The Re-encounter of Indianismo and Marxism in the Work of Álvaro García Linera

Javier Fernández, El Tren de la Historia, 2013
Javier Fer­nán­dez, El Tren de la His­to­ria, 2013

In his impor­tant arti­cle about the his­tory of Marx­ism and Indi­an­ismo in Bolivia, Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era tells the story of the “missed encoun­ter of the two rev­o­lu­tion­ary rea­sons.”1 He presents the post-colo­nial Boli­vian con­text as a space of com­plex engage­ments for the Marx­ist tra­di­tion. One must con­tend, for instance, with the explicit rejec­tion of Marx­ism in the case of Fausto Reinaga, founder of a force­ful and rad­i­cal cur­rent of “Indi­an­ismo,” which has inspired the Indi­an­ista polit­i­cal par­ties and social move­ments since the 1970s. Reinaga claimed that Marx­ism, espoused by the Movimiento Nacional­ista Rev­olu­cionario (MNR) and the Boli­vian National Rev­o­lu­tion of 1952 (in which he had par­tic­i­pated), did noth­ing for the eman­ci­pa­tion of Indi­ans, either the­o­ret­i­cally or prac­ti­cally. He pro­posed Indi­an­ismo as the ide­ol­ogy that would sup­plant what he came to regard as a use­less, “for­eign” the­ory. This “native” pro­posal, his­tor­i­cally tested on the Andean soil, would instead put the Indian at the cen­ter of his­tory as its sub­ject and actor, empha­size the racial and cul­tural roots of oppres­sion in the Boli­vian soci­ety, and call for Indian Rev­o­lu­tion as the way out of this predica­ment.

One of the cru­cial dimen­sions of Álvaro Gar­cía Linera’s con­tri­bu­tion is to bring Marx­ism and Indi­an­ismo together, in his explicit recog­ni­tion of Reinaga’s impor­tance in the his­tory of Boli­vian eman­ci­pa­tory strug­gle and Indianismo’s cen­tral­ity to the cur­rent polit­i­cal project of the Evo Morales gov­ern­ment. Lin­era shows that Marx­ists and Indi­an­istas share par­al­lel con­cerns. Namely, they denounce the unjust exploita­tion of work­ers and peas­ants, who in the Boli­vian case hap­pen to be mainly indige­nous, as well as their alien­ation from the means of pro­duc­tion, which results in their total depen­dency on the cap­i­tal­ist own­ers for the ful­fill­ment of their basic needs. Ulti­mately, in the post-colo­nial Andean con­text, this alien­ation and exploita­tion are accom­pa­nied by epis­temic col­o­niza­tion, which robs the indige­nous sub­al­terns of their way of inhab­it­ing the world, dis­pos­sess­ing them of their lan­guage, knowl­edge, and cos­mol­ogy. Thus, for Lin­era, Marx­ism can deepen the con­tri­bu­tion of Indi­an­ismo, and Indi­an­ismo can sharpen some of the posi­tions advanced by Marx­ism. Together these sets of ideas can shed light on the real­ity of the post-colo­nial con­text, and artic­u­late rel­e­vant polit­i­cal projects. In terms of the geneal­ogy of Boli­vian polit­i­cal the­ory, one could say that Reinaga relies on both the 18th cen­tury indige­nous rev­o­lu­tion­ary Tupaj Katari and Karl Marx, despite claim­ing his total divorce from the lat­ter; Lin­era knows and pub­licly rec­og­nizes that he relies on Tupaj Katari, Marx, and Reinaga. In the present excur­sus, tex­tual exam­ples from Reinaga offer the back­ground for Linera’s deploy­ment of Indi­an­ista and Marx­ist ana­lyt­i­cal vocab­u­lary and for his projects of decol­o­niza­tion from the Vice-Pres­i­dency of the Pluri­na­tional State. As a con­crete exam­ple, we will look at how this dis­course con­cep­tu­al­izes and uses mod­ern tech­nol­ogy as a means to over­come the colo­nial con­di­tion, by repair­ing the epis­temic dam­age of the Con­quest of the Amer­i­cas and cen­turies of colo­nial­ism.

