SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
DAVID WHITMAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Whitman, the Vice Provost for International Relations here at Cornell. As you can see, we're a little bit over capacity. Our apologies for that. It's hard to predict the turnout at these events, and I'm sorry that some of you have to sit on the floor and others are not able to attend this lecture today. But the lecture is being videotaped and will be accessible for those who are interested afterwards
I'm delighted to be able to welcome you to this afternoon's lecture by the Vice President of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, one of that country's most prominent intellectual as well as political leaders. Mr. Garcia Linera was elected to the office of the vice president in December 2005 as the running mate of President Evo Morales. This election, following a period of vociferous street protests, brought to Bolivia a country in which the majority of citizens identify themselves as Indigenous, its first Indigenous president.
Mr. Garcia Linera is regarded by many as a key policy architect in the Morales administration. I'd like to outline very briefly the remarkable story of how Mr. Garcia Linera rose to this influential position.
He was born in 1962 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and his early career leanings were not especially political. He studied mathematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. There, however, he met a student and activist named Raquel Gutierrez Aguilar as well as a group of Salvadoran exiles with revolutionary interests. Before long, he was deeply involved in plans for a socialist revolution in Bolivia, a revolution with an Indigenous focus.
Mr. Garcia and Mr. Gutierrez began working with the head of the Confederation of Unions of Bolivian Workers and Farmers. Together they launched an armed movement called the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army. In 1991, Tupac Katari carried out the first of several attacks. But in April 1992, police arrested 12 of its key leaders including Mr. Garcia Linera, his brother, and Gutierrez. They remained in prison for five years, and during that time, they were tortured repeatedly.
Often in solitary confinement, Mr. Garcia Linera spent considerable time studying sociology and social movements. The Tupac Katari prisoners were released in 1997 after Gutierrez staged a hunger strike that drew attention across Bolivia and Mexico. Mr. Garcia Linera then lived in La Paz working as a university professor, a writer, and a speaker. Among his many published books-- I think he has 17 published books-- are Reproletarization, The Condition of Workers, and most recently The Multinational State. He appears frequently on radio and television and has become well-known for his support of Indigenous and leftist political movements.
In the summer of 2005, he was invited to stand as the vice presidential candidate of MAS, Movement to Socialism Party, even though at the time he was not a member of the party. In December of that year, the MAS ticket, headed by Evo Morales, won an astounding 54% of the vote with an 85% turnout. With that victory, of course, came tremendous opportunities but also tremendous challenges.
I look forward as I'm sure you do to the vice president's remarks. But first I would like to introduce Professor Bruno Bosteels of the Department of Romance Studies who will tell us more about Mr. Garcia Linera's contributions to political theory and Marxism. Professor Bosteels.
BRUNO BOSTEELS: Thank you very much for this official welcome by the Vice Provost for International Affairs, David Whitman. My name is Bruno Bosteels from the Department of Romance Studies and editor of the journal Diacritics, which is the principle sponsor of today's event.
It is a true honor for me to introduce our guest-- our distinguished guest, the vice president of Bolivia, [INAUDIBLE] Alvaro Garcia Linera. And I do not wish to take up much of your time, but I do want to explain briefly how today's lecture fits in the broader context of the International Conference on Marx and Marxisms in Latin America to be held in 10 days here at Cornell. Before I do so, however, it is my pleasure to thank every colleague, department, and program whose collaborative efforts made this event possible.
The initial contact idea for inviting Mr. Garcia Linera came out of conversations with my friend and colleague, Edmundo Paz Soldán. Unfortunately, he cannot be here today to welcome his fellow Bolivians to Cornell, but I do hope that he will have a chance to see the videotape. Today's lecture as well as a conference next week would not have been possible without the financial support of Diacritics, and I thank the editorial board for supporting the idea behind this.
The Department of Romance Studies, which houses our journal, also chipped in additional financial support thanks to the Berkowitz Memorial Endowment, and from the start, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies as well as Latin American studies program that is part of it contributed generous support through their funds and staff. In addition, I want to thank the Department of Government as well as the Society for the Humanities for cosponsoring today's lecture. To the chairs and directors, my sincere thanks-- Walter Cohen, Nick Vanderwall, David Block, Bob Blake, Mary Katzenstein, and Brett Berry.
Above all, I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to three colleagues and friends without whose constant and enthusiastic collaboration we would not have gotten further than sheer wishful thinking. These are Collette Rawls and Andrew Balinsky from romance studies as well as Triva Levine from the Latin American Studies Program. I apologize to them for all the extra work I caused over what usually is a peaceful summer, but I also want to express my appreciation for the camaraderie and complicity that I think we all got out of this experience.
Now in honor of our special guest, I would like to switch to Spanish so as to say a few words about Mr. Garcia Linera as our inaugural speaker in a conference on Marx and Marxisms in Latin America.
This is also a way of testing if these headphones work.
INTERPRETER: Man reason underlying this conference has to do with a sense of loss of memory. For many years now, it seems to me that the question of Marxism has attached to it the seal of obsolescence. If not for the use of prefixes such as post or neo, post-Marxism, neo-Marxism-- no one it would seem refers to Marxism as a living doctrine of political or historical involvement to engagement.
Garcia Linera himself in an important 1996 text written from prison called Three Challenges to Marxism for Taking on the New Millennium.
In that essay, he describes the situation as follows. The rebels of yesterday who captivated the fury of their subversive language impoverished campesinos today find themselves in the face of shining private companies and NGOs, which can continue to go over the matyrized backs of the previously convoked campesinos. Russia, China, Poland, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Communist and Socialist parties, armed and unarmed vanguards today have no impetus of social redemption. They do not emblematize just in satisfaction. Rather they symbolize a great historic fraud.
From my point of view, however, there was something else going on as well, which is that many young people from subsequent generations don't even know anything about those rebels of yesterday, much less do they understand how they could captivate workers or peasants who were impoverished with the fury of their language. The memory was-- memory was broken and many intellectuals and radical activists of the 1960s and 1970s for a variety of motives including guilt, being tired, wanting to make a career, or simply the fear of being ridiculous were accomplices in the un-memory because they refused to transmit their experience.
And so the subversive fury was left without any direction in the box of nostalgia, and nobody criticized it-- nobody went for it with self-criticism. Certainly of most disastrous results of this rupture in collective memory is the false appearance of novelty. Grandiose theories of a multitude antagonism hegemony or intellectual work go into the global marketplace of ideas, but their novelty oftentimes is simply the other side of oblivion thus the idea of an international Congress that would bring together several generations from the most established to the youngest. Alvaro Garcia Linera, in that regard, holds an exceptional place and a privileged place.
Born during the last period of worldwide tumult, he did not accompany the vast majority of those in his generation, which is also my generation, who opted for savage neoliberalism and the most vile anti-Marxist approaches. In Bolivia and in several other experiences of Latin America, signs are being put out nonetheless of a possible restart of Marxism joined with other political and ideological traditions such as indigenism, often referred to as Indianism or Indianismo in Bolivia, messianism, and populism, or national variants of the such as [? Zapatismo ?] in Mexico.
It's in this regard, it seems to me that even today, Alvaro Garcia Linera is no doubt ready and willing to affirm what he said in his text return 10 years ago in response to the crisis of Marxism, which is to say the defense of Marxism, not as a doctrine, not as a philosophy, not even as a revolutionary theory but more simply as the synthesis of the insubordinations accumulated over time. And I quote, Marxism cannot be the discourse of continuity, much less the fear [INAUDIBLE] reform that prolongs the narrative now in place because it's the narrative of the rebellion of human practices.
Today, as we all know, the difficult task for leaders such as Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia Linera consists in weaving new forms to eat-- no not to eat-- to combine or perhaps to combine Marxism-- perhaps to eat it as well-- to combine Marxism as a principle of permanent insubordination with the exercise of power at the highest levels of the state. That is to say the question is whether there is a possibility of continuing that Marxism as a narrative of rebellion but at the same time occupying the state apparatus that is to uphold the normativity. Nonetheless because of his unique personal history because of his insightful analysis as a sociologist and political scientist and because of his theoretical work such as his reading of Marx in a book on revolution in 1971, Alvaro Garcia Linera-- or in 1991-- could be our special guest even if he were not Evo Morales vice president and had so-- yeah, it would have made the planning that much-- a lot easier. Now today the vice president of Bolivia will address Marxism and Indianismo.
