Sunday April 20th, 2014, 11:56 am (EDT)

Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean

The Guerrilla in Colombia An Interview with Rodrigo Granda, Member of the FARC-EP International Commission

Rodrigo Granda is a member of and the leading international spokesperson for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC–EP). His name gained global prominence in December 2004 when he was kidnapped in Venezuela and handed over to Colombian authorities by a number of Venezuelan National Guard soldiers seeking a reward placed on his head by the Colombian government. At the time of his capture Granda was attending a meeting of the Bolivarian Peoples Movements in Caracas. Granda’s kidnapping in Venezuela at the instigation of the Colombian government created an international dispute between Venezuela and Colombia. He was released in 2007 in response to pressures exerted on the Colombian government by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.… | more |

“We Will Keep Trying, Unrepentant, Forever”

Soon after joining Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry, in the early 1960s, I learned about Victor Rabinowitz and Leonard Boudin. Before meeting them I already knew how much Fidel admired and respected these two distinguished American lawyers, who were representing Cuba in the midst of a very complex and difficult confrontation and a very uneven one.…At the time I didn’t imagine that I was going to be sent to New York to my first and only diplomatic assignment. It was not exceedingly easy to begin a diplomatic career, or any career for that matter, at the top and to transform yourself in a couple of years from a student of philosophy into the youngest ambassador ever at the UN. It did not help that I was representing a country that was almost completely isolated in the Western Hemisphere.… | more |

Against the Market Economy: Advice to Venezuelan Friends

I am here to salute you—because you are attempting to do what nobody has ever succeeded in doing before—help autonomous groups of workers and consumers plan their interrelated activities democratically, equitably, and efficiently themselves. You have already created the elements of what you call the “social economy”—worker-owned cooperatives, communal councils, municipal assemblies, participatory budgeting, subsidized food stores, health care clinics, and nuclei of endogenous development. Now you want the cooperatives and communal councils to display solidarity for one another rather than treat each other as antagonists in commercial exchanges. And sooner rather than later you want the benefits of this kind of participatory, socialist economy to encompass the entire economy and all Venezuelans.… | more |

Workplace Democracy and Collective Consciousness: An Empirical Study of Venezuelan Cooperatives

Liberal ideology insists that a society in which conscious solidarity is the dominating attitude/approach is impossible, because humans are primarily and perpetually motivated by individual material incentives. But the revolutionary process that Venezuela embarked upon in 1999, known as the “Bolivarian Revolution,” is challenging the core liberal tenet that narrow self-interest is the immutable human condition… | more |

Dual Power in the Venezuelan Revolution

Too often, the Bolivarian Revolution currently underway in Venezuela is dismissed by its critics—on the right and left—as a fundamentally statist enterprise. We are told it is, at best, a continuation of the corrupt, bureaucratic status quo or, at worst, a personalistic consolidation of state power in the hands of a single individual at the expense of those “checks and balances” traditionally associated with western liberal democracies. These perspectives are erroneous, since they cannot account for what have emerged as the central planks of the revolutionary process. I will focus on the most significant of these planks: the explosion of communal power… | more |

Socialist Strategies in Latin America

The Latin American left is once again discussing the paths to socialism. The correlation of forces has changed through popular action, the crisis of neoliberalism, and U.S. imperialism’s loss of offensive capability. It is no longer relevant to juxtapose a revolutionary political period of the past with a conservative present. The social weakness of the industrial working class does not impede anti-capitalist progress, which depends on the exploited and the oppressed uniting in common struggle… | more |

The Latin American Revolt: An Introduction

The revolt against U.S. hegemony in Latin America in the opening years of the twenty-first century constitutes nothing less than a new historical moment. Latin America, to quote Noam Chomsky, is “reasserting its independence” in an attempt to free itself from centuries of imperialist domination. The gravity of this threat to U.S. power is increasingly drawing the attention of Washington. Julia Sweig, Latin American program director at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that the twenty-first century is likely to be known as the “Anti-American Century,” marking a growing intolerance of the “waning” U.S. empire. Outweighing even the resistance to the U.S. war machine in Iraq in this respect, Sweig suggests, is the political realignment to the left in Latin America, which, in destabilizing U.S. rule in the Americas, offers a “prophetic microcosm” of what can be expected worldwide… | more |

