On ideology and truth: Evo Morales’ speech,
“I believe only in the power of the people”

G.S.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Oaxaca, Wednesday, January 9, 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-01-09.htm

This is a two-part note. The first part focuses specifically on confusion in the group Science for the People caused by the recent posting of a talk by Evo Morales, which was widely reported under the title, “I believe only in the power of the people.” The second part is general, a discussion of ideology in hampering widespread knowledge of the truth.

      If you googled ‘I believe only in the power of the people “Evo Morales”’ on Dec 29th you would have come up with about 145,000 listed items.[1] It’s a fine, ringing statement by Evo, the brand new – as of December 18 – Bolivian President-Elect, with, from my perspective, the right (that is, left) ideology. Click here to read it. Evo’s speech came to me in an e-mail from the Science for the People (SftP) discussion list,[2] an open list, where it was posted by one of the members.

      This posting,[3] by Mike Brand <mikenoc@aol.com>, led to significant misunderstanding among members of the SftP group. Most likely many people who use the internet were also misled into thinking Evo Morales’ speech, widely posted under the title, “I Believe Only in the Power of the People”, was – for reasons that will become obvious – a post-election speech just made in the past few days. A prolific poster – 20 posts to the SftP list in December – Mike’s usual practice (as is unfortunately not uncommon) is to simply put up forwarded or other items with no additional information or comment. If, as seems unlikely, he had any thoughts about confusion generated by posting Evo’s speech at this time, he kept them private, at least from the SftP members.

      Though I usually delete forwarded items that Mike posts to the list, here the title caught my attention and I read it, not too carefully, seeing it as just a politician’s proclamation. It sounded good but I thought, Let’s see what Morales actually does as president. Lula in Brasil sounded great too when he was elected. I was a bit troubled because I had heard nothing about the conference which Evo, in his speech, called the ‘great meeting of intellectuals “In Defense of Humanity.”’ I googled the subject of the posting, “I Believe Only In The Power Of The People”, and saw the talk was on ZNet too, though it didn't have any information about the meeting where Evo spoke. But I thought of ZNet as pretty reliable and just left it at that. Can’t resolve every question.

      Then Charlie Schwartz <schwrtz@socrates.berkeley.edu>, another SftP member, who must have read it more carefully than I, wrote in. Maybe he remembered the history of the Bolivian Water War (2000) and Gas War (2003), and that the neo-liberal President Sánchez de Lozada was forced to resign his office on October 17, 2003 (a date mentioned in the talk) and flee to the United States,[4] and was disturbed by the seeming slight incongruities in the time references in Evo’s speech. In any event, Charlie asked “Any comments about the Evo Morales speech, which was circulated yesterday? I seek some advice on how to interpret it.”

      Maurice Bazin <mauriceb@floripa.com.br>, another SftP member, responded with information about the group “In Defense of Humanity” (which Evo mentioned in his talk), and gave his perspective on how to evaluate Morales (with which I agreed). But he too was under the mistaken impression that Evo’s speech was very recent, whereas in fact it was made more than two (2) years ago in Mexico City – on October 24, 2003, exactly one week after October 17, 2003, the very day on which Lozada fled to the U.S. at the conclusion of the Bolivian Gas War.

      Carrol Cox <cbcox@ilstu.edu>, another SftP member, followed Maurice, with the information that there was a posting on a different list by someone who agreed completely with Maurice, but who went “on to add, however, that Lula & Kirchner (and perhaps others like them in the near future), though not anti-capitalist in any way, nevertheless do manifest a tendency in Latin America to “escape” as much as possible from the grip of the IMF and Neoliberalism. Their way cannot represent a lasting escape, but nevertheless contributes to the worldwide resistance to U.S. imperialism.” Thus it’s clear that Carrol and the person who posted to that other list also were deceived into thinking Evo’s speech was a post-election statement.

      My companion Nancy Davies <nmsdavies@yahoo.com>, also a SftP member, catching up with her e-mail, read Mike’s posting, and then Charlie Schwartz’s query. I had mentioned them to her earlier. Her reaction was to ask what Charlie could be thinking of. Evo’s speech seemed to her clear and unequivocal. She too took it to be a post-election statement, as I also did at that time. I said she should go ahead and see what Maurice and Carrol had written in response.

