Kepa Artaraz on what Bolivia can teach Europe about alternatives to austerity

Bolivia's President Evo Morales

Writing on the Bolivia Rising blog, Kepa Artaraz, author of Bolivia: Refounding the Nation, connects the social movement struggles in Bolivia with the search for alternatives to austerity in Europe:

The last four years in Europe have seen a certain democratic rebirth in the form of citizen movements that would have been unthinkable only a decade ago. From Spain’s indignados (the indignant) to Greece’s aganaktismenoi (the outraged), to the growing numbers in the ‘occupy’ movement, spontaneous civil society movements unattached to existing political parties are starting to find their voice and demand the right to play a part in the creation of alternative societies.

Given the lack of apparent grand, alternative narratives to neoliberalism, we are forced to look for the budding, small scale alternatives that are growing around us. Bolivia, where resistance to the social suffering caused by the neoliberal revolution began in the 1990s, can provide a few useful lessons and visions of what the future might hold for us. For, in the process of implementing popular responses to neoliberalism’s worst excesses, Bolivia and other Latin American countries have had a head start that is decades long.

Recognising the limitations and contradictions in the Bolivian political situation, Artaraz nevertheless finds sources of hope in what has been achieved so far:

In spite of its limitations, Bolivia’s constitutional assembly constitutes a unique democratic experiment. The final text promises to change the country’s political sphere, by introducing a range of levels of decentralisation and a new relationship between the social movements and the state. It also redefines the relationship between the individual and the state, re-establishing the role of the state in guaranteeing social protections, integrating excluded majorities, and incorporating their traditional forms of knowledge.

The constitution also proposes to regain for the state a dominant role in the country’s economic steerage whilst incorporating a plurality of forms of economic practice and property ownership that suggest the possibility of a future post-neoliberal paradigm. Finally, the constitution also denounces imperialism and promises to redefine international relations, accepting the existence of interdependencies between regions and countries – just as between individuals – and building on these interdependencies through values of solidarity to deliver better futures for all. ALBA represents this collaborative experiment and a glimpse, perhaps, that better worlds are possible.

Visit Bolivia Rising to read the post in full.


Refounding the Nation

Kepa Artaraz

Shows how and why Bolivia’s radical government under Morales came to power, and the challenges it faces.

“Kepa Artaraz’s book is a timely resource for navigating the complex politics of contemporary Bolivia. Through an accessible combination of history, reporting and analysis, Artaraz provides helpful context for understanding the roots, substance and limits of social and political change in Bolivia. “ – Benjamin Dangl, author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (2011) and Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (2010).

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