The Theses of Pulacayo (1946)
The revolutionary programme of Trotskyism in South America:
The Theses of Pulacayo
As the leading elements in the South African working class struggle over key points in the revolutionary programme of Marxism, such as the role of the working class in the revolution, how they relate to other classes, how they should work in government and politics, how to organise at the workplace and in the community, how to plan to develop the national economy and industry, how to organise politically as a party and in a United Front, the Pulacayo Theses provide an essential guide for a way forward.
In 1946 the Bolivian Miners’ Federal Trade Union (FSTMB) was a centre of a profound debate between political tendencies which culminated in the Pulacayo Theses submitted by the Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers Party (POR). Now nearly 70 years old, these Theses stand up astonishingly well as a practical and theoretical guide to action.
Workers International Journal strongly recommends a study of these theses to all those who strive to build the movement demanded by the NUMSA special congress of December 2013
I. Basic principles
1. The proletariat, in Bolivia as in other countries, constitutes the revolutionary social class par excellence. The mineworkers, the most advanced and the most combative section of this country’s proletariat, determine the direction of the FSTMB’s struggle.
2. Bolivia is a backward capitalist country; within its economy different stages of development and different modes of production coexist, but the capitalist mode is qualitatively dominant, the other socio-economic forms being a heritage from our historic past. The prominence of the proletariat in national politics flows from this state of affairs.
3. Bolivia, even though a backward country, is only one link in the world capitalist chain. National peculiarities are themselves, a combination of the essential features of the world economy.
4. The distinctive characteristic of Bolivia resides in the fact there has not appeared on the political scene a bourgeoisie capable of liquidating the latifundia system and other pre-capitalist economic forms, of achieving national unification and liberation from the imperialist yoke.
These unfulfilled bourgeois tasks are the bourgeois democratic objectives that must unavoidably be realised. The central problems facing the semi-colonial countries are: the agrarian revolution, that is, the elimination of the feudal heritage, and national independence, namely, shaking off the imperialist yoke. These two tasks are closely inter-linked.
5. “The specific characteristics of the national economy, important as they may be, are more and more becoming an integral part of a higher reality known as the world economy. This is the basis for proletarian internationalism.” Capitalist development is characterised by a growing interlinking of international relations, expressed in the growing volume of foreign trade.
6. The backward countries are subjected to imperialist pressure. Their development is of a combined character. These countries simultaneously combine the most primitive economic forms and the last word in capitalist technology and civilisation. The proletariat of the backward countries is obliged to combine the struggle for bourgeois democratic tasks with the struggle for socialist demands. These two stages—democratic and socialist—“are not separated in struggle by historic stages; they flow immediately from one another.”
7. The feudal landowners have linked their interests with those of world imperialism and have become unconditionally its lackeys.
From this it follows that the ruling class is a veritable feudal bourgeoisie. Given the primitive level of technology, the running of the latifundia would be inconceivable if imperialism did not support them artificially with scraps from its table. Imperialist domination is inconceivable without the aid of the national governments of the elite. There is a high degree of capitalist concentration in, Bolivia; three firms control mining production, the heart of the country’s economic life. The class in power is puny and incapable of achieving its own historic objectives, and so finds itself tied to the interests of the latifundists as well as those of the imperialists. The feudal-bourgeois state is an organ of violence destined to uphold the privileges of the landowners and the capitalists. The state, in the hands of the dominant class, is a powerful instrument for crushing its enemies. Only traitors or imbeciles could continue to maintain that the state can rise above the classes and paternally decide what is due to each of them.
8. The middle class or petit bourgeoisie is the most numerous class, and yet its weight in the national economy is insignificant. The small traders and property owners, the technicians, the bureaucrats, the artisans and the peasantry have been unable up to now to develop an independent class policy and will be even more unable to do so in the future.
