What Do Bolivia and the Ukraine Tell Us about Revolutions?

In Eurozine, Tatiana Zhurzhenko compares the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia and the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

The people had come from all over Bolivia to the capital La Paz. Playing music and dancing in the streets, their smiling faces full of hope and enthusiasm, they were celebrating the victory of the leftwing Aymara Indian presidential candidate, Evo Morales. Bolivia’s first ever indigenous and working class president has promised a new start for a country drowning in poverty and corruption: “We have won and a new page in Bolivia’s history has been turned”, he told the jubilant masses.

As a Ukrainian, I had a feeling of déjà vu watching these television images from Bolivia. Just over a year ago the same joy and enthusiasm was witnessed on the streets of Kiev. People had risen up against fraudulent elections and a corrupt political elite. They took to the streets to insist on their choice, stayed there in the cold for days and nights on end – and won. Like the Bolivians, they also believed that they had finally elected a “people’s president”, one who was truly Ukrainian.

I will not touch upon the painful question of what remains of these hopes today. Rather, my considerations emerge from another kind of discomfort, one that has to do with the power of the dominant discourse and the authority of the political expertise that puts labels such as “authoritarian regime”, “democratic opposition”, and “peaceful revolution” on contemporary politics in order to sell it to the public. Compare events in Ukraine and Bolivia and you will understand what I mean.