been overwhelmed by the direct action of the masses, continue to maintain a significant influence. As materialist dialectics teaches, nature abhors emptiness.
Sabotage from within the movement, inoculating illusions in "political reforms", has the same purpose as repression: to crush the revolution. Of course, these reformist leaderships mask the old forms of exploitation and oppression with a touch of "democracy". Cosmetic changes that do not alter property and power relations.
This aspect highlights the current weakness of the authentic forces of revolutionary Marxism and the need of not tailing behind reformism and fall into opportunism if we are to break with this situation.
That is why it is so important to understand the thread of continuity between the Arab Spring and the revolutionary rise in Latin America in the first half of the 2000s, with the events now shaking Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon or Iraq. The previous experience has not been in vain.
The overall picture confirms the impossibility for these nations to put an end to their economic backwardness and imperialist dependence without the revolutionary overthrow of their governments and the capitalist regime. The demands of the insurgent population in all these countries are similar and require a similar solution.
To break with imperialist oppression and with the "packages" imposed by the IMF and the neoliberal counter-reforms; with mass unemployment, poverty and privatizations; to drastically improve working conditions and wages, and to establish a system of decent public pensions, health and education; to achieve agrarian reform and the end of landlordism, to solve the national question on the basis of the right to self-determination or to conquer the rights of women in the face of the sexist violence of the system.... will only be possible if the working class, at the head of all the oppressed, seizes power and expropriates the national bourgeoisie and foreign monopoly capital.
But is that socialism? Indeed, only socialism will open the way to a genuine democracy based on social justice and collective ownership of the means of production.
The Chilean experience
Marx used to say an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. All questions of programme, tactics and revolutionary strategy are concentrated in the Chilean events, to which meticulous attention must be devoted.
Piñera's murderous government is on the ropes. Neither the repression and fraudulent promises, nor the shameful pacts of the Socialist Party (PS) with the right have managed to stop the movement. Neither has the conciliatory policy of the leaders of the Social Unity Table (MUS), led by the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh) and the CUT, who have been forced to respond with six general strikes to the pressure from below. We are witnessing an unprecedented uprising in the last thirty years.
What began in mid-October as a protest against the rise in public transport fares has become a movement of a formidable scale: general strikes and massive marches that do not cease. Millions in the streets, action committees, councils and popular assemblies show the objective conditions for socialist transformation and put on the table who really holds the power.
The correlation of forces is clearly favourable to the workers and the oppressed. In this whole equation the missing factor — that which explains why Piñera is still at the head of the government — is a revolutionary organization with mass influence. This fact is what allows the reformist leaderships to manoeuvre, offering constant tanks of oxygen to a dying regime. They act as the "democratic" doctors of Chilean capitalism, while the population continues to fight in the streets.
From the outset, Piñera's government has responded with terror: more than 30 dead and more than 2,000 wounded, half of them by bullets, at the hands of the military and police forces. Nearly 200 people have lost an eye to the shots fired by the repressive forces, while human rights organizations denounce torture and widespread rape in police stations. The Ministry of Justice itself recognizes the detention of more than 20,000 people until December 1.
Dozens of videos that recall the bloody repression during Pinochet's dictatorship are circulating on social networks, with soldiers shooting and beating anyone they find, taking advantage of the impunity granted to them by Piñera when he declared the state of emergency.
However, the repression has been unable to stop the mobilization. The resounding action of millions in the streets defeated the curfew. Piñera certified this reality by pathetically announcing the official lifting of the state of emergency. A valuable lesson about the limits of the bourgeois state, no matter how much weaponry it has, when the masses lose their fear.
Reform something so that everything stays the same
The current uprising cannot be understood without analyzing what has happened in the last three decades. Following the model of the Spanish Transition, the crimes of Pinochet's dictatorship went unpunished. The state apparatus was not purged of fascists, and the leadership of the Socialist and Communist Parties shamefully conceded by agreeing with their heirs a "transition" that would safeguard the capitalist system and its privileges.
The entire institutional framework built after the fall of Pinochet secured the foundations of a predatory capitalism, the suppression of public services or their massive privatization.
The "socialists" Ricardo Lagos and Michelle Bachelet applied the same neoliberal policies, opening the doors to the new right-wing government presided over by one of Chile's main fortunes. A situation that has provoked a generalized impoverishment and a disaffection towards the whole political regime.
