The Thesis of Pulacayo

September 25, 2007

The miners have long been in the vanguard of the
revolutionary movement in Bolivia. Their national
federation, the Federacion Sindical de Trabajadores
Mineros de Bolivia (FSTMB), founded in 1944, served not
only as a coordinating body for their struggle but also as a
clearing house where strategies were debated and ham-
mered out by union delegates before being taken back to the
miners .for their approval.
In early November of 1946. this body met in its First
Extraordinary Congress at the mining center of Pulacayo.
The FSTMB called the Congress in response to a reac-
tionary coup d'etat which had toppled the bourgeois
nationalist government of Major Gualberto Villarroel
and the MNR. The new government presented an im-
mediate threat to Bolivia's working class, and to the miners
in particular, as it threatened to crush all workers'
Delegates from every major mining district attended the
November 1946 Congress. On the last day of debate
Guillermo Lora, a young leader from the POR, presented
this Thesis to the miners. Although the POR was not a large
party, it carried an extraordinary influence among the
workers at this time for a variety of reasons. In the first
place, the MNR, usually the largest party in the mines in the
mnid-1940's, had been outlawed, its leaders exiled, and its
ranks were in disarray. Furthermore, the Bolivian Com-
inunist Party (then called the PIR) had lost most of its
support in the mines since its war-time popular front
strategy led it to ally with the new reactionary government.
Finally. the POR had spent years working with the major
mining leaders and, by 1946, established itself as a major
.lorce in the mines.
The Thesis ofPulacayo represents the miners' response to
the political situation of 1946. But, more importantly, it
outlines the long-range strategies for the struggle towards
socialism. Because of its significance not only for Bolivia,
but also lbr all the Americas, and its timeliness, we have
reproduced a slightly-edited version-the first to appear in
Guillermo Lora on the Thesis of Pulacayo
The following statements are excerpted from a NACLA
interview with Guillermo Lora, leader of the Revolutionary
Labor Party (POR) and author of the Thesis of Pulacayo,
conducted in Santiago, Chile in November 1972.
"The Thesis of Pulacayo is very important because, aside
from indicating a series of demands of the Bolivian labor
movement itself, it presents a theoretical focus for the
Bolivian revolutionary movement. In this sense, it is strictly
a political document, not a program of a political party; it
delineates the general outlines for a revolutionary strategy
of the working class. ....
"On the theoretical plane, the novelty of the Thesis lies in
the fact that it indicates that in Bolivia, an extremely un-
derdeveloped and backward country, the working class-a
minority of no more than 10 percent of the population-
nevertheless is the political axis of the country and is called
upon to play the role of political leadership for the entire
oppressed nation.
"This struggle logically should lead us not to a form of
workers'government in the abstract, but concretely to the
dictatorship of the proletariat that consequently will have to
carry out truly democratic practices in order to transform
itself into socialism. (But the Thesis also) considers the
working class movement and miners in particular, in the
state in which they existed at that time, and proposes a
series of appropriate demands, not only for the moment in
which the working class found itself, but also for the ob-
jective conditions of the country.
"At the time (1946), the large mining interests attempted
to lock-out their workers, arguing that they could not meet
raised demands and that, faced with a militant labor
movement, private enterprise ran the risk of bankruptcy.
The Thesis outlines concrete answers to this situation,
proposing to the workers: when a mine closes, occupy it
"It was not possible at this time to talk about
nationalizing the mines in the abstract; rather a concrete
answer to the counter-revolutionary attitude of the large
mining interests had to be formulated. Namely that the
workers would occupy the mines as a first step to push the
masses toward the seizure of power.
"The workers never have thought that they would be
owners of the mines without first controlling the state. In
this same sense, worker control would not only break the
monopoly of the companies, but also would mobilize the
working class for the seizure of the mines and the state.
(Concerning specific demands in the Thesis): "The
demand for an 'escalator clause' in salary contracts is a
revolutionary answer to financial manipulation--such as
inflation--designed to neutralize salary increases. Thus, the
Thesis proposes that salaries increase proportionally to the
cost of living. The demand for a sliding scale of work-hours
is the key to eliminating growing unemployment. It
proposes that when the level of unemployment increases,
the work-day should be shortened accordingly in order to
give work to those laid-off, while each individual's salary
would remain at the same level.