The country follows the town and there the leading force is the proletariat. The petit bourgeoisie follow the capitalists in times of “class peace” and when parliamentary activity flourishes. They line up behind the proletariat in moments of acute class struggle (for example during a revolution) and when they become convinced that it alone can show the way to their own emancipation. In both these widely differing circumstances, the independence of the petit bourgeoisie proves to be a myth. Wide layers of the middle class obviously do possess an enormous revolutionary potential—it is enough to recall the aims of the bourgeois democratic revolution—but it is equally clear that they cannot achieve these aims on their own.
9. What characterises the proletariat is that it is the only class possessing sufficient strength to achieve not only its own aims but also those of other classes. Its enormous specific weight in political life is determined by the position it occupies in the production process and not by its numerical weakness. The economic axis of national life will also be the political axis of the future revolution.
The miners’ movement in Bolivia is one of the most advanced workers’ movements in Latin America. The reformists argue that it is impossible for this country to have a more advanced social movement than in the technically more developed countries. Such a mechanical conception of the relation between the development of industry and the political consciousness of the masses has been refuted countless times by history.
If the Bolivian proletariat has become one of the most radical proletariats, it is because of its extreme youth and its incomparable vigour, it is because it has remained practically virgin in politics, it is because it does not have the traditions of parliamentarism or class collaboration, and lastly, because it is struggling in a country where the class struggle has taken on an extremely war-like character. We reply to the reformists and to those in the pay of La Rosca that a proletariat of such quality requires revolutionary demands and the most extreme boldness in struggle.
II. The type of revolution that must take place
1. We mineworkers do not suggest we can leap over the bourgeois democratic tasks, the struggle for elementary democratic rights and for an anti-imperialist agrarian revolution. Neither do we ignore the existence of the petit bourgeoisie, especially peasants and artisans. We point out that if you do not want to see the bourgeois democratic revolution strangled then it must become only one phase of the proletarian revolution. Those who point to us as proponents of an immediate socialist revolution in Bolivia are lying. We know very well that the objective conditions do not exist for it. We say clearly that the revolution will be bourgeois democratic in its objectives and that it will be only one episode in the proletarian revolution for the class that is to lead it.
2. The proletarian revolution in Bolivia does not imply the exclusion of the other exploited layers of the nation; on the contrary, it means the revolutionary alliance of the proletariat with the peasants, the artisans and other sectors of the urban petit bourgeoisie.
3. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the expression at state level of this alliance. The slogan of proletarian revolution and dictatorship shows clearly the fact that it is the working class who will be the leading force of this transformation and of this state. On the contrary, to maintain that the bourgeois democratic revolution, as such, will be brought about by the “progressive” sectors of the bourgeoisie, and that the future state will be a government of national unity and concord, shows a determination to strangle the revolutionary movement within the framework of bourgeois democracy. The workers, once in power, will not be able to confine themselves indefinitely to bourgeois democratic limits; they will find themselves obliged—and more so with every day—to making greater and greater inroads into the regime of private property, in such a way that the revolution will take on a permanent character.
Before the exploited, we, the mineworkers, denounce those who attempt to substitute for the proletarian revolution, palace revolutions fomented by various sections of the feudal bourgeoisie.
III. The struggle against class collaboration
l. The class struggle is, in the last analysis, the struggle for the appropriation of surplus value. The proletariat that sells its labor power struggles to do this on the best terms it can and the owners of the means of production (capitalists) struggle to seize the product of unpaid labour; both pursue opposite aims, which makes their interests irreconcilable.
We must not close our eyes to the fact that the struggle against the bosses is a fight to the death, for in this struggle the fate of private property is at stake.
Unlike our enemies, we recognise no truce in the class struggle. .
The present historical stage, a period of shame for humanity, can only be overcome when social classes have disappeared and there no longer exist exploiter and exploited. Those who practice class collaboration are playing a stupid game of words when they maintain that it is not a question of destroying the rich but of making the poor rich. Our goal is the expropriation of the expropriators.
2. Every attempt to collaborate with our executioners, every attempt to make concessions to the enemy in the course of the struggle, means abandoning the workers to the bourgeoisie. Class collaboration means renouncing our own objectives. Every conquest by the workers, even the most minimal, is obtained only at the price of a bitter struggle against the capitalist system. We cannot think about reaching an understanding with our oppressors because, for us, the program of transitional demands serves the goal of proletarian revolution.
