Completing the Revolution? The United States and Bolivia’s Long Revolution


  • Kenneth D. Lehman Hampden-Sydney College



Bolivia’s “long revolution”, democracy, Evo Morales administration, National Revolution of 1952, neoliberal economic policy, US assistance to Bolivia, US interests and interventions in Bolivia


James Malloy’s 1970 study, still one of the most systematic analytical attempts in English to understand Bolivia’s 1952 National Revolution, argued that the revolution remained “uncompleted.” However, the election and subsequent policies of the Morales government after 2005 moved Bolivia much closer to completing two important stated objectives of the revolution, as yet unfulfilled when Malloy wrote: inclusion of all Bolivians in the political system and increased national autonomy. While it is premature to call Bolivia’s revolution “completed,” the shift in the locus of power from Europeanized elites to more broadly popular forces and the growing independence of Bolivia from outside influence and direction under Morales are key achievements of what might be called Bolivia’s “Long Revolution.” Giving close attention to these two fundamental achievements—inclusion and autonomy—this paper provides a preliminary examination of the complicated and often paradoxical role the United States has played in Bolivia’s long historical trajectory since April 1952. Directly and indirectly, through imposition and suggestion, purposefully and unintentionally, by providing assistance and at the same time stimulating fierce nationalist resistance, through design and through the twists and turns of historical contingency—the United States has contributed to Bolivia’s slow revolutionary transformation. But patterns of imposition and resistance continue and this paper argues that it is time for the United States to examine its assumptions so that the two nations can escape the cyclical patterns of the past.


Author Biography

Kenneth D. Lehman, Hampden-Sydney College

Squires Professor of History

Author of Bolivia and the United States: A Limited Partnership