Socialist Worker

Bolivia 1952 - what did the socialists do?

Issue No. 2297

The nationalists were not the only revolutionary opposition in Bolivia. The Workers’ Revolutionary Party (POR) was one of the world’s biggest Trotskyist organisations.

By the time of the revolution the POR were bigger than the Stalinist PIR from which they had split. And they had real influence in the mines and the working class.

By 1946 they had won the support of the miners’ union away from the MNR with their “Pulacayo Theses”—tactical demands that tried to apply Trotsky’s transitional programme to Bolivian conditions.

But while the POR was very wary of trusting the nationalists, they relied on union leaders to carry their demands through—especially the miner turned minister Juan Lechin.

Lechin used the miners’ strength to boost his own influence within the MNR government.

The POR passed the initiative to the union leaders who in turn passed it to the government. Soon the revolt had been contained and the POR were witch-hunted from the unions.

The lessons are important. The POR put their faith in the union leadership to carry through their strategy instead of looking to workers’ own power.

They were genuinely rooted in the class but in the end did not take the step of building a mass revolutionary organisation able to act independently.

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