Bolivia: The Restrained Revolution * By RICHARDW. PATCH A ABSTRACT: true revolution occurred in Bolivia in 1952, and its consequences continue to be strongly felt. The revo- lution triggered such extreme measures as nationalization of the tin mines, agrarianreform, neutralizationof the army, and universal franchise, but the leaders of the revolutionary Na- tionalistic Revolutionary Movement are essentially moderates. The economic consequencesof the revolution have been a seri- ous inflation and declining productivity. The major accom- plishment has been social-the integration of the majority of the population speaking indigenous languages into the social and political life of the nation. This resulted more from the self-assertion of that mass than from the actions of the revo- lutionary government. The Nationalistic Revolutionary Move- ment was early sympathetic to national socialism, but it was rejected by a popular revolt in 1946. Succeedinggovernments were unable to preserve order and the second accession of the Nationalistic Revolutionary Movement to power in 1952 was the alternative to anarchy. The Indian population organized syndicates independent of the government and forced enact- ment of an agrarian reform. The government now has the allegiance of the Indians and miners, but its maintenance is made difficult by an economic stabilization plan. After eight years, Bolivia is still a democracy,but it requires assistance to continue to reject the apparent advantages of totalitarianism. Richard W. Patch, Ph.D., Ithaca, New York, is a member of the American Univer- sities Field Staff, Incorporated (A;UFS). He has conducted studies in Peru and Bolivia for the past ten years, most recently returning to the United States in 1959-1960 to lecture at the eleven universities forming the AUFS. He is author of a continuing series of AUFS reports, a section of Social Change in Latin America Today (1960) pub- lished by the Council on Foreign Relations, and articles in professional journals. He taught anthropology at Cornell and Tulane Universities. * A preliminary version of this paper was read at the joint session of the American Historical Association and the Conference on Latin American History in New York, December 1960. 123 124 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY T HE word "revolution," like many in the hands of men who are essentially another in our insufficient vocabu- moderates-at least in comparisonwith lary of terms describing complex politi- any conceivable leadership which might cal and social movements, is overused have arisen in their place. The reign and underdefined. Particularly with of moderates during periods of revolu- reference to Latin America, the word tionary change is notoriously brief, but has been so often used that it has this nation, in spite of its hectic history become synonymous with a range of as a republic, emerged from its most changes from the relatively insignificant critical trial under the leadership of trading of power between leaders at men who accept the responsibilities of the pinnacle of a stable political pyramid government, who use feelings inspired to profoundly significant upheavals in by nationalism to achieve domestic which social and political institutions integration rather than to promote mutate to new and unexpected forms. external strife, and who subject them- Since the wars of independence,there selves to the rigors of a policy of have been few changes of the latter austerity rather than seek the easy type in Latin America. Such a revolu- popularity of utopian promises. In this tion did occur in Bolivia in 1952, and sense these men are moderates. And its consequences will continue to work they are still in power. themselves out in new social, political, and economic adjustments for many THE MEASURE OF REVOLUTION years to come. The Bolivian revolu- tion has been little reported, and such Before 1952 Bolivian society and its reporting as has been done has been power structure were cast in the mold confined to economic aspects. But of the Spanish colonial institutions events in this Andean country, where which persist in many Latin-American a formerly depressed majority of per- republics. In Bolivia, the mold was sons speaking Indian languages have particularly rigid because over half the achieved not only emancipation but population spoke the Aymara and power, carry a vital message to students Quechua languages and, thus, were con- of Latin-American nations in which an sidered Indians. In this tight society economic segment's political power is in which exploitation was justified by likely to be inversely proportional to social distance, it was the function of its numbers. institutions such as the latifundio to The revolution is also worthy of note define the status of these persons as because events subsequent to the shift serfs-beyond the pale of the urban, of power in 1952 do not conform to the Spanish-speakingsociety; without hope stereotype of revolutions in under- of mobility. They were unpaid labor- developed nations. The Bolivian revo- ers in an agricultural system which lution is genuine in its irreversibility. supported the status symbols of the It took place rapidly, both in actual few while yielding a