“¡Indios de Bolivia, uníos!”2 With these words, Fausto Reinaga con­cludes his Man­i­fiesto del Par­tido Indio de Bolivia pub­lished in 1970. Here, he calls together the Indi­ans of Bolivia to join in a strug­gle against the “white-mes­tizo cholaje3 rep­re­sented by both the tra­di­tional elite, and the lead­er­ship of the post-1952 National Rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment – both of whom, accord­ing to him, ignore in equal mea­sure the neces­si­ties of the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion. The dis­avowal of Marx­ism and the the estab­lished Left is at the heart of Reinaga’s doc­u­ment. How­ever, as the lan­guage of the brief quote above imme­di­ately sug­gests, this stout nega­tion is both nec­es­sary for Reinaga’s ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tion­ing, and at the same time incom­plete, method­olog­i­cally speak­ing. The con­tin­ued pres­ence of the for­mal and rhetor­i­cal com­po­nents of the Marx­ist tra­di­tion within Reinaga’s text symp­to­mati­cally sig­nals to the fact that the Marx­ist cat­e­gories of analy­sis are still active in and nec­es­sary to his read­ing of his­tory, espe­cially as he exam­i­nes the con­tin­u­ous con­di­tions of oppres­sion and exploita­tions that the Boli­vian indige­nous per­sons endure.

Reinaga puts for­ward the idea of “Two Bolivias” locked in a bat­tle to the death: Indian Bolivia and white-mes­tizo Bolivia (Bolivia del “cholaje blanco-mes­tizo”).4 The desired out­come of this bat­tle would be the oust­ing of the mes­tizo colo­nial legacy and the for­ma­tion of an Indian state; it would also be a cul­mi­na­tion of a “hid­den” cur­rent, the true his­tor­i­cal strug­gle of the two above-men­tioned “races.”5 The influ­ence of the­o­ries of decol­o­niza­tion, espe­cially the work of Frantz Fanon, is evi­dent in Reinaga’s texts, and is seen specif­i­cally in his rejec­tion of the ide­ol­ogy of mes­ti­zaje that was adapted at the state level in Bolivia after the Rev­o­lu­tion of the 1952 and regarded by Reinaga as a tac­tic of forced assim­i­la­tion of the Boli­vian indige­nous peo­ples.6 Although Reinaga had been a vocal sup­porter of the left-lean­ing and union-backed Movimiento Nacional­ista Rev­olu­cionario party (MNR) before the National Rev­o­lu­tion of 1952, he came to think it had failed to offer polit­i­cal and social equal­ity, or even full cit­i­zen­ship, to the indige­nous and peas­ant work­ers. Instead, in the name of mod­ern­iza­tion and devel­op­ment, its failed Agrar­ian Reform forcibly sub­sumed and pri­va­tized the indige­nous coun­tryside in order to cre­ate more eas­ily exploitable campesinos. For Reinaga, the main out­come of this reform was the intro­duc­tion of class divi­sion where there was once social unity, lead­ing to noth­ing less than the destruc­tion of Indi­an­ness itself.7 The appar­ent cor­rup­tion of the left­ist elite in their pri­vate lives only fur­thered Reinaga’s dis­gust.

Reinaga’s frus­tra­tions with the after­math of the 1952 Rev­o­lu­tion made him dis­tance him­self rad­i­cally from Marx­ism, deem­ing it just as harm­ful as “Yan­kee impe­ri­al­ism” for the con­scious­ness of the Indian, who is, for him, the true sub­ject of his­tory.8 Indeed, he con­cluded that this sub­ject must shed all for­eign ide­olo­gies in order to achieve eman­ci­pa­tion, going as far as to famously declare that he would have pre­ferred that his ear­lier Marx­ist writ­ings had never existed.9 Nonethe­less, Reinaga’s con­cept of the Indian Rev­o­lu­tion is a pro­duct of a simul­ta­ne­ous dia­logue with and rejec­tion of his Marx­ist past. In addi­tion to his ener­getic sup­port for the Boli­vian National Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Move­ment and the par­tic­u­lar type of Marx­ism it embraced, Reinaga trav­eled to the Soviet Union in 1957 and pub­lished an ecsta­tic work on the won­ders of the “real social­ism” titled El Sen­timiento Mesiánico del Pueblo Ruso (1960). This engage­ment could not help but leave its traces on Reinaga’s later work.

As we have already glimpsed, the lan­guage of the Man­i­fiesto del Par­tido Indio is haunted with Marx­ian turns of the phrase: for instance, Reinaga calls the Indi­ans the true power, the “mid­wife of his­tory,” thereby adapt­ing directly Marx’s metaphor for the pur­poses of his own argu­ment. But, of course, the use of the metaphor and the poetic apos­tro­phe is a symp­tom of even deeper indebt­ed­ness to the Marx­ist con­cep­tual uni­verse. Most notably, Reinaga is con­cerned with the role of ide­ol­ogy in the repro­duc­tion of Bolivia’s par­tic­u­lar exploita­tive social rela­tions: “the super­struc­ture, the ide­o­log­i­cal sys­tem of the West, is an iron machin­ery, which, relent­less, cap­tures the Indian’s brain, like a spi­der traps a fly.”10 He uses the con­cept of “super­struc­ture” to explain fur­ther in the text how a lit­er­ate Indian is not an Indian any­more; if he is to get to power, it will be as a mes­tizo, not as an Indian.11 When speak­ing of the destruc­tion and sub­al­ter­nity of “pre-Amer­i­can” cul­tures, as he calls the indige­nous civ­i­liza­tions, Reinaga points to the con­quis­ta­dors’ reshap­ing of the labor force and the refunc­tion­ing of exist­ing soci­eties for pri­vate accu­mu­la­tion as the means by which the mate­rial dev­as­ta­tion and epis­temic destruc­tion of indige­nous peo­ples was brought about.12

Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era rec­og­nizes Reinaga as “the most influ­en­tial and rel­e­vant intel­lec­tual of Indi­an­ismo in the for­ma­tive period of this ide­ol­ogy,” thereby grant­ing him a place among the found­ing fathers of the process of change led by the Evo Morales gov­ern­ment since 2006. In Linera’s words, “The fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tion of this period is the rein­ven­tion of Indian-ness, but this time not as a stigma but as a sub­ject of eman­ci­pa­tion, as a his­tor­i­cal project, as a polit­i­cal plan.”13 How­ever, in his 1999 essay “The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo and Our Present: Four The­ses on its His­tor­i­cal Actu­al­ity,” Lin­era marks his dis­tance from Reinaga’s eth­nic rad­i­cal­ism and strate­gi­cally draws away from the locally speci­fic analy­sis char­ac­ter­is­tic of Indi­an­ista writ­ings by empha­siz­ing the global dimen­sion of cap­i­tal.14

Linera’s essay is an exer­cise in epis­temic decol­o­niza­tion on the level of both form and con­tent. It dis­plays what in Span­ish could be called “el afán de teoría,” or “the­o­ret­i­cal drive”: Lin­era care­fully, pur­po­sively, almost does not men­tion either South Amer­ica or Bolivia in his analy­sis. The prob­lems tack­led by the text and the ten­den­cies ana­lyzed are phrased in a lan­guage that makes it applic­a­ble glob­ally, apart from the obvi­ous rel­e­vance to the region or the con­crete coun­try that is work­ing its way through its post-colo­nial con­di­tion. This text arguably bypasses the divi­sion into cen­ter and periph­ery in terms of the pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge. The ero­sion of this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion becomes pos­si­ble due to the glob­al­iz­ing ten­dency of cap­i­tal­ism, which both solid­i­fies the hold on the forces of pro­duc­tion and dialec­ti­cally opens up the new ten­den­cies of resis­tance.

Gar­cia Lin­era offers two nar­row argu­ments from within this land­scape that con­nect the hard­core Indi­an­ista ide­ol­ogy of some­one like Reinaga to a Marx­ist analy­sis. These are: 1) the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal enslave­ment that the world­wide expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism implies, and 2) a deeply con­nected issue, the ques­tion of tech­nol­ogy as a means of pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge.

In Linera’s vocab­u­lary, the plan­e­tary (plan­e­tario) nature of cap­i­tal­ist expan­sion refers to the dou­ble truth that glob­al­iza­tion is an old story, and that cap­i­tal­ism trans­forms all spheres of life.15 The expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism over the last 500 years affected much more than just the eco­nomic dimen­sion of human exis­tence. In fact, the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion mod­i­fies every sphere of human expe­ri­ence and envi­ron­ment in order to increase the pro­duc­tion of sur­plus value. This includes the affec­tive rela­tion­ships between peo­ple, as well as the human rela­tion­ship with nature, with space, and very tan­gi­bly, with time. In Linera’s words:

Cap­i­tal­ism does not develop the means of pro­duc­tion indis­crim­i­nately, but muti­lates them, represses them so that they only fol­low the path of val­oriza­tion of value… thereby comes the one-sided devel­op­ment of the tech­ni­cal pro­duc­tive forces at the expense of the sym­bolic and asso­cia­tive pro­duc­tive forces, or the recur­rent con­ver­sion of the pro­duc­tive forces into destruc­tive or harm­ful ones (like weapons for war)…There are no neu­tral or naive pro­duc­tive forces, but there is a col­lec­tion of dis­pos­i­tives, which limit abil­i­ties, pre­scribe behav­ior, priv­i­lege this or that kind of knowl­edge [saberes].16

