Notes on the Revolution / Column 27
November 4, 2019
The global anti-imperialist movement: Can it advance?
By Charles McKelvey
Some 1,332 delegates representing 789 organizations from 86 countries participated in the Antiimperialist Meeting of Solidarity for Democracy and against Neoliberalism, held in Havana from November 1 to November 3, 2019, convoked by the Cuban Institute for Friendship among the Peoples (ICAP) and other Cuban organizations.
Anti-imperialist popular movements emerged during the course of the twentieth century, protesting the imperialist policies of the United States and other global powers, which intervened in the affairs of sovereign nations in order to access the natural resources, labor, and markets of the world. After the entrance of the world-system into a sustained structural crisis in the 1970s, the global powers in the 1980s turned to the Right, imposing neoliberalism on the world, thereby eliminating the modest protections of national industry and national currencies that had been put in place by developmentalist national projects. With this global turn to the Right, the Third World proposal, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1974, for a New International Economic Order that transformed the economic relations established in the colonial era, was stillborn; and the popular movements for social change were confused and in disarray.
In the late 1990s, anti-imperialist movements were born again, fueled by a popular rejection of the anti-popular consequences of neoliberal policies. In Latin America, there were major anti-imperialist gains in the period 1998 to 2014. In Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, people’s movements took political power. Declaring themselves to be constructing what they called “socialism for the twenty-first century,” they took decisive measures to obtain greater control of natural resources and to channel government funds to the social and economic rights and needs of the people. These nations joined with persistent Cuba to form ALBA; and with progressive governments in Brazil and Argentina to form UNASUR and CELAC, regional associations that were designed to promote cooperative economic and cultural relations among the nations of the region and with China, seeking through such South-South cooperation to reduce dependency on economic relations with the United States, which were based on coercion and exploitation.
The process of change suffered setbacks in the period 2015 to 2018. The Chavists lost the parliamentary elections in Venezuela in 2015. The party of Cristina Kirchner lost the elections in Argentina in 2015. In Brazil, Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff was ousted by a parliamentary coup d’état in 2016, and former President Lula was unjustly imprisoned in a politicized process. In Ecuador, the Citizen Revolution fell to a Trojan Horse strategy, adopted by Lenin Moreno following his election in 2017. The United States undertook economic aggressions against Venezuela beginning in 2014 and intensified in 2018; and it was able to influence some governments to follow its directions, creating contradictions within CELAC by 2019.
Some believed that a so-called progressive cycle in Latin America was coming to an end. But such views were not taking into account the unsustainability of the restauration project of the Right. When the Right captured political space, it did so through illegitimate means, without announcing its intentions to derail the process of change and to return to the neoliberal agenda, already rejected and discredited in the eyes of the people. Once in power, the Right revealed its antipopular agenda, thus provoking popular opposition.
Political events and tendencies during the past year indicate the unsustainability of the project of the Right and the continuing political viability of the anti-imperialist project. Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia have been able to persist, in spite of U.S. efforts at destabilization and regime change. A progressive party won in Mexico. A coalition that includes Cristina Kircher has returned to power in Argentina. The neofascist and neoliberal government in Brazil is unpopular. The peoples of Chile and Ecuador are in rebellion, in rejection of neoliberal policies.
Many delegates at the anti-imperialist meeting discerned and applauded the new developments that indicate that the progressive wave in Latin America will continue, in spite of setbacks of the period 2015-2018. Manuel Bertholdi, from Argentina and representing the International Assembly of the Peoples, observed that further gains for the antiimperialist movement are not guaranteed; they will occur only if certain conditions are met. One such condition is that the movement must, in his words, “win the heart of our people.” This insightful comment suggests that the movement must develop effective strategies for communicating with and educating the people and bringing more on board to an anti-imperialist commitment. However, during the three-day meeting, there was little discussion and dialogue concerning effective strategies for the education of the people, other than declaring that the anti-imperialist organizations should use the technology of the Internet and the social media more effectively. Much time was consumed by delegates denouncing injustices, even though all present were already in agreement, giving the impression that each organization wanted to get on record its public denunciation. And much energy was consumed with the chanting of slogans. The three-day meeting was a celebration, and indeed, it was a joy to behold, but it did not have much in the way of critically reflective discussion, debate, and analysis concerning how to advance with the necessary task of winning the heart of our peoples.
