Latin America and strategies for taking power, Antonio
Latin America: Strategies for Taking Power Antonio
Structure of the report: Introduction , I Historical Review of strategies II Holloway vs. Marxist Debate III Current Concrete Strategies
Why Latin America?
If we agree that all history hitherto has been the history of class struggle, then we can say that the history of Latin America has been the history of resistance to global capitalism and its twin brother imperialism, ever since the embryonic European bourgeoisie found the need to find other markets, resort back to primitive accumulation, destroy entire civilisations, enslave tens of millions, and embark upon a hurricane-ridden seaway that would transform humanity for ever.
Phil Hearse said: “On no continent is neoliberalism so widely rejected as in Latin America, and no where has the resurgence of the Left been so powerful. The election of Evo Morles in Bolivia and the evolution of the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela are hugely ideologically important. Whatever the direction and eventual outcome of these governments, they have already done an enormously important thing –given the arithmetic content to the algebraic formula that ‘another world is possible’, the only possible one is socialism.
Socialism is not the only possible alternative. There are at least two other ‘world’s possible’: 1-party and state leaders attempt anew to impose socialism from above 2-a world that would resort to barbarism, self-destruction of the human species; this possible world would most likely not come about by political processes in Latin America alone; rather, it can be determined by the upcoming imperialist wars, climatic catastrophe and environmental degradation, ethnic strife. Socialism is not the only answer. Rather, Socialism is the best answer.
Socialism as a process
What we see happening in Latin America today is a renewal and rise of traditional Left wing forces which encounter new mobilised players which have developed over the last five centuries; that is to say: forces which have developed throughout the course of imperial capitalism. In Spanish we used to talk about “un giro hacia la izquierda” (a turn to the Left). But I think it is much more than that. What we see in Latin America is:
1- a continent where popular and revolutionary forces are mobilised towards resistance; these include radical anti-systemic forces which have developed both inside global capitalism and outside the traditional circles of engagement and therefore:
2- the open competition of political ideas (the largest one being the Zapatista-Bolivarian debate (or the Holloway vs. Hearse debate), which we will get into latter on)
3- the development of new strategies to take power
I Historical review of struggles and strategies from Haiti 1805 until today.
The history of resistance in Latin America prior to the 18th century can be summarised as the history of resistance to European expansion, the struggle for survival, the fight for the abolition of slavery and all the other injustices imposed by the European-racist-patriarchical-heterosexist-capitalist world system. (combined package). Latin American history as essential to understand the development of global capitalism.
A. The first organised resistance to what we can properly call capitalism can be found among the black slaves, especially in the Caribbean. The most saturated period of slave revolts coincided in Europe with the process which culminated in the French Revolution. B. Haitian Republic 1805, C.R.L. James’ “The Black Jacobins C. What would have happened if the salves would not have taken the power and seized the state? D. Questions: 1-What does it mean to defend the anti-colonial/anti-imperialist project? 2-How does a revolutionary state survive (can it survive?) in the world capitalist system dominated by the same Europeans capitalist class which created these societies.
E. Nineteenth century struggles and those prior to the eighteenth century are important because they influence the way struggles are manifested today.
F. Formation of trade unions, legal and illegal, and the first modern working class organisations take shape. This included the creation of political parties which were identified as anarchist, socialist, communist or revolutionary nationalist/anti-imperialist. The strategies at the time were focused upon the cross-ethnic unity of workers, plantation owners and peasants against the oligarchy that ruled since the time of independence. These included: Cuba and Puerto Rico during the Cuban-Spanish-American War of 1898; 1910 with the Mexican Revolution and uprising of Emiliano Zapata in southern Mexico against the dictatorship of Profirio Diaz, and that of Agusto Sandino in Niaragua against US intervention between 1927 and 1933. After that we started to see the mobilisation of traditional proletarian forces coinciding with the revolts in Europe. The difference being that the working class movement and the anti-imperialist movements often shared an alliance. But the most significant step during this point of history was the alliance that was formed among indigenous, peasant and industrial workers on the continent. This was the essence of the revolutionary spirit in Latin America.
