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. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail