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3220 - Trotskyism, Katarismo, and Populism in Evo¿s Bolivia

Evo Morales won election as president of Bolivia in December 2005. He began his political career as a rural union activist with a strong grounding in the socialist rhetoric and ideology of the labor movement; in the years before winning the presidency, Morales also became adept at employing a newer ideology and idiom: that of Katarismo —a kind of Andean ethnic nationalism. Morales’ political party, the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) is an eclectic mix of these disparate ideologies with critics of the party also coming from both camps.

Socialist politics in Bolivia often bear the idiosyncratic imprint of Trotskyism, which emerged as a dominant left ideology in the 1940s with the decline of more Moscow-oriented traditions in the years immediately following the Second World War. Bolivia’s Partido de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (PIR) was founded in 1940 and was initially relatively isolated from the Communist International (Comintern). Eventually though, the more Moscow-oriented wing of the party established its internal dominance. Although the Comintern officially dissolved in 1943, the PIR followed Moscow’s lead in allying with bourgeois political parties in the 1940s. The party’s participation in the generally right-wing coalition government of the sexenio (1946-52) completely discredited it, opening political space for the rise to prominence of the older Trotskyist Partido Obrero Revolutionario (POR). A long-term alliance with the country’s major mineworkers’ union cemented the POR’s preeminent position on the Bolivian left.

The political program of Katarismo has a more recent political genesis. The nationalist ideology first developed among a loose group of intellectuals, community activists, and rural union leaders in the Bolivian department of La Paz. While the exact date of Katarismo ’s emergence is debated—believers continually push its mythic foundation further back in time—the ideology really coalesced in the 1970s. Katarismo began as a set of political and historical ideas built around Bolivia’s Aymara-speaking population, but different permutations have taken root among Quechua speakers and mestizos.

Might Katarismo hold more promise for the emancipation of the impoverished Bolivian masses than did the previously dominant Trotskyism? The government of Evo Morales takes seriously the issue of ideology. Bolivia’s vice president Alvaro García Linera is a principal theorist of the MAS in power and has borrowed significantly from both traditions in his own writings. What has resulted from this ideological mixing and competition?          

Palavras-chaves: Bolivia, Communism, Trotskyism, Evo Morales, Comintern

Autores: Smale, Robert (University of Missouri-Columbia, Ud States of Am / USA)

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