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: Good afternoon, everyone.
I'd like to express my profound gratitude for the invitation that's been extended to me by Bruno to be here with you, sharing the kickoff of these seminars. I'd also like to thank the university, and in particular, I'd like to thank you because I understand that this is Labor Day and you could be in some much more relaxing activity. And I'm really very pleased and flattered that you have taken time from your day-to-day activities and from your well-deserved rest of the month to be accompanying me. So I really like to thank you for all of that.
Now before if it's possible that those who are standing outside the door might actually be able to sit inside because it doesn't seem to me that it's just or right or democratic to leave somebody outside the door. Is it possible that they could please come in?
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: Security problems. Well, in any event, my apologies to those who were outside the hall.
Bruno invited me to address the question of Marxism and indigenism or Indianismo, which is a very tense dynamic in the case of Latin America and particularly in Bolivia. And as a good Marxist follower of Hegel, I'll begin by talking about Marxism. I'll began by criticizing Marxism. This is what needs to be done by any Marxist who begins to reread his history and his memory, a working hypothesis that I'm going to try to prove in the following minutes.
In the 20th century, academic and political Marxism have been divorced from one another irremediably divorced or not from one another but from the struggles and from reflection, particularly in relation to the Indigenous world and the Indigenous struggle. In other words, as a working hypothesis, Marxism hasn't done anything. Actually existing Marxism in Latin America in the 20th century repudiated or failed to recognize the Indigenous movement, the Indigenous issues, and now what we want to find out is why this divorce, why this failure to find common ground, which lasted the past 100 years until the arrival of the first theoretical academic and political influences of the international Marxist movement.
The first question that comes up from this inquiry is what has led relatively similar societies, similar in terms of structural complexity, having several forms of production, both traditionally modern, and of a great preponderance at the agrarian world such as Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia on the one hand and China and Vietnam on the other hand have had such different ways of taking in and working out Marxist thinking. In the case of China and Vietnam, equally complex societies in their cultural linguistic and historical complexity and with a strong agrarian proponent, it's not possible to understand the political intellectual history without understanding the vital way in which Marxism has been tied to a national-- social struggles for national liberation in the case of Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
With two notable personal exceptions, the influence of Marxism in the 20th century was no doubt irrelevant to the Indigenous popular social struggles and very weak in fostering critical intellectual output with the exception, of course, of the Peruvian intellectual Carlos Mariategui and the Bolivian intellectual Tristan Marof, both of whom are intellectuals who from politics and from intellectual reflection approached the Indigenous question.
This divorce, this distance of a actually existing Marxism Latin America from the Indigenous worlds and struggles no doubt finds explanations in the characteristics of the organizations of the time and the characteristics and personal conduct of the leaders. These can help understand this divorce.
But they also have to do with the way in which Marxist theory was received in Latin America. Today I want to refer exclusively to this issue. In this brief lecture I am going-- this brief talk, I'm going to talk about the discursive and interpretive elements that contributed to rendering sterile the political development of Marxism in Latin America and in particular to inhibit or impede its articulation with Indigenous-- with the Indigenous movements in these countries that have a high Indigenous population-- a large Indigenous population.
What are those theoretical political components that led to the distancing and the divorce of actually existing Marxism in Latin America with the Indigenous movement-- the Indigenous and campesino movement and question in Latin America. Fundamentally the work of four theoretical political lines or four visions of history and of society, which far for bringing Marxism and Marxists closer to the Indigenous movements distanced them and in some cases led them into confrontation with one another. What are those four lines of divorce that contributed to this separation, to this distance, and to this impotence of actually existing Marxism with respect to the Latin American Indigenous movement?
The first, the linear and teleological vision of history for Marxists including those of the last generation of the 20th century. Bruno and I are certainly participants in this group directly or indirectly. There was a reading-- there was a vision of what history should be according to this Marxist or as we'll see later pseudo Marxist approach. History had a single line of ineffable development. We would go from primitive communism in the early days of history to slavery, from slavery to feudalism, from feudalism to capitalism, and from capitalism inevitably to communism.
It was assumed that that was the line that was going to cut through the history of all societies and all countries of the world.
So if this line of history was right, first primitive communism followed by slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and at the end communism, it was clear that in order to reach communism, one had to inevitably go through capitalism. And as a the social structure of Indigenous peoples is not capitalist, their contribution to socialist and communist struggles were presented as therefore irrelevant, and in some cases, it was seen as a bother or even as retrograde because they, the Indigenous, spoke returning to a past which would roll back the inevitable destiny of history, which is to say capitalism and then communism.
Now as if that weren't enough, given that the social structure of the Indigenous peoples, both ancient and contemporary, was not capitalist nor was it the natural communism that went back to the beginning of historical time, Latin American and particularly Bolivian Marxists said the Indigenous communities and the traditional agrarian structures could be either slave or slave-- characteristic of slavery or of serfs. Therefore Marxist intellectual and political set out to seek out slaves in the colonial and pre-colonial agrarian societies, or if it was not possible to find slaves, serfs and feudal lords within the haciendas and the traditional agrarian economies.
And given that capitalism was what was inevitable and the step prior to communism, the Indigenous and campesino communities only became interesting for political strategies and for academic interest to the extent that they were in the course of evolutionary transitioned towards being revolutionary proletariats because of being proletariats was the only mechanism whereby they could become forces of the revolution. In any event, as it was a question of Indigenous peoples from backward societies who represented the past and whose only possible role in history was to move as quickly as possible to modern industrial capitalist society, the interest and concern for the Indigenous peoples, their struggle, their history, their traditions, their struggles, or their importance in modern society became secondary.
This first line of the linear and teleological vision of history, which took power over a lot of the Marxist political party forces, was the first element that helped create an abyss or a river separating the development of the Latin American Marxist movement and the development of the Latin American Indigenous and campesino movement. Hence-- or from there on in the course of the 20th century with notable exceptions in the last years, particularly the '70s and '80s in Central America, that is to say El Salvador and Guatemala, the Latin American Marxist left was not able to understand Latin American social structure nor the utilitarian relation-- role of traditional structures and their tie in to modern capitalist structures.
A second line of discourse and interpretation that led the Latin American left-- Marxist left to separate itself from and fail to understand the Indigenous and campesino movement was the reading that all campesinos-- all Indigenous campesinos, a large part of them, were basically petit bourgeois. Now with the same scheme, if the Indigenous campesinos are not slaves or serfs as the manual of political science of the USSR said and [INAUDIBLE] the wage workers in the countryside in this Marxist reading of the 20th century, there was no other possibility than for them to be members of the petit bourgeoisie who are owners of the means of production and therefore as members of the petit bourgeoisie, according to the tradition of the manual on political economy and philosophy, as members of the petit bourgeoisie owners of their mode of production, they would be oscillating, wavering defenders of private property, always suspicious of betrayal through revolution and in permanent transition towards a proletarianization towards becoming workers, which is where they would just begin to have some interest in participating in history-- or there would be at that point some interest in their participation history.
So the struggle of campesinos and Indigenous peoples were depicted as having no progressive content historically because it was only once they became-- went from being peasants or campesinos to workers, only then would one have to attend to them and indeed one would have to accelerate this process so as to consider the participation of Indigenous and campesinos as an interesting element in the horizon of concerns and interests of 20th century Latin American left.
Now with that and taking into account that in the case of Bolivia, in the case of Ecuador, in the case of Peru, in the case of the Central American countries and in the case of Mexico until the mid-20th century, the peasant masses were the majority of the population. Bearing this in mind, it was clear that this Latin American Marxism in the 20th century did not have a policy of alliances or of constructing a national majority that would be capable of disputing state power.
Much less it was any revolutionary potential seen in the campesino masses, masses who to this day have a great significance demographically and economically in Bolivia. Even today, 39% of the population continues to be rural or campesino, and 62% of the population is Indigenous.
A third line of interpretation that was taken up by the Latin American Marxist left in the 20th century and which contributed to separating out or sharing a failure to find common ground or sharing a divorce between Latin American Marxism and the Indigenous movement is its interpretation of the community. In the version that predominated in the Latin American left, a traditional agrarian community was fundamentally a backward archives.
