Graduate Review


The twentieth century is a century riddled with “isms,” such as communism, capitalism, and imperialism. Most of these are usually discussed within the European context. However, Europe was not the only location susceptible to these “isms.” In 1952, Bolivia experienced a revolution similar to the size and scale of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. At the heart of the revolution was the MNR, known in English as the National Revolutionary Movement, a populist party that gained traction in Bolivia during the Chaco War which spanned from 1932 to 1935. The MNR was a coalition of middle-class mestizos, Indians who had not received equality under the law, and mine workers. On April 9, 1952, the populist party, headed by peasants and miners, initiated an armed takeover of the Bolivian government. Victor Paz Estenssoro, who took control in Bolivia, sought to establish a new government. The new government’s goals were, according to Paul Lewis, “universal suffrage, with votes for the previously excluded Indians; land reform, involving the elimination of the latifundio and the redistribution of land to peasant families; nationalization, of the three largest tin mining companies, with labor’s participation in new management; and the dissolution of the armed forces.”1 This paper will analyze and elucidate the Bolivian Revolution from its infancy in the wake of the Chaco War to its demise when the MNR was overthrown by a military coup in 1964. Moreover, this work seeks to unpack the sweeping term “populism” and what the term looks like in action. Populism as a political philosophy proved to be a weak and unclear platform for the MNR to stand on, thus leaving it susceptible to external forces that would alter and curb its agenda. Ultimately, the MNR lost power, because it was unable to put together a sturdy political system. Thus, turning the wheel of political instability in Bolivia and continuing the cyclical history of political revolution.



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