Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Horizons of History

by RON JACOBS

 

The recent uprisings and eventual electoral success of the Movimiento a Socialismo (MAS) in Bolivia is one of the most hopeful historical events to have occurred so far this century. From its beginnings in the struggles against the privatization of water in 2000 up to the current attempts by the popular government to nationalize natural gas and redistribute land, the Bolivian revolution has captured the imagination of indigenous and leftist activists everywhere in the world.

Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson’s newest book, Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics, covers this revolutionary upsurge from a leftist perspective that goes beyond Marxism as it is academically understood and places the demands for indigenous autonomy as the foundation for this revolution. The book opens with a description of the events in La Paz in October 2003 as witnessed by the authors and concludes with a critical look at what the victory of Morales and the MAS means for the future of Bolivia and the indigenous movements that put the party in power. In between these bookends, the reader is presented with a popular history of Bolivia. It is a history rich in resistance and almost as rich in reaction.

Like many other Latin American countries, the history of Bolivia is filled with colonialism, slaughter, and resistance. The forms of that resistance are many. Sometimes it involved only the creole or settler class against the colonialist overseers and their successor governments. Other times it involved only the indigenous peoples against those overseers. Sometimes it involved a coalition of members from both of the resisting classes in a movement against those oppressors. Indeed, sometimes the resistance itself was successful and took control of the reins of power. Unfortunately, when this occurred, the coalition between the creole forces and the indigenous peoples disintegrated, usually because of a creole belief in their ultimate superiority based on skin tone and culture.

It is at this crux that Hylton and Thomson tend to do their best analysis. It is also at this crux that leftists of the northern hemisphere should pay the most attention. The success and failure of movements past and present depend on understanding indigenous analyses and perceptions of history and leftism and somehow incorporating these into a revolutionary ideology that encourages the realization of both traditions. The alternative is to face a situation where for every progressive step forward we make in the struggle for social and economic justice, we end up taking at least one backwards, if only because of non-indigenous activists’ failure to grant the power to indigenous elements that is necessary to sustain those forward steps.

As noted above, the history of Bolivia is filled with instances of collaboration between radical movements of indigenous peoples and settlers and their descendants. Some of these historical moments were more than instances and actually moved the country towards a fairer and more equitable existence for all of its people. Yet, most of them resulted in a division amongst the very forces that created the positive circumstances. Often, the divisions revolved around land rights and the question of private property. This division then allowed the forces of reaction to creep back into power, harshening their repression of the popular forces each and every time, usually in the name of the nation. These lessons are not only important as regards our understanding of Latin America, they are also quite relevant to the worldwide struggle against neoliberalism and its neoconservative twin we are currently either part of or witness to.

Revolutionary Horizons is a brilliant and succinct survey of the struggle of the Bolivian poor and working peoples, who also happen to be primarily descendants of its original human inhabitants. One should read it not only for its importance to understanding the recently successful struggles against US imperialism in Bolivia and its neighboring lands but also for its relevance to the greater struggle against that very same opponent. While many in the United States have focused their energies on the US wars in Asia and the Middle East recently, the people of Latin America have been gaining power over their own lives and in doing so, have torn at the web of the Washington consensus and loosened the imperial grip that Washington has grown so used to. It’s only a matter of time before the stumbling military giant of US imperialism turns its attentions southward once again. Reading this book will help those opposed to this scenario understand what’s at stake.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]