The Third World proposal was cast aside by the global powers, which proceeded to impose neoliberal policies on the world from 1980 to 2001. But the Third World project was renewed, on a foundation of mass movements in opposition to neoliberalism, provoked by its overwhelmingly negative consequences for the peoples of the world. The global movement in opposition to neoliberal globalization has been particularly advanced in Latin America, where progressive and socialist movements have taken control of a number of governments (see various posts from July 22 to September 26, 2016 in the category Third World).
The renewal of the Third World project can be seen in the evolution in recent years of the leadership of the Group of 77. Formed in 1964 by seventy-seven Third World nations, G-77 is a bloc within the United Nations, established for the purpose of promoting mutually beneficial trade among the member nations and with the goal of ameliorating the effects of colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism. In now consists of 133 nations, including China, which joined in 1991. It is now called the Group of 77 plus China (see “The nations of the Global South speak” 6/20/2014; 2014 Declaration of G-77).
Ecuador and Rafael Correa assumed the presidency of the Group of 77 plus China on January 13, 2017. Correa was brought to the presidency of Ecuador by a popular social movement in opposition to the neoliberal project that emerged in the late 1990s. Correa won the presidential elections of 2006, with the support of labor, peasant and indigenous organizations, soundly defeating a pro-neoliberal candidate supported by the national bourgeoisie and the United States. Upon assuming the presidency on January 15, 2007, Correa immediately convoked elections for delegates to a constitutional assembly, in accordance with a campaign promise. Nation Alliance, an alternative political party formed by Correa, won 80 of the 130 seats in the constitutional assembly, which developed a new constitution that was approved in popular referendum. Correa was elected president under the new constitution in 2009 and was reelected in 2013. As President, Correa has renegotiated the Ecuadorian national debt, making payments only on debts that were legitimately contracted. This strategy has enabled the government to develop a budget in which social expenditures exceed debt payments. The government of Correa also has nationalized underutilized properties and has attracted foreign investment in industries strategic for Ecuadoran economic development. It did not renew a previous agreement with the United States for the use of an Ecuadorian Air Force Base by the U.S. military. Correa has declared that Ecuador is constructing “socialism for the twenty-first century” (see “Correa and the revolution in Ecuador” 9/19/2016).
The emergence of Correa is part of a general social phenomenon in Latin America since 1994, in which leaders with exceptional capacities have been lifted up by the people and have led the people in changing the political reality of Latin America, stimulating the renewal of the Third World project of national and social liberation in Asia and Africa. Other charismatic leaders include Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Luis Inácio Lula and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina. The emergence of charismatic leaders is a general characteristic of revolutionary processes (see Charismatic Leaders).
Upon receiving the mandate of the presidency of G-77, Correa addressed the representatives of the 133 member nations in New York. He began by noting that Ecuador will continue the work of its predecessors in the presidency of G-77. “Ecuador defends the principles that have guided the Group of 77 since 1964: unity, complementarity, cooperation and solidarity of the Global South.” The Group of 77, he observed, seeks social and economic equality in the world, which requires the eradication of poverty and exclusion and the attainment of the right of the peoples to live with sovereignty and dignity and in peace.
Correa maintained that poverty in the world is “a consequence of unjust and excluding systems.” And he proclaimed that “the overcoming of poverty of the greatest moral imperative of the planet.”
Correa maintained that the global South seeks not only economic development but also a new notion of integral development, which involves the development of the whole person and of all persons. In Ecuador, the concept of integral development is based on the heritage of the ancestral peoples and on the idea expressed in the quichua language as sumak kawsay, which means “living well.”
He rejected the neoliberal project of the global powers. “Neoliberal globalization does not seek to create planetary societies, but only planetary markets; it does not seek to create citizens of the world, but only global consumers.” “The idea that free commerce always benefits everyone is simply fallacious, an extreme ingenuousness closer to religion than to science, and it cannot withstand a profound historical, empirical or theoretical analysis.”
Correa observed that the savage capitalism of the eighteenth century and the Industrial Revolution caused workers to die from excessive working hours. This historic exploitation, he maintains, was overcome by means of collection action through nation-states, which placed limits to these abuses. But today, such collective action does not exist for the confrontation of the present process of globalization.
