Thursday, January 31, 2013

The NDP revisits the Clarity Act

I have written critically more than once about the New Democratic Party’s “Sherbrooke Declaration,” most recently in an article to be published in the next issue of Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme.[1] Although the Declaration, adopted by the federal NDP in 2006, represented modest progress in the party’s approach to Quebec, it has important ambiguities and contradictions that in my view undermine and even negate the Declaration’s formal commitment to uphold Quebec’s right to self-determination.

Although it is the NDP’s most complete statement on the Quebec national question, the Declaration is notable for its failure to address Quebec demands for a change in its constitutional status, whether through reform or independence. In fact, the Sherbrooke Declaration can be read as an attempt to circumvent the issue of constitutional reform in favour of essentially administrative and bureaucratic approaches designed to “make federalism work.”

The Declaration’s over-arching concept of “cooperative federalism” involves not a reallocation of powers but a never-ending process of policy and program negotiation between Quebec and Ottawa and (in most cases) the other provinces and territories, negotiations in which Quebec may and often does find itself alone arrayed against the other ten or more governments. It is cast as a strategy for winning Quebec acceptance of a federal union even before any constitutional guarantees of its national character have been achieved.

Most remarkably, the Declaration fails to mention the federal Clarity Act, which the NDP parliamentary caucus voted overwhelmingly to support in 2000 in the face of opposition to the Liberal government bill by the party’s Federal Council and the Canadian Labour Congress, as well as many rank and file party members. The Clarity Act makes Quebec sovereignty following a “yes” vote contingent on agreement by the federal Parliament and the other provinces, a clear denial of the democratic right of Québécois to determine their own future as a nation.

The NDP’s political incoherence on the Quebec question has once again been highlighted by its response to a Bloc Québécois bill now before Parliament. Bill C-457, An Act to repeal the Clarity Act, would do just that, if adopted. However, unwilling to support repeal without offering substitute legislation, the NDP has instead moved its own bill, C-470, which would in effect oblige the federal government to negotiate with Quebec should the Québécois vote in their majority for sovereignty (or other constitutional change) in a popular referendum. This is an improvement on the Clarity Act, which contained no such obligation. However, Bill C-470 is far less than a consistent defense of self-determination; it does not renounce some underlying concepts in the Clarity Act.

As its preamble makes clear, the NDP bill stands on the principles laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada in its judgment on the Quebec Secession Reference. It says the Clarity Act “does not accurately reflect some key dimensions of those principles and processes.” It cites in particular the “obligation of all parties to Confederation to negotiate” in the event of a Quebec vote for sovereignty or secession. And the bill sets out a procedure for allowing this:

1. The federal government must determine whether in its opinion the wording of the referendum question is clear. It suggests two possible wordings that would pass this test: “Should Quebec become a sovereign country?” and “Should Quebec separate from Canada and become a sovereign country?” If the government thinks the question is unclear, it shall refer the matter to the Quebec Court of Appeal, which must declare its opinion as to clarity within 60 days. Presumably, if the Quebec court says the question is unclear, the Quebec referendum has no legitimacy, in the NDP’s view.

In other words, the NDP is willing to let the federal government (or alternatively, the Quebec court of appeal, whose judges are appointed by Ottawa) determine the legitimacy of a Quebec referendum on its constitutional status.

2. Not only must Ottawa be satisfied that the referendum question is “clear.” It must be satisfied that Quebec’s procedures in the referendum — “balloting, counting of votes, transmission of results and spending limits” — are acceptable.

3. If the previous two conditions are satisfied, a “majority of valid votes” in favour of the proposed change will suffice to require “all parties to Confederation” — that is, not just the federal and Quebec governments, but the governments of all provinces and territories — to negotiate Quebec’s secession or desired constitutional change.

The Clarity Act studiously refrained from specifying what percentage of the vote would constitute a “clear majority” in the federal government view, implying that it had to be much more than 50% support for secession. The main purpose of the NDP bill — other than fending off its embarrassment in opposing the Bloc Québécois’ straightforward rejection of the Clarity Act — is to spell out a federal government role in determining what would justify the NDP’s acceptance in the Sherbrooke Declaration of a simple majority (50% plus one) vote for sovereignty.

Notable in all this is that there is no principle laid down in the NDP bill that would legally (albeit not constitutionally, let us note) require the federal government and the other provinces to accept a Quebec vote for secession and take appropriate action to implement it. Instead, it stands on the Clarity Act’s fundamental thesis that Ottawa (or its appointed judges) can determine the legitimacy of a Quebec vote for sovereignty (while suggesting how that might be done). And it leaves any action subsequent to such a vote to negotiations involving “all parties to Confederation” in which Quebec would almost certainly face a dozen or so reluctant or hostile governments, federal, provincial and territorial, willing or eager to wield all the formidable powers at Ottawa’s command — its crucial jurisdiction over banking and finance, trade and commerce, foreign affairs, the senior courts and judiciary, even the military and federal police — to drive a hard bargain with this upstart separatist government.

However, the NDP bill does contain a few novel features that are worth noting.

One is its proposal (in section 9) that Ottawa and the provinces must agree to negotiate any proposals adopted by voters in a Quebec constitutional referendum on such matters, short of secession, as accepting the 1982 Constitution (which Quebec has never done); limiting the federal spending power in Quebec; proposals affecting tax transfers and associated standards; and opting out by Quebec, with full compensation, from any federal programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This provision, if implemented, could reinforce Quebec efforts to oblige the other governments to address its concerns in these fields. And it might appeal to the Parti québécois leadership’s alternative to campaigning for sovereignty: its “sovereigntist governance” stance of step-by-step measures to increase Quebec powers within the federal union.[2]

Here too, however, Ottawa would have the same power to determine the legitimacy of the Quebec referendum that the NDP would give it on the question of sovereignty.

Also worth noting is the suggestion in the NDP bill (section 11) that it would be appropriate for the federal and Quebec governments to discuss or negotiate the wording of a referendum question prior to a decision on its actual wording. This may have been inspired by the agreement recently negotiated between the Scottish and Westminster governments on the wording of the proposed question or questions in the forthcoming Scottish referendum on independence. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois made a point of visiting Edinburgh on her recent European tour precisely in the hope of questioning leaders of Scotland’s governing National Party on the process adopted there.

These novel features of the bill suggest that the NDP is attempting to dialogue with the more conservative elements in the Parti québécois and the Quebec nationalist milieu, to offer itself as a potential bridge to ultimate constitutional reconciliation with the Rest of Canada. (They may also help to paper over differences among the party’s 58 Quebec MPs on approaches to the Quebec national question.)

Notable as well, however, is the remarkable hostility aroused by even these conciliatory gestures by the NDP. Not just from the other federalist parties; that was to be expected. But the reaction from the major media mouthpieces in English Canada has been vitriolic, with hostile editorials, for example, in the Globe & Mail and Ottawa Citizen (the latter also published two dismissively critical columns on the same day); and an editorial in the Toronto Star, the only daily that endorsed the NDP in the 2011 federal election, protesting that the NDP bill “lowers the bar to [Quebec] secession.” Pronounced the Star: “Canadians need to know that a party that aspires to govern the federation is prepared to defend it. In the NDP’s case that can’t be taken for granted.” These reactions do not auger well for Thomas Mulcair’s hopes of placating both Québécois nationalists and Anglophone federalists.

Reaction in the Quebec media has been more low-key. The few commentators there have focused on the media opposition to the bill in the other provinces, which they tend to attribute to the public’s lack of understanding of Quebec’s aspirations — itself a product of media mis-education, of course. Notable, however, was Ottawa-based columnist Manon Cornellier’s positive assessment of the NDP bill in the independent nationalist daily Le Devoir. The NDP bill, she wrote,

“largely reconciles the position of the Quebec caucus with that of the rest of the country, where a substantial majority of voters still support the idea of a law to control a possible secession attempt....

“That the federal government still has to give its opinion on the question sets one’s teeth on edge, as does the application to the Court of Appeal in case of dispute, but even if there were no law the federal government would resist negotiating if it considered the question ambiguous. The proposed procedure ultimately limits Ottawa’s latitude in the matter.

“As to appealing to some Quebec judges, one might ask whether that is better than relying, as now, on a majority of English-Canadian MPs perpetually convinced that the Yes supporters don’t understand the meaning of what they’re doing....

“Through this bill, [the NDP] reaffirms its adherence to some important principles: the right to self-determination of the Québécois, the recognition of a tight victory, and asymmetry. Which is clever.”

This suggests that the NDP bill may satisfy “soft” nationalist supporters of the NDP in Quebec (and thereby preserve many of the party’s seats there in the next election). It may be sufficient to minimize the damage to the party in Quebec from its opposition to the Bloc québécois bill.

In any event, both NDP and BQ bills will likely never be put to a vote, and die on the order paper. But in my opinion the limitations of the NDP bill, as well as its hostile reception in the English-Canadian mass media, underscore the size and scope of the challenge facing NDP members and supporters: to begin a long-overdue intensive critical evaluation of the Canadian constitutional set-up, the challenges posed to it by Quebec’s development as a distinct nation, and progressive responses to them.[3]

The Idle No More movement of indigenous activists is raising similar or related questions in its challenge to the legal and constitutional provisions imposed on them by the Canadian settler occupation state. Perhaps they will help stimulate some critical thinking on the left about these issues, which remain far from resolved.

