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.

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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!

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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.

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