We are not reformists, even when putting before the workers the most advanced platform of demands; we are above all revolutionaries, for we aim to transform the very structure of society.
3. We reject the petit bourgeois illusion according to which the state or some other institution, placing itself above the social classes in struggle, can solve the problems of workers. Such a solution, as the history of the workers’ movement, nationally and internationally, teaches us, has always meant a solution in accord with the interests of capitalism at the expense of the impoverishment and oppression of the proletariat.
Compulsory arbitration and legal limitations of workers’ means of struggle, in most cases mark the onset of defeat. As far as is possible, we fight to destroy compulsory arbitration.
Social conflicts should be resolved under the leadership of the workers and by them alone!
4. The realisation of our program of transitional demands, which must lead to proletarian revolution, is always subject to the class struggle. We are proud of being the most intransigent when there is talk of making compromises with the bosses. That is why it is a key task to struggle against and defeat the reformists who advocate class collaboration, as well as those who tell us to tighten our belts in the name of so-called national salvation. There can be no talk of national grandeur in a country where the workers suffer hunger and oppression; rather we should really talk of national destitution and decay. We will abolish capitalist exploitation.
War to the death against capitalism! War to the death against the reformist collaboration! Follow the path of class struggle towards the destruction of capitalist society!
IV The struggle against imperialism
1. For the mineworkers, the class struggle means above all the struggle against the big mining trusts, against a sector of Yankee imperialism that is oppressing us. The liberation of the exploited is tied to the struggle against imperialism.
Since we are struggling against international capitalism we represent the interests of the whole of society and our aims are shared by the exploited the world over. The destruction of imperialism is a pre-condition to the introduction of technology into agriculture and the creation of light and heavy industry.
We are an integral part of the international proletariat because we are engaged in the destruction of an international force— imperialism.
2. We denounce as declared enemies of the proletariat the “leftists” who have sold out to Yankee imperialism, who talk to us of the greatness of the “democracy” of the north and its worldwide domination. You cannot talk of democracy in the United States of North America where the sixty families dominate the economy, sucking the blood from semi-colonial countries, ours amongst them. Yankee dominance throws up a vast accumulation and sharpening of the antagonisms and contradictions of the capitalist system. The United States is a powder keg, waiting for just one spark to explode it. We declare our solidarity with the North American proletariat and our irreconcilable enmity towards its bourgeoisie who live off plunder and oppression on a world scale.
3. The policies of the imperialists, which dictate Bolivian politics, are determined by the monopoly stage of capitalism. For this reason, imperialist policy can mean only oppression and plunder, the continued transformation of the state to make it a docile instrument in the hands of exploiters. “Good neighbourly relations,” “pan Americanism” and so on, are just a cover which the Yankee imperialists and the Criollo feudal bourgeoisie use to dupe the Latin American peoples.
The system of mutual diplomatic consultation, the creation of international banking institutions with the money of the oppressed countries, the concession to the Yankees of strategic military bases, the one sided contracts for the sale of raw materials etc, are so many devices used by those who govern the Latin American countries to shamefully divert the riches of these countries for the profit of voracious imperialism. To struggle against this embezzlement and to denounce all attempts at imperialist plunder is a fundamental duty of the proletariat.
The Yankees won’t just stop at dictating the composition of cabinets; they will go much further: they have taken on board the task of directing the police activity of the semi-colonial bourgeoisie. The announcement of the struggle against anti-imperialist revolutionaries means nothing less than that.
Workers of Bolivia! Strengthen your cadres in order to fight Yankee imperialist plunder!
V. The struggle against fascism
1. Our struggle against imperialism must run parallel to our struggle against the embezzling feudal bourgeoisie. Anti-fascism, in practice, becomes one aspect of this struggle: defence and attainment of democratic rights and the destruction of the armed bands maintained by the bourgeoisie.
