One of the crucial dimensions of Álvaro García Linera’s contribution is to bring Marxism and Indianismo together, in his explicit recognition of Reinaga’s importance in the history of Bolivian emancipatory struggle and Indianismo’s centrality to the current political project of the Evo Morales government. Linera shows that Marxists and Indianistas share parallel concerns. Namely, they denounce the unjust exploitation of workers and peasants, who in the Bolivian case happen to be mainly indigenous, as well as their alienation from the means of production, which results in their total dependency on the capitalist owners for the fulfillment of their basic needs. Ultimately, in the post-colonial Andean context, this alienation and exploitation are accompanied by epistemic colonization, which robs the indigenous subalterns of their way of inhabiting the world, dispossessing them of their language, knowledge, and cosmology. Thus, for Linera, Marxism can deepen the contribution of Indianismo, and Indianismo can sharpen some of the positions advanced by Marxism. Together these sets of ideas can shed light on the reality of the post-colonial context, and articulate relevant political projects. In terms of the genealogy of Bolivian political theory, one could say that Reinaga relies on both the 18th century indigenous revolutionary Tupaj Katari and Karl Marx, despite claiming his total divorce from the latter; Linera knows and publicly recognizes that he relies on Tupaj Katari, Marx, and Reinaga. In the present excursus, textual examples from Reinaga offer the background for Linera’s deployment of Indianista and Marxist analytical vocabulary and for his projects of decolonization from the Vice-Presidency of the Plurinational State. As a concrete example, we will look at how this discourse conceptualizes and uses modern technology as a means to overcome the colonial condition, by repairing the epistemic damage of the Conquest of the Americas and centuries of colonialism.
“¡Indios de Bolivia, uníos!”2 With these words, Fausto Reinaga concludes his Manifiesto del Partido Indio de Bolivia published in 1970. Here, he calls together the Indians of Bolivia to join in a struggle against the “white-mestizo cholaje”3 represented by both the traditional elite, and the leadership of the post-1952 National Revolutionary government – both of whom, according to him, ignore in equal measure the necessities of the indigenous population. The disavowal of Marxism and the the established Left is at the heart of Reinaga’s document. However, as the language of the brief quote above immediately suggests, this stout negation is both necessary for Reinaga’s ideological positioning, and at the same time incomplete, methodologically speaking. The continued presence of the formal and rhetorical components of the Marxist tradition within Reinaga’s text symptomatically signals to the fact that the Marxist categories of analysis are still active in and necessary to his reading of history, especially as he examines the continuous conditions of oppression and exploitations that the Bolivian indigenous persons endure.
Reinaga puts forward the idea of “Two Bolivias” locked in a battle to the death: Indian Bolivia and white-mestizo Bolivia (Bolivia del “cholaje blanco-mestizo”).4 The desired outcome of this battle would be the ousting of the mestizo colonial legacy and the formation of an Indian state; it would also be a culmination of a “hidden” current, the true historical struggle of the two above-mentioned “races.”5 The influence of theories of decolonization, especially the work of Frantz Fanon, is evident in Reinaga’s texts, and is seen specifically in his rejection of the ideology of mestizaje that was adapted at the state level in Bolivia after the Revolution of the 1952 and regarded by Reinaga as a tactic of forced assimilation of the Bolivian indigenous peoples.6 Although Reinaga had been a vocal supporter of the left-leaning and union-backed Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario party (MNR) before the National Revolution of 1952, he came to think it had failed to offer political and social equality, or even full citizenship, to the indigenous and peasant workers. Instead, in the name of modernization and development, its failed Agrarian Reform forcibly subsumed and privatized the indigenous countryside in order to create more easily exploitable campesinos. For Reinaga, the main outcome of this reform was the introduction of class division where there was once social unity, leading to nothing less than the destruction of Indianness itself.7 The apparent corruption of the leftist elite in their private lives only furthered Reinaga’s disgust.