For this form of Marxism, the only historical communities were either the natural community far back in the early days of history or a future communism. Therefore there could not be any intellectual or revolutionary political line or form in the traditional agrarian-- in the lives of the traditional agrarian communities. To the contrary, these had to be replaced by different forms of wage labor or by being organized into state cooperatives, which should receive injections from the state or in other words the state would group them in their work.
This failure to recognize that role of the traditional community and of the vital strength and the potential of the agrarian and urban masses limited the Latin American left of the 20th century in terms of under-- their ability to understand the Indigenous forms of work, which are fundamentally rural, and it also kept them from understanding the post capitalist potential that were rooted in their work forms, in their communities, particularly associated work forms.
A fourth point that separates Latin American Marxism and the Indigenous movement was the way in which Latin American Marxism addressed the issue of cultural and national identities within the Latin American nation states, generally speaking for 20th century Latin American Marxism. For the socialist and Communist Parties, the linguistic, cultural, and historical diversity of Latin American Indigenous peoples were not a matter of academic interest whatsoever. They were not addressed in Marxist research and publications.
Much less were the cultural demands of the Indigenous communities with the exception, I should note, of Juan Carlos Mariategui in Peru who did address the Indigenous question in his writings and who sent forth a series of guidelines which were not taken up by any political party or intellectual movement afterwards and the case of Tristan Marof, who became tied to Indigenous communities in Bolivia and participated in Indigenous uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s in Bolivia with the exception of these to all other Marxist intellectuals until well into the 20th century.
Had a notable lack of interest with respect to the cultural identities and linguistic diversity of Indigenous communities generally, that was treated as a leftover of the past that tended to disappear as a capitalist modernity deployed in all directions in the processes of centralization and cultural homogenization, which were viewed favorably by the Latin American Marxist left as these went forward. In other cases, this cultural diversity and the claims of Indigenous nations were seen as a folkloric relatively unimportant for the struggles and having no influence whatsoever on mechanisms of social mobilization which were particularly urban and worker based.
Failure on the part of the Latin American Marxist left to understand cultural diversity, linguistic diversity, and demands for identity led that left to not understand the strength in and demands that vindicated the historic drought the peoples. Not only did this mean failing to recognize the potential for mobilization around these issues, something which was always present throughout the 20th century but separate from isolated from the Latin American Marxist lefts, but it also led to a failure or to understand the structure of social classes.
Latin American Marxism and worldwide Marxism in large-- to a large extent on reducing social-- the question of social classes to merely to the economy and ownership set aside the cultural, ideological, and symbolic content that is always present in the construction of social classes, and therefore it was unable to understand the mobilizing elements or the elements that would trigger the moral indignation of those who rise up because people don't rise up just because of certain economic calculations and relations of property. Ultimately what mobilized these people and how it triggered-- how mobilizations are triggered has to do with moral indignation vis a vis the authorities and vis a vis the powerful.
Hence from here, Latin American Marxism to a great extent throughout the 20th century was not able to ever engage in dialogue with the Indigenous movement. It was not able to contribute with relevant research on the Indigenous world, and it has not been able to engage in political processes involving the urban Marxist left and the workers based in the cities with the Indigenous and campesino movements that have unfolded throughout Latin America.
It's no accident that based on these four failures to find common ground-- first, a revision of history, second, contempt for the peasantry, reducing them to petit bourgeoisie, a failure to understand the potentials of the agrarian communities, and a banalization of cultural and linguistic identity-- these four quickly, especially in Bolivia, in Ecuador, and in part in Guatemala as over 1960s and '70s, would have brought about a counterpart of an Indigenous campesino movement which not only vindicated issues of cultural identity, political mobilization, and Indigenous self-government but almost without exception-- except for Guatemala-- it did so confronting the Marxists themselves. It did so criticizing the Latin American Marxist left.
I'm going to address quickly what happened in Bolivia, but something similar can be found at the beginning of the Indigenous movement in Ecuador and in Peru.
And that Marxism didn't take into account the communities. It didn't take into account the cultural identities. That Marxism did not understand the problem of internal colonial domination.
It was the Indigenous sectors themselves who promoted and created an Indigenous intellectual elite in the 1960s and '70s, which precisely reacted against the mechanisms of colonial oppression within the nation states. And it did so by putting in the same bag that, the dominant elites and the Marxist political forces. So it's not unusual that the denunciations made by the emerging Indigenous movement in the case of Bolivia or the Marxist and Marxist political forces were targeted by these denunciations and by these criticisms.
In the case of Bolivia, intellectually the Indigenous movement had a renaissance. It's had several stages in the 20th century. I'm just going to focus on the last one beginning in the 1960s and 1970s based on urbanized nuclei of Indigenous communities who had seen their ability to rise in society, to go to school, get access to university. Limited having under-- having experienced this racial and cultural exclusion in the university, in this government, they began to develop a theory on colonial domination, the racialization of the state, and also called for emancipation of Indigenous peoples vis a vis a state that they considered anti-Indigenous.
The first intellectual voices were Fausto Reinaga, an intellectual-- Indigenous intellectual who in the 1960s theorized and indeed could be considered the founding father of modern Indianism Indianismo. He is somebody who first isolated, then with a group of several other intellectuals who had been through the university, they began to work on the idea of a critique of the state and a proposal for an Indigenous revolution that would lead the Indigenous sectors previously excluded to power. And according to him they accounted for the immense majority of the Bolivian population.
On the basis of this Indigenous intellectual core of the 1960s, there were two lines that emerged. One was Indianista and the other was Catarista, the Indianista one, which from the outset proposed to study to take state power to Indianize Bolivia. And the Catarista line, which is a more intermediate position, that was tied to the political world that was also tied to the world of trade union and agrarian organizations of the peasant movement so as to have a-- to as to do work within these organizations to modify the thinking and to forge new leadership.
Now as to the-- with Fausto Reinaga as a founder, there was Indianismo, which was political reaction and Catarismo, which engaged in political action and trade union action in the communities and within the organizational structures created throughout the 20th century by democratic governments and by dictatorial governments.
The first experience of this Indigenous movement, electoral Indigenous movement, came in 1978, '79, and '80 when they presented independent candidates in the elections. From 1978 to '80 in Bolivia, democracy was recovered after more than three or 13 years of military dictatorship. This experience which was notable because of the innovation that it represented wasn't all that successful. The Indianista parties, that is to say the Indianista and Catarista parties did not obtain more than 1.5% of the vote. They were able to send for legislators to the National Congress. Nonetheless they were a small minority, and they did not find in elections any resonance or acceptance through the vote.
Of these two lines, the Indianista was more radical, and it sought not to engage in any kind of alliance or contact with other progressive forces of Bolivian society. The Catarista line was in contrast much more inclined to engage in dialogue with the left, and it did so in as the subjected ones. That is say it was the Cataristas who participated as a minority group along with the left force, which in 1982 came to power. The UEDP won some of its leaders, became cabinet ministers, and then this line was weakened by the impossibility of winning new voters.
The radical political Indianista version after this period of electoral competition and having obtained very scant vote ended up breaking into several different lines. Some turned more to religious aspects, vindicating traditional Andean religiosity. Others devoted themselves to academia, going into the universities so as to promote from there a reconstruction and reinvention of Indigenous history, particularly in history and anthropology, and in sociology. And another part of this elite of the 1970s, this political elite, would go home or seek some personal alliance with conservative forces which since 1985 were to take over the Bolivian political scenario.
Thus far, both Indianismo and Catarismo had very little in the way of relationship with the Bolivian left and particularly the most radical sectors. And they engaged not in a criticism not only of the colonial and racist state with their excluded majorities from the state institutions, but it also criticized in the left-- the Marxist left for its blindness and for its failure to understand the national situation, for failing to understand the traditional structures of Indigenous societies, and for failing to propose a strategy of alliances or pacts or mobilization that would unify the urban world and the workers with the agrarian campesino Indigenous world and also the urban peripheral community to urban slums, which were also mostly Indigenous.
At this point in the development of history and ideas, what one must ask oneself is having seen this failure to find common ground between Marxism and Indianismo in Latin American and Bolivia seeing the failure of common ground between a theoretical work of Marxism and the Indigenous analysis and the Marxist political movements and the Indian social movements does-- the question is does Marxism have anything to tell the Indigenous peoples. Might there be elements of Marxism that would make it possible to have a rapprochement or to overcome this separation of over 100 years standing between the Marxist movement in theory and the Indianists Indigenista movement and theory?
