October 13, 2008

The Real Power of the Social Movements

MABB © ®

This guy, Fidel Surco, current president of the Conalcam (Coordinadora Nacional por el Cambio), might turn out to be one of the most powerful people in Bolivia. He presides over an organization which groups another 35 organizations or social movements, as they like to call themselves. These organizations are very active in the decision making process within and around the government. They have direct access to Morales and Garcia, as well as direct access to the executive via Hector Arce (Defense Minister) and Sacha Llorenti (Viceminister of Coordination with the Social Movements). In this capacity, the Conalcam takes part in cabinet meetings and Surco is no stranger in the Palacio Quemado (government palace), where he meets the President at least once a week.

The organization also has direct access to the governmental faction in Congress. There they coordinate with Senator Felix Rojas, Chair of the official faction and Deputy Cesar Navarro, in the lower chamber.

The clout of influence these organizations have over the Morales government is significant. The government itself says it doesn't take any decision without informing the social movements.

In addition, the Conalcam has influence in the public service because the majority of public posts were distributed among the 35 member organizations. This gives Conalcam tremendous operative power.

Finally, the real power is on the streets. The Conalcam has the power to bring people to the streets if the government doesn't do what they want.

The question is, how representative is this or as Toqueville and Mill put it, is this the tyranny of the majority?


mcentellas said...

Don't forget Robert Michel's "iron law of oligarchy"! :-)

mabb said...

I think these social movements or organizations jumped the bureaucratization stage directly to the power corrupts state. :-)

mcentellas said...

Oh, I just meant that Michels' "iron law" argues that no movement or party is ever really democratic (or "represents the people") but is always run by a small group of party elite.


It is really so difficult to grasp the possibility of the MAS party being a fascist, nationalist one; the Conalcam is no different than the violent civilian forces the Nazis under Hitler and the Fascist under Mussolini had. They are not new in Bolivia; MNR had them before and after the agrarian revolution and the fascist Falange also had them, being the UJC in Santa Cruz a remaining of such an organization.

Not wanting to accept that such tyrants, as Hitler, can develop in countries like Bolivia is like sticking your head in the ground so you cannot see what is happening in your surroundings.

One more example of tyranny by the Morales’ regime, read what happen when a reporter publish something they don’t like:

mabb said...

In a VERY simplistic way, maybe there are no differences. After all, one can always compare apples and oranges on the basis that they are fruits.

mcentellas said...

There is a very, very broad range between mere authoritarianism and Hitler. To confuse all authoritarian (or even semi-authoritarian) leaders suggests that Hitler was nothing more than a "bad" guy and/or a "petty" dictator. It diminishes the horror that was Hitler. Comparing Evo (or even Chavez) to Hitler is just as ridiculous as comparing Bush to Hitler. Until I see concentration camps for millions of ethnic minorities & political opponents, the forced euthanasia of the handicapped or retarded, the formation of state brothels to create a "pure" blood super-race, the formation of child paramilitaries instructed to die for the Leader, an official glorification of war as the ultimate in human achievement, and a deliberate rejection of all the Enlightenment stood for, I'm not likely to consider a comparison w/ Hitler valid or appropriate.

mabb said...

I tried the subtle way, but yours is even better!


dv said...

I agree, Evo isn't Hitler but his movement seems to be strikingly fascist. He talks about leading the nation away from humiliation and toward a national rebirth. He uses the masses for intimidation. He abandons "democratic liberties in pursuit of redemptive violence."

mabb said...

No doubt Morales has developed some authoritarian tendencies, you can even draw some parallels to fascism (it is arguable, at least), but to compare it to Hitler, please.

mcentellas said...

Yes, this may seem like mere semantics. But Hitler and fascism are not identical. There are some who argue whether Hitler/Nazism was something *other* than fascism. But even if we recognize it as form of fascism, it's important to remember that not all fascism is Hitler/Nazism. Just like not all socialism is Stalinism.

Morales shares some fascist*ic* elements. But those mostly come from national-populism, which is a broader term than even fascism. There is a great book by Francisco Panizza ("Populism and the Mirror of Democracy") that points out how national-populism is a distorted, but still genuine, reflection of democracy. Two important authors who demonstrate that democracy has a dark underside are Jack Snyder ("From Voting to Violence") and Michael Mann ("The Dark Side of Democracy"; he also wrote the seminal book "Fascists").

mabb said...

Thanks for the reading tips. I'll get back to you! :-)


Mabb and Centellas, you are concentrating to much on Evo = Hitler; then off course, no; and that was not my point. The point is that racist dictators can rise up from democracies, as Hitler did and Evo is doing.

Regarding Miguel’s “Until I see concentration camps for millions of ethnic minorities & political opponents” policy; I guess is easy to say being safe and sound in the USA. Why don’t you check the information about the people opposing Hitler in Germany in his times? I am pretty sure you will find more than one saying what was about to happen. If we do nothing and fail to see what is happening in Bolivia today because the true seems to be too ugly, it will be to late, and even uglier, in the near future.

As many people today say the holocaust never happened, there are some that say that Nazism was not a type of fascism; alas, the so called intellectuals love to go around dissecting the simple to make it difficult and complicated. Nazism was fascism with racisms, and the last part is what mostly differenced the Nazi Germany from the Fascist Italy during WWII. And Evo Morales’ maSSsim is his way of fascism with the racism of quechua-aymara indigenous fundamentalism; and that is my point and the point of several other that have compared the Morales’s government with the Nazis.

Anonymous said...

I think something few people are taking into consideration is the power of the M.A.S. was built upon Evo the individual and its ideals and followers are so strongly intertwined with hes persona that I would question: theoretically, if Evo did NOT get re-elected would the M.A.S. remain as strong as it is now?

There is much division among the masses. During their march some were chanting for the Sacha Llorenti to resign. Others settled their differences by whipping each other with whips.

The only person that has really stood out from among the thousands is Fidel Surco, true, but I have to wonder if the masses are as loyal to him as they would be to Evo. To put it another way, does he inspire them as Evo does? Maybe arming them with weapons of war is not as inspiring as Evo's skill with words. He's a skilled speaker and arms them with rhetoric - very powerful, influential and convincing rhetoric. I don't see that in Surco or any one else from his party. I don't see it in any one of his ministers, or even the Vice President.

I wonder how long the M.A.S. party could endure without Evo Morales.

mabb said...

While I agree that Morales is an important figure within MAS, I don't think he is indispensable. As I've argued before, MAS tends to unite under broad themes such as equality, inclusion and justice. However, the MAS (which is not political party as you and me define them) tends to pull apart when particular themes are at stake. This happens because MAS is not a monolithic organization, but rather a very decentralized group of diverse organizations organized in a pyramidal form. As soon as the bases are removed, the pyramid loses balance.

And that is a good question. I think MAS would keep on going even without Evo.