From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013
“The existence in Latin America of several progressive governments is the result of the development and growth of the struggle of workers, the peoples and youth who overcame the ebb caused by the collapse of ‘actually existing socialism.’ It is a consequence of the recovery by the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations and parties, of the incorporation into these mobilizations of a part of the middle classes and strata, of the intelligentsia. That is, it is an expression of the strength of the working class, of the other laboring classes of the city and the countryside, of the left and the communists, but it also expresses the shortcomings and weaknesses of the mass movement, of the revolutionary left and, in Ecuador in particular, of the limitations of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. This party made the decision to become directly involved in the process, to contend inch by inch for a prominent place in the struggles, but it has lacked sufficient strength to influence more significantly the imagination, organization and action of the popular sectors that have fought and continue to fight. These limitations have allowed the result of these expressions to be channeled towards elections, to the formation of governments headed by personalities of the petty-bourgeoisie who proclaimed the change.”1
1 Pablo Miranda, “The Struggle of the Workers and the Peoples against Imperialism,” Unity and Struggle No. 23, October, 2011.
Since 1998, when Hugo Chavez won the presidency of Venezuela, Latin America has seen the election of several progressive governments, among them: Lula in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, the Broad Front in Uruguay, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Funes in El Salvador, Lugo in Paraguay, Cristina Fernandez in Argentina.
To explain these new circumstances we must consider some historical and political events from the immediate past:
The revolutionary wave that shook the world and Latin America in the 1960s and ‘70s was followed by a furious onslaught of imperialism and reaction that used all their resources to put out the flames of the popular and national insurgency.
Neoliberalism – the policy of finance capital to overcome the economic crisis – devised the return to the classical principles of liberalism, “laissez faire,” full freedom of trade for the monopolies and the imperialist countries, with that aim it demanded the dismantling of the state sectors of the economy, the privatization of health care, education and social security, labor flexibility and further measures that would allow for the increase of the accumulation and concentration of wealth while disarming the movement and struggle of the workers and peoples.
The imposition of neoliberalism beyond the economies of the imperialist countries themselves took place violently in the great majority of the dependent countries; in Latin America, with the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, with sponsorship and support by the reactionary governments who docilely accepted its programs, with the subordination of the social-democratic governments that succumbed to these policies, some of them even modified their programs to put them in line with the imperialist proposals.
Since the 1980s, faced with the deepening economic crisis in most countries of Latin America and the world, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) imposed a series of measures that tried to ward off the crisis, but actually they sharpened it. These were the famous “structural adjustment programs” that ordered the elimination of subsidies for fuel prices and fares, the privatization of education, health care and social security, labor flexibility, the freedom to hire and fire workers, the limitation of union rights and restriction of the right to organize, etc.. They put into play the infamous “letters of intent,” under which the governments sought financial assistance and subordinated themselves to the IMF conditions.
The workers and popular movement, the left-wing and revolutionary political organizations, the Marxist-Leninist forces are facing this onslaught of capital with important social movements, general strikes, national work stoppages and struggles in the street. Each “adjustment program” was rejected head-on by the workers and people. In the cities and the countryside heroic battles took place, which were beaten by the “forces of order,” the police and armed forces. In the popular camp blows were received, the dead were buried, the wounded were healed, the persecuted were defended and there were fights for the freedom of the captured social activists.
New social actors who were actively involved in the struggle for general motives, for their rights and aspirations, reappeared and developed: ecologists and environmentalists, activists who defend nature from the depredations of capital, which was seen in almost all countries in a militant manner; to a large degree, these actions were added to the objectives and struggles of the workers. Various forms of the organization and fight of the women in defense of their rights gained strength and displayed initiatives, in opposition to gender discrimination. In various places their persistence in their protests and fights placed the most advanced sectors of the women as part of the forces of social emancipation.
The movement of the indigenous peoples, the struggle for their national rights and their participation in the political struggle broke out in various countries and assumed an important role in the struggle for social and national liberation. In Latin America the movement of the indigenous peoples and nationalities broke out across the board with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by the Spanish. This is particularly important in Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala; it exists and is expressed in almost all countries; it continues to be an active part of the process of social and national liberation.