Lin­era here describes the process of priv­i­leg­ing only one route of devel­op­ment – the tech­nolo­gies that pro­mote val­oriza­tion of sur­plus-value. The “asso­cia­tive and sym­bolic” knowl­edge that is left aside and deemed use­less is the ances­tral knowl­edge of the indige­nous peo­ples, such as the tra­di­tions of com­mu­nal work and com­mu­nal child care, or indige­nous heal­ing prac­tices that rely heav­ily on psy­cho­so­matic ben­e­fits attained through ref­er­ences to the spir­i­tual real­i­ties; also mar­gin­al­ized, of course, are indige­nous laws, sci­ences, and cos­molo­gies. In this notion of cap­i­tal­ism as a world order whose suc­cess depends on muti­la­tion of knowl­edge, his cri­tique is con­cep­tu­ally tied to Reinaga’s Indi­an­ista argu­ments, as well as to more con­tem­po­rary Indi­an­istas like Felipe Quispe, and to the wider dis­course on decol­o­niza­tion.17 In Linera’s essay, Marx­ism and Indi­an­ism com­ple­ment each other in show­ing the direct link between the expan­sion of cap­i­tal­ism – or of 500 years of glob­al­iza­tion, if you like – and the impov­er­ish­ment and reduc­tion of knowl­edge on a world scale through the mech­a­nism of “muti­la­tion” of pro­duc­tive forces. 18

Lin­era thus shows that a Marx­ian analy­sis of the pro­duc­tive forces is cen­tral for under­stand­ing the phe­nom­ena of col­o­niza­tion and indige­nous mar­gin­al­iza­tion. Their one-sided cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment favors tech­no­log­i­cal pro­gress over other saberes (types of knowl­edge), but this devel­op­ment also unwit­tingly opens the door to a cer­tain cor­rec­tion of this imbal­ance. Lin­era argues at length against the idea that the extra­or­di­nary devel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies either sig­nals the vital­ity of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, or that it auto­mat­i­cally promises the ways of artic­u­lat­ing resis­tance. Tech­nol­ogy in itself does not promise any­thing; it is the use of it, access to it and con­trol over it that influ­ence the dis­tri­b­u­tion of power and the pos­si­bil­ity of eman­ci­pa­tion. But he rec­og­nizes, of course, that much extant tech­nol­ogy has been his­tor­i­cally devel­oped within cap­i­tal­ism and bears the mate­rial mark of that pur­po­sive devel­op­ment as a tool for the extrac­tion and accu­mu­la­tion of value. Hence, one of the impor­tant tasks that the cur­rent Boli­vian “process of change” entails is wrestling tech­nol­ogy from the cap­i­tal­ist logic of accu­mu­la­tion of value and adapt­ing it for the pur­poses of the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal decol­o­niza­tion (on the ide­o­log­i­cal plane), and for the use and ben­e­fit of broad sec­tions of pop­u­la­tions (in a prac­ti­cal sense).

Gar­cía Linera’s polit­i­cal posi­tions on tech­nol­ogy are thus based on insights into its devel­op­ment gleaned from his read­ing of Marx, as well as from the above-cited Indi­an­ista denun­ci­a­tion of col­o­niza­tion as a “rob­bery” (“despojo”) of the indige­nous nations of their ances­tral knowl­edge and tech­nolo­gies. In a coun­try like Bolivia, marked by a post-colo­nial con­di­tion, this longue durée of loss and pri­va­tion is inex­tri­ca­bly linked to the country’s cur­rent periph­eral posi­tion in the world cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem.19 Thus, two burn­ing demands were explic­itly artic­u­lated dur­ing the recent pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in Sep­tem­ber of 2014 (of course, not for the first time in Boli­vian his­tory): the demand for indus­tri­al­iza­tion that would bring added-value to the country’s nat­u­ral resources, such as gas and extracted min­er­als; and the demand for gen­eral access to new tech­nolo­gies, espe­cially com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies. Because these demands are framed with regard to the long his­tory of colo­nial­ism, they acquire a dimen­sion beyond util­i­tar­ian logic. In the dis­course of the Evo-Álvaro cam­paign in 2014, the promise to bring indus­tri­al­iza­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies to Bolivia is con­nected in a chain of equiv­a­lences with such larger and more abstract con­cepts as national dig­nity of the Boli­vian peo­ple.20

In this vein, we can make sense of one of the Morales administration’s most ambi­tious projects: the Ciu­dadela del Conocimiento y la Tec­nología (“Citadel of Knowl­edge and Tech­nol­ogy” – even the name sounds grand). This is a gov­ern­ment project to build a com­plex train­ing facil­ity in Cochabamba, which would house a col­lege for com­puter engi­neers, a sci­ence research hub, a soft­ware build­ing lab­o­ra­tory, and a lithium bat­tery fac­tory. Thus, Bolivia will train its own intel­lec­tual elite and will not need to import brains – or soft­ware – from abroad; nei­ther will it export one of its most cov­eted nat­u­ral resources, lithium, with­out first pro­cess­ing it. In a MAS cam­paign ad for the Citadel of Knowl­edge, the speaker declares: “The Mil­lenary Peo­ple with Advanced Tech­nolo­gies is an Invin­ci­ble Peo­ple.”21 Mil­lenary: infused with the power of the ances­tral indige­nous, pre-colo­nial con­nec­tion to the land. Invin­ci­ble: endur­ing in the face of the forces of ever-expand­ing cap­i­tal. The image of bro­ken chains fig­ures promi­nently at the top of the screen and “links past and present through the trope of knowl­edge as a tool for lib­er­a­tion,” as Roberto Pareja notes.22

