LF Excerpts: In Bolivia, State Power Must Connect to People Power

Laura: Wherever you are in the world, being in government is hard. Still, all sorts of progressives and radicals pursue high office. This century started with new people in groups winning state power in countries like Bolivia, where Evo Morales became the first indigenous president backed by a popular movement, Vivir Bien. In 2015, Greeks selected the progressive left block's Syriza for the first time. This spring, I had a chance to talk with men who served in those administrations about their expectations, experiences, and what they learned about doing governance differently. Andreas Karitzis served with Syriza, Pablo Solón with President Morales.

Pablo Solón: During the year 2005, Evo Morales won the election. We had a new constitution. We changed our ... The name of our state is now Plurinational State of Bolivia, recognizing that we have more than 30 nations inside Bolivia of indigenous people. That was a great, great moment and it lasted for three, four years.

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Andreas K.: I used to be a fan of Syriza for 11 years. Syriza had a program which was responsive to people's needs. The problem was that we didn't have a concrete action plan, so how are we going to implement these policies? I realized at some point that there are several certain limits in what we can obtain. It would be politics in the traditional way. It would have to take into consideration the complexity of the society, the complexity of being the government and having to do with state institutions, which are bureaucratic in nature, aligned with the interest of the elite for so many years, so you need to have a transformation strategy.

One major thing is the decentralization of decisions. We are bringing about a different model of leadership, which is a necessary thing for our societies in general. Complex societies cannot be governed anymore by a totalitarian way. We have to distribute the decision-making processes, and the government could have and the leadership could be a facilitator of this democratic process because if we do not take it into consideration and we do not bring in different perspectives, our decisions will be wrong.

Pablo Solón: In the Bolivian case, we began to do things to stay in power. Bolivia has always lived from extractor bid. Silver then rubber then tin then gas. What we wanted to do was to move to be an achronological country. We could have moved to renewable energy, to ecotourism, but we didn't do that. The government continued with extractivism of gas. There were no other alternatives. There were, but the easiest one to remain the government and to get power was to extract more gas, sell the gas, have more income, and of course you can do a lot of social programs and you can have more power.

Andreas K.: This is a very gruesome issue we have to find a way to overcome. We were going to have a conflict with our lenders. The lenders were controlling the basic functions of our society through liquidity and funding, and we should be able as a society collectively to take on basic functions, to create power in order to be able to engage in this fight. We have to appeal to people's, say, availability, people who are waiting in this to become active and engaged in this fight, but we didn't have mechanics to receive this availability and transform it into social power. When the negotiation with the leaders went bad, the government, my comrades, transformed the rhetoric from delivering to the people what they need into remaining to power as the best way to serve the people, regardless of the content of the policy that we are going to implement.

Pablo Solón: I think that we made a mistake in the case of Bolivia because when we won the elections, the strongest social force was not the political instrument. It was the social movement, and instead of strengthening that, we began to incorporate the main leaders of all the organizations into the state apparatus. I think that the strategy is more complicated than what we thought. It's not to take state power and transform the world or society, but to look for state power to build our counter-power, even for the revolutionary leaders that are going to go into the government. So, it is a strategy that has to combine-

Andreas K.: Two elements.

Pablo Solón: ... two elements, two key elements, and I think that maybe this is the way to sort out this deep problem that we have seen in many places.

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