Manuel Bertholdi also identified another prerequisite for continued gains of the movement, namely, that the movement needs to formulate a revolutionary theory. Ralph Gonzales, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, formulated the foundation for an anti-imperialist revolutionary theory, when he declared that the most important conflict of our time is between imperialism and the victims of imperialism, which makes necessary, he said, the building of strong anti-imperialist alliances. But like the issue of effective popular education, there was limited interchange, discussion, debate, and analysis on the question of the formulation of a revolutionary anti-imperialist theory.
Near the end of the conference, a delegate from Chile noted that 40% of the discourses concerned matters of which the delegates were already convinced, but there was little discussion concerning how socialism for the twenty-first century could bring about the end of neoliberalism. The Chilean delegate seemed concerned about the dynamics of the three-day event. He was respectful toward the conference organizers, but determined to put forth an interesting practical proposal. He suggested that, rather than discourses denouncing injustices and affirming solidarity from the various organizations, that the delegations from the different nations ought to report on their experiences, so that all would learn from one another. In this sense, Homero Acosta, Secretary of the Cuban Council of State, provided an exemplary presentation in Saturday’s commission on Democracy, Sovereignty, and Anti-Imperialism. He provided a succinct yet thorough explanation of the recent constitutional process in Cuba, thus enabling delegates to learn from the Cuban experience.
If the Meeting organizers were to take up the suggestion from Chile and adopt in the future the format of the presentation of the different national experiences by the delegations, perhaps it would create more space for debate and reflection on such important questions as strategies of communication and popular education as well revolutionary anti-imperialist theory.
In many respects, the Antiimperialist Meeting of Solidarity for Democracy and against Neoliberalism was a great success, and it has been celebrated as such by the Cuban press. The Meeting demonstrated that Cuba is held in high regard by the peoples and social movements of the world, which arrived in Havana to declare their support for Cuba and other just causes. In receiving the delegates, the approach of the Cuban organizers was to give space to each represented organization and delegate to express themselves, and to have their causes included in the plan for action. In addition, the approach was to call for the necessary unity of all the movements on the basis of common principles.
At the same time, however, the Meeting raises questions with respect to the global anti-imperialist movement. Is it a movement with a platform but without a revolutionary theory and a manifesto? It is a movement that has the capacity to convoke committed activists to take to the street and shout slogans, but not necessarily a capacity to communicate to a strong majority of their peoples the urgent necessity of their platform? Are the antiimperialist organizations capable of forming the people into an unstoppable political force? Should the Communist Party of Cuba, as the vanguard political party of a vanguard anti-imperialist nation, a party that knows how to educate and guide its people but not impose, play a more active role in educating and guiding anti-imperialist organizations in the world, without imposing, on the basis of its considerable revolutionary experience and the high regard with which it is held by the peoples of the world?
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, in his address on November 3 at the closing ceremony of the Antiimperialist Meeting, expressed well the challenges that the global antiimperialist movement confronts, when he asserted that “you have called today for the unity of the political forces and the social and popular movements of the Left and to continue forming consciences, generating ideas, and organizing for the struggle. We see that struggle as a battle for the truth. Our responsibility is to defeat the lies upon which they launch wars of all kinds against our peoples. Our duty is to inform, to persist, to mobilize, and to march with the poor of the earth, who are tired of lies and abuse; to propose and create programs that respond to the most acute demands of workers, students, peasants, intellectuals, and artists.”
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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