meager subsistence fighting and in the destruction or re- to the mass of tillers. The revolution form of long-standing institutions. Its not only placed the land in the hands leaders were early forced to extreme of the men who cultivated it, it also measures, from nationalization of the destroyed the institution of latifundio, tin mines to destruction of the army and went far towards replacing the and partition of the estates among castelike status of the Indians with a Indian tenants. Yet this complete, class concept of campesino in which rapid, effective revolution has remained mobility is possible. BOLIVIA:THE RESTRAINEDREVOLUTION 125 Taking the long view, this is the blame-for the revolution to Paz crucial aspect of the revolution. No Estenssoro and the Nationalistic Revo- modern nation finds it easy to bring an lutionary Movement (MNR) is to alien culture with a long and conscious ignore that current. And the early history, speaking a different language, pronouncementsof the MNR now seem and with an attributed racial identity to bear little relation to actual policy into a national, urban, Westernized as it has developed. society. Consider how much more difficult the feat is when the culture THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION apart is not a minority, but a majority with the potential for wielding not The country's recent history begins strategic but absolute power. The in 1920 with the fall of the self-styled Bolivian revolution accomplished the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party and formal integration with such success its predecessorin power had maintained that true social adjustments to the new a stable and strongly conservative laws and decrees are proceeding with government for thirty-six years. The surprising rapidity. principal platform of these governments But, as in all revolutions, the social was constitutionalism-respect for law adaptions are the most difficult to and established order above all else. detect. Much nearer the surface are It was a period of financial equilibrium, the economic results of the changes. expansion of the railroads and mining In Bolivia, the economic catastrophes industry, but nearly complete disregard have been so dramatic as to obscure for the welfare of the impoverished all else. An inflation of 6,000 per cent urban population, of the tin miners, in four years, the conversion of the tin and of the 60 per cent of the population mines from the nation's greatest asset who were called Indians and who lived to its most persistent liability, the in abject dependence and poverty. decline in agricultural production-all The Latin-American phenomenon of are undeniable and important conse- cansansio-a popular tiredness with the quences of the revolution and its existing government, a desire for change reforms. But they are not the only under the impression that any innova- measure of the revolution. tion would be an improvement-under- Nor are the originally avowed goals, mined the long conservative reign. At the ideology, the intent of the revolu- the same time, no coherent ideology tionary leaders reliable explanations of emerged to fill the void after the regime the revolution as it took place. Super- fell. But two related propositions ficially, the drastic changes might be gained wide acceptance: first, that na- seen as the work of a single man, tionalism in the sense of a basic attack Victor Paz Estenssoro, the founder of on national problems and the protection the revolutionary party, its durable of territorial integrity was desirable conspirator, and the compelling leader and inevitable; and, second, that revo- who has twice been elected president of lution was a legitimate and perhaps the republic. But, if he and his party necessary means of political and social have left their stamp on the changes, reform. These ideas were undoubtedly they have also been borne along in the distilled from imported doctrines of current of events and ideas which for Marxism and the ultranationalistic so- many years swept the nation to revo- cialism of fascist Germany and Italy. lutionary change. To give credit-or No party, however, managed to give 126 THE ANNALS THE AMERICAN OF ACADEMY the themes sufficient clarity, and they some unity by repeated discourses on remained in ferment until they crystal- the Indians' duties and obligations, and, lized in the crisis of the Chaco war. incidentally, his rights, his citizenship, his equality before the fatherland. The Chaco War The war and the territory of the Chaco were lost to Paraguay by 1935, but it Many threads led to Bolivia's un- was the new experience and vision of fortunate war with Paraguay over the the Indian veterans and the disillusion- disputed area of the Chaco. Bolivia ment with the senior army officers still smarted from its defeat in a war which would most profoundly affect with Brazil in which it lost valuable Bolivia's future by clearing the way rubber lands and its ignominous loss for revolution and by preparing a mass of the War of the Pacific in which of people who would take advantage Chile seized Bolivia's coastal strip, in- of the change when it came. tensifying the country's isolation in its mountain fastness. Cut off from the Secret