A new world situation
A NEW PHASE OF THE WORKERS' AND SOCIAL MOVEMENT
1 The new phase
Since the end of the 1990s, a turning point in the world political situation has put new phase of activity, programme, strategy and organization on the agenda of the workers', social and popular movements.
This turning point is the result of four factors:
1 the development of the inherent contradictions of the new globalized mode of capitalist accumulation;
2 social resistance to the dominant classes' offensive;
3 the emergence of a new wave of radicalization through movements against capitalist globalization, particularly in a series of sectors of youth; and
4 in Latin America, a peasant, indigenous, and youth radicalization which is changing the relationship of forces. The new governments in Brazil and Ecuador, the electoral breakthrough in Bolivia, the radicalization of the Chavez government, and the mobilizations in Argentina and Peru are evidence of the political and social instability of the transition toward larger class confrontations. The paradox we must resolve is that this radicalization is taking place in a context where the revolutionary left is weak.
6 Reconstruction of the mass movement and the anti-capitalist left
In Argentina, the revolutionary process emerged directly from the crisis in which entire sections of the economy collapsed, following a long-term application of neo-liberal policy prescriptions. In this case the battle for survival drove the working class and poor (and middle classes) to struggle and organize themselves. This mobilization against brutal neo-liberal policies clashes with capitalist globalization through the foreign trans-national corporations, the IMF and the constant intervention by US imperialism. The Argentinazo is the spark point in Latin America where the rise of mass movement is affecting several countries (Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru...).
The peasant movement is one of most important actors in this anti-capitalist mobilization. The Brazilian MST, the CONAIE (National Indigenous Confederation of Ecuador), the French Peasant Confederation, and other movements organized in the international network Via Campesina play a key role in the fight against the WTO and neo-liberal commercial order, not to mention the Chiapas peasant and indigenous movement under the leadership of the EZLN, which was in the vanguard of the anti-neo-liberal struggle, organizing the 1996 Intergalactic Conference against Neo-Liberalism and for Humanity.
In rebuilding the mass movements and the left, attention must be paid to the decisive presence of peasants and indigenous peoples in Latin American countries such as Paraguay, where we see a rise of mobilization and struggle for land; Brazil, where the MST is demanding radical agrarian reform; Bolivia, with the peasant coca producers' struggle and the electoral breakthrough of the MAS (Movement for Socialism); in Ecuador where the CONAIE (National Indigenous Confederation of Ecuador) through its political expression, the Pachakutik Movement - New Country, is part of the current government and is a fighting front against neo-liberalism.
THE CONTRADICTIONS DESTABILIZING THE NEW IMPERIALIST ORDER
3 Latin America faced with US imperialism
Latin America is experiencing a very exceptional situation, especially in South America. It combines the depths of the socioeconomic crisis and growing political/institutional instability with the intensity of a broad and radical social resistance. The process of liberal counter-reform has lost legitimacy, especially following the eruption of a popular rebellion in Argentina, and the crisis of bourgeois political leadership is deepening. A mood of civil disobedience and insurrection has taken hold in many countries in the region. The election of Lula in Brazil and Gutiérrez in Ecuador, as well as the strong electoral showing by Evo Morales in Bolivia, are all signs of the backlash against neo-liberal policies and the bourgeois parties' crisis of credibility and attrition. The current period of the class struggle is clearly transitory in nature, marked by an open-ended battle between revolutionary and counterrevolutionary focuses fighting for a more favourable correlation of forces.
It is too soon to assess the impact throughout Latin America of the electoral victory of Lula and the PT. Since both the party and its candidate have for years represented the country's social movements, their victory is a source of renewed hope and may help spark a cycle of social struggles in Brazil and beyond. Weighing against such a scenario is the new Brazilian government's self-declared "moderation", its broad alliances with sectors of the dominant classes, decision to at least initially attempt seamless change while sustaining many of the policies of the Cardozo administration, and appeal for voters to "be patient". Meanwhile, with public disappointment with the Lula government growing as the administration consolidates its politics of "moderation", the end result could be a demobilization.
U.S. imperialism is fine-tuning its strategy with two key objectives in mind: the economic recolonization of Latin America along with the realization of a hemisphere-wide free trade plan (FTAA, Plan Puebla-Panama, foreign debt, complete subordination to the IMF and World Bank); and a military/repressive response to any popular struggles and resistance (Plan Colombia as well as military bases, DEA and CIA operations throughout the region). Washington's counterinsurgency strategy for the Americas includes a number of multilateral initiatives aimed at developing a Latin American intervention force that would act as a sort of "anti-terrorist" armed wing for the OAS. The institutional manifestations of this strategy have already begun to take form. The OAS has been given new life under the paradigm rubric of "democratic solidarity" that has been devised for the region (e.g. the Inter- American Democratic Charter approved on September 11, 2001, in Lima) that focuses on "the defence of human rights" and good "regional governance". Meanwhile, repressive institutions are being modernized, the terrorist impunity of the State is guaranteed along with the need to "cleanse" society of "disposable elements" (as in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Chiapas, Argentina and Brazil). This style of Inter- American governance is tailored to establish the right to intervention, trampling on the concepts of non-intervention and respect for national sovereignty that are still deeply engrained in many countries whose entire history has been marked by struggles against imperialist and other forms of foreign intervention.