      I began to be troubled again, and wrote to Mike Brand and Walda Katz-Fishman <wkatzfishman@igc.org>, from whose posting the item found its way to Mike, who then posted it to the SftP list. I asked them where and when the talk was given.[5] Walda wrote back that it was Evo Morales talking about his election. She also held the mistaken belief, and had simply forwarded to Mike what she had received from Labor Exchange. I have had no response from Mike. I don't know what effort he has made, if any, to clarify matters. Nor do I have any knowledge about the group called Labor Exchange.

      In addition to writing Mike and Walda, I did another search, this time googling “In Defence of Humanity”. But it wasn't even necessary. Had I not just stopped at the ZNet posting and one or two others in the first search,[1] I would have earlier come upon the information I wanted, in the listed items that I numbered 5 and 10. 5 is the Salón Chingón website associated with the NarcoNews site and the School for Authentic Journalism, each initiated by Alberto Giordano <narconews@gmail.com>. 10 is the SourceWatch site, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy. This site, with the most information of those I saw, begins,

Morales – In Defense of Humanity
    Speech delivered by Bolivian indigenous leader Evo Morales in Spanish at the conference “En Defensa de la Humanidad” (In Defense of Humanity), held at the Siqueiros Cultural Polyforum in Mexico City on October 24, 2003.
    The conference itself has a website at http://www.defensahumanidad.org/ which contains the text of its final declaration.
[This link is invalid. -G.S.] This declaration is also available in a different format here
(http://alainet.org/active/show_news.phtml?news_id=4906).
    Two translations into English language, of the Morales speech, pasted below, some paragraphing added
[Both translations then follow.-G.S.]

Ideological conformity — an impediment to truth

      Many of us have learned – with good reason – to distrust the corporate media and have turned increasingly to a host of internet web sites and other non-corporate-controlled sources for news and analysis. Of course it’s in our interest to make all our grassroots information sources as trustworthy as possible. So it’s troubling when incorrect or otherwise misleading information is distributed by our own sources. Initially my focus was on the misunderstanding of the Morales’ speech in the Science for the People group. But then I realized it was probably fairly widespread among those of us who, because of our left-oriented ideology, tend to accept what we learn from our preferred sources without being sufficiently critical.

      In this instance various important left-oriented websites, among them Counterpunch,[6] ZNet,[7] and Countercurrents,[8] each posted the Evo Morales talk with a wrong and misleading date. Predictably, many of us came to a wrong conclusion. So far as I can tell from Mike Brand’s post,[3] Walda Katz-Fishman got the “news” item from ‘Labor Exchange’ via the ‘NY Transfer News Collective’, then posted it to the ‘league-discuss’ Yahoo group, from where Mike got it, and he then posted it to the SftP discussion group. Whether or not ‘Labor Exchange’ copied the item from ZNet I don’t know.

      Of the first 10 sites listed in the Google search,[1] the following eight failed to include the information when and where Evo Morales made that speech: 1 and 2 are ZNet; 3-Countercurrents was posted 2 days before, hence not copied from ZNet; 4-Infoshop, 6-Rastafarispeaks, 8-Trinicenter, and 9-Americas each reposted the ZNet posting; and 7-Bellaciao reposted the Countercurrents posting. Each site, and Counterpunch and doubtless many others, had a part in causing widespread misunderstanding.

      Each of us tries to comprehend the world from a particular ideological vantage point. Mine has been, for the past 35 years or so, the perspective of anarchist communism closely associated with the thinking of Peter Kropotkin.[9] No one can “escape” to a position of objective neutrality with respect to most of the important questions that relate to our lives and well-being. The corporate media of course are dominated by the ideology of capitalism. The picture of the world they project supports that ideology, influencing the thoughts of many people, including people whose ideological inclination is left-oriented but who have not yet replaced their near total reliance on corporate media sources with substantial reliance on non-corporate, radical left sources.

A single crucially important example of how corporate
media influence the ideology of much of the left

      Contrary to what I believe, most of the people I know accept as a given that hierarchical structures of power are essential for complex modern societies in today’s world. The preeminent power structures are the giant nation-states, the United States currently at the apex. U.S. corporate media, as integral parts of the power pyramid, never question in the slightest the legitimacy of the U.S. Government as an institution whose purpose is supposedly the well-being of the American people. These media present as “news” endless accounts of the functioning (and misfunctioning) of government agencies, state as well as federal: military forces, police, prisons, courts, legislatures, etc., and of individuals – often corrupt – who hold positions of power within these agencies or in the corporate world.

