By Rafael Bautista S1.
Beyond the superficial opinions and the mixture of accusations, the MAS crisis (which marks its own birth to political life) manifests something that escapes the whole range of media analysis; because that something is already naturalized in a political culture that, until today, appears unnoticed in the descriptions of the recurrent political crises in our country and that highlight a parallelism analogous enough to be left aside. In this sense, the approach we intend to take does not describe this crisis as a particular phenomenon, but places it as a definitive expression of the decadence of the liberal political system that, since 1952, shapes the political scenario in Bolivia; hence the relevance of amplifying an analytical description of the current crisis2, to point out its implications in the national panorama that, regarding the bicentennial, will determine the future validity, not only of the ruling party but, above all, of the plurinational project.
The clarification of that project should definitely cancel that recurrence, but Bolivian politics is so marked by that liberal political system that it is difficult to imagine it even from another perspective. In this sense, the plurinational should be highlighted, in principle, as the logical and historical discordance of liberalism as a political creed (basis of the political system), expressed in “revolutionary nationalism”.
But now, not being aware -the leadership of the “government of change”- of this unfortunate inheritance and having to promote another mode of leadership praxis (as a political sense of “change”), the crisis in which the MAS is wallowing, seems to preclude the same anarchic dispersion that characterized the MNR and later the MIR (the “progressive” putative heirs of “movimientism”, which were recycled in all possible denominations, even in the MAS). That is to say, in the crisis of the MAS, we would be evidencing, not by awareness but by inevitability, the imminent collapse of “revolutionary nationalism”, no longer as an ideology but as a political culture. A way of doing and understanding national politics would be digging its own grave and burying a whole group that stubbornly insists on an anachronistic continuity in purely hypothetical scenarios.
In that sense, the obscene skirmishes that are lavished in the media only point to the fatal loss of common sense across the political spectrum. The quality of the current leaders and spokespersons, also and above all from the right, already shows the miserable human condition in which the Bolivian political culture finds itself. In the case of MAS this is disappointing, but it also responds to the “movementist” heritage that resonates in its own acronym. The names are not casual. MAS is a “movement” and has always acted as such, that is to say, with the same “movementist” prejudices and customs that defined the political activity in our country.
That is why the “process of change” stopped betting on an authentic democratic-cultural revolution, because that should be initiated by demystifying the state narrative of the celebrated “revolution of ’52”, as the class-ridden epic that inaugurates the bourgeois-developmentalist project in a country underdeveloped by that same project. For example, the conceptual “reform” (which produces the “agrarian reform”) from indigenous to peasant (and which still endures in the political culture) is not episodic but ontological. There began the policies of “inclusion” of a people constituted as “obedient” to the exclusive modern-capitalist project of an intellectual petty bourgeoisie that went through all possible denominations and ideologies in order to, once snatched from the old oligarchy, always remain in the State, as its class patrimony.
We say that this conceptual “reform” is ontological because the phenomenon of “inclusion” consisted in a more subtle annulment of the indigenous as a political subject because he was included simply as a social guarantor of the class-mestizo criollo-mestizo political bets, self-constituted as the only “revolutionary” political elite. This “movementist” inheritance decayed the original prejudice of a State without national content. The indigenous as peasant was confined, that is, excluded, to the rural area (consecrating the idea that the place of the Indian is always the countryside, while politics is always decided in the city), therefore his incorporation was formal in a State which, if before it tolerated him as a serf, now attributed to itself the power to “include” him, but always as a subaltern. For this reason, the “educational reform” of 52 canonizes, up to the present, the segmentation of the two Bolivias, in the two educational systems: urban and rural education.
To this day, rural education is not designed to educate or form, but to “instruct” or train. And in the “government of change” itself, in 14 years, the “reforms” carried out only insisted on the model of education as functional instruction. That is why it was not so paradoxical that the ministers who promoted the “process of change” have their children in private schools (since even they did not believe in the new “educational reform” they were promoting). Inheritance of “movimientism”: the best education is the one that produces obedience in the people.
The insistence of politicians to affirm the logic of debt in the search for legitimacy, declares that nothing is done out of detachment or generosity but only by political calculation, no longer seeking moral empathy with the people, only their electoral preference. In this way, politics is diluted in a mechanism of social ascent, whose administration is the bureaucratic power that now summarizes politics to business management, where power is the most profitable thing there is.