"These are some central demands, but it is worth un-
derscoring the following: the Thesis takes an old Bolivian
tradition-the arming of the working class-and turns it
into a strategic principle. The Bolivian working class does
not need petit-bourgeois intellectuals to show it how to arm
for struggle. In reality, as a class it has had a long tradition
of armed struggle and a rich experience in combat with the
army and police... The Thesis places the urgency of an
armed working class in the forefront because, in reality, the
proletariat finds itself in a head-on confrontation against
reactionary forces and the state at the service of the
dominant classes.
(Concerning dissemination of the original Thesis): "At
first the Thesis was published only in a simple
mimeographed edition to be distributed to all the unions in
the country-over 100. The Thesis spread in the mining
centers basically by radio and through public meetings. It
was read and explained to the miners who were mostly
illiterate. The POR held that the Thesis expressed in
theoretical terms those instinctive tendencies present in the
working masses. In other words, the Thesis expressed in a
coherent and conscious manner the instinctive socialism of
the miners.
"One cannot say that the Thesis is a utopian expression
of how to change the country. In reality it is a Marxist
answer to the concrete situation posed by the Bolivian
economic and social structure. The Thesis is a program for
proletarian revolution, and it cannot be simply judged from
its concrete demands alone. One has to consider the
demands and the long-run strategies that it proposes. These
are rooted directly in the theory of "permanent revolution"
as elaborated by Leon Trotsky and inspired by the program
of the Fourth International."
The Thesis of Pulacayo
I. Principles
1. The proletariat, even in Bolivia, constitutes the
revolutionary class. The mine workers, the most advanced
and combative sector of the national proletariat, hereby
define the nature of the struggle of the FSTMB.
2. Bolivia is a backward capitalist country. Within the
spectrum of the most diverse stages of economic evolution,
capitalist exploitation predominates qualitatively while
other socio-economic forms constitute the inheritance of our
past. From this fact emanates the predominance of the
proletariat in the national political structure.
3. Bolivia, despite its backwardness, is still a link in the
international capitalist chain. National characteristics
represent a combination of the fundamental traits of the
world economy.
4. In Bolivia the political process has yet to produce a
bourgeoisie capable of eliminating the latifundio and other
pre-capitalist forms of production, or bringing about
national unification and liberation from the imperialist
yoke. Such unrealized bourgeois tasks are democratic-
bourgeois objectives that must be carried out without delay.
The central problems of semi-colonial countries are:
agrarian revolution, i.e. the elimination of the feudal
heritage; and national independence, i.e. casting off the
imperialist yoke. These tasks are closely linked....
*Complete text in Guillermo Lora, ed., Documentos politicos de Bolivia (La Paz: Editorial "Los Amigos del Libro," 1970), 361-390.
6. The development of backward countries takes on a
dual characteristic: it embraces at the same time the most
primitive economic forms as well as the latest technology of
capitalist civilization. The proletariat of the underdeveloped
countries is forced to combine the struggle for bourgeois-
democratic tasks with the fight for socialism.
7. Given the primitive technological level, the develop-
ment of the latfiindio would be inconceivable if it were not
for imperialism which maintains it artificially by feeding it
crumbs. Were it not for the national feudal-bourgeoisie,
imperialist domination would be inconceivable. In Bolivia,
the existing capitalist sector is highly concentrated; three
enterprises control mining production, the economic basis
of national life.
The ruling class is incapable of fulfilling its ,wn historical
objectives, and finds itself tied to feudal as well as to im-
perialist interests. The ruling class uses the state as a
powerful instrument to crush its adversaries. The petit-
bourgeoisie, or middle class, is the largest class, yet its
impact on the national economy is insignificant. Until now
it has been unable to develop the politics of an independent
class, and will be less able to do so in the future. One of the
characteristics of the proletariat is that it has enough
strength to achieve not only its own objectives, but also
those of other classes. Specifically, the role it plays in the
production process and not its numbers determines its
enormous political weight. The proletariat-the economic
base of national life-will also become the motor force of
the future revolution. The Bolivian proletariat, because of
its youthful ranks and incomparable vigor, . . . because it21
lacks a tradition of electoral politics and class collaboration,
and finally because it has had to act in a country where the
class struggle unfolds amidst extreme violence, has become
one of the most radicalized proletariats.
