League for the Revolutionary Party
June 11, 2013

Left Protest at “Left” Forum

Solidarity with the Workers and Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia!

The annual Left Forum event in New York City is the successor of the Socialist Scholars Conference, a gathering place for several thousand leftists of all stripes. But it is run by social democrats and academics whose idea of “left” included Barack Obama, at least until recently. This year the Forum was held on the weekend of June 7-9, and the honored invited speaker was Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, a leader of the allegedly “progressive” but in fact thoroughly capitalist government headed by President Evo Morales and his MAS party, the Movimiento al Socialismo.

Honoring capitalist politicians is always a contemptible act for supposed socialists. But the invitation to García Linera was especially ill timed. An LRP statement was distributed widely at the Forum throughout the weekend. As it pointed out, the MAS government very recently has been violently repressing mass movements of trade unions and indigenous peoples in Bolivia. And for years it has been participating in the United Nations “stabilization” force in Haiti, helping to enforce U.S. imperialism’s super-exploitation in that country. [See Álvaro García Linera – Enemy of Bolivia’s Workers and Indigenous Peoples]

Accordingly, the LRP organized a protest at García Linera’s speech Sunday night. We asked others to join us, including the Internationalist Group, which also had a statement denouncing the invitation. We agreed to mount a silent protest, and were joined by a Haitian solidarity activist and a few others. In all, about 10 protesters stood in the aisle during García Linera’s speech, holding up placards denouncing the government for its attacks on the miners and other workers during their two-week strike in May, its highly unpopular plan to build a highway through the TIPNIS ecological park and indigenous homeland, and its imperialist service in Haiti.

García Linera and the Left Forum organizers chose to ignore our protest. He gave an abstract academic speech that said nothing concrete about the issues in Bolivia but offered lots of vague platitudes embodied in “nine theses.” He quoted Gramsci, Lenin and Hegel, emphasizing the need for “totality” and “universality” as opposed to “localism.” He spoke of the critical importance of environmentalism, while facing a placard protesting the highway project through TIPNIS. He quoted the political prisoner Gramsci, a few yards from a placard demanding the release of a union leader his government had placed under house arrest.

Getting more or less down to brass tacks, he claimed that political activists who focus on narrow issues ran the risk of becoming agents of capitalism. This was all par for the course for García Linera, who is derided by many on the left, in the working class and in social movements for his pretentious speechifying. He has made a habit of labeling union leaders, environmental activists and leftists who oppose MAS policies as imperialist stooges. But it was especially disgusting in the face of his government’s pro-imperialist role in Haiti.

Many people in the audience expressed disappointment in Linera's avoidance of the issues. A few shouted at him hostilely during the talk – especially at the end when the Forum organizers announced that there would be no comments from the floor, even though a microphone had been placed there as if floor discussion had been planned.

We in the LRP consider this protest to be a modest but positive step forward in raising consciousness and hopefully gaining new allies for defending the movements against capitalist attacks in Bolivia. We are well aware that the hypocritical show that García Linera put on at the Left Forum was intended to provide a cover for something far more grave: mounting repression against the resistance that the workers and oppressed are developing against a government that is protecting the profits of imperialist corporations on the backs of the masses.