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The Anatomy of National Revolution

Bolivia in the 20th Century

Marcin Kula

The Bolivian revolution in 1952 aimed at modernizing the country: the revolutionaries nationalized the large tin mines, limited the power of the upper classes, proceeded to the agrarian reform, and tried to strengthen the role of the state in the economic life. Because the success of the revolution was limited, it is necessary to discuss the economic instruments, which a country may use to limit its backwardness. The second important point, which makes the 1952 revolution interesting is the alliance of the intellectuals and the workers, an alliance which can also be observed in the Polish «Solidarity» movement at the end of the 20th century.
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Chapter 4: All Power to the Labour Unions?


In many Latin American countries the growth of labour movements and the political parties aspiring to carry its message occurred at a relatively early stage of industrialisation. Significantly, it frequently involved radical ideology and forms of action, as well as extremist slogans. All of this may have been a case of a certain imitativeness of the Latin American processes with respect to those occurring in Europe. Confronting the country’s conditions with their knowledge, both students – relatively knowledgeable about the world based on the books they read – and the intellectuals who idolised Europe proved susceptible to subversive thought. They frequently dreamed of a unity with the people. Many of them, such as Paz Estenssoro, Lechín or Guevara Arze, could easily be accused of being Moscow. In the 1950s Bolivian universities, and particularly the University of San Simón in Cochabamba, were also centres in which the students and professors frequently alluded to Marxism. In 1953 that university and others, e.g. the Oruro Technical University, decided to offer classes to labourers and a course on mining to 200 miners from the nationalised mines. This was in line with the demands made by many labour unions to organise workers’ universities and night schools.

There were probably other, more structural reasons for framing issues in black-and-white categories, and as a result stimulating the rebelliousness of Latin American workers and intelligentsia. These may have included a feeling of pride and self-worth among those participating in the islands of capitalism, confronted...

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