We have seen that during the course of the twentieth century, the United States utilized imperialist strategies to impose economic policies that facilitated US economic, commercial, and financial penetration of Latin America and the Caribbean, thus contributing to the establishment of a neocolonial world-system. And we have seen that the United States developed the Pan-American project, with the intention of obtaining the participation and cooperation of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean in an inter-American system characterized by U.S. domination (see various posts on U.S. imperialism and Pan-Americanism as well as “US policy in Latin America and Venezuela” 2/28/2014).
The Declaration of Havana, issued by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on January 29, 2014 is the most recent expression of the advancing process of Latin American union and integration, initiated by Hugo Chávez in 2001. The Declaration demonstrates the total collapse of the Pan-American project, a rejection by the 33 governments of Latin America and the Caribbean of US-directed integration of the region and of the objectives and strategies that defined US-directed integration. As we have seen, the Declaration mentions directly the United States only to condemn its policies in relation to Cuba. It obliquely criticizes the United States when it invokes the principle of differentiated responsibility and calls upon the nations most responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases to accelerate efforts to control them. And it adopts positions that are in opposition to U.S. policies: in calling for respect for the patents and knowledge of indigenous peoples; in taking a perspective on development that places the human needs at the center; in insisting that investments be free of conditions; and in affirming the right of all nations to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes (see “The Declaration of Havana 2014” 3/14/2014).
The evident loss of political influence by the hegemonic nation over its neocolonies is an indication of the erosion of the neocolonial world-system. Taking into account the various dimensions of neocolonialism (see “The Characteristics of Neocolonialism” 9/16/2013), we can see that some of these characteristics continue to define the US relation with Latin America. The most important of them, core-peripheral trade on a base of super-exploited peripheral and semi-peripheral labor, remains for the most part intact. The transformation of the core-peripheral commercial relation is a difficult process, inasmuch as it has been developed on a colonial foundation during the course of 500 years, and existing systems of production, commerce and labor are rooted in it. And another continuing characteristic of neocolonialism is the fact that the United States has unchallenged military dominance.
Nevertheless, there has been erosion with respect to some of the characteristics of neocolonialism. In the first place, the national bourgeoisies of the neocolonies no longer function as figurehead bourgeoisies in accordance with the requirements of the neocolonial world-system. Neocolonialism requires that the national bourgeoisie insert itself into the structures of the core-peripheral relation, thus making itself subordinate to transnational capital, and undermining the potential for a bourgeois nationalist project. But this subordination of the figurehead bourgeoisie must to some extent allow for attention to the economic interests and the political agenda of the figurehead bourgeoisie, for this class plays an important role in maintaining political stability through the channeling of the political objectives of the popular sectors. This lesson was learned in Cuba in the 1920s, when the interests of Cuban sugar producers and banks were ignored, and high levels of unemployment generated widespread popular unrest, undermining the stability of the neocolonial system. Adjustments subsequently were made in Cuba in the 1930s, with appropriate attention to the interests of the figurehead bourgeoisie. But the lesson was forgotten in the 1980s by the core bourgeoisie, which adopted desperate measures in response to the structural crisis of the world-system. The aggressive imposition by the core bourgeoisie of the neoliberal project in defense of its short-term interests; favoring those sectors of the national bourgeoisies in peripheral and semi-peripheral zones most integrated with international capital, without regard for the interests of the sector of the national bourgeoisie most tied to the national economy, and without concern for the delicate political role of the national bourgeoisie in maintaining social control; has resulted thirty years later in the breakdown of the neocolonial system. The negative consequences of the neoliberal project with respect to the popular sectors has given rise to popular movements led by charismatic leaders with radical and revolutionary discourses, leading to the political weakening of the national bourgeoisie, which thus could no longer function as a figurehead bourgeoisie, able to manage and control popular demands.
As a result of the undermining of the role of the national bourgeoisie as a figurehead bourgeoisie, there has been an erosion of the ideological penetration by the neocolonial power, one of the necessary characteristics of neocolonialism. To be sure, the seductive power of the culture of consumerism and the “American way of life” remains strong, as a consequence of the growing power of the mass media. But the traditional political parties that represented the interests of the national bourgeoisie have become discredited, such that in many nations even the Right has formed non-traditional parties and has adopted rhetoric similar to the parties of the Left, pretending to be a part of the process of change. In many nations, representative democracy itself has become discredited, as the people begin to development alternative structures of popular democracy.
Moreover, in many nations in Latin America today, the military could not possibly play the role assigned to it by the neocolonial system, which is the repression of popular movements when their demands go beyond the accepted limits of the neocolonial system. Popular rejection of military dictatorships and years of popular mobilizations against the neoliberal project have eliminated repression as a viable option in most of the nations of the region, at least in the present political climate.
Thus the neoliberal project has undermined the stability of the neocolonial world-system and has given rise to challenges from below. But this does not mean that a more enlightened approach by the global elite could have secured the stability of the world-system. The world-system is based on the superexploitation of vast regions (see “Unequal exchange” 8/5/2013), and thus it necessarily generates opposition from below. Moreover, it historically has expanded by incorporating more lands and peoples through domination, and this has reached its ecological and geographical limits, inasmuch as there are no more lands and peoples to conquer. As the result, the world-system has entered a fundamental structural crisis that has given rise to various financial, ecological, social and political crises, revealing its unsustainability.
Thus, the neoliberal project can be seen as an aggressive attempt by the global elite to sustain an unsustainable neocolonial world-system. By aggressively seeking short-term profits without regard for the consequences for the world-system, the neoliberal project has deepened the crisis and has increased the probability of (1) a transition to an alternative global neo-fascist and militarist world-system, characterized by forced access to global raw materials and by repressive control of populations in the peripheral and semi-peripheral regions; or (2) the disintegration and regional fragmentation of the world-system, including the emergence of chaos in some areas.
But while the global elite has acted irresponsibly and has increased the possibility for negative outcomes of the crisis of the world-system, a more positive possibility is emerging from below: the step-by-step construction of a more just and democratic world-system. The Declaration of Havana and the process of Latin American union and integration are part of this more positive possibility. We will discuss this theme is subsequent posts.
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 unity, Latin American integration, CELAC, Chávez