Now, the movement has overflowed all the containment dykes. Since the repression has not achieved its objectives, even though it has been truly shocking, Piñera's government resorts to manoeuvres. The same person who declared that "the country was at war", had to ask for forgiveness, withdraw the rise of the transport fare and propose a "Social Plan" of improvements in pensions, the minimum wage, the price of medicines or electricity tariffs…
But these "concessions" did not deceive anyone: new general strikes and mass demonstrations took place in Santiago's Plaza Dignidad (as it has been renamed by the movement) and in the rest of the Chilean cities. At this point, the ruling class took a new step and offered a pact for a "new Constitution".
Piñera, the right-wing organizations and the Socialist Party signed an agreement on November 15 to "reform the constitution" and organize a "plebiscite" in April 2020. This manoeuvre to respond to the demand for a "Constituent Assembly" that has become exceptionally popular in the movement is, however, a complete fraud.
As agreed, the April consultation would have two questions. In the first, it would be necessary to answer whether or not a new Constitution is wanted; and in the second, it would be a question of "expressing an opinion" on the type of organ that should draft it with two possibilities: a "constitutional mixed convention", made up of fifty per cent of parliamentarians and citizens elected for the occasion; or a "constitutional convention" with all its members elected. The constituent body to be elected must approve the rules and regulations for voting by a quorum of two-thirds of its members. The election of the members of the two possible conventions would take place in October 2020, together with the regional and municipal elections, and once the new Constitution was drafted it would be submitted to a referendum. The agreement was baptized, of course, with the name of pact "For social peace".
The Communist Party and the leaders of the MUS refused to sign the agreement, which bleaches the government and saves it from any responsibility for its crimes. However, instead of demanding the immediate resignation of Piñera and proposing an indefinite general strike until the regime is overthrown; instead of raising a revolutionary alternative to establish a workers' government that effectively responds to the demands of the people... they are manoeuvring to see how they adapt to the pact and "improve" it by respecting the rules of the game that Piñera and his allies have set.
In a statement from the Central Committee of the PCCh on November 20, we can read:
"(...) We salute and support the people's expressions of struggle and highly value the main articulation and coordination of trade union and social movements and organizations gathered and mobilized around the Social Unity Table.
We consider that it has been a deep mistake of the government not to respond to its proposals on economic and social reforms nor to consider its opinions on constitutional change. In this lack of consideration is also the parliament as an institution.
(...) In this regard, the Communist Party demands for it be clarified whether the haste and the restriction of social and political participation with which they reached an agreement were mediated or not by an alleged military threat. In other words, whether the disjunction to peace was a military intervention or a new state of exception established by the government, including the State of Siege. If so, it would be a serious coercion to the right of opinion, to participation and an affront to democracy.
Having clarified this, which seems essential to us, for the transparency of the constituent process underway, the Communist Party will make every effort to make it truly representative of the sovereignty and diversity of the Chilean people, advancing beyond what is contemplated in the "Agreement" of the parties that signed it. For this reason, the following is proposed:
1.- In the first place, the compulsory vote must be established for the entry plebiscite, for the election of the Constitutional Convention and for the exit plebiscite.
2.- In the absence of the possibility that the exit plebiscite, as has happened in other countries, allows the people to settle the different positions that do not reach approval in the Convention; the quorum of 2/3 to approve the norms is very high. Consequently, a 3/5 quorum should be established, with a blank sheet of paper.
3.- The Convention must be equal in its constitution, half men, half women.
4.- There must be quotas reserved for indigenous peoples, with a special electoral roll for this purpose.
5.- The right to vote of Chileans abroad must be guaranteed.
6.- It must be guaranteed that social and union leaders can be candidates to constituent members.
7.- Public funding for candidacies, including independents, social leaders and party members.
8.- To open the possibility, by means of a special law, for everyone over the age of 14 to vote.
9.- Fundamental rights should be enshrined in the new constitution and not derivatives. If there are dissents, they must be resolved by the exit referendum.
10.- We must take into account the progress made or open new spaces for citizen participation in town councils, a synthesis of whose conclusions must be publicly known.
11.- The Communist Party declares that the constituent process and the deliberations of the Convention must be free from coercion by any state power. And that repression and widespread violation of human rights in the face of popular demonstrations should be avoided.
