BRICS was established in 2009 with the intention of facilitating economic and commercial cooperation among the member nations. But BRICS is now taking a further decisive step. It is connecting itself to an alternative process that is unfolding in Latin America and the Caribbean. This alternative process is not merely an integrationist project of ascent in the world-system but a project that seeks to develop alternative structures that can serve as the foundation for an alternative and more just and democratic world-system.
The Latin American process has roots in the Latin American independence movements of the early nineteenth century, which established republics that were semi-colonies rather than truly independent. Popular movements during the twentieth century followed one of two roads. The first, the more common, was a reformist project of ascent through import-substitution, supported by an alliance of the national industrial bourgeoisie and the popular sectors. It could not succeed, because the neocolonial situation provides limited possibilities for autonomous industrial development and for the satisfaction of popular needs. The second path was the revolutionary taking of power through armed struggle by the popular sectors, which triumphed only in Cuba. With the emergence of the structural crisis of the world-system in the 1970s, the global powers launched the neoliberal project, sweeping aside the modest gains of the import-substitution project. Meanwhile, Cuba, battered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the neoliberal global environment, nevertheless endured.
But the neoliberal assault, a true economic war against poor, politically backfired. It provoked popular movements that sought to cast aside governments and political leaders that had violated the dignity of their nations by implementing the neoliberal agenda of the global powers. And as the popular movements gained momentum, there stood tattered but proud revolutionary Cuba, a model of Latin American and human dignity.
Venezuela was the first government to fall to the popular outrage at the neoliberal project, bringing to the presidency Hugo Chávez, whose soul was nurtured by the Bolivarian dream of a single country of all Latin America and by the warnings of Martí of the imperialist intentions of the great power to the North. When Chávez began to speak at an international meeting, in which Fidel also was present, the Cuban revolutionary passed a note to him, saying, “I think I am no longer the only devil in the room.” Chávez would become like a son to Fidel, a relation for all the world to see. Bolivia would soon follow in the change that was beginning to sweep the region, led by an indigenous coca farmer association leader who soon mastered the art of international diplomacy and formulated a Latin American popular perspective with an indigenous ecological emphasis. And then came Ecuador, led by an economist in expensive suits who had studied in the United States and who, once he arrived to the presidential office, hit the ground running with his insistence of the development of alternative political-economic structures. Others emerged, a little less radical but nonetheless participating in the process of change: Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and El Salvador. Ultimately, the entire region was affected, and all of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean would affirm the basic principles of the alternative process and would bury the Pan-American project of the United States, once the dominant project in the region.
So the connection being established between BRICS and CELAC has significant global political implications, for in establishing formal relations with CELAC, the nations of BRICS are casting their lot with the alternative popular project of CELAC. They are not merely seeking ascent in the established world-system, but seeking to promote their development through the construction of an alternative world-system, more just and democratic.
Sensing the importance of the historic moment, and appreciating the leadership of China and Russia in the process, Fidel Castro has recently written that Russia and China are “the two countries called to head a new world that would permit human survival, if imperialism does not beforehand unleash a criminal and exterminating war” (2014:4).
Castro Ruz, Fidel. 2014. “Es hora de conocer un poco más la realidad,” Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, La Habana, 22 de julio, Págs. 4-5.
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, South-South cooperation, China, CELAC