2. Fascism is a product of international capitalism. It is the final stage of the decomposition of imperialism but, in spite of everything, it does not cease to be an imperialist phase. When state violence is organised to defend capitalist privileges and to physically destroy the workers’ movement, we find ourselves in a regime of a fascist type. Bourgeois democracy is a costly luxury that can only be afforded by those countries that have accumulated a great deal of fat at the expense of other countries where famine rages. In poor countries, such as ours, the worker will at one time or another will find himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.
No matter which party has to resort to fascistic methods the better to serve the interests of imperialism, one thing is sure: if capitalist oppression continues to exist, it is inevitable that those governments will be characterised by violence against the workers.
3. The struggle against the fascist bands is subordinated to the struggle against imperialism and the feudal bourgeoisie. Those who, under the pretext of fighting fascism, peddle confidence in equally ‘democratic’ imperialism and the ‘democratic’ feudal-bourgeoisie are only preparing the ground for the inevitable advent of a fascistic regime. To eliminate the fascist peril once and for all, we have to destroy capitalism as a system.
In the fight against fascism, far from artificially dulling class contradictions, we must sharpen the class struggle.
Workers and all the exploited let us destroy capitalism in order to definitively destroy the fascist peril and the fascistic bands! It is only by the methods of proletarian revolution and within the framework of the class struggle that we can smash fascism.
VI. The FSTMB and the present situation
1. The revolutionary situation brought about on July 21 [the overthrow of Villarroel] by the irruption onto the streets of the exploited, deprived of bread and liberty, and by the combative defensive action of the miners forced to defend the social gains and to extract further gains, has allowed the representatives of the mine owners to construct their state apparatus thanks to the treachery and collusion of the reformists who have made a pact with the feudal bourgeoisie. The blood spilled by the people aided its executioner to consolidate its position in power. The fact that the governmental Junta was a provisional institution did not in anyway modify this situation. The mineworkers were right to adopt an attitude of distrust vis-à-vis those in power and to demand from them that they oblige the companies to comply with the law. We cannot and must not solidarise with any government which is not our own, that is, a workers’ government. We cannot take this step because we know that the state represents the interests of the dominant social class.
2. “Worker” ministers do not change the nature of bourgeois governments. As long as the state is the defender of capitalist society, “worker” ministers become common pimps in the service of the bourgeoisie. The worker who is weak enough to swap his battle station in the revolutionary ranks for a bourgeois ministerial portfolio, joins the ranks of the traitors. The bourgeoisie has created “worker” ministers the better to dupe workers and so that the exploited will abandon their own methods of struggle, giving themselves over heart and soul to the guardianship of the “worker” minister.
The FSTMB will never enter a bourgeois government, because this would mean the most bare- faced betrayal of the exploited and the abandonment of our revolutionary class struggle line.
3. The next elections will install a government in the service of the big mining companies, because there is nothing democratic about these elections. The majority of the population, the indigenous [Indian] people and an enormous percentage of the proletariat are, by means of obstacles created by the Electoral Laws and because they are illiterate, refused the right to take part in elections. Sectors of the petit bourgeoisie, corrupted by the dominant class, have the decisive weight in the outcome of elections.
We harbour no illusions about the electoral struggle, we workers will not come to power by stuffing a ballot paper in a ballot box, and we will get there by social revolution. That is why we can assert that our behaviour towards the future government will be the same as towards the present Junta in power. If the laws are complied with, so much the better; that is what governments are supposed to do. If they are not, the government will find itself up against our most strenuous protest.
VII. Transitional demands
Each union, each mining region has its particular problems and the trade unionists in each of these must adapt their day-to-day struggle to these particularities. But, there are also problems which affect worker militants throughout the country and create the possibility of uniting them: growing poverty and the bosses’ boycott, which are becoming more menacing each day. Against these threats the FSTMB proposes radical measures.
1. The establishment of a basic minimum wage and a sliding scale of wages
The suppression of the pulperia barata [company shops] system and the enormous gap between standard of living and real wages, demands the fixing of a minimum wage.
A scientific study of a working class family’s living needs must serve as the basis of indexation for the minimum wage, i.e. of a wage that would allow that family to live a human existence.
