Bolivia was in the grip of a classic revolutionary situation last week. Popular assemblies spread across working class areas. Mass strikes combined with peasant rebellions. Insurrection was in the air and sections of the police fraternised with the insurgents.
Yet, for the moment, the movement seems to have receded following the promise of elections.
Going home to prepare for elections looks like common sense. Yet good sense would be to demand that the popular assemblies take power, securing the nationalisation of Bolivia’s gas and breaking the hold of neo-liberalism.
In the clash between the two, all the forces of common sense — from the media through to trade union officials — have an established hold. To overcome this, networks of activists, rooted in their workplaces and communities, need to win the argument for good sense.
Imprisoned after the fascist victory in Italy, the Marxist Antonio Gramsci looked back at the revolutionary situation which gripped the country in 1920 and wrote, “The decisive element in every situation is the permanently organised and long prepared force which can be put into the field when it is judged that a situation is favourable.
“Therefore the essential task is that of systematically and patiently ensuring that this force is formed, developed, and rendered ever more homogeneous.”
He was urging the creation of a revolutionary party before the moment of revolution arrives. Such a party must be an intrinsic part of the working class and the oppressed, involved in a constant dialogue with them. And it must be a party made up of those capable of leading on the streets, the picket lines and the barricades.
Working class struggle
It seems a long way from Bolivia to Britain. But last week the PCS civil service union reported a 20 percent growth in membership and, for the first time in years, engineering workers occupied — and won (see Rolls Royce bosses in test of strength with workers).
One swallow might not a summer make, but there are clear signs that workers are up for a fight. Earlier this year public sector workers voted to strike over plans to demolish their pensions, forcing New Labour to blink first.
The government will be back attacking our pension rights later this year. PCS union leader Mark Serwotka was right to call for strikes in response.
Respect and the broader forces of the anti-war and anti-poverty movement are not passive supporters here. The unions are desperately crying out for a shot of the vitality of those movements.
Hundreds of thousands of those who have marched and protested need to be won to the idea that they can organise and fight where they work.
The radical left in Europe took another step forward last week with the sealing of an electoral pact between a left breakaway from Germany’s equivalent of the Labour Party and the country’s former Communist party.
That comes after the left no vote in the French referendum on the European constitution and Respect’s success in the British general election.
These forces of the radical left will be coming together at the G8 protests next month and their advance is crucial to strengthening the movements against neo-liberalism and war.