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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Real Privatization in Bolivia

Jean Friedsky at NarcoNews:

On a grassy hillside of the Bolivian highlands, on a sunny day in June of this year, hundreds of peasant farmers celebrated two years of liberation. A bullfight, dancing, and food for all. Close, but just out of sight, sat the solitary ruins of the ex-hacienda of Collana — “a sign,” according to the settlement’s own account of their anniversary, “that, here, not even a trace of a patrón (landowner) remains.”

The occupation two years ago of the large private estate, despite many obstacles the participants have faced, is in many ways a success story for the young but growing movement of landless peasants in Bolivia. Families who until 2003 had essentially been indentured servants in Bolivia’s near-feudal countryside are living for the first time on their own terms. “With or without papers, the land was our grandparents’ and now it is ours,” stated Collana leader Dionisio Mamani in a recent article....

The national, 50,000-member-strong Landless Movement (Movimiento Sin Tierra, MST) has led the fight to equalize land ownership in a country where 90 percent of the population owns 7 percent of the cultivatable land, where campesinos (peasant farmers) primarily work as peons for large estates or have been forced to leave the countryside altogether....

Of one estate, in Los Yuquises, Friedsky writes:

The disputed land is on an estate of more than 200,000 acres owned by a well-known businessman with old political links. According to the landless campesinos in Yuquises, estates of this size are common in the region, the majority of the plots having been political gifts to supporters under the right-wing governments of the 1980s and 1990s [emphasis mine].

Of course, only a few of the occupations are comparatively successful. In many cases, local landless movement organizers are assassinated by death squads in the hire of the landed oligarchy. In others, the military evicts occupying peasants.


Blogger Adam said...

Might be interested in a recent paper about neoliberal privatization of water


It would be nice if they compared neoliberal privatization to populist privatization... but I don't know if there are enough examples of the latter.

November 19, 2005 8:51 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Bolivia was in fact center stage of the "water war" back in the 90's, when the angry populace revolted against the international lending community's designs on their water supply, designs made in intimate collusion, unsurprisingly, with the Bolivian government. The multinationals were most infamous in this case for "leasing the rain"--they would claim small local wells belonging to peasants as their own and charge exorbitant prices for their use.

November 19, 2005 3:15 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Thanks for the link. There's good reason there's so few examples of populist privatization. The statists and the corporate libertarians have a joint interest in pretending that government and corporate ownership are the only alternatives. In fact, though, a water system owned by its rate-payers as a commons is at least as legitimate a form of private ownership as ownership by a capitalist corporation. The key element of private ownership, for purposes of efficiency, is internalization of costs and benefits. And that can be achieved just as well by a cooperative.


That kind of state-sanctioned theft in the "water war" is a good example of just how much statism is concealed behind the neoliberals' so-called privatization.

November 22, 2005 9:34 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

In addition to behind-the-scenes economic statism, militarism has also been a tool of advancing the neoliberal agenda. I was reading an old article at antiwar.com about how during the U.S. intervention in Kosovo, most of its bombing targets were not military bases, but factories--and not private [sic] factories, but only the state and worker-owned ones. I'm sure many more examples of this sort of thing can be found in Latin America, as it's usually the center stage for economic imperialism. Might be a good subject for a post.

November 22, 2005 11:16 AM  

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