In line with the decision of the Third Miners’ Congress (Catavi-Llallagua, March 1946), this wage must be complemented by a sliding scale of wages. In this way we can ensure that the periodic adjustment of wages is not nullified by rising prices.
We will put an end to the ceaseless manoeuvres that consist of swallowing up wage rises through devaluation and the hiking—almost always artificial—of the cost of living. The unions must take charge of the checking of the cost of living and must demand from the companies the automatic increase of wages in line with this cost. The basic wage, far from being static, must rise in line with the increase in the price of basic necessities.
2. The forty-hour week and a sliding scale of working hours
The introduction of machinery into the mines has resulted in the intensification of the work rate. The nature of work underground itself means that the eight-hour day is in fact longer and that it destroys the workers’ vitality in an inhuman way. The very struggle for a better world demands that we free, however little, man from the slavery of the mine. That is why the FSTMB will fight to win the forty-hour week, complete with the introduction of the sliding scale of working hours.
The only way to struggle effectively against the constant danger of a bosses’ boycott is to win the sliding scale of working hours that will reduce the working day in line with the number of unemployed. Such a reduction must not mean a cut in wages, since the latter is considered to be the minimum living wage.
This alone will allow us to avoid the situation where worker militants are crushed by poverty and where the bosses boycott artificially creates an army of unemployed.
3. Occupation of the mines
The capitalists attempt to contain the rise of the workers’ movement with the argument that they are obliged to close unprofitable mines: they attempt to put a rope round the necks of the unions by invoking the spectre of lay-offs. Moreover, temporary suspension of extraction, as experience shows, has only served to make a mockery of the real potential of the social laws and to re- employ workers under the pressure of hunger in truly shameful conditions.
The big companies use a double accounting system. One is intended for the consumption of the workers and for when it comes to paying taxes to the state; the other is used to establish the rate of dividends. For that reason, the figures of the accounts books will not make us give up our legitimate aspirations.
The workers who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of the companies’ prosperity have a right to demand that they are not denied the right to work, even in periods where this is not profitable for the capitalists.
The right to work is not a demand aimed against such and such a capitalist in particular, but against the system as a whole; that is why we cannot let ourselves be stopped by the lamenting of certain bankrupt small manufacturers.
If the bosses find they cannot give their slaves one more piece of bread, if capitalism, in order to survive, must attack the wages and gains won, if the capitalists immediately reply to all demands with the threat of a lock-out, the workers no longer have any other option than to occupy the mines and to take in hand, on their own account, the management of production.
The occupation of the mines, in itself, goes beyond the framework of capitalism, since it poses the question of who is the true master of the mines: the capitalists or the workers? Occupation should not be confused with the socialisation of the mines: it is only a question of avoiding the situation where the success of the bosses’ boycott, condemns the workers to die of starvation. Strikes with mine occupations are becoming one of the central aims of the FSTMB.
From this point of view, it is obvious that the occupation of the mines can only be considered illegal. It couldn’t be otherwise.
An action that, from all points of view, goes beyond the limits of capitalism cannot be catered for by already existing legislation. We know that in occupying the mines we are breaking bourgeois law and we are on the way to creating a new situation. We know that from now, the legislators in the service of the exploiters will give themselves the task of codifying this situation and will try to smother it by means of regulations.
The Supreme Decrees of the junta in power forbidding the seizure of the mines by the workers does not affect our position. We knew in advance that it is impossible in such cases to count on government support, and we are aware that we are not operating under the protection of the law Therefore, no other perspective remains to us but the occupation of the mines without conceding the slightest compensation to the capitalists.
In the course of the occupation of the mines there must emerge mine committees formed with the agreement of all the workers, including those who are not unionised. The mine committees will have to decide the future of the mine and of the workers involved in production
Mineworkers: to thwart the bosses’ boycott—OCCUPY THE MINES.
4. Collective agreements
The law of the land states that the employers are free to choose between individual and collective contracts. Up till now, because it suits the companies, it has not been possible to win collective agreements. We must fight for the implementation of only one type of work contract: the collective contract.