maneuvers Pacific, Bolivia began to look toward the Atlantic and the river ports which The junior army officers, circumvent- would give access to it. Such river ing normal government and party chan- ports existed in the Gran Chaco where nels, organized secret lodges in a national jurisdictions were poorly de- movement called RADEPA (Raz6n de fined. Bolivia began to arm. As part Patria, or Reason of the Fatherland) of its preoccupation with national so- and dedicated to fascist ideals and cialism, it imported a German general revolutionary means. The lodges be- staff officer who trained and equipped came infiltrated with Nazi ideas as a modern army which was believed to fascism gathered force in Germany and be superior to anything Paraguay could Italy. The RADEPA installed Colonel produce. Petroleum was discovered in David Toro as president in 1936. Toro lands bordering the Chaco. Ardent responded to the pressures of national- nationalism appeared to coincide with ism and direct action by expropriating patriotism, with a new outlet to the United States oil properties and creat- sea, with economic advantage, and with ing a state petroleum monopoly. His the possibility of a quick and decisive successor, Lieutenant Colonel German victory over a neighbor for the first Busch, 33 years old, took banking time in over a century of lost wars. power from private hands to create Revolutionary reform was forgotten the state controlled Central Bank. He when war was declared in 1932. Un- declared himself dictator in 1939 and fortunately for Bolivia, its German moved to require mine owners to sur- chief of staff had calculated without render to the government all foreign knowledge of the inhospitable Chaco- exchange earnings from the sale of tin. a desert during the dry season, an However, before the measure took ef- impossible quagmire after the sudden fect Busch was killed or committed rains. The Paraguayans became prac- suicide under mysterious circumstances. ticed guerilla fighters and subjected the This secret political maneuvering by Bolivians to defeat after bloody defeat. a part of the military was not an out- Casualties were heavy on both sides. standing success. Governments domi- Bolivia was forced to impress thou- nated by RADEPA attempted to in- sands of Indians to supplement its elite crease the power of the state according corps. Officers attempted to impose to their ideas of socialism, but they BOLIVIA: THE RESTRAINED REVOLUTION 127 were unable to stir popular support or A presidential and congressional elec- maintain effective public order. The tion was held in 1951. Paz Estenssoro, political vacuum began to be filled in in exile, and many MNR congressional the early 1940's by the formation of candidates received a plurality. But half a dozen parties of varying tend- the army annulled the election in a last encies, from the Nationalistic Revolu- desperate move. A military junta tionary Movement, which was able to governed briefly, then fell apart. reach an understanding with the RADEPA, to a Bolivian Communist The revolution Party. The MNR, founded by intel- lectuals such as the university professor In April 1952, it was plain that if Victor Paz Estenssoro, was able to Bolivia did not have an MNR govern- combine the popular themes of nation- ment it would have no government. alism and revolution with a program The party had planned a revolution of government which included, in the later in the year, but the defection of beginning, the RADEPA's ideals of a one of the military junta to their ranks powerful centralized state headed by made revolution an immediate neces- the military. sity. For this reason, and despite the In 1943 the RADEPA and the MNR radical propaganda of the MNR, the deposed a president sympathetic to the actual fighting of the April revolution Allies and installed Lieutenant Colonel was not a spectacular struggle between Gualberto Villarroel. Paz Estenssoro strong partisans of the old regime and became Minister of Finance. But the the revolutionaries. The old regime alliance was unstable and became in- no longer existed as a group with faith creasingly unpopular after the defeat in itself and power to enforce its be- of the Axis. Finally, Villarroel was liefs; it was a shattered conglomerate killed in his palace by street mobs, and of special interests without the force his body was hung from a lamppost in or talent to impose the principles which the Plaza Murillo. The RADEPA was supported their privilege. Fighting in discredited, and the MNR was driven La Paz was led by Hernan Siles underground and into exile. Zuazo, rebel son of a former president, and Juan Lechin, a labor leader who Political instability calls himself a Trotskyite. Civilian irregulars and a portion of the army One government rapidly followed an- quickly defeated loyal army forces, and other in the succeeding five years. the MNR was suddenly in power. New liberals tried makeshift reforms The revolution did not follow the which were frustrated by landowners, rules. There was no class struggle. mine owners, and parts of the army. There was little loss of life. There was Traditional governments enacted re- little fighting outside La Paz. There pressive legislation which could not be was no accession