Reinaga’s frustrations with the aftermath of the 1952 Revolution made him distance himself radically from Marxism, deeming it just as harmful as “Yankee imperialism” for the consciousness of the Indian, who is, for him, the true subject of history.8 Indeed, he concluded that this subject must shed all foreign ideologies in order to achieve emancipation, going as far as to famously declare that he would have preferred that his earlier Marxist writings had never existed.9 Nonetheless, Reinaga’s concept of the Indian Revolution is a product of a simultaneous dialogue with and rejection of his Marxist past. In addition to his energetic support for the Bolivian National Revolutionary Movement and the particular type of Marxism it embraced, Reinaga traveled to the Soviet Union in 1957 and published an ecstatic work on the wonders of the “real socialism” titled El Sentimiento Mesiánico del Pueblo Ruso (1960). This engagement could not help but leave its traces on Reinaga’s later work.
As we have already glimpsed, the language of the Manifiesto del Partido Indio is haunted with Marxian turns of the phrase: for instance, Reinaga calls the Indians the true power, the “midwife of history,” thereby adapting directly Marx’s metaphor for the purposes of his own argument. But, of course, the use of the metaphor and the poetic apostrophe is a symptom of even deeper indebtedness to the Marxist conceptual universe. Most notably, Reinaga is concerned with the role of ideology in the reproduction of Bolivia’s particular exploitative social relations: “the superstructure, the ideological system of the West, is an iron machinery, which, relentless, captures the Indian’s brain, like a spider traps a fly.”10 He uses the concept of “superstructure” to explain further in the text how a literate Indian is not an Indian anymore; if he is to get to power, it will be as a mestizo, not as an Indian.11 When speaking of the destruction and subalternity of “pre-American” cultures, as he calls the indigenous civilizations, Reinaga points to the conquistadors’ reshaping of the labor force and the refunctioning of existing societies for private accumulation as the means by which the material devastation and epistemic destruction of indigenous peoples was brought about.12
Álvaro García Linera recognizes Reinaga as “the most influential and relevant intellectual of Indianismo in the formative period of this ideology,” thereby granting him a place among the founding fathers of the process of change led by the Evo Morales government since 2006. In Linera’s words, “The fundamental contribution of this period is the reinvention of Indian-ness, but this time not as a stigma but as a subject of emancipation, as a historical project, as a political plan.”13 However, in his 1999 essay “The Communist Manifesto and Our Present: Four Theses on its Historical Actuality,” Linera marks his distance from Reinaga’s ethnic radicalism and strategically draws away from the locally specific analysis characteristic of Indianista writings by emphasizing the global dimension of capital.14
Linera’s essay is an exercise in epistemic decolonization on the level of both form and content. It displays what in Spanish could be called “el afán de teoría,” or “theoretical drive”: Linera carefully, purposively, almost does not mention either South America or Bolivia in his analysis. The problems tackled by the text and the tendencies analyzed are phrased in a language that makes it applicable globally, apart from the obvious relevance to the region or the concrete country that is working its way through its post-colonial condition. This text arguably bypasses the division into center and periphery in terms of the production of knowledge. The erosion of this differentiation becomes possible due to the globalizing tendency of capitalism, which both solidifies the hold on the forces of production and dialectically opens up the new tendencies of resistance.
Garcia Linera offers two narrow arguments from within this landscape that connect the hardcore Indianista ideology of someone like Reinaga to a Marxist analysis. These are: 1) the epistemological enslavement that the worldwide expansion of capitalism implies, and 2) a deeply connected issue, the question of technology as a means of production of knowledge.