We cannot allow the individual worker to let himself be crushed by the power of capitalism. In fact, he is unable to give his free consent since such a thing cannot exist while domestic poverty forces the acceptance of the most ignominious work contracts.
To the organised capitalists, who pull together to rob the worker through individual contracts, we oppose collective contracts of the workers organised in trade unions.
a) The collective work contract must above all be revocable at any time by the wish of the unions alone.
b) It must be obligatory for all, including non-union members; the worker who is going to sign a contract will find suitable conditions already established.
c) It must not exclude the most favourable of the conditions that may have been won from individual contracts.
d) Its implementation and the contract itself must be under union control.
e) The collective contract must be built upon our platform of transitional demands. Against capitalist extortion: COLLECTIVE WORK CONTRACTS!
5. Workers’ control of the mines
The FSTMB supports every measure that takes the unions on the path towards the achievement of real workers’ control over all aspects of mine work. We must disclose the bosses’ business secrets, their secret accounting, their technological secrets, the processing of minerals, etc, in order to organise direct intervention into these secret plans by the workers themselves. Because our objective is the occupation of the mines, we must turn our attention to throwing the light of day onto the bosses’ secrets.
The workers must control the technical management of the mines, the accounts books, must intervene in the assignment of the different categories of work and, especially, they must make known publicly the profits drawn by the big mining companies and the fraud they perpetrate when it comes to paying taxes or contributions to the workers’ Insurance and Savings Fund.
To the reformists who talk of the sacred rights of the bosses, we oppose the slogan of WORKERS’ CONTROL OF THE MINES.
6. Trade union independence
The realisation of our aspirations will only be possible if we are able to free ourselves from the influence of all sectors of the bourgeoisie and its “left” agents. “Managed” trade unions are a cancer in the workers movement. When trade unions become appendages of government, they lose their freedom of action and lead the masses on the road to defeat.
We denounce the CSTB as an agent of government in the ranks of the workers. We can have no confidence in organisations which have their permanent secretariat in the Ministry of Labor and who send their members out to propagandise for the government.
The FSTMB is absolutely independent from the different sectors of the bourgeoisie, from left reformism and from the government. It practices a revolutionary trade union policy and denounces as treason any accommodation with the bourgeoisie or government.
WAR TO THE DEATH AGAINST GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED TRADE UNIONISM!
7. Arming the workers
We have said that, as long as capitalism exists, the workers will be constantly threatened with violent repression. If we want to avoid a repetition of the Catavi massacre we must arm the workers. To repulse the fascist bands and the strike breakers, let us forge suitably armed workers’ strike pickets. Where are we going to get the arms? The fundamental task is to convince rank and file workers that they must arm themselves against the bourgeoisie, which is itself armed to the teeth; once that conviction is driven home, the material means will be found. Have we perhaps forgotten that we work every day with powerful explosives?
Every strike is the potential beginning of civil war and we must approach it with arms adequate to the task. Our objective is victory and for that we must never forget that the bourgeoisie can count on its army, police and its fascist bands. It falls to us, then, to organise the first cells of the proletarian army. All the unions must form armed pickets from the younger and most combative members.
The trade union strike pickets must organise themselves militarily and as soon as possible.
8. A strike fund
The pulperías baratas [mining company stores] and low wages are the companies’ means of keeping in check the workers, whose daily wage is their only resource. Hunger is the worst enemy of the striker. So that the strike can come to a successful end, we must relieve the striker of the burden of a starving family. The unions must reserve part of their income to build up strike funds, so that they may grant, as the case arises, the necessary aid to the workers.
Break the burden of hunger that the bosses impose on strikers; organise strike funds right away!
9. Control of the abolition of the pulpería barata system
We have already seen that the pulpería barata system made possible the unwarranted enrichment of the bosses at the expense of workers’ wages. However, simply doing away with these shops is only worsening the situation of the workers and is turning into a measure contrary to their interests.
So that the elimination of the pulperías baratas fulfils its function, we must demand that this measure is accompanied by a sliding scale of wages and recognition of the basic minimum wage.
