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.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail