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"We want civil war!"- Bolivian Right rebels against Morales

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On August 10, Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, was once again given a massive vote of confidence by 70 per cent of the people. When, on 29 August, indigenous peasant and working-class supporters of Morales' party, the Movement to Socialism, (MAS) tried to hold a peaceful celebration in the Plaza 24 de Septiembre, in the centre of the city of Santa Cruz, a force of thugs organised by the UniÛn Juvenil CruceÒista (CruceÒo Youth Union, UJC), set upon them with sticks and whips.

The bourgeois daily La Prensa, records a UJC speaker before the attack shouting: "We don't want this damned race in our territory" and "Indians return to your lands." Women wearing the traditional indigenous pollera, or gathered skirt, were subjected to beatings and racist taunts. One UJC leader, Amelia Dimitri, was pictured on video whipping an indigenous woman wearing a pollera. After the assault, You Tube rapidly carried many images of men and women with broken noses and shirts drenched in bloodIn the following two weeks, right-wing mobs began committing acts of great brutality against the indigenous population of "their provinces"  not just against the activists of the MAS and trade union, indigenist and peasant organisations, but against ordinary people in the streets, against markets and districts where the population is "indian", i.e. not "white".On 9 September, the UJC thugs, using Molotov cocktails, broke into and looted the offices of the National Tax Services (SIN) of the recently re-nationalised telecom company ENTEL and the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA). The soldiers and police guarding these institutions were forbidden to open fire, despite coming under prolonged attack and suffering severe injuries themselves.

In the next few days, all the agencies of news media independent of the secessionists were closed down by such violent attacks. Similar actions have taken place in the other secessionist departments: Beni, Tarija and Pando, plus the city of Sucre, organised by equivalent gangs to the UJC. Buildings owned by indigenous organisations and human rights NGOs have been looted and homes of trade union leaders firebombed.Because of these attacks, some parts of the media have described this as a fascist coup. Certainly, the gangs of thugs, consisting of upper and middle class students and lumpen elements, paid for by the landowners and businessmen, have a fascistic character, as can be seen from their horrific racist attacks on indigenous people and their attacks on the offices of trade unions, peasant organisations etc. They are certainly an instrument of civil war against the exploited masses.But they are not any sort of independent movement of the petty bourgeoisie. They are the hired tools of the country's official right wing opposition, represented by the party Podemos and the governors and civic committees of the five provinces that are demanding near total autonomy. What we are seeing is a revolt of the oligarchy, the large scale landowners, bankers and factory owners against the reforms which might take a part of their disgusting wealth and apply it to the welfare of the great majority of the people of this impoverished country  endowed by nature with incalculable riches.

Nevertheless, there has been heroic resistance to the fascists, even in Santa Cruz. In the Plan 3000 neighbourhood, the people fought the UJC and eventually chased them out of their streets. In Chuquisaca province, the peasant organisations blockaded the capital Sucre to put pressure on the opposition prefecto. Sucre, the official capital of Bolivia, and seat of the High Court, has been enticed by the Right into the anti-Morales movement by demands that it become the actual seat of government, in place of the huge La Paz-El Alto conurbation.In Tarija, which produces some 82 percent of Bolivia's natural gas, the right-wing secessionist gangs took over the offices of the Superintendent of Hydrocarbons. Ominously, the Brazilian foreign affairs minister, Celso Amorim, declared that if the Bolivian government could not guarantee delivery of gas supplies then Lula's government would open negotiations with the secessionist regional prefects. An attack took place on a gas pipeline on the border with Argentina and a gas field in Chuquisaca has been occupied.On 10 September, the leader of the civic committee, Nelson Valdez, told the media that, unless the government recognised the autonomy of Tarija, it would secede from the country and boasted that the civic committees were ready for a civil war. "We want civil war and will have civil war," he bragged.

The counterrevolutionary uprising is being masterminded by the Consejo Nacional Democr·tico (National Democratic Council, CONALDE) which brings together the prefectures and civic committees of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija, and the city of Sucre. These forces are determined either to drive Morales and the MAS government from power, or else to secede from Bolivia, taking nearly all the country's gas and oil reserves, and the richest agricultural land, with them.The supposed "crime" of Morales is to propose reforms in the way that the oil and gas revenues are spent to benefit the poor and the indigenous communities and in the grossly unequal land distribution. But even the threat of reform - backed by multiple democratic mandates  is enough to drive the country's bourgeois oligarchy to counterrevolution.Their strategy in the face of repeated electoral defeats, the last being the recall referendum in which Morales was supported by 68 per cent of the electorate, is either to cause such chaos that the army high command can be persuaded to step in and remove Morales or to actually secede, hoping that they army will refuse to crush them and the unarmed masses will not be able to overthrow them in their provinces.So Podemos and the civic committees and governors have established dual power in the country with most of the departments of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni, and Pando, and urban areas of Chuquisca, particularly the departmental capital of Sucre, in their hands. Their leaders now talk openly of secession and civil war.Yet Morales and his government have delayed and delayed declaring a state of emergency and ordered the police and army, even whilst under violent attack, not to open fire. "We are not going to declare a state of emergency," stated Vice-Minister of Social Movements, Sacha Llorenti. "We are not going to succumb to the provocation." Such talk is cowardly nonsense. What is going on in Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Pando is not a just provocation but a step by step seizure of the machinery of government in these provinces, a de facto secession and, as many of them now say openly, a civil war.

Only after an ambush by gunmen in Cobija, in Pando province, on 11 September, in which at least a dozen unarmed peasants died, has Morales finally declared a state of emergency there and ordered the arrest of the governor, Leopoldo Fern·ndez. One day earlier, he expelled the US ambassador, Phillip Goldberg. This was a long overdue action since the US embassy has throughout been a centre for organising the right wing offensive. Starting on 25 August, Goldberg in person held a series of private meetings with the chiefs of the secessionist movements in the Media Luna, the half-moon of western lowland provinces that contain the country's natural resources but only a minority of its population. The position of the Bolivian armed forces, more specifically its High Command, has hitherto been neutral between the government and the rebellious prefects, though the violent assaults on soldiers and policemen by the fascist youth leagues have been serious. Only a statement from the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, that he would give military support to Morales if there were moves to overthrow him, finally provoked the Commander in Chief, General Luis Trigo, to make a statement, emphasising that no external forces would be allowed to intervene on Bolivian soil.He then added, ìWe warn that we will not any more tolerate the actions of violent radical groups that are only leading to confrontation between Bolivians, causing pain and mourning among brothers, and preying against national security." He added that the mobilisation of troops, material and military equipment was strictly due to the carrying out of military operations to ensure internal order and will not be used against the people. Only in extreme cases will troops be employed to ensure internal order

All this is, however, too little and too late. The Morales government is effectively leaving the indigenous and peasant movements and the trade unions of the seceding provinces to face the fascist mobs unarmed, without even the assistance of the state forces. Worse, it seems the government is even urging the popular movement not to mobilise for fear of "provoking" the fascists.

Morales' entire policy is to continue to offer negotiations to the Right and to call yet further referendums in the belief that democratic mandates will eventually win them or their supporters over. This is nonsense. Such delaying and evident weakness encourages their defiance. They have declared a civil war against the popular majority. The only thing to do now is to win that civil war, to crush the Right and impose at least the reforms the masses have been calling for five years or more.

Given the mass support Morales has, it is correct, indeed essential, to demand that he acts against the Right. If he is driven to mobilise the army and the police against them, he must be supported, though in such mobilisations everything must be done to win over the rank and file soldiers to the side of the workers and peasants and to prevent sabotage and betrayal by the High Command. Above all, a central demand on Morales must be to arm the workers' and peasants' militias.

But, if it is right to make such calls on Morales, it would be the height of folly to depend on him. The mass organisations of the Bolivian workers, peasants, and the indigenous communities must take the lead themselves. In Santa Cruz, there have been appeals to call a cabildo abierto (mass meeting) in the Plan 3000 neighbourhood to start to organise the response of the masses against the fascist gangs of the UJC. The COB (Central Obrera Boliviana- the union federation) and the departmental union bodies, the CODs, the Miners' union the FSTMB, the factory workers' and teachers' unions, the community councils like the Fejuve of El Alto, all need to take a lead in calling such cabildos. All over the country, such assemblies need to take place at once. They in turn should elect committees or councils of delegates made up of the most trusted and bold fighters, men and women, to plan and direct the movement against the Right.At the top of their agenda should be the formation or strengthening of mass militias. Workers and peasants should obtain supplies of weapons by approaching the army barracks and police stations with requests to rank and file soldiers and NCOs to help them to defend themselves, and to crush the secessionists. The soldiers should be encouraged to hold mass meetings, elect committees and exercise surveillance over the actions of their officers and commanders. The armed forces need to be sent to the relief of the embattled popular forces in the secessionist provinces and cities.

The Church, NGOs and the South American governments are all talking of mediation. In Santa Cruz, the evangelical and catholic churches have called peace rallies and called for dialogue. This is nonsense at best and treachery at worst. What is there to negotiate beyond the complete surrender of the Right and their fascist gangs? Everything else means concessions from Morales and the MAS to the demands of the secessionists, it means the whittling away to nothing of the already inadequate reforms he has promised, further concessions to the calls for autonomy which really means the old oligarchy monopolising the country's land and natural resources. Beyond the response to the present crisis it is, above all, urgent that the working class and poor peasant forces, particularly the vanguard militants of the many union organisations, come to together and unite in what they have frequently discussed, a "political instrument", indeed, not to use doublespeak or evasion, a revolutionary political party. Morales and the MAS, left populists at best, will never take the power and the property away from the oligarchy.

Even if the mass mobilisations crush the secessionists today, Morales in the name of democracy will preserve the core of their property and protect their state and its High Command, its Senate, its High Court, its bureaucracy etc. What is needed is a democracy superior to any capitalist republic, a workers and poor peasants' democracy. But such a democracy will have to act as a dictatorship against the exploiters until their resistance is finally broken, the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The events in Bolivia are not taking place in isolation. Morales is not the only Latin American president to expel a United States' ambassador for coup plotting and other forms of interference in their internal affairs. Hugo Ch·vez of Venezuela is threatening to cut off oil supplies and conducting manoeuvres with Russian naval vessels. A more proactive counterrevolutionary activity can be expected in the months ahead. Barack Obama, though he promises to talk to Chavez, has described him as a demagogue and an enemy of the United States. McCain or Obama will make little difference. The perspective for change, for revolution in the 21 century, is a continental, indeed a global, perspective. The worldwide workers' movement, the anticapitalist and antiwar youth, need to mobilise now against the US and its European allies and their new warlike moves, whether these take place in South America, in the Caucasus, in Iraq or in Afghanistan-Pakistan.