Editor’s Introduction: A Bolivian Marxist Seduced | Robert Cavooris
From time to time, history throws some unsuspecting leftist intellectual the reins of state power. Suddenly, theoretical practice meets its double, political practice; the complexities and stakes of each begin to multiply. We are seeing the beginning of this process, no doubt, with Greece’s Alexis Tsipras and his coterie of Syriza MPs inspired by Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci. In Spain, Podemos’s Pablo Iglesias may find more theoretical affinity with Ernesto Laclau and Perry Anderson, but the situation is similar: a professional intellectual must begin to take seriously the idea of controlling a significant apparatus of state power. Years of writing, polemicizing, and organizing open up to an almost miraculous accession. As Georges Bataille says: Impossible, yet there it is!
But the contradictions leading to a possible rejuvenation of the European Left have already left their mark elsewhere: Álvaro García Linera, vice-president to Bolivia’s Evo Morales, was perhaps the first Marxist intellectual to sit in state power in the 21st century. His work reflects a continued engagement with a unique political experiment in Bolivia, and can be read, therefore, as a guide to a terrain on which some are trying to plow an eventual road to socialism. It is the wager of this dossier that much can be learned by more closely examining both Linera’s theory and his political practice – not only to understand the man himself, but also, to understand the innovative political process from which he cannot be separated, and which may portend something of the future for the electoral Left in other parts of the world.
The Re-encounter of Indianismo and Marxism in the Work of Álvaro García Linera | Irina Alexandra Feldman
One of the crucial dimensions of Alvaro Garcia Linera’s contributions is to bring Marxism and Indianismo together. Linera shows that Marxists and Indianistas share parallel concerns. Namely, they denounce the injustice of exploitation of the workers and the peasants, who happen to be, in the Bolivian case, mainly indigenous, as well as their alienation from the means of production, which yields their total dependency on the capitalist owners for the fulfillment of their basic needs. Ultimately, in the post-colonial Andean context, this alienation and exploitation is accompanied by the epistemic colonization, which robs the indigenous subalterns of their way of inhabiting the world, dispossessing them of their language, knowledge and cosmology. Thus, for Linera, Marxism can deepen the contributions of Indianismo, and Indianismo can sharpen some of the positions advanced by Marxism, in order to shed light on the reality of the post-colonial context, and to articulate relevant political projects.
The Phantom, The Plebeian and the State: Grupo Comuna and the Intellectual Career of Álvaro García Linera | Peter Baker
In the year 1999, a collection of essays concerning the relevance of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto to the contemporary conjuncture in Bolivia was published. It may have gone by unnoticed, were it not for the fact that its authors were about to become the principal interpreters for the irruption of new social movements in the wake of a state crisis that took place in Bolivia between the years of 2000 – 2005. What this group of intellectuals were looking for, the project that would inaugurate their work, was no less than a reinvention of the left capable of identifying new strategies appropriate for the contemporary moment.
Burdens of a State Manager | Jeffery R. Webber
The prolific writings of Vice President Álvaro García Linera offer one window into the complexities of the political, ideological, and economic developments that have transpired since Morales first assumed office. With that in mind, the following detailed exposition and critical interrogation of the core arguments advanced in his 2011 book, Tensiones creativas de la revolución, is meant to shed some light on what is at stake in the competing characterizations of the “process of change” unfolding in Bolivia since 2006. If for many readers, only passingly familiar with the country, García Linera might seem to represent Bolivian radical theory tout court, in fact his intellectual output over the last nine years has been comparatively shallow, heavily determined by his role as second-in-command of the state apparatus. The rich and demanding provocations of his early work have largely been eclipsed by managerial apologia.