Friday April 18th, 2014, 4:04 am (EDT)

Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean

I. Latin America

Latin America was the first region in the world where neoliberal policies were introduced. Chile, my country, was used as a testing ground before Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government implemented them in the United Kingdom. But Latin America was also the first region in the world where these policies came to be rejected as policies that only served to increase poverty, aggravate social inequalities, destroy the environment, and weaken working-class and popular movements in general.…It was in our subcontinent that left and progressive forces first began to rally after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. After more than two decades of suffering, new hope was born. At first, this took the shape of struggles to resist neoliberal policies, but after a few years, people went on the offensive, conquering arenas of power.… | more |

II. Twenty-First Century Socialism

“Why talk of socialism?” we may ask. After all, “socialism” has had such negative connotations since its collapse in the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. For many years after Soviet socialism disappeared, intellectuals and progressive forces talked more of what socialism must not be than of the model that we actually wanted to build. Some of the facets of Soviet socialism that were rejected—and rightly so—were: statism, state capitalism, totalitarianism, bureaucratic central planning, the kind of collectivism that seeks to homogenize without respecting differences, productivism (which stresses the growth of productive forces without being concerned about the need to protect nature), dogmatism, atheism, and the need for a single party to lead the transition process.… | more |

Conclusion

My reflections on the kind of political instrument needed to build twenty-first century socialism are intended to contribute to a larger body of thought about the horizon toward which a growing number of Latin American governments are moving. I conclude by emphasizing the need for a new left culture, a tolerant and pluralist culture that stresses that which unites us rather than that which divides us. A culture that promotes unity around values—such as solidarity, humanism, respect for difference, and protection of the environment—and turns its back on the view that hunger for profit and the laws of the market are the guiding principles of human activity.… | more |

Awakening in Oaxaca: Stirrings of the People’s Giant

The medieval kingdom that is twentieth century Oaxaca has imprisoned hundreds of citizens arbitrarily and unjustly. Dozens more have disappeared, victims of paramilitary escuadrones de muerte (death squads). Thousands have been beaten, tortured, and robbed, lost their jobs, or have been forced into exile because they objected to government wrongdoing.…The King’s minions who control Oaxaca’s political and economic systems are a small minority of the state’s population, “but they are a powerful minority. There is no transparency. The governor arranges, controls, dispenses as he wishes—he is the head cacique, he has the legislature and the judicial system in his pocket.” Change means overthrowing the governor and the system of government that he manifests and represents.… | more |

El Salvador: Mining the Resistance

“Ultimately,” said Miguel Rivera, a soft-spoken man in his late twenties, “we are a family that has dedicated ourselves to helping the people with their needs and defending their rights. But in the process of denouncing the consequences of mining especially, I think there are people that will be your enemies.”…The Canadian-owned Pacific Rim Mining Company has attempted to exploit a gold mine at El Dorado for the better part of a decade, and has been repeatedly thwarted in its efforts….Now, apparently, the company’s local allies have taken a more violent approach to removing that opposition.… | more |

Biography and Acknowledgements

Biography and Acknowledgements for “Latin America & Twenty-First Century Socialism: Inventing to Avoid Mistakes”… | more |

How to Visit a Socialist Country

Travelers from the United States to Cuba cross more than ninety miles of sea: they cross decades of history. They may be limited to one suitcase, but they carry trunks full of ideological baggage, including biases about Cuba, beliefs about communists, commitments as to what a good society should be like, and a collection of conventional poli-sci formulas about power, government, and human behavior…Members of delegations usually have planned itineraries, visiting various institutions and cultural events. They will learn about health care, education, cultural and sport resources, commitment to an ecological pathway of development, urban agriculture, equitable distribution through the rationing system, full employment, formal aspects of the political and judicial systems, achievements in gender and racial equality. These are all real, and demonstrate how far a poor country can go with so little. But it is obviously not the full story. There is nothing sinister in this. These are the things in which Cuba has pioneered, and of which Cuba is most proud and eager to show the world…My own experience has been that the more committed revolutionaries have the most serious, complex, and thoughtful criticisms, while counterrevolutionaries mostly complain about particular hardships or unpleasant incidents.… | more |

Saving History from Oblivion in Guerrero

In summer 2009, the case of Rosendo Radilla, the first to deal with forced disappearance by the Mexican state, went before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IAHRC). In December, the Court found Mexico guilty of the crimes of systematic human rights violations and forced disappearance. This was a landmark development led by the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared and Victims of Violations of Human Rights in Mexico (AFADEM) and the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) in a struggle with the Mexican government to obtain information on what happened to those disappeared by the authorities during the country’s guerra sucia, or dirty war, in the 1970s.… | more |

Margaret Randall’s Years in Cuba

Margaret Randall, To Change the World: My Years in Cuba (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 256 pages, $24.95, paperback.

Margaret Randall has always been too much of a feminist for the socialists and too much of a socialist for the feminists. She is one of the foremost oral historians of recent revolutionary history and, more specifically, of the history of women in revolutions. Yet her work has been consistently undervalued. Her memoir…is a rare double opportunity: an intimate look at the Cuban Revolution from 1969 to 1980, and a fascinating portrait of the development of a historian, poet, and political thinker.… | more |

A Theory of Globalized Capitalism

William I. Robinson, Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2008), 412 pages, $55.00, hardcover.