100 years would appear to say that the answer is no, but personally I think the answer is yes.
Is it possible to find within Marxism-- or rather it is possible to find within Marxism four main discursive lines, political, theoretical veins that could build a bridge to bring together two political, intellectual, and social histories that have unfolded separately over the last 100 years. Indeed, one could note that the success or part of the success, one small element that has made a contribution to the construction of a popular an Indigenous movement with enough capacity to mobilize in the years 2000, 2001, and up 'til 2006, and a good part of the key strategies of alliances that have been built between Indigenous communities, workers movements, urban youth.
Part of it is due to many different elements, first of all, of course, the characteristics of the moment, a new generation of social leaders, but also in very humble yet interesting way that should be taken into account, it also owes to a different way of being Marxist groups approaching the development of these movements and seeking a dialogue between the worldwide Marxist-- worldwide Marxism and local and general contributions of the Indigenous movement itself.
In terms of an initial finding, the divorce between Indigenous and Marxists in the 20th century, does Marxism have anything to say about this, to the Indigenous, to their movement, and to their interpretations? Yes, it does.
Marxism, different, of course, from the Marxism that prevailed in the 20th century in Latin America, has the theoretical [INAUDIBLE] and all that is capable of helping one understand the structural situation of Indigenous communities so as to shore up processes of struggle for emancipation, which in some cases are post-capitalist. But this requires closing out the vulgar interpretations of Marxism in common in the 20th century and many socialist and communist parties and to engage in a sort of archaeological dig of the hard core of critical lines of thinking of Marxism. In particular, we think that in critical Marxist theory, one finds at least four main theoretical lines that help, that can help, and that are helping bring about a rapprochement towards a critical coming together of Marxism and Indianism or Indianismo. But let me mention these four.
First, the theory of the development of capitalism as a formal and real as a subsuming of work. Second, the notion that-- nation and colonial history in capitalist societies. Third, theory of revolution and power.
Let's work on the first of these four lines. The first of these four lines, which we consider decisive for being able to forge common ground between Marxists and Indigenista or Indianistas. The first one, the theory of the development of capital, it's clear that there is no linear or teleological development of society.
It's clear that each society has many ways to develop and that destiny is neither definitive nor pre-established. It's clear that history itself is an uncertainty looking to the future. But it's also clear that capitalism itself has mechanisms for developing its own relationships and its own influences and expansions vis a vis international society.
Now what is the approach in terms of the question of development? Basically Das Kapital in the chapter on absolute and relative surplus value, chapter 6 unpublished, and manuscript 61, 63, which was recently-- well, 10 years ago translated into English and 12 to 15 years ago in German in large measure, the theory of real informal power has to do with the work of Tony Negri and Michael Hardt their works on Imperio and Multitud, or Empire and multitude, especially Tony Negri in his previous work on the workers' movement.
Now what is this reading of Marx say about capitalism, and how does that contribute or help us understand the Indigenous campesino societies of Latin America? What Marx tells us in that text is that capitalism or society-- what we call capitalist society has a founding an expansive core, which is the value of that self-valuates. It's the earnings that become or profit that becomes logic, destiny, and the driving force of all impulses of all activities of society.
It is so logical for profit, by profit, towards profit value that it grows on its own. According to Marx, it tends to expand and to touch all of social structure first, commercial structures, then all economic structures. It expands in terms of making use of territories. It expands to the sociability and forms of interaction that we persons have has among ourselves. It extends to the types-- the forms and types of consumption that we individuals have. And it expands to the knowledge generated by society.
In that regard, the theory of formal and real subsumption or subsuming is basically a way of putting a name to historical processes-- historical process by which the founding core of capitalist society, its DNA occupies, colonizes, subjects all aspects of life, material and non-material, objective and subjective in all societies the world. This process of subsumption, Marx tells us, has two stages, formal subsumption-- or formal subjection and real subjection.
Now what does formal subjection entail and real subjection is based on that? The formal subsumption with primary expansion of capitalism occurs when exchanged, trade. Transactions among producers are subordinated to the logic of the marketplace and the logic of mercantile profit. In the world, this began to happen around the 1400, and then gradually mercantile exchange as among non-capitalist producers, yet who began to assume the logic of capitalist commerce, began to expand worldwide.
The first result of this logic of expansion, of the logic of mercantile-- the expansion of mercantile logic to the world is the expansion of the mercantile economy, which rounds out with the so-called discovery of the Americas and the link between-- of trade between California and China, China and India, and Europe and Latin America. We could call this the first stage of globalization, the creation of a world market which began to become a reality as of 1490 to 1500.
The second component of formal subjection-- or subsumption of this form of development of capitalism is when non-capitalist economic activities-- be they work, productive, agrarian, artisanal, maintaining their own technical base are subordinated to capitalistic-- the logic of capitalist accumulation. Let me explain. Capitalism would have as its first step the interconnection and interdependency of producers around a market that is linked internationally.
Second, non-capitalist producers-- be they artisans or agrarian producers-- who establish ties, maintain their own non-capitalistic analogies, their forms of associating with one another that are non-capitalists but they produce with a view to profit and with a view to exchange value and not just with respect to use value, i.e. need or needs.
This interconnection between non-capitalist economies, yet which are already subjected to capitalist logic, was to have two moments or two geopolitical measures or gauges, one continental Europe mainly until 1850 and then a planetary one from 1850 or worldwide from 1850 to the contemporary era.
The third component of formal subsumption of the capitalist development are the technological aspects of productive activities begin to undergo internal revolutions. The material aspect of production changes. Not only does one produce with capitalist intent using tools that are a legacy of prior productive system, but the tools, the technologies, the mechanisms for organizing were created by capitalism itself with a capitalist intent to obtain labor or labor for power. And that is when we get into real subsumption or subjection.
Real subjection means that capitalism builds a material basis of its own and a organizational base of its own. One way in which it is expressed is that the whole world, not just a factory or region or a continent, but the whole world becomes the factory, the shop in which goods are produced.
A Ford, or maybe I should say a Toyota, 55,000 parts and they're not all manufactured in Japan. Of the 55,000 parts that go into a Toyota, 85% are manufactured in Singapore or in Mexico, part in the United States, another part Indonesia, another part in Italy. And then all of that is assembled in a single place. Production no longer depends on a single workshop or a single region. The workshop becomes the world. It's a moment of subjection and of totalization of capitalist territory under the logic of accumulation, in other words, a subordination of the Earth's territoriality to capitalist logic.
Finally, real subjection means subordinating the creative activity and subordinating the emotional activity of labor power to fall into line with the interests of capital. Not only emotions and intellect, creativity and such are subordinated to the firm. But the activity of the workers of coming together, their own collective initiatives-- their own initiatives to come together are subordinated ultimately to capital. This is the last moment of real subordination because capitalism subsumes an infinite labor force.
The intellect is-- and emotionally are both infinite productive forces at that time. When capitalism subsumed this, it was able to round out and totalize its production process. On its own bases, it became universal. It became worldwide or planetary, and it became total.
How does this logic of capitalist development in a formal subsumption voice objection? How does this fit into the understanding of Indigenous societies?
Because it helps us understand that if capitalism tries to understand everything in the world around a given logic, it does not [INAUDIBLE] destroying, annihilating, and knowing other organizational forms of production. Capitalism doesn't need to destroy everything that's non-capitalist in order to survive. Indeed this hypothesis of Rosa Luxemburg, a great theoretician of the early 20th century-- she was German, she was assassinated-- capitalism needs that which is not capitalist in order to develop. Capitalism and its expansion and development works, recycles, fosters, reinforce territories, productive apparatuses, territorial objects that are not strictly capitalist but, of course, subordinated to the general development of capitalism.
This helps one understand and overcome the claims put by the Indianistas to the Marxists in the 20th century. Indigenous communities, agrarian communities are not capitalist, but nor are they an idyllic, transparent, harmonious scenario of economic activities. According to the reflections of the Indianistas, the economic-- the traditional agrarian economic activities in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Chiapas, in Zapatista's Chiapas, in Guatemala, in the Quiché are non-capitalist economic structures. That much is clear.
