The hara-kiri of the ecological left

What is particularly painful is the fact that this story is creating an unbridgeable wedge within the left.  A line has been crossed that will be difficult to erase.

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For some people, life and politics are easy. When a coup happens, in whatever country in the South with natural resources, they open their drawer and get out the obvious answer: imperialism! The United States cannot accept a left-wing government that takes away the natural profits of their transnational corporations.


Worse is possible: the global, ecological left that wants to defend democracy and human rights and takes out its magnifying glass to see how flawless the President is. He is not? We support the coup. We want dialogue, event with right-wing forces.


In both cases it does not help to have any inside knowledge of the country in question. Positions are based on principles and values. You cannot discuss them.


This is the situation we are now faced with in Bolivia. Anti-imperialists do not care about the internal conflicts. The ecological left refuses to condemn the coup and prefers to talk with the extreme right. The President, who gave the country almost fourteen years of stability, growth and social progress, lives in exile in Mexico.


It goes without saying that the US surely played a role in the coup against President Morales. We do not need Chomsky to tell us this truth. But without knowing what happens inside the country and how this coup was made possible, one cannot know whether to support Morales or not.


In what follows, I will briefly explain the positions of what I call the ‘ecological left’ and try to explain them, hoping most of the facts are known by interested readers.


How left is the left?


The violence in Bolivia started immediately after the publication of the official election results. They indicated a 47 % victory for Evo Morales, more than 10 % more than his unfortunate competitor, Carlos Mesa. As had been announced by the right even before the elections, these results were rejected. President Morales asked the Organisation of American States for an audit and declared he could accept a second round. Its first results were positive for the Bolivian President. However, the chairman of the organisation suddenly changed the message and the report spoke of ‘many irregularities’. It asked for new elections. President Morales accepted.


However, the opposition did not want a second round, nor new elections. Even if ‘irregularities’ are not the same as ‘fraud’ and there is, till now, no evidence of any fraud. Moreover, Morales did win at any rate with something between 45 and 47 %, the only conflict is over the 10 % more than the next candidate which is decisive for a second round.


The first violence, in which part of the left participated, was brutal. For those who follow the news the image of men being attached to trees and a mayor whose hair was cut, red painting all over her, will not easily be forgotten. It was an exercise in humiliation.


Even worse was the fact that members of the families of civil servants and party leaders of MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) were threatened or even abducted. Houses and offices were put on fire. If these were spontaneous actions, they were very efficient. But the efficiency itself points to a probability that everything was well prepared in advance with only one objective: to create fear, behead the movement and force Morales to resign.


Part of the left cheered. Young people who never have known any other President than Evo Morales claimed the streets in order to reject ‘the dictator’ and to point to his many errors. They also wanted him to resign.


The army and the police with whom Morales always had a positive relationship, all of a sudden changed their position. It started with a police mutiny and ended with a ‘friendly demand’ to President Morales to resign. Which he did.


An illegitimate government


The President’s party, MAS, has a two third majority in Parliament. It certainly would never have accepted Morales’ resignation. But the Senate met without quorum and Janine Añez was proclaimed new President, in a totally unconstitutional way.


All this happened without the ecological left condemning the coup or condemning the totally illegitimate government.


In theory, the new government is purely transitional and is there to prepare new elections. However, Añez did form a full government, which may indicate she does want to rapidly change a lot of the current legislation.


What I call the ‘ecological left’ consists of a number of autonomists, NGO’s with international relations and a small part of ultra-trotskyists, according to US information. Their main representative is Pablo Solon, globally well-known, since he worked as UN ambassador for Bolivia in the climate negotiations and was for some years director of Focus on the Global South in Bangkok. Though he may not have that many followers in Bolivia, his intellectual influence on the green left in Europe and Asia is important. Few dare to condemn the coup.


There was no coup, is their message. There was a popular rebellion of which the right might have benefitted. But the one responsible is Morales himself. However, even if this left did participate in the initial violence, the majority came from the extreme right. It rather seems that this left participation did open the door and all the windows for the extreme right.


What this ecological left criticizes Morales for is the fact that he did contest these elections, in spite of a referendum which he narrowly lost in 2016. Also his extractivism, that is the mining activities that hurt the ‘pachamama’, mother earth. These criticisms certainly are justified, though I am still waiting for a convincing argument in one of the poorest countries of Latin America fourteen years ago. As Rafael Correa once said about Ecuador: ‘they want us to go begging, while we are sitting on a huge bag of gold’.


It is one thing to rightly criticize Evo Morales. It is quiet another thing to implicitly support a coup and only start to condemn the violence when it comes from the victims of the coup. Especially when it becomes very clear that the candidate of the centre in the elections, Carlos Mesa, has been marginalized. Power is now in the hands of those who come with a bible in their hands and who burn the ‘whipala’, the flag of the indigenous people. It is a Christian and racist right-wing political force, Bolsonaro type.


It is difficult to understand that Pablo Solon is now negotiating with Marco Pumari in Potosí, the civic committee leader and colleague of Luis Fernando Camacho in Santa Cruz. Apparently, this is easier than talking to the left. As if this extreme right will respect ‘mother earth’. It is obvious that future mining activities will be entirely at the benefit of transnational corporations. Useless, moreover, to expect any respect for indigenous cultures. Nevertheless, just check Pablo Solon’s facebook page to read one has to negotiate with the extreme right.


Ecological or Stalinist left?


How to explain this position of this part of the left?


The most obvious argument that comes to mind is the old Stalinist idea that the worst enemy is social democracy, before fascism. This would surprise me, but you never know.


A second possibility is that this new left which thinks of itself as being progressive, is in fact hopelessly naïve, wanting to defend the purity of values like democracy, human rights and mother earth, without realizing what is behind the extreme right. It would mean a lack of political maturity that may soon lead to a brutal awakening.


A third possibility is that this ‘ecology’ is in fact closer to the right than to the left, has no problem with religious/spiritual values, puts nature above humanity and thinks that ‘emancipation’ is a superfluous concept. These would be the ecological forces that reject modernity and do not understand the sinister and obscurantist practices this can lead to.


Again, the criticism on Evo Morales is fully justified. But there is a very wide gap between this criticism and the implicit support for a coup. As if Allende could be made responsible for the coup of Pinochet? Is there is one single left-wing leader that has been deposed with a coup who stood above all possible criticism? Allende? Lugo? Rousseff? Arbenz? Bishop? The list can be made much longer.


What this whole story makes clear is that it is not easy to govern with beautiful principles such as ‘mandando obedeciendo’, deciding while obeying. Societies and indigenous groups never are homogeneous. One always has to work at compromises with some winning and some losing. Rafael Correa was criticized in exactly the same way as Morales is now. After ten years of stability, growth and progress, he suddenly became a ‘dictatorial neoliberal’.


What is particularly painful is the fact that this story is creating an unbridgeable wedge within the left. Supporting a coup and to negotiate with the extreme right is totally different from the diversity we care to nourish. A line has been crossed that will be difficult to erase. This weakens the left, while ecology was meant to strengthen and renew us.


Very sad.


- Francine Mestrum, Belgium.

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