As we have been discussing through reports, articles and documents (which we have systematically updated) since the last ISL Congress, the world is experiencing extreme political and social polarization. A strong climate of political tension and growing social struggles, including rebellions, revolutions and opportunities for the left on the one hand, and the emergence of strong right-wing and extreme right-wing expressions on the other, this is what characterizes the world situation. This is developing as part of a serious capitalist crisis, now combined, since the beginning of 2022, with the war in Ukraine and the permanent tensions between the US-NATO and Russia, in the framework of a leap in the inter-imperialist disputes involving China, as was also evidenced these months with the crisis facing Taiwan and Asia in general. These tensions anticipate the coming struggles for world hegemony. These inter-imperialist disputes and the strong social and political polarization are taking place in a world submerged in economic and social crises, austerity, famines and environmental destruction along with a prospect of more class struggle, turns to the left and political search outside the traditional parties by layers of the masses.
This brief framework of the world situation, which will be specifically addressed in the text on the international situation during this pre-congress period of the ISL, serves us to go into the situation of our continent, where many of these features exist and have deepened in multiple countries. Our region is one of the most dynamic points regarding the rise and class struggle. In Latin America, we have recently witnessed and intervened in the important wave of struggles and rebellions that began in April 2018 in Nicaragua against the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship and went through a qualitative leap in 2019 with Chile at the forefront and other processes that took place in Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Colombia, Haiti, etc. Then, in 2021, Colombia exploded and important mobilizations took place in Cuba.
We are now witnessing a new moment, a new wave in our continent, where, in tune with the world situation, these processes are once again becoming visible in several countries. In 2022 there were important mass actions in Ecuador and Panama. Elements of an important rise in different countries such as Argentina against austerity or Brazil against Bolsonarism. And, since the end of last year until today, we are witnessing an important process of mobilization in Haiti and a generalized rebellion in Peru against the coup advance of the right wing. In another chapter of this text we will further discuss the features of these situations. We now only mention them as points of reference, knowing that they are part of a moment that has its genesis in the international economic and social crisis, which places us before the need to strengthen our intervention and political construction towards the new opportunities and challenges to come.
In this context, we wrote the following document, which analyzes this situation and develops the strong existing political debates, the leap in the imperialist interference of different powers, the electoral defeats of several right-wing forces, the new governments of progressive appearance that carry on the failure of their previous administrations, developing a strategic debate against all the reformist and possibilist variants. There are also political experiences developing within the left; in several of the most important ones comrades of the ISL intervene and we will develop our opinion about them here. Finally, we will also refer to the policy and program to be raised in the midst of this situation, with the aim of strengthening the construction of revolutionary organizations and the ISL throughout Latin America.
2. The economic and social crisis
In recent years our continent has been suffering the consequences of the global capitalist crisis and the irrational actions of the large extractive corporations in alliance with the capitalist governments of the region and the imperialist powers intervening here. This policy, along with the strong dependence on organizations such as the IMF, and the austerity arrangements applied by governments of different political origins, shape this entire situation. We should also add the new attempts by the US to retake and deepen its political and economic control in the continent, in the face of the constant advances of China as a major competitor in our region.
To understand this dispute, it is necessary to know that the US holds 22% of all investments on the continent and acts not only in the economic sphere, but also in the political and military ones. However, on the economic level, China has taken the lead in trade with Latin America in recent years, whereas in 1994 it only represented 1.7%, today it has risen to 14.4%, being the highest of all with 450 billion dollars. China is trying to take the lead through corporations operating in the exploitation of lithium in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. China’s advances are targeted at taking advantage of our continent as an exporter of raw materials mainly due to the advance of the “silk road” from the Pacific, which has already incorporated 20 countries of the continent in economic agreements. Russia is the other element trying to advance at the geopolitical level but from another angle: through military agreements and the sale of arms to eight Latin American countries.
The economic and social situation, as in the rest of the world, worsened notoriously during the strongest period of the pandemic, and at the same time showed the social decay in which millions of Latin Americans live. As expected, faced with this situation, the only response by imperialism and the governments of the region was to try to unload this crisis on the backs of the working class and youth majorities.
After the peak of the pandemic during 2021, new expressions of the economic crisis which continued throughout 2022 began to be manifest, and the forecasts for 2023 reaffirm their continuity. For example, data from ECLAC studies warn that within the framework of what they call a “lost decade,” the continent will maintain a strong context of economic deceleration. Comparatively, the growth line that had been somewhat higher in previous years will close 2022 at 3.7% and by 2023 it will fall to 1.3%. The general average growth per country will be barely 0.9%. ECLAC itself warns that if the 2014-2019 six-year period is taken as reference, due to the slowdown of the world economy, our continent experienced a rickety growth of 0.3% during those years, comparable to the years of the “Great Depression” or the First World War.
Today, the economies of the region are suffering from this critical situation, to which we must also add the issue of foreign debts and dependence, which suffocate economies and politically bind several countries to the designs of international credit organizations. It is a problem of the highest magnitude: the gross debt of all the countries in the region is equivalent to 78% of GDP and its interest to 59%.
