Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fifty one percent!

Eva Morales' share of the vote in Bolivia's Presidential elections just keeps getting bigger and bigger - reports are now giving him an extraordinary 51%, meaning that he'll be able to assume the office of President without needing to ask the approval of the National Congress. In the lead-up to the election many commentators and pollsters had predicted a close tussle between Morales and his right-wing opponent Jorge Quiroya, yet Quiroya has ended up with less than a fifth of the vote. Morales' Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party has also done far better than predicted in elections to the two houses of Congress: in the lower house, it looks set to become the largest party, with 65 of 130 seats.

Reaction to Morales' landslide has come from far-flung parts of the internet. Over in dear old Blighty Lenin's Tomb speaks for many on the left when it hails the victory, while also emphasising that the workers and peasants who elected Morales have high expectations, and will be pushing the new government hard. Lenin might have been thinking about the national summit of Bolivian workers held in El Alto last week, which laid out a radical set of demands and made plans for a nationwide network of workers' assemblies independent of the state. Blogging from inside Bolivia, liberal lefty Jim Schulz is surprised and disappointed at the confrontational nature of Morales' victory speech. I can't help finding Schulz's view that now is the time for Bolivia's bitterly divided classes to kiss and make up touchingly naive.

On the right side of the spectrum, the Financial Times has a sober account of Morales' victory and its likely repercussions, but its more ideological cousin The Economist is noticeably grumpy. The neo-con Moonies at the Washington Times can't seem even to admit that Morales has scooped a majority of votes. The Miami Herald, a traditional voice of America's reactionary Latin American expats, tacks a thinly-disguised pitch for the phoney separatist movement in Bolivia's wealthy Santa Cruz region onto the bottom of its account of Morales' triumph. Is this a sign of things to come?


Anonymous Ricardo said...

On a more sombre note, Morales victory has put the workers movement on the back foot temporarily. First his own constituency of the Chapare peasant coca growers will benefit from the legalisation of coca growing. This will play to the interests of the poor farmers to become rich peasants and put a wedge between the alliance of poor peasants and workers forged over the period since 2003.

Second, the so-called revolutionary left on Bolivia is pretty clueless about what to do other than push Morales to nationalise. For example, the Workers Revolutionary Party (that stuffed up the 1952 revolution) by playing along with local landlords in the misguided belief they could win them over, talks revolution, but seems to have no idea how to get there.

Jaime Solares, head of the COB (Bolivia´s central trade union organisation) and a supporter of Fidel Castro, calls for the immediate nationalistion of the gas. This is hardly a radical demand given that it does demand no compensation nor any role for workers to play.

Morales for his part has promised to maintain a good relationship with the US and respect the property rights of foreign firms. His plan for increasing Bolivia´s share of its oil wealth is to nationalise the gas but leave the assets of the oil companies untouched.

Almost alone, the Red October International, a small group of students, intellectuals and miners is following up its boycott of the election with no-confidence in Morales attempts to re-negotiate the shares of oil profits. They say that Morales victory suits the interests of even the Santa Cruz bourgeoisie for the moment because they are likely to get the lion´s share of any increase in oil rent gained from the oil companies. Moreover, Morales has headed off the revolutionary masses and a likely split in the army. If Morales fails to contain the revolution the Santa Cruz fascist bands will be back in action and the region will revive its plan to break away from the rest of Bolivia.

All in all, Morales has put the revolution temporarily on hold, and may even succeed in splitting and derailing it for a period. The call for a Constituent Assembly in August is his attempt to divert and contain the more militant groups among the workers and peasants such as those behind the El Alto Indigenous Peoples´ Congress.

The Red October International Group rejects this strategy and calls on workers to reconvene the Peoples congress with delegates from all the miliant workers and peasants organisations, on a program to occupy the oil and gas fields, and create a workers and poor peasants government that can expropriate not only foreign assets but those of the big landlords and Santa Cruz bourgeoisie.

3:13 am  

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