-- Richard Fidler

[1] “Le NPD peut-il construire une alternative?,” in NCS No. 9. For analyses in English, see, inter alia, “The federal NDP’s electoral breakthrough in Quebec”; and “Layton chooses Supreme Court, Clarity Act over NDP’s Sherbrooke Declaration.”

[2] Quebec’s new Minister of International Relations Jean-François Lisée proposed this “stageist” Plan B strategy for a Parti québécois government in his book Sortie de Secours: Comment échapper au déclin du Québec (Boréal, 2000): one or more referendums on a list of essential needs that, if implemented, would constitute a renewed federalism.

[3] The NDP would also benefit by abandoning its hostility to the progressive wing of the Quebec sovereigntist movement, in particular the pro-independence Québec solidaire. A first step in this direction would be to reject Mulcair’s goal of building a Quebec wing of the NDP to compete with QS. Although action on his proposal was postponed for a few years at a recent convention of federal NDP forces in Quebec, largely on pragmatic grounds — last year’s recruitment drive brought federal NDP membership in Quebec to just over 13,000, slightly less than the QS membership and far from its goal of 20,000 — Mulcair shows no sign of relenting on his project.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whither the Quebec left and student movement after the ‘Maple Spring’?


The 2013 edition of the annual Socialist Register, a valuable publication, is devoted to “The Question of Strategy.” It contains 19 articles by more than 20 authors on the Occupy movement, new left parties and electoral strategy in Europe, the new progressive governments and movements in Latin America, and so on. Oddly, however, there is not a single article on the strategic lessons of the Quebec upsurge in 2012 and the massive student strike that shook the province for some six months, helping to bring down the Liberal government. A surprising omission, especially in view of the fact that two of the Register’s three editors are Canadians. There is not even a mention of the Quebec strike and its strategic lessons in the editors’ Preface, dated August 2012, written following the strike and in the midst of the Quebec election campaign.

Fortunately, a French journal, Contretemps, founded by the late Daniel Bensaid, recognized the importance of the Quebec struggle. In a recent issue (January 18) it published an interview with two Québécois — one of them a leader of this year’s strike, the other a leader of the 2005 strike — about the lessons they draw from these experiences. They also discuss the meaning of the election of the Parti québécois government and the role of the left party Québec solidaire and some of the problems they see in its relation to the student movement and other social movements.

The following is my translation of the interview, which was also published on the web site of Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme, a Quebec journal. The most recent issue of NCS, No. 8, Fall 2012, features a number of excellent articles analyzing “Higher education – Culture, commodity and resistance” from a critical left perspective.

The endnotes and hyperlinks are mine.

– Richard Fidler

* * *

From the introduction by Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme:

To answer the question in the title above, our French comrades of the journal Contretemps met with Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former co-spokesperson for the CLASSE (the major student organization in the “maple spring”), and Eric Martin, a co-author of Université inc. (Lux Éditeur, 2011), research officer at the IRIS[1] and member of the CAP/NCS.[2] They were interviewed by Hugo Harari-Kermadec on December 15, 2012.

This interview is a prelude to an article in the next issue of Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme,[3] in which Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois critically reviews the student struggle of last spring, its original dynamic and its relation to the social movements and to politics.

‘The movement launched some seismic waves, their full impact yet unclear’

Question: What is the situation in Quebec since the victory of the Parti québécois on September 4, 2012?

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois: Since the election we have been experiencing a certain return to reality, which is difficult for a part of the student movement. There is disappointment, since the mobilization, unprecedented in Quebec history, was not translated in the electoral results which were fairly tepid, with an electorate that was extremely divided by thirds. The Parti québécois [which won with a weak plurality] had promised some progressive but timid reforms. The increase in tuition fees has been cancelled (for the moment), the closing of a nuclear power plant has been announced, some nice measures in the first weeks. And since then we have gone from retreat to retreat. In terms of public policies, there is no change, and the PQ is again demonstrating its inability to be a real political alternative to neoliberalism. It’s sort of a return, not back to square one but not far from that. There is some disillusionment due to the fact that this movement was not immediately able to correct the direction in which Quebec was going.

Eric Martin: From the standpoint of the political consciousness of the youth, the movement launched some seismic waves, the full impact of which is not yet clear; it will be revealed in the long run. But it is the Parti québécois that proved incapable of reaping the harvest that the movement sowed in people’s minds. Thirty years ago, this party purported to carry the historic aspirations of the Quebec people and youth for emancipation, and proclaimed its proximity to the interests of the workers, its “bias in favour of the workers.” But in the end it showed it was incapable of seeing that an historic window had opened with the student movement, that the social crisis is deeper than education and poses the question of the future of Quebec, while the PQ did not even take advantage of what was being delivered to it on a silver plate. On the contrary, they closed the window, made some technocratic reforms, without any debate. And by retreating at the least reaction, because this government is very skittish media-wise. So the government is already discredited, and it will soon fall. What awaits us is the election of a right-wing party, either the return of the Liberals or, worse still, the Coalition Avenir Québec.

GND: The big promise of the PQ for education was to stop the fee hike and above all to open a sort of major summit on the future of higher education in Quebec, which would discuss all the options including free education. But what appears is a funnelling to consensus, and we know in advance what will come out: indexation of tuition fees to the cost of living and, worse still, the pursuit of commoditization of the education system with the establishment of quality certification [which guarantees the skills acquired by graduates].[4] So there will be a deal with the business interests: we don’t increase tuition fees but we will step up the commoditization process. The attack will be directed against costs, but also content.

EM: The PQ bought into the concept of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, with the performance contracts in the universities. So for this party there is a sort of continuity: “Regardless of what the kids in the street are saying, we take power and we get back to serious business, the paternalist technocrats know what is the right thing.” That’s the fine voice of the OECD. In what way is that party a party of change? No way!

GND: Many people were saying there might be some possibility with the conference on education: the last one was in the 1960s, it was time to inquire as to the role of higher education in Quebec. What is even sadder, or frustrating, is that one of the former student spokespersons was co-opted by the Parti québécois[5] and is now telling people that this summit is part of the continuity of the movement. He is selling the movement to the PQ.

EM: The most frustrating thing is the disconnection between the talk, the discourse, and the functioning of the regime. There may be a major joint effort, with lots of studies on the table to show that it should not be done, but it will proceed anyway. And ultimately, that is what this former spokesman does. In Quebec we cannot express a demand that can be objectified, be translated politically and institutionally. It is blocked by a duopoly, as in the United States.

Q: How do you explain the fact that a student spokesman, Léo Bureau-Blouin, ends up as a candidate and is even elected, when there is a strong tradition of separation between parties and social movements?

GND: It’s the student left that is intransigent on that. The CLASSE,[6] unlike the moderate wing of the student movement, is completely impermeable on this, even intolerant with respect to anything that smacks of electoral politics, a position that is open to criticism. The [FEUC] spokesman who was co-opted by the power elite comes from the concertationniste [collaborationist] fringe of the student movement which defines itself as a student lobby and not as a social organization or union.

EM: So there is a danger that the radicalized students will become even more intransigent on this, which prevents any form of dialectic between the street and the ballot boxes. It is impossible, then, to make a link between the movement and Québec solidaire, the party that represents a sort of social-democratic left, which is the best we have: an organized left force with the ecologists, feminists, etc.

GND: In my opinion, there is a false opposition in Quebec, an “opposition d’entendement” [opposed frameworks of interpretation] between corporatist, concertationniste student organizations, which are in bed with the Parti québécois, and conversely a student left that refuses any dialogue, any link with political parties. To the point that when the election came, the CLASSE had a position of not taking a position: “We will not take account of the electoral context.” Which I find problematic, because it’s a denial of the circumstances in which the social movements are nevertheless evolving.

EM: This is an old problem in Quebec. For example, the national question and the social question are separated. The independentist movements don’t want to talk about social questions, to avoid divisions among them, and the social movement (the Marxist-Leninists in the 1970s, now the libertarian youth) view the national question as a monopoly of the bourgeoisie. So we don’t manage to link these questions together dialectically.

The student movement in fact managed to make some syntheses, and that was its strength, but it did not succeed in taking the next step. Without trying to condense the movement in the National Assembly, to give it a political and electoral translation.

‘The government’s intransigence favoured the more militant pole’

Q: From a more individual point of view, are there some who have joined Québec solidaire?

GND: Yes, that’s the big irony: the separation is formal, and in reality there are some student activists who do join Québec solidaire. We saw this during the election: the position of the CLASSE congress, which said “we ignore the election and call for continuing the strike,” was rejected by the students who had mobilized for some months; starting with the first general assemblies when the new school semester began, they voted the opposite way: “There’s an election, we have an opportunity to overthrow the government, let’s go back to class.” So that was a major disillusionment, showing the gap between a certain far-left within the structures of the student movement and the majority of the militants, including some of the most active, for whom it was now time to translate the movement politically. So there was no organized translation of this attitude in the public space, which was very difficult for the CLASSE.

EM: The first-past-the-post electoral system puts a premium on strategic voting. Québec solidaire got 6%, well below its standing in the opinion polls, because in order to push the Liberals out people had to vote for the PQ as the party of alternance. But it was tweedledum and tweedledee. Since the student movement had in some ways cut itself off at the knees, and with the issue of strategic voting, the election of the PQ came quite naturally, without much effort. And because that party has since then exhausted the last symbolic capital remaining to it we are heading toward a victory for the right at the next opportunity.

Q: The fact that the ASSÉ had majority support for the first time in the student elections, was that linked to the preceding mobilizations? Is this an indication of a stronger politicization of this student generation, even before the spring of 2012, with the ecologist or the altermondialiste [global justice] movements?

