|Written by IWL _ International Workers League|
|Monday, 18 March 2013 20:51|
Summoned by the historic Workers’ Central of Bolivia (COB), the First National Political Workers’ Central was held on 7 and 8 March 2013. That is how a new workers’ party (PT) was spawned conceived as a Political Instrument of the workers.
We have witnessed a historic and extremely progressive event, for the foundation of PT – in spite of all the limitations it has, it is the result of the experience of proletarian vanguard with the class conciliation administration by Evo Morales that has been in the office for 7 years now. It is the peak of a whole process of political reorganisation starting from the grassroots that within a historic prospect has become the most important event after the constitution of the Trade Union Federation of Miners in Bolivia (FSTMB) in 1944 and of the COB in 1952.
The demand for a Political Instrument of Workers (IPT) has been there for some time now but it gained weight in 2003 when the revolution that has toppled the neo-liberal Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada administration and posed the likelihood that workers could seize power by means of the COB.
We should remember that in Bolivia this possibility was posed over and over again during the 1952 revolution, then in 1971, in 1985 and was once more repeated in 2003 but due to treacherous leaderships that would always prefer solutions along the path of class conciliation, workers never seized power.
When Evo Morales and the MAS took over, great expectations surfaced in the working class and even more so among the peasants and native peoples and the demand for IPT was pushed to the background. Even if in the first years of his administration Evo made a show of pro-nation discourse and granted several concessions to workers. After the 2008 pact with the representatives of the bourgeoisie of the so-called “crescent” (today politically much worse off for the wear and tear) so as to pass the New Political Constitution of the State, things began to change.
Step by step, workers and sectors of the native peoples started to realize that behind all this big talk about “re-founding of Bolivia and process of changes”, the agreement with the bourgeoisie was in the service of passing a Constitution that would guarantee the permanence of private property of the means of production in bourgeois hands, good business for the transnationals and preservation of large land estates.
Then, since 2010 there came the attacks against the workers: first with the attempt at imposing a labour reform that would facilitate dismissals and restrict the right to go on strike. The first workers’ strike against Morales was an answer to this and the reform was halted. In December of the same year, Evo launched raised very high prices of fuel, something that benefited the transnationals and put an end to the grants that benefited the toiling masses. This caused a week of intense struggles in the streets, when La Paz city looked like a battlefield and the government had to recoil once more.
In 2011, government attacks engulfed native peoples when a motorway was to cross the Native Territories and National Park Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS). This was to benefit oil transnationals and the OAS. The brutal repression against a native march that resisted the construction of this motorway that had been ordered by the government unleashed a national wave of national support for the march of the native peoples when workers. Students and people in general walked out into the streets to greet the march and express their disapproval of the measure taken by the government. The government has not yet been able to impose that construction.
Faced with these facts, at its XXXI Miners Congress, held in the city of Potosi in September 2011, the FSTMB rescued the resolution according to which workers had to build their own IPT confronting the Evo Morales administration. This resolution was ratified as an organic mandate at the XV Congress of the COB, in the city of Terija in January 2012. However it kept on being postponed, essentially due to the role played by the COB and by the FSTMB and other unions that, in an underhand manner, kept on cooperating with the Evo and MAS administration postponing the summons for the foundation of the IPT. It was the struggle of the working class during the year 2012 in defence against the attacks agreed upon at the “Government Summit with entrepreneurs sector” what finally gave the decisive impulse to the construction of the IPT.
The two most significant struggles of that year: Firstly that of the health service workers who rejected the attempt of increasing their working day from 6 to 8 hours without incorporating them to the General Labour Bill (LGT); after a nearly three-month long strike forced the government to recoil and then the conflict for the 100% nationalization of the Colquiri mine, where miners managed to snatch it away from the transnational Sicnhi Wayra (Glencore of Switzerland) – even if due to Evo’s overt support for the cooperativist employers it was not possible to get the nationalisation make headway to engulf the area of “26 February Mining cooperative”, today in the hands of a small group of privileged miners.
It was as from these struggles that the pressure on the leadership of FSTMB and of COB became strong to make the resolution on IPT effective. That is why those leaders summoned for a political and trade union Conference in the city of Cochabamba for 17 and 18 January where the decision was made to summon for an IPT Foundation Congress in the mining district of Huanumi.
The Huanumi Congress: a great step forward for the Bolivian proletariat
In the days previous to the Congress, the labour minister, on behalf of the government, prophesised the failure of the event saying there were no reasons for the COB to organise their own political party. But the response of the workers to the government provocation was overwhelming. On the 7th March, the Congress began with a massive march accompanied the nearly 1300 delegates coming from the 9 departments of Bolivia, representing over 40 sectors of the 63 affiliated to COB. Only the officialist trade unions and those influenced by Revolutionary Workers’ Party (POR – Lora) failed to attend because – in the case of POR – there is no need for a party of class independence because in a self-proclaiming manner, they asserted to be the party of the working class. The march crossed the Huanuni district greeted with applause and cheers from the population. There were no lessons on those two days because school premises were used to put up the delegates.
The congress was inaugurated with addresses of representatives of the Miners’ Federation, Factory Workers’ Federation, Health Workers and University Workers, among other, apart from greetings from Trade Union and Popular Central from Brazil (CSP-Conlutas), the only international trade union organisation that attended to welcome the historic decision of Bolivian workers.
During the two days that the Congress lasted, the over 1300 representatives debated in two commission the proposals of documents of principles, programme and statutes previously prepared by a Political Commission.
Even if many things are still to be clarified at a seminar to se summoned in 20 days’ time and such items as leadership and internal functioning are to be discussed more thoroughly, the document on the statute defined that the name of the IPT is to be Workers’ Party, from the worlds in Spanish: PT.