Towards the end of the 1980s the class struggle developed intermittently in every country in Latin America: the workers of the city and the countryside, the youth and the indigenous peoples were protagonists in the great battles against neoliberalism and the reactionary governments. In Venezuela the Caracazo took place that shook the government. In the Dominican Republic there were harsh battles against the bloodthirsty Balaguer government. In Argentina powerful workers’ strikes took place. In Colombia the armed struggle won important victories. In Ecuador combative strikes and nationwide work stoppages took place in opposition to the attempts to impose neoliberalism.
Signs of an ebb
The imposition of labor flexibility, the closures of enterprises due to the crisis, the anti-communist offensive of reaction and imperialism, the promotion of the economic and political theses of neoliberalism, the conciliatory and sell-out activities of revisionism and opportunism weakened and dispersed the workers and popular movement in all countries (obviously in an uneven manner).
The anti-communist offensive, the whole barrage of reactionary ideas that proclaimed the end of socialism and the defeat of the revolution, the end of history and ideologies, the invincibility of capitalism; the betrayal by the revisionists and the fall of the Berlin Wall had a negative effect on the movement of the workers and peoples; it impacted on the left-wing and revolutionary organizations; some of them dissolved and in general all were weakened, some guerrilla formations were defeated and others laid down their arms and renounced the revolutionary struggle.
This seemed to pave the road for triumphant imperialism.
But despite the adverse conditions, the blows received and the defeats suffered, the workers and popular movements never gave up, they continued to fight: at first they went over to resistance and gradually recovered.
The 1990s were characterized as an ebb in the social and revolutionary struggle; indeed there were major setbacks for the movement of the workers and peoples, for the revolutionary parties and organizations: the defeat of socialism in Albania, the peace accords signed by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador, the collapse of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dirty war in Colombia; in general the movement of workers and peoples suffered a serious reversal.
The harshest impact was the result of the intense anti-communist ideological offensive: the preaching that socialism had shown itself to be a failure, that capitalism had shown itself to be a superior system, the futility of the revolution since the sacrifices that it cost only served to return to the same, the incompetence of the political parties and particularly of the communist party to fulfill the role of organizer and leader of the revolution, etc., etc.
Neoliberalism was imposed in almost the whole world, and Latin America was no exception. However, the attempt to use neoliberal policies to overcome the crisis in the international financial system were not fulfilled; rather, they suffered important blows as a result of the irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist system: the increasing socialization of production and the appropriation and concentration of the wealth created; free competition; the development of new monopolies and other imperialist countries, and of course, as a consequence of the resistance of the workers and peoples.
The victory songs of reaction and imperialism regarding the end of communism and of the revolutionary struggle clashed with reality, with the resistance of the workers and with the popular fights. In some countries the 1990s were the scene of the emergence of great social and political movements: the indigenous uprising in Ecuador in 1990, the removal of Collor de Melo as President of Brazil in 1992, major general strikes in France, Germany and Italy, the emergence of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Mexico in 1994, the overthrow of Abdala Bucaram in Ecuador in 1996, the resistance to the despotism of Sanchez de Lozada in Bolivia, the electoral victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
The coming of the 21st century dawned with the popular uprising that overthrew President Mahuad in January 2000, which gave impetus to a new stage in the struggles of the masses in Ecuador.
In all Latin American countries one can find two very important variables:
On the one side the exhaustion of neoliberalism, the failure of neoliberal monetarist measures to ward off the crisis. The adjustments demanded by the IMF were linked to more and more new measures and the economies of the countries deteriorated rapidly, public finances had greater deficits, the foreign debt grew and social spending was cut drastically.
At the same time, the ruling classes, institutions, governments, parliaments, the armed forces, the judiciary, the political parties, the personalities of politics and power rapidly used up their resources, they were quickly discredited before the working masses, the youth and democratic public opinion; they were trapped in the web of corruption and drug trafficking; they lost credibility; in some countries subjective conditions were created to replace them. The slogans of “get out,” “let them all go,” “put an end to the cliques,” “enough of the rings,” “away with the old parties,” “refound the country,” “new people,” “change already,” etc. were chanted everywhere.
On the other hand, the discontent and dissatisfaction of the working masses, the peoples and the youth were expressed in the increase in popular struggles, in a sustained increase in the struggle of the masses, which were shown unevenly in different countries of Latin America. To a large degree the consciousness of the masses about their own role in solving their problems is growing, the distrust of a significant sector of them in the institutions, in the bourgeois political parties, in the spokespersons and leaders of those on top. The search for alternatives to the situation went beyond the channel and content of the union struggle; the idea of fighting to take over the government advanced.