But directly or indirectly through trade, technology, food, temporary migration, they're articulated and subordinated to forms of accumulation of capital. Bolivia's experience of the use of urban-- family labor, not to actually wage labor or community-- isolated community labor is an example. Factories, shops that make gold products, 200 to 300 workers highly specialized, they're wage workers, they receive a wage, they receive-- they use the highest-- latest technology. But around this there are nuclei and workshops of families and-- or the community based where different families come together where the mother, the grandmother, the granddaughter might work without having to have fixed work schedules using traditional technologies, especially manual and artisanal skills and knowledge in light of their schedules for working the land, for working the kitchen, for taking care of the children but who work in a chain to make gold jewelry, which is then pulled together, polished, and so forth at the main central workshop.
The work is not capitalist labor. There's no employer. There's not an owner of the means of production to give the members of the community, the campesinos, tools, but the members of the campesino families work around a central core in function of a modern and expert economy. There are any number of situations like this that one can find worldwide that can clarify this idea that when you're speaking about capitalism you're not talking about a homogeneous total or whole.
Rather there are dark spots. There are gray spots. And those dark areas are not an anomaly within capitalism. Capitalism lives from anomalies. It fosters anomalies. It articulates those anomalies in the central cores.
Now second, the theory of formal subsumption allows us then to study what-- to see that it is possible to study several modes of production, several civilizations that have been articulated simultaneously. The modern economy can coexist with a traditional campesino economy together with traditional community forms and indeed vis a vis hunter or alongside hunter gatherer economies. There is a co-existence of several civilizations around a single articulating core that begins to subsume and articulate creativity, labor power, knowledge, productive knowledge all around the accumulation of capital. Just
Third, this logic of formal and real subsumption or subjection allows us to understand the complexity of social classes, the hybrid nature of social classes. How can one define a member of a community who works in the countryside for six months and the other six months he becomes a wage worker in the cities or in another country? What-- such a person, what's his social class? What social class does he belong to? To what social class does a head of household belong to who hires relatives for five so is to work in a small workshop for suit coats or leather coats?
Well, is he an entrepreneur? But he works as well. Is he an entrepreneur worker? What is the social status or condition of this entrepreneur worker who is the owner of the shop, but he also works in a shop together with his family members who are not paid a fixed salary. But rather they are paid in food and some likely profit after the sale.
Social classes are not well-defined stagnant structures. It's only in the analytical framework of a researcher that social classes present themselves such as this. But in politics, classes are hybrid, complex, in certain circumstances, a given type of material activity, in other circumstances, another kind of material activity. And in political action, this hybrid nature will also be reflected in that it's not necessarily that-- workers don't necessarily mobilize as workers today. It might be easier to have them mobilized not as workers because the difficulty and authoritarianism that prevails in a fabric-- in a factory rather. It might be easier for them to organize as students or as members of a given community or neighborhood or as consumers.
This complexity of material structures of-- structure of classes and the complexity of the forms of social mobilizations cannot be understood through rigid monolithic readings of history. They require a study of the complexity and its hybrid nature, and the only thing that Marxism offers us in terms of grasping this is the theory of formal versus real subsumption.
A second line of Marxism, not the Marxism of the manuals of the 20th century, but rather the hard-- the essential Marxism that one finds in Das Kapital is the issue of nation and nationality.
When one studies Marxist position on nations, one notes initially a certain contradiction, a certain attitude initially reluctant to talking about oppressed peoples in supporting their mobilizations. [INAUDIBLE] text is well-known-- I'm sorry, Ridalski's text-- he is a Pole-- and it's been picked up on in many debates regarding Marx's attitude with respect to Mexico, Marx's distant attitude about Mexico's struggle vis a vis the United States when Texas was taken from Mexico. Or in the case of Bolivia, Marx's attitude towards Bolivar, the Liberator Bolivar, who he characterized as an authoritarian and not very democratic leader, and he didn't attribute much value to him. Or in the case of the peoples without history, the Slavic peoples of central Europe, when Marks took distance and initially didn't support their processes of emancipation vis a vis Russia, Poland, and Austria-Hungary empire.
How can one understand this contradictory attitude of Marx that he doesn't always support the weakest when they rise up against the strongest? Well, I'll try to say a couple of things to understand this. And let's look how useful this might be for understanding contemporary Indigenous movements in Latin America.
It's possible to find two readings in Marx on nationality and colonialism. One, the first from 1844 to 1860 where Marx adopted a position of vis a vis Russia, Austria, and Germany. He distanced himself from and criticized Simon Bolivar, the Liberator. He didn't support the struggles in Mexico. He took a prudent and distant attitude vis a vis what was happening in India.
He supported self-determination in Scotland, Poland, and Hungary, but he rejected the emancipation struggles of Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania. Why? Why did Marx initially take this attitude?
For four reasons. Because Marx's position with respect to national liberation struggles was not based on the liberal logic expressed by Napoleon as of 1812 or 1814 in terms of supporting any national liberation struggle, this a Napoleonic hypothesis. Marx distanced himself from this hypothesis, which was taken up again by Teddy-- by Roosevelt in the 20th century. Now a nation state, which is a liberal form a liberal-- you have individual with rights and nations with a state.
Now how did Marx study nations? O what is the Marxist method for studying the issue of national liberation struggles? First of all, Marx's position on India, China, Mexico, Bolivar, Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Bosnia has to do with the as yet uncompleted process of building a world market as of 1850 or better yet when we're talking about even measuring capitalism in terms of Europe but we're not looking at a planetary worldwide view-- taking a worldwide view of Marxism.
Second, because Marx is concerned. Marxism's concern is how can one initially contribute to the collapse of a conservative systems based on serfdom? Well, supporting more centralized movements and serfing if there are any vitalities in the peoples for persisting in history and the capacity for bringing about processes of modernization within their societies. Based on those four assumptions, one reaches a conclusion of-- that one should support or distance any given national liberation struggle.
Beginning in 1860, however, this was going to change when one compares Marx's text on India of 1850 compared to 1870, there's clearly a different position. Could it be that Marx changed? Could it be that there was an epistemological change of course and change attitude? I don't think so.
Marx's position with respect to this is due to another kind of reading, which we consider the authentically Marxist reading. From 1860 'til date, the process of forming the worldwide market has been consolidated. The expansion of the geopolitics of capital, well, it's expanded from a continent to a the world. The bases for real subsumption have been established, and as this has happened, the state-- or capitalism has carried out its progressive role of revolutionizing society. And as of that moment 1870, it got into a process of contradictory development and pseudo revolutionary approaches that have lasted to this day. This will mark the forging of a new policy vis a vis the national situation of colonized peoples.
On these cir-- in this context of worldwide, Marx supported decolonization and self-determination of people so long as three requirements are met-- that there is a national density of subaltern classes capable of calling into question their domination, their capacity to articulate demands of identity, and recognition with demands for social reform that would bring down the colonial order.
Finally, he would find that the struggle for national liberation of oppressed peoples that give rise to cohesion in society through emancipatory objectives is the essential prior condition for constructing any worker autonomy in the case of Ireland and India. You will see that in those societies insofar as the people have not been able to emancipate themselves from British colonial domination of the time, it'll be impossible for the workers' movement to have the capacity to build independence of the class vis a vis the society and the state. Therefore the possibility and consistency of autonomy of the workers in the struggle against capitalism will depend on having resolved within each country the question of internal emancipation or decolonization of their own societies. Otherwise, worker autonomy will always be subordinated to the demand for national emancipation or national liberation by society as a whole.
How does this approach of Marx's contribute to understanding Indigenous societies?
First of all, in Indigenous societies that are carriers of Indigenous identities or traditional identities, they're not counter reaction-- counter-revolutionary ahistorical. They are part of the process of forging the national popular will of a given society. Second, only to the extent that the problems of internal continental domination are addressed to each state is it possible to think about the possibility of constructing a project of worker autonomy capable of setting out for itself post-capitalist tasks vis a vis society and vis a vis the state. Third, it will depend on how the National Liberation. Struggles and struggles of identity and cultural based struggles are forged in each society how these happen in each society will condition a post-- a view of what things might look like in a post pro worker, post-capitalist scenario.