10. The elimination of “a contrato” work
In order to get round the legal daily maximum hours of work and to exploit the workers even
further, the companies have dreamed up different methods of work called “a contrato.” We are obliged to thwart this new capitalist manoeuvre aimed at increasing their spoils. Let us establish a single system of daily wages.
VIII. Direct mass action and the parliamentary struggle
1. Amongst the methods of struggle of the proletariat, direct mass action occupies a central position for us. We know only too well that our liberation will be first and foremost our own work and that to win it we cannot count on the help of any forces other than our own. That is why, at this stage of upturn in the workers’ movement, our preferred method of struggle is the direct action of the masses, that is to say the strike and the occupation of the mines. As much as possible we must avoid striking for insignificant reasons in order to avoid squandering our strength. We must go beyond the stage of localised strikes. Indeed, isolated strikes allow the bourgeoisie to concentrate its forces and attention on a single point. Every strike must start off with the aim of becoming generalised. What is more, a strike by the miners must spread itself to other sectors of workers and to the middle class. Strikes with occupation of the mines are on the agenda. The strikers, from the outset, must control all key points of the mines and, above all, the explosives depots.
We declare that in putting the direct action of the masses to the forefront, we are not denying the importance of other forms of struggle.
Revolutionaries must be everywhere where social life throws the classes into struggle.
2. The parliamentary struggle is important, but in periods of upturn in the revolutionary movement, it takes on a secondary character. In order to play an effective role, parliamentarism must be subordinated to the direct action of the masses. In times of retreat when the masses abandon struggle and the bourgeoisie takes back the positions it has abandoned, parliamentarism can play a prominent role. In general, bourgeois parliaments do not resolve the essential problem of our epoch: the fate of private property. This question will be resolved by the workers in the streets. Although we do not renounce parliamentary struggle, we subject it to definite conditions. We must send to parliament tried and tested revolutionary militants who are in full agreement with our trade union activity. Parliament must become a revolutionary tribune: we know that our representatives will be in a minority, but we also know that they will undertake to expose, from inside the assembly itself, the manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie. But above all, the parliamentary struggle must be tied to the direct action of the masses. Worker deputies and mineworkers must act according to one line only: the principles of these theses.
In the course of the next electoral struggle, our task will consist of sending to parliament the strongest possible workers’ bloc. We stress that, while we are anti parliamentarists, we cannot, however, leave the field free to our class enemies. Our voice will be heard in the parliamentary arena as elsewhere.
To the electoral manoeuvres of the left traitors, we counter pose the formation of the PARLIAMENTARY BLOC OF MINERS!
IX. To the bourgeois demand for national unity, we oppose the workers’ united front
1. We are soldiers of the class struggle. We have said that the war against the exploiters is a war to the death. That is why we will destroy every attempt at collaboration within the workers’ ranks. The door to betrayal opened with the famous popular fronts, which, drawing away from the class struggle united the proletariat with the petit bourgeoisie and even with certain sectors of the bourgeoisie.
The policy of popular fronts has cost the international proletariat many defeats. So called “national unity” is the most cynical expression of the negation of class struggle, the abandonment of the oppressed to their executioners, and is the end point of the degeneration which the popular front constitutes. This bourgeois demand has been launched by the reformists. “National unity” means the unity of the bourgeoisie and their lackeys with the aim of muzzling the workers. “National unity” means the defeat of the exploited and the victory of La Rosca. It is impossible to talk of “national unity” when the nation is divided into social classes engaged in a fight to the death. As long as private property reigns, only traitors or paid agents of imperialism can dare to speak of “national unity.”
2. To the bourgeois demand for “national unity” we oppose that of the Proletarian United Front. The uniting of the exploited and the revolutionary elements in one unbreakable bloc is imperative in order to destroy capitalism which is, itself, united in a single bloc. Because we use the methods of proletarian revolution and because we do not step outside the framework of class struggle, we will forge the Proletarian United Front.
