“We will not depart from this world leaving to our descendants a new colonial period; we will leave a nation, a great nation: Our America united, developed, and free.”—Hugo Chávez, October 15, 2007
There has emerged in the first years of the twenty-first century what Luis Suárez Salazar has called “independent and multicultural integration” in Latin America (2008:104). Suárez notes that this integration is integrally tied to the call for “Socialism for the XXI Century,” and its proponents have been influenced by the most progressive currents in the development of Latin American social thought, including Simón Bolívar, José Martí, Julio Antonio Mella, and Ernesto Che Guevara. It is a form of integration that seeks to construct what Fidel Castro has called the “true and definitive independence” of Latin America and the Caribbean (Suárez 2008:104-8).
The new independent integration is different from the integration of the developmentalist project of the twentieth century, which reached its height in the 1960s and 1970s. Led by the Latin American industrial bourgeoisie, the developmentalist project sought ascent within the structures of the world-system. It confronted various obstacles, including the weak domestic market as a consequence of the superexploitation of labor, the resistance of the national estate bourgeoisie to necessary reforms, and the subordination of the national industrial bourgeoisie to the interests of transnational capital. As a result, although it had some positive consequences for the people, it was unable to bring about the social transformation that the needs of the people required (Cobarrubia and Quirós 2006:50-55; Pérez 2006:256-61).
The developmentalist project was replaced by the neoliberal project following 1980. Neoliberal integration is an imposed integration, consistent with the interests of the United States and supported by subordinate national bourgeoisies. Neoliberal integration strengthened the orientation of the Latin American economies toward the core and weakened commercial relations among Latin American nations. Increasingly dependent on the core, each Latin American nation had to negotiate terms of exchange, resulting in costly concessions. The imposition of the neoliberal model has resulted in limited economic growth, financial instability, and a deterioration of social conditions (Cobarrubia and Quirós 2006:50-55; Pérez 2006:256-61).
There emerged during the 1990s objective factors that favored a reorientation toward an independent Latin American integration and a retaking of the nineteenth century dream of La Patria Grande (see “The Dream of La Patria Grande” 3/4/2014). Three factors have been identified by Julio García Oliveras. First, there is the evident failure of the neoliberal model, occurring in the aftermath of the limitations of the developmentalist project. Social movements emerged that focused on concrete problems caused by the neoliberal model, such as the declining value of the national currency and the increasing costs of food, utilities, transportation, and education.
Secondly, in spite of the constraints of neoliberal policies, there emerged during the 1980s some intra-regional commercial organizations that sought to strengthen intra-regional commerce. These include the Latin American Association of Integration (ALADI) as well as sub-regional organizations, such as the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Although these associations in some cases functioned as a mechanism for U.S. directed integration, and in other cases were characterized by competition among the member nations, giving the advantage to the stronger partner; they nevertheless included the utilization of the natural comparative advantage of each country. For example, Brazil can buy wheat and milk products from Argentina, while Argentina buys coffee and cocoa from Brazil. In this regard, the Cuban journalist Jorge Gómez Barata has observed that Latin America has an impressive industrial capacity as well as important energy reserves that enable it to develop a variety of mutually beneficial exchange relations. But for the potential relations based on comparative advantage to be developed effectively, there must be a strengthening of the domestic markets of all of the nations. Thus all nations of the region have an interest in supporting a more equal and just distribution of income for the entire region, and to seek to develop a form of integration that is not merely commercial and based solely on economic competition, but also attends to the social needs of the people.
Thirdly, to the extent that Latin American nations need products manufactured in the core, its negotiating position would be improved by developing a cooperative relation with the European Union, thus reducing its dependency on the United States. This provides the Latin American nations with an interest in opposing the FTAA, which is in part a U.S. plan to eliminate competition from the European Union and give the U.S. greater access to the Latin American markets for its manufactured products. The FTAA and its failure will be the subject of the next post.
Revolutionary transformations occur when both objective and subjective factors are present. The history of successful revolutions teaches us that the subjective factors become present when: (1) some movement intellectuals begin to discern the possible and necessary transformations established by emerging objective conditions; and (2) in the context of this dynamic situation characterized by confusion and contradictory opinions and currents of thought, there emerges a charismatic leader who is able to formulate a coherent project that unites the principal social movement leaders and organizations. Hugo Chávez was a career military officer, reader of books, a political activist, and a man of humble social origins who was sensitive to the needs of the people. Arriving to understand the objective possibilities for Latin American union and integration, Chávez was able to lead the region toward a retaking of the dream of “La patria grande,” as we shall see in a subsequent post. (To read more about Hugo Chávez Frías, go to Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela).
Cobarrubia Gómez, Faustino and Jonathan Quirós. 2006. “Integración y Subdesarrollo,” in Libre Comercio y subdesarrollo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Pérez García, José A. 2006. “La economía de América Latina y el Caribe en las últimas cuatro décadas: Algunas reflexiones críticas” in Libre Comercio y subdesarrollo. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Suárez Salazar, Luis. 2008. “La integración independiente y multidimensional de Nuestra América” in Contexto Latinoamericano: Revista de Análisis Político, No. 7, Pp. 103-9.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Latin American integration