Rethinking the Rural Roots
of the 1952 Revolution
Bolivia’s revolution of April 1952 united compet-
ing groups and visions under the shadow of a
rapidly disintegrating political order. The insur-
rection itself was a brief, relatively bloodless a√air, but its
popular intensity surprised even the revolution’s leaders.∞
Three days of fighting by miners, workers, party militants,
townspeople, the police, and discontented members of the
army in all of Bolivia’s major cities ended in the collapse of
the military.≤ Both elite and plebeian women joined the
revolutionary commandos responsible for the insurrec-
tion’s triumph. In the course of the fighting, civilians col-
lected weapons that had been discarded by the police or
soldiers. Later, they established popular militias in fac-
tories, mines, rural communities, and provincial towns;
these armies of the people eventually o√set the police and
the army, taking over their internal responsibilities (see
figure 24).≥ As power shifted in the countryside and the cit-
ies, peasants mobilized for labor rights and land. Against
this tumultuous backdrop, leftist and conservative factions
of the mnr battled for control of the state.
Like Latin America’s other twentieth-century revolu-
tions, Bolivia’s 1952 Revolution is striking for the compet-
ing hopes, interests, and demands that diverse actors in-
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