The next line of Marxism that would allow for Marxism and a Indianismo to come together has to do with the relationship between class and nation. Here I will rely mostly on the chapter on use value of capital and also the same topic in the manuscript dating from 1861, 1863. What does Marx tell us about the nation?
That it, according to Marx, has a natural social dimension. That is to say that the process of national construction has a natural social dimension in society. So what are the elements-- the territorial setting, the set of technical procedures, linguistic practices, collective forces of cohesion, and the political vitality of human environments or settings. This means that nations as Benedict Anderson says are imagined communities.
Even so, nations cannot be imagined or made up out of nothing. While nations are political artifacts that mobilize memory and collective effort, the capacity to do so cannot be arbitrary. It requires a natural social foundation, linguistic practices for creating cohesion among different forces or an outlook for-- that looks to linguistic cohesion, historical memory of territoriality, forces that are recalled over time expressed through different forms of social action, and political vitality to bring those experiences, those forces and that memory, to a destiny of independence.
So certainly nations are imagined communities, but they're imagined communities that trigger that-- in power that awaken a series of natural social conditioning factors that affect any human community. A nation is a constructed outcome, but that construct the outcome cannot be made from nothing or on the basis of nothing. It requires a series of conditioning factors that make possible the successful or limited construction of a national project. He's seeing things in this light then. It is possible to understand the strength and the vitality of the demand for identity, the demand for identity, of Indigenous movements.
It is in the possibility of giving away-- giving a place to and resolving the demand for identity to demand for recognition of Indigenous forces. It is there that the construction of longer term national liberation projects is at stake and beyond that that it's possible to build ties among different communities all in the context of or around that identity.
And this is part of the process of constructing more radical struggles of mobilization vis a vis capitalism. But moreover, and Marx worked on this issue, addressing it in The Communist Manifesto, he said any revolutionary class has to become a truly national class or the prior-- step prior to the consolidation of a revolutionary class is it becoming constituted as a truly national class. This is what Marx said.
Now what is Marx saying when he says this? That it's not possible to have liberation struggles without strategies of alliances or without what Gramsci said-- described as the possibility of some social sector-- worker, peasant, Indigenous, or intellectual becoming hegemonic sector capable of leading moral and intellectual reform of society. In other words, the possibility of imagining socialism communism in theoretical terms is intimately tied to the possibility of building alliances. The only way to build alliances is on the basis of pulling together demands and interests which oftentimes go through the cultural or linguistic dimensions of the excluded sectors. And one last point on this digression having to do with the Marxist contribution here.
Is it-- can one be a class on the one hand and a nation on the other hand? This is long-standing debated anthropology. The response of the left was that in economic terms, it's a class and one is a participant in a nation with a collective allusion or a dream having to do with destiny territory and political power on the other hand.
We don't find that in Marxism. Seeing from this angle and the way Marx works on the issue of class and ethnicity, class and nation, class and decolonization, it is clear that the cultural and symbolic dimension is one more element of construction of the class. And often times, social classes become visibilized-- become visible. Objective social classes become visible and mobilized, not around strictly economic demands. Often times the classes will have to mobilize and to gain cohesion because of issues, demands, and calls that have more to do with cultural and linguistic aspects.
Could it be that the Indigenous movement in its agrarian peasant version and its urban version is a specific way of giving visibility to mobilization of subaltern social classes who do not use their demand for a salary or the demand for adjourning trade unions as a way of confronting the state or the employers? But rather they use the demand for cultural identity, linguistic identity, and historical memory of one's ancestors of the cultural community as practiced as the way that they issue calls, come together, and strengthen their ability to mobilize.
Perhaps every class has a cultural and national aspect and that every nation has a certain class core. Well, this is hypothesis that should be worked on. In any event, the Marxist proposal doesn't tend to separate class from culture or class from nation. It sees both as components of a single process of constructing social organization.
Could it be that ethnicity is a component, one more capital in the construction of social class. If a social class is constituted by its economic capital, its cultural capital, and social capital, mightn't it be that in colonial societies ethnicity is capital that is brought to bear in constructing social classes? Could it be that we could-- when we talk about colonialism if and-- we can talk about colonialism if and only if ethnicity is part of the capital that helps for ascending, descending, and social mobility as among classes.
Were this the case, then the long-standing debate between nation on the one hand and class on the other hand, culture on the one hand and economy on the other hand, would become an idle debate. We're talking about a single process at a given historic moment. Class or social classes become visibilized into a physical in terms of property, ownership or resources. In other times, classes become visible in other forms of ownership and resources.
They become visible and mobilize politically in terms of identity, culture, and language. But when it comes down to it, we're talking about many different ways of mobilizing and of social class articulating with one another.
How does this help understand Indigenous movements? Well, Indigenous movements are not merely expressions of identity. They're not mere expressions of demand for-- of linguistic demands. They are also when it comes down to it forms of constructing modern forms of and contemporary forms of constructing social classes in Latin American societies. And through demands for identity and recognition, one is fighting for control and management, power over different social powers, in this case a linguistic capacity, a capacity for identity, a capacity to name and rename legitimately the things in this world. That is to say the capacity to value or devalue ethnicity as a mechanism for ascending or descending socially.
One final vine that I propose for creating common ground or finding common ground between Marxism and Indianismo is the question of communities.
We said that for the Latin American left, agrarian-- traditional agrarian communities and traditional urban communities were simply a leftover of history that gradually had to disappear, wither away with the advance of modernization and the conversion of everyone to the status as worker. When one reviews Marcus carefully, things look very differently. Throughout his work, Marx has addressed the issue of communities at different times in the German ideology.
A text of 1845, which he wrote together with Engels, still very young, he referred initially to what he called-- well, not really he. It's him picking up on Hegel and Hegel picking up on the historians of the time-- well, he referred to what is called the natural community. Clearly until then, there's no solid handling of the issue, and he simply used it to exemplify how history is being understood.
A second much more solid text on communities is what has come to be known as the Grundrisse, which were texts that were written in 1857 in a chapter on pre-capitalist forms, he mentioned the German community, the Slavic community, the Peruvian community, the Hindu community as different forms of traditional communities that are found throughout history and that help give visibility to different social processes in contemporary societies. In volume 3 of Capital, Das Kapital, Marx studied fundamentally the modern and traditional peasant economy in order to try to explain capitalists rent from the land, but to study capitalist land rent, he had to study pre-capitalist land rent. And for almost 20 years he undertook to study all types of data, document, and research on traditional peasant economies not only in Russia, which is where he devoted most attention, but the whole world.
In 1992, six months before I fell prisoner, I was in the Netherlands, and I found the ethnological manuscripts or notebooks of Marx in the Institute of Social History of Amsterdam. One could review the microfilms of more than 60 books that Marx read about Latin America and Asia, referring specifically to the campesino world or the peasant world. Some of the books include his annotations, and several of those books are in Spanish.
Unfortunately, none has been translated to this day, and I would love to translate these texts on Latin America, its agriculture, and its agrarian societies. And from 1992 to date, I haven't gone back to Netherlands. I suppose the microfilms are still there, but one day I'd really like to dig my teeth into what Marx had wrote about Latin America, discussing the ethnological texts. Indeed there's a copy of Don Quixote with comments, marginal notes that have not been published. I suppose that in the new mega, which would be at Marx, Engels, and two others have-- there'll be many, many volumes, and maybe that'll be published there. It's just a matter of curiosity for some idle academics such as us.
But what is the important thing about these texts?
The texts from 18-- in the texts from 1875 to 1883, Marx worked with great passion on ethnology at the time. He worked on Morgan's text describing Indigenous communities in North America, South America. He worked on Kovalevsky and India [INAUDIBLE]. And all of that work of his and his writings was summarized in a letter to Vera Zasulich, which I'd like to mention.
Vera Zasulich was a Russian populist who used a group of Russian politicians who use terrorism to try to push the process of liberation of the Russian masses and Vera Zasulich asked Marx what do you think of the Russian community, the Mir, that was still held sway in broad productive areas of Russia. And Marx prepared four drafts one after another and ended up summarizing them and sending off one. What does Marx tell us in his last ethnological texts, some of which were published, others of which were not published, in his letter to Vera Zasulich.
