Latin America’s left at the crossroads

Income inequality rose under Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Gallo/Getty)

William I. Robinson writes at Al Jazeera on the subject of the Pink Tide–“the ambiguous turn to the left in recent years in several Latin American countries”:

The Pink Tide governments have been “leftist” insofar as they have introduced limited wealth redistribution, restored a minimal role for the state in regulating accumulation, and administered government expansion in more inclusionary ways. When we cut through the rhetoric, however, a number of these governments – such as the Socialists in Chile, Kirchner in Argentina, and Lula in Brazil – were able to push forward capitalist globalisation with greater credibility than their orthodox neo-liberal predecessors, and, in doing so, to deradicalise dissent and demobilise social movements. What emerged was an elected progressive bloc in the region committed to mild redistributive programmes respectful of prevailing property relations and unwilling or simply unable to challenge the global capitalist order – a new, post-neo-liberal form of the national state tied to the larger institutional networks of global capitalism.

In many Pink Tide countries there has been no significant change in the unequal distribution of income or wealth, and indeed, inequality may actually be increasing.  Nor has there been any shift in basic property and class relations despite changes in political blocs, despite discourse favouring the popular classes, and despite mildly reformist or social welfare measures. In Argentina, for instance, the percentage of national income going to labour (through wages) and to the unemployed and pensioners (through social welfare subsidies and pensions) dropped from 32.5 per cent in 2001, before the crisis exploded, to 26.7 per cent in 2005. In Kirchner’s own words, the aim of his policies was to reconstruct capitalism in the country, “a capitalism in which the state plays an intelligent role, regulating, controlling, and mitigating where necessary problems that the market does not solve”. Despite its social programmes, the Kirchner administration worked to demobilise and divide Argentina’s social movements.
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Learning From Latin American Social Movements: Introduction to Dancing with Dynamite Book

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Benjamin Dangl’s new book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, (October, 2010, AK Press), recommended by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman:

Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States.  Read this much-needed book.”

***

The motorcycle thundered off the highway onto a jungle road of loose red dirt framed by trees, families lounging in front of their farmhouses, and small herds of disinterested cows. We pulled up to a dusty store to buy food for our stay in the rural community of Oñondivepá, Paraguay, and asked the woman behind the counter what was available. She nodded her head, picked up a saw, and began hacking away at a large slab of beef. We strapped the meat and a box of beer on to the back of the motorcycle and roared off down the road.

A volleyball game was going on when we arrived in the area where landless activist Pedro Caballero lived. His wife offered us fresh oranges while his children ran around in the dirt, playing with some wide-eyed kittens. The sun had set, so Caballero’s wife lifted a light bulb attached to a metal wire onto an exposed electric line above the house, casting light on our small gathering of neighbors. Suddenly, the dogs jumped to action, joining in a barking chorus, and lunged toward the edge of the woods. They had found a poisonous snake, a common cause of death in this small community far from hospitals.

Continue reading “Learning From Latin American Social Movements: Introduction to Dancing with Dynamite Book”