Faced with this situation suffered by the great majorities, there is a leap in extractive and destructive policies, which do not solve any social problem and worsen living conditions while plundering our wealth. Our continent is highly coveted for its vast natural wealth. Latin America has enormous energy resources, with countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia being among the world leaders in oil in the first place and then gas. Argentina also has oil and minerals, same as Chile, and both, together with Bolivia, make up the so-called lithium triangle. Brazil and Mexico have vast oil and mineral resources, Peru has mineral wealth, Ecuador has oil, among others. In addition, the continent has 22% of the world’s fresh water, highly prized by the powers that live in a world of droughts and pollution. We also have 23% of the planet’s forest heritage and more than 50% of the world’s biodiversity (the Amazon wields 10% of the world’s biodiversity) and 178 ecological regions. This has been strongly deteriorated by the advance of extractive policies, overexploitation of resources, widespread deforestation, intensive agriculture and soybean farming, among other evils of capitalism.
This is aggravated by a regressive phenomenon caused by imperialist capitalism: climate change. Among other effects, it generates strong thaws in a continent that has enormous formations along the Andean mountain range that are being lost at an accelerated rate. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia have lost around 40% of their glaciers, as the most affected countries. According to a World Bank report, “hurricanes, floods and droughts are becoming more frequent, and it is estimated that 17 million people could be forced to abandon their homes and almost 6 million people could fall into extreme poverty between now and 2030, mainly due to the lack of drinking water, as well as greater exposure to excessive heat and floods.” Another report adds that the productive yields of bean and corn fields will decrease by 20% in Central America and the Caribbean.
In short, the combination of austerity measures, attacks on social conquests, extractivist and destructive policies worsen the living conditions of the population throughout the continent. The consequence of this is the leap -or in some countries the continuity- of social inequality and very marked levels of poverty and indigence. Inequality is growing simultaneously as the austerity plans are implemented by both right-wing and “progressive” governments. According to economist Thomas Piketty, the richest 1% of the continent accounts for 25% of total wealth (in the U.S. this 1% accounts for 18% of the country’s wealth).
This increase in inequality is paralleled by an increase in poverty and indigence and the lack of a future for entire populations. Among other effects, there is an increase in the sectors that attempt, risking their lives, to migrate north, towards the US, evidencing the desperation of popular sectors (especially from Central America) despite the subsequent repression. In 2021 approximately 1,700,000 people were repressed and intercepted on their way to the US or near its border.
Currently, poverty levels remain high in some countries and are worsening in others. Another factor that intervenes negatively in this phenomenon is inflation, which exceeded 8% as a continental average in 2022. Poverty in Latin America was 29.8% in 2018 and 33.7% in 2022. Extreme poverty, in the same period, rose from 10.4% to 14.4%. This trend and the result of austerity plans lead to the expectation that by 2023 and 2024 some 8 million more people will fall into risk of food insecurity, adding to the more than 85 million who already suffer from it today.
Something similar is happening with employment and unemployment levels, an issue that runs through the entire region and is the driving force behind strong struggles. Wages, which have lost purchasing power during the pandemic, had a slight recovery in the second half of 2021 and fell again after the effects of the war in Ukraine on the world economy. Something similar happened with unemployment, which is still very high and in recent years has been around 8%. At the same time, the ILO estimates that between 50% and 80% of the jobs created after the pandemic are informal, i.e. highly precarious and in poor conditions.
To intervene in this situation it is necessary to be at the forefront in all the processes of class struggle that we can, and to strengthen the construction of revolutionary and alternative organizations of the left, in dispute with the right-wing and “progressive” governments, both responsible for this situation together with all the imperialist powers that intervene here.
3. A new cycle of strong rise and polarization
Latin America is witnessing a new moment of irruption of the mass movement, a period that had not been manifested with such magnitude since the beginning of the millennium with the insurrections, rebellions and revolutionary processes in Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela, which gave way, as a political expression, to self-styled progressive, reformist and center-left governments, its most radical point being Bolivarianism with Chavez. Almost two decades later, we are going through a new boom in the class struggle. In 2018 political and social polarization was expressed in the rise of the mass movement against the austerity plans and plundering. The response of governments was repression, which enhances the phenomena that marks that period: polarization and political, social and economic crisis. It is a situation of recurrent crisis that characterizes Latin America. Our analysis and militant intervention should prepare us to take leaps in our organizations in a framework where the discontent of broad sectors of the masses and the politicization of the vanguard that arises in struggles, rebellions and revolutions will prevail.
Regarding the rebellions in Chile in 2019 and Colombia in 2021, the change was qualitative, the impasse of the pandemic led to deepen the crisis, the political crises in Brazil and Argentina and the great mobilizations in Central America returned with strength, again Ecuador, Haiti and Peru sealed the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023. This feeds the fear of the ruling class and imperialism in a stage marked by instability and polarization, which engenders phenomena on the right and the left. Reviewing the cycle that the year 2000 marked will contribute to understanding of the current cycle, with its differences, contradictions, debates and challenges.