Another ele­ment of this con­cern with tech­nol­ogy is the Boli­vian telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lite, Tupaj Katari, named after the 18th-cen­tury indige­nous rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and launched in Decem­ber of 2013 as a result of coop­er­a­tion between Bolivia and People’s Repub­lic of China. The image of this device in cam­paign adver­tise­ments, real and oper­a­tional, simul­ta­ne­ously reminds the audi­ence of two things. First, it makes his­tor­i­cally rel­e­vant the anti-colo­nial strug­gle, rep­re­sented by Tupaj Katari, that still con­tin­ues today. Sec­ondly, it shows that the gov­ern­ment ful­fills its promises – one of which was fur­ther­ing Bolivia’s self-reliance in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions through launch­ing of its own satel­lite. Thus, this grand project of the Citadel of Knowl­edge acquires the dimen­sion of real pos­si­bil­ity and not just of a utopian ven­ture, as it could seem at first glance. With a rhetoric evoca­tive of Indi­an­ista dis­course, and with a spot­light on knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy, the iconog­ra­phy and the mes­sage of the cam­paign con­nects this dis­course back to Reinaga’s rad­i­cal demands. The announce­ments, with their ref­er­ence to the “mil­lenary” and “invin­ci­ble” peo­ple, clearly quote Reinaga’s dia­tribes and obliquely give vis­i­bil­ity to the indige­nous Boli­vians – how­ever this sec­tor of the pop­u­la­tion might be con­cretely defined – in the government’s project.

Of course, the opti­mistic tone of the ads that cel­e­brate these accom­plish­ments is char­ac­ter­is­tic of the genre, so to speak, and is not to be con­fused with Gar­cía Linera’s the­o­ret­i­cal reflec­tions on the mean­ing of tech­nol­ogy for Bolivia’s “process of change” and its pos­si­bil­i­ties of mov­ing beyond cap­i­tal­ism. As he dis­cusses in his book Geopolítica de la Ama­zonía (2012), the role of tech­nolo­gies is ambigu­ous in today’s Bolivia. He explains that a bal­ance must be nego­ti­ated between the use of extrac­tive tech­nolo­gies for gen­er­at­ing nec­es­sary rev­enues, and the move­ment away from such tech­nolo­gies in order to curb Bolivia’s depen­dency on transna­tional cap­i­tal. Lin­era explic­itly rec­og­nizes the fact that Bolivia must sur­vive in a cap­i­tal­ist world as an, albeit mar­ginal, “Andean-Ama­zo­nian” cap­i­tal­ist coun­try, and he reminds read­ers that Marx was ridi­cul­ing the utopian thinkers who thought that there existed “islands” immune to the world­wide dom­i­na­tion of cap­i­tal. One can­not hope to escape the cap­i­tal­ist nature of the exist­ing pro­duc­tive forces so eas­ily. This argu­ment, which has been at the heart of some polit­i­cal con­tro­versy in Bolivia today, is bet­ter under­stood if we take into account Linera’s com­ment vis-à-vis the use of tech­nol­ogy in Geopolítica de la Ama­zonía:

It is naive to believe that extrac­tivism, non-extrac­tivism, or indus­tri­al­ism are a vac­cine against injus­tice, exploita­tion, and inequal­ity, because in them­selves they are nei­ther modes of pro­duc­ing, nor modes of man­ag­ing wealth. They are tech­ni­cal sys­tems of pro­cess­ing nature by means of labor, and can be present in pre-cap­i­tal­ist, cap­i­tal­ist, or com­mu­ni­tar­ian soci­eties. Only depend­ing on how these tech­ni­cal sys­tems are used, and how the gen­er­ated wealth is man­aged, can eco­nomic regimes exist with either less or more jus­tice, with exploita­tion or with­out exploita­tion of labor.23

The big ques­tion Lin­era is tack­ling here, writ­ing from the seat of power, is: how do we fur­ther the project of decol­o­niza­tion bound up with “move­ment towards social­ism” and away from cap­i­tal­ism? And how do we do that while also pro­vid­ing for the press­ing every­day needs of the pop­u­la­tion? How do we use tech­nolo­gies – which, due to the his­tory of their devel­op­ment within cap­i­tal­ism, have ingrained in them the logic of accu­mu­la­tion of value – in order to move beyond this logic?