In Linera’s vocabulary, the planetary (planetario) nature of capitalist expansion refers to the double truth that globalization is an old story, and that capitalism transforms all spheres of life.15 The expansion of capitalism over the last 500 years affected much more than just the economic dimension of human existence. In fact, the capitalist mode of production modifies every sphere of human experience and environment in order to increase the production of surplus value. This includes the affective relationships between people, as well as the human relationship with nature, with space, and very tangibly, with time. In Linera’s words:
Capitalism does not develop the means of production indiscriminately, but mutilates them, represses them so that they only follow the path of valorization of value… thereby comes the one-sided development of the technical productive forces at the expense of the symbolic and associative productive forces, or the recurrent conversion of the productive forces into destructive or harmful ones (like weapons for war)…There are no neutral or naive productive forces, but there is a collection of dispositives, which limit abilities, prescribe behavior, privilege this or that kind of knowledge [saberes].16
Linera here describes the process of privileging only one route of development – the technologies that promote valorization of surplus-value. The “associative and symbolic” knowledge that is left aside and deemed useless is the ancestral knowledge of the indigenous peoples, such as the traditions of communal work and communal child care, or indigenous healing practices that rely heavily on psychosomatic benefits attained through references to the spiritual realities; also marginalized, of course, are indigenous laws, sciences, and cosmologies. In this notion of capitalism as a world order whose success depends on mutilation of knowledge, his critique is conceptually tied to Reinaga’s Indianista arguments, as well as to more contemporary Indianistas like Felipe Quispe, and to the wider discourse on decolonization.17 In Linera’s essay, Marxism and Indianism complement each other in showing the direct link between the expansion of capitalism – or of 500 years of globalization, if you like – and the impoverishment and reduction of knowledge on a world scale through the mechanism of “mutilation” of productive forces. 18
Linera thus shows that a Marxian analysis of the productive forces is central for understanding the phenomena of colonization and indigenous marginalization. Their one-sided capitalist development favors technological progress over other saberes (types of knowledge), but this development also unwittingly opens the door to a certain correction of this imbalance. Linera argues at length against the idea that the extraordinary development of technologies either signals the vitality of the capitalist system, or that it automatically promises the ways of articulating resistance. Technology in itself does not promise anything; it is the use of it, access to it and control over it that influence the distribution of power and the possibility of emancipation. But he recognizes, of course, that much extant technology has been historically developed within capitalism and bears the material mark of that purposive development as a tool for the extraction and accumulation of value. Hence, one of the important tasks that the current Bolivian “process of change” entails is wrestling technology from the capitalist logic of accumulation of value and adapting it for the purposes of the epistemological decolonization (on the ideological plane), and for the use and benefit of broad sections of populations (in a practical sense).
García Linera’s political positions on technology are thus based on insights into its development gleaned from his reading of Marx, as well as from the above-cited Indianista denunciation of colonization as a “robbery” (“despojo”) of the indigenous nations of their ancestral knowledge and technologies. In a country like Bolivia, marked by a post-colonial condition, this longue durée of loss and privation is inextricably linked to the country’s current peripheral position in the world capitalist system.19 Thus, two burning demands were explicitly articulated during the recent presidential campaign in September of 2014 (of course, not for the first time in Bolivian history): the demand for industrialization that would bring added-value to the country’s natural resources, such as gas and extracted minerals; and the demand for general access to new technologies, especially communication technologies. Because these demands are framed with regard to the long history of colonialism, they acquire a dimension beyond utilitarian logic. In the discourse of the Evo-Álvaro campaign in 2014, the promise to bring industrialization and communication technologies to Bolivia is connected in a chain of equivalences with such larger and more abstract concepts as national dignity of the Bolivian people.20
In this vein, we can make sense of one of the Morales administration’s most ambitious projects: the Ciudadela del Conocimiento y la Tecnología (“Citadel of Knowledge and Technology” – even the name sounds grand). This is a government project to build a complex training facility in Cochabamba, which would house a college for computer engineers, a science research hub, a software building laboratory, and a lithium battery factory. Thus, Bolivia will train its own intellectual elite and will not need to import brains – or software – from abroad; neither will it export one of its most coveted natural resources, lithium, without first processing it. In a MAS campaign ad for the Citadel of Knowledge, the speaker declares: “The Millenary People with Advanced Technologies is an Invincible People.”21 Millenary: infused with the power of the ancestral indigenous, pre-colonial connection to the land. Invincible: enduring in the face of the forces of ever-expanding capital. The image of broken chains figures prominently at the top of the screen and “links past and present through the trope of knowledge as a tool for liberation,” as Roberto Pareja notes.22
Another element of this concern with technology is the Bolivian telecommunication satellite, Tupaj Katari, named after the 18th-century indigenous revolutionary, and launched in December of 2013 as a result of cooperation between Bolivia and People’s Republic of China. The image of this device in campaign advertisements, real and operational, simultaneously reminds the audience of two things. First, it makes historically relevant the anti-colonial struggle, represented by Tupaj Katari, that still continues today. Secondly, it shows that the government fulfills its promises – one of which was furthering Bolivia’s self-reliance in telecommunications through launching of its own satellite. Thus, this grand project of the Citadel of Knowledge acquires the dimension of real possibility and not just of a utopian venture, as it could seem at first glance. With a rhetoric evocative of Indianista discourse, and with a spotlight on knowledge and technology, the iconography and the message of the campaign connects this discourse back to Reinaga’s radical demands. The announcements, with their reference to the “millenary” and “invincible” people, clearly quote Reinaga’s diatribes and obliquely give visibility to the indigenous Bolivians – however this sector of the population might be concretely defined – in the government’s project.