G. After Stalinisation of the communist movement, the communist parties of Latin America began to take on a petty bourgeoisie character. Dependent on Moscow, Western Europe and the even US, the communist parties were not able to foresee the points of resistance and the ever-evolving agents of radical social change. So we saw awkward alliances being made throughout Latin America. For instance in Cuba we saw how the PSP (Cuba’s Stalinist party) actually held Fulgencio Batsita as their favourite candidate during the first free elections.
H. After the second World War, we did see genuine attempts of parties to take power and change the system, the first ended tragically with US funded intervention in Guatemala. The Arbenz government which was the first attempt to create a Keynesian-inspired social democracy was supported by popular mobilisation and those movements which supported indigenous rights and agrarian reform. The years following the coup which toppled Arbenz was characterised by conservative/reactionary and brutal dictatorships, pro-oligarchical, anti-democratic and anti-indigenous. One of the historical figures who witnessed the coup of 1954 was celebrated hero of socialist revolution Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who later met Fidel Castro and around 30 other revolutionaries who set off in the boat Granma from Mexico to lead the Cuban revolution against the Batista dictatorship.
I Cuba This coming 1 January 2009 we will be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the triumph of the Cuba revolution. There is lots to say about this experience but what I think is most relevant to us now is how this revolution made orthodox revolutionary Marxists to re-think about strategy and change. The communist party did not support the popular revolt and the young Rebel Army led by Fidel, Raul, Camilo and Che until after the triumph. The Cuban revolution was not the work of the organised working class in the traditional sense, it was a revolution of peasants, the unemployed and informal workers, Blacks, the poor, anti-imperialists and then illegal trade unions; it was a revolution for democratic rights against a dictatorship and against US imperialism although this was not articulated until after nationalisation programmes and the US-backed response of the Bay of Pigs invasion. This revolution inspired other attempts and decades later inspired some revolutionaries to organise armed groups of resistance. Che was certainly inspired by Mao Tse Tung and his presence in history sparked a tendency adopted in the late 60’s and seventies –foquismo, which was practised in all over Latin America: Peru, Bolivia, Brazil etc.
J. Chile During the early 1970s, we came experience another strategy which for many reasons failed and which today feeds us a wealth of lessons. That was the experience of the Unidad Popular under the murdered President Salvador Allende in Chile. Chile is often referred to as the first neoliberal experiment.
This experience encouraged revolutionaries to abandon the electoral process and to take up arms. The 1970s saw together with the installation of various dictatorships the rise of guerilla movements identified as Marxist-Leninists. We should remember that all struggle to take power from the Left, was a struggle which was found in the framework of the Cold War between both US and Soviet imperialism.
K. The last successful attempt to seize the state was the experience of the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979. This revolution was typical of the dependent world of the periphery and although people of the traditional working classes were involved, it was mostly a revolution of the peasants and disposed, often inspired by the teachings of liberation theology and the experience of Vietnam and Cuba ….a revolt against US corporate imperialism. In Bensaid’s article on the Reutrn of Stategy, we are informed about the development of a tendency to combine the ideas of a Prolonged People’s War (Tomas Borge) and the emphasis on the proletariat (Jaime Wheelock).
K. As a whole, the history of 20th Century revolution in Latin America informs us of the validity of Permanent Revolution, the need for the working classes and the disposed to lead the fight against imperialism. When a revolutionary or even just a progressive movement wants to take power in Latin America, it must always contend with global capitalist system generally and US military intelligence more specifically. But it also informs us about the conditions under which the progressive movements must work in order to radically change society.