of the extremists, no enforced by an atrophied administra- reign of terror, no Thermidor. The tive arm, but which did arouse new keynote of moderation was struck by restlessness in the Indians and miners. Siles Zuazo who named himself provi- Two presidents in succession resigned sional president at the conclusion of their posts and fled into voluntary exile. the fighting, but he held the post only Bolivia was fast approaching anarchy during the time it took Paz Estenssoro through the failure of one faction after to fly to Bolivia. Paz assumed the another to master the art of governing. presidency to which he considered him- 128 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY self elected by the invalidated balloting reducciones had a brief existence in the of the previous year. Siles became Cochabamba valleys as in the rest of vice-president during Paz's term, then Alto and Bajo Peru. It rapidly gave was himself elected president in the way to the new latifundios. But, in regular elections of 1956. Cochabamba, a pattern had been set. The serfs lived in hamlets or villages, AGRARIANREFORM not scattered over wide areas as before and as they do today in many parts The important question was what of Peru. These villages continued to the permanent results of the revolution be as strongly influenced by the Span- would be. The mines were national- ish towns in the twentieth century as ized, but property once expropriated they were in the sixteenth century. can be returned to private hands. The Indian interaction with the Spaniards army was neutralized, but armies can was greater than, for example, on the be re-created. The unexpected and Aymara-inhabited altiplano or in the irreversible feature of the revolution Peruvian sierra. In all probability, the was the organized emergence of the aspirations of the Quechua speakers in campesinos as a political and social Cochabamba to the status of mestizo- force. The Indian population had to which they were certainly entitled taken no part in the fighting which by race-was more keenly developed installed the new government. For than in other parts of the Andes. several months in 1952, there was little The experiences of the Quechua change in their lot on the latifundios. speakers in the Chaco war, the assur- The MNR had plans for an eventual ances of equality, the description of agrarian reform, but no planned reform their rights and duties, were sown in could have been as sweeping as the one minds already preparedfor a new status. initiated by the Indians themselves After the war, the veterans returned to and only formalized by the government the latifundios as serfs, on land which decree-law of August 2, 1953. was theirs only at the pleasure of the The Indian organization which patr6n, for which land they labored forced the reform upon the government three days each week without pay, and had begun in the Indian villages of the for which the entire family owed many upper Cochabamba valleys in the mid- other obligations: a period of domestic 1930's. It was another result of the service in the house of the patrdn, a levy Chaco war. The Cochabamba valleys of firewood and wool, care of the live- contained Bolivia's densest population stock of the patr6n, and a cash payment, of Quechua speakers. It was in this the ancient canon. The head of the area that the colonial institution of family, the colono, pe6n, or pegujalero, reducciones, the forced resettlement of as he was variously called, could be Indians into new population centers rented out as any other chattel by the dominated by a Spanish town, was patr6n when the serf was not needed pushed with vigor in the time of the for work on the latifundio. viceroy Francisco de Toledo. The The Chaco veterans rebelled and reducciones entailed many difficulties, formed an agrarian syndicate for the and they were violently opposed by the purpose of renting land for cash and encomenderos and by the superintend- escaping the feudal obligations of the ents of mines deprived of men for their colonos. At first they were successful, labor levy. The institution of the then the landowners also began to or- BOLIVIA:THE RESTRAINEDREVOLUTION 129 ganize. They drove the syndicate mem- seal of government recognition on the bers from their lands and homes. But campesinos' new status as small farm- this only strengthened the Indian or- ers. They are still the lowest class of a ganization. Able leaders arose. The class conscious society. But they now syndicates spread slowly through the have the potential of upward movement Cochabamba valleys before 1952, then in that society, which they did not have rapidly throughout Bolivia after the when they were members of the caste- revolution-with little help from the like group of Indians. government. By late 1952 an organi- zation existed, headed by a Quechua CHANGE MASS VS. INDIVIDUAL speaking jefe maximo, which united most of the Quechua speakers and some It would be a mistake to overstate of the Aymara speakers of Bolivia. It the present extent of the change from owed nothing to the government and Indian to mestizo. There are still many could act independently of it. families on the altiplano and in the By 1953 the Quechua speakers began more remote areas of the