ALBA: A New Dawn for Latin America

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the political and economic system it headed brought about an excessive euphoria that caused many — both on the right and within a “left” subordinated to that failed project — to believe in the final and definitive triumph of capitalism. So much was said about the fall of the Berlin Wall that few realized that at the same time the Caracazo was taking place… | more |

Mexico after the Elections: The Crisis of Legitimacy & the Exhaustion of Predatory Neoliberalism

The Mexican general elections of July 2006 produced an official result that some felt was “very typical of advanced democracies.” But this result defied Mexican political experience, resulting in a major legitimacy crisis. With over forty million voters turning out this time, the proclaimed winner of the presidency was Felipe Calderón, the rightwing National Action Party (PAN) candidate, who in the official count beat the center-left candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Andrés Manuel López Obrador, by 0.58 percent. Calderón took 35.89 percent of the vote while Obrador took 35.31 percent… | more |

Oaxaca: Rebellion against Marginalization, Extreme Poverty, and Abuse of Power

In the last five years, millions of people have taken to the streets in Mexico challenging the political system and economic policies. In Atenco, in the state of Mexico, the population prevented the construction of the new Mexico City airport in 2002. Atenco became a center of resistance which has supported numerous struggles. Over a million people participated in protests in the year 2005, when the right-wing government of Vicente Fox attempted to eliminate Andrés Manuel López Obrador from the presidential elections of 2006 by way of a “legal” maneuver. More than two million protested against the election fraud with which Fox’s government imposed the presidency of Felipe Calderón. Thousands of citizens of Oaxaca rebelled against the corrupt and oppressive state government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Despite assassinations, disappearances, beastly abuse, and imprisonment, the protest, which began in May of 2006, continued until April of 2007. In retaliation for the events of 2006, the federal police repressed hundreds of protesters and arrested dozens of people. They broke into homes without warrants, and raped women… | more |

Venezuela: A Good Example of the Bad Left of Latin America

Fair wages, a fair day’s work! Through their struggles within capitalism, it has often been possible for workers and citizens to secure themselves some share of the benefits of social labor. Capitalist globalization and the offensive of neoliberal state policies, however, have encroached upon all those gains from past struggles; and the answer to those who were surprised to find those victories ephemeral was the mantra of TINA — there is no alternative… | more |

Bolívar and Chávez: The Spirit of Radical Determination

In the summer of 2005 Venezuela commemorated the bicentenary of Simón Bolívar’s oath, made in the presence of his great teacher, Simón Rodríguez — a man who later in Paris, well before Marx, frequented socialist secret societies and returned to South America only in 1823. Bolívar’s oath took place on August 15, 1805, on the outskirts of Rome. Already the place itself — the hill of Monte Sacro — which they had chosen together for this solemn occasion, was indicative of the nature of the young Bolívar’s historical pledge. For precisely on the hill of Monte Sacro, twenty-three centuries earlier, the rebellious protest of the plebeians against the patricians in Ancient Rome, under the leadership of Sicinio, was supposed to have taken place. At that time the rebellion of the Roman populace is said to have been brought to an end by the rhetoric of that notorious pillar of the established order, Senator Menenius Agrippa, who was preaching the forever familiar wisdom of the ruling classes according to which the people “not destined to rule” should willingly accept “their place in the natural order of society.”… | more |

Indigenous Peoples and the Left in Latin America

What has been left out of reports and analysis in both the mainstream press and among anti-imperialists and leftists about the triumph of Evo Morales’s election as president of Bolivia is the role played by the over three-decade-long international indigenous movement that preceded it. Few are even aware of that powerful and remarkable historic movement, which springs from generations of grassroots organizing… | more |

The Struggle for Bolivia’s Future

After five hundred years of domination and colonialism, more than fifty years since the introduction of universal suffrage, and following five years of intense social struggle, the indigenous majority of Bolivia, for the first time in December 2005, elected one of their own as president — the coca grower leader and head of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Evo Morales. The victory — winning more than 50 percent of the vote — was more than an indication of the rejection of twenty years of neoliberal rule. Peruvian activist Hugo Blanco summed up the significance of this event when he wrote, “the new president is not the result of a simple ‘democratic election’ like the many that frequently occur in our countries, it is an important step in the path of the organized Bolivian people in their struggle to take power into their own hands.”… | more |