Latin America and Global Capitalism delivers a scathing indictment of neoliberal globalization from an explicitly anti-capitalist perspective. Its scope is theoretically and empirically ambitious, beginning with a wide-ranging treatment of structural shifts in global capitalism since the early 1970s, before turning to rigorous examination of a range of themes in Latin American political economy in light of these global changes. Robinson then brings these threads together with an argument that neoliberalism entered its twilight phase in the region beginning with the recession of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as extra-parliamentary mass movements concomitantly exploded onto the scene and a variety of self-described left governments took office. The focus then tightens, with conjunctural analyses of the current upsurge in indigenous revolts, the immigrant rights movement in the United States, and the complicated and contradictory processes of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.… | more |

Learning from ALBA and the Bank of the South: Challenges and Possibilities

The current period is marked by three overlapping developments: the failure of neoliberalism, the crisis of the East Asian export-led growth model, and South American efforts to advance an alternative regional development strategy. The combination has created a political environment offering important opportunities for those committed to the international struggle to supplant capitalism.… | more |

Indigenous Resistance in the Americas and the Legacy of Mariátegui

Marc Becker, Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008), 356 pages, $22.95, paperback.

Following the 2005 election of the first Indigenous president of any country in the Americas—Evo Morales in Bolivia—I commented in MRzine on the fact that many were taken by surprise by this seemingly sudden occurrence out of nowhere, but only because they had not been paying attention to the development of the international Indigenous movement over the past three decades.… | more |

The Venezuelan Effort to Build a New Food and Agriculture System

In April 2008, as people around the world took to the streets to protest the global food crisis and the lack of political will to address it, a crowd of a different nature gathered in Venezuela. Afro-Venezuelan cacao farmers and artisanal fishermen of the coastal community of Chuao came together to witness their president pledge that the food crisis would not hinder Venezuela’s advancements in food and agriculture. “There is a food crisis in the world, but Venezuela is not going to fall into that crisis,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías. “You can be sure of that. Actually, we are going to help other nations who are facing this crisis.”1 He then went on to describe Venezuela’s most recent developments in food and agriculture, as well as the work that still lay ahead. This was one of several weekly addresses that Chávez had dedicated to food and agriculture as the world food crisis unfolded.… | more |

Saying No to Soy: The Campesino Struggle for Sustainable Agriculture in Paraguay

When Paraguay elected Fernando Lugo, its first non-Colorado Party president in more than sixty years, the mood was elated. In the streets of Asuncion that night in April 2008, “Grandmothers, wrapped in the Paraguayan flag, danced with children in the streets, and cried at the top of their lungs that this [was] the moment they’d been waiting for their whole lives.”1 While Lugo’s election was a clear victory for the social movements that united to elect him, movement leaders knew that this was just the beginning. As Worker Party and Indigenous Farmer organizer Tomás Zayas told me the previous year: “Lugo will not solve our problems. If Lugo is elected, it will be a door, an opening, through which we can add to our movement and demands.”… | more |

Why Cuba Still Matters

In the early 1990s there was near unanimity in the media, in Western political circles, and even among academics that the collapse of the Cuban revolution was imminent. Even today, many observers regard it as only a matter of time for Cuba to undergo a transition to democracy (understood as a narrowly defined polyarchy) and a “market economy.”… | more |

The Long March of the Cuban Revolution

The Cuban revolutionary victory of January 1, 1959, was a news event of epochal proportion even for those who knew little about that country. For many, it was like discovering a new world. And as in the age of the great navigators, encountering it was clouded both by ignorance and the prejudices that usually accompany such revelations.… | more |

The Cuban Revolutionary Doctor: The Ultimate Weapon of Solidarity

On August 19, 1960, Che Guevara gave a talk to the Cuban Militia “On Revolutionary Medicine”: “A few months ago, here in Havana, it happened that a group of newly graduated doctors did not want to go into the country’s rural areas and demanded remuneration before they would agree to go.”… | more |

The Urban Agriculture of Havana

Over the last fifteen years, Cuba has developed one of the most successful examples of urban agriculture in the world. Havana, the capital of Cuba, with a population of over two million people, has played a prominent, if not dominant role, in the evolution and revolution of this type of agriculture. The phrase “urban agriculture in Cuba” has a somewhat different meaning, simultaneously more and less restrictive than might appear at a first glance. It is more inclusive, as it allows for large expanses, urban fringes, and suburban lands. For example, the entire cultivated area of the Province of the City of Havana belongs to urban agriculture. … | more |

An Alternative Worth Struggling For

“We are sinking in the Devil’s excrement,” wrote a close observer of Venezuela’s adventures in oil. Was Venezuela’s deep culture of corruption, crime, and clientalism imaginable in the absence of the oil rents which became the supreme object of desire? Was the truncation of industry and agriculture and the vast chasm between a privileged oligarchy and an impoverished mass inevitable-given the effects of oil wealth upon a poor, developing country?… | more |

The Only Road Is Practice: After the Venezuelan Referendum Defeat

I am certain that, like many people these days, the first thing on your mind is the question of the referendum on reform of the Bolivarian Constitution — what the defeat means and where do we go from here. What I want to talk about today is not on that topic specifically, but it is related.… | more |