In the con­clu­sion of the Geopolítica de la Ama­zonía, and in an attempt to answer this ques­tion, Lin­era dis­cusses Pres­i­dent Evo’s goal for 2025: that no resource would be exported from Bolivia with­out hav­ing been indus­tri­ally processed, with­out added value. “This will require a pro­found sci­en­tific-tech­no­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of the coun­try and a never before seen invest­ment in knowl­edge. And of course we will do it,” says Lin­era.24 The tri­umphal tone of this con­clu­sion may be damp­ened by the fact that this book was writ­ten mainly as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the con­fronta­tion of the MAS gov­ern­ment forces and the indige­nous sec­tors that were not “walk­ing together” with the gov­ern­ment any longer and were opposed to a large devel­op­ment project of build­ing a high­way through indige­nous ter­ri­to­ries and a National Park. How­ever, it neatly illu­mi­nates Gar­cía Linera’s key ide­o­log­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tion to the Boli­vian process of the past decade, as it pairs the Marx­ist analy­sis of the modes of pro­duc­tion with an implicit response to a demand artic­u­lated by the Indi­an­istas like Fausto Reinaga and Felipe Quispe. In line with the government’s rhetoric and pol­i­tics of decol­o­niza­tion, Gar­cía Lin­era brings to the fore­front the neces­sity of repairs for the epis­temic and tech­no­logico-mate­rial dev­as­ta­tion that the indige­nous nations suf­fered at the time of the Con­quest and dur­ing the fol­low­ing cen­turies of exploita­tion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion; and, here, he does so pre­cisely at a moment when the “Indi­an­ista” ori­en­ta­tion of the gov­ern­ment is being acutely ques­tioned.

This arti­cle is part of a dossier enti­tled Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era: A Boli­vian Marx­ist Seduced.

  1. Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “El des­en­cuen­tro de dos razones rev­olu­cionar­ias: Indi­an­ismo y Marx­ismo”, in Cuader­nos del Pen­samiento Crítico Lati­noamer­i­cano, no. 3, (Buenos Aires : CLACSO, Decem­ber, 2007). 

  2. Fausto Reinaga, Man­i­fiesto del par­tido indio de Bolivia, (La Paz: WA-GUI, 2007 [1970]), 84. 

  3. The term cholaje, like mes­ti­zaje, was a caste des­ig­na­tion dur­ing the colo­nial period through­out Span­ish Amer­ica, refer­ring to a mix indige­nous, Iberian, and some­times African racial her­itage. Today, its speci­fic valence varies by region, but still gen­er­ally refers to the fact of racial mix­ture. It is there­fore left untrans­lated. – Ed. 

  4. Reinaga, Man­i­fiesto, 84. 

  5. Peter Baker, in his doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion at Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity (work in pro­gress), views the inter­pre­ta­tion of Fausto Reinaga’s project as a rewrit­ing of Boli­vian his­tory and uncov­er­ing of the “hid­den” his­tory of the strug­gle between the con­tend­ing “races” or “Nations,”viewed as one of the main axes of this writer’s agenda.  

  6. José Anto­nio Lucero, “Fanon in the Andes: Fausto Reinaga, Indi­an­ismo and the Black Atlantic.” Inter­na­tional Jour­nal of Crit­i­cal Indige­nous Stud­ies 1, no. 1, 2008. 

  7. “La Reforma Agraria de Bolivia es un fraude…No lib­era al indio. Lo esclav­iza; lo destruye. La Reforma Agraria ha con­ver­tido el lat­i­fun­dio en mini­fun­dio; la “sayaña ser­val del pongo” en propiedad pri­vada; al indio – ances­tral­mente social­ista – le ha hecho indi­vid­u­al­ista. Ha lle­vado a la sociedad del indio, que es una comu­nidad mile­naria, la lucha de clases; lucha de ricos y pobres. Para el indio social­ista la ‘lucha de clases,’ no solo es una regre­sión a la bar­barie, sino es su destruc­ción. El impe­ri­al­ismo y el cholaje blanco-mes­tizo con la Reforma agraria se han prop­uesto destruir a la raza india!” Reinaga, Man­i­fiesto, 59-60. 

  8. “El impe­ri­al­ismo yan­qui y la podredum­bre del cholaje comu­nista o anti-comu­nista.” Fausto Reinaga, Man­i­fiesto, 66. 

  9. Fausto Reinaga, La Rev­olu­ción India, (La Paz: Fun­dación Amáu­tica Fausto Reinaga, 2001 [1970]). 

  10. “La super­estruc­tura, el sis­tema ide­ológico del Occi­dente es una maquinaria fér­rea que implaca­ble se apodera del cere­bro del indio, como la araña de la mosca.” Man­i­fiesto, 64. 