GND: I don’t know if we can say that. It’s explained more by some strategic factors, and by the student strike in 2005 against the same government, against a cut in student grants. At the time, that was the biggest strike in Quebec history, before being exceeded by the one this year. An eight-week strike, triggered by the militant fringe but reclaimed by the concertationniste fringe through the exclusion of the militant wing from the negotiations because it refused to denounce violence. An agreement was signed with the Liberals, putting an end to the strike, without consulting the striking students.

This fizzling out, in 2005, had an impact on the student organizations. The dominant university federation lost half its members within a few years. It was a shock for the entire student movement. During that time, the militant wing went after the student associations, one after another. And by 2012 the militant pole was a lot more solid, a lot more organized, a lot bigger than in 2005. From the outset of the strike, the CLASSE assumed its leadership role in the public space, on the campuses. Which meant that even the federations jumped into the dance, at the end of February, early March, when the CLASSE was already established as the majority force and continued to be in the way the strike was represented. It is really this configuration that explains 2012. And during the strike the militant pole continued to grow, and that is where we see the effect of the politicization: during the movement people were leaving the student federations and joining the militant coalition, association by association, because the CLASSE was present in the public space, on the campuses, advancing its ideas, its general political analysis, which went beyond the issue of blocking the fee hike, and this attracted a lot of new members.

EM: Another thing that is linked to that is proof by contradiction — concertation does not work. Its strength lies in the relationship to the state. These federations lobby, circulate petitions. But when the state itself decides not to negotiate, it’s as if the Prince is no longer listening to his advisor. That’s when they become de facto irrelevant, they jump. They have to confess their irrelevance, and to line up beside the CLASSE, and say “do something.” The government’s intransigence favoured the more militant pole, which is what the government wanted in fact: a confrontation, which could not occur with people who do not want one, who are basically lackeys.

GND: The student federations did not lead any actions during the strike, or demonstrations. There were dozens each day, perhaps 20 percent of them called or organized by the CLASSE. We had at least one big demonstration per week, there were several each day in the regions. And during that time the federations were saying “we want to negotiate”; it made them look totally ineffective.

EM: With the result that there is now a campaign of disaffiliation from the FEUQ.[7] They have lost all their members.

‘Québec Solidaire proved unable to take a clear stand’

Q: Is the present respite being used to open a debate in the CLASSE on the lessons to be learned from the mobilization and the electoral follow-up?

GND: That’s one of the problems with the end of the strike. Since the CLASSE said “we’re continuing” and people went back to class, there was no call to end the strike. It came to an end slowly, over two or three weeks. There really wasn’t an end to the strike, and immediately afterward there was the election. Then the work of preparing for the summit began, we drafted briefs... and people said to themselves “it’s not over, there’s the summit, perhaps there will be indexation....” There’s a certain indefiniteness, so for now there is no real balance sheet. This inability to take a break, to conduct a review is a problem perhaps. A congress of the ASSÉ[8] was scheduled for January, but in the circumstances this has been postponed to the summer. So in theory there would be an opportunity to make an assessment this summer, but I don’t know if we will be able to do that.

Q: The ASSÉ is returning to its usual form?

GND: Yes, the CLASSE was dissolved in October. It was a temporary coalition for the time of the strike. It had been founded like that in January 2011, with the explicit provision in its statutes that it would dissolve when the strike ended.

EM: But that’s a problem! In 2005, we experienced the same problem: we had created the CASSÉË,[9] which we dissolved after the strike, so it took years to rebuild a movement like that, which has now scuppered itself again. I am very critical of this. I think there should be a permanent structure like that. And the other problem is that once people leave the student movement they fall into a vacuum. There is Québec solidaire, a political party, and you will get active in it if you want to engage in electoral politics. But if you want to participate in a radical political movement, there is nothing outside the student movement. For adults, workers, there is nothing in between, apart from a few tiny communist or anarcho-communist groups. But that’s not where everyone will go to be active. And for the students, they have to re-form coalitions each time. It happens when an adversary appears, and when it falls the coalition falls apart again.

Q: Did Québec solidaire not take account of the events to renew its forms of activism?

EM: That’s another problem. There were two main tendencies in Québec solidaire; the one I was in came from the Union des forces progressistes (UFP).[10] This Marxist tendency said “we have to organize the social movement.” But there were a lot of people in the other tendency, who came from the community movement, let’s say the citizen’s fringe, who were saying “We have to respect the autonomy of the community movement, so we should not interfere in the social movements.” That position has been dominant for a long time, which means that Québec solidaire has refused to play a role as organizer of the social movement, an initiator of coalitions. It has remained a sort of electoral tool, but not a force for actively unifying the left-wing forces. While the UFP was itself the result of an idea of a party-building process, which sought to merge the CP, the PS [PDS][11] and some small groups. This party-building project, as conceived by François Cyr, Pierre Dostie and Gordon Lefebvre, was unfortunately not translated into the way in which Québec solidaire now functions. There is an electoralist logic.

And on other current issues, like taxing the well-off, Québec solidaire has proved unable to distinguish itself: its interventions were not very firm, or are barely present. They are marginalized in the mass media but they don’t try, either, to organize the working class or the masses. The party is not voluntarist enough, aiming to organize people. [But] it is a good party, an immense progress compared with the 1980s and 1990s when we didn’t have a left party, nothing but the PQ.

Q: It’s a purely electoralist party?

GND: No, we shouldn’t say that. It is a party that is still socially committed, but timid in its desire to present itself as the organizing pole. Moreover, there is a difficulty in going into the street. The idea of a party of the streets and the ballot boxes is not yet fully realized. Well, I am too hard. There are some difficulties in organizing the street, and the street has some difficulties joining the party. We have to understand that in Quebec there is a traumatism in the social movements, which is the experience with the Parti québécois. It emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as the first political vehicle for the Francophone working class, the majority in Quebec. It was an immense hope, that party. Many social movements bet everything on that party. Which explains why many people today find it hard to detach themselves from it. Even some people on the far left.

There was a first PQ government and they say it was a good one, but very quickly, beginning in the early 1980s, the PQ government turned against the unions, adopting a special law on the civil service to smash the unions’ power. That was a disappointment, a kind of traumatism, which explains the reluctance in the social movements to join a political party. Which now explains the difficulties Québec solidaire is having. And unlike France, there is no strong tradition of a left-wing party in Quebec. The UFP was the first experience, in the 1990s!

EM: And the reason is that in the 1970s and 1980s, there was an experience with a very dogmatic, Maoist communist party which ended up very badly for everyone, and it liquidated itself, at the time of the 1980 referendum.[12] So independence and Marxism died at the same time in Quebec.

As to the labour movement, it is stuck to the PQ because it has some difficulties in seeing concretely any other real force. Not in terms of principles: Québec solidaire, in terms of principles, values, has that. But from a pragmatic standpoint, the labour movement cannot support a party that has no chance of being elected. It’s a deadlock.

‘Radicalization is a process that occurs in struggle’

Q: Has the international climate been a factor? Occupy Wall Street, the Arab revolutions, etc.?

EM: Yes, there was Occupy Montréal, just before the student strike, an occupation of the Place de la Bourse [in front of the stock exchange]. That was a sort of prelude, with its limitations: Occupy Wall Street was a sort of expression, a cri de coeur, that had some difficulty in translating itself into actions.

GND: Even more than that. Yes, the international climate of challenging neoliberalism had an impact, people in Quebec felt they were part of a kind of international wave; lots of people said that. A major influence in the terms, but not an organizational influence. The question of the 99% / 1%, a new way of talking about social classes... an imaginary that was taken up by the student movement.

But organizationally, I don’t think we should see a continuity. Those movements organized themselves through social networks, in a decentralized way, without formal structures. A horizontal organization that has its strengths, but which is not the mode of organization of the Québécois movement, which on the contrary functions like a trade union....

EM: ... direct democracy but with a highly organized action structure.

GND: With a majority, not consensual, process. It is often written that the CLASSE was a horizontal network without an executive. Yes, there was an executive, which is an organ for execution of mandates, but not policy representation. There are delegates, but it is indeed an organizational structure. The movement wouldn’t have had that force if we did not have this organization.

Q: But then how do you explain this radicalization as the movement developed?

EM: It’s the government’s contempt, 45 layers over and above what is permissible. It pisses in your face, and you end up saying “Shit, that’s impermissible”!

GND: There is also the duration of the movement, people experienced the system in their flesh and blood. One lesson that I draw from it is that radicalization is a process that occurs in the struggle, not through beautiful speeches. We are right. But it is not because we are right, that’s not enough to convince people. It’s not by sticking some ideas on the reality that we are going to convince people that things are not going well in the world. In the general assemblies [AGs], in some places, the strike votes were stronger and stronger! Which is contrary to logic; generally, the strike vote starts strong and then people steadily disembark. But in the CEGEPs[13] it was the reverse! There were people who were changing their minds! I remember leaving AGs that were full of green squares strewn on the ground. The green square was the sign of people who were for the fee hike. And people were taking them off during the AG. And when everyone got up, there would be 50 green squares on the ground because people had changed their mind. That shows a process of politicization through struggle. Some people who initially began the struggle with some (let’s say) social-democratic principles, or Judeo-Christian, of sharing, etc. Some good reasons, but not politically spelled out. And well, many of those people, having been on strike for six months, being beaten by the police every day, scorned by the mass media, living in oppression, radicalized a lot.