The socio-economic crisis of what is often termed the neo-liberal model as well as the crisis of subordinated regional projects (Mercosur, Andean Community of Nations, Central American Common Market) intensified following the financial crises of 1997-1998, and Washington's push for the FTAA. This "new colonial pact" implies a massive transfer of all manner of resources into the hands of huge imperialists concerns (industrial - commercial - financial groups) and their hand full of local partners. This project incorporates monstrous corruption and the parasitic behaviour of a ruling class that prefers U.S. or Swiss bank accounts and those of offshore fiscal havens to investing in their own country. The transfer of wealth is such that it decimates entire social layers, leading to an unprecedented concentration of wealth, social disaster, economic/financial crises and increasingly protracted recessions. The resulting shock implies industrial ruin in countries such as Argentina that had achieved relative degrees of development. The region's potential has been dismantled as capitalist globalization, along with the demands of imperialist countries and their multinationals, oblige these "underdeveloped" countries to contract their economies in the logic of "structural adjustment" and foreign debt servicing. Virtually everything has been privatized or is still on the auction block: everything from oil reserves, water and electric power utilities, land, mines, ports and health services. Forty-six per cent of Latin Americans now live in poverty, with more than 40 per cent experiencing unemployment or underemployment.
The bourgeois elites' crisis of legitimacy and governability has prompted the imposition of social-control mechanisms and laws as well as a curtailment of 'civil society's' democratic rights. The supposedly democratic state is increasingly assuming the authoritarian features of a police state, repressing any sign of protest or civil disobedience. This crisis of the current phase of capitalist globalization-the neo-liberal paradigm-and the failure of 'modernizing underdevelopment', are among the key factors underlying of this loss of legitimacy and of cohesion in the prevailing discourse. Consumerist promises have lost their lure for very broad sectors of the 'middle classes', who instead are increasingly drawn into the ranks of the militant opposition as they take to the streets and cast protest votes or abstain from electoral participation. This crisis has extended to the arena of 'representative democracy'. Institutionality has been breached by the democratic struggles of the masses, which in the past three years have brought down a succession of presidents elected or re-elected at the polls, or imposed by legislative bodies.
The checklist of Washington's objectives agenda appear clear: to crush the new rise of popular combativity, the breadth of civil disobedience, and the radical character of the social struggles; to reverse the revolutionary process opened in Argentina; to co-opt, neutralize or directly sabotage the Lula administration in Brazil; to defeat Colombia's armed insurgency and ensure access to the country's oil; to destabilize the government of Chávez owing to his nationalistic discourse and alliance with Havana; to crush the Zapatista resistance in Chiapas and that of the indigenous communities, peasants, settlers and trades unionists who oppose the plunder of the Puebla-Panama Plan; to maintain the blockade and inflict final defeat on Cuba; to create conditions of 'democratic stability' that assures the reach of U.S. capital as it disputes control of the region's markets with the European Union.
We are witnessing a revival of popular mass struggles, a reorganization of the social movements and a re-emergence of class consciousness. This means the worst part of the period of setbacks is now behind us. Although problems of fragmentation and confusion remain, this process of outright recovery, in which there is an widening socialization of the diverse experiences of struggle, has a broad and radical character, linking demands and programs that incorporate economic, social, political, democratic, ecological, cultural and ethnic components. This process was not halted by the ideological intoxication of the attack on the Twin Towers and the terrorist campaign of imperialism and its media pundits. On the contrary, social polarization was accentuated following September 11, 2001. The argentinazo and the popular revolt against the attempted coup d'etat in Venezuela, as well as the growth of massive protests, strikes and caceroleos in Uruguay, and the increasingly broad radical struggles in Paraguay and Bolivia, confirm this new period of class struggle.
In these struggles by social movements, programmes and demands emerge that become visible as anti-neo-liberal, but which are part and parcel of the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist dynamic of the resistance. The long list of examples includes movements and struggles like those of the Coordination for Defense of Water and Life in Cochabamba, the Chapare coca farmers, and the peasant marches in Bolivia; the Ecuadorian CONAIE; the MST in Brazil; the Zapatistas in Chiapas; the mobilization organized by the Democratic Peoples Council of the People in Paraguay; the teachers, students and Mapuches in Chile, the Vieques squatters; and the public employees and popular movements in Colombia. The innumerable mobilizations of trade unionists, peasants (who have found a fundamental driving force in Via Campesina), unemployed workers (the example of the piqueteros has extended to several countries), the black and women's movements, activists for human rights and against impunity, students and neighbourhood activists, and even community radios all articulate the varied dimensions of this resistance that contains incipient elements of a counter-offensive. The resurgence of indigenous struggles-their organizations and demands-has been another outstanding dimension of this process, especially since the protests sparked by the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Americas. Equally significant is the resilience of the armed insurgency in Colombia, faced with an unrelenting war whose victims number in the tens of thousands.
