(1/2) (by /u/flesh_eating_turtle)
“The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism… If the entire world doesn’t acknowledge this reality, that the national states are not providing even minimally for health, education and nourishment, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being violated.” - President Evo Morales
Hello comrades. As we are all aware, Venezuela has dominated the headlines over the last couple of years, due to the economic and political crisis which has been plaguing that country. This has given a fresh heap of ammunition for liberals and reactionaries to hurl at us, claiming that “Venezuela proves that socialism doesn’t work!” In response, we should take a look at a country which has pursued similar policies, with an explicitly socialist leader, which has seen immense success. I am referring of course to Bolivia, under President Evo Morales.
Before we begin, it should be noted that neither Venezuela or Bolivia are technically “socialist” in the Marxist sense of the term; neither have a dictatorship of the proletariat, nor has the economy been taken under complete public ownership. However, they are much more left-wing than most governments in the world today, and they do explicitly refer to themselves as socialist. They engage in nationalization, expansions of the social welfare systems, and anti-imperialist foreign policies (such as supporting the government of Cuba); all of these achievements, though we may regard them as insufficient for the building of socialism, should be appreciated.
As socialists, it is our duty to show solidarity with our comrades around the world, however they choose to go about building socialism. In addition, since Venezuela is currently the media’s favorite example of “socialism”, it seems only fair that we should use a similar nation in response. Now, let us analyze the situation in Bolivia.
Economic Achievements: Growth, Poverty Reduction, etc.
The economic policies of Evo Morales have focused on nationalization of various major companies, increases in labor rights and the social welfare system, and strong opposition to the IMF and World Bank. The Economist (a neoliberal publication if there ever was one) discussed some of Morales’ policies in an article on the topic:
As the article states:
In his first term Mr. Morales imposed many controls on private business. Telecommunications and mines, as well as gas, were nationalized. Prices of gas and many foodstuffs were controlled, and food producers forced to sell in the local market rather than export. A new state-owned body distributes food at subsidized prices.
The article also states:
Mr. Morales’s nationalization of oil and natural gas in 2006, together with higher prices for gas exports to Brazil, left his government awash with cash. He used this to expand welfare provision, including a non-contributory old-age pension and payments to mothers provided their children are at school and their babies are taken for health checks. The president has also handed out hundreds of free tractors.
These policies have led to the highest economic growth that Bolivia has seen in decades, and it is now the fastest growing economy in Latin America. This is demonstrated by a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
This report states that growth under Morales “has been higher than at any time in the last 30 years, averaging 4.9 percent annually since the current administration took office in 2006.” The report also comments on some of the redistributive policies of the Morales government:
…the government has begun several programs targeted at the poorest Bolivians. These include payments to poor families to increase school enrollment; an expansion of public pensions to relive extreme poverty among the elderly; and most recently, payments for uninsured mothers to expand prenatal and post-natal care, to reduce infant and child mortality.
A more recent article from the Guardian, published after the 2014 Bolivian election, analyzes the significance of Bolivia’s economic growth, and its effect on quality of life:
The article states:
The benefits of such growth have been felt by the Bolivian people: under Morales, poverty has declined by 25% and extreme poverty has declined by 43%; social spending has increased by more than 45%; the real minimum wage has increased by 87.7%; and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean has praised Bolivia for being “one of the few countries that has reduced inequality”.
The article closes by commenting on Morales:
He has defied the conventional wisdom that says left-wing policies damage economic growth, that working-class people can’t run successful economies, and that politics can’t be transformative – and he’s done all of this in the face of enormous political pressure from the IMF, the international business community and the US government. In the success of Morales, important political lessons can be found – and perhaps we could all do with learning them.
Bolivia, with approx. 40% of the economy under some kind of state-ownership, closed 2018 with one of the highest growth rates in the world:
As the article states:
The economic model followed by Bolivia is based on the Social Community Production, supported by a strong participation of the State in strategic sectors, which goes against the recommendations made by the IMF, which looks for the suppression of subsidies and the reduction of public investments. The Bolivian economy registered on average a growth of 4.9 percent in the period 2006-2017, where more than three million people left poverty. The GDP registered a growth of 4.2 percent last year, according to the 2017 Bolivian Economy Report.
Economic inequality (as measured by the GINI Index) has also drastically reduced under Morales (he was elected in 2006):
All of this makes it clear that the economic policies of the Morales government have been extremely successful in growing the economy and drastically reducing poverty, all while combating neoliberalism and imperialism.
Social Reforms and Achievements
The Morales government has also succeeded in implementing very successful social reforms, particularly in the areas of education and racial issues.
Bolivia has succeeded in becoming only the third nation in Latin America (after Venezuela and Cuba) to be declared “free of illiteracy”:
This was achieved via educational programs inspired by the Cuban model.
In addition, the Bolivian government has made great strides in fighting racism against the indigenous population of Bolivia (Morales himself is the first president of Bolivia from the indigenous population):
As the article states:
The government of Bolivia has made “great progress” in the last ten years in its fight against institutional and structural racism and discrimination, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced Tuesday in an official statement.
The government has also sought to combat gender inequality and discrimination:
The Morales government has succeeded in making great strides in terms of various social issues in Bolivia.
Foreign Policy and Anti-Imperialism
The Morales government has consistently stood in solidarity with the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, and in opposition to neoliberal capitalism and US imperialism.
In 2005, Morales visited Cuba, receiving full honors from Fidel Castro. While there, he signed an agreement in which Cuba promised Bolivia aid in health and education, and Morales referred to Castro and Hugo Chavez as “the commanders of the forces for the liberation of the Americas and the world.”
The government has sought to promote anti-imperialism, even opening an explicitly “anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist” military school for their officers:
As the article states:
“If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression,” the country’s first indigenous president said at an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
“We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies,” he told a crowd that included the defense ministers of Venezuela and Nicaragua.