The following article, published on November 1, 2006, was written by John Riddell, then a co-editor of the now ceased Socialist Voicewhich was produced in Canada. We are publishing it in two parts. Part one, here, appeared in the July issue of The Spark and part two will appear in the August issue.
When Bolivian President Evo Morales formally opened his country’s Constituent Assembly on August 6, 2006,
Russian Bolshevik leader V.I Lenin, in 1919
he highlighted the aspirations of Bolivia’s indigenous majority as the central challenge before the gathering. The convening of the Assembly, he said, represented a “historic moment to refound our dearly beloved homeland Bolivia.” When Bolivia was created, in 1825-26, “the originary indigenous movements” who had fought for independence “were excluded,” and subsequently were discriminated against and looked down upon. But the “great day has arrived today … for the originary indigenous peoples.” (http://boliviarising.blogspot.com/1, Aug. 14, 2006)
During the preceding weeks, indigenous organizations had proposed sweeping measures to assure their rights, including guarantees for their languages, autonomy for indigenous regions, and respect for indigenous culture and political traditions.
This movement extends far beyond Bolivia. Massive struggles based on indigenous peoples have shaken Ecuador and Peru, and the reverberations are felt across the Western Hemisphere. Measures to empower indigenous minorities are among the most prestigious achievements of the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela.
At first glance, these indigenous struggles bear characteristic features of national movements, aimed at combating oppression, securing control of national communities, and protecting national culture. Yet indigenous peoples in Bolivia and elsewhere may not meet many of the objective criteria Marxists have often used to define a nation, such as a common language and a national territory, and they are not demanding a separate state. Read the rest of this entry »