  11. Reinaga there­fore enun­ci­ates, avant la let­tre, the prob­lem for­mu­lated by Gay­a­tri Spi­vak in her sem­i­nal essay “Can the Sub­al­tern Speak?” reply­ing neg­a­tively to the ques­tion, and explain­ing why such an accul­tur­ated Indian will not prop­erly fur­ther the Indian cause. Reinaga is often con­tra­dic­tory, how­ever; else­where, he writes “An Indian is always an Indian” (“indio, indio siem­pre”). But it is impor­tant that he puts forth the argu­ment that inte­gra­tive cul­tur­a­tion is harm­ful to the Indian cause, since this is where he dis­cusses the func­tion of ide­ol­ogy using the con­cept of super­struc­ture. 

  12. “…las ‘fieras blan­cas’ del Occi­dente, han sub­yu­gado nues­tra vol­un­tad y han mane­jado nue­stros bra­zos. Han implan­tado la propiedad pri­vada y han llenado nues­tra cabeza con la his­to­ria de nue­stros con­quis­ta­dores. De Fran­cisco Pizarro a Paz Estenssoro, españoles y mes­ti­zos-blan­cos han sido para nosotros – los indios – una furia destruc­tora. Ellos destrozaron nue­stro sis­tema social comu­nista, edi­fi­cado en diez mil años, cien siglos. Ellos degol­laron a nue­stro Inka Atahuallpa; vio­laron a nues­tras vír­ge­nes; redu­jeron a ceniza nues­tras leyes; asesinaron a nue­stros dioses; nos impusieron san­gre y fuego a Cristo, el Dios de los con­quis­ta­dores; saque­aron nues­tras mon­tañas de plata y oro; nos despo­jaron nues­tra tierra, y nos obligaron a látigo y bala a cul­ti­var para ellos…” Reinaga, Man­i­fiesto, 61. 

  13. “El aporte fun­da­men­tal de este período es la rein­ven­ción de la indi­an­i­tud (sic), pero ya no como estigma sino como sujeto de eman­ci­pación, como designio histórico, como proyecto político.” Gar­cía Lin­era, “El des­en­cuen­tro,” 5.  

  14. Lin­era explains this dis­tance through a the medi­at­ing fig­ure Felipe Quispe Huanca, alias “El Mal­lku”, the present leader of the MIP party (Movimiento Indi­gena Pachakuti), who lost the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to Morales in 2006. For Lin­era, Quispe is the faith­ful heir to Reinaga’s Indi­an­ismo, and Linera’s move­ment away from the rad­i­cal Indi­an­ista pro­pos­als can be traced in his pro­gres­sive dis­tanc­ing from Quispe in both dis­course and in polit­i­cal life. Both had been lead­ers of the EGTK, and both pub­lished with the Ofen­siva Roja press, print­ing house of the Tupa­jkatarista Move­ment. Yet, after their impris­on­ment, Linera’s “The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo and Our Present: Four The­ses on its His­tor­i­cal Actu­al­ity?” was to mark the begin­ning of a new polit­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal cycle with Grupo Comuna

  15. “Plan­e­tary”: Lin­era is pos­si­bly using the the­o­ret­i­cal vocab­u­lary that remits to the work of Kostas Axelos. Lin­era describes the process of glob­al­iza­tion in terms of con­crete and abstract man­i­fes­ta­tions, where the con­crete refers to the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of labor for cap­i­tal, and the abstract dimen­sion refers to the pos­si­bil­ity of labor to resist cap­i­tal – a poten­tial which uni­ver­sal­izes as the dialec­ti­cal coun­ter­part of the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of labor. 

  16. “El cap­i­tal­ismo no desar­rolla indis­crim­i­nada­mente las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas, sino que las mutila, las reprime a fin de que éstas solo sigan la ruta que poten­cia la val­orización del valor…de allí, ese desar­rollo uni­lat­eral de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas téc­ni­cas, en detri­mento de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas sim­bóli­cas, aso­cia­ti­vas, o la recur­rente con­ver­sión de las fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas en fuerzas destruc­ti­vas o noci­vas (como armas des­ti­nadas para la guerra)…No hay pues fuerzas pro­duc­ti­vas ingen­uas o neu­tras, [sino hay] un con­junto de dis­pos­i­tivos que con­striñen habil­i­dades, pre­scriben com­por­tamien­tos, pri­or­izan tales o cuales saberes…”Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, “Es el Man­i­fiesto Comu­nista un arcaísmo político, un recuerdo lit­er­ario? Cua­tro tesis sobre su actu­al­i­dad histórica,” in La poten­cia ple­beya. Acción colec­tiva y las iden­ti­dades indí­ge­nas, obr­eras y pop­u­lares en Bolivia, (Bogotá: Siglo del Hom­bre Edi­tores, 2009), 92. All quotes from Gar­cía Lin­era are my trans­la­tions, since this paper was writ­ten before the recent pub­li­ca­tion of Linera’s anthol­ogy Plebian Power, Col­lec­tive Action and Indige­nous, Work­ing-Class and Pop­u­lar Iden­ti­ties in Bolivia, (Chicago: Hay­mar­ket Press, 2014). Empha­sis added.  

