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Indianismo and Marxism: The mismatch of two revolutionary rationales

from Links - International journal of socialist renewal
Introduction by Richard Fidler --
This important article by Álvaro García Linera, now vice-president of Bolivia, was first published in 2005. It traces the contradictory evolution of the two most influential revolutionary currents in the country's 20th century history and argues that Marxism, as originally interpreted by its Bolivian adherents, failed to address the outstanding concerns of the Indigenous majority.

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5 Com:

John Tracey | January 29, 2008

Hi Dave,

Do you see any relevance of this analysis to Australia?

There may be lessons in relation to political organisation and mobilisation in Aboriginal Australia, although the different circumstances make for only a tenuous connection.

However, it seems to me, that there is a far more basic question here for socialists, is a class analysis (alone) adequate to understand oppression and organise for liberation?

The Bolivian peasant/rural workers in particular but also the urban workers are both the working class and indigenous traditional owners at the same time. The article refers to an earlier colonial mode adopted by socialists that did not connect to indigenous reality. Once the colonial mode was replaced by indigenous modes then struggle, it seems, became more effective.

The Australian working class are predominantly migrant stock and therefore cannot be mobilised within indigenous modes, but they do have an experience of reality that is much more broad than just that of a worker, more than their place in the mode of economic production. They, like the indigenous society, are also members of local communities, and as such denied political power over their own lives in community and environment every bit as much as in the economy.

At a time in Australia where there is very little militance amongst workers and the trade union movement has very thoroughly contained the organised working class and coopted them into the agendas of the bosses, it seems there is a great need to find some other focus of organisation (such as local communities). Simply clinging to idealised notions of worker struggle and building a vanguard for some future hypothetical turn of circumstance seems a bit of a dead end to me. Would it not be better to organise within some other more fertile mode that transcends simple class analysis as the Bolivian movement has in adapting to indigenous reality?

Dave Riley | January 30, 2008

Do you see any relevance of this analysis to Australia?

Yes. Everything is relevant when it's in struggle mode.The related topic is the rise of the continental militancy in Latin America after years of autocracy and rationalist economics. It is also a challenge of defending the gains made in Bolivia from attack and subversion.

However, it seems to me, that there is a far more basic question here for socialists, is a class analysis (alone) adequate to understand oppression and organise for liberation?

Yes, it is.It's just that you may be tad ignorant on the matter of how class analysis relates to society.

Would it not be better to organise within some other more fertile mode that transcends simple class analysis as the Bolivian movement has in adapting to indigenous reality?

You mean in the anti war movement or the movement for civil rights or around climate change or for indigenous rights...? Then why don't we simply organise where we can? But then those Bolivians come up against the class nature of their society too, don't they, on the question of how owns what.

John Tracey | January 30, 2008

"You mean in the anti war movement or the movement for civil rights or around climate change or for indigenous rights...? "

No, what i said in my previous comment was to organise in local communities, not a question of issues and demands but of sociological processes. e.g. the success of Steve Jolly and the SPA in organising in local community.

Indigenous issues in Venesuala is not an issue or a slogan but a basic reality of society - the objective historical condition - the base from which to organise around the issues.

Local community is an Australian sociological phenomenon that provides a solid base for activism above and beyond ideological notions of class. So too is nationalism which was a framework of Australian socialism until the rise of the internationalist sects.

Solidarity amongst nationalist movements seems to be the nature of central American socialism which of course has a lot to do with indiginist frameworks.

I may be wrong, I certainly disagree with you, but this is not based on ignorance. After 30 years involvement in the left and being born of fine working class stock your dismissal of my perspective as ignorant of class is a closed minded defensiveness every bit as insular as religious dismissal of infidels.

If the Bolivarian movement can accomodate historical realities beyond simple class analysis such as indiginist modes,as the Linera article suggests, why cannot the Bolivarian adherents in the rich white world also manage to build and develop on class analysis rather than defending a simplistic, outdated mode that is gaining no traction in contemporary society?

Dave Riley | January 30, 2008

If the "locaL community" provides a solid base for activism then the evidence should decide the matter. Of course such activity can be pointed to -- but so far that has not been generalised outside a few centres -- Steve Jolly's council win (but what about the Greens in inner Sydney: aren't they "local " too? Col Hesse in Marrickvile?); Nick Origlass in Glebe; the Qld Communist Party in Bowen during the '30s..etc ,,,and as you know Brisbane's WestEnd has been motivated for yonks as a centre of localised political activity...so in effect its political strength and culture should be well in advance of so many other centres as an example of libertarian inspired activism.

