"It Is Self-Evident That We Must Organize to Win!"
An Interview with Bolivian Revolutionary, Lydia Robles Arteaga
By Ivan Drury and Esteban Gonzalez Arteaga
Lydia Robles Arteaga is the Coordinator of Water and Textile Workers of Cochabamba Bolivia. As an Indigenous woman, a trade unionist, and a revolutionary in Bolivia, her experiences in the revolutionary movement in Bolivia are valuable for all working people in Canada and around the world. As Bolivian president Evo Morales said when Bolivia signed on to the “ALBA” trade agreement with Cuba and Venezuela, “Together, united, we are going to change history, and not only in Bolivia.”
Fire This Time met with Lydia Robles in Vancouver on October 17th at the final speaking event of a cross-Canada tour that she had been part of to build education and support in Canada for the Bolivian revolutionary process. Lydia herself is a great example of the process of change that is unfolding in Bolivia. A physically small woman, her presence was enormous when she lifted her head and looked around the room.
Lydia spoke as though the victory of the movement in Bolivia was guaranteed. She brushed away the concerns of some of the commentators at the forum about the difficulties of the nationalization of gas in Bolivia as ‘temporary problems that the movement will overcome.’ And then she explained how appalled she had been at the conditions that Indigenous people in Canada are forced to live in, on the reservations she had visited during her tour. She said that these conditions themselves are a desperate call to action… for working people in Canada.
Through Lydia, it was possible to glimpse the dynamics of the revolution and the revolutionaries in Bolivia today – always on fire, organizing, fighting. Fire This Time was honoured for the opportunity to speak to her, and to share this short interview with you.
FTT: Could you explain to us what is the importance of the demands and struggles of Indigenous people and women within the union movement in Bolivia, and specifically what their role is within the government of Evo Morales?
LYDIA: It is self-evident that Indigenous movements should organize, because an Indigenous people, which has been torn from its land, has the right and the authority to reclaim what once belonged to them. That is how these strong movements were born, so strong that they have led to a government. In Bolivia almost eighty percent of the population is indigenous, so Indigenous people have always been organized. They have always been wary. But there have been imperialist-collaborator governments that have come to steal their land.
Today workers and Indigenous people are marching together, because they want their country to progress.
In regards to women; and the role they are taking today in power, it is very clear that before the role of women was not taken into account, but now it is. They are taking on a task that many women who have gone to university and many women who have had some government position because they worked with imperialism, could not do.
Before, women never had such high-ranking posts in the government. We have a minister of justice who was a domestic worker, a legislator who is a unionist on the part of the cocaleros of Bolivia, a minister of education, and many other ministries.
Perhaps we are not yet raising their names up high, because we are just beginning to see their work. Same thing happens with our president. They are not experts in maneuvering, but they have the will to fight for their country. Today men as well as women are propelling the country forward. I believe that with the thrust of an entire people they will achieve it.
FTT: What has been the effect of the support and solidarity between Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia? What has it meant for the government of Evo Morales?
LYDIA: It has meant a lot, because we have the same ideology. We all have the same situation of being countries which imperialists want to subjugate according to their own desires and timeline. But the three countries have identified with each other, we are all of Bolivar, and will never belong to anyone else. This is why Bolivia is named after Bolivar…and because Bolivia belongs to Bolivar it has to produce the first movement of discontent. Enough with the theft of our lands of South America! This is why are relations with Cuba and Venezuela will always be of solidarity. We will always be fighting for the same cause, and for one common objective of being free and independent in our own lands.
FTT: What can workers and Indigenous people in Canada learn about revolutionary struggle, about the revolutionary process in Bolivia?
LYDIA: What they must learn is that they have to be perseverant, that they have to continue with their struggle. Here in Canada your struggles are not as strong as they should be. In a powerful country that has capitalism on top of it, your struggles are barely surviving, but you must know how to organize, you will not see the fruits from one day to another, rather you must always continue with the same perseverance, and looking to see what is happening in other countries.
You need a clear understanding of your country, this has meant a difference many times in history. This is how Bolivia organizes. Organization does not just appear out of nowhere. It is an arduous task, a task that begins with the development of consciousness of each worker. In our organizations we discuss topics from the social, to the political, to the economical. Not only is it to learn about the rights of each worker, but also for them to take more interest on what is occurring in their own country; because the worker can become disoriented if they do not have an understanding of what is happening, or of what the government is doing. You can also do it, with unity, with understanding your country.
FTT: Thank you Lydia, our hopes and dreams are with you and your struggle in Bolivia.
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