Dynamite in the Mines and Bloody Urban Clashes: Contradiction, Conflict and the Limits of Reform in Bolivia's Movement towards Socialism


  • Jeffrey Webber University of Toronto




This paper critiques common depictions of the Evo Morales government in Bolivia as revolutionary socialist or radically reformist. It introduces the concept of indigenous ascendant populism to better understand the character of the Morales administration. It summarizes the historical significance of the electoral victory of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS); situates contemporary Bolivian politics within the broader theoretical debates occurring within the Latin American left; and explains the trajectory of Latin American populism and the particularities of Bolivia's experiences within that trajectory. Against this theoretical and historical backdrop two popular mobilizations occurring in 2006 and 2007 are examined: a conflict in a Huanuni mine in October 2006 and the ‘Cochabamba Conflict' of December 2006 and January 2007. Both events are found to substantiate the thesis of indigenous ascendant populism. The contention is made that a renewal of independent self-organization and strategic mobilization of the popular classes and indigenous nations is necessary so that social movements will not be trapped within the limited political horizons of the current government. 


Author Biography

Jeffrey Webber, University of Toronto

Jeffery R. Webber is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of ";Searching for Revolutionary Democracy: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Bolivia,"; Monthly Review (September 2005) and ";Struggles Against Accumulation by Dispossession in Bolivia: The Political Economy of Natural Resource Contention,"; (with Susan Spronk), Latin American Perspectives (March 2007).