II Change the World: The Holloway vs. Phil Hearse Debate We should go back to Franz Fanon Critique of orthodox Marxism: Strong arguments and weak arguments. Postmodernism vs. A-modernism; A. Neoliberal consensus Resistance actually began during the 1980s, with the debt crisis. B. Academic defeatism after the Soviet Union; single neoliberal trajectory: 1.“End of History” Francis Fukiyama, 2. Utopia Disarmed by C. Castñeda, M. Castells, Hardt and Negri : focused on localised struggle only; the idea that the state -a modern structure- will eat you up and corrupt you 3. Why Cuba survived: a-it was not dependent on USSR military infrastructure b-Popular support c-anti-neoliberal discourse d-adjusted its political-economic system
C. 1994 Zapatistas: Subcomandante Marcos 1. Strong points (anti-neoliberal, all inclusive, community orientated) 2. and weak points (ironically authoritarian, example cannot be reproduced beyond Chiaps) 3. European youth glorifying the image and figure of Subcomandante 4. La otra campanha, which I’ll talk about later. D. Argentina 2001-2002 1. The beginning of the end of neoliberal legitimacy. 2. Rich tradition of resistance but lack of a party, lack of a cohesive political project: “Que se vayan todos?”
E. Brazil The election of Lula in 2002 made all of us happy, (large country, working class candidate, fifth economy of the world) even though by the time he was elected, we already knew of the concessions he was making in order to make it to state leadership. There are a few things we should take into consideration while we think about how and when Lula came to power:
1. The PT was a party that took decades to build and it was based upon different tendencies 2. DS was our section; Articulacao was Lula’s 3. Lula did not have an absolute majority, power was to be shared with the traditional oligarchs. 4. Support from MST This is another strategy we need to look at (ELABORATE) 5. Paying back the debts, 6. Social indicators have not improved
7. PT good points: Participatory Budget, Welfare and land reform; university policies favouring the poor.
F. Venezuela (1999) Chavez supported from popular urban movements of the poor informal sector; popularised the constitution: a progressive movement within the military apparatus, a popular campaign to nationalise business, the rejection of neoliberal policies 11 April 2003 military response Announced PSUV 2007
G. We can see other examples of taking power today; Nepal -Coalition Maoist- Nepalese Congress Party (against land reform, was pro-monarchy, etc.).
H. Zapatista strategies: the problems with it: 1)isolated case, 2) no coordination nationally 3 ) anti-state ignoring the state
III Current Concrete Strategies: Venezuela and Bolivia
A. Three groups of countries in Latin America: Social liberal, Reactionary-Conservative, Socialist leaning 1. Social Liberal: Argentina (Kitchner and wife), Chile (Bachelet), Brazil (Lula), Uruguay (Tabares and Frente Amplio)..these are social democrats of the 21st Century, they are neoliberals who won on an anti-neoliberal ticket. 2. Reactionary Conservative: Colombia, Peru, Mexico; more state repression 3. Socialist leaning: Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador (and each of these are different, elaborate)
B. Events are unraveling quickly, sometimes too fast for our analysis 1. Document on the DS (embarrassing) but this document gives us an idea of what can happen…..explain the pressures of the bourgeoisie on the PT, 2. Expulsion of three government officials from our current. 3. PT loses in Porto Alegre 4. PSOL -And this party is not without its problems-, Heloisa, Enlace, next elections, next month etc.
C. The Bolivarian Revolution: 1-Based on Democratic rights, more inclusion into the democratic process, 2-Citizens and Military (Think about coup) 3-Immediate Reforms 4-International (Regional) Solidarity 5-Parallel political structures (municipal councils versus consejos populares) 6-Nationalisation 7-Building counter-hegemony: Culutral (Telesur), Trade regimes: ALBA) 8-Referendum 2007 (for constitutional reform). Why did Chavez loose?
D. Mexico: La otra campanha.
E. Bolivia 1. Evo Morales and theCoca Movement 2. MAS 3. Referéndum and Partition 4. What’s next? Armed intervention in the Eastern provinces?
Conclusions: 1) No royal road, no single path
2) There are two other large lessons we can draw from the experiences of the 20th Century: that is (a) we can combine strategies speaking to transitional demands and (b) the dialect between reform and revolution. The need to emphasise transitional demands and take into consideration while looking forward to the placement of workers in power together with regional……
3) The need for popular participation and popular mobilisation
4) The need for a new kind of party; abandoning Euro-centric models, combining social movements into the leadership; maintaining autonomy, create a formula of when to take power in democracies..