Also, there was the loss of legitimacy of the government, riddled by corruption scandals, which had backed down on the issue of shale gas, etc. And there was a sort of latent dissatisfaction, which the student movement was able to put into words. We gave a lot of people a cause, not on the campuses but to all those people who were dissatisfied and who joined in the casseroles protests. That’s always the challenge for the left: to put words on a dissatisfaction that is already there. People are well aware that things are not going as they should. The ecological crisis, the financial crisis.... People see in their everyday experience that there are problems, and the student movement was able to say, outside the campuses, “one of those injustices, which is part of the general logic, we can defeat it, come join us in the struggle.” It is this capacity to coalesce the frustrations, to channel, that enabled us to have, all at once, without any organization calling for it, a movement of the casseroles. It really was born on the social networks, and suddenly there were thousands of people in the street every night, throughout Quebec. Suddenly, some people who were there, who agreed with us, went through the door they had opened.

‘They realized that we were on to something, and they no longer knew how to react’

Q: Is that where the social networks play their role?

GND: Exactly. Once the social movement had done its job, the foundations, as we say in Quebec, “partir la patente” [to get things going], the social networks helped to add some dynamism, some self-organization. That allowed all kinds of citizen initiatives, neighbourhood assemblies, to emerge....

EM: It freed up the potential for people to be creative. And there was no longer any control, it was no longer the student unions that were making the decisions. An organizational platform on which the spontaneity was built. People think spontaneity is at the beginning, but it’s the result.

GND: Yes, the student organizations were there to lay the foundations for the actions, but at some point the CLASSE was carrying out a national action each week, some regional mobilizations, coordinating the strike votes, intervening in the media, in a negotiating stance with the government... But all the rest, 90% of what was happening, was autonomous, decentralized and spontaneous. This was a novelty in Quebec; in 2005 the social networks had barely got going. It was a novelty, for us but also for the establishment and the media. They were unable to understand what was happening. They have an analytical framework that says politics is the state, the parties, the unions. And it’s all machines, it works “top-down.” And this time it was completely different. They even criticized us for it! “But you are not controlling your members!” A total lack of comprehension. I said, “But we have 100,000 members, what do you expect... But what are you talking about?” The funniest thing was the student federations, which were saying “We are controlling our members!” Well, there were not that many any more, but it was also not true, their members were coming to us!

That movement was outside the usual framework. In fact, I saw an interview with a Quebec reporter by a French TV network, which asked him to describe Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. And this Quebec reporter, from a left-wing newspaper, who has a master’s degree in philosophy, replied: “He’s a young man, very articulate, blah blah, but his defect is that he has found a new form of langue de bois [wooden rhetoric], to avoid answering questions. He always claims he needs a mandate to speak! This is a new discursive strategy: he always says he has no mandate. He relies on this to refuse his responsibilities.”

EM: It’s the langue Dubois [laughter].

GND: And it’s not bad faith, it’s a failure to comprehend. For him, this could not exist. It could only be a discursive mystification. Another example: The minister asked me to order a truce to allow negotiations in peace and quiet. I replied: “First, I don’t have that power. Second, I don’t want to do it. Third, I will take your request, we will consult in our 80 AGs, give us a week and we’ll get back to you.” At that point, they hung up on me, on the state television [Radio Canada]. On the news program. One of the talking heads cut me off because, he says, I am refusing to answer the question. He was asking me repeatedly: “Do you agree to the truce?”

Another example. When the casseroles began, it was candy for the continuous news channels; they had helicopters flying over the city of Montréal, and everywhere, in all the streets, there were people banging their pots. And they called on one of the political commentators, a former federal minister. He says: “It’s very hard to describe, the student associations did not call these actions, it’s hard to see who is behind them.” Because obviously, there had to be someone behind them. “It may be a new form of ... uprising.” He was having trouble articulating those words. “Popular uprising.” He was lost, wide-eyed. He did not understand. And they were afraid. They realized that we were on to something, and they no longer knew how to react.

EM: This door that was opened, the PQ is working to close it again. But things will continue to burrow from below, and the question is when will this energy that the people, or the youth, discovered for themselves is going to be used to do more than go beyond the bounds.

[1] IRIS – Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques.

[2] CAP – Collectif d’analyse politique.

[3] No. 9, to appear in mid-February 2013.

[4] See “Charest wants to transform Quebec into a “Right-to-Study State,” in this blog post.

[5] The reference is to Léo Bureau-Blouin, a leader of the FECQ, the federation of college students, who was elected to the National Assembly on September 4 as a PQ candidate.

[6] Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) – Broad coalition of the Association for student union solidarity.

[7] Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the university students federation.

[8] Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, the permanent core body of the CLASSE.

[9] Coalition de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante Élargie (CASSÉÉ) – Expanded coalition of the ASSÉ.

[10] See “Québec Solidaire: A Québécois Approach to Building a Broad Left Party (Part I).”

[11] Parti de la Démocratie Sociale (PDS), the name adopted by the Quebec NDP in the early 1990s when it separated from the federal New Democratic Party.

[12] Actually, both of the major Maoist parties, the Workers Communist Party (PCO in French) and En Lutte/In Struggle, collapsed quite suddenly soon after the referendum, around 1983.

[13] Collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel, midway between high school and university.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The High Stakes of Native Resistance

A guest column by Geneviève Beaudet and Pierre Beaudet

Thanks to John Bradley for this translation from Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme.

The blossoming of the Idle No More movement signals the return of native resistance to the political and social landscape of Canada and Quebec.

With its origins in Saskatchewan in October 2012, this mass movement has taken on the federal government and more specifically the adoption of Bill C-45.[1] Its origins lay not in the work of established organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (although the AFN supports the initiative), but in a grassroots mobilization that has arisen in several parts of the country. This process echoes other recent citizen mobilizations such as the student carrés rouges in Quebec and the worldwide Occupy movement.

Bill C-45 is perceived by native people as an attempt to further weaken their already limited powers to resist the invasion of their lands and the continuing exploitation of their natural resources. In the eyes of these communities, this adds to a long list of initiatives and legislation put forward to undermine their autonomy.

In neo-conservative circles, the existence of First Nations peoples is seen as an anachronism, best relegated to the past. Their future, if indeed they have one, lies in “assimilation” into Canadian society.

Even though this attempt at social erasure began prior to the election of the present government, the process of destruction of native culture and identity has intensified under the Harper government.

However, it would be an error to believe that this attack is driven solely by neo-conservative ideology. The present strategy of the Conservative government, one also shared by the economic elite, sees the occupation of the northern and western stretches of Canada as a key piece of a thoroughgoing re-tooling and refashioning of the Canadian economy, in which Canada, in the words of the Prime Minister, must become an “energy superpower.”

From this perspective one thing is clear — the native populations are in the way. Given this, it also means that it makes little sense to work towards resolving the horrendous health, housing, employment and education problems of Attawapiskat and elsewhere.

A conflict with deep roots

A brief look at the past is necessary to better understand the present crisis. At the beginning of the 16th century, the French colonists came into contact and conflict with native communities. These encounters provoked a long history of resistance by native peoples on both shores of the St. Lawrence. More through necessity than through choice, France was forced to come to an agreement, the Great Montreal Peace of 1701, to share the territory. This, in turn, led to the somewhat surprising Franco-Native alliance which then jointly resisted the British imperial forces.

But during the 18th century, the British forces prevailed and the process of colonization continued apace.

This economy was built upon the pillage of natural resources and the subjugation of the native and French-Canadian populations. Then, in 1837, came the revolt of the Patriotes in Quebec. This uprising, with republican impulses, demanded democratic reform and insisted that the native population have the same rights as all. But the British forces were too powerful and these promising efforts were defeated. The colonial power then proceeded to attempt to extend and consolidate its control over the western frontier, an area occupied by several important native communities, including the Métis of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This resistance also suffered a bloody defeat.

In 1867, Canada emerged as a semi-independent state. The Anglo-Canadian elite, learning their lessons well from the Empire, adopted the imperial tactic of divide and rule. The subjugated peoples were in disarray and their elites co-opted into the colonial apparatus. The native populations were herded onto reserves after signing treaties under unfavourable conditions which provide few benefits.

Following the Second World War, the Canadian variant of capitalism aligned itself with a new empire — the American one this time, a growing colossus desperate for resources. This led to a series of megaprojects in the hydroelectric and oil sectors in the 1950s and 60s. At the same time, the Canadian state, under the rubric of “modernization,” moved to further reduce the autonomy of native communities, all the while refusing to address the colonial relationship imposed upon native peoples.

New clashes

In the 1970s, the federal state was challenged by the national and political movement in Quebec. The Parti Québécois wanted to build a Quebec nation, within the context of North American capitalism, but with local control of natural resources.

From the Quebec side, the relations with natives remained ambiguous. Both had aspirations to nationhood but the lines were never clearly drawn as to the question of the division of territory.

However, concessions were forced on all sides as the federalist forces in Ottawa had to be faced.

The native populations saw an opening and attempted to mobilize. And it was the Cree in Quebec who succeeded in opening a serious breach. They managed, in negotiating the James Bay Agreement, to obtain certain new powers, as well as financial resources, in exchange for allowing Quebec to develop important hydro-electric projects on their territory. This in turn sparked resistance by native peoples in the rest of Canada who looked to follow the Cree example and gain similar victories. But it was a no go in the West and in Ontario. Negotiations dragged on interminably and gains were minimal.