First, he undertook an analysis of the different forms of community-- the archaic community, where there is production and community property, and the rural community, where there is community property but not community production. Production is either on an individual basis or on a family basis. And Marx said these community structures, we find them throughout the history of peoples. And only over there 3,000, 4,000, 10,000 years ago, but we find them today. They're very much present and current but enclosed, subsumed, by different forms of internal and external domination.
These archaic communities or rural communities, some have given rise to the development of feudalism, and others have given rise to complex forms of community that are preserved to this day as in the case of India, Marx said, or Russia. Others have been dissolved under individual peasant-- forms of individual peasant production. Marx tells us there's not a single form of development of traditional societies.
Traditional society has had many different ways in which it's developed. Some have given rise to the traditional peasant economy of Greece and Rome. Others have given rise to the economy concentrating land holdings of the European and Japanese feudal lords. Others have given rise to modified forms of community economies or economies in which there is community property but there's no community production. So there are many different mechanisms of development. And several of these traditional forms are present to this day Marx said.
And revolutionaries have to have a policy vis a vis these. Now what policy did Marx design in these letters in these last days of his life or last moments of his life? Marx said what is communism, and he answered Vera Zasulich saying that communism is the archaic community in superior conditions. Marx himself, who appeared to be the promoter of capitalism and energy and industrialization, told his companions in struggle communism, post-capitalist society is simply the old archaic community expanded and vintage universal.
It's a reading of looking at the future by picking up on the past. It's not a linear reading that everything advances progressively as though-- as one who climbs a hill. History is not the climbing up a hill or a mountain. History has a level of complexity where the new might be the old rendered universal. And other aspects of the new, well, they'll have nothing to do with what was old or they represent its progressive historical development.
What else does Marx say? Answering Vera Zasulich, this Russian woman, he said the ideal thing in Russia, he says, would be a combination of the struggle of the communities vis a vis domination with an articulation, with a unification, with a modern workers' movement.
In other words, Marx is delineating as the theory of revolution in agrarian societies and in traditional campesino societies, a combination between the old and the new, between the archaic and the modern, between the workers' movement that comes out from the factories and modern society articulated with societies and economies-- traditional societies, economies, and organizations, fundamentally peasant and urban ones. He said the successful social revolution will be a combination of a revitalization of the community accompanied by the modern workers' movement resulting from the progress of capitalism and technology.
What does this have to do from the Marxist standpoint with the Indigenous campesino movement? Well, us Marxists have a great deal to learn from Indigenous movements but also a great deal to share with Indigenous movements. We tell them that the Indigenous are not a mere legacy of the past condemned to be extinguished and to disappear in the midst of homogeneous nation states.
Culturally and linguistically, we tell them that the Indigenous are a force of emancipation, that their forms of work and organization are part of the liberation baggage of a society that the emancipation of the Indigenous movement will not be complete if it's not accompanied by the struggle and the emancipation of the wage-earning modern urban sectors and that the struggle of those urban and wage-earning workers cannot-- will not be able to fulfill its purpose if it's not accompanied in a respectful and ongoing dialogue with the struggles, the ideas, motivations, and projects of the modern campesino and Indigenous part of our societies.
What Marxism tells us is that it is necessary to have a fruitful, respectful relationship involving mutual accompaniment between the communitarian and the modern, the traditional anarchic, and the latest technology and that both are needed as forces that can give way to a liberation movement. Marx doesn't value the community as it was isolated, besieged, beaten down, and weakened internally. What he values is its potential-- the potential it contains. And what he seeks is its expansion and its greatest actualization in a generalized way. The idea of communism as an archaic community in superior conditions is no doubt a line of discourse that allows us to reformulate the relationship between the modern and the traditional, between the Indigenous movement and the workers' movement, between studies of Indigenous societies, and studies of modern societies.
We could say that to some extent-- very limited extent but which is present that what is happening in Bolivia today with this awakening of the Indigenous movement today we have in Bolivia a government of Indigenous peoples. The president is Indigenous. The Indigenous legislators, members the constituent assembly, there are cabinet ministers and vice ministers were Indigenous, not exclusively Indigenous.
But this awakening that had not been seen in 500 years in Bolivia, nor in 182 years of independent Bolivia, can today find their development and their deployment fundamentally because of the lucidity of the movement itself. But there's no doubt that in this historical lucidity of the Indigenous and popular movement, the contribution that we Marxists and critical thinkers could make as we reread our history, we are critical with vis a vis the mistakes, the failings, and the impotencies imposed previously can help to consolidate and to expand examples and actions to emancipate Indigenous peoples.
Certainly in Bolivia and with this, I'd like to wind up. It's not possible to be a Marxist without being an Indianista. It's impossible to practice and carry out the critical attitude of Marxism in an agrarian and fundamentally Indigenous society without being at the same time profoundly Indianista or Indicanista.
So it is not sufficient to be profoundly Indianista or Indicanista to have a critical reading of Indigenous society. It's important that it be articulated with a process of knowledge, struggles, and memories that is a worldwide and universal and which is summarized in sound Marxism, which is to say the critical Marxism, which will always be looking at the conditions and possibilities of the present and the conditions and possibilities of the future based on the limits and potentials of the present day. Thank you very much.
BRUNO BOSTEELS: We want to open the floor for some questions.
AUDIENCE: I'd like you to comment on foreign investment. [INAUDIBLE] economy and how turning private assets to public actually restrains that-- restrains personal economic growth, specifically using example which are obviously a little different and every example of a communist or any form of communist very different [INAUDIBLE] Venezuela under Chavez and-- which even more different would be Castro in Cuba.
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: I understand that the concern has to do with the relationship between Indigenous communities and foreign direct investment. I don't know if that is more or less where the question-- what the question was about. That's more or less the question? In Bolivia and in Venezuela more or less?
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: One thing that's important before answering your question, it should be very clear that Indigenous are not necessarily peasants. A large part of the Indigenous world is peasant, people who live in the rural world and live from agriculture. But another important part of the Indigenous world is urban-- merchants, students, professionals, workers.
This is very important because we generally identify Indigenous with campesino and urban with mestizo and so forth. But that's not the case. Indigenous is an identity-- historical, cultural identity, which though it has its hard core in the rural world has also been able to articulate urban worlds. This is the case of the city of El Alto, where you have a city of practically 900,000 and 90% of those 900,000 to define themselves of Indigenous Aymara and so on. So that's the first point.
Second point, a part of foreign investment fundamentally in the area of hydrocarbons, oil, and gas has an impact on and has occupied regions in which there is Indigenous campesino presence. And this is not new. When state capitalism predominated in the 1950s up to 1980s, many oil and mining activities were carried out in Indigenous areas inhabited by Indigenous. But at that time, there must have been resistance, but that resistance was never made visible vis a vis the productive activities of the state.
Not only were there no Indigenous on the left, but in the imagination of the dominant elites, there were no Indigenous. The important thing was production productivity and state revenues. I'm talking about earlier in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. In the 1990s, foreign private investment came in different areas, particularly in hydrocarbons, and it had a detrimental impact on territories on Indigenous territories.
And it's the resistance of the Indigenous, in some cases, to the presence of foreign investments in their territories, in other cases to them paying some kind of compensation that was part of the struggles of the Indigenous peoples in this construction of their political conscience and of their forms of social cohesion, which has enabled them to now reach the government, to reach state power. Otherwise, one couldn't understand where this Indigenous political majority, this Indigenous political force of leaders and projects comes from without taking into account that resistance at the capillary level, so to speak, which has taken place over years and years in different places locally, and then coming together vis a vis capital and foreign investment.
In some cases, the requests of Indigenous peoples or the demands of Indigenous peoples to the oil companies was not to come into their territories, for example, to build a gas pipeline or to dig up a well. And sometimes they were successful in rejecting their presence. In other cases, they negotiated compensation.
For example, if a well was built, they might--
I just need to run to the bathroom maybe after next-- this answer ends.
When we went into the government with Indigenous presence, the first thing that we did on this issue was to seek a relationship of equilibrium between the general interests of society through the state and the local and regional interests of the Indigenous peoples. And so eight or 10 months ago, we issued a regulation on consultation that requires the oil company to before building an oil well or a pipe for where the pipe or oil would go through, in order to do this, it must first draw up an environmental license, and it needs to agree upon a process of conciliation with the Indigenous communities. Without this environmental license and without this approval by the peoples to install a well or to run a pipeline, it's not possible for the oil or industrial activity to go forward.