II. The Type of Revolution That Must Be Carried Out
2. Those who call us advocates of an immediate
proletarian revolution deceive, for we know only too well
that the objective conditions for such a task are not present.
Thus, we stress that the revolution, because of its objectives,
will be bourgeois-democratic. It will, however, only be a
stage in the socialist revolution because the proletariat will
lead it. Proletarian revolution does not mean the exclusion
of other exploited sectors, rather it means a revolutionary
alliance of the proletariat with peasants, artisans, and some
sectors of the urban petit-bourgeoisie.
3. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the con-
summation of this alliance at the level of state power. The
slogans of revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat
make it clear that the working class will provide the
leadership in these transformations and in the new state. To
hold that the bourgeois-democratic revolution will be
carried out by "progressive" sectors of the bourgeoisie and
that the future state will be a government of national unity
and harmony is, on the other hand, tantamount to saying
that the revolutionary movement will be strangled within
the margins of a bourgeois-democracy. The workers, once in
power, cannot confine themselves indefinitely within the
limits of bourgeois-democracy and will each day undermine
ever deeper the concept and dominance of private property,
and thus the revolution will acquire a permanent nature,
Ill. The Struggle Against Classist Collaboration
1. The class struggle is the struggle for the appropriation
of surplus value. The proletariat which sells its labor is
struggling to do so under better conditions. The owners of
the means of production (the capitalists), are struggling to
continue to steal the product of unpaid work. These con-
flicting objectives result in an irreconcilable confrontation.
The present historical stage, one of human shame, can be
overcome only when social classes are abolished, when
exploiters and exploited cease to exist. Our objective is the
expropriation of the expropriators.
2. Class collaboration would mean renouncing our
objectives. Every conquest by the workers, no matter how
small, only comes as a result of bloody struggles against the
capitalist system. We cannot think of reaching an un-
derstanding with those who subjugate us because we must
subordinate transitory gains to the broader program of
proletarian revolution.
3. We reject the bourgeois-democratic illusion of letting
the state or other institutions solve the workers problems.
The history of national and international movements has
shown that such a solution has always been in the interests
of the capitalists and that the proletariat has consistently
paid for it through increased hunger and oppression.
Conflicts must be resolved under the leadership of the
workers and by the workers.
4. The realization of our program of short-term gains
which should lead us to the proletarian revolution is always
subordinate to class struggle. Because of this, a central task
is to fight and destroy the reformists who advocate class
collaboration and those who advise us to tighten our belts
for the sake of so-called "national salvation." When the
workers are hungry and oppressed, we cannot speak of
national greatness.
War until death against capitalism!
War until death against reformism!
Advance on the road of class struggle toward the
destruction of capitalist society!
IV. The Struggle Against Imperialism
1. For the miners, class struggle means, above all, the
struggle against the large mining interests; that is, the
sector of Yanqui imperialism that oppresses us. The
liberation of the exploited is dependent upon the struggle
against imperialism. Because we fight against international
capitalism, we represent the interests of the whole of
society, and we have common objectives with the exploited
of the world. The destruction of imperialism must come
before the modernization of agriculture, and the creation of
light and heavy industry. We, the miners, are members of
the international proletariat because our efforts are directed
towards the destruction of an international force: im-
2. One cannot speak of democracy when 60 tamilies
control the United States, and when those 60 families suck
the blood of semi-colonial countries like ours. We declare
ourselves in solidarity with the North American proletariat
and irreconcilable enemies of its bourgeoisie which lives
from the plunder and oppression of the world.
3. Imperialist. policies which define Bolivian reality are
determined by the present monopolistic stage of capitalism.
The "Good Neighbor" policy; "Panamericanism," etc.,
etc., are nothing but disguises the Yanqui imperialists and
local feudal-bourgeoisie use in order to deceive the Latin
American people. The creation of international banking
institutions with money from the oppressed countries, the
concession of strategic military bases to the Yanquis, the
one-sided contracts for the sale of natural resources, etc.,
etc., are various forms of the shameless surrender of Latin
America by its rulers. To fight such surrender is the fun-
damental duty of the proletariat. The Yanquis are not
satisfied with merely dictating nominations for cabinet
posts: they go further, taking into their own hands the task
of directing police activities in the semi-colonial countries against anti-imperialist forces.