  17. As Quispe argues, many indige­nous tech­niques and knowl­edges were lost as a result of the Spaniards’ cruel man­age­ment of the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion: “The arrival of the Spaniards destroyed our cos­mic Aymara reli­gion, our gods; they have invaded our sacred places…they also had to tram­ple our cul­ture, our art of war, etc…” [“La lle­gada de los españoles destruyó la religión Aymara cós­mica, nue­stros dioses, han inva­dido los lugares sagrados…También han tenido que pisotear nues­tra cul­tura, arte mil­i­tar, etc.”] Felipe Quispe Huanca, Tupaj Katari Vive y Vuelve…Carajo! (La Paz: Ofen­siva Roja, 1990): 6. 

  18. For more on epis­temic col­o­niza­tion from Boli­vian the­o­rists, cf. Sil­via Rivera Cusi­can­qui (from the point of view of anthro­pol­ogy and oral his­tory); Juli­eta Pare­des and Maria Galindo (with focus on fem­i­nism); Xavier Albó (anthro­pol­ogy, soci­ol­ogy, lib­er­a­tion the­ol­ogy); and the ex-mem­bers of the Grupo Comuna: Luis Tapia, Raul Prada Alcoreza, Oscar Vega (each one is a strik­ingly orig­i­nal the­o­rist, and they use a het­ero­ge­neous and rich the­o­ret­i­cal tool­box, Marx­ism, decon­struc­tion­ism, Fou­cault, Bour­dieu). 

  19. Boli­vian soci­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans (Sil­via Rivera and Gar­cía Lin­era, among oth­ers) use Fer­nand Braudel’s ter­mi­nol­ogy of “his­tory of long dura­tion” to speak about the colo­nial legacy that can­not be eas­ily over­looked when ana­lyz­ing even recent events in Bolivia.  

  20. Mike Ged­des explains the suc­cess of the pre­vi­ous Evo-Álvaro cam­paigns in Gram­si­can terms, “The MAS hege­monic project, as pre­sented by Gar­cía Lin­era, thus fore­grounds decol­o­niza­tion as an umbrella beneath which sev­eral ele­ments can be brought together – deep­en­ing democ­racy, redis­trib­ut­ing wealth, sup­port­ing alter­na­tives to cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions, eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity – in a way which can appeal to a broad hege­monic bloc.” Mike Ged­des, “The old is dying but the new is strug­gling to be born: hege­monic con­tes­ta­tion in Bolivia,” Crit­i­cal Pol­icy Stud­ies 8, no.2 (2014): 6. 

  21. Cam­paign ad that presents Ciu­dadela del Conocimiento y Tec­nología: “El pueblo mile­nario con la tec­nología de avan­zada,” accessed Octo­ber 21, 2014. 

  22. Roberto Pareja, “The citadel of knowl­edge: tech­nol­ogy, space, power,” Espa­cios de circulación/ Spaces of Cir­cu­la­tion, posted Octo­ber 31, 2014. 

  23. “Es ingenuo creer que el extrac­tivismo, el no-extrac­tivismo o el indus­tri­al­ismo son una vac­una con­tra la injus­ti­cia, la explotación y la desigual­dad, porque en si mis­mos no son ni modos de pro­ducir ni modos de ges­tionar la riqueza. Son sis­temas téc­ni­cos de proce­samiento de la nat­u­raleza medi­ante el tra­bajo, y pueden estar pre­sen­tes en sociedades pre-cap­i­tal­is­tas, cap­i­tal­is­tas o sociedades comu­ni­tarias. Úni­ca­mente depen­di­endo de cómo se usen esos sis­temas téc­ni­cos, de cómo se ges­tione la riqueza así pro­ducida, se podrán tener regíme­nes económi­cas con mayor o menor jus­ti­cia, con explotación o sin explotación del tra­bajo.” Álvaro Gar­cía Lin­era, Geopolítica de la Ama­zonía, (La Paz: Vicepres­i­den­cia del Estado Pluri­na­cional, 2012), 107. 

  24. “Ello requerirá de una pro­funda trans­for­ma­ción cien­tí­fico-tec­nológ­ica del país y de una inver­sión nunca antes vista en conocimiento. Y por supuesto que lo hare­mos.” Gar­cía Lin­era, Geopolítica de la Ama­zonía, 112. 

Author of the article

teaches at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, at Middlebury College. Her book Rethinking Community from Peru: the Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas came out in 2014 from Pittsburgh University Press.