This could be the logic of current politics everywhere, but in Bolivia it has become a culture since the so-called “revolution of ’52”. Because for a type of political logic to become political culture, it requires an event that originates a state cosmogony expressed in a historical narrative capable of structuring the social subjectivity of a country. That is why even the “revolutionary” actors in Bolivia cannot escape from the symbolic universe inaugurated in 52. Their entire political idiosyncrasy has that origin; that is why, following René Zavaleta, the señorial paradox is not overcome and survives as a curse in the political culture of a country that has not been able to overcome the horizon of prejudices of “revolutionary nationalism”.
Because this “nationalism”, like any concept, is not indifferent to its context. That is why it summarizes colonial prejudices in a nationalism without national content. The MNR is a political school of this ideology, which is, in the end, lordly. Zavaleta historically situates the “lordly paradox” in the political decadence of the MNR; but the catalyst that definitively replaces this “paradox” as a leadership constant is the MIR which, in all its variants, in the typical “movementist” style, disseminates it in almost all political expressions of the left, as is now the case of the MAS. Then, from the MNR, transferred to the MIR and, later, reinstated in the MAS, it could be said, paraphrasing René Zavaleta: they could have been the head of a revolution that definitively unties the roots of our structural servitude but, precisely, their heads, never knew how to free themselves from the type of State -colonial-colonial-racist- that gave birth to them and to which they owed even their own existence.
That is why we reaffirm: one is not free by purely voluntarist decision; one is free because existentially it is evident that liberation already constitutes experience, as the very substance of one’s own ethical and moral life. That is why it is said: it is easy to get out of the world, but the most difficult thing is for the world to get out of one. This experience, which always constitutes a process, is what defines the possibility of building a new world (because it is not built by itself but by builders). The first moment, leaving the world, can be determined as emancipation, but the second, that the world leaves one, is the one that can definitely be expressed as liberation.
So, the fact that the heads have never been able to free themselves from the State means that the belief system itself and the horizon of expectations remain imprisoned by the world that is so much criticized. For this reason, in all the variants of the left, including the current MAS, “movimientism” (MAS as Movement Towards Socialism) has not been able to propose the overcoming of the modern-capitalist myths, which became state ideology, as “revolutionary nationalism”, since 52, and drags all the political expressions of the political system, as the only Creole-mestizo bet that survives until today and that, in the precipitous crisis of MAS, manifests the accumulated historical contradiction in the plurinational State itself: that ideology, “revolutionary nationalism” (in all its versions and nuances), does not emerge from the indigenous-popular political horizon, but from the bourgeois-liberal project of the nation-state.
The incompatibility of this historical, logical, and political contradiction is what produces the growing disenchantment in the “process of change” and leads, before, during and after the coup of 2019, to demands for the reorientation and redirection of the “process of change” itself. This is the context that originates the criticism to the leadership of the “process” and to a leadership that, much to its regret, manifests the continuity of that señorial paradox. And to finish it off: the most paradoxical thing is that the very colonization made social nature in the people, always looks for a Sir that frees it.
Therefore, it can be said that the presence of caudillos is also a consequence of a people who, in their own emancipation, find it much more difficult to produce their authentic liberation, because that means transforming themselves. In this sense, true leadership is that which knows how to withdraw in order to always return the protagonism to the subject of politics and creator of its own presence. In this way, people become people and the people become a community, where we all recover as brothers and sisters. Caudillismo is something else and it appears from the vertical logic that embodies the lordship; which produces a false messianism, without content or popular connection.
Víctor Paz Estenssoro was the first and rudimentary expression of this false messianism; he did not participate in the insurrection of 1952 but comfortably returned from Argentina to take possession of a government that should, rather, emerge from the insurrection itself and not returns things to their previous state. Jaime Paz Zamora is the most pathetic picture of this caudillismo that is installed in the transmission of political power by purely spurious pacts, canceling the possibility of building leadership with some degree of social legitimacy.