Well is it? What do you think? After 40 years of community stuff what do you think of West End as an example of political localism according to your proffered template?

In effect it's neither one thing nor another -- tactically. It's all a matter of motion.

My experience is otherwise(near where i live) -- but then that's my experience.I'm not saying localised political activity doesn't exist and is not sustainable but political change has tended historically here in Aust to be driven by broader campaigning and broader issues. And in the case of the SP in melb I think they are constrained by their localism in the same way as their sister party has been in Dublin.

(If you check out the interviews on Environment Politics on LeftCast we explore that debate within the climate change movement --relative to the sort of campaign that needs t be built. And it is interesting how much of that sort of broad issue localism exists here in Brisbane as we are finding out with the Roberto Perez tour.)

I do do my homework as much as I can and I think the jury is still out on the SP and Jolly in terms of a more general application in way of a formula.Its major lesson is that the Greens monopoly on the electoral left does fade sometimes\ when they accommodate to economic rationalism.(It also helps when there's a preference shift)

Similarly you are measuring 'success' on electoral criteria alone perhaps?--so the Greens must be seen to be better 'politically' on that scale than some other independent or org.

And if the Greens can do that then they have 'localism' sown up? As it is a principle is it not of the Greens? But what constitutes this "localism"? Is it electoral? Is it day to day activism --a round what issues? Is it gutter and garbage issues? Or other topics -- can we do what they did in Northcote in the eighties in melb and sister city the town with Nicaragua and sundries...? Sponsor the Unemployed Workers Union --and do that within the ALP framework?

But then as I suggested you are trying to caricature what you presume I adhere to. This article on LINKS is a post some where else on the web (not here) -- by a Canadian -- for general discussion on a journal that has an international following and editorship.

You some how feel -- in your dedicated trolling role -- that its weaponry to have another go at what you presume to be my own politics. The 'hooks' being the indigenous element covered by "Indianismo" -- a subject which is your specialty.

I take the view that the indigenous struggle in LA -- and esp Bolivia -- is something we all need to study and address -- learning what we can and adapting our outlook accordingly.

It's immediate relevance here is its inspirational role. As it gets played out there -- and comrades of ours are in Bolivia and the moment and you should check out Fred's very popular blog HERE

or Rachels' new notes from there: HERE

...If you want to know more about a topic you think has very little relevance to Australia...(but enough to argue about here).


On Localism:check this thoughtful discussion out HERE

John Tracey | January 30, 2008

It is sad that you dismiss discussion and debate as trolling.

This closed mindedness is the main reason why DSP has been isolated and disconnected from broader movements over the last 30 years, you dismiss and villify anything that is not you. This sectarianism is the inherent failure of the party (or perspective) more than any inadequate social analysis.

As for West End, although most people living in West End are workers in a strict class anaysis, they are a different kind of worker than what inhabited the area 20 years ago. West End today is a cess pit of bourgoise illusion and conformity to capitalist modes, all be it with nice green trimmings. It is the failure of the "community" movement to deal with economic exploitation, in particular the process of gentrification and urban renewal, that has castrated any power the poor residents had. With the exception of public housing in the area, the poor have been evicted to other communities. It is on these issues of class struggle in a community - the interests of poor workers (and the lumpen prol) against the interests of affluent, upwardly mobile workers aping the consciousness of the capitalist class, as well as property developers and retail outlets that there is great opportunity for radical organising.

If the left spent as much time trying to organise the unemployed, pensioners, murris and blue collar workers in poor local communities as they do working with university students and trade union bureacrats then a real movement could be built.

Like the Linera article, I look for the confluence of class interests with other notions of identity such as indigenous, local community, nationalism, etc. to find hope.

You seem to dismiss these things as antithetical, or at least irrelevant to class.

The examples of community organising that you mention (jolly, Origlass etc.) have had much more profound effects on workers lives than the various ideological committees that the DSP have inhabited.

The Greens, like the DSP, have not yet (to my knowledge) engaged in any community organising around the interests of the lower working class and underclass as Jolly, Origlass etc. have. The Greens, like the West End bourgoise trendies, have little to say about social and economic justice and I do not point to them as an example.

(p.s.Dave, not related to this discussion, are you aware the S.A. website has dissapeared?)

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