      The emphasis on “important people” and all the instruments of the dominant power structure is natural enough for corporate media. The fundamental status quo, i.e. the overall dominance of capitalism, is the world system they want to preserve and which, since they are a principal instrument of ideological control, they strive to make us accept, unwillingly if necessary, in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population would benefit from suitable fundamental changes in the social structure.

      I find it remarkable, though perhaps not too surprising, that much of the liberal and even radical left media share with the corporate media an emphasis on personalities and the instruments of power in their choice of “news” and commentary. Of course the nature of the commentary, especially that of the radical left, is entirely opposed to that of corporate media. But my point is that even when arguing from a radical left perspective, the framework of the discussion, the choice of what is important to argue about, has almost always been established by “the enemy”. When we do this, we are fighting on their turf, a great mistake.

What is our turf?

      Or rather, what should it be? We ought to focus as much of our energy and attention as we can on our own grassroots infrastructure, with heavy emphasis on the communication networks that are part of it. The reshaping of our society to make it serve our needs is not only opposed by all the forces of the dominant sector: our efforts in this direction are almost always either totally ignored or misrepresented and disparaged by corporate media. It’s a pathetic commentary that liberal organizations engage in fund-raising efforts so that they can place advertisements in corporate media that call on the government to act honorably and in conformity with the laws and the constitution. Instead of their campaigns being treated as news, and being published as such, they feel the need to buy publicity for their work. And of course enrich corporate coffers in the process.

      We need to have our own grassroots communication and news network fully developed to meet our needs, so that we can all be easily informed of the “news” that’s important to us. We need to know that our local efforts in our neighborhoods and towns are not just rare and isolated actions but part of a vast grassroots movement of millions of ordinary people like ourselves who are coming to recognize the destructiveness of the dominant hierarchical system and are taking concrete actions to rebuild our society. If we aren’t aware of actions beyond our own locale — and of course the corporate media prefers that we be ignorant of them — then we tend to become discouraged and feel it’s hopeless to struggle.

      Russell is a small town in Hampden County, western Massachusetts, population 1,657 (2000 census) where a major struggle of citizens to protect themselves from corporate destruction of their community appears to be emerging. Following issuance of a permit for construction of a 50 megawatt power plant that would burn 500,000 tons of wood a year, involving 800 diesel truck trips a week on the town’s historic Main Street, contamination of air, soil and water from the burning, noise pollution, destruction of animal habitat, use of 800,000 gallons of water daily from the Westfield River, etc., citizens mobilized, forming a new group, Concerned Citizens of Russell (CCR).[10] The Center for Democracy and the Constitution (CDC),[11] has worked closely with CCR, writes Adam Sacks <info@constitution411.org>, “on strategy, local organizing and networking beyond the local community, providing a context broader than Russell and a crucially important perspective: Russell is not alone.”

      Indeed, Russell is not alone. And none of us are. And our grassroots media should help us all to know in rich detail this great tapestry of constructive activity of which we are integral parts. This is our turf.


Notes

[1]
Google search on December 29, 2005.
Results 1 - 10 of about 145,000 for I Believe Only in the Power of the PeopleEvo Morales. (0.33seconds)

1. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=52&ItemID=9389

2. http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=9389§ionID=52

3. http://www.countercurrents.org/bolivia-morales221205.htm

4. http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=2005122422371948

5. http://salonchingon.com/readingroom/evomorales.php?city=ny

6. http://www.rastafarispeaks.com/community/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=186

7. http://bellaciao.org/en/article.php3?id_article=9695

8. http://www.trinicenter.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1238

9. https://www.americas.org/item_23946

10. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Morales_-_In_Defense_of_Humanity


[2] Science for the People Discussion List http://list.uvm.edu/archives/science-for-the-people.html.

[3] Mike Brand’s post to the SftP discussion list, with only the beginning and end of Evo Morales’ speech included in this note.


Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 13:32:55 EST
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From: Mike Brand <MikeNOC@AOL.COM>
Subject: Fwd: [league-discuss] FW: I Believe Only in the Power of the People
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Comment: DomainKeys? See http://antispam.yahoo.com/domainkeys
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WAqF0gHR48/Rtdsx+ajkAJPPoO2L2PJnhnPCtghnb74eOQxwj41ehCElqru
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Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 00:26:13 -0500
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-----Original Message-----
From: LaborExchange@aol.com [mailto:LaborExchange@aol.com]
Sent: Monday, December 26, 2005 8:10 PM
Subject: I Believe Only in the Power of the People

I Believe Only in the Power of the People

by Evo Morales
December 24, 2005

Thank you for the invitation to this great meeting of intellectuals "In Defense of Humanity." Thank you for your applause for the Bolivian people, who have mobilized in these recent days of struggle, drawing on our consciousness and our regarding how to reclaim our natural resources.

