ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Social Movements and Popular Power

Return of the Left in Bolivia

The return of the left to power in Bolivia is a product of the role played by social movement organisations of workers, peasants and indigenous people in organising militant resistance to the usurpation of power by the extreme right wing.

On 12 November 2019, Evo Morales was on an air force jet on his way to exile in Mexico. He stepped down when the chief of the armed forces “suggested” that he resign after protests over unproved allegations of electoral fraud. Nearly a year later, he returned to Bolivia through the land frontier accompanied by Alberto Fernández, the President of Argentina. From there, accompanied by a three-day 800-vehicle caravan, stopping at various points, including Orinoca, the rural community where he was born and raised, Morales went to Chapare, the place where he came of age politically as the leader of the coca-growing peasants. A day earlier, the candidate of the Movimiento al Socialismo (Movement Towards Socialism–MAS), Luis Arce Catacora, the former finance minister of Morales was sworn in as the new President of the country after a landslide election victory in the presidential elections.

What happened in Bolivia during the last year offers very important lessons and opens up many questions to reflect upon. In an article published in the Economic & Political Weekly in June 2020, I discussed the coup that took place in Bolivia in November 2019 that led to the ouster of Morales and the usurpation of power by the extreme right-wing forces in the country (Ravindran 2020). The article revealed how the interim right-wing government with minuscule popular support, backed by the military and the United States (US) imperialism, continued to agg­res­sively pursue neo-liberal policies in a blatantly dictatorial manner. I argued that the Bolivian experience thus reinforces the need to re-theorise the relationship bet­ween neo-liberal capitalism and demo­cracy, a task of immense relevance in the context of the rise of right-wing authoritarianism in various parts of the world. Here, in the context of the defeat of the same right-wing forces after a year of militant popular resistance, I take up another closely related question: How can popular forces defend democracy against all odds?

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Updated On : 12th Dec, 2020

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