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During the period of the military dictatorships in the 1960s to early 1980s, the trade-union movement was subject to intense and ongoing persecution. Yet under the auspices of the Bolivian Workers Central (cob), and with the mineworkers as its leading sector, it also struggled stubbornly against dictatorship and for the restoration of democracy. After the fall of the government of General Hugo Banzer Suárez, in 1978, there followed an agitated period in which three elections were annulled and the military staged various coups and countercoups. Hernán Siles Zuazo, who headed the Popular Democratic Unity (udp) coalition and who had won the frustrated elections in 1979 and 1980, finally entered offce on 10 October 1982. It was a time of popular triumph and the trade-union movement could rightly claim to be a major protagonist of democracy.

During this transitional period, the Trade Union Federation of Bolivian Mineworkers (fstmb) held its nineteenth congress in the storied mining center of Huanuni. The following extract from its offcial political document, “The Return to Democracy,” is a typical trade-union document insofar as it lays out a critical set of issues of interest to workers—a “platform of struggle.” It also expresses the union’s conception of its progressive role in Bolivian history. The document does not simply restate the classic theses about the mineworkers as the revolutionary vanguard of the laboring masses and their commitment to anti-imperialism and socialism, which go back to the Thesis of Pulacayo in 1946. As the first item in its “platform of struggle” shows, the document also highlights their efforts to secure democratic conditions that would best advance the interests of working people.

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