Bolivian Revolution of 1952

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bolivian Revolution of 1952


an anti-imperialist, antifeudal revolution in Bolivia, led by the national bourgeoisie. A popular uprising erupted in the country on Apr. 9,1952, and after three days of fighting, the domination of the feudal oligarchy and the magnates of the mining industry, who were bound up with the imperialism of the USA, was thrown off. The Nationalist Revolutionary Movement party (MNR, established in 1941) came to power, expressing in essence the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the middle strata. The proletariat played a great role in the uprising, but its small numbers, in addition to the newness and weakness of the Communist Party of Bolivia and the lack of an alliance with the peasantry, did not allow the proletariat to become the leading force in the revolution. A unified tradeunion organization, the Bolivian Workers’ Central Union, was established in 1952, uniting all the branch trade unions; the old army was abolished and a workers’ and peasants’ militia created; universal suffrage was introduced; and a national program was adopted to eliminate illiteracy, providing for compulsory elementary education.

A major revolutionary achievement was the adoption of a decree (Oct. 31, 1952) nationalizing the tin mines that belonged to the three greatest magnates, Patiño, Hochschild, and Aramayo; these three were linked to the foreign monopolies, and they produced as much as 80 percent of the country’s tin. The action meant a considerable expansion of the state sector, and it contributed to the growth of political consciousness and organization among the working class. Workers’ control through the trade unions was established at the nationalized mines. However, the nationalization of the mines did not put an end to Bolivia’s dependence on foreign monopolies. As before, the processing of ore was carried out in the USA, Great Britain, and other countries. The payment compensation to the former owners of the mines deprived the country of the means necessary to develop its national industry.

The overthrow of the oligarchy stirred the peasant masses to struggle for the land against the landlords. An agrarian reform decree was adopted on Aug. 2,1953, providing for the abolition of serf labor, the allocation of land to the peasants at the expense of the large latifundia, and the establishment of agricultural cooperatives. The allocation of land to the peasants (who were to liquidate its value at 2 percent interest per annum over 25 years) proceeded along two lines: the peasants were declared the owners of the plots they received from the landlords, for which they had paid rent in kind or which they had worked off; and furthermore, provision was made for the allocation to land-starved or landless peasants of lands alienated from the landlords. These allocations were to be based on norms established for different regions and soils. (According to official data, 5.6 million hectares of land had been allocated to 158,000 families up to the middle of 1964.)

Progressive forces demanded that the democratic process be deepened and that the broad democratic program of the revolution be put into practice. But the opportunities that had opened up in the area of socioeconomic reforms were not utilized. The MNR government substituted a reformist program and concessions to the forces of imperialism and reaction, which had pressured it, for the resolution of national problems by means of the revolutionary route. In its economic policy, the MNR government was oriented toward US aid. In 1956 the government began to implement a plan of “stabilization of the budget,” which provided for the abolition of control over prices and freezing of wages. It then moved to the curtailment of democratic freedoms and mass repression of working people involving the use of military force. All this led to the suspension of the progressive movement of the Bolivian Revolution and an offensive by the reactionary forces against the achievements of working people, which took the form of a counterrevolutionary state coup in November 1964.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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