Written by Rene B. Balderas Abolnik
To reject the notion that Bolivia of 2014 is fundamentally different from the Bolivia of 2005 is irrational, but to say –as is now fashionable in some circles- that Bolivia has in this time degenerated into chaos is even more so. Some point at the seemingly systemic corruption of institutions such as the judicial system as proof of the incompetence and failure of President Evo Morales’ proposed “Process of Change”. But this opinion misunderstands the nature of the process in relation to culture and to state institutions.This process is not the passive development of socio-economic forces, which is the default evolutionary nature of social relations, but rather it is the activeconstruction of these relations by a collective conscience of a popular/democratic character. Up through 2005 Bolivia was the product of passive evolutionary development; the stratification of society solidified feudal relations, which alienated great segments of Bolivian society into the camps of the privileged, those permitted to escape from feudal society, and those who remained under pre-capitalist circumstances. Now the process of change through the modernization of society has brought to the surface that which was unseen; a systemic problem of corruption.
“Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat: capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism.”- Leon Trotsky What is National Socialism?
The Process of Change exists not only to revolutionize the material circumstances of the Bolivian people, but also in doing so, to shift and adapt their immaterial conscience. In so many words, to change what it means to be Bolivian. The resurgence of cultural excrement such as racism, sexism, and classism are often an indicator that revolutionary forces are working, just like a body may vomit unhealthy foods, so does the Nation-State digest and consequently reject certain cultural elements due to fundamental changes occurring in society. But unlike the human body it is not food that makes the state sick but competing identities.
But what does Bolivian identity have to do with corruption?
Identity such as saying that one is Bolivian is the result of a dialectical relation between the power structure and the consciousness of the individual, which collectively becomes the ideology of the power structure. So to say one was Bolivian 50 years ago most likely meant a stronger affiliation to regional and ethnic ties than to the nation-state of Bolivia. Yet, as Bolivian society developed, man continued taking consciousness of his material station as had never occurred before, further dissolving feudal or pre-feudal identifies of himself (i.e. indigenous, mestizo, etc.) and like identities evolve so does corruption. Before this awakening, corruption was seen as manner of operating, based on who you, your friends or family knew. But now this style of corruption, which still holds vestiges of old feudal consciousness, has changed due to the popularization of government. Systemic Corruption is always the sign of an imbalance between material development and identity. Bolivia has now been endowed with new wealth and a new state. Consequently society has been plunged into a cultural struggle to determine the new character of this state.
Capitalism continues to be the most revolutionizing force in and for society. This does not mean that the solution to corruption will come from the material forces of Capitalism but rather from its immaterial justification: ideology. A cultural revolution must occur in Bolivia and a new National Ethic must be created in order to reorient the moral allegiances of the Bolivian people, to make that final break, that final realization that their old identities of European or Indigenous descent, like old currency, no longer have real exchange value.
It is important to understand that the problems now befalling Bolivia are not intrinsically Bolivian but universal problems of capitalist development. Though painful, this process of change has now entered into the phase of realizing that a sickness has emerged from this process of digestion. The puking of “undigested” elements of society is a cleansing process. The modernization of the judicial system is thrusting to the surface that which was once hidden. For this new Bolivia we need new Bolivians.