The remedy to this situation is unified political action by the peoples of the world, as a foundation for the taking of political power by the people in a number of nations. “What is required is the capture of political power, in order to transform the relations of power in service of the great majority and to change our apparent states, representing only the interests of the few, into truly popular states, representing the interests of the great majority.”
Correa called for “the transformation of the system of the United Nations, such that the General Assembly makes the great political decisions of humanity, and not the veto power of the small group of countries in the Security Council.” He demanded an end to the privatization of knowledge and the diffusion of knowledge so that it is available for all of humanity. And he advocated the creation of an International Court of Environmental Justice, with the authority to sanction attacks against the rights of nature and to establish obligations with respect to an ecological debt and to the consumption of natural resources.
He called for a new international financial infrastructure. From the point of view of the countries of the South, he maintained, it does not make sense to attempt to reform the Bretton Woods financial institutions, established by the global powers in 1944. “We ought to construct our own international financial architectures, in order that our savings remain in the region and do not go to finance the richest countries, such as when our central banks, frequently autonomous and without democratic control, send hundreds of billions of our reserves to other countries, not only financing, but also transferring wealth to the most developed countries, while we continue depending on foreign loans and foreign investment” that do not change existing economic structures.
He maintained that the dominant Western model of democracy has been imposed; it is a model that does not serve the needs of the people. Real democracy requires equality of opportunity, but these imposed Western democracies grant sovereignty to capital and not to the people. It would be best to call them “market-media” democracies, because they measure democracy by the size of the market, and because the media of communication are a more important component of the political process than the political parties and political authorities. “We must ask ourselves if a society can be truly free when the societal communication, particularly information, comes from private profit-seeking businesses that are the property of the great corporations or a half dozen families, many of them without the most elementary ethics.”
He criticized a confused understanding of human rights. Many believe that only the state attacks human rights. But “in fact, any power can attack human rights.” For example, profit-seeking pharmaceutical transnationals condemn to death the poor that are not able to buy medicine that could save their lives; and the media of communication attack the reputation, the intimacy and the prestige of persons.
Correa described fiscal paradises as “the extreme expression of a capitalism without face, without responsibility, without transparency, and without country.” He maintained that “fiscal paradises are the worst enemies of our states,” because they exist for the purpose of evading taxes or hiding the origin of illicit wealth. The poor nations and the economies in development are the most victimized by fiscal paradises. In Latin America alone, 32 million persons could be lifted from poverty, if the resources hidden in fiscal paradises were taxed in accordance with the appropriate laws. “The world needs more knowledge paradises and less fiscal paradises.”
We are here, Correa declared, “to demand democracy and to stress an alternative possible world, the urgent world that we require, the world of peace and justice, that is constructed through respect for the sovereignty of the nations and the prosperity of the peoples.”
Correa concludes with a reference to the advanced stage of the popular movements in Latin America, more advanced today that in the period 1948 to 1979. “Who governs in a society? The elites or the great majority? Capital or human beings? The market or the society? In many countries of Latin America, with socialism of the twenty-first century and of living well, our peoples already govern. And although their remains much to do, never before has so much been done.”
Rafael Correa speaks on behalf of a Third World in renewed social movement, which envisions a sustainable future for humanity on the basis of fundamental universal principles: the rights of the nations of the world to sovereignty and integral development; the eradication of poverty; the rejection of the neoliberal prioritizing of markets over people as scientifically unsound and morally unjustifiable; the right of the peoples to collectively act in order to take power from the corporate elite; the democratization of the United Nations; the creation of a more just international financial architecture; and the need for the development of a form of democracy that responds to the needs of the people. Many Third World governments, with the cooperation of China and Russia, are seeking to develop, in theory and practice, an alternative world-system based on these concepts and principles. They are doing so precisely at the historic moment in which the global powers are demonstrating their moral and intellectual incapacity to rescue the world-system from its sustained structural crisis, thereby revealing the unsustainability of the neocolonial world-system.
As these dynamics unfold, cynicism abounds in the North, and even popular social movements of the North are characterized by limited understandings and confusions. But in the South, hope is alive, and the peoples, led by leaders with exceptional gifts, are developing that unity of thought and action required for the establishment of a possible and necessary more just, democratic and sustainable world-system. The activists and intellectuals of the North would do well to listen to the voices of the Third World, and to permit themselves to be inspired and to learn.