The political crisis is deepening to various degrees in all Latin American countries. The ruling classes and the reactionary and social-democratic political parties have shown themselves impotent to propose and pursue solutions that will enable them to resolve their problems and fully preserve their interests.
Decades of confrontation in defense of their interests have failed to stem the onslaught of neoliberalism; strikes, marches, struggles in the street and work stoppages are expressions of courage and valor, but they have limits, they cannot stop the implementation of the “adjustment programs.” On the other hand, in several countries, the guerrilla struggle has been defeated, some of the revolutionary military formations have renounced the armed struggle, some have rejected that road; in any case, the revolutionary armed struggle is not seen as an immediate alternative by the peoples.
The great demonstrations of the social struggle that have taken place in almost all countries of Latin America are, to some extent, in advance of the decisions and abilities of the organizations and political parties of the revolutionary left. Every day the masses show a great potential for the creation and implementation of various forms of struggle, they are creative in the defensive and offensive in the various forms of strike struggle and street struggle.
The revisionist parties and other opportunist groups are active in the ideological disarming of the working class, the peoples and youth; they eagerly chant that the union organization has been overtaken by history, that “the unions do not work, the social movements are the new actors,” that the masses, their mobilization and action do not need political parties and organizations, that they are enough in themselves for the struggle for their liberation, they rail against “authoritarianism” and “lack of democracy,” against the great experiences of the proletariat in power, of socialism, of the communist party.
The Marxist-Leninist parties and other revolutionary organizations that have shown themselves to be consistent in their struggle against imperialism and capitalism suffer from weaknesses and limitations: they are small, weak, without sufficient links with the working masses and youth and, sometimes and in some places they lose the ability to show appropriate alternatives. Although they are involved in the new scenarios, they do not have the strength and skill to enable them to lead the discontent of the workers and peoples.
The working masses have struggled tirelessly for their immediate demands, for wages, stability, land, housing, etc. They have won partial victories and are continuing the social struggle. In the field of political confrontation, in the electoral disputes most working people were the object of ideological manipulation of the various forms of the ruling classes, their political parties, their political bosses and leaders. The great resources of the media are used (and continue to be) to propose change, the solution of their problems. The masses are seeking change and they “found” it in the bourgeois personality or party that could claim to satisfy those expectations more directly. Many of the workers and peoples were active in the union struggle and in the elections they voted for the bosses.
Under these conditions there has been a qualitative leap in the social and political behavior of the working masses of the city and the countryside, of the youth and the indigenous peoples.
1. Popular uprisings have taken place seeking to overthrow corrupt governments: in Venezuela against Carlos Andres Perez, who was forced to resign; in Ecuador against Bucaram, Mahuad and Gutierrez, who were overthrown by the masses in the street; in Argentina against De la Rua and the various governments that tried to succeed him; in Bolivia against Sanchez de Lozada. The popular uprising against Mahuad in Ecuador aimed to bring down the President, Congress and the Court of Justice and managed to nominate a Board of Government of short duration. These actions show the strength of the workers, people and youth, their ability to overthrow the tyrants; but they also show their weaknesses that could be summed up in what is said in the streets of Quito. “We were able to overthrow the government but we could not put one of our own in the Presidency; they same ones as always returned.”
2. The discrediting of the traditional bourgeois parties, their leaders and programs put limits on the ability of ideological manipulation by the rulers, they open the roads to other alternatives. In some countries such as Venezuela, the pendulum that swung between social democracy and the social Christians, the corruption and repression practically eliminated COPEI [Political Electoral Independent Organization Committee, a social-Christian party] and AD [Democratic Action, a social-democratic party – translator’s note]. In Ecuador, the traditional bourgeois parties are called the “partidocracy,” they have lost prestige and were defeated.
3. Popular political parties and organizations that have been fighting in the social and electoral arena for decades are beginning to gain ground in the elections at the presidential level; previously they had significant achievements and experience in local governments; they are winning the vote of the workers, peasants and youth for their positions.
4. New political parties and organizations are being formed that claim to be “left-wing and revolutionary, democratic and open, anti-dogmatic and creative”; by their rebellious, and alternative discourse they lash out at the oligarchy and dependence, but also at the communist and socialist parties that have been fighting since the early decades of the 20th century.
5. The ideological offensive of reaction and imperialism that had targeted socialism and communism is complemented by criticism and questioning of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the revolution and socialism, with the proposals of “20th century socialism” and under the various names of the Bolivarian, Andean and citizen’s revolution.