Of course, the optimistic tone of the ads that celebrate these accomplishments is characteristic of the genre, so to speak, and is not to be confused with García Linera’s theoretical reflections on the meaning of technology for Bolivia’s “process of change” and its possibilities of moving beyond capitalism. As he discusses in his book Geopolítica de la Amazonía (2012), the role of technologies is ambiguous in today’s Bolivia. He explains that a balance must be negotiated between the use of extractive technologies for generating necessary revenues, and the movement away from such technologies in order to curb Bolivia’s dependency on transnational capital. Linera explicitly recognizes the fact that Bolivia must survive in a capitalist world as an, albeit marginal, “Andean-Amazonian” capitalist country, and he reminds readers that Marx was ridiculing the utopian thinkers who thought that there existed “islands” immune to the worldwide domination of capital. One cannot hope to escape the capitalist nature of the existing productive forces so easily. This argument, which has been at the heart of some political controversy in Bolivia today, is better understood if we take into account Linera’s comment vis-à-vis the use of technology in Geopolítica de la Amazonía:
It is naive to believe that extractivism, non-extractivism, or industrialism are a vaccine against injustice, exploitation, and inequality, because in themselves they are neither modes of producing, nor modes of managing wealth. They are technical systems of processing nature by means of labor, and can be present in pre-capitalist, capitalist, or communitarian societies. Only depending on how these technical systems are used, and how the generated wealth is managed, can economic regimes exist with either less or more justice, with exploitation or without exploitation of labor.23
The big question Linera is tackling here, writing from the seat of power, is: how do we further the project of decolonization bound up with “movement towards socialism” and away from capitalism? And how do we do that while also providing for the pressing everyday needs of the population? How do we use technologies – which, due to the history of their development within capitalism, have ingrained in them the logic of accumulation of value – in order to move beyond this logic?
In the conclusion of the Geopolítica de la Amazonía, and in an attempt to answer this question, Linera discusses President Evo’s goal for 2025: that no resource would be exported from Bolivia without having been industrially processed, without added value. “This will require a profound scientific-technological transformation of the country and a never before seen investment in knowledge. And of course we will do it,” says Linera.24 The triumphal tone of this conclusion may be dampened by the fact that this book was written mainly as a justification of the confrontation of the MAS government forces and the indigenous sectors that were not “walking together” with the government any longer and were opposed to a large development project of building a highway through indigenous territories and a National Park. However, it neatly illuminates García Linera’s key ideological and political contribution to the Bolivian process of the past decade, as it pairs the Marxist analysis of the modes of production with an implicit response to a demand articulated by the Indianistas like Fausto Reinaga and Felipe Quispe. In line with the government’s rhetoric and politics of decolonization, García Linera brings to the forefront the necessity of repairs for the epistemic and technologico-material devastation that the indigenous nations suffered at the time of the Conquest and during the following centuries of exploitation and marginalization; and, here, he does so precisely at a moment when the “Indianista” orientation of the government is being acutely questioned.
This article is part of a dossier entitled Álvaro García Linera: A Bolivian Marxist Seduced.
- Álvaro García Linera, “El desencuentro de dos razones revolucionarias: Indianismo y Marxismo”, in Cuadernos del Pensamiento Crítico Latinoamericano, no. 3, (Buenos Aires : CLACSO, December, 2007).
- Fausto Reinaga, Manifiesto del partido indio de Bolivia, (La Paz: WA-GUI, 2007 ), 84.
- The term cholaje, like mestizaje, was a caste designation during the colonial period throughout Spanish America, referring to a mix indigenous, Iberian, and sometimes African racial heritage. Today, its specific valence varies by region, but still generally refers to the fact of racial mixture. It is therefore left untranslated. – Ed.
- Reinaga, Manifiesto, 84.
