Notes on the Revolution / Column #84
March 20, 2020
The unsustainability of the restoration of the Latin American Right
By Charles McKelvey
The Cuban journalist Elson Concepción Pérez writes in Granma of the recent withdrawal by the right-wing governments of Uruguay, Bolivia, and Ecuador from associations of regional integration, in which previous progressive or socialist governments had played a major role. He writes: “It is a question, there is no doubt, of a Right whose first act in arriving to power is directed toward the unmaking of any commitment that involves integration among the peoples, that brings solidarity and social benefits for the most dispossessed. And this is accompanied by the dismantling of the social programs previously backed by governments of the Left, restoring neoliberal policies.”
He notes that the three governments are adhering to the “Group of Lima,” which is an appendage of the increasingly discredited Organization of American States, and which involves alliance with those who want to reestablish U.S. domination over Latin American and the Caribbean.
U.S. imperialism has good reason to try to break Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, because the latter is a process that seeks to sever the neocolonial subordination of the region to the northern imperial power. The process of unity and integration seeks to by-pass existing exploitative economic structures that are integral to the capitalist world-economy and to replace them, step-by-step, with alternative structures for relations among nations, shaped by complementary and mutually beneficial intraregional commercial and social accords. It implies an effort to construct, from below, an alternative world-system; and to develop in practice an alternative civilizational project.
The process of Latin American unity and integration is rooted in alternative principles that have been formulated by the various social movements of the world, including: the responsibility of states to protect the social and economic rights of all persons, including the rights to a decent standard of living, housing, nutrition, education, and health care; respect for the sovereignty of all nations, even those that are not wealthy or powerful; and the development of forms of production and distribution that are ecologically sustainable.
The process began in December 2001, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez proposed the formation of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), as an alternative to the US-proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). On December 14, 2004, ALBA was established with the signing of an agreement between Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. The 2004 Joint Declaration by Cuba and Venezuela presented ALBA as an alternative to FTAA, maintaining that the US proposal no longer was viable, principally because of opposition from Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil. The declaration maintained that integration in Latin America historically “has served as a mechanism for deepening dependency and foreign domination,” and it described FTAA as “the most recent expression of the appetite for domination of the region.” It proposed an alternative form of integration based on cooperation and solidarity: The Joint Declaration further proclaimed that “ALBA has as its objective the transformation of Latin American societies, making them more just, cultured, participatory, and characterized by solidarity. It therefore is conceived as an integral process that assures the elimination of social inequalities and promotes the quality of life and an effective participation of the peoples in the shaping of their own destiny.” In addition, the ALBA declaration maintained that just and sustainable development is one of the principles of ALBA, and this implies an active role of the state.
After 2004, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and several Caribbean nations were incorporated into ALBA. First Ecuador and more recently Bolivia severed ties with ALBA, when those states fell under the control of the Right. In Ecuador, the Citizen Revolution led by Rafael Correa fell following the presidential elections of 2017, won by Lenin Moreno, who was a Trojan Horse, the candidate of Correa’s Nation Alliance Party who did not announce his intentions the dismantle the revolution and take the nation to the Right. In Bolivia, the socialist government of Evo Morales fell to a violent, military coup d’état in November, 2019. These revolutions fell without the consent of the people.
The South American Union of Nations (UNASUR) was established in 2008. The process was led by Brazil, where the Workers’ Party led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had taken power in 2002. The Constituent Treaty of UNASUR, signed by all twelve nations of South America, affirmed a number of economic, social, and ecological objectives: social and human development with equity and inclusion in order to eradicate poverty and to overcome inequalities in the region; the eradication of illiteracy; universal access to quality education; energy integration in order to utilize in solidarity the resources of the region; the development of an infrastructure for the interconnection of the region; and the protection of biodiversity, water resources, and ecosystems.
In 2016, Workers’ Party President Dilma Rousseff was removed from office through a parliamentary coup d’état, which combined with the unjustified incarceration of Lula, led to the establishment of a government of the Right in Brazil.
The process of Latin American unity and integration culminated in the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2010, consisting of the governments of all 33 nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. On January 29, 2014, at its Second Summit held in Havana, CELAC issued a declaration, affirming its fundamental goals, concepts, and values. The Declaration affirms the commitment of the 33 governments to continue the process of Latin American integration, to expand intraregional commerce, and to develop the infrastructure necessary for expanding integration. It affirms a form of integration based on complementariness, solidarity, and cooperation. It promotes “a vision of integral and inclusive development that ensures sustainable and productive development, in harmony with nature.” The 2014 Declaration of Havana endorses the protection of the social and economic rights of all. It affirms food and nutritional security, literacy, free universal education, universal public health, and the right to adequate housing. It advocates giving priority to “persons living in extreme poverty and vulnerable sectors such as the indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, women, children, the disabled, the elderly, youth, and migrants.” And the Declaration affirms the principle of the right of nations to control their natural resources.
The progressive and socialist governments that came to power in Latin America during the first two decades of the twentieth century not only formed regional associations that sought to break the neocolonial relation with the United States and attain final and true independence. They also strengthened their economies and made advances in improving the standard of living of their peoples. In general, their approach was to take more effective control of their natural recourses, emancipating them from the de facto control of foreign interests, and to utilize the funds so attained to reduce excessive external debts, develop social programs in education and health, build infrastructure, and invest in industry. The progressive and socialist governments of Latin America were demonstrating the vulnerability of the neocolonial world-system and U.S. hegemony.
The Right retook power from progressive and socialist governments through deceptive and/or illegal and unconstitutional means. And when they retook power, their comportment showed their lack of commitment to the people and the nation. They have returned to the discredited neoliberal polices of the past and to the repression of the people. They are demonstrating to their peoples that they are unfit to run governments in the context of the current challenges that humanity confronts. That is why the restoration project of the Right in Latin America is not sustainable.
Concepción notes that one of the factors in the emergence of the restoration project of the Right has been “the weaknesses of some sectors of the Left, which have worn themselves out in contradictions among themselves.” Indeed, it is the case that the Left has ideological and political work to do. Important sectors of our peoples of the world have been manipulated to believe that a free market means economic liberty, when in fact the neoliberal “free market” policies ensure the dominance of great corporate and financial interests, undermining the capacities of states to respond to human needs. We who believe in the possibility of a more just and truly democratic world have to do diligent ideological and pedagogical work, effectively explaining to our peoples the possibilities for effective people’s control of states and for effective state direction and regulation of economic enterprises as an integral dimension of a national plan for social and economic development, possibilities whose realization in practice has been demonstrated by states controlled by revolutionary popular movements.
This is Charles McKelvey, reflecting on the unfolding global popular socialist revolution forged by our peoples in defense of humanity.
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