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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 20 th century.
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Chapter 5: The New (Old) Nation


Everything that has been said thus far clearly shows that the social movement being analysed put great emphasis on national issues. Even the miners’ class protest movement frequently drew on nationalist terms and the entire conflict was often expressed not in terms of “class vs. class” but “nation vs. anti-nation”. Such strong national feeling had to be accompanied by a reflection on the form of the Bolivian nation. This was encouraged by global intellectual trends. The 1920s saw a growth of nationalism in Europe; the 1950s and 60s were a tense time for colonised nations.

In the 1930s in many countries trends of national self-affirmation were directed against actual or alleged aliens. In countries that had been living with a sense of long-term humiliation, which was the case with most of the countries of the so-called Third World, chauvinist tendencies could be very strong. They were an expression of compensatory nationalism. A drastic example of this phenomenon was provided by Turkey – even though the worst atrocities against the Armenians had already taken place there earlier.

There was a feeling in the Third World that the whole national tissue was overgrown with one that was different, foreign, parasitic. Imperialism, la Rosca, the Jews… all of these, even though by nature distant, were frequently perceived as being similar and related. In Bolivia, the Indians who took part in the political process could define the “alien” especially broadly – including under their definition many undoubted Bolivians.

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