This in some places has led to delays in some of the oil activities. And as the state what we've done is seen to it that there be an agreement and that in that agreement of the Indigenous peoples a balance be established. Some of our colleagues in the government have said that these consultations should be binding. In other words, if the Indigenous people says no well, then no well.
And this is a good position if you take into account the local will. But what if we take into account the general will, the collective interest? As the government, that's the dynamic we're caught up in. We need to preserve the collective interest of the whole country but at the same time preserve the local interest of an Indigenous people and Indigenous town. And a decree is-- seeks to strike a balance between the two.
We don't want the local interest to overtake the general interest, nor do we want the local interest to be asphyxiated in the so-called general interest. We need to recognize both. So it's a tension, and it's a day-to-day tension that we need to live with-- local interest of people of a community-- of a campesino community and the general interest of the population that needs that oil to improve its income and at the same time, of course, is the human planetary interest of how to carry out activities that don't destroy or represent any aggression to the environment.
So to move forward riding three horses at the same time is complicated. But that's what we're engaged in, and we're trying to find points of equilibrium that want to tame the productive activity but that wouldn't constitute an aggression against the society and their needs.
BRUNO BOSTEELS: Going overtime and there were two more questions that I'm going to take that all the people that raised their hands [INAUDIBLE] please take your question [INAUDIBLE] in the back also.
TRANSLATOR: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: Si.
INTERPRETER: Yes, the criticism is fundamentally comes from or is directed at Stalinist and Trotskyists tendencies equally. They maintain the same logic of disdain towards the agrarian world, towards the cultural part, and they have the same philosophical-- teleological and philosophical basis in their understanding of history. And I consider that the presence of those two Marxist or pseudo Marxist trends has been useless or sterile in intellectual development of societies and in political development.
I also agree with you the collapse of the Berlin Wall has made it possible to free Marxism in that there is no longer a church or certain priests who tell you what is the only true Marxism.
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: And that this is happening after an intellectual demoralization. It's giving rise to any number of vital interpretations, a flourishing of them. Since there's no longer a recipe, a manual, there's no longer a single party. There's no longer a given country that sets what one must do. Everyone is free to come up with their own interpretation, and it'll be a process of political collective inter-subjective communication that will define the new prevailing trends in Marxism.
After that collapse of the single way of thinking of Marxism, what we're seeing is a flourishing of many Marxisms, each richer than the previous one and a link to engage in dialogue with critical of the others. I think that's when it comes down to it what Marxism is, a multi-faceted criticism of that which exists, not a philosophical teleological criticism of what exists, which is what that Stalinist and Trotskyists trend was about.
I think in Latin America, there is a resurgence, a flourishing of many Marxisms like here in the United States, which address the existing situation from many different angles and likewise the potential possibilities of emancipation, and in Bolivia there's something like that as well. In Bolivia, there are small groups, academic and political groups that are seeking a renaissance, a re-greening of critical Marxism. Some of them are in the government. Others are outside the government.
And the interesting thing in Bolivia and perhaps in Mexico as well, not so much in other countries, is that academia has always been very closely associated with politics. Critical intellectual production has almost never been strictly within academic and intellectual circles. And this has to do with the very dynamics of social organization. The boundary between academia and politics has been quite tenuous, and today the same holds. So you now have a vice president of Bolivia who is a Marxist and an Indianista.
For now, vice president will always be a political academic, and I think that my experience reflects in part the experiences of others who are also trying to bring about a resurgence of Marxist interpretation and trying to close out in a healthy manner the period of this Stalinist and Trotskyists influence, which perhaps made its contributions in another area, particularly in the area of forging worker identity but which was extremely nefarious and sterile in terms of knowledge of society, national issues, the campesino issues, and the Indigenous issues or the Indigenous question, which is now at the core of the process of change.
When it comes down to it, what you have in Bolivia is something which wasn't even object of contemplation by Marxism, which is a [INAUDIBLE] process led by Indigenous peoples with Indigenous organizations that wasn't even within their contemplation. It was expected that it would have to be a worker, and there would have to be led by work organizations. And it happened differently as always happens. Theorizing, reflecting on that is no doubt a great challenge for these emerging Marxist groups who don't have a common core.
Some of us have a more archaeological reading of Marx. Others are more linked to Tony Negri. And others are closer to anarchism. Despite the small size of these academic political core groups there is a diversity of tendencies and ways of thought that I think is extremely positive and necessary because it makes it possible to decentralize thought and to enrich oneself in many different ways through many different approaches in order to critically understand society.
But what is the goal of liberation? The word liberation seems to me in your presentation to be suspended with no-- in a rather abstract way. That was my question.
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: Si.
ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
INTERPRETER: I have deliberately left a certain level of abstraction in association with the word liberation. I've done this deliberately because I think we're obligated to critically rethink what we're going to understand by liberation enter in the hard Marxist sense of the term. It's clear that socialism in the form of state capitalism or state socialism where the state becomes producer, regulator, distributor is not the liberation that Marx speaks to us of. It's clear that it's not that because that has also given rise to unjust mechanisms of distribution and the formation of other social classes that use state property to expropriate the labor of others.
It's clear that Russia, East Germany, Poland didn't fall just because they were under the siege of imperialism. They fell because they were fundamentally unsustainable internally.
This form of liberation in the form of ownership of mean-- state ownership of the means of production didn't work. That's not where it is. So what is the path?
Well, there I prefer to leave it at the very short words of Marx. When he was asked what is socialism, what is communism, he just said a couple of words because he couldn't anticipate history. He said what's communism, the real movement that goes beyond that which is now existing. It's not an ideal. It's not a goal that's in someone's head and that you need to go after.
Communism in the hard Marxist sense of the term is the real movement of people that goes beyond the existing order, and that real movement is very ambiguous today. It has many limitations. There are many questions. It has many uncertainties.
And it's good to reflect on those uncertainties and to realize that we still have a limit in terms of our reflections on emancipation. I can say a couple of general things, the community free from producers, but it continues to be an abstraction. But it's clear that there are some points that can help, already existing points that can help us understand the future. It's clear that no society can-- and Marx saw this-- can do things on its own because everything is interconnected.
Everything is multiply interdependent. What I read, eat, dress is produced by the world, not by a single country. It's impossible to think of emancipation or liberation of a single country. It's clear that there is a technical force now capable of making work more enjoyable and freeing us from forced work to survive and to have a minimal basis of food and satisfaction of needs.
It's clear that that's possible. One must free those forces, but how can society organize itself to do that? Under what banners? Under what leaderships? How will the young people of the United States work out with-- work it out with the Indigenous of Bolivia and with the Zapatistas? Who knows?
In any event, it's something that we need to produce, and we need to analyze as we do so and as the situation unfolds because the ideals to which the world needs to be brought into line with disappeared and they disappeared because they were a fraud. So it needs a swindle because what we now need to do is construct the world and imagine liberation by producing our own liberation and inventing it on a day-to-day basis.
Having certain guides, it's-- we're a single planet. There is no local society. The planet is capitalist, and post-capitalism has to be worldwide. It can be no less.
Are there technological forces for doing so? Of course. Yes. We cannot build post-capitalism by going back to the Stone Age. It has to be a welfare society. Yes. But everything else is something that we need to produce and invent as we go because there are no recipes. There are no pre-established paths. It'll be the practice itself that can help us theoreticians or intellectuals have a bit more clarity about the future.
But no doubt, today what is liberation is a doubt. It's not that it's not possible, but rather we need to ask what does it mean to liberate ourselves and how can one liberate people.
BRUNO BOSTEELS: I apologize to those-- I know there are many more questions, but we're running out of time. So I would like to welcome you to join me in thanking Alvaro Garcia Linera for his presentation and the kindness of his answers to your questions.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera was elected with a large majority in 2005 as running mate and idea man to President Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism party. In a country in which the majority of citizens identify themselves as indigenous, Morales is the first indigenous leader since the Spanish conquest. García Linera is regarded by many as a key policy architect in the Morales administration.
García Linera's talk is delivered in Spanish with translation. The event was sponsored by the Department of Romance Studies, Diacritics magazine, the Latin American Studies Program and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.