As to the programme, we can say that it is doubtlessly very advanced. The PT is defined as an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist party and that the task is to see to it that workers will govern the country through a social revolution. The defence of socialism is there as well as the direct struggle and the parliamentary struggle. It stands for the need of workers to gain political power by means of a social revolution. In this regard, it is a programme stemming out of the traditions of the Pulacayo Theses, voted by the FSTMB in 1946 and which constituted a great achievement of the Bolivian working class. It also declares its independence from the government and the employers. Furthermore, the document that was passed states that this PT “has no relationship with the PT of Lula da Silva in Brazil, for the latter betrayed Brazilian workers.”
It was precisely the debate on the position of the PT with respect to the government that proved to be the most lively and important. The document presented by the Political Commission of the COB had this weak point that it did not defend the need for the independence of PT from the government and the employers. The debate on this point made it clear through the document presented by the Huanuni miners that, in coincidence with our Political Platform stating that PT must be independent from the government and the employers. The debate led to the agreement that both documents, that of the Huanuni and that of the Political Commission of the COB were to be merged.
This incorporation is a great achievement because it exceeds what was the cause of the defeat of experiences such as the one of 1952. Indeed, during that heroic revolution, when the Bolivian working class organised in the COB undertook a revolutionary programme as the on of Pulacayo and had power in their hands. The defeat occurred because the leaders (Lechin, at that time) convinced workers to had it over to pro-employer parties, such as Paz Estensoro’s MNR, who took over in order to deviate and defeat the revolution.
As to the leadership: on an interim basis, 13 comrades representing the main sectors of the COB were elected. Another consideration passed in the statutes is that all the organisms of the PT should consider keeping 50% of the positions in the leadership for women. As to the composition, it was established that miners ought to be in majority, factory workers, teachers, health workers, etc., and that the same criterion should be reflected in the leadership. The statute allows for the formation of opinion groups and tendencies inside the PT but not internal political trends. There were two reasons for which this issue was one of the most controversial items. The first one was because the of intention of bureaucratic sectors of the leadership of having a party structure, without a broad internal democracy, restricting the power of the grassroots so that only the leaders could wield the main decisions of the party. The second reason had a lot to do with the image that grassroots miners have of left parties, particularly the role of the Bolivian POR and some groups that claim to be Trotskyists. The Bolivian POR had made a campaign against the construction of the PT, playing the game of the government and so generating rejection of this party by many delegates who attended the Congress. As to some left groups that claim to be Trotskyists, they wind up by acting with great arrogance among the grassroots pretending to lead the miners and other sectors; this produced great mistrust among the grassroots. When all is said and done, both attitudes served the bureaucratic leaderships to justify their project of maintaining absolute control of the IPT with no political trends and limiting the possibilities of criticising and questioning from the grassroots.
Our IWL group in Bolivia, Socialist Struggle Group-LIT (GLS-FI) rallied together with other grassroots delegates in the Political Struggle “PT for struggle and democratic”, and we defended the point of view that the central guideline in the statutes is the most ample democracy and the power of decision for the grassroots expressed through organisation in cells within the PT, allowing for the incorporation of thousands of workers, youths, peasants and native peoples to strengthen the PT. The platform “PT of struggle and democratic” also spoke for the most absolute independence with respect to the Evo Morales administration and from the employers so as to comply with the tasks posed in the October 2003 revolution that were abandoned and betrayed by Evo Morales and the MAS.
The role of women
The participation of working women – miners, housewives and youth – in the entire process before and during the Congress was of fundamental importance. There were many women delegates and their participation was outstanding. It was due to this important role that, for example, it became possible for the leadership to be equal between men and women. It was very important because of the coincidence with the International Women’s Day and in response to a proposal of GLS of the IWL a moving rally was held with the working class women and housewives participating in the Congress vindicating women’s rights.
The affirmation of the PT is the great challenge
The Congress and the foundation of the PT are facts that represent the enormous headway made in the development of political awareness and class independence in Bolivia.
We greet the construction of a party with class independence that stands as left opposition to Evo’s Popular Front. Its importance is marked by the need of grouping the best of trade union and popular activism and of all the fighting sectors learning from experience with the Evo administration into a political organisation with class independence and internal democracy.
The PT is the outcome of the pressure of the grassroots against their leaders. It expresses a reorganisation that is not only within the trade unions scope for it is also political and it comes from the grassroots upwards. There was a strong feeling among those grassroots that that it was the building of an alternative to the left of MAS, with workers endowing themselves with a political instrument to strengthen and maximise their struggles against the attacks by the government. Furthermore, at this Congress we could verify the validity and updatedness of the historic debate about the need for workers rallying round the COB to govern this country.
And yet, the Foundation Congress was just one step; the great task of consolidating this achievement and asserting the PT as a political party of the working class and popular sectors, in the service of a strong intervention in the struggles of the Bolivian people taking positions and building itself as a real political alternative to the Evo Morales administration and to the traditional right. is still ahead of us To achieve this, it is necessary to keep up political class independence, financial autonomy and an internal structure of broad proletarian democracy so that it will be the men and women of the working class who will decide the bearings of the PT, using this instrument in the struggles as well as in the elections, to present proletarian fighters as candidates in all the bourgeois variants.
It is necessary to take the PT to all the trade unions of the COB and of the country; to establish it in the mines and all the workplaces and centres of study, incorporating all the workmen and workwomen who have made their experience with Evo Morales and much more than that, winning over the great mass of those who still have illusions in the government.
Now, the IWL and the Socialist Struggle Group, who have volunteered our service in the task of broadcasting the summons to the Congress, we are summoning workmen and workwomen and youth to take active part in the construction of the PT, struggling to make is independent, democratic and combatant and making sure it is being built from the bottoms, deeply rooted in the working class.