Notes on the Revolution / Column #56
January 13, 2020
Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration
By Charles McKelvey
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is leading the relaunching of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Twenty-nine of the thirty-three ministers and vice-ministers of foreign relations of the thirty-three member states met on Wednesday, January 8, 2020 in Mexico City. In response to the U.S. recolonizing project that has provoked divisions in the region, the Mexican proposal identifies fourteen areas of cooperation, enabling the nations of the region to think and act together with respect to practical projects, in spite of their disagreements.
CELAC was established in 2010, and its culminating moment was its last Summit of chiefs of state, the Second Summit of CELAC, held in Havana in 2014. The 2014 Declaration of Havana affirmed the commitment of the thirty-three governments to continue the process of Latin American integration and to expand commerce within the region; and it affirms a form of integration based on complementariness, solidarity, and cooperation. At that time, the governments committed to the principle of non-interference, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of other states, and to observe the principles of national sovereignty and the free determination of peoples; they affirmed the “inalienable right of all states to choose their political, economic, social, and cultural system,” as a necessary precondition for the peaceful coexistence of nations.
The Argentinian analyst Javier Tolcachier observes that, in the five years since those affirmations, the governments of the Group of Lima have betrayed these principles in accordance with U.S. intentions with respect to Venezuela and the region, causing the fracture and the paralysis of CELAC. Tolcachier describes the Mexican proposal as a relatively de-ideologized program that emphasizes gains of a practical character. It focuses on concrete objectives that all of the nations have in common, leaving aside ideological differences.
The relaunching of CELAC is an attempt to revitalize the process of Latin American unity and integration, an idea that was central to the thinking of Simón Bólivar and the Latin American independence movement of 1810 to 1826. The economic conditions of that time, however, made impossible the implementation of the idea. The principal economic activity of the region was raw materials exportation, controlled by a small agricultural elite. Urban manufacturing was limited, and the domestic market was weak. Commerce within the region was limited, and there was not a transportation infrastructure to facilitate such commerce. Moreover, the political conditions for union or federation did not exist. With the attainment of political independence, the landed estate bourgeoisie no longer had need to form political alliances with progressive military-political leaders like Bolívar and San Martín; it could act decisively to protect its particular interests, which did not point in the direction of the unity of the region.
In the current historic epoch, however, economic and political conditions favor the process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration. These more favorable conditions for unity and integration are a result of four factors. First, the sustained structural crisis of the neocolonial world-system. Secondly, the phenomenon of emerging powers in the world-system. Thirdly, the higher degree of industrialization and technology that the region today possesses. Fourthly, the political will of key governments of the region to move toward Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, discerning the objective possibilities of the historic moment. The development of new strategies of imperialism by the United States is nothing other than a desperate attempt to reverse objective historic tendencies, which point to its decline as a hegemonic power.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, the world-system has been increasingly displaying signs of sustained structural crisis, as a result of two factors. First, the continually expanded world-system has reached the geographical limits of the earth and has overreached its ecological limits. Secondly, the colonized peoples, rejecting the consequences of world-systemic structures for their nations and peoples, have been in a sustained process of rebellion and revolution, increasing the costs of social control.
Responding to the signs of crisis, the global elite turned in the 1980s to the imposition of neoliberalism, which only deepened the crisis, inasmuch as it was not based on an understanding of the sources of the global crisis, nor even less did it seek to resolve the problems with an orientation toward social justice or sustainability. The global neoliberal project resulted in slow rates of economic growth, financial instability, and negative social consequences for the peoples in all regions of the world.
These dynamics gave rise in the 1990s to social movements in Latin America in opposition to the negative consequences of neoliberalism. In this context, the renewal of the historic regional vision of an independent Latin American union and integration became a viable political proposal. The new political reality brought to political power new political parties with progressive or socialist governments, which sought to implement Latin American union and integration. Their projection was declared by Hugo Chávez in 2001, was initiated with the establishment of ALBA in 2004, and reached culmination with the establishment of CELAC in 2010 and the Second CELAC Summit of 2014.
The process of union and integration is politically advanced today, in that a number of governments have embraced the idea and have taken practical steps toward its implementation. At the same time, political and economic conditions are favorable, taking into account, on the one hand, the incapacity of the world-system to make the structural reforms necessary to accommodate to the interests of the Latin American and Caribbean region; and on the other hand, the phenomenon of emerging powers that have the political will and the economic capacity to provide support with respect to the necessary financing, commercial relations, and development of infrastructure necessary for Latin American integration. At the same time, the Latin American republics today have higher levels of economic and technological development, a legacy of the Latin American developmentalist project of 1930 to 1980, led by the Latin American industrial bourgeoisie with the support of industrial workers,
In confronting this new political reality in Latin America, the United States by the second decade of the twenty-first century still lacked the political will to rethink its premises. Public debate was unable to put on the table the possibility of U.S. cooperation with the project for a just, democratic, and sustainable world emerging from the South. The political representatives of the elite could do no more than recognize that the nation no longer had the productive, commercial, and financial power nor the international prestige to implement its imperialist objectives in accordance with the rules of representative democracy; and that support for military dictatorships no longer had sufficient legitimacy to enable political stability and international acceptance. U.S. policymakers possessed merely the capacity to invent a new strategy of imperialism in this new context, a strategy that Cuban analysts call “unconventional war.” The unconventional war includes economic and financial blockades and sanctions; distortions of the realities in the nations under attack, disseminated by the major media of communication; false criminal accusations of leaders of the Left; financial and strategic support of political figures prepared to accommodate to U.S. interests; recognition of parallel governments, which base their legitimacy on false constitutional grounds; local violent gangs, and the threat of military intervention. Unconventional wars seek to undermine the process of Latin American union and integration, so that the declining hegemonic power can undertake bilateral negotiations with each nation in the Latin American and Caribbean region, weakening the capacity of the latter to defend its sovereignty and its people.
The revitalization of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration is a necessary response to the imperialist turn to unconventional war. It is a historic necessity before the phenomena of the capitalist world-economy in sustained structural crisis and a declining hegemonic power that acts with increasing desperation and barbarity, with the same historic craving for the rich natural resources of the region. Latin American unity and integration is necessary in this new stage of imperialist aggression, in which the global powers make evident their incapacity to turn toward a more enlightened, just, and sustainable form of capitalism. The future of humanity lies with the alternative vision emerging from below.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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