Workers of Bolivia: Bolster your ranks in order to fight
against greedy Yanqui imperialism
V. and VI. The Struggle Against Fascism
and The FSTMB And the Present Situation
(The first section discusses the need to fight fascism, a necessary outgrowth of capitalism; the second section. directed to the situation then existent in Bolivia, reiterates
the need./or class struggle and opposes worker participation
in bourgeois governments. Both are summed up under the
followingg slogans.--eds.)
Workers and those that are exploited: Let us destroy capitalism in order to decisively destroy the threat of
fascism! Only with the methods of the proletarian revolution and within the framework of class struggle can we destroy fascism.
The FSTMB will never take part in bourgeois regimes since this would mean open betrayal of the exploited and a
disregard of the fact that our revolutionary line is that of class struggle.
VII. Short-Term Demands
Each union, each mining region, has its particular
problems, and the union membership must adjust its daily22
struggle to these. But there are problems that, in them-
selves, affect and unify the workers of the whole country:
increasing misery and the bosses lock-out. Against these
current dangers, the FSTMB proposes radical measures.
I. Minimum wage and an "escalator clause" in pay
2. Forty hour work-week and sliding scale of work-hours.
3. Mine take-overs to meet lock-outs.
4. Collective bargaining agreements.
5. Union autonomy. The realization of our goals will be
impossible unless we liberate ourselves from all sectors of
the bourgeoisie. . . . Once unions become dependent on
the government, they lose their freedom of action and lead
the masses down the road to defeat.
6. Worker control in the mines. The FSTMB backs
every measure that the unions take to obtain effective
worker control over the running of the mines. Since this is
our objective, we have to make it our business to learn all
aspects of how the companies function. The workers must
grasp the technology governing the extraction process,
gain access to the companies' accounting systems, par-
ticipate in the naming of high level employees, and above
all they must disclose the bosses' profit-rates as well as
their fraudulent procedures when it comes to paying taxes
and making their lawful contributions to Social Security.
We oppose reformist talk about the bosses' "untouchable
rights" with the slogan of worker control in the mines.
7. Arms for the workers. We have said that while
capitalism exists, violent repression of the workers'.
movement is always a danger. If we want to avoid a
repetition of the Catavi Massacre,* we have to arm the
workers. In order to repel goon-squads and strike-
breakers, we must form well-armed worker cadres. Where
do we get arms? The fundamental point is to teach the
workers that they must arm themselves to the teeth
against the well-armed bourgeoisie; the means will be
found, or have we forgotten that every day we work with
powerful explosives? Against future massacres, Armed
Worker Cadres!
8. Creation of a strike fund.
9. Outlawing of the company store.
10. Elimination of individual piece-work contracts.
VIII. Direct Mass Action and Electoral Struggle
We reiterate the preeminence of direct mass action
among the various methods of proletarian struggle. We
know very well that our liberation will be the fruit of our
own work, and that to achieve it we cannot wait for
cooperation with forces outside our own. This is why in
this stage of the workers' movement our chosen method of
struggle is direct mass action; more explicitly, strikes and
mine take-overs.
As far as possible we must avoid striking for in-
significant reasons that only serve to weaken our forces.
Let us overcome the phase of local strikes. Isolated strikes
allow the bourgeoisie to focus their attention and their
forces on one point. Every strike must be called with the
intention of its becoming a general strike. Furthermore, a
miners' strike must extend itself to other sectors of the
proletariat and the middle class. Strikes coupled with
mine take-overs are the order of the day.
*A 1943 army massacre of hundreds of miners and their families in the
large mining camp of Catavi.
From the first, the strikers must control a mine's key
points, above all, the storage bins of explosives. We declare
that by stressing direct mass action, we overcome the need
to devise other methods of struggle.
Revolutionaries must always act whenever a social
system pits classes in a situation of struggle.
Electoral politics are important, but in the ascendent
stages of a revolutionary movement they play a secondary
role. In order to become important, electoral work must
be subordinate to direct mass action. In times of retreat
when the masses abandon the struggle and the bourgeoisie
takes the offensive, electoral politics can become primary.