12.- In the "Agreement" of parties, which we did not sign, the Constituent Assembly has been discarded, which has been a great demand of the citizens and which represents the feelings of the majority. The demand is that, at least, the Convention be given each and every one of the attributions of a Constituent Assembly, as the origin of a New Constitution.
Under these premises and demands, the Communist Party will make every effort to achieve the broadest convergence of wills and will continue to contribute to the struggle and demonstrations of the citizenry and the people. (emphasis added).
The leadership of the Communist Party, in fact, shows its complete willingness to participate in the manoeuvre of Piñera's government.
Will the Constituent Assembly answer the demands of the working class and the oppressed?
The central question that needs to be answered is concrete. Will both the so-called "constituent assembly" and the "convention" be able to answer the questions that the popular uprising has placed at the centre of the political dispute? Will a parliamentary assembly with the same political leaders solve the problem of poverty wages, the privatization of pensions, the lack of public education and health, the shortage of decent and affordable housing, the historical rights of the Mapuche people or the trial and punishment of those responsible for the repression?
The leadership of the movement has made, from the beginning, the slogan of the Constituent Assembly the central point. It is not something new in history. In the 1970s, the Stalinist and Social Democratic leaders also raised this same slogan during the revolutionary struggle against the Franco dictatorship, or in Portugal after the situation opened in April 1974. This has also been the approach in the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, in the Arab Spring and on many other critical occasions.
Obviously, for the people who are risking their lives on the streets of Chile, this slogan has a very concrete content: to definitively break with the current state of things and radically transform their conditions of existence. However, the "Constituent Assembly" only offers a parliamentary framework for "debating" the issues in dispute.
A new capitalist parliament will in no way alter the nature of real power, which is concentrated in the hands of a parasitic oligarchy that no one has voted for or elected, and which exercises its dictatorship over society through the ownership of the means of production and control of the state apparatus. If this new parliament — whatever its name may be — and the new constitution respect the capitalist order and leave intact the economic power of the 10 families that control Chile, nothing substantial will change for the millions of workers and youth who fight heroically.
The history of the class struggle has long since resolved the debate over the "Constituent Assembly". In the Russian revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks did not mobilize the oppressed population with this slogan. Russia was a much poorer country with a much larger peasant population than Chile, Bolivia or Colombia today. It was a backward capitalist country in which semi-feudal social relations survived.
The Bolsheviks raised the slogan of peace, bread and land, and the need for the workers — leading the peasant masses — to seize power and establish a regime of socialist democracy. That was Lenin's position: to expropriate the capitalists and landowners and overthrow their state by replacing it with a workers state.
The different stages through which the Russian revolution passed through, with all the relevant historical differences, share very important features with those that all the subsequent revolutions have gone through, except that a leadership like the Bolshevik has never been present in them.
In Chile, what the leaders of the PCCh propose, and behind them, many organizations that declare themselves revolutionary and even "Trotskyists", is that a "Constituent Assembly", to which one can put all the adjectives one wants (free and sovereign, free and popular), can undertake fundamental reforms that, in reality, can only be tackled through revolutionary struggle and with the workers in power.
Truth is always concrete: can there be a "more advanced democracy" within the framework of today's capitalism? Will the bankers, the financial speculators, the big monopolies, give up an ounce of power because a Constitution, drafted mainly by their politicians, makes references to social justice or to the need to be more equitable in the distribution of wealth? Of course not! All history denies this utopianism.
If real power is not wrenched from the hands of the bourgeoisie, it is a complete fallacy to speak of progressive reforms that benefit the people.
Some may say that if the slogan "Constituent Assembly" is defended, it is because "conscience" is not enough for more. They will speak of ultra-leftism to reject the Marxist position, and that there is not enough maturity among the working class and the youth to accept our program. In short, this has always been the excuse: socialism yesterday, socialism tomorrow, but never today.
Reality refutes this argument. The masses in Chile are far more to the left than their leaders, and they have demonstrated this in each of the decisive moments of this revolutionary crisis. It is not true that workers and youth want to maintain the limits of capitalism. They know instinctively because their experience has shown it, that this is the underlying problem. But their leaders are doing everything they can to deflect the struggle in the direction of parliamentarism, resorting to all kinds of arguments and blackmail, including that of a possible military coup.
