Latin America rebels and begins to turn left

Movilizaciones en américa

By Alejandro Bodart, MST leadership and ISL coordinator

The rebellion of the youth and working people against the Duque government in Colombia, the results of the constituent election in Chile and Pedro Castillo´s victory in Peru are the latest expressions of the profound changes that are taking place in the continent. They confirm that we are in a pre-revolutionary situation that presents revolutionaries with important challenges and opportunities.

The year 2019 was a global turning point. A wave of rebellions and revolutions against the austerity measures of a capitalist system in crisis swept the entire world. The irruption in 2018 of the yellow vests in France heralded what would come. But it was the popular uprisings at the end of 2019 in different countries of the Middle East and Latin America that began to change the international situation. These two regions of the planet became the epicenters of the rise.

In our beloved Latin America we saw our brotherly Ecuadorian people rise up, tear down the austerity plan that had been agreed with the IMF and push Lenin Moreno´s government against the ropes; we witnessed the rebellion against the Piñera government and the “30 years” regime inherited from Pinochetism in Chile; the historic general strike against austerity in Colombia; the struggle of the workers against Evo Morales´ government, the right wing´s assault of power and its subsequent defeat, among many other processes.

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The pandemic imposed a pause, but since the causes that provoked the rebellions were not resolved and the rise in mass consciousness was not stopped, they did not take long to retake the streets. In the middle of 2020, Black people and youth in the US led a mobilization process of historical characteristics that became a central factor in the electoral defeat of the supremacist Trump; and the Peruvian people rose up and overthrew two presidents, while mobilizations began to reactivate in other countries.

As for 2021, we are witnessing a new and massive popular uprising against the Duque government and the Uribeist regime, responsible for the misery of millions of Colombians, for leaving the youth without a future and sowing state terrorism for decades. Without backing down in the face of a bloody repression with dozens murdered and hundreds of disappeared, the mobilized people have already ousted the hated Minister of Economy and defeated the tax and health reforms, important partial victories that have strengthened the movement. Weeks of mass mobilizations, barricades, roadblocks and popular assemblies express the massive rejection of the government of one of the most unequal countries on the continent.

With the Colombian rebellion as a backdrop, elections for the Constituent Convention were held in Chile on May 15 and 16. The Constituent Assembly, won from below by the mass mobilization, represents a monumental victory of the rebellion that began in 2019 not only against the metro fare rise that detonated it, not only against Piñera´s right-wing government, but against the entire regime of the Pinochet constitution imposed by the dictatorship and sustained since then by the parties of the Chilean Concertación, the Socialist Party and the Christian Democracy.

The results of the elections dealt another blow to that agonizing regime and confirmed the profound shift to the left that is taking place in the mass movement. The ruling right did not achieve the third of constituent seats that would have allowed it to veto any substantial change to the current constitution. The parties of the former Concertación were equally punished, and the candidates of the left, the social movements and the “independents” who maned the front lines of the rebellion, emerged as the most voted force, wining over 50% of constituent seats.

The appearance of Colombia and Chile at the forefront of the continental ascent is not minor. During the revolutionary rise that shook Latin America in the first decade of the millennium, they were the two main bastions of reaction, with their regimes and the neoliberal model intact, propagandized by imperialism as examples to follow. The uprising of their peoples and the decline of those regimes mark a new moment in the region and a monumental blow to the reactionary right-wing that had come to power in several countries in the past decade. This can be seen in Brazil, where the mobilization to get rid of Bolsonaro has begun and was seen in the rise that shook Paraguay months ago.

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The new moment has been more than confirmed by the presidential elections in Peru. The surprise first round victory of Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher who presented the most radical discourse among all the candidates, is a complete demonstration of the changes that are taking place and the shift to the left of the most impoverished sectors of Peruvian society. As we publish this article, Castillo is beating right-wing Keiko Fujimori in the second round and the people are mobilizing so that the election is not stolen. This situation, despite Castillo’s limitations, is already triggering a new political earthquake not only in Peru but throughout the region.

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We must characterize the new moment we are experiencing in Latin America as a pre-revolutionary situation. The central dynamic of the mass movement is that of being fed up with the status quo, of breaking with the hegemonic political leaderships of the previous period, and of a willingness to take to the streets to confront and destroy them. Any provocation can unleash the devastating force of the masses: a rise in the metro fare, a tax hike, a case of corruption… Any spark can detonate a revolution in almost any country in Latin America today.

However, it is a prerevolutionary and not a revolutionary situation because there are still no revolutionary socialist parties with the sufficient influence, accumulation and positioning to lead the rebellions and revolutions that break out, lead them to definitive victories over capital and establish governments of workers and the poor. This leaves maneuvering room for the bourgeoisie, union bureaucracies, reformists and social democracy to prevent the old from being destroyed and the new from growing. In Chile, the Broad Front and the Communist Party forged a pact with the government to support Piñera when the people demanded his resignation en masse and now they are trying to prevent the Constituent Assembly from exceeding the limits of bourgeois democracy; in Colombia, it is the bureaucracy of the National Strike Committee that has been supporting Duque and trying to divert the process towards a negotiation with the government, while the social democratic variants work to channel everything towards an electoral process that still appears far away. What none of these treacherous and reformist leaderships can do is turn back time; they will have to live with a new situation that, in the midst of a great polarization, will tend to deepen and trigger recurrent rebellions.

In Peru, the question is how far a possible Castillo government will be willing to go, in unity with Verónica Mendoza and other expressions of the center-left. One thing is certain: if he doesn´t dare to take anti-capitalist economic measures – which he does not seem willing to do – and carry out a constituent process supported by mobilization and surpassing the bourgeois institutional order, he will quickly wear out his support and the illusion of a sector of the masses will be transformed into disappointment and anger.

The masses have the capacity to destroy the regimes that oppress them with their own spontaneous revolutionary force. But their creative capacity to replace those regimes with new structures and build a new society is limited to the political organizations that they have at their head. To carry the revolutionary mobilization to the end, liquidate the bourgeois regimes, dismantle the capitalist state, impose workers’ governments and build socialism, a revolutionary leadership is needed.

In turn, it is in the heat of rebellions and revolutions that revolutionary organizations are built, tempered and can grow by leaps and bounds. For this reason, the current situation poses enormous challenges and opportunities for the revolutionaries of our countries. It is by intervening in the rebellions, promoting the permanent mobilization and self-organization of the masses without sectarianism or opportunism, exposing the reformist forces that divert the processes and raising the fundamental solutions that are needed, that we can build the parties that can lead the socialist revolution. That is the challenge that we assume in the International Socialist League and each of our organizations; we invite all fighters to organize with us to make the new society that we all wish to build a reality.