- Peter Baker, in his doctoral dissertation at Texas A&M University (work in progress), views the interpretation of Fausto Reinaga’s project as a rewriting of Bolivian history and uncovering of the “hidden” history of the struggle between the contending “races” or “Nations,”viewed as one of the main axes of this writer’s agenda.
- José Antonio Lucero, “Fanon in the Andes: Fausto Reinaga, Indianismo and the Black Atlantic.” International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies 1, no. 1, 2008.
- “La Reforma Agraria de Bolivia es un fraude…No libera al indio. Lo esclaviza; lo destruye. La Reforma Agraria ha convertido el latifundio en minifundio; la “sayaña serval del pongo” en propiedad privada; al indio – ancestralmente socialista – le ha hecho individualista. Ha llevado a la sociedad del indio, que es una comunidad milenaria, la lucha de clases; lucha de ricos y pobres. Para el indio socialista la ‘lucha de clases,’ no solo es una regresión a la barbarie, sino es su destrucción. El imperialismo y el cholaje blanco-mestizo con la Reforma agraria se han propuesto destruir a la raza india!” Reinaga, Manifiesto, 59-60.
- “El imperialismo yanqui y la podredumbre del cholaje comunista o anti-comunista.” Fausto Reinaga, Manifiesto, 66.
- Fausto Reinaga, La Revolución India, (La Paz: Fundación Amáutica Fausto Reinaga, 2001 ).
- “La superestructura, el sistema ideológico del Occidente es una maquinaria férrea que implacable se apodera del cerebro del indio, como la araña de la mosca.” Manifiesto, 64.
- Reinaga therefore enunciates, avant la lettre, the problem formulated by Gayatri Spivak in her seminal essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” replying negatively to the question, and explaining why such an acculturated Indian will not properly further the Indian cause. Reinaga is often contradictory, however; elsewhere, he writes “An Indian is always an Indian” (“indio, indio siempre”). But it is important that he puts forth the argument that integrative culturation is harmful to the Indian cause, since this is where he discusses the function of ideology using the concept of superstructure.
- “…las ‘fieras blancas’ del Occidente, han subyugado nuestra voluntad y han manejado nuestros brazos. Han implantado la propiedad privada y han llenado nuestra cabeza con la historia de nuestros conquistadores. De Francisco Pizarro a Paz Estenssoro, españoles y mestizos-blancos han sido para nosotros – los indios – una furia destructora. Ellos destrozaron nuestro sistema social comunista, edificado en diez mil años, cien siglos. Ellos degollaron a nuestro Inka Atahuallpa; violaron a nuestras vírgenes; redujeron a ceniza nuestras leyes; asesinaron a nuestros dioses; nos impusieron sangre y fuego a Cristo, el Dios de los conquistadores; saquearon nuestras montañas de plata y oro; nos despojaron nuestra tierra, y nos obligaron a látigo y bala a cultivar para ellos…” Reinaga, Manifiesto, 61.
- “El aporte fundamental de este período es la reinvención de la indianitud (sic), pero ya no como estigma sino como sujeto de emancipación, como designio histórico, como proyecto político.” García Linera, “El desencuentro,” 5.
- Linera explains this distance through a the mediating figure Felipe Quispe Huanca, alias “El Mallku”, the present leader of the MIP party (Movimiento Indigena Pachakuti), who lost the Presidential election to Morales in 2006. For Linera, Quispe is the faithful heir to Reinaga’s Indianismo, and Linera’s movement away from the radical Indianista proposals can be traced in his progressive distancing from Quispe in both discourse and in political life. Both had been leaders of the EGTK, and both published with the Ofensiva Roja press, printing house of the Tupajkatarista Movement. Yet, after their imprisonment, Linera’s “The Communist Manifesto and Our Present: Four Theses on its Historical Actuality?” was to mark the beginning of a new political and theoretical cycle with Grupo Comuna.
- “Planetary”: Linera is possibly using the theoretical vocabulary that remits to the work of Kostas Axelos. Linera describes the process of globalization in terms of concrete and abstract manifestations, where the concrete refers to the universalization of labor for capital, and the abstract dimension refers to the possibility of labor to resist capital – a potential which universalizes as the dialectical counterpart of the universalization of labor.