The threat of a coup d'état is presented by the leaders of the Socialist Party, but also by the PCCh and the CUT as the supreme argument for not going "any further" and making a pact with Piñera. An official declaration from the PS stated that the prolongation of the crisis "corrodes the foundations of democratic life and facilitates forceful exits towards authoritarian adventures and dangerous populisms (...) the democratic left must undertake a decisive ideological, cultural and political battle against this threat that could pave the way for a response of all whole other type: the establishment by arms of a dictatorial regime that 'pacifies' a devastated and defenceless Chile in the face of a war fed by both ends of the political spectrum.
This is the same reasoning used by the leaders of the Popular Unity in 1973. Renouncing to complete the Chilean revolution by expropriating the bourgeoisie, and relying on military allegedly loyal to the Constitution — such as General Pinochet — they tried to reach agreements with a so called "patriotic" bourgeoisie, politically strangling the workers vanguard, and refused to arm the people even though they knew perfectly well that the military coup was underway.
The result of this "strategy" was paid for with the blood not only of President Allende but also of the cream of the youth, the workers and the left-wing militancy.
Precisely in order to avoid any attempt at a military coup and to respond to the demands of the people, what is needed in Chile is a revolutionary policy that makes the working class aware of its immense power and mobilizes it in a unified manner to overthrow the government.
While the bourgeoisie talks about "reforming the Constitution", it acts by reinforcing its repressive apparatus to strike a blow to the movement when conditions are more favourable. Not in vain, on November 7 Piñera announced the implementation of a new "security agenda" that would strengthen the "effectiveness of the forces of order" against the "barricades and the hindrance of free circulation"; provide legal mechanisms to criminalize and prosecute "public disorders", create a special espionage and infiltration ("intelligence") corps for the prevention of "crimes", and guarantee the impunity of the repressive corps ("protection status for the forces of order and security"), etc.
The slogan of the Constituent Assembly only throws sand into the eyes of the oppressed to divert them from the central objective, and in the event that it succeeds, in focusing the expectations of change on this point, it would mean taking the protagonism away from the street (the only real engine of any real transformation) and returning it to properly disguised bourgeois institutions.
Chile is at a turning point. What is needed is to break with the conciliatory policy, which acts like a paralyzing narcotic, and build a workers' party with a revolutionary programme. The conditions to put an end to Piñera and his government, to break with the capitalist system and its legacy of inequality and repression, and to begin to really transform the lives of millions of young people and workers, are in place.
The task of the moment is to deepen and give revolutionary consistency to the powerful movement that was unleashed. Organize the indefinite general strike — with occupations of workplaces and study centres — and the self-defence of the workers and youth, making a strong appeal to the soldiers not to repress the people, create committees inside the barracks and paralyze the orders of the commanders, joining the popular mobilizations.
In this strategy, it is fundamental to extend the councils and popular assemblies and to promote action committees in all factories, workplaces, study centres, neighbourhoods... These organisms must be coordinated nationally, through eligible and revocable delegates, in a Revolutionary Assembly that elects a government of the workers to break with the capitalist regime.
The plan of struggle must be accompanied by a clear programme: Nationalization of the banks, the monopolies and the land, without compensation and under the democratic control of the workers and their organizations. Public, dignified, free and universal education and healthcare. Dignified wages and stable employment. The right to affordable public housing. Dignified pensions one hundred per cent public, and an end to the AFP. Immediate purging of fascists from the army, police and judiciary: trial and punishment of those responsible for the repression and crimes of the dictatorship. All rights to the Mapuche people. For the Socialist Federation of Latin America!
The Chilean working class and youth are reattaching the knot of history by revealing their revolutionary traditions. Their triumph will be the triumph of all the workers and oppressed of the world, opening the way for the victory of international socialism.
Revolution and counterrevolution in Latin America. The example of Bolivia
The lessons from the Chilean events can be applied equally to Ecuador, Bolivia or Colombia.
In Ecuador a workers' and peasants' insurrection overthrew the package of the reactionary government of Lenín Moreno. Facing violent repression, the general strike set the country on fire accompanied by the formation of embryos of workers' and peasants' power in different cities. However, the struggle temporarily ceased once the leaders of the struggle, especially the leaders of the CONAIE, were satisfied with the government's retreat and the withdrawal of Decree 883.
All this has not meant that Lenín Moreno resigns, nor that his crimes or those responsible for the repression are brought to justice. On the contrary, the concessions of the leaders of the movement when all the conditions were given to advance and inflict a resounding defeat on the regime, has allowed the bourgeoisie to recover its breath. We are witnessing an increase in authoritarian measures, with the arrest of numerous activists and the criminalization of the most combative social movements and organizations. Obviously, this has been only one chapter of a war that is still open and that will explode again in the short term.