3. To counteract bourgeois influences, to achieve our ambitions, to mobilise the masses towards proletarian revolution, we need the Proletarian United Front. Revolutionary elements that identify with our declarations and proletarian organisations (factory workers, railway workers, printers, lorry drivers, etc) all have their place in the Proletarian United Front. Lately, the CSTB has been calling for a Left Front. Even now, we do not know for what purpose such a front is to be formed. If it is only a pre-electoral manoeuvre and if they seek to impose a petit bourgeois leadership on it—the CSTB is petit bourgeois—we declare that we will have nothing to do with such a Left Front. But if it will allow proletarian ideas to be dominant and if its aims are those of these theses, we would rally all our forces to this front which, in the last analysis, would be nothing other than a proletarian front with minor differences and under a different name. Against the united front of La Rosca, against the fronts which the petit bourgeois reformists think up almost daily:
Let us forge the Proletarian United Front!
X. Union confederation
The struggle of the proletariat requires a single command structure. It is necessary to forge a powerful UNION CONFEDERATION [Central Obrera]. The history of the CSTB shows us the way in which we must proceed if we are to succeed in our task. When federations turn themselves into docile instruments of the petit bourgeois political parties, when they begin to make pacts with the bourgeoisie, they cease to be the representatives of the exploited. It is our duty to avoid the manoeuvres of the trade union bureaucrats and sections of craft workers corrupted by the bourgeoisie:
The Confederation of Bolivian Workers must be organised on a truly democratic basis. We are tired of fiddled majorities. We will not stand for an organisation made up of about a hundred craft workers being able to have as much weight in the electoral balance as the FSTMB which numbers about 70,000 workers. The decisions of majority organisations cannot be overturned by the vote of almost non-existent groupings.
The proportional influence of the various federations must be worked out on the basis of the number of members.
PROLETARIAN, NOT PETIT BOURGEOIS, IDEAS MUST TAKE PRIME PLACE IN THE UNION CONFEDERATION.
Moreover, our task is to furnish it with a truly revolutionary program that must take its inspiration from what we put forward in this document.
XI. Agreements and compromises
1. With the bourgeoisie we must make neither bloc nor agreement.
2. We can form blocs and sign agreements with the petit bourgeoisie as a class, but not with its political parties. The Left Front, and the Union Confederation are examples of this type of bloc, but we must take care to fight to put the proletariat at its head. Faced with attempts to make us follow the petit bourgeoisie, we must refuse and break these blocs.
3. It is possible that many pacts or compromises with different sectors will not come to fruition; nevertheless, they are a powerful instrument in our hands. These compromises, if they are undertaken in a revolutionary spirit, allow us to unmask the betrayals of the petit bourgeois leadership and draw their base towards our positions. The July pact between workers and university staff is an example of the way in which a broken agreement can become a formidable weapon against our enemies. When certain academics without any standing launched an attack on our organisation in Oruro, the workers and revolutionary elements from the University attacked them and so gained some influence amongst the students. The declarations made in this document must form the starting point of any alliance.
The success of a pact depends on us, the miners, initiating the attack against the bourgeoisie; we cannot expect petit bourgeois sectors to take such a step.
The leader of the revolution will be the proletariat. The revolutionary collaboration between miners and peasants is a central task of the FSTMB; such collaboration is the key to the coming revolution. The workers must organise peasant unions and must work with the Indian communities.
For this the miners must support the peasants’ struggle against the latifundia and back up their revolutionary activity.
It is our duty to bring about unity with other sectors of workers as well as with the exploited sectors of artisans: journeymen and apprentices.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Alexander, Robert J. Trotskyism in Latin America. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1973.
Dunkerley, James. Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–82. London : Verso, 1984.
Grindle, Merilee Serrill, and Pilar Domingo. Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative Perspective. London: Institute of Latin American Studies and Cambridge, Mass.: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2003.
Malloy, James M. Bolivia, The Uncompleted Revolution, 2nd ed. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982
Rojas, Juan, and June C. Nash. I Spent my Life in the Mines: The Story of Juan Rojas, Bolivian Tin Miner. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
NB. the numbering of section Vii parts 5 and 6 has been corrected from the version appearing Wirfi Journal No.13 july 2015