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Juan Robles

Bolivia

Totalitarian Victory an Imminent Danger

(3 January 1949)


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 1, 3 January 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).



The totalitarian coups in Peru and Venezuela have had repercussions in Bolivia. In the first place, there has been a rapprochement between the Stalinist and Nazi-fascist forces, between the PIR (Party of the Revolutionary Left) and the MNR (Nationalist-Revolutionary Movement). Although the Stalinist leaders deny the existence of a political pact with the MNR, the miners’ and factory trade unions, controlled by the MNR, and the railroad workers federation controlled by the PIR arrived at an agreement to stage a general strike against the Hertzog government. The formal reason for the strike was to force through a voluntary retirement law, a social security law, family aid, and subsidies for workers housing. The Hertzog government responded with the militarization of the railroads, a measure which forced the railroad workers to retreat and call off the general strike, and with the proclamation of a state of siege – a measure that was primarily against the fascists, and was not used against the PIR or the other parties.

The demand far social security laws is a powerful instrument in the hands of the totalitarian Nazi-Stalinist alliance. It is a question of a general program of social security, which includes a voluntary retirement law that would indemnify a worker when he retired in accordance with his length of service, and family and housing subsidies. For a poor country having a semi-colonial character, such a program of social security constitutes a serious economic problem, whose cost has been estimated as being more than 500,000,000 bolivares (about 10 million dollars in American money). This progressive program in the hands of the totalitarian opposition has become a powerful weapon with which to carry out a totalitarian coup d’etat.

The Bolivian Congress approved a voluntary retirement law according to which retiring workers receive a retroactive payment of 25 per cent of their wages from 1939 on, and 100 per cent from May 25, 1948. It is one of the most advanced laws in the world. A housing law has also been approved which compels enterprises employing more than 200 workers to provide them with free housing or pay for such housing.
 

Government Hit from All Sides

The big mining interests and the industrialists are faced with serious problems in the application of these new laws. There is talk of a military coup inspired by the right in order to prevent the application of the social security laws and the “dictatorship of the workers trade unions.” Such a coup is much more probable than one carried out by the MNR or the PIR. The real bosses of Bolivia are the big mining interests, who can easily install a new military regime if they do not wish to conform with the new social security laws. Consequently, the totalitarian forces have the role of provoking a military counter-revolution, in spite of their “social” demagogy.

The Hertzog government bases itself on the PURS (Socialist-Republican Union) which lacks a majority in Congress. The Stalinists frequently unite with the Liberals, who represent the big mining interests, in their struggle against the government. This provokes parliamentary deadlocks that frequently end in Homeric battles with inkwells, chairs, etc., between the Stalinists and the government supporters. The government party is the party of the middle-classes, of the moderate bourgeoisie.

Confronted by an empty treasury, the government has initiated tax reforms which call for greater contributions on the part of the big mining enterprises. It is also favorable to the demand that the mining interests deliver all of their foreign exchange to the treasury, instead of 60 per cent as heretofore. Pressed by the Nazi-Stalinist opposition, the government strives to maintain a centrist position; a fact which arouses the opposition of the capitalist right and encourages the tendencies toward a military dictatorship.

If such a military overthrow has not taken place as yet, it is because of the memories of the July 1946 revolution. A democratic spirit still exists, and in addition there is internal dissension within the army which has declined greatly in prestige because of the support it gave to the brutal Villaroel regime.
 

For Independent Workers’ Front

Within the working-class, one can note resistance to the political adventurism of the Nazi-Stalinist alliance, which in spite of the program of social security laws is really carrying the proletariat toward the disaster of dictatorship which would abolish not only the existing laws but the union organizations and the democratic rights of the workers. In the mining centers of Catava, Llalagua, Pulacayo, etc., independent trade unions have been formed which adhere to the new Bolivian Trade Union Federation, which in turn is linked to the anti-Stalinist Inter-American Trade Union Federation.

This tendency is striving to form an independent workers front which resists both the totalitarian offensive and the threat of a military coup. It is difficult to predict how successful this independent action will be since many agents of the government as well as agents for the capitalists are trying to penetrate its ranks and utilize it for their own aims. Differences as to tactics exist in the left wing of the workers government. While the POR (Bolivian section of the Fourth International) supports the MNR in its struggle against the government, the PSOB (sympathetic to the WP) strives for an independent line of action in the trade unions.

The electoral successes of the MNR in the municipal elections of Santa Cruz demonstrates that a totalitarian victory in Bolivia is an imminent danger. Only a united Socialist front of the proletariat can prevent this victory. But the Stalinist party is under orders to defeat any such front, even at the price of opening the way for the military dictatorship of the capitalist right.


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