Following the defeat of the indépendantiste project in Quebec in the 1990s, new conflicts surfaced. The Oka Crisis was the start of a cycle of resistance in several native communities close to urban areas. Mass actions, such as the blockading of highways, spread throughout Ontario, Northern Quebec and elsewhere. At the same time, the development of natural resources became an imperative for Canadian capital, more and more in synch with its American counterparts. Native groups and the Assembly of First Nations had been pushed into a corner, leading to their opposition to the constitutional reform of Meech Lake from which they were excluded.

Finally in 2006, Stephen Harper undertook to recast the Canadian state and put in place a no-holds barred capitalism wrapped in religious rhetoric and social conservatism.

The First Nations have no place in this neo-conservative world. Territorial claims are off the table and the administrative framework for dealing with these communities had to be dismantled. To justify this abrupt and drastic change of course, the government, with the help of a compliant media, mounted a major campaign of denigration and defamation. However, the native people did not back down. A striking example of this resistance was the setting up of roadblocks by the Atikamekw Nation to deny access to companies seeking to exploit forest resources on their land.

From the native perspective

Today, native people occupy a special, but not wholly unique, position within the strategic framework imposed by the Canadian state. At least in theory, this reality leads one to think that a convergence between the native movement and popular movements, both in Canada and Quebec, becomes not only possible, but necessary. But there are serious obstacles to such a uniting of forces. Firstly, social movements are forced to work within the colonial reality established and maintained by the State and imposed upon native peoples.

Native demands are not limited to improving material conditions and obtaining certain rights. They also focus on the dismantling of the structures of oppressive relations. For their part, non-native populations, including the Québécois people, must come to accept that they are not the “owners” of the land. A lasting solution requires that these realities be the starting point for a genuine dialogue between equally sovereign peoples.

An ongoing struggle

It is clear that establishing such a dialogue between equals is not an easy task. Elites and state policies work to divide through demagogic attacks, outright lies and not so subtle co-optation. Nonetheless the recent history of struggles and solidarity work gives reason for some hope. We can point to the group Solidarity with Native People that has its origins in the Oka crisis or to the continuing efforts of the Ligue des droits et libertés. We should also be encouraged by, and learn from, the collaborative efforts of intellectuals, artists, native and non-native teachers who work to enlighten and teach, efforts that find concrete expression in publications such as Recherches amérindiennes, the annual Montreal First Peoples Festival, as well as in the numerous student initiatives at the Université du Québec campuses in Montreal and Val d’Or, and at Concordia University. All these efforts are important in changing the public perception of native people, this “invisible people,” to use songwriter and filmmaker Richard Desjardins’ depressing but apt description.

But today we have to go further. Is this possible? The experience of the citizens of Villeray, a Montreal neighbourhood, is instructive. In the summer of 2010, a grassroots citizens’ group supported, in the face of opposition, the establishment of an Inuit residence in the neighborhood, an action that provoked a lively debate.

In similar fashion, but at a political level, Françoise David, a Québec Solidaire member of the National Assembly, came out, in December 2012, in public support of the Idle No More movement and denounced the Harper government policies as leading “to the erosion of environmental standards, to a frenetic speed-up of resource extraction, and to the non-respect of the sovereignty of First Nations.”

Listening to the native population is critical to making any progress. In the forthcoming issue of the Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme, Dalie Giroux makes several key points: that natives have another conception of the world, one in which the presence of humans can not be separated out from the land (and the world) itself and that humans are part of a larger reality and co-exist in a relationship of mutual and ongoing dependence with other life (and non-life) forms. This “solidarity of necessity” echoes the Quechuas and the Aymaras peoples’ idea of PACHAMAMA which can be loosely, but not fully, translated as “Mother Earth.”

Diverse realities, including the human, non-human and the natural environment can not flourish within a framework of conflict. This idea, which seemed very esoteric until just recently, is being re-discovered in a world where the voice of native people is resonating louder and louder across the land.

Pierre Beaudet is a member of the Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme collective and Geneviève Beaudet is an activist working on native rights issues.

[1] Bill C-45, a.k.a. the second omnibus budget bill, is a massive government bill amending 64 acts or regulations. Among other things, it amends the Indian Act to remove the requirement of majority community support for leasing of designated reserve lands; amends the Navigable Waters Protection Act (now Navigation Protection Act) so that major pipeline and power line project proponents are no longer required to prove their project will not damage or destroy a navigable waterway it crosses; and amends an already weakened Environmental Assessment Act to reduce further the number of projects requiring assessment. – RF

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A defence of Bolivia’s development strategy

Now available as a free PDF pamphlet from Climate & Capitalism

A full English translation of
"Geopolitics of the Amazon: Landlord Hereditary Power and Capitalist Accumulation,"
by Álvaro García Linera, vice-president of Bolivia and one of Latin America’s leading Marxist intellectuals.

This important book-length essay responds to criticisms from left critics who have attacked the Morales government for what they call “extractivism,” and examines the real issues in the debate over plans to complete a highway in the TIPNIS region.

This is the essay that I translated and published in five parts on Life on the Left in December 2012. Many thanks to Ian Angus for making it available in an easily accessible PDF format through his excellent web site Climate & Capitalism.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Evo Morales’ historic speech at the Isla del Sol


by Richard Fidler

December 21, the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, was unusual in 2012 in that many indigenous peoples there and around the world marked the end of an era and the dawn of a new one, based on a Mayan calendar. According to legend the old era, a dark period known as the Macha or “No Time,” began when Columbus set foot in what later became known as America. The next era, the Pachakuti,[1] will slowly eliminate hunger, disease and wars, and bring about harmony between humankind and nature.

The Bolivian government marked the occasion by organizing a grand celebration on the Isla del Sol, an island in beautiful Lake Titikaka. The largest fresh-water body of water within South America, the lake straddles the border between Bolivia and Peru at an altitude of about 4,000 metres (more than 12,000 feet). According to Inca legend, this was where the sun was born.

The Bolivian foreign ministry, headed by Minister David Choquehuanca, an Aymara poet and long-time activist in the indigenous and campesino (peasant) movement, established a web site to publicize the event. It featured articles on indigenous history and legends, as well as tourist information. In the days preceding December 21, the government organized 13 different public forums on such topics as climate change, the food crisis and capitalism, both at the Isla del Sol and online.

The event attracted some 40 indigenous groups from five continents, most from South America, as well as (of course!) a large number of “gringo” (non-native) tourists. Also attending were government leaders, including a few from other countries, as well as ambassadors and other officials. It was, by all accounts, quite a show.

A highlight of the festivities was the presence of Bolivian President Evo Morales. He arrived at the December 21 event on a huge balsa raft, a large replica of the boats designed and built by indigenous artisans that for centuries plied the waters of Lake Titikaka. After lighting the sacred flame, Morales addressed the crowd for almost an hour, presenting a Manifesto that set out his government’s professed philosophy in the form of ten commandments. The speech is remarkable for its identification of global crisis as multi-dimensional — economic, ecological, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual, a crisis of civilization itself — its denunciation of capital’s world-wide offensive and the capitalist system’s commoditization of property and nature, and its explanation of his government’s objective of building a “communitarian socialism of Living Well.”

Although Morales’ message was largely ignored by the foreign media, it has attracted considerable commentary — and controversy — in Bolivia and to a lesser degree in South America. Following my translation of his speech, below, I will allude to some of those comments while offering a few critical observations of my own. But first, here is the speech by Evo Morales. Although there are several versions of the speech now circulating, I have translated from the full Spanish text available here, which appears to be the text from which Morales was reading. The notes are mine.

* * *


Ten Commandments to confront capitalism and construct the culture of life

Sisters and brothers, I want to express my surprise at the size of this huge gathering that today brings together, on this Isla del Sol, sisters and brothers from Abya Yala,[2] America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Greetings to our Vice-President of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera; to the Vice-President of Nicaragua, Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo; to the Minister of Communications and Information of Venezuela, Ernesto Villegas, and to the deputy ministers of Venezuela for Latin America and the Caribbean, Verónica Guerrero, and for North America, Claudia Salerno; to the Minister of Culture of Cuba, Rafael Bernal Alemany; to the ministers and ambassadors of Bolivia, of all of America, of Asia and of Europe.

Greetings, as well, to our leaders, men and women who are leading the social movements and organizations of the various sectors that were debating around this 21st of December and expressing some profound thoughts on political, economic, social issues and on the environment and Mother Earth. They are engaged in an ongoing debate about equality and social justice.

Today we are all reunited here, in the time of Pachakuti, in the time of change.

The Isla del Sol, the birth of a new time

From the Isla del Sol, from the Sacred Lake Titikaka that we share between Peru and Bolivia, we want to tell you that we are reunited today, the 21st of December 2012, not in the expectation that the world is to end, as some were saying. The world will never come to an end. We are here to provide hope in this new dawn for the peoples of the world.

In this Isla del Sol, where a thousand years ago the time of the sun began, Manco Kapac and Mama Ocllo, who were to found Tahuantinsuyo, were born.[3] That is why this island is the founding island of the time and the history of the children of the sun. But later, darkness arrived with the foreign invaders. Emboldened by greed, they came to our continent, Abya Yala, to subject the indigenous nations. It was the time of darkness, of pain and sadness, a time that for the children of the Willka[4] was a time of no time.

Today, from this same island that gave birth to Tahuantinsuyo, we are closing the epoch of darkness and of no time, and we are opening a new time of light: the Pachakuti.

Again, the peoples of the world, the social movements, the marginalized people, discriminated, humiliated, are organizing, mobilizing, gaining consciousness and arising again as in those times of the Pacha, the times of Pachakuti.