- “El capitalismo no desarrolla indiscriminadamente las fuerzas productivas, sino que las mutila, las reprime a fin de que éstas solo sigan la ruta que potencia la valorización del valor…de allí, ese desarrollo unilateral de las fuerzas productivas técnicas, en detrimento de las fuerzas productivas simbólicas, asociativas, o la recurrente conversión de las fuerzas productivas en fuerzas destructivas o nocivas (como armas destinadas para la guerra)…No hay pues fuerzas productivas ingenuas o neutras, [sino hay] un conjunto de dispositivos que constriñen habilidades, prescriben comportamientos, priorizan tales o cuales saberes…”Álvaro García Linera, “Es el Manifiesto Comunista un arcaísmo político, un recuerdo literario? Cuatro tesis sobre su actualidad histórica,” in La potencia plebeya. Acción colectiva y las identidades indígenas, obreras y populares en Bolivia, (Bogotá: Siglo del Hombre Editores, 2009), 92. All quotes from García Linera are my translations, since this paper was written before the recent publication of Linera’s anthology Plebian Power, Collective Action and Indigenous, Working-Class and Popular Identities in Bolivia, (Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2014). Emphasis added.
- As Quispe argues, many indigenous techniques and knowledges were lost as a result of the Spaniards’ cruel management of the indigenous population: “The arrival of the Spaniards destroyed our cosmic Aymara religion, our gods; they have invaded our sacred places…they also had to trample our culture, our art of war, etc…” [“La llegada de los españoles destruyó la religión Aymara cósmica, nuestros dioses, han invadido los lugares sagrados…También han tenido que pisotear nuestra cultura, arte militar, etc.”] Felipe Quispe Huanca, Tupaj Katari Vive y Vuelve…Carajo! (La Paz: Ofensiva Roja, 1990): 6.
- For more on epistemic colonization from Bolivian theorists, cf. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui (from the point of view of anthropology and oral history); Julieta Paredes and Maria Galindo (with focus on feminism); Xavier Albó (anthropology, sociology, liberation theology); and the ex-members of the Grupo Comuna: Luis Tapia, Raul Prada Alcoreza, Oscar Vega (each one is a strikingly original theorist, and they use a heterogeneous and rich theoretical toolbox, Marxism, deconstructionism, Foucault, Bourdieu).
- Bolivian sociologists and historians (Silvia Rivera and García Linera, among others) use Fernand Braudel’s terminology of “history of long duration” to speak about the colonial legacy that cannot be easily overlooked when analyzing even recent events in Bolivia.
- Mike Geddes explains the success of the previous Evo-Álvaro campaigns in Gramsican terms, “The MAS hegemonic project, as presented by García Linera, thus foregrounds decolonization as an umbrella beneath which several elements can be brought together – deepening democracy, redistributing wealth, supporting alternatives to capitalist relations, ecological sustainability – in a way which can appeal to a broad hegemonic bloc.” Mike Geddes, “The old is dying but the new is struggling to be born: hegemonic contestation in Bolivia,” Critical Policy Studies 8, no.2 (2014): 6.
- Campaign ad that presents Ciudadela del Conocimiento y Tecnología: “El pueblo milenario con la tecnología de avanzada,” accessed October 21, 2014.
- Roberto Pareja, “The citadel of knowledge: technology, space, power,” Espacios de circulación/ Spaces of Circulation, posted October 31, 2014.
- “Es ingenuo creer que el extractivismo, el no-extractivismo o el industrialismo son una vacuna contra la injusticia, la explotación y la desigualdad, porque en si mismos no son ni modos de producir ni modos de gestionar la riqueza. Son sistemas técnicos de procesamiento de la naturaleza mediante el trabajo, y pueden estar presentes en sociedades pre-capitalistas, capitalistas o sociedades comunitarias. Únicamente dependiendo de cómo se usen esos sistemas técnicos, de cómo se gestione la riqueza así producida, se podrán tener regímenes económicas con mayor o menor justicia, con explotación o sin explotación del trabajo.” Álvaro García Linera, Geopolítica de la Amazonía, (La Paz: Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional, 2012), 107.
- “Ello requerirá de una profunda transformación científico-tecnológica del país y de una inversión nunca antes vista en conocimiento. Y por supuesto que lo haremos.” García Linera, Geopolítica de la Amazonía, 112.