6. The desire for change by the working masses and the youth is being channeled by political forces that are rebellious, progressive, “left social-democrats”, by political bosses and leaders of the trade union and peasant struggles, by personalities from academia that appear as “new.”
7. We, the Marxist-Leninist parties in Latin America have always been involved in the struggle of the masses, we have done our share in the organization and the strike struggle, in the popular uprisings, but we did not have the strength to channel the desire for change and the search for alternatives of the workers and peoples. We are involved in the processes seeking to deepen them and provide them a revolutionary direction
As we noted above, various political forces and personalities came to power through elections and changed the political map of Latin America. The forms and expressions by which the various alternative governments came to the leadership of the State differ from one another, but obviously there are some commonalities, some constant elements that show that the phenomenon is not an isolated incident, but corresponds to an ideological and political current running throughout Latin America.
i. important and massive mobilization of the working masses, the peoples and the youth who questioned neoliberal policies and in some cases made them collapse.
ii. all the electoral platforms presented programs that are democratic, anti-neoliberal, anti-U.S., left-wing and for social and economic achievements to benefit the poor.
iii. an important social and political rhetoric that called itself left-wing and revolutionary, that criticized the partidocracy, the oligarchy and imperialism.
iv. the support and militant participation of leftist political parties and organizations who provided their ability and experience in the process of their coming into office and, in the first stage of these governments, strongly supported them.
v. these processes had the participation of the parties and organizations of the revolutionary left, of our Marxist-Leninist formations that fought in Latin America that supported them, but we could not lead them along the revolutionary path due to the relationship of forces and our weaknesses and limitations.
We have outlined some general issues, but we must emphasize that each process has its own nature, its own ideological and political characteristics which, while they are each different they form parts of a whole and for a certain time.
The space available and the limitations of our information only allow us to draw very broad brush strokes of each of these processes.
In Brazil, after decades of political struggle against the military dictatorship, of large mobilizations of the working class for their rights, of the youth for alternatives for their progress and development, after several elections in which various sectors of the ruling classes imposed themselves in office, Lula’s election victory as President took place in 2003. To achieve this purpose for which he had struggled for years, Lula and the Workers Party (PT) made an alliance with a party of the right wing that took the Vice Presidency. The same thing happened in the second election.
An alternative of the “left,” a president from the working class, a union leader, fighter against the military dictatorship won the elections. That victory aroused great expectations among tens of millions of Brazilians and Latin Americans.
Lula governed for two presidential terms (2003-2010) and was able to push the victory of his successor, Dilma Russef, the current president. Both of them won great acclaim among Brazilians and apparently have the ability to win again in the next presidential elections.
Brazil’s economic structure has not changed; it is still a capitalist country. During this period the country has rapidly modernized, its industry has grown significantly, its agricultural sector has expanded greatly, to the detriment of the Amazon rainforest; the exploitation of minerals, especially iron, has increased; it has become self-sufficient in the production and utilization of petroleum. As a great country by the size of its territory and population, by the magnitude of its natural resources and its geostrategic position, Brazil has become the seventh largest world economy, one of the engines of capitalism, one of the emerging powers.
The old dream of the Brazilian big bourgeoisie to become a great power, in alliance with international big capital, Great Brazil is taking shape under a progressive government under the leadership of a union leader. The military could not take this step during their long dictatorship and the application of the IMF measures, none of the previous governments, of the right or of traditional social democracy were able to do this. It was achieved by a government that calls itself left-wing.
At the base of Brazilian society, nearly two hundred million people who form the toiling masses remain under capitalist exploitation and oppression, creating the wealth for the international monopolies and the big Brazilian businesses. At the same time, the country is facing a process of growing deindustrialization and denationalization of its economy. With the policy of high interests Brazil has received big investments from foreign capital, which ultimately contributed to the concentration and monopolization of wealth. Trade union rights are restricted, retirement pensions have been cut and the retirement age increased, millions of peasants are landless. Brazil remains one of the most unequal countries.
The proposals for change, for the liberation of the workers, of social equality, of socialism remain just words; the PT government is one more government that represents the interests of the big Brazilian bourgeoisie, the international monopolies and the imperialist countries.
In Brazil, as in all countries, the revolution and socialism are a historical necessity, they are an objective of the workers, people and youth.