Bourgeois parliaments do not resolve the fundamental
contradiction of our times-the fact of private property-
for only the workers in the street will decide it. Therefore,
we do not discard electoral politics, we merely subor-
dinate them to certain prior conditions. We must elect to
Congress proven revolutionary elements that identify with
the position of our union. Congress must be turned into a
revolutionary tribunal. We know that our representatives
will be a minority, but we also know that they will expose
the maneuvers of the bourgeoisie. Above all,
congressional struggles must be directly linked to direct
mass action. Worker deputies and miners must act under
only one authority-the principles that are laid out in this
IX. We Oppose the Bourgeois Slogan of "National
Unity" With the Common Proletarian Front
1. We are soldiers in the class struggle. We have said
that the war against the exploiters is a war until death. For
this reason we will destroy every attempt at co-optation
within the ranks of the workers. "National Unity" means
unity of the bourgeoisie with their servants in order to
better handcuff workers. "National Unity" means defeat
of the exploited. We cannot speak of "National Unity"
when the nation is divided into social classes and while
private property continues to exist.
2. We oppose the bourgeois slogan of "National Unity"
by the formation of the Frente Unico Proletario
(Common Proletarian Front). This forging of a solid bloc23
of exploited and revolutionary elements is necessary in
order to defeat capitalism, itself united in one bloc.
X. A Federation of All Workers
The struggle of the proletariat needs unified leadership.
Thus, we must forge a powerful Workers' Federation. We
must avoid the strategems of union bureaucrats and ar-
tisan sectors that have been corrupted by the bourgeoisie.
A Workers' Federation for all Bolivian workers must be
organized on a truly democratic basis. We are not going to
allow an organization of one-hundred artisans weigh
equally in a vote as the FSTMB, which has some 70,000
members. Each federations' influence must be determined
by its numbers. Proletarian, and not petit-bourgeois
thinking must prevail in the Workers' Federation. Fur-
thermore, it is our task to present the Federation with a
truly revolutionary program inspired by what is expressed
in this document.
XI. Pacts And Compromises
We will not become party to any compromises or pacts
with the bourgeoisie. Only with the petit-bourgeoisie as a
class, and not with their political parties, can we forge
blocs and sign compromises. The Common Proletarian
Front and the Workers' Federation are examples of such
blocs. But we must always make sure that the proletariat
leads each bloc.
The declarations contained in this document must be used as a frame of reference for all pacts. The fulfillment
of a pact depends on us, the miners, as only we can initiate
an attack on the bourgeoisie. We cannot expect the petit-
bourgeoisie to take such a step. The proletariat will lead
the revolution. Revolutionary collaboration between
miners and peasants is a central task of the FSTMB, and
such collaboration is the key to future revolution. The
workers should be in charge of organizing peasant unions,
and of working jointly with the Indian communities. For
this, it is necessary that the miners support the struggle of
the peasants against the latifundio and thus enhance their
revolutionary activity.
Pulacayo, Bolivia. November 8, 1946.
Translated by Ignacio Warnes
Hoby Spalding, Jr. and Steve Volk, eds.
As this issue goes to press, Bolivian peasants and miners continue to defy the Banzer regime, bringing the military dictator one step closer to his inevitable fall. The present crisis was touched off at the end of January when the government doubled prices of all basic foods. The increase supposedly was designed to curtail smuggling of Bolivian products to neighboring countries. Yet it is unlikely to have this effect
since many of the country's biggest smugglers
are Banzer's own cabinet officials.
The crisis also intensified the divisions
within the armed forces, and new sources
speculated that they would soon split totally. The
New York Times reported that the home of
General Eladio Sanchez, ousted from his com-
mand in January, has been searched numerous
times by troops loyal to Banzer.
Peasants resisted the price increased by
blocking the major highways of the Cocha-
bamba Valley, and some 4,000 tin miners walked
out in a wildcat strike. Bolivian troops have
reportedly slain more than 100 peasants. Banzer
labeled the peasant leaders "left-wing ex-
tremists," but they were the same leaders who
supported his rise to power two and one-half
years ago. He also urged peasants to "kill the
first Communist agitator who goes into the
farms." The peasantry has not been notably
revolutionary since the agrarian reform laws of
the early 1950's, but statements such as this will
undoubtedly help to raise their level of con-
It seems unlikely that Banzer will survive
this current challenge. But neither is it likely
that the present crisis will bring the workers to
power. What is clear is that the popular
resistance to the oppressive government will not
end until that government falls.

Tags: Bolivia, tin industry, mining unions, Thesis of Pulacayo, Guillermo Lora

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