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was already the obligatory bet that could impose himself managerially with a fetid handful of dollars (neoliberalism was at its peak, corrupting everything in a “legal” way); That is why a Carlos Mesa appears to sweeten with some light, even if it is faint, the meager aristocratic reference of the seigniorialist “movimientismo” (maybe that is why, now, the decadent seigniorialism does not even bet on an “intellectual” who at least writes a book; and is inclined, rather, for an ignorant, like the civic Camacho, who handles a Bible while dancing reggaeton). As the devil does not know who he works for, the only thing Mesa’s presidency achieves is to precipitate the presence of Evo Morales.
If instead of his daily and nocturnal harangues in the form of resignation, from his balcony, with that don’t cry for me Bolivia (Madona style playing Evita), he had produced credibility, doing the only sensible thing at that moment: starting to clean up state corruption, he could have restored the political system and even given it a renewed legitimacy and, in such a situation, an Evo Morales would not have been catapulted. But it is precisely the pettiness and ignorance of the national lordship, which precipitated the episode of popular insurgency that brought Evo to the presidency, and which they themselves curse; because, this time, they had done things so badly that, what they could never do, an Indian was going to do, and better than they themselves could even dream of.
If their only hope consisted only in the short duration of the Indian’s presidency, he not only lasted more than a decade but also, using all the usual practices and tricks (bequeathed by the “movimentist” political culture) in the state apparatus, he tried to snatch as much power as possible from them. The remaining seigniorialism could never allow that. As René Zavaleta says: the oligarchy can negotiate everything but, never and never, its oath of superiority over the Indians. Because the condition for there to be a lord is that there be serfs. That is the policy (aristocratic lordly office) of commanding by commanding, which now, for example, is shamelessly expressed by Peruvian congressmen: “the people are not to be obeyed, they are to be governed”.
This was also the policy exercised by the “government of change”, as a remnant of the political culture transmitted by the MNR as a revolutionary impossibility; that is why they originated the continuous reformism as a governmental platform of a State that changes everything in order not to change anything. The “government of change” that pretended to make the revolution, much to its regret, only inaugurated another state cycle of the same liberal state, that is, of the nation-state.
For this reason, the MAS government is not the object of the 2019 coup for representing a true revolution but for snatching the reformist continuity from the jailón q’ara (blancoid) estate of Bolivian politics. The governmental leadership was the same (in spirit) that, since 52, took politics as a means of social ascent for its bourgeois pretensions. Now that they are all tearing their clothes, accusing each other even of pedestrian affairs of rented bedrooms, they do nothing more than reiterate the urban legends of the MNR and the MIR in all their repulsive variants (that is why, in politics, recycling does not produce benefits).
Now, in the face of a possible and probable schism, the stately mentality (now in its mestizo version) only knows how to calculate its political possibilities, without realizing the crumbling of meanings and epochal parameters that, in our country, affects the very creeds that the political class (also of the left) drags along. Here the providentialism of the displaced leadership shows signs of an inflamed outburst of the “lordly paradox”: they know that their only guarantee of returning to power is under the shadow of the “authentic” leader.
The schism was already announced before the coup. But the government, encapsulated in its own dogmas, which it believed to be infallible, did nothing but postpone something that was inflaming disenchantment and caused legitimacy (something ignored by “the mathematician”) to be transferred to a right wing in the process of empowerment. That is why the 2019 coup is not an exclusively unilateral operation.
In a recent interview (given to the La Paz newspaper La Razón), former Vice President García Linera says that the right wing is “willing to abandon democratic banners to achieve its objectives”. But this has always been the case and, a political task never undertaken, was to strategically disconnect the right wing from its political operators, the private media; rather they were economically overfed even at the expense of the popular media. Therefore, to say that the right wing “hates to see people in pollera or poncho making decisions”, does not sound so convincing when, in fact, decisions were made from above, simply waiting for the approval of the leaders and the grassroots.
This dissociation is the product of a political culture that permeates even the “revolutionary” bets and normalizes them as entropic phenomena. That is why the revolution becomes reformism and, in this sense, to say that “we are in phase four of the administration of the great institutional reforms”, reaffirms the etapist-linear vision of those who believe that the revolution is a consequence of the development of institutional inertia.