That is why, sisters and brothers, this great unprecedented historical event is a great surprise, as it is, too, for our brothers in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador and in other countries of the world that today are mobilizing to receive the Pacha.

This morning, with the brother Vice-President Álvaro García and with the brother Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Choquehuanca, we were informed that the peoples of North America, both in Canada and in the United States, are mobilizing to express their hope in this summer solstice.[5]

Sisters, brothers: The world is being hit by a world-wide multiple crisis that is manifested in a climate, financial, food, institutional, cultural, ethical and spiritual crisis. This crisis indicates to us that we are living in the final days of capitalism and unbridled consumerism; that is, of a model of society in which human beings claim to be superior to Mother Earth, converting nature into an object of their merciless predatory domination.

The ideologues of capitalism argue that the following are the solutions to the crisis of the capitalist system:

On the one hand, more capitalism, more privatization, more commoditization, more consumerism, more irrational and predatory exploitation of natural resources and more protection for companies and private profit.

On the other hand, fewer social rights, less public health, less public and free education, and less protection for human rights.

Today the societies and peoples of the developed countries are tragically experiencing the capitalist crisis created by its own market. Capitalist governments think that it is more important to save the banks than to save human beings, and it is more important to save the companies than to save people. In the capitalist system the banks have priority economic rights and enjoy first-class citizenship, which is why we can say that the banks are worth more than life. In this unfettered capitalism, individuals and peoples are not brothers and sisters, they are not citizens, they are not human beings; individuals and peoples are debt defaulters, borrowers, tenants and clients; in short, if people do not have money, they are nothing.

We are living in the kingdom of the colour green. Green like dollars are the monetary policies, green like dollars are the development policies, green like dollars are the housing policies, green like dollars are the human development policies and environmental policies. That is why, faced with the new wave of crisis of the capitalist system, its ideologues have come out in favour of privatizing nature through the so-called green economy or green capitalism.

However, the recipes of the market, of liberalism, of privatization simply generate poverty and exclusion, hunger and marginalization.

The images that unfettered capitalism leaves to the world are sinister:

(a) More than 850 million hungry people in the world, almost 200 million more than those who existed 30 years ago;

(b) Life expectancy of the poorest in the world continues to be the same as it was in 1977, that is 44 years of age;

(c) Approximately 1.3 billion people live in conditions of poverty;

(d) There are close to 230 million unemployed in the world, 40 million more than there were 30 years ago;

(e) Finally, the developed countries annually waste 700 million tons of food, that is, three times more than what Sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year.

Among the structural causes of the global crisis of capitalism are the following:

(a) The accumulation and concentration of wealth in a few countries and in small privileged social groups,

(b) The concentration of capital in production and marketing of resources and goods that produce the quickest and greatest profit,

(c) Promotion of massive and excessive social consumption of products in the belief that to have more is to live better,

(d) Massive production of disposable products to enrich capital and increase the ecological footprint,

(e) Excessive and unsustainable extractivist productivist use of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at high environmental costs,

(f) Concentration of capital in processes of financial speculation for the purpose of generating quick and generous profits,

(g) Concentration of knowledge and technology in the rich countries and in the richest and most powerful social groups,

(h) Promotion of financial practices and extractive and commercial productive schemes that undermine the economy and sovereignty of states, particularly in the developing countries, monopolizing the control of natural resources and their earnings,

(i) Reduction of the role of states to that of weak regulators, converting large investors into managers of the property of others, and states and peoples into weak servants or partners with the myth that foreign investment can solve everything.

Sisters and brothers of the world: Capitalism has created a civilization that is wasteful, consumerist, exclusive, clientelist, a generator of opulence and misery. That is the pattern of life, production and consumption that we urgently need to transform.

The planet and humanity are in serious danger of extinction. The forests are in danger, biodiversity is in danger, the rivers and oceans are in danger and the earth is in danger. This beautiful human community that inhabits our Mother Earth is in danger owing to the climate crisis.

The causes of this climate crisis are directly related to the accumulation and concentration of wealth in a few countries and in small social groups; to massive, excessive and expensive consumption resulting from the belief that to have more is to live better; to pollutant production of disposable goods to enrich capital, increasing the ecological footprint; as well as the excessive and unsustainable extractive use for production of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at high environmental costs.

Sisters and brothers: The Plurinational State of Bolivia, echoing the voice of the world’s peoples, accepts an ethical obligation to the planet and advocates the need for human beings to recover a sense of unity and relevancy with Mother Earth.

We are in a crucial moment for the definition of the future of our planet. In our hands and in our consciousness lies the responsibility to agree on the road we are going to follow to guarantee the eradication of poverty, the distribution and redistribution of wealth, and the creation and strengthening of our social, material and spiritual conditions in order to live in harmony and equilibrium with nature.

The rich and industrialized countries must contribute to promoting the socialization of wealth and welfare in harmony with nature while the poor and developing countries must distribute the little wealth that they have. There is no future for humanity if egoism and greed prevail, with the accumulation and ostentation that are part of a system in which he who has more rules over those without. We must share and complement each other in knowledge, wealth, humanity and respect for nature.

This 21st of December is the day of the initiation of the Pachakuti, which translates into the awakening of the world to the culture of life. It is the beginning of the end of unfettered capitalism as well as the transition from the time of violence between human beings and violence to nature to a new time in which human beings will constitute a unity with Mother Earth and all will live in harmony and equilibrium with the cosmos as a whole.

This day is for the age-old societies the moment when major telluric-cosmic changes will occur in the planet and it is the omen that the culture of death, hunger and injustice will have reached its end. It means the end of a state of things and the beginning of profound changes in the world.

Likewise, this new time must be the beginning of the end of the monarchies, the hierarchies, the oligarchies and the anarchies of the market and of capital.

The Pachakuti has arrived, and you who now join with us in the sacred Isla del Sol, in Lake Titikaka, we are the Rainbow Warriors, we are the warriors of Vivir Bien [Living Well], we are the insurgents of the world.

In this context, let us suggest ten commandments to confront capitalism and construct the culture of life:

1. In politics

Refound democracy and politics, empowering the poor and serving the peoples

The world is experiencing a crisis of political systems because they no longer represent the peoples, they are elitist, exclusive, governed by oligarchical leaderships with the vision of filling the pockets of a few and not serving the people. The so-called democracies are the pretext for handing over the natural resources to transnational capital. In those false democracies, politics has been converted into an instrument for profit and not a vocation of service. Anachronistic forms of governments still survive that no longer respond to the demands of the world’s peoples. We must refound democracy. We do not want a colonial democracy in which the politicians are an aristocratic class and not militants in the cause of the poor and of service to the poor.

Democracy is not viable if it does not empower the poor, the marginalized, and does not respond first and foremost to the urgent needs of the neediest. A democracy in which a few become rich and the majority become poor is not a democracy.

Refounding democracy, refounding states, refounding republics and refounding politics requires the following actions, among others:

1. Refound the political systems, burying all forms of hierarchy, monarchy, oligarchy and the anarchy of the market and of capital. Democracy is the government of the peoples and not of the market.

2. Go beyond representative democracy, in which power is at the service of the interests of the elites and minorities, to communal democracy in which there are neither majorities nor minorities, but instead decisions are taken by consensus, and it is reason that prevails, not votes.

3. Promote the idea that political action means full and ongoing service to life, that is, in turn, an ethical, human and moral commitment to our peoples, recovering the codes of our ancestors: do not steal, do not lie, do not be lazy and do not be obsequious.

4. Service to the fatherland cannot be understood as using the fatherland as if it were a business; politicians cannot employ the administrative, legal and economic instruments of the state for their private and personal interests.

5. The people, through their social and community organizations, must take political power, building new forms of plurinational states, so that we shall govern ourselves within the framework of mandar obedeciendo (leading by obeying).

2. In social life:

Greater social and human rights, vs. the commoditization of human needs

An insulting and outrageous reality that persists in today’s world is the gap between rich and poor, the result of unequal distribution of income and unequal and discriminatory access to basic services. Capital and the market are no solution to inequality and poverty; they only privatize services and profit from needs. We have had a tragic experience with the privatization of basic services, especially water.

To overcome the serious social inequalities, it is necessary to undertake the following actions, among others:

1. It is imperative that we recognize, in international legislation and in national standards in all countries, that basic services such as water, electricity, communications and basic sanitation are a fundamental human right of the people in all corners of the planet.

2. In particular, water must be an essential human right because it bears directly on the development of life of all beings on the planet and is a fundamental component in the mobilization of all productive processes.

3. In addition to the recognition of basic services as a human right, we must proceed with the nationalization of those services, since private owners exclude the majority of the population from access to services that are fundamental to life, giving them an economic value that is unattainable for many.

4. There is a need to concentrate more economic resources in the hands of the state and to create mechanisms for distribution of this wealth between the regions and among the people who are the neediest and most vulnerable, in order to eliminate in the next few years all forms of social, material and spiritual poverty in the world through the democratization of economic wealth.

5. It is necessary to develop the formation of a new, full human being who is neither materialist nor a consumer, but focused consistently on the search for Living Well, with a profound revolutionary ethics based on harmony and solidarity, recognizing that all the peoples of the world make up a great family.

6. We must end the transnational monopoly of the pharmaceutical industry and recover and strengthen our ancestral and natural medicinal knowledges and practices.

