On May 1st the president, Evo Morales, declared the nationalization of four companies, one distribution company and three electric plants. This time the declaration (“Once again, on May 1st, taking back our privatized companies”) of the “intelligent” nationalization (which entails buying 50% of the stocks) appeared lackluster after the electoral slip in April and in the midst of a distancing from the workers’ unions, who this time weren’t present in the Murillo Plaza but instead they were in the streets demanding a salary increase.
Manufacturing Workers’ Rebellion
Tuesday, April 22nd in the Manufacturing Workers Federation in La Paz thirty secretary generals from the union began a hunger strike. Since March there have been many mobilizations that have been forming into what we can, without a doubt, call a great manufacturing rebellion- which hasn’t been seen in Bolivia for years. A more than just struggle for a salary increase; against the government sponsored workers’ code that benefits the company owners, prohibits strikes and leaves the state workers (educators, health care workers, ect.) without the right to unionize; and for a retirement law that would lower the age of retirement to 55. Thursday, April 27th a massive mobilization, lead by the Central Workers Department in La Paz (COD) and the FDTDLP, made up of tens of thousands of workers marched through the streets and avenues of La Paz. They passed by the COB national assembly, where they stopped and shouted Get out Pedro Montes! and COB Congress!
Meanwhile, inside the assembly, behind closed doors and with shouts from the protesters outside, the COB executive was giving boring reports about the failed negotiations with the government over the Workers’ Code and the Retirement Law. Finally they ended up calling for a 24 hour strike on Tuesday May 4th. The mobilization on Tuesday also stopped in front of the Ministry of Labor demanding the renunciation of the Ministry of Labor, Carmen Trujillo (ex leader of Manufacturing), Minister of Planning, Walter Delgadillo, and Economy, Arce Catacora. Shouts of, “Renounce damn it!” were heard as workers threw red paint balloons at the Ministry wall and the police stood by looking on. The mobilization was received with shouts of support from passersby and when they arrived in front of the Manufacturing Union’s headquarters, which faces the historic Heroes Plaza, the protesters greeted the mobilization from the 5th floor where the hunger strike was taking place. In previous May 1st marches the MAS union leaders, lead by Pedro Montes, would finish the march with an official act in Murillo Plaza, but this year the Plaza in front of the Government Palace was empty, just like during the final days of the electoral campaign. This May 1st there were two mobilizations that passed through the streets of La Paz: one was lead by the COB and noticeably small compared to previous years, the other was lead by the FDTFLP and the COD, which was a big combative and oppositional mobilization. The workers again began to throw red paint balloons at the ministry of Labor and fought off the provocation instigated by some of the leaders of the miners with COB, who were chased all the way to the Miners’ Federation. On Tuesday, May 4th the Bolivian Central Workers (COB) called for a 24 hour strike. They mobilized in the city center and transformed the bureaucratic strike into a political act that ended with 17 workers arrested- many of who are been threatened of imprisonment. The Evo Morales government unleashed a forceful repression against the workers, including gassing the Manufacturing Union Headquarters, where the hunger striker is taking place.
Little has changed for the workers during the MAS government
This situation is a result of the fact that after more than four years of MAS government little has changed for thousands of factory workers who continue to be subjected to the same exploitation, the same arrogant bosses, and the same small salaries as the previous government. During this entire week we have seen, on Television, how the MAS Ministers- Delgadillo, Arce and Aguilar- defend the miserable 5% salary increase that the government wants to instate in defense of the General National Treasury (TGN); however, the Manufacturers’ demands don’t effect the state, they effect the private businesses. During the MAS government, most of the private businesses have failed to comply with the government’s mandated salary increases. Who defends the MAS Ministers with their 5% mathematics? The exploiting capitalists and their earnings like Doria Medina (King of Cement), Eduardo Bracamonte (Head of the jewelry exporters), or Iberkleid (Textile Industry). The entire cabinet, with Garcia Linera at the head, just like the previous governments, justify the “impossibility” of offering a salary that covers the basic family needs. This is obviously impossible if they don’t want to touch the capitalist’s earnings and they want to maintain a strategy based on agreements and accords with business owners, bankers, and the land owning class.
Regimen, government and class struggle
This Manufacturing Workers’ rebellion is during a surge of struggles, like the people from Norlipez, who organized a roadblock and condemned the mega transnational mining company, San Cristobal; the land occupations by the Landless Movement in Santa Cruz; more recently the roadblock in Caranavi, because the government failed to follow through with the installation of a citrus grove; and the state workers’ (health, teachers, university) struggle against the public service law that prohibits union organizing. It’s important to take into account that this resurfacing of union struggles is taking place in the framework of a new regimen in accordance with the dominating classes. However, there is not an equal balance between the strength of the regime, which is the general expression of the power relations between the classes, expressed in a system of laws and institutions, and the strength of the government, which is feeling the consequences of losing the elections in seven of the ten main cities, and as the guarantor and the architect of the new order it should continue to distance itself from the “social movements”.
The crisis, in light of the new Workers’ Code and the Retirement Law, is nothing more than putting up a new institutional framework for the bourgeois State. We’re going to see more crises, more struggles, and more mobilizations. But what distinguishes this from the mobilizations and struggles from the previous years is that since 2003 and onward the workers and rural workers’ mobilizations have been within the framework of a regimen that maintains strong ties with the exploiters, and as an opposing force a new social entity is emerging: the working class. During the past decade the working class has maintained a diluted struggle within general popular movements. This time the workers are mobilizing with their own flags, in the name of their class, with their methods, and in the midst of an international capital crisis. Only the working class can provide a way out of the crisis.
For a Democratic and Combative COB congress
Thousands mobilized in cities of La Paz, Oruro, and Cochabamba and demanded a COB congress. Pedro Montes and his executives- based on the governmental party’s interests- have repeatedly postponed the call for a congress, but they can no longer put it off. This situation has brought the bureaucratic COBists to call for a new assembly this Thursday, May 6th, when they will decide on the date to hold the congress. The advanced workers should not allow the assembly to be taken over by bureaucracy and government officials. We need a COB assembly that not only includes the thousands of people who have organized their unions but also the thousands who still don’t belong to one-thanks to the labor of the bureaucrats in compliance with the bosses and the Ministry of Labor. We must struggle for a real workers’ congress, who are elected through assemblies at workplaces, in order to discuss a plan of struggle against the Workers’ Code, against the Public Service’s Lay, for the Retirement law, against bosses’ abuses, and to coordinate with all of the sectors in struggle. A congress that would allow us to win support to struggle for class independence. This is the stance that the LOR-CI takes in our newspapers and in our printed declarations that we handed out on May 1st to encourage the Manufacturing worker’s Rebellion and fight for class independence.
Watch the video about LOR-CI participation in Mayday demonstration: www.lorci.org