Morales re-election as President of Bolivia – What anti-imperialism? What socialism?

"This victory is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists" said Evo Morales re-elected for a third consecutive term as president of Bolivia. To make matters worse and inflame the minds of many "anti-imperialists", he dedicated the victory to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, the dead. Venezuelan president.

Undoubtedly, behind the confirmation of such a wide electoral victory there must be a variety of sound reasons, but they have little to do with anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism, if we want to give a strict, anti-capitalist class meaning to these expressions. In fact, if you examine closely, beneath the claims, the substance of the policies put in place by the leader of MaS (Movement Toward Socialism, founded in 1997), we easily find that they can be defined in various ways, but in no way do they tend to speak of overcoming of capitalism. Some speak of "neo-desarollismo" (neo-developmentalism), some of "post neo-liberalism", others, using language a little closer to reality, speak of "Andean-Amazonian capitalism" (like Vice-President Linera) where what matters is the noun (capitalism), not the geographical indication, which only acts as an accessory.

We prefer to call the measures of the Morales government what they actually are, namely a not so radical reformism, carried out with the consent of both the main sectors of the bourgeoisie and of international capital. Reducing enormous social inequalities, economic growth in a context of social stability, in which the native bourgeoisie gains stronger positions in "partnership" with foreign capital: this, in essence, is the programme of the "Indian" President. A programme that, after the initial mistrust, indeed, the open opposition of the bourgeoisie, especially from the department of Santa Cruz (in the richest Eastern part of the country), due to a number of favourable circumstances is, so far, up and running briskly.

Without doubt, the "Bolivarian" climate, that is, the ascent to government of "left" political parties in many countries of Latin America, is also due to US imperialism’s loosening grip on the American subcontinent, given that it is committed to controlling and taming the monsters it itself summoned into being, from the Middle East to Afghanistan. Yankee vacillating has also given rise to the resounding failure of the local "caudillos" backed by Washington, sometimes even forced to flee ignominiously to escape popular wrath or jail, having committed so many crimes according to the bourgeois criminal Code. The economic and social disasters that have been left behind by cutting the cord, have prompted the rise of a left that, having long abandoned any, "armed struggle" ambitions (for those who had them, of course), tried pragmatically – in the bourgeois sense it goes without saying – to take advantage of the favourable international situation, both from a political and economic perspective

From this point of view, the rise in commodity prices is a key factor, without which Evo Morales could not implement any downward redistribution of wealth or gain consensus, even enthusiasm, from an initially very suspicious middle class. For example, in 2009, after the second re-election of Morales in two departments (Beni and Santa Cruz), the local bourgeoisie threatened secession on the grounds that the President did not want to represent all Bolivians, but only the "Indian" component (by far the majority), to whom "mixed race’’ wealth and the prospects for economic growth would be sacrificed. Today, five years later, that same bourgeoisie jostles, according to "detractors" to sit next to the President at public events. What happened: have industrialists and landowners converted to MaS? More simply, exports of hydrocarbons (gas in the first place), soyabeans, lithium, beef (especially towards the Swiss and Western Europe), to name a few goods, enabled the Bolivian economy to grow by 5+ % a year, giving the Treasury the ability to accumulate foreign exchange reserves equal to 51% of GDP: as a percentage, the highest in the world. This is only the legal economy, because if you look at the illegal sector (coca leaves and cocaine), its exports and relative value grew even more. This has made it possible to design and partially implement a series of "major public works” – dams, railway lines, various infrastructure – that have brought back the good mood in the capital of Bolivia, doubly happy about the climate of social peace and modernisation which has been established in the country. In short, ever wider strata of the population would identify less with the "nativism" (socio-cultural identity hostile to the "white" bourgeoisie) than with "modernity" or with membership in the Bolivian nation without any other adjectives and the prospects for consumption (or consumerism) that this would imply.

These are, however, only the windows of consumerism to keep up popular support for Morales. In fact, while the governments of the "old style" politics gave little to the "welfare state", eating greedily at the expense of the public purse (which is well known in Italy too), so that Bolivia was one of the poorest states of 'Latin America, the "socialist" government has reduced absolute poverty from 38% in 2005 to 21% in 2013 (D. Lifodi, www.peacelink. it) and apparently erased illiteracy. But in order to maintain this "welfare state," the President needs the goodwill of both Bolivian capital – hence the current economic period continues – as well as international capital, for which he has laid out a red carpet. Metaphors aside, the statements of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism are good for propaganda, but this does not prevent the openings and the incentives that the government gives to foreign capital being widespread in this South American country, not least in the energy sector. In fact, nationalisation (according to some, mostly a facade) leaves the foreign oil companies sufficient margins to make Bolivian land attractive. It is no coincidence that CNN, the IMF and the New York Times publicly praised Morales’ economic policy. That alone should make many "anti-imperialists" prick up their ears, those who, fundamentally misunderstanding the concept of imperialism, identify it almost exclusively with the United States and its foreign policy, as if China and Iran - friends of Morales and investors in his country - were not also links in the chain of world imperialism which oppresses the international proletariat.

Though, in itself, it is a far from contemptible result to have reduced poverty, it is not enough to be called socialist. Not only can a deterioration in the terms of trade of Bolivian exports cut the legs from under the reform, but, more importantly, like any reform, Morales aims to sweeten capitalist slavery, not to destroy it.

Monday, November 3, 2014