An odd thing has happened in the last couple weeks. Observers of Bolivian politics from the Andean Information Network, to Federico Fuentes, to Jeffery Webber and Ben Dangl have come to the conclusion that recent protests in Potosí represent the "rupture" between the MAS led government and popular revolutionary classes in Bolivia. This is a delusional position for a number of reasons.
There is no doubt the protests represent a rupture between MAS and a population which has been previously very supportive of its politics. However, MAS has conflicted with its supportive base before and will continue to in the future. Accessing the relative importance and character of this lastest break requires careful and specific analysis.
1. All of these analyses ignore the question of contraband law, which orginially sparked the protests and roadblocks, and of which I previously wrote. At best, Jeffery Webber dimisses the question as unimportant.
2. There is no denying that broad demands relating to regional poverty and unfullfilled expectations in Potosí played an important part in fueling the protests. However, ignoring the question of contraband and the reactionary character of the elite civicos leading the protests has lead our authors astray, writing about the protests as if they were some kind of proletarian or multidudian popular rebellion. The simple fact that protests never spread beyond Potosí and were assuaged quickely in Oruro attests to the limited regionalist nature of the protests.
3. Romanticizing the leftist nature of the protests has led to sloppying analysis, casting the Potosí protest together with distintically different challenges to MAS from other sectors over the past six months. Fuentes, Webber, and Dangl breathlessly tie the Potosí protest to the indigenous CIDOB march and few even pachamamismo. The Potosí civicos were not demanding MAS deepen the revolutionary process, radically apply the new constitution, or impliment the October Agenda. Where were the demands for nationalization? Instead the civicos simply demanded more money, infrastructure, and mineral explotive projects be brought to the region. In practical terms these demands put Potosí in conflict with pachamamismo and the environmental grievences of Mesa 18.
4. There is no doubt that now that the rightwing is defeated in national politics MAS is facing challenges from different sectors of its base. But do these desperate protests yet represent a united radical leftist synthesis challenging the current leftist government? Only in the imaginations of some authors.