In Uruguay, an alliance of the left with Christian democracy and political formations that broke away from the traditional parties, the Broad Front, formed in 1971 with a long history of trade union and electoral struggle, won the presidential elections in 2004. It broke the age-old rule of the bourgeois parties and raised expectations within and outside the country. The Front had the strength and ability to hold onto the government in 2009, with Jose Mujica, a former Tupamaro guerrilla.
In reality the progressive government of Uruguay has created an administration that essentially abides by neoliberal guidelines. The country remains subordinate to the IMF and the World Bank; it has opened the doors to foreign investment. Now there is a popular left-wing opposition that denounces the capitalist character of the Broad Front government and the violation of civil liberties and trade union rights.
In Uruguay the evils of capitalism continue to exist, the revolution and socialism are on the agenda.
In Nicaragua in 1979 the popular revolution led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza dictatorship. This event was identified as a new successful revolution in Latin America, twenty years after the Cuban Revolution.
The Sandinistas began to dismantle the dictatorial institutions and pushed through certain rather timid reforms. In reality the capitalist structure of the country remained. In presidential elections called under the pressure of U.S. imperialism and European social democracy, the Sandinistas were defeated. The expectations created by the victory of the armed uprising quickly went up in smoke.
The Sandinista Front decided to resort to the electoral path to regain the presidency of the republic and succeeded with a platform that proclaimed national reconciliation and peace, under Daniel Ortega in 2006. After one presidential term Ortega won reelection in 2011.
The progressive government of Nicaragua has carried out a major welfare policy that, compared with the administration of the openly right-wing governments of the immediate past has improved the living conditions of the Nicaraguans.
It is abundantly clear that capitalism, its structures and rules are still in force in Nicaragua.
The people of El Salvador have been waging a heroic struggle for social and material progress, freedom and democracy, and in their advanced sectors for the revolution and socialism.
In 1928 there was a large strike of banana workers against the United Fruit Company that was fiercely repressed, leaving more than a thousand dead among the strikers and the people who supported them. In 1932 a popular armed insurrection broke out led by the Communist Party and Comrade Farabundo Marti, who fought heroically but was defeated by the oligarchy and imperialism with a massacre of 30,000 martyrs.
In the 1970-80s the revolutionary armed struggle was begun again, leading to a major process of unity of the various fronts and alternatives, which proclaimed as its goal the establishment of socialism. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front developed high levels of people’s war, confronting a ferocious dirty war unleashed by the bourgeoisie and imperialism, and it won major political and geographical openings that portended a popular victory.
These important actions of the Salvadoran people were negotiated by the Leadership of the FMLN, which agreed to a “peace” and the surrender of arms in January of 1992.
Since then the FMLN has become a political party and participated in several elections for the Presidency of the Republic, which it finally achieved with Mauricio Funes, a personality from outside its ranks, presented as an outsider in politics in 2009.
The Funes government, another one of the progressive governments in Latin America, soon distanced itself from the politics of the left, limiting itself to a welfare policy, leaving itself out of ALBA.
Clearly, the long and bloody struggle of the revolutionaries and the people of El Salvador for freedom and socialism has not achieved victory, which is still on the agenda.
Since Paraguay is landlocked, the war of the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia allied against Paraguay, have led the country to a kind of isolation from the other countries of South America.
For a long period Paraguay was led by a nationalist and patriotic policy, headed by Dr. Francia. For more than 30 years it suffered the brutal, reactionary and anti-communist dictatorship of Stroessner. After the fall of the dictator, the Colorado Party continued to rule.
Paraguay has up to now been a country ruled by the landowners and agricultural exporters, with little industrial development. Under these conditions, the peasant movement, together with the teachers and youth, have been the main actors in the political struggle for social change.
In the presidential elections of 2008 an alternative candidate won who did not belong to any of the traditional parties. He came from long community work, from his position as a Catholic priest. In order to win the elections former Bishop Fernando Lugo formalized an alliance with the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, an opposition to the Colorado Party from other positions of the ruling classes.
In the present Latin American context of the existence of several progressive governments, Lugo’s victory was hailed as another one that joined the current. Lugo himself was incorporated into that sector. In fact the demands of the peasants and other popular sectors were pushed aside. The promise of land reform was shelved. The trade union and political freedoms remained restricted.
In June of 2112 Lugo was removed from office in a summary trial whose decision was accepted to the benefit of democracy and he was replaced by the Vice President. The experience of another of the progressive governments was ended in this manner, without much resistance.