Workers’ Power in Argentina: Reinventing Working Culture

Nearly six years since Argentina’s worst economic crisis in 2001, both the level of popular participation in struggles and the breadth of the political spectrum have been radically transformed. There has been a resurgence of struggle inside the workplace and Argentina’s working class has turned to its historical tools for liberation: direct democracy, the strike, sabotage, and the factory takeover. Labor struggles in public hospitals, public universities, the bank sector, recuperated enterprises, and the Buenos Aires subway have resulted in new visions and victories for the country’s working class… | more |

Filming Fidel: A Cuban Diary, 1968

In May 1968, I received a call in San Francisco where I worked for the local public television station. From Havana, Dr. Rene Vallejo, Fidel Castro’s doctor and confidante, said: “Come down with your crew as soon as you can.” In other words, Castro was ready to cooperate on a film portrait for public television. We arrived shortly thereafter and waited for seven weeks. What follows is a diary and commentary about the jeep trip with Fidel through Oriente Province in July 1968… | more |

Healing the Rift

As John Bellamy Foster explained in “The Ecology of Destruction” (Monthly Review, February 2007), Marx explored the ecological contradictions of capitalist society as they were revealed in the nineteenth century with the help of the two concepts of metabolic rift and metabolic restoration. The metabolic rift describes how the logic of accumulation severs basic processes of natural reproduction leading to the deterioration of ecological sustainability. Moreover, “by destroying the circumstances surrounding that metabolism,” Marx went on to argue, “it [capitalist production] compels its systematic restoration as a regulating law of social reproduction”—a restoration, however, that can only be fully achieved outside of capitalist relations of production … | more |

The Ecology of Destruction

I would like to begin my analysis of what I am calling here “the ecology of destruction” by referring to Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1969 film Burn!. Pontecorvo’s epic film can be seen as a political and ecological allegory intended for our time. It is set in the early nineteenth century on an imaginary Caribbean island called “Burn.” Burn is a Portuguese slave colony with a sugar production monoculture dependent on the export of sugar as a cash crop to the world economy. In the opening scene we are informed that the island got its name from the fact that the only way that the original Portuguese colonizers were able to vanquish the indigenous population was by setting fire to the entire island and killing everyone on it, after which slaves were imported from Africa to cut the newly planted sugar cane… | more |

‘No Radical Change in the Model’

In the 2006 presidential election campaign in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula), leader of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT or Workers’ Party), was interviewed at length on July 11, 2006, by the Financial Times (which also interviewed Lula’s main rightist challenger Geraldo Alckmin). The interview touched on many topics but mainly concentrated on Lula’s adherence in his first term of office to the global neoliberal policies of monopoly-finance capital, particularly repayment of debt and “fiscal responsibility.” At two points in the interview the Financial Times bluntly asked whether Lula was looking toward a “radical change in the model,” i.e., whether he and his Workers’ Party intended to break with financial capital and neoliberalism in his second term of office. Lula gave them the answer they wanted: “There is no radical change in the model….What we need now, in economics and in politics, is to strengthen Brazil’s internal and external security.”… | more |

The State and Economy in Brazil: An Introduction

These articles were written five months before the first round of presidential elections in Brazil, on October 1, 2006. The second round, on October 29, saw Lula reelected with 58.3 million votes (60.78 percent of all valid votes), beating Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate for the Partido Social Democrata Brasileiro (PSDB), the party of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula’s predecessor in office. Lula won this second four-year mandate after a campaign revolving around ethical issues and allegations of corruption against government officials and high-ranking members of his Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT)—allegations from opposition parties, right and left. The campaign included the pathetic episode of PT officials trying to buy information on candidates from the PSDB in the State of São Paulo (economically and politically speaking, one of the most important states in the union, with a strong oppositional streak), and a concerted nationwide media campaign for Alckmin on a scale never before seen in Brazil… | more |