sierra and attacking rural landowners. The pa- puna who consider themselves Indians. trones and administrators of latifundios Their cultural world remains much the were driven from the countryside into same as in the seventeenth century. the cities. Land, buildings, seed stocks, They live a wretched existence which animals, vehicles, and machinery were can be called subsistence only by virtue seized and divided among syndicate of an extraordinary physical adaption members. It became dangerous to use to a grossly insufficientdiet. They still the word "Indian," and the substitute, maintain themselves in dogged isolation "campesino," came into vogue. Civil from the rest of the world they have war became a menacing possibility when come to fear. the campesinos threatened to attack the Even in the more accessible areas small towns. The government was where colonial reducciones established a forced to act and to act drastically. tradition of interaction between Indian The result was the decree-law of the and Spanish speakersand where agrarian agrarian reform, signed in the Indian syndicates flourish, the new campesinos village of Ucureina under the watchful have not suddenly been integrated into eyes of fifty thousand campesinos. the society of Western-oriented towns- The agrarian reform has not accom- people. The former Indians are, in- plished all that some had hoped. Agrar- stead, a new class which gives a differ- ian reform, like revolution itself, car- ent shape to the new society. ries the magical aura of miracles worked The campesino class is not a mass of overnight. But, in this hard world of individuals eager to leave their rela- realities, agrarian reform in Bolivia, as tively poor agricultural lands and to in other countries, meant temporarily ape the manners and mores of mestizos, lower production, greater consumption as in a process of simple social mobility. by the producers and a smaller surplus Particularly in the Cochabambavalleys, for the towns, an unwieldy bureaucratic the campesinos are undergoing a genu- administration, and long delays in plac- ine process of acculturation in the sense ing the actual title in the hands of the that entire communities are beginning new property owner. But the agrarian to display behavior characteristic of the reform, together with an extended fran- dominantSpanish-speaking culture. This chise without a literacy test, placed the is more unusual than it sounds, because 130 ACADEMY THE ANNALS THE AMERICAN OF a normal pattern of change in the Andes The campesinos' houses are the same, is for the individual to become a mestizo their food is the same, although there by leaving his highland community of may be more of it, their clothing changes birth, rejecting his Indian background, only slowly towards the Western styles and assuming all possible mestizo status of the mestizos, although school children symbols. The individual who becomes now use the purchased uniforms once a mestizo by this route, however, finds the prerogative of the Spanish-speaking himself part of a despised "cholo" mi- children. There is no rush to acquire nority in a world dominated by urban status symbols, because there is a deep upper classes to which he cannot aspire. sense of the ridiculousness of a person This is properly described as a process wearing a necktie, for example, when of social mobility-an individual affair that person is unable to speak Spanish. in which neither the Indian nor the Sewing machines, bicycles, and Italian mestizo communities are importantly accordions are becoming common pos- affected. sessions among the campesinos,but they In the formerly Indian communities are only weak indicators of the change of Bolivia, on the other hand, the group which has taken place. itself is the agency regulating the adop- tion of mestizo traits. The individuals THE LEVELED SOCIETY within the group proceed at the same pace, with few persons standing out as The revolution has leveled Bolivian "moremestizo" than the others. Neither society in two ways. The bottom mass is there strong motivation physically to has moved upward, and the upper class leave the community nor to reject has virtually disappeared. Ownership identifiably Indian behavior patterns. of land through a period of time was Rather, the individuals are participating once a prime indication of aristocracy. in a true cultural change, as a group, Expropriation of the latifundios put an which promises to create a new culture end to the badge and to the income retaining some indigenous features but, which accompanied it. The hyper- as a whole, closely resembling present inflation of 1952-1956 wiped out much small-town mestizo patterns. From this other accumulated wealth. Commerce group, which now has the characteristics came to a near standstill. Opportunities of a lower class, mobility within the for renewing wealth dried up. The next generation to any level of national economic climate and public opinion society will be possible, especially for were such that these persons found it persons taking advantage of the public more comfortableoutside Bolivia. Large school system. numbers left the country voluntarily, Education has become a basic aspira- some were exiled, few have returned. tion of campesino