In Paraguay a good part of the peasant movement and of the revolutionary left did not support Lugo; during his government he pursued a policy of demands and now the fight for social and national liberation continues.
In 2002 the Argentinazo took place, an explosion of the workers, people and youth who threw out the Radical Party government of De la Rua, proclaiming the slogan “they should all go,” experimenting with the formation of Popular Assemblies and throwing out four governments that were created institutionally to defend the established order.
This great uprising of the working masses and youth had the strength and ability to throw out successive representatives of the bourgeoisie but it was unable to gain power.
Bourgeois democracy, immersed in a deep economic and political crisis caused by the abandonment of the “convertibility” of the peso, corruption and the discrediting of the political parties, the exhaustion of the neoliberal policies, still had the power to redirect the desire for change and popular struggle into elections.
In 2003, the progressive wing of Peronism led by Kirchner won the plurality with 22% of the votes. The withdrawal of Menen from the runoff led to his winning.
Progressive Peronism returned to office after more than 20 years and applied a government program that restored the subsidies and bought back the companies privatized by the same Peronism led by Menen. However he continued the policy of deindustrialization and the return to primary goods of the economy. This was favored by the high price of soy and to a great degree he could fix the fiscal crisis and put forward an intense welfare policy based on patronage. On the international level Argentina was aligned with the other progressive governments and sealed an alliance with the big Brazilian bourgeoisie in the framework of Mercosur.
Kirchner’s program was able to secure its social base, achieving continuity with the election of his wife Cristina Fernandez in 2007. After Kirchner’s death, Cristina became his heir and successor as president, winning reelection in 2011
Cristina has stated outright that she is seeking to carry out a “rational capitalism” and has used repression against the peasants and workers.
The progressive government of Fernandez is, by its own admission, a capitalist government; thus in Argentina the need for the revolution and socialism continues to be on the agenda.
Bolivia is a multinational state. The Spanish conquest could not crush or eliminate the indigenous nationalities and peoples. The Quechua and Aymara defended and preserved the essence of their culture, they have always been the majority of the population, there is a similar situation with the more than two dozen smaller nationalities that still exist; the Bolivian mestizos are a growing and developing people. The ruling classes, the landlords, the mine owners, bankers and businessmen have always come from the mestizos and through their economic and political power, they became the dominant nation.
The Bolivian workers in the mines and the fledgling industries, the peasants mostly from the indigenous peoples and nationalities, and also, of course, from the mestizos were and are the creators of the wealth. They were always at the bottom of the social pyramid, they were oppressed and exploited.
For centuries they have been the protagonists of great exploits in pursuit of freedom and democracy, their blood watered the struggle for independence from Spain, they carried out great struggles for the possession of the land, for the nationalization of the mines, in opposition to national discrimination, for freedom and democracy. In 1952 they lead a great democratic revolution that was taken over by the bourgeoisie. In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s they fought heroically against a series of fascistic military dictatorships.
At the beginning of the 21st century they led the so-called water war and later overthrew the Sanchez de Lozada government.
Demanding the rights of the indigenous peoples, a trade union fighter who led the coca-cultivating peasants, Evo Morales led the indigenous and popular struggle into elections and on the second attempt he won the Presidency of the Republic in 2005.
There emerged a progressive alternative, meaning access to the government by the indigenous peoples; proposing the refounding of the country, the establishment of a multinational State, the nationalization of the mines and petroleum, health care and education and opposed to neoliberalism. The government of Evo Morales quickly aligned itself with the other progressive governments, it awakened great expectations among the working masses and the peoples of Bolivia and even abroad, among the workers and peoples and among the left and the revolutionaries.
After enacting a new constitution and a period of economic and social achievements aimed at the indigenous peoples who had been impoverished for centuries, he was re-elected in 2009.
The government of Evo Morales has been subjected to pressure from imperialism and the bourgeoisie, from the right; and to the demands of the workers and indigenous peoples, who have been forced to recreate the old forms of struggle, marches, street demonstrations, general strikes and hunger strikes opposing the neoliberal measures such as the gasolinazo in 2011, the devastation of the environment by the construction of roads, the shortage and high price of food.
In Bolivia the class struggle continues with the workers, peoples and youth taking the lead. The peoples of Bolivia are still poor in a country extremely rich in natural resources.
