Global Justice School 2005

Globalization and political recomposition II

Michael, 5 June 2005


Social Movements and the Left in Latin America


1)      Decades of neoliberal policies in Latin America

    Process of 'recolonization' via the IMF and system of foreign debt

    Social consequences: monstrous increase in social inequalities, poverty, social exclusion, unemployment, violence, social apartheid

·        Latin America as 'Swissindia'


2)      Main thrust of social situation during the last five years

·        Massive protests and rebellions against neoliberal policies

·        Growth of major social movements

·        No adequate political expression of social revolt


3)      Popular insurgencies: semi-insurrectional popular insurrections since 2001:

·        Argentina 2001 (De la Rua), Venezuela 2003 (anti-Chávez junta), Bolivia 2004 ('Goni'), Ecuador 2005 (Gutierrez)

·        Four presidents involved in neoliberal policies have had to flee their own indignant peoples by helicopter: unprecedented in Latin American history!

·        Across-the-board rejection of bourgeois political elites ('¡Que se vayan todos!')

·        But no political alternative (except in Venezuela)

·        Since politics abhors a vacuum, elite figures (supposedly less reactionary or repressive) succeed the ousted presidents


4)      Social forces participating in rebellions and anti-neoliberal social mobilizations:

·        Labour movement (in general not in vanguard of mobilizations)

o       Still controlled by 'yellow' (Argentine CGT) or neo-reformist (Brazilian CUT) bureaucracies

o       But major strikes and local struggles and some radicalized sectors: self-managed factory occupations in Argentina, founding of UNT in Venezuela, COB mobilizations in Bolivia, etc.

·        Peasant and indigenous movements

o       Each time the major protagonist of social and sometimes political struggles: EZLN in Chiapas, CONAIE in Ecuador, coca farmers in Brazil, MST in Brazil

o       MST: the biggest social movement in Latin America today, with roots in 'liberation Christianity' and focus on grassroots direct action — a lesson for Marxists!

·        Middle classes pauperized by economic policies: one of the main components of urban popular masses that overthrew presidents in Argentina and Ecuador

·        Unemployed and poor masses of urban peripheries

o       Most advanced manifestation: piquetero movement in Argentina

o       Present in all urban rebellions, e.g. in Los Altas near La Paz, Bolivia


5)      Centre-left governments

·        Until now the major political expression of social insurgency: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay — and soon Mexico (Lopez Obrador) and Nicaragua (FSLN)

o       Some more abjectly obedient to imperialism (Lagos in Chile), some less (Kirchner in Argentina), in between (Brazil), or uncertain (Uruguay)

o       But no real break with IMF policies, just some 'social' help for 'poor'

·        Brazil: the worst disappointment

o       Election of trade-union activist as president at head of self-defined anti-capitalist PT

o       Social-liberal government, continuity in economic policies (Henrique Meirelles of Bank Boston as Central Bank president) and IMF programmes

o       Increased social concerns: Hunger Zero, loans to small farmers, support to solidarity project of unemployed

o       Dialogue not repression with social movements (MST)

o       Divisions in Brazilian left (PT/PSOL) and FI section (Socialist Democracy)

·        Fractures in left in other countries

o       Argentina: pro-Kirchner left (Barrios de Pie, Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, CTA) and anti-Kirchner left (Izquierda Unida (PCA + MST), MAS, PO, etc.)

o       Chile: split in old Popular Unity between SP (in neoliberal pact) & CP (in opposition)

o       Bolivia: less deep division between more institutional left (MAS) and left engaged only in mobilizations (COB, indigenous movements)


6)      The main exception: Venezuela

·        Chávez government: bonapartist? populist? In any event anti-imperialist and in process of radicalization

·        Still no adequate political expression of movement beyond Chávez and some of his associates; no party as radical as movement

·        Existing radical left — OIR — limited in influence except in new UNT union federation