Those who believe that the Leftist cycles has come to an end are likely to think that blog posts that I wrote in 2014 are overly optimistic, and that their excessive optimism is demonstrated by recent political developments in Latin America. In March 2014, I wrote a series of ten posts on the process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration (“The dream of La Patria Grande” 3/4/2014; “The dream deferred” 3/5/2014; “The dream renewed” 3/6/2014; “The fall of FTAA” 3/7/2014; “The rise of ALBA” 3/11/2014; “Latin American union and integration” 3/13/2014; “The Declaration of Havana 2014” 3/14/2014; “The erosion of neocolonialism” 3/17/2014; “A change of epoch?” 3/18/2014; “Is Marx today fulfilled?” 3/20/2014, found in the category Latin American Unity).
In these posts, I maintained that the process of Latin American and Caribbean union and integration is part of an effort emerging from the Third World plus China, with the cooperation of Russia, to construct an alternative, more just world-system. In “A change of epoch?” (March 18, 2014), I wrote:
We have seen in various posts since March 4 that a new political reality has emerged in Latin America and the Caribbean, defined by rejection of US-directed integration and by the formulation of an alternative integration from below . . . . The process of Latin American union and integration can be seen as an effort by the neocolonized peoples and nations to by-pass existing exploitative structures of the core-peripheral relation and to gradually replace them, step-by-step, with alternative structures for relations among nations, shaped by complementary and mutually beneficial intraregional commercial and social accords.
A later post (“OAS: Transformed from below” June 10, 2014 in the category Latin American Unity) was stimulated by the Forty-Fourth General Assembly of OAS held in Asunción, Paraguay from June 3 to June 5, 2014. I noted the repeated interventions by the representatives protesting the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit of the Americas; and the declarations emitted by the Assembly in support of Venezuela and Argentina. And I observed that the Paraguay Assembly reaffirmed the CELAC Declaration of Havana, proclaiming Latin America and Caribbean to be a zone of peace; and it condemned torture in secret prisons at the US base in Guantanamo. The Paraguay Assembly reconfirmed that the OAS is no longer under the control of US interests.
I would like to affirm that I continue to believe that the alternative, more just world-system is being constructed from below, and that there are many objective reasons for believing that a more just and democratic world-system has a good possibility of coming into being. In defense of this claim, I make the following arguments.
First, the road to triumph is never a straight line. There are always setbacks and reverses, even as conditions favor the continued movement forward of the revolutionary process. That such is the general pattern is evident upon study of the various revolutions that have triumphed in various countries of the world during the last 100 years. The recent setbacks in the four mentioned nations had different dynamics in each case; they do not reflect a general pattern, other than that interested sectors will resist change. In Venezuela, the prominence of the Right in the import trade sector enabled it to block the importation of goods, blaming the government for the shortage; and the United States is waging unconventional war. In Argentina, Macri made vague promises of change, taking advantage a normal pattern of some degree of popular dissatisfaction following four terms of Kirchner governments. In Ecuador, a Trojan Horse captured the Alliance Party nomination. And in Brazil, the coalition of the Workers’ Party fell apart, enabling false charges of corruption against Workers’ Party leaders, provoking the rise of the ultra-Right.
Secondly, there are not cycles in history, but more precisely, cyclical rhythms. When we experience setback, we do not go back to where we were. In the Latin American struggle against imperialism and for its sovereignty, for example, the recent setbacks in the four mentioned nations have regional manifestations. A group of Latin American nations, the “Group of Lima,” joined the United States in recent efforts to adopt actions against Venezuela. Clearly, this represents a reversal from the political situation of 2014, when the voice of Latin American independence was unchallenged in the General Assembly of OAS. However, in the recent Extraordinary Session of the OAS, the forces of reaction could not obtain a majority. So, if 2018 is not 2014, neither is it 1954, when OAS declared communism illegitimate in Latin America; nor 1962, when Cuba was expelled from OAS; nor 1992, when a new anti-Cuban resolution was adopted. In 2018, the United States could not obtain backing for a declaration against the “evil nation” of the moment, a nation that, like Cuba, is sanctioned for its audacity to insist, in word and in deed, on its right to an autonomous road, seeking to break from neocolonial structures.
Thirdly, we have to look at things in the long term. Clearly, in the short term, especially at this moment in which the government of the United States is under partial control of ultra-Right elements, the United States is capable of doing much damage in Latin America. However, we have to keep in mind that none of the sectors of the U.S. power elite, from liberal to Right to ultra-Right, have the capacity to formulate solutions to the relative economic decline of the nation or the sustained structural crisis of the world-system. They can only create more problems. They could, of course, lead humanity to chaos, but they also are making their incapacity more and more evident, thus granting increasing legitimacy to the alternative theory and practice emerging from below.
Fourthly, what is likely to happen from here? The US-directed Latin American Right is incapable of forging a program that could project it to a consolidated position of power, on the basis of consensual popular support. It does not have an effective political response to the post-1995 popular revolution. Its intention is to restore the hegemony of US capital and the dominance of those national sectors tied to it; it wants to return to neoliberal recipes. This is evident in the policies adopted by the governments of Brazil and Argentina, under the restored Right. They enacted an unannounced return to neoliberalism, and their measures provoked popular protest. The problem with these governments is that want to enact a program that the people already have rejected, and that the people have arrived to sufficient political maturity to know to reject. If the forces of reaction cannot be more politically creative, they will not be able to sustain themselves in power, which would require the formulation of some kind of post-neoliberal and post-socialist political program that would have popular support. I do not know what such a program would look like, and apparently, neither do they. It indeed may be beyond human capacities for creativity to conceptualize a such a program, taking into account that the road being forged by the socialist/progressive governments was the necessary response to neoliberalism, when analyzed from the vantage point of the needs of the people and the sovereignty of the nation.
Fifthly, the affirmation of the good possibility of a sustainable future for humanity is a moral duty. One of the principal teachings of Fidel is that the revolutionary must never surrender to despair, and most continually affirm the possibility of a world that is founded in universal human values. “No one has the right,” he repeatedly declared, “to lose faith in the future of humanity.” Sometimes, when Leftist academics say, “I wish that a better, more just world were possible, but unfortunately it is not possible,” they are reflecting not so much an objective analysis of the situation, but their own adaptation to unjust structures, which has become a bad habit during the course of their careers. Not believing in the future of humanity is a convenient form of making peace with the established unjust world order.
For further reflection on these themes, see “Venezuela and world-systemic tendencies” (3/8/2016) in the category Venezuela.