The Constitution has changed, important efforts have been made to build multiculturalism, but the economic and social structures remain private capitalist property. The social revolution and socialism are, as yesterday, a need and task of the workers.
In opposition to the social democratic and Christian socialist governments who took turns in power since the overthrow of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship in 1958, Venezuela was the scene of many battles by the workers and people, the student youth in opposition to widespread corruption, the alienation by the international monopolies of wealth generated by oil operations, waste and fanfare of the ruling cliques.
These struggles shook the streets and plazas of the Venezuelan cities; they increased the determination of the masses to overthrow the institutional structures. Political analysts spoke of thousands of protests that took place every year.
In 1989, there was the so-called Caracazo, a genuine popular uprising that aroused Caracas demanding the departure of the government and great social and economic demands. This great action led to the resignation of Carlos Andres Perez from the Presidency but it could not avoid the constitutional succession that let everything stay the same.
Earlier, in the 1960s in Venezuela there was a valiant guerrilla movement involving thousands of fighters, which was defeated because of insufficient ties to the life and struggle of the working masses and the student youth, to small armed group deviations and of course of the military superiority of the armed forces aided by imperialism. Those struggles resulted in the formation of important revolutionary political cadres.
In February of 1992 there was a military uprising led by Colonel Hugo Chavez, which was defeated by the military high command, but which showed that the discontent and dissatisfaction had penetrated the barracks. The rebels were sentenced to prison and later pardoned.
In 1998 Hugo Chavez led an electoral alternative of the left, very powerful and militant against the domination of the traditional parties, the social democrats and social Christians; he brought together the sense of dissatisfaction of the majority of Venezuelans, which led him to victory in the first round.
Since then Chavez has been heading a democratic government that has used the vast oil resources for the benefit of the poorest sectors of society; with the people of the slums, he has in fact created a parallel State with so-called “missions” that are carrying through an aggressive welfare policy, that is providing education, health care and welfare for the masses. He is pushing forward major social reforms to benefit those on pensions, the workers and peasants. He pushed the State to take over the whole oil industry, although recently he has made concessions to the Chinese. He has nationalized a large number of industrial and trading companies, and major mass media.
Chavez has been promoting a forceful ideological offensive that is letting him form and preserve a significant social base that has given him successive electoral victories. He has been reelected three times and has a popular mandate until 2019, almost 20 years. This offensive promotes Chavez’s personal leadership; it proclaims 21st century socialism, the “Bolivarian revolution” and the role of the masses. It is the only progressive government that relies on the mobilization of the masses.
However basically, the banks and big capitalist enterprises remain intact, as do the U.S. foreign investments and those of other imperialist countries. The social revolution has not yet taken place in Venezuela.
The long struggle of the workers and peoples, the expectations and mobilization of the youth in opposition to neoliberalism and the oligarchic governments goes back a long way, since the last century; it goes hand in hand with workers strikes, peasant struggles for land, fights of the youth for education and freedom, the fight against the dictatorship and against the neoliberal governments, the uprisings of the indigenous peoples that have shown that they have strength at the national level since the indigenous uprising of 1990 (before then the indigenous mobilizations were partial and isolated). They continue with the popular uprisings that overthrew the governments of Bucaram in 1997, Mahuad in 2000 and Gutierrez in 2005; they are advancing by way of the electoral participation together with the left and the indigenous movement.
In 2006 they supported the candidacy of Correa and led it to victory. Before, they had supported Gutierrez and when he betrayed them they learned how to fight and overthrow him.
Correa’s victory was made possible by the growth of the masses’ desire for change, by the discrediting of the bourgeois parties, by the search for alternatives in the electoral arena, by the stance of a new candidate who promoted change, who developed a patriotic and left-wing discourse.
Since then the government developed a welfare policy in favor of the poorest sectors of the city and countryside, the Human Development Bonus was raised to $35 from the $12 set by the previous governments, he proclaimed free education and has carried this out to a large degree, similarly with health care. He aligned himself with the progressive governments in Latin America, joined ALBA and preaches a nationalist discourse with leadership qualities.
Under the government of Correa, who was re-elected after the adoption of the new Constitution in 2009 and who is now running for a third term in February of 2013, the big bankers and businessmen, though they have not directly run the government, have obtained the biggest profits in history; the rich have become richer and the poor remain poor (Correa began his government by distributing the poverty bonus to one million people, now he distributes it to nearly two million, since the poor have increased in number). Private ownership of the means of production continues unchanged and by the admission of the President himself this will continue to be respected.
