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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A critique of the Latin American "new left" governments from the left

The always interesting James Petras addresses
at Voltaire Net the issue of the limits and frustration of the "revolutionary" governments in Latin America. It is a very critical article that emphasizes how far from socialism these governments are and how this is triggering increasing protests by the grassroots that are accused of "trotskism" or even of helping the reaction.

It is a very long article that I can hardly synthesize here but basically he's saying that these governments, in their diversity, are mostly populist developmentalist (nationalist) soft capitalist systems under a red banner, much like China (red outside, white inside), which have not even realized the much needed agrarian reform, with the partial exception of Venezuela.

Petras also mentions how the strong revolutionary movement that existed a few years ago in Mexico has fragmented and looks powerless against the narco-feudalization of the country for that reason. In this context, he also makes the controversial claim that mafias offer a way out of poverty by means of "armed struggle", which has obviously no pretense to have political implications but may be true for the subjectivity of the individual slum-dweller and his/her survival and potential success immediate needs.

Possibly the conclusions can be those outlined in this paragraph:

The workers and peasants are increasingly recognizing that they are not the beneficiaries of the economic successes, growth and stability, celebrated by the leaders of the developmental regimes. The left must encourage, organize and capitalize on the masses’ rising expectations for higher living standards in the face of record high commodity prices. In recent years, too often, the left has fallen prey to the ‘theater’ of a self-described “new left” and its “anti-neo-liberal” rhetoric, even as it increases the presence of multi-national capital (MNC). The new “state-MNC” partnerships exclude the working class from the profits and revenue which, instead, are distributed between new rising middle professional and technocratic classes and foreign investors.
Criticism of the Left by the Left, as it should be. The Right is obviously not out of the process yet but it is just a dead weight, unable to produce any socially meaningful project, just more robbery and exploitation of people and Earth, something that has become simply unbearable. So, in a sense, we can say that the Right is out of the process and fatally damaged by its own incapability of generating happiness.

However the institutional Left is also limited by its own subservience to Capital and their own political liabilities, including personality cult and lack of revolutionary ambition. On the other hand it's difficult to imagine how such peripheral economies (though every day less peripheral probably) can lead the revolutionary process, that at this stage can only be global.

Though maybe I'm wrong in this.


Kepler said...

Very interesting article. Real socialists are so hard to find...por qué será? It is like trying to catch the wind.
Agrarian reform in Venezuela: the government claims to have "recovered" over 2 million hectares.

Here pro-government:

Do you believe it?
Do you think Venezuelan farmers are better off now?

I will write more on the agrarian reformS in Venezuela next month or so.

As for socialist revolutions in Latin America: it really sounds like the coming of the Messiah

"Criticism of the Left by the Left, as it should be."
I suppose the Left does not have a right to criticize the Right. Or does it?
(not that I believe this division of right and left makes any sense in the XXI century...specially as the Lefties keep telling us any failed system is not really them and any of their leaders who start screwed it up are not like the real left)

Maju said...

"Real socialists are so hard to find...por qué será?"

Because of money. That's why states also have to be destroyed and the economy transformed radically.

But in any case, the Capitalist system is suffering from terminal illness, so we need a new mule, because this one cannot really pull the cart anymore.

But sure, there's a severe lack of real people (i.e. not subservient to money), specially in power positions. It's a serious problem we'll have to solve somehow.

Kepler said...

There's the rub.

Maju, you have realised those who really tried to destroy the states in the latest decades screwed up things on a big big scale, right?

Does Khmer Rouge ring a bell to you?
A state cannot collapse less you want massive destruction of the population. And why would you like that? We are not living in Paleolithic times, man. We are just way way way way too many to want to go back to those times.

Maju said...

"Maju, you have realised those who really tried to destroy the states in the latest decades screwed up things on a big big scale, right?"

Destroy? Who has tried to destroy the state? Some liberals want to lower taxes for the wealthy and pollution restrictions but keep the police and the army as fat as possible (or even more).

Let's face it: the state is the army. And whatever else it does is merely accessory. The elite needs troops to make sure that the system of exploitation they control is stable, to make sure that property deeds are respected (at least by the poor) and that ration coupons... erm... money is at least backed by lead, as not anymore by gold.

That's the state once you take off the clothes and crumb redistribution to the worst-off slaves. You can read a good synthesis in Kropotkin's essays: laws in defense of private property and the very state apparatus and guns to enforce those laws. There are also laws against murder and violence but these essentially serve to defend the state and property of the oligarchs.

Could another state be possible? The USSR showed us that not really: that, given a state, an opportunist elite would use it for their own selfish purposes.

So the only choice is for the people to take all power at all levels, specially at lower levels. That's democracy in the real sense of the word: popular power.

However I admit that it's difficult to implement and, meanwhile, the states continue causing trouble and sustaining exploitation by some elites.