communities. Most The exodus has left a critical lack of persons hold the aspiration not for professional and managerial personnel. themselves but for their children. Many It has also left a void which will even- communities have accepted the national tually be filled by a class in which status government's offer to provide teachers is achieved rather than ascribed. for any village which builds a school. The situation and the potentialities of NATIONALISM INTEGRATION AS the campesinos have changed radically since the revolution. But, as stated One of the reasons for the present before, this change is not apparent in moderation of the MNR is the realiza- ways which immediately strike the eye. tion of the power which resides in the BOLIVIA: THE RESTRAINED REVOLUTION 131 organized bloc of campesinos. The PROBLEMS OF INTERNATIONALISM agrarian syndicates on occasion have taken measures in their own hands with In spite of the ardent talk of nation- dismaying consequences. But the MNR alism, the country is actually undergoing government has been largely successful a remarkable experiment in submitting in its courtship of the campesinos and national interests to international super- in maintaining a counterbalance of vision. The MNR is able to pursue its power in the militias of the miners and moderate course because of very sub- the urban MNR Political Control Posts. stantial aid given by the United States. But civil war between campesinos and The United States has made the aid townspeople remains a disturbing pos- conditional on acceptance of economic sibility. This, perhaps as much as the recommendations of the International government'sdependenceon foreign aid, Monetary Fund (IMF). In 1956 the has dictated a policy of restraint and IMF drew up a detailed stabilization avoidance of extreme measures which plan which the government found itself might place salaried workers in con- forced to accept. The plan achieved flict with the largely subsistence campe- foreign exchange stabilization by freez- sinos. ing wages, allowing prices to seek their The MNR gave new impetus to sen- level, sharply restricting credit, and timents of nationalism in a country with eliminating subsidies which the govern- a long history of nationhood but in ment had given to offset the effects of which nationalism is a new phenomenon. inflation. The stabilization is some- The banner of nationalism was raised what illusory because the effect of do- in the 1920's after the fall of constitu- mestic policies is small compared with tionalism. The new philosophy called the effect of the United States contri- for a new approach to national problems bution to the national budget. There which would supposedly transcend the is no illusion, however, in the fact that legalisms of the old order. The empha- the stabilization plan has created large sis on national problems permeated the political problems for the government. universities, but it did not capture the The tin miners had lived more from sub- popular imagination. It remained for sidies than from wages, which remain the MNR to revive and direct the senti- insufficient. Salaried workers suffered ment after national socialism proved to from the disparity between the price be a dead end. level which increasedsome ten times and The MNR aroused and used feelings the new wage level which only approxi- of national pride to broaden its base of mately doubled. Worst of all, credit popular support, to identify the national operations nearly ceased, industries good with the good of the party. It has closed their doors when allowed to do been successful to the point where the so by the government, and the prospect only opposition to the MNR is the nu- for economic development receded. Bo- merically small Bolivian Falange origi- livia's experiment with international su- nally inspired by Antonio Primo de Ri- pervision of its economic policies has vera's Spanish movement. Since the not been an unmixed blessing. MNR revolution, the Falange has The cloud in the sky is that con- mounted a number of limited but san- tinued austerity imposed by the stabi- guinary revolts, none with any chance lization plan on the salaried workers- of success, which the MNR used to an economic stability unrelieved by convince the population that opposition economic development-may at last to the party is treason to the state. provoke the townspeople to more radi- 132 THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY cal and probably ill-advised approaches of violence and in maintaining close to the unsolved problems of massive ties with the United States. But those poverty and national dependence. The ties have not yet produced the dramatic most popular and least responsible results for which Bolivians continue to partisan of extreme measures is Trot- hope. Bolivia has weathered eight years skyite Juan Lechin, recently elected of revolution without recourse to the vice-president of the republic. The crude machinery of totalitarianism. Bolivian national revolution is unique But a revolution within a democratic in Latin America, both in having structure needs all the help and under- wrought great change with a minimum standing it can get.
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