The ideological offensive of the Correa government is massive and persistent, he monopolizes the whole media, based on the President’s media image, he spouts demagogic verbiage, diatribes and insults against his opponents. He proclaims the “citizens’ revolution,” “socialism of the 21st century” and that “the country now belongs to everyone.” In words he condemns the oligarchy and imperialism and he persecutes and condemns the social activists. The criminalization of the social struggle is developing to a greater degree than under all the previous governments, hundreds of rank-and-file leaders are prosecuted, accused of sabotage and terrorism, and more than two dozen militants of the left are in prison, convicted of terrorism.
Correa quickly changed course, his initial progressive and leftist proposals went “straight to the right.” He now rules for the bankers and businessmen, for the major exporters and importers.
Obviously the old partidocracy wants to return to office and is leading the bourgeois opposition, to replace him through elections.
In this scenario, the social organizations and movements, the left-wing political organizations and parties denounced in a timely manner the move to the right and they formed the popular opposition, defending the interests of the workers, indigenous peoples and youth. They are following the electoral path; they have come together in the Multinational Coordinator of the Left and are prepared for a tough battle in the next election.
Against all predictions that Correa is the favorite, the popular and left-wing alterative is advancing and following a path to victory.
Earlier we pointed out that each of the progressive governments of Latin America has its own essence and characteristics, it follows its own course. We also said that there are common elements that distinguish them from the other bourgeois governments in Latin America and that have allowed them to play a role in the international arena.
They have agreed on proposals and approaches at the OAS (Organization of American States), the UN and other international forums.
Venezuela, because of the significant surpluses produced by high oil prices, has developed a trade and aid policy favorable to the other countries.
Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have formed ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) that is seeking trade integration, but fundamentally a political orientation on the continent. ALBA has not been able to integrate all the progressive governments precisely because of political differences.
All the progressive governments emerged as alternative and left-wing proposals, they base themselves on the desire for change by the masses and in their early period they fulfilled some of their campaign promises and therefore they received successive support.
They emerged under favorable international conditions, when U.S. imperialism was bogged down in the Middle East. The economic crisis that shook the capitalist imperialist world did not affect them substantially; they have been favored by rising prices of petroleum, iron and other raw materials, by the high prices for agricultural products that have allowed them to have significant cash resources to promote public works and an aggressive welfare policy. However, the direction of the economy of the respective countries continues on the paths of neoliberalism. They all base their economy on extractive industries and agriculture, in all the countries the policies of deindustrialization continue.
On the one hand they were subjected to pressure from imperialism, mainly U.S. imperialism, from the native oligarchies and the political right-wing and, on the other hand to the demands of the working masses, the peoples, youth and left-wing political organizations and parties to fulfill their promises, to advances on the patriotic and democratic path.
At one point, they were all governments in dispute, they were in the center of the storm. That situation was circumstantial, in most of the countries these governments succumbed to the pressure of imperialism and the bourgeoisie, they renounced their patriotic and democratic projects, they adapted to the interests of the businessmen and bankers and the international monopolies and carried out their policies. They moved to the right. The exception is Hugo Chavez’s government that, in essence, continues on the path of social reforms.
This metamorphosis of the various alternative governments is expressed in different ways: some changed quickly, others later, some adopted repressive policies against social and left-wing activists. However, they all continue with a left-wing verbiage, preaching a double standard. They are essentially demagogic, populist governments, embodied in a charismatic political boss.
The question is whether the existence of these governments is a step forward or backward in the process of accumulation of forces in the task of organizing and making the revolution. The answer, which we will elaborate, is both yes and no.
In the context of the ebb at the end of the 20th century, the emergence of these governments is objectively an advance; viewed in their development they put forward new problems for the revolutionaries, they attract a social base among the working classes and youth, they are a diversionary factor.
1. Thirteenth Seminar “Problems of the Revolution in Latin America,” 2011 to 2012.
2. Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR) – Brazil.
3. Averdade newspaper, Organ of the PCR – Brazil.
4. Political Line of the PCMLV, Marxist-Leninist Party Communist Party of Venezuela.
5. Politics and Theory, Journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina.
6. The Capitalist System and the Struggle of the Workers and Peoples, Unity and Struggle No. 23, October 2011.
7. Latin America and the Social Revolution of the Proletariat, Pablo Miranda, March 2007.