In the case of Bolivia, the workers and peasants have given an extraordinary example of class instinct, revolutionary consciousness and willingness to fight against the coup d'état organized by the oligarchy and U.S. imperialism. The only thing that has prevented them from defeating the coup plotters has been the absence of a leadership that would rise to the occasion.
Evo Morales and the leaders of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) who have governed Bolivia for the last 14 years, not only gave up leading the resistance to the coup: they were the first to abandon the battlefield, fleeing the country or calling on the masses to retreat. Finally, these same "leaders" have concluded a shameful agreement with the putschist government of Jeanine Áñez, responsible for the murder of 33 people and more than 800 wounded since her fraudulent arrival in power.
On November 23, Áñez announced the deal with the bureaucracy of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) and 73 other leaders of different social organizations, most of them linked to the MAS. The agreement was ratified the following day in Congress and the Senate with the favourable vote of the Masista senators and deputies, with a clear majority in both chambers.
Signed while the workers and peasants still faced repression, this capitulation collects all the key points that interested the coup plotters: it annuls the October 20 presidential elections and prevents Morales and his vice-president, García Linera, from standing in the new elections and, most importantly, it commits all workers' and peasants' organizations led or influenced by the MAS to call for demobilization, accepting in practice the legitimacy of the counterrevolutionary government.
The bureaucracies of the COB and the MAS have achieved, with their surrender, what the oligarchy had not achieved with their repression: to stop the insurrection that was spreading throughout the country and to shore up the murderous government of Áñez. With this, they are paving the way for the plans of the oligarchy and U.S. imperialism, which have already set in motion all the machinery to guarantee their victory in the next elections.
After what happened, we still have to listen to the reformist and Stalinist leaders of the Latin American and international left praising Morales' "responsibility" as the only way to "prevent violence and bloodshed". And what has happened — and continues to happen — in Bolivia since the arrival in power of the putschist government imposed with the support of the USA, the backing of the EU and the complicit silence of international social democracy, except violence against the people?
"You couldn't do anything else", "there wasn't enough strength or conscience". But does this have anything to do with reality? No, and a thousand times no! The most serious thing about the shameful claudication of Morales and the leaders of the MAS and the COB is that it occurs precisely when the insurrection of the workers and peasants, despite the refusal of these same leaders to promote it, was spreading from El Alto and Cochabamba, the initial epicentres of the resistance, too many other areas of the country, penetrating into Santa Cruz de la Sierra itself (from where the coup plotters began their offensive) and creating divisions in the army.
A strategy that would have extended the committees, councils and assemblies throughout Bolivia, with the creation of popular militias against the fascist gangs and the police and army, would have allowed not only to defeat the coup but also to impose a revolutionary government of the workers and the people. The courage and daring of the peasants and workers have were not missing, but the policy of paralysis and the withdrawal of a completely degenerated leadership.
All the "arguments" of these demoralized leaders who are devoted to the defence of the privileges provided by their seats, public offices or union positions, are reduced to the profoundly reactionary idea that what provokes the repression of the ruling class is the action of the masses in the street. Therefore, in order to refrain or stop that repression, the solution is to abandon the struggle. If these ideas are accepted, the slaves should never embark on the road to liberation.
The working class and the Bolivian people have suffered a severe setback because of the policies of their leaders, but they have not been defeated. They preserve powerful revolutionary traditions that have not been lost and that will return to catch up even more intensely if possible.
Thousands of fighters have drawn lessons from the experience of recent years and are putting them into practice in current events. In Colombia, the Duque government has been surprised by the most important general strike in decades and a mass movement that has thrown a bombshell at the oligarchy. Bolsonaro has temporarily renounced its most aggressive counter-reforms, recognizing that they fear contagion. But it is only a matter of time before such events break out in Brazil, the country with the most powerful proletariat in the region, or in Alberto Fernandez's Argentina.
The bourgeoisie thought it had the situation in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the rest of the world under control. But the class struggle has unleashed blow after blow to make it clear that this is not true.
A troubled world
The capitalist world is going through a generalized upheaval, comparable in many of its features to the thirties of the twentieth century.