3. In cultural and spiritual life:

Decolonize our peoples and our cultures, to build a communitarian socialism of living well

Sisters and brothers: We are living in a society in which everything is globalized and homogenized, in which cultural identities seem to smack of the past that everyone wants to ignore. The ancient and ancestral cultures are marginalized in economic and political processes and their cultural and spiritual force and energy are discounted. This has led to a profound dehumanization in the world and discrimination in the spiritual and cultural resources that can give us the necessary strengths to stop the brutality of capitalism. We must:

1. Decolonize ourselves of racism, fascism and all types of discrimination.

2. Decolonize ourselves of commoditization and consumerism, luxury, egoism and greed, and promote Living Well.

3. Recover the knowledges and codes of the ancient cultures of the world, to strengthen the awareness of individuals and societies of Mother Earth, understanding what it means to be a living and sacred being, that we are her daughters and sons and we are nourished by her, respecting the cycles of nature and understanding that all existing things are part of the balance and harmony of life. We are born from the womb of Mother Earth and we shall return to her womb.

4. Where there are multiple cultures in countries it is imperative to promote the construction of plurinational states that respect social, economic, legal and cultural pluralism.

4. In respect to the environment:

For the rights of Mother Earth, to live well and in opposition to the environmental colonialism of the green economy

In recent years the ideologists of the capitalist system have promoted the “green economy” as the salvation of this model of society. This simply means the commoditization of nature in the context of a green capitalism. The green economy is the economy of death, because in the context of protectionism of nature it is a death sentence for the world’s peoples. That is why we condemn the green economy as the new environmental colonialism and green capitalism. Similarly, the climate crisis of the planet is a matter of concern to us because the human community that inhabits our Mother Earth is in imminent danger owing to the catastrophic consequences of natural disasters.

To transform this situation the peoples of the world must promote the following actions:

1. Demand that the countries that have caused the climate crisis fulfil their historic responsibility to pay the climate debt to the peoples of the South, and drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions within the framework of binding international agreements.

2. We must implement the policies and actions that are needed to prevent and avoid the exhaustion of natural resources, accepting that life depends on sustaining the capacity for regeneration of the life systems of Mother Earth and the full and sustainable management of their components. We must always bear in mind that the planet can live better without human beings but human beings cannot live without the planet.

3. This is the century of the battle for universal recognition of the rights of Mother Earth in all legislation, treaties and national and international agreements, so that we human beings begin to live in harmony and equilibrium with the cosmos.

4. The countries of the world must promote decisively and aggressively the non-commercialization of the environmental functions and natural processes of Mother Earth, as well as the integral and sustainable management of her components. We cannot sell our sacred Mother Earth solely on the basis of false illusions that markets will promote some financing for our peoples. Our peoples and Mother Earth cannot now or ever be for sale.

5. In respect to natural resources:

Sovereignty over natural resources is a requisite for liberation from colonial and neoliberal domination and for the full development of peoples

In many countries the principal source of economic wealth is based on the use of natural resources. However, in most countries this wealth has been looted and appropriated in private hands and by transnational powers that enrich themselves at the expense of the peoples. We call on countries to develop the following actions in relation to natural resources:

1. Put ownership of natural resources in the state, to benefit the peoples so they are oriented toward the enjoyment and benefit of all.

2. In all countries that have strategic natural resources, promote the implementation of processes of nationalization, since it is only through such nationalization that we can stop the processes of economic colonialism and ensure the reinforcement of the state with economic resources that in turn promote better basic services for their peoples.

3. Develop processes of industrialization of those natural resources, always bearing in mind the need for protection and respect for the rights of Mother Earth.

6. In relation to food sovereignty:

Know how to feed ourselves in order to live well, promoting the attainment of food sovereignty and the human right to food

The discussion of food security has been carried on world-wide from differing perspectives and approaches, such as food security, food sovereignty and the human right to food. Food is central to the life of individuals and the attainment of Living Well, and that is why states and peoples must promote a set of actions:

1. To progress in the construction of “Knowing How to Feed Oneself in order to Live Well,” recovering the food knowledges and productive technologies of community nutrition, in which foods are medicine and part of our cultural identity.

2. To try to guarantee in each country the basic foods consumed by its population through strengthening the economic, productive, social, cultural, political and ecological systems of rural producers, with an emphasis on community family agriculture.

3. To protect the population from the effects of malnutrition, with an emphasis on controlling the marketing of foods that are harmful to human health.

4. To punish financial speculation based on the production and marketing of food.

7. In respect to integration and international relations:

The alliance of the peoples of the South against interventionism, neoliberalism and colonialism

Our ancestral peoples always lived integrated in cultures, integrated in trade, integrated in solidarity and in networks of collaboration. Today we must construct and strengthen our agreements of integration between peoples and communities, between states and governments, in a framework of support, collaboration and solidarity in order to strengthen life and humanity.

Faced with the diplomacy of death and war, commoditization, privatization, the plunder of natural resources, we must ourselves build the diplomacy of the peoples of the South in order to strengthen ourselves from the South.

The South is not and cannot be an obedient and servile pawn of the powers of the North. We are not the dump for the industrial and nuclear waste of the powers of the North, nor are we their inexhaustible source of raw materials. The South is emerging with the power of the peoples and the patriotic and sovereign governments, and is constructing projects of commercial, productive, cultural, technological, economic, financial and social integration. This is a time in which the peoples of the South, and together with the peoples of the North, must share, support ourselves and strengthen ourselves socially, economically and culturally.

Integration is conditional upon reliance on strong states and peoples, nationalist, patriotic, socialist governments with political will and national control, with projects and strategies for regional alliances to form a South that is building projects for regional power and integration.

The power of the South is its sovereignty, the right to development, the support and solidarity of peoples and states. The South is becoming stronger, becoming harmonized. There can be no strong South without sovereignty, patriotism, nationalism, a desire of peoples and states to break the chains of colonial and neoliberal servitude.

To achieve South-South integration, we must promote the following actions:

1. Form powerful coalitions and alliances to underwrite Agreements of Life and to share knowledges, technology and provision of financial resources, and not Free Trade Agreements, which are treaties of death for the peoples of the South as well as for the peoples of the North.

2. Construct a mechanism for integral development and integration between the states and peoples of the South that includes, among other things, areas of knowledge, technology, energy, food production, financing, health and education.

3. Move ahead in the twinning of the peoples of the South with those of the North, to destroy imperialism and build the civilizing horizon of Living Well in harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth.

8. In respect to knowledge and technology:

Knowledge and Technology are fundamental tools to achieve integral development and the eradication of poverty and hunger

Knowledge and technology are fundamental to the provision of means of communication, education, basic services and industrial and energy projects, the transformation of raw materials and the production of food; in short, to drive our economies. Today the developed countries blindly protect their technologies through patents and licences and prevent us from accessing them. If we want technology we have to enter their technology markets. There is no solidarity, no technological complementarity possible with the developed countries. The monopoly of technology is an instrument of power to control the developing countries. The transnational powers of the rich developed countries and imperialism do not share technology because they only want to sell it in order to dominate us and create dependency.

That is why, now more than ever, it is fundamental to promote the following actions:

1. Build convergence between the ancestral and community knowledges, wisdom, techniques and technologies and the practices and technologies of modern science in order to help create conditions for Living Well and protection of Mother Earth.

2. Develop our own knowledges and technologies that break the technological dependency on the transnational powers of the North.

3. In opposition to the commoditized egoism of the transnational powers of the North let us build collaboration, solidarity and complementarity of the peoples and countries of the South together with the peoples of the North.

9. In respect to international institutionality:

We must construct a world institutionality of the peoples, of the poor, of Mother Earth. We do not accept or permit interventionism or neoliberalism by the United Nations or the institutionality of the empire of capital

The colonial global institutionality is designed to subject and deceive the peoples. In the name of freedom and democracy organizations like NATO, including the UN through the renowned Security Council, invade countries, destroy peoples, legalize and assist in massacres. We cannot allow or admit the construction of military bases and war industries to dominate the peoples on the pretext of national security. The main thing is the security of the peoples, life and Mother Earth. The arms build-up is the business of death that enriches capitalism and destroys the planet.

The global institutional machinery of the so-called United Nations is designed to destroy the sovereign will of the peoples. That is where a bureaucracy works in the service of capital and imperialism. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept that international organizations should appropriate to themselves the right of invasion and intervention. The UN has no morality to impose. We, the peoples of the world, do not accept this elitist institutionality of the bureaucrats of the empire.

It was in the bowels of the UN that the privatizing green economy originated, which we understand as the black economy of death; from those entrails originate the recipes for privatization and interventionism. The UN seems to be the Organization for the Rich and Powerful Countries; perhaps it should be named the INO, Imperialist Nations Organization. That UN we do not want, we disown it.

That neoliberal bureaucracy, the bureaucracy of the green economy and privatization, the bureaucracy that promotes structural adjustments, those functionaries of capital and ideologists of domination and poverty, act with the patriarchal and colonial conviction that the peoples and developing countries are incapable and stupid and that to emerge from poverty we must faithfully follow their development recipes.

To construct a new institutionality of the peoples of the world, aimed at Living Well, we must develop the following actions:

1. Build the institutional and legal conditions for our peoples and countries to live in dignity and sovereignty without interventionism and without foreign military bases.

2. Free ourselves from the ideological and political bonds of the global financial agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and their satellites and intellectuals of neoliberal domination, and build our own institutions to design and advise on policies aimed at Living Well.

3. Build a World Organization of the Poor, a World Organization of Justice, a World Organization of Sovereignty of the Peoples, a World Organization of Mother Earth, an Organization of the Assembly of the Peoples of the World.

