Jeanine Anez has cheerfully declared herself interim president of Bolivia. Her friends --- and they are all rightwing savouring their 'victory' in light of the departure of Evo Morales from power --- are ecstatic. After fourteen years of rule by an indigenous politician, they are now in a position to take the Bible back to the presidential palace in La Paz, indeed to turn the clock back. Whether or not it is a pyrhhic victory for them remains to be seen, but that these people are now ready to return Bolivia to its decadent past is obvious.
Every rightwing coup in modern history has been symbolic of a restoration of decadence, for the good reason that conservative classes around the world have never felt comfortable with leaders who have emerged from the grassroots and have changed, or sought to change, their societies for the better. President Morales, in his years in power, empowered Bolivia's indigenous people through carefully devised programmes aimed at reducing their poverty and convincing them that they mattered in the country. Remember that it is the same Bolivia which, in connivance with America's CIA, murdered Ernesto Che Guevara in 1967. In his fourteen years in office, Evo Morales transformed Bolivia into a nation that mattered in the councils of the world. It was performance his enemies, at home and abroad, were psychologically unable to come to terms with.
The fall of Evo Morales was but a repetition of history in the sense that yet one more nationalist was brought down by a conspiracy of men and women unwilling to tolerate politicians whose claim to power has always been a deep association with the masses. There is the bright instance of the late Hugo Chavez, who at one point in his presidential career in Venezuela was brought down by his army but had to be restored in the face of popular revolt against the coup. Thereafter a multiplicity of attempts was made to push Chavez from power. His charisma and, more importantly, his social uplift programmes designed to bring the poor and thus the majority of the population into the political mainstream put paid to all conspiracies against his government.
But if Chavez succeeded in keeping his rightwing, anti-poor enemies at bay, his successor has been under relentless assault from the same forces over the past few years. Nicolas Maduro has survived, so far. But knowledge of the damage his opponents, beholden to Washington like all those Cubans who for decades looked to successive American administrations to dislodge Fidel Castro and hand the country over to them, could do remains a grave worry for nationalists and patriots everywhere. The upstart Juan Guaido, having declared himself president of Venezuela in patent defiance of the constitution and then banking on Washington and Europe to send Maduro packing, keeps waiting in the bushes. The coup in La Paz will likely encourage him and his home-grown aristocracy and foreign capitalists once again into causing mayhem on the streets. Nicolas Maduro needs to be on guard.
The voice of the people has regularly been silenced through an interplay of internal intrigue and external connivance in efforts to remove nationalist governments from office. The CIA-sponsored ouster of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in the 1950s remains a sinister instance of the strategies employed to get rid of politicians who choose to hold dear to their hearts their national interests rather than devise ways and means of compromising with the forces of exploitation, with people whose loyalties are not to their countries but to their patrons overseas. Mossadegh nationalized Iran's oil, a brave move in that difficult phase of history we know as the Cold War. Teheran's royalists and their friends in Washington would have none of it. So they employed force, unashamed and unapologetic, to remove him from power and restore their imperial minion Reza Pahlavi to his throne.
Those nationalists who have survived imperialist plots and local conspiracies ended up being part of historical folklore not just in their own countries but around the globe. Gamal Abdel Nasser's bold move of nationalizing the Suez Canal in 1956 let all hell loose in London, Paris and Tel Aviv, driving them into a military assault on Egypt and then to a point where, in a rare instance of statesmanship, an American president compelled the invaders to withdraw. Dwight Eisenhower's refusal to countenance the Anglo-French-Israeli assault on Egypt, coupled with strong Egyptian nationalism, assured the survival of the nationalist Nasser. It was, however, survival that would not extend to other nationalists in other countries. In the latter 1960s, bounty hunters from various western nations met in the Netherlands, their goal being an exploitation of Indonesia's natural resources through the opportunity opened up for them by the removal of President Ahmed Sukarno by the army.
In the event, Indonesia's people were to suffer on two counts. First, their country swiftly mutated into a happy hunting ground for foreign multinationals. Second, the fall of Sukarno would lead to thirty two years of a family kleptocracy headed by General Suharto. The collapse of Sukarno's nationalism would in time lead to a long process of thievery and murder in the rich country of Nigeria. Successive military regimes, all patronized by the West, let the multinationals steal the country's wealth, leaving a once affluent land wallowing in increasingly deeper levels of poverty. The nationalist Ken Saro-wiwa, the poet and human rights activist, went to the gallows, per courtesy of the venal Sani Abacha. His guilt? He spoke for Nigeria and for its people to be master of their resources. Such patriots are dangerous.
Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro and Fidel Castro are always men who are a threat to robber barons and corrupt politicians and foreign puppets everywhere. In Chile, there once was Salvador Allende with his ambitious programme of transforming a corruption-dominated society into a socialist republic on the strength of popular support obtained at the ballot box. His alarmed enemies quickly got to work, pushing wads of money into their agents' pockets, organizing industrial strikes and masterminding violent agitation against the government all across Chile. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger promised to make the Chilean economy scream. With the Chilean army ready to do their bidding, they succeeded enormously. Allende lay dead and Chilean nationalism was riddled with Pinochet's bullets.
And yet nationalist politics is not dead. Evo Morales will be hard to ignore, just as Juan Domingo Peron was hard to ignore in Argentina despite his ouster from office before he regained it. Besides, the election of Alberto Fernandez as Argentina's new president and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the former president, as vice president is a sign that daylight remains for individuals whose politics is focused on the empowerment of the poor. The emergence from prison of Luis Inacio da Lula Silva, the socialist former president of Brazil, rekindles hope among those who wait for men of idealism to arise and lift them out of poverty in nations around the world.
Politicians of the class of Jeanine Anez and Juan Guaido do not speak for their people. They are spokespersons for their patrons beyond their countries. Leftwing populism should place them in a state of justified siege.
The pushback against the exploiting classes, everywhere, must begin.