The inter-imperialist struggle for the control of markets, areas of influence and raw materials, and the trade war between the two great powers disputing world hegemony has only worsened.
International relations are upside down: alliances are broken, hit by recession and the world-class struggle. The stable blocs of the past have disappeared. Brexit places a big question mark on the future of the European Union, plunging the old continent further into a subordinate position.
Inter-imperialist military conflicts that push entire countries back to a state of barbarism, causing the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, the exodus of millions of refugees and a new balkanization of the planet, point to the completely reactionary character of system in decadence.
he profound crisis of parliamentarism, the delegitimization of social democracy and traditional conservative parties, the division of the ruling class, country after country, and the Bonapartist and authoritarian tendencies of numerous governments indicate that the forms of "democratic" domination of the bourgeoisie are fading away. The internal equilibrium of the capitalist system has been blown up.
Times of acute crisis mark the loss of stability of the middle layers and their virulent oscillation to the left and right. The rise of the ultra-right, and the formation of reactionary and nationalist governments reflect this process of enormous polarisation, but also the failure of social democracy and of the new organisations clinging to bourgeois democracy.
Racism, national oppression or violence against women are at the basis of the ideology of the capitalist parties. Populist and far-right organizations do nothing but take advantage of all the reactionary prejudices and stances that the "democratic" right has previously normalized, with the connivance and complicity of social democracy.
The response of the new formations of the reformist left is just as impotent as the old social-democratic discourse. For the leaders of Podemos, Syriza, Die Linke, Bloco de Esquerda and others, the best way to close the way for reaction is to trust in the proper functioning of parliamentarism. But it is precisely the inability of capitalist "democracy" to resolve the crisis, that same "democracy" that rescues the big banks and promotes cuts and austerity, that creates the objective conditions for a return to reactionary nationalism.
Faced with the empty appeals offered by reformists of all species, we Marxists raise a programme of action based on the mobilization and unity of the working class across races and borders, and which links social demands (housing, public healthcare and education, decent wages and working conditions, protection and defence of the rights of immigrants, etc.) and democratic demands (repeal of all Bonapartist and authoritarian laws imposed in recent years, purging of the fascist elements of the state apparatus, right of self-determination, etc.), to the struggle against the system and for socialist transformation.
Although the electoral boom of the ultra-right is a serious warning, it is not comparable to the phenomenon of fascism of the 1930s, which had an organized mass movement and triumphed after decisive defeats of the workers. The social and electoral base of these formations is not as solid as it appears, and the Latin American, European and world working class is still far from having exhausted its strength and potential to change society.
The Struggle for the Revolutionary Party
The parliamentary representation of an oppressed class is considerably below its real strength. A short time ago, Piñera boasted of presenting Chile as an "oasis" of democracy and stability. The same was said of Argentina by all the international press after Macri's triumph in 2015, while reformists and sectarians clamoured for a "turn to the right" on the continent.
The classic conditions of a revolution have been evident in the uprisings we are experiencing: divisions in the ruling class, the determination of the oppressed, the workers, the youth to go all the way in the struggle and sacrifice their lives, neutrality or even the support of the middle strata to the insurgent population... But the most important of all is missing: a revolutionary party armed with the programme of Marxism and with influence among the masses.
In the great battles, a revolutionary does not ask what will happen in the event of defeat, he asks what must be done to achieve victory. It is possible, it is achievable, therefore it must be done. The concrete task is how to transform, in the course of these events, the illusions that reformist leaders build around cosmetic political reforms into massive support for a programme for socialist transformation.
The vacuum left by the crisis of the Social Democratic and Stalinist parties has been partially filled with a peculiar form of weak and vacillating "left-wing reformism", which has shown its organic limitations. "In nature and in society," Lenin wrote, "there are not and cannot be pure phenomena."
Renouncing its own programme with dizzying speed as soon as it has conquered parliamentary and government positions, this new reformist left has frustrated the aspirations of broad sectors of its social base.
Syriza and now Podemos constitute a good proof of what we say. Both formations developed thanks to the support of hundreds of thousands of young people, workers and activists. But their ranks were also nurtured by numerous careerists who gave the interclassist and decaffeinated tone to their programme and their political practice. It is the unmistakable seal of the petty bourgeoisie to take over the leadership of social mobilization and the organizations it creates. An authentic political expropriation that invariably repeats itself in all eras and situations.