10. In the economics of finance:

Economic development must not be oriented to the market, to capital and to profit; development must be comprehensive and be oriented to human happiness, harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth

Capitalism only globalizes poverty, hunger, and social injustice, destroys human rights and social, economic and cultural rights, and destroys the environment. Unfettered capitalism creates poverty and hunger. The global capitalist financial system is colonialist and imperialist, it is a weapon of the powerful countries for subjection of the developing countries and peoples, for privatization and commoditization, for subjecting us to the control of the oligarchies and the commoditizing anarchy of capital.

That is why we must disown and dismantle the international financial system and its satellites, the IMF and World Bank.

We call on the peoples and governments of the world to break the chains of this slavery by financial colonialism, because only financial and economic sovereignty can allow us to decide our future in a sovereign way.

To achieve sovereignty in economy and finance, we are challenged to take the following actions:

1. We must configure a new international economic and financial order based on the principles of equity, national sovereignty, common interests, harmony with nature, cooperation and solidarity between states and peoples. This new order must be oriented to changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, substantially reducing the gap between rich and poor and between the developed and developing countries.

2. We must build a new global, regional and national architecture and financial system that is free of the bonds and tentacles of power of the World Bank and IMF. A new architecture and a new financial order of the peoples and for the peoples.

3. It is essential to build new legal and institutional frameworks at the national and international level and to develop a system of regulation and supervision of the financial sector. States and peoples have to control private finance and not be subject to the colonial servility of financial governance by private interests.

4. We must free ourselves from that colonial bond called the External Debt, which serves only to blackmail us, to oblige us to hand over our assets and privatize our natural resources, and to destroy the sovereignty of peoples and states. The colonial External Debt is the mechanism of exaction and impoverishment that afflicts the developing countries and limits their access to development. We call for cancelling this unjust External Debt. No more inequality. No more poverty. It is time to distribute the wealth.

5. As developing countries, we must create our own financial instruments. We must create the World Bank of the Poor and of the Sovereign Peoples of the World. We cannot depend on the donations and conditional loans of the capitalist colonial financial system. We must unite and integrate, and that means building our own financial, popular, community, state and sovereign financial systems.

6. Build and strengthen regional markets based on solidarity and complementarity, substituting policies of complementarity arising out of the civilizing horizon of Living Well in place of the policies of competitiveness promoted by capitalism.

Our vision of the Communitarian Socialism of Living Well is based on rights and not on the market, it is based on the full realization of human happiness of peoples and populations, through the full complementarity of the rights of peoples, persons, states and Mother Earth in a complementary, inclusive and interdependent way.

The new epoch is that of the power of labour, the power of the communities, the power of solidarity of the peoples and the communion of all living beings so that together we constitute Mother Earth and the Communitarian Socialism of Living Well.

Sisters and brothers: I thank you for your patience in listening to this Manifesto of the Isla del Sol, which expresses ten commandments for Life and for Humanity. It is a Manifesto based on the experience of the Bolivian people, which can support the liberation of all the peoples of the world.

Sisters and brothers, leaders of Abya Yala, of America and the world, as a people and as social forces we have a huge responsibility: to save the planet, to save life and humanity. So we thank you for your presence on this historic day of the Summer Solstice, the beginning of the time of the Pachakuti.

Finally, I want to thank the originary indigenous communities of the Isla del Sol for having allowed us to share our experiences. I thank the social organizations, the Armed Forces, the ministries, our departmental and national leaders for organizing an excellent festival of hope for the peoples of the world.

Join with me in saying:

¡Jallalla, peoples of the world!

¡Kausachun, peoples of the world!

* * *

A critical comment

This is indeed remarkable discourse. It is hard to imagine a government leader anywhere else today — with the notable exception of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, or Cuba’s Fidel Castro in earlier times — who is so forthright in his denunciation of capitalism and so explicit in his internationalist perspective of solidarity with the victims of capitalism. Indignados everywhere can be heartened by its message.

Like so much in Bolivia today, however, one cannot help but be struck by the apparent gap between rhetoric and reality. The harsh (and accurate) denunciation of the United Nations Organization, for example, is hard to reconcile with Bolivia’s participation in the UN’s military occupation of Haiti, which is overwhelmingly rejected by the Haitians themselves. Which is not to say that Bolivia is wrong to use its forum in the UN, as it has so effectively, to mount a strong campaign for radical action against the approaching climate catastrophe.

In another context, Bolivia won a major victory just days ago, on January 10, when it got the UN to amend that body’s 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs to allow the chewing of coca leaves under international law, thus readmitting Bolivia to membership in the Convention. (Only 15 countries, including Canada and the United States, voted against Bolivia’s request.) The consumption of coca leaves is a widespread custom in Bolivia, protected in the country’s new constitution; I myself have found it the most effective antidote to altitude sickness when in the Altiplano. The UN decision undermines Washington’s allegation that Bolivia is a “narco-trafficker,” a major pretext for U.S. interference in Bolivia’s affairs.

As to the rest of the Manifesto, journalist Pablo Stefanoni made some telling criticisms in a trenchant commentary: “... if the aim was to increase understanding of the Bolivian process of change — and continue advancing it — the manifesto appears to follow the line that anticapitalism is directly proportional to the number of times that we pronounce that term.” For Stefanoni, such statements as “we are living in the final days of capitalism” were reminiscent of the Stalinized Communist International’s language during its ultraleft Third Period. A harsh analogy, and refuted in real life by Bolivia’s readiness to block in solidarity with workers and peasants around the world in anticapitalist and anti-imperialist struggles.

As well, there are some notable oversights as in the manifesto’s charge that it is the wealthiest and most powerful countries that are withholding advanced technology and knowledge from the poorer countries. Does that include China?, asks Stefanoni, noting that “post-Communist” China heads the World Intellectual Property Organization’s global list of patent applicants. And how does the manifesto’s embrace of traditional knowledges and practices square with the institutionalized homophobia of some “African traditions,” for example, he asks.

More fundamentally, as a number of critics have pointed out, the radical anticapitalist rhetoric contrasts with the relatively modest proposals for greater regulation of the banks and nationalization of natural resources. In places, the manifesto seems more concerned with targeting neoliberalism — “savage” or unfettered capitalism — than with mounting a campaign for general expropriation of capitalist property. But indeed, what more can a small country like Bolivia concretely propose at this point?

More insight into the thinking behind the Isla del Sol manifesto can be gained from a working paper of Bolivia’s ruling party, the MAS-IPSP (Movement Toward Socialism–Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples), available in a collection of essays recently published by the Ministry of Cultures.[6] Bolivia, it states, is now going through a “democratic and popular revolution,” in which the pre-eminent tasks can be defined, in historical terms, as “bourgeois-democratic,” that is, “they have not been realized by the bourgeoisie.” It cites, as an example, the adoption in 2009 of the new Constitution, which established the plurinational character of the Bolivian state:

“Between the great democratic, indigenous and popular uprising against neoliberalism, starting in April 2000, and the second political and electoral victory of 2009, Bolivia experienced the richest process in its entire history, because this was the first time we had the possibility to build a society in which one’s skin colour or the nature of one’s name had no effect on whether everyone had substantive rights.”

Although these democratic tasks are pre-eminent “in a capitalist country, in particular a dependent country like ours,” the document explains, they are in no way inconsistent with socialism as a longer-range goal.

“The entire experience of the international revolutionary movement, above all in Latin America, has demonstrated that the socialist revolution cannot be achieved except by deploying the democratic and anti-imperialist banners, but neither can this be done, or the democratic and anti-imperialist tasks ultimately carried out, short of the socialist revolution.


“However, the transition from a capitalist society to another that is socialist, communitarian and plurinational, will take many years, especially when its construction depends not only on what is going on in this country but on the degree of progress at a continental level. The future of our revolution depends not only on the conquests that we are going to achieve within the country, but on what we will conquer as peoples and governments in the continent. Our struggle is accordingly continental and then world-wide.”

Readers of my recent translation of Bolivian vice-president Álvaro García Linera’s essay, Geopolitics of the Amazon,[7] will recognize the parallels here with his explanation of the issues behind some recent social conflicts in Bolivia. I hope to write more on the relation between democratic and socialist revolution, in the Bolivian context, in some future posts.

Richard Fidler

[1] For an interesting discussion of this concept, see Bob Thomson, “Pachakuti: Indigenous perspectives, degrowth and ecosocialism.”

[2] Indigenous name for the Western Hemisphere.

[3] Manco Kapac (or Cápac) was the legendary first Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco, often described as a son of the sun god Inti. Mama Ocllo, variously described as the sister and wife of Manco Kapac, was deified in Inca mythology as a mother and fertility goddess.

[4] Willka is an Aymara word meaning “greatness” or “eminence” that was traditionally used by indigenous protest leaders. Pablo Zárate Willka was the leader of the 1899 indigenous uprising.

[5] The Idle No More movement in Canada demonstrated in Ottawa on December 21 (the winter solstice), in opposition to the Harper government and support of Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike. For photos, click here.

[6] Katu Arkonada (coord.), Transiciones Hacia el Vivir Bien o la construcción de un nuevo proyecto político en el Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia (Ministerio de Culturas, La Paz, no date but apparently published in December 2012). The document in question, entitled “Our emancipatory project: Communitarian Socialism moving toward Vivir Bien,” was presented to the VIIIth Congress of the MAS-IPSP, held in Cochabamba in March 2012. Quotations here are from the chapter “The Strategic Perspective: A socialist, communitarian and plurinational Bolivia moving toward Vivir Bien.”

[7] See Life on the Left, December 2012 posts.