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' organizations. 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 English-below. 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 immediately.20 "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- perialism. 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 scales. 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 Thesis. 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. n mmEEEEEEEE EE m BOLIVIAN PEASANTS AND MINERS SHAKE BANZER REGIME 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- sciousness. 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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