Teachers and academic youth, journalists, lawyers and all their peers — many of them excluded in the current distribution of institutional and economic power — take control of the mass movement and set aside the workers, proclaiming their concern against the collective action of the class and a cult of individuality as despicable as their excessive ego.
They, with their "exceptional training", try to demonstrate that the bourgeois order can be changed from within, skillfully using parliament and governments. But the ruling class laughs at these stupid illusions.
These formations are also the price to pay for the weakness with which the forces of revolutionary Marxism have entered this new historical period. However, we must underline that these parties arise as a result of the brutal effects of the economic and social crisis, the delegitimization of the institutions, and the longing for a revolutionary solution that broad sectors of the workers, the youth and the impoverished middle strata demand. The movement has created its own tool after trying it in its traditional mass organizations.
It is essential to bear this in mind in order to orientate oneself correctly and not to fall into sectarianism. Marxist theory retains all its validity when it states that the reformist leaderships of the workers' movement are not a mechanical reflection of the political maturity of the class.
"Only 'vulgar Marxists,' writes Trotsky, "who interpret politics as a simple and direct 'reflex' of the economy, may think that led directly and simply reflects the class. In reality, leadership, which has risen above the oppressed class, inevitably succumbs to the pressure of the ruling class (...) The selection and education of truly revolutionary leadership, capable of withstanding the pressure of the bourgeoisie, is an extraordinarily difficult task. The dialectic of the historical process has clearly shown us how the proletariat of the world's most backward country, Russia, has been able to engender the most clairvoyant and courageous leadership we have ever known. On the contrary, the proletariat of the country with the oldest capitalism, England, has, so far, the most servile and lazy leadership (...) The disillusioned and terrified pseudo-Marxists of all kinds respond, on the contrary, that the bankruptcy of the leadership simply 'reflects' the inability of the proletariat to fulfil its historical mission. Not all of our opponents clearly express their thinking, but all of them - ultraleftists, centrists, anarchists, not to mention the Stalinists and social democrats - carry the weight of their own mistakes on the backs of the proletariat. (Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism)
The need for the revolutionary party stems from the fact that the working class and youth are not born with a thorough understanding of their historical interests. Therefore, the task of the party is to intervene vigorously and learn from the experience of the real class struggle, demonstrating to the oppressed — and first and foremost to the workers' and youth vanguard — that it is deserving of becoming its leadership.
In each and every one of the processes of the class struggle that we are witnessing, whether in the great climate mobilizations, in the massive movement of working women, in the uprisings and insurrections that travel the world, youth appears as the spearhead. This phenomenon has a lot to do with the renewal that the working class has suffered on a world scale, with the new historical stage of neoliberal counter-reforms, and with the loss of political authority of the traditional left, political and union formations. It is a strategic task to reach these sectors in order to win them over to the banner of internationalist socialism.
It is true that the genuine programme of Marxism appears distorted before thousands of activists as a consequence of the collapse of Stalinism, the campaign of lies and distortions of the bourgeoisie and the politics of the reformists. And this confusion is fed by the prejudices that the petty-bourgeois leaders of the new organizations of the parliamentary left pour out.
Being part of a Marxist party fighting for workers' power clashes with the individualism of the radicalized petty bourgeoisie. The monstrous example that the degeneration of the social democrat and former Stalinist trade union bureaucracy offers, also creates difficulties for revolutionary militancy. But it is no less true that decades ago other powerful obstacles were raised, when there were large workers parties with sufficient authority and influence to derail revolutions in the name of socialism, miseducating an entire generation of fighters.
Marxists are optimists because we base ourselves on the dynamics of history. The world's productive forces need a new social system to organize and plan them harmoniously. But socialism will not fall from the sky; it can only be the result of the conscious action of the working class and youth to overthrow the capitalist system.
In the Transitional Programme, written in exceptional objective circumstances, Trotsky pointed to a profound idea that today is more certain than ever:
"The gossip that tries to show that the historical conditions for socialism have not yet matured is a product of ignorance or bad faith. The objective conditions for the proletarian revolution have not only matured, but they have also begun to rot. In the next historical period, if the socialist revolution is not carried out, the whole human civilization will be threatened by a catastrophe. It is the hour of the proletariat, that is, first and foremost of its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of Humanity is reduced to the crisis of its revolutionary leadership."
We live in an era of revolution and counterrevolution and there is no time to lose.
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