In such a case, it is only affirming that the objective of the revolution takes place at the margin of the subject. Therefore, it is not a mere matter of efficient operativity but of a conception rooted in the civilizing paradigm of modernity and which contributes to the repositioning of capitalism itself, even under socialist banners. Because the objective is creation of subjectivity, therefore, only a transformation in subjectivity itself produces a revolutionary objectivity, that is to say, and this was one of the governmental deficits that contributed to the growing rejection of the plurinational State and that also made the coup possible: all the works that were carried out did not produce, in themselves, the availability of change, that is to say, transforming subjectivity.
The “process of change” only resulted in a change of appearances; the market could be amplified with the new satisfiers, but the people themselves did not constitute the maximum of common availability capable of transforming their own horizon of expectations; because this could only be produced by a democratic-cultural revolution, where the people themselves constitute themselves in power, that is, in project, generating and creating, from themselves and for themselves, popular power as the culmination of the most complete democratic exercise, and where the popular, plurinational project emerges from their own culture and history made political.
That is why the plurinational state only makes sense as a logical and historical overcoming of the nation-state, which is the republicanism that the right wing longs for, that is, a country of lords and masters, where the Indians return to clandestinity. In the global crumbling of the unipolar world and the desperate bets of imperial repositioning, the nation-state is already an anachronism. In anticipation, the popular-indigenous plurinational project constituted the explicit statement of the need to overcome the nation-state, whose liberal matrix had never expressed the singularity and the potential that could not be reduced to a mere particularism of what, as a project, the indigenous peoples had produced throughout their historical struggles.
It is this incompatibility (between plurinational state and nation-state, that is, liberal) that has never been understood by a political elite that rhetorically may embrace the new plurinational language but existentially remains committed to the modern-euro-gringo-western beliefs system and values that, although already in full decline, continue to function as structuring the subjectivity of individuals who act, precisely, as individuals, that is, never as a community. That is why, although they rant against neoliberalism, they do not renounce the liberal narrative, which is the source of neoliberalism itself; and that is also why they do not believe in “living well” or PachaMama. And if they do not believe, because in the manorialist vision they appear as “something of the Indians”, of “a past already overcome”, as the modern narratives say (the creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary of social racism), they will never promote a policy in accordance with what emerges and is deduced from that indigenous-popular horizon which is, precisely, the political horizon of the plurinational project.
Should the schism occur, it will not be of much use if the expected reorientation does not reawaken the initial dreams and hopes. The state leadership needs an ideological shift that knows how to get rid of the prejudices of “revolutionary nationalism”. Today, the right-left dichotomy is already too ambiguous, when “progressivism” itself unconsciously embraces the imperial narrative. In the current tripolar dis-order –in the midst of a nuclear conflagration, global economic depression, energy crisis, water crisis, fracture of supply chains, in addition to the intelligent design of viral pandemics with the capacity to paralyze the economic and social structure, destroy human relations through confinement and media-created terror–, geopolitics manifests a much more suggestive struggle, between globalists and sovereigntists; in which it is the very concept of sovereignty that reorders and re-signifies the very concept of nation and nationalization, which no longer expresses a mere de-privatization.
Finally, we must point out that the “process of change” was never sustained by those who publicly fight for its paternity, but by those who sustained and sustain it anonymously. Those people who resisted the coup and the dictatorship and returned to trust in the MAS as the political expression that could transform the State. Therefore, a schism is not the most serious thing, if it leads to a true reorientation.
Also, by underestimating and rejecting self-criticism, the MAS finds itself in this outcome, being able, in the worst case scenario, to replicate the disintegration of the MNR or the MIR. The MAS leadership has always repeated what García Linera now affirms, in the sense that, if “the monopoly of wealth is held by the State”, the monopoly of politics would be held by “the social sectors”. Although we know this is not true, we should take him at his word and let the popular and indigenous bases of the MAS be the ones to recover the sphere of political decisions and, in this way, teach the government, for example, the recovery of the political over the bureaucratic.
Rafael Bautista S., author of: “El tablero del Siglo XXI.
1 Translation from Spanish to English made by Dorinda Moreno
2 As we have been doing from two cuts that we believe are essential to think the political present: the cut of historical density and depth of context; in order to overcome the reductive and short-term vision of the usual conjuncture analysis and insist on a wide-ranging or long-term view. Methodology presented in our book: The Angel of History. Genealogy, execution and defeat of the coup d’état: 2018-2020, yo soy si Tú eres editions, La Paz, Bolivia, 2021.