All these struggles - which by no means are confined to the periphery of 'social outcasts' or de-proletarianization', nor can be characterized as struggles of an amorphous and eclectic 'multitude' lacking class points of reference - extend to ever broader sectors of the exploited classes, and intersect with the growing movement of resistance to capitalist globalization, the solidarity campaigns and networks, and big confrontations against the international financial institutions that mark the emergence of a renewed internationalism, whose massive expression has extended from Seattle to the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre. It is in this rebellious movement that a new radical social left is emerging that participates in the class struggle, leads rebellions, challenges the relationship of forces, and is daily engaged in the construction of a latent 'counter power'.
The argentinazo has accelerated this recomposition of the popular movement as well as its radicalization. It represents a decisive historical event in the course of the class struggle in Latin America. And although one should not underestimate the capacity of the bourgeoisie and imperialism to organize a counter-revolutionary outcome (or repressive intervention such as that of June 2002) the force of the popular movement is slowly establishing new forms of self-organization, and rank-and-file democracy.
There is a thread running through the mass struggle in Argentina, and throughout Latin America, with the protests in Seattle and Genoa, with the movement against capitalist globalization, as well as with the insurgencies, civil disobedience, protests and the formidable radicalization of ever broader layers of youth on a world-wide scale. In Latin America, this process especially includes women who are workers, unemployed, and heads of households, who play an essential role in the recomposition of a radical social left.
The extreme polarization of the class struggle sharpens the relationships and the debates within the Latin American left regarding what strategy to follow. More importantly, it helps to narrow the gap between social resistance and an alternative political project, while the need to link them in a strategic perspective of taking power assumes a new sense of urgency. The schematic understanding of 'reform or revolution' must today give way to the urgency of reform and revolution to "transform the prevailing order", as Rosa Luxemburg proposed.
A gap also continues to widen between the radical left, with its unquestionable commitment to confronting and breaking with the established order, and that part of the left whose strategic perspective is now limited to competing for power within the confines of existing institutions. This dichotomy cuts across the government of Lula in Brazil and that of Gutiérrez in Ecuador, and may well confront the Frente Amplio in Uruguay; should this hypothesis be confirmed even if at this stage the predominant option of these governments remains neo-liberalism.
Nevertheless, in Latin America the dimension of the crisis and imperialist dominance has acquired such magnitude that the space for 'progresismo' needs footnote has evaporated. The disastrous experience of the government of the Alliance in Argentina is the best example. And when there appears a timid process of nationalism and social populism, as in Venezuela, the right, the reactionary sectors of the Church, the military and the multinationals move to destabilize it with the backing of imperialism, ultimately radicalizing the situation.
Documents : International Committee Reports
Venezuela is experiencing a revolutionary process characterized by partial break with the former regime in the political, economic and social spheres, as well as a partial break with imperialism. Venezuela is on the path towards social transformation, with the hope of linking this project to other transformations across Latin America.
The development in recent years of very significant public health projects, literacy and school enrollment campaigns, the prioritization of forming cooperatives, agricultural reform and reforms to the commercial fishing system are all important signs of the social priorities driving this process.
In the international realm, Venezuela has decided to confront US imperialism (rejection of Plan Colombia, rejection of FTAA, refusal of US soldiers on its territory, closer ties with Cuba, condemnation of imperialist wars). Venezuela is becoming more and more of a point of reference for the global justice movement.
Popular mobilization is a decisive element that has made these political breaks possible: whether fighting the coup d'Etat in April 2002, or carrying out the community organizing that makes all the social programmes (education, health, housing, water, etc.) possible.
The process is unfolding within a framework of repect for bourgeois democratic institutions. Despite the efforts to transform the state, the institutions remain marked by clientelist and corrupt practices, which are an obstacle to the policies decided by the government.
The revolutionary process has not yet become a revolutionary victory for the oppressed classes. The resistance has come from the Venezuelan right, but also from certain sectors of the 'Chavist' majority. The process is still disputed between revolutionary dynamics and tendencies oriented towards loyally managing capitalism.
- Undertake a campaign of information and solidarity with the Venezuelan revolutionary process: open a web page dedicated to Venezuela on our FI sites; political and trade union exchanges; publicity for the positive results in terms of social transformation; importance of the Venezuelan experience that we can distinguish from the social-liberal option; and the fundamental importance of popular mobilization, if one is willing to confront the ruling classes.
- In the context of our solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution, we support the sectors that make the radicalization of the revolution the central axis of their political intervention. We will make contact with these sectors in order to plan political co-operation, to invite them to our international meetings, and to discuss with them our conception of party-building and the role of an international.
- The World Social Forum in 2006, which will hold one of its parts in Venezuela in January 2006, will be a key moment for the global justice movement to strengthen its links and express its solidarity with the popular organizations in Venezuela.
- Our comrades should get involved in activities linked to the Bolivarian process, like the Congress of People's Power and the World Festival of Youth (August 2005). We intervene in our trade unions to promote the new trade union federation, the UNT, and trade union solidarity actions including where possible inviting trade unionists to solidarity activities.
- We propose to contribute to the Venezuelan process our best experiences in participatory democracy, in particular through collaboration with our Brazilian comrades.