What happened these past days in Bolivia was a great revolt by those who have been oppressed for more than 500 years. The will of the people . . .

. . .
A great summit to say to our people that we are together, united, and defending humanity. We have no other choice, compañeros and compañeras – if we want to defend humanity we must change system, and this means overthrowing US imperialism.

That is all. Thank you very much.

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[4] Recent Bolivian struggles. An excellent book is ¡Cochabamba!: Water war in Bolivia, by Oscar Olivera, in collaboration with Tom Lewis, South End Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2004.

[5] Correspondence with Mike Brand and Walda Katz-Fishman.


Subject: Inquiry
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 22:24:16 -0600
To: Walda Katz-Fishman <wkatzfishman@igc.org>, Mike Brand <mikenoc@aol.com>

Oaxaca, Saturday, December 31, 2005
Hi Walda and Mike,
      Yesterday you, Mike, posted the talk by Hugo Chavez titled “I Believe Only in the Power of the People”, on the Science for the People archives under the heading (in part):

Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 13:32:55 EST
Sender: Science for the People Discussion List <Science-for-the-People@list.uvm.edu>
From: Mike Brand <mikenoc@aol.com>
Subject: Fwd: [league-discuss] FW: I Believe Only in the Power of the People

From: Walda Katz-fishman <wkatzfishman@igc.org>
Sender: <league-discuss@yahoogroups.com>

Some discussion followed your posting. Where and when was the talk given?
Thanks for your help.
George


Subject: [Fwd: Inquiry] -- A correction
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Sun, 01 Jan 2006 10:53:10 -0600
To: Mike Brand <mikenoc@aol.com>, Walda Katz-Fishman <wkatzfishman@igc.org>

I mistakenly typed Hugo Chavez where I meant of course Evo Morales.
George


Subject: FW: I Believe Only in the Power of the People
From: Walda Katz-fishman <wkatzfishman@igc.org>
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 10:59:55 -0500
To: <george.salzman@umb.edu>, <mikenoc@aol.com>

I went back to one source – from Labor Exchange & I’m sending it again in case there is more info,

it is actually Evo Morales of Bolivia talking about his election.

love & struggle,
walda


[6] The Counterpunch website on December 30, 2005 posted the text of the speech, mistakenly saying it was given on December 24, which suggested it was given just six days earlier than posted, i.e. December 24, 2005, instead of the true date, October 24, 2003. The introductory “Thank you” paragraph was omitted. That posting, at http://www.counterpunch.com/morales12302005.html, begins:

December 30, 2005

Our Struggle is Against US Imperialism

I Believe Only in the Power of the People

By EVO MORALES

This is the text of a speech given on December 24 at the "In Defense of Humanity" conference.

What happened these past days in Bolivia was a great revolt by those who have been oppressed for more than 500 years. The will of the people was imposed this September and October, . . .
[7] The ZNet website posted the text with the dateline December 24, 2005. That posting, at http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=52&ItemID=9389, begins:
I Believe Only In The Power Of The People
by Evo Morales                                                       December 24, 2005

Thank you for the invitation to this great meeting of intellectuals "In Defense of Humanity." Thank you for your applause for the Bolivian people, who have mobilized in these recent days of struggle, drawing on our consciousness and our regarding how to reclaim our natural resources.

What happened these past days in Bolivia was a great revolt by those who have been oppressed for more than 500 years. The will of the people was imposed this September and October, . . .


[8]Countercurrents website is at http://www.countercurrents.org/.

[9] On anarchism, see the essay, “On the need for anarchism”, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Anarch/Ned4Anar.htm. On Peter Kropotkin, see for example my references to him in the essay “Mutual Aid and Mutual Trust”, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Grass/Infra/Infra-5.htm and elsewhere on my website.

[10] Concerned Citizens of Russell will have a website about mid-January this year.

[11] The Center for Democracy and the Constitution website is at http://www.constitution411.org/. Adam G. Sacks is the Executive Director. He edits a newsletter to which you can subscribe by writing him.


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