By Partido de los Trabajadores (Workers’ Party-PT-Bolivia). Published in Fuerza No. 79, ARPT/IWU-FI paper.
23 November 2021. Bolivia is experiencing a new political crisis. The Law of the MAS government, which was a disguised tax increase, unleashed a big national mobilisation of the “gremiales” (traders) that shook the country. The right-wing led by the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and the right-wing political opposition of Camacho and Mesa tried to use the mobilisation for their purposes in a power struggle with MAS. But they failed. The mobilisation, which lasted nine days, got the government to repeal the law in question. The following is a statement by the Workers’ Party, shared and distributed by the Workers’ Revolutionary Alternative (IWU-FI), a grouping of the PT.
1.-The MAS government had to go back and repeal the tricky law 1386. This is a triumph of the traders for standing strong in their struggle, and also for the support they won in popular and workers’ sectors. A very significant case was the Congress of Bolivian Manufacturers’ Confederation, which called for the repeal of Law 1386.
From the PT, we have called to support the struggle of the traders.
These workers and popular support for the traders’ struggle forced Arce to say that he “listened to the people” and to order the repeal of the fraudulent law.
2.-This law 1386, called the “National Strategy for the Fight Against the Legitimisation of Illegal Profits and the Financing of Terrorism”, was not intended for what its title says. “Illegal Profits” have a large part of the government’s friends, as well as its old right-wing “opponents”, smugglers, drug traffickers and big business people, but this law was to be applied by officials dependent on the government, it would never affect its friends. The central aim of the law was to impose a tax on the people, forcing small and medium-sized traders to pay consumer taxes on everything they sell (which would inevitably lead to price rises).
3.-That is why, besides repealing this law, one aim of the popular struggle must be a total change in the tax system, so that state revenues are increased for health, education and support for the popular economy, with taxes on the big capitalists, agro-industrialists and transnationals that make their enormous profits from both the exploitation of nature and the work of millions of Bolivians.
4.-Other are the goals, which we repudiate, of the right-wing front led by the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and by Governor Camacho. They tried to take advantage of the crisis for political purposes. That is why their opposition to a “package” of laws that they question, including one on the control of the Armed Forces, has the sole aim of a power struggle with the MAS government, but they do not propose any changes to the tax system. In addition, they also approved law 1389 last August.
Neither the repealed law nor the other laws imposed by MAS, most times with the complicity of the old right-wing opposition, have anything “socialist” about them; They are typical laws of a capitalist state, which protects the profits of big business.
6.- It is necessary to increase state revenues to attend to the needs of the people, first public health and education, irrigation works for family agriculture, popular food. And this must be done by levying high taxes on big capitalists, agribusiness, mining, banks and transnationals. They should remove taxes on consumption, such as VAT and taxes on small traders.
This is not what the MAS government is proposing, nor are its parliamentary opposition rivals Creemos (We Believe) and Comunidad Ciudadana (Citizen’s Community).
7.- The trade unions of the working people have to fight first for their rank and file, for their demands, for job stability, against labour outsourcing, for decent wages, against dismissals, against the import and smuggling of products that are manufactured in Bolivia, for public and quality health and education. To fight for the defence of the forests and indigenous territories is also urgent. Just as urgent are the demands of peasants for irrigation works in the Altiplano and Valles.
8.- Out with the traitorous leaders of the COB! Faced with the open betrayal of the current COB leadership, sold out to the MAS government, which has abandoned the struggle for the demands of its rank and file, it is necessary to fight for an ordinary Congress and an organic Congress of the COB to change its leadership and also to democratise the organisation by changing its statutes to prevent a small leadership submissive to the government from deciding behind the backs of the rank and file.
9.- Faced with the economic, health and education crisis, we have to recover the struggle for the October Agenda, for the expropriation and true nationalisation of transnational mining and hydrocarbon companies, for the recovery of all-natural resources to industrialise the country. For agrarian revolution by supporting the peasants who work the land with technical support and irrigation works, taking the land away from the big oligarchs and giving it to indigenous peasants who want to work it.
10.- In the face of the violent political polarisation between the fake left government of MAS, and the opposition right-wing led by Creemos and Comunidad Ciudadana, we need our political independence from the workers of both poles who are enemies of the working people.
For that we need to strengthen our political instrument of the workers, for that, we need to rebuild the Workers’ Party, founded by a Congress of the COB in 2013, with its revolutionary programme, and unite the organisations of the real left to promote an alternative of the working people in the face of this perverse polarisation.
The two-thirds and the law on political organisations
According to the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, Camacho and Mesa, it is necessary to continue with the civic strikes until the internal regulations of the Parliament, which set two-thirds for voting on different issues such as closing debates, changing the agenda or approving the promotion of generals, are reinstated. Laws never required over two-thirds of deputies and senators. A simple majority always passed them.
That is why this issue of the two-thirds is part of the power struggle between the right-wing Camachista messista and the MAS government. But it does not change the fact that the agreement has made the worst laws. Among them, we can cite the now-repealed law 1386, the incendiary laws that allowed the fires in Chiquitanía, the transgenic laws, the tax laws that punish the poor.
And, before that, in December 2006, the laws that allowed the 44 contracts with transnational hydrocarbon companies in 2006, which definitively annulled the supposed “nationalisation” (MAS was in the minority in the Senate). In the same way, and by agreement, they agreed in Parliament in 2008 to change the Constitution that the Constituent Assembly had resolved to defend landowners’ property, among over 100 other changes.
The MAS opposition, who claims to defend “democracy”, does not question the anti-democratic law on political organisations, which dates back to the time of Goni and which MAS has maintained with the agreement of the traditional parties.
This law makes it impossible for an organisation that expresses oppressed sectors to take part in the elections.
In 2006, the Partido de Los Trabajadores (Workers’ Party) went through all the formalities to register. It had been founded by the COB, the most important workers’ organisation, and yet it was not legalised electorally because it was impossible to gather over 100,000 signatures unless they were previously registered in another party and approved by the Electoral Tribunal. Very few parties achieved this, and all of them were from the rich and/or submissive to the government. Among them were the Democrats, who paid millions to become legal. Another was the Panbol, which was easily legalised almost without collecting signatures because it had the backing of the MAS government.
This system of electoral acronyms is so absurd and deceitful that the only two parliamentary opposition parties, Creemos and Comunidad Ciudadana, have no electoral acronym. But they did not make problems for themselves because they have a lot of money. Both bought their acronym from the party with an acronym, “owners” of democracy, some of them almost non-existent. Comunidad Ciudadana bought the FRI and Creemos bought the UCS.
Therefore, anyone who truly defends democratisation should demand a new law on political organisations, which allows them to be created with minimum requirements, and in the first place, any organisation of the working people should register its political instrument.