A look at the cycle of the beginning of the century
A wave of class struggle, insurrections and rebellions was unleashed at the beginning of the millennium in Latin America against the application of neoliberal plans that deepened in the 1990s after the opening of markets and the attempt to increase the influence of US imperialism. That global trigger intensified a shift to the left in Latin America, which, with its particularities, gave way to self-styled progressive, reformist and center-left governments, a process known as the “pink tide,” which had its greatest expression in the Bolivarian Revolution that brought Chavez to power in Venezuela, proposing “socialism of the 21st century.”
This cycle of “progressive” governments was part of a regional process of social uprisings: rebellions in Ecuador (1998-2000), the Argentinazo (2001), the defeat of the military coup in Venezuela (2002, a process that had been underway since the Caracazo of 1989), the Water War in Bolivia (2003) and the peasant and people’s insurrection that led to the fall of Losada (2005), among other manifestations.
As a result, governments were formed that were marked by this continental situation. Pressured by the mass movement, they advanced to a greater or lesser extent in certain social concessions in a context of economic bonanza due to the boom in global prices of the commodities that contributed to their projects. The Bolivarian Revolution with Chavez was the process that advanced the most as a result of social effervescence and a rupture with the traditional Venezuelan bourgeoisie. Thus, frictions with imperialism intensified, leading to some nationalizations and democratic advances. Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador came to power as a result of the fall of traditional governments fomented by popular insurrections and proposing new constitutions. Lula, who came to power in Brazil with the PT, quickly turned his government around, reaffirming his country’s sub-imperialist role by proposing a “progressivism” linked to a social-liberal project echoed by Kirchner in Argentina, Mujica in Uruguay and, at another level, by Bachelet in Chile.
Despite their differences, they all remained within the parameters of bourgeois democracy and the administration of capitalist states. The boom in the international prices of raw materials and consumer goods allowed them a favorable context. At the same time, by not breaking with the logic of capitalist accumulation, they consolidated the extractivist and export-based character of Latin American countries, with GDP growth and new state parasitic bourgeoisies via the new representatives of the regimes. This situation opened up new social, economic and ecological conflicts, showing the limits of “progressive” projects.
These projects later began succumbing to the economic deterioration opened by the world crisis of 2008, which affected exportation. They then ratified their course within the limits of capital, applying austerity measures and backtracking on concessions. As a result, the loss of their social base led them to electoral defeats against the right in several countries. In cases such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, counterrevolutionary setbacks were imposed, giving rise to the current authoritarian regimes after violent repressions of opposition struggles, especially those of the youth, some years ago.
The closing of the progressive cycle
This first cycle of the 21st century, of a rise of the mass movement, showed the contradiction of a leadership that, despite its left-wing language, remained within the margins of bourgeois democracy and the institutionalism of the capitalist state. Thus they demonstrated their limits and betrayals. That is why, after the rise of progressive and center-left governments, different social and political combinations allowed the right to return to power several countries of the continent. Simultaneously, emboldened by polarization, there were anti-democratic rehearsals carried out by the right in Honduras and Paraguay. In Brazil, there were large popular mobilizations in 2016 against the pension reform of Dilma Rousseff and the PT, which lost its social base with that regressive measure. The regime and its most reactionary sectors advanced to her impeachment, then the arrest of Lula and, though weakened, the classic bourgeoisie returned to state control and thus made way for Bolsonaro, an expression of the right-wing pole.
In Venezuela, after the death of Chávez and the defeat of Maduro in the elections to the National Assembly in 2010, there was an authoritarian turn of the government in the face of the attempts of the right wing to impose another government with the endorsement of US imperialism. Its backdrop was the massive and radical mobilizations against the PSUV regime and its authoritarian and regressive measures. The counterrevolution was carried out in Venezuela from the state apparatus of the PSUV and generated profound setbacks in the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution.
One of the defining features of the downfall of “progressivism” has been the cases in which capitalist policies were combined with Stalinist logics to apply austerity plans with constant repression, as in Venezuela or Nicaragua. There has been a greater turn in recent years by the Cuban CP in repressive containment in the face of its opening to capital, clashing several times with dissatisfied popular sectors.
These examples show how pseudo-progressive governments allow the recomposition of the right wing and reactionary sectors by compromising, applying anti-popular programs and betraying their promises. After opening the electoral space for the right, in order to justify their downfall, their representatives claimed that “a dark night” was coming in Latin America, a “continental turn to the right.” Nothing could have been more mistaken. On the contrary: they demonstrated that they had no solution to the capitalist crisis in the region other than submitting to the plans of imperialism. Thus they opened space for the right, though the mass movement had not been defeated. Furthermore, a key characteristic of the subsequent conjuncture is the crisis of the right-wingers who returned to power as a result of the vacuum created by the possibilist variants. This feature is being put to the test in the current cycle, an ideological debate that we will return to later.
A new wave of struggles and political experiences
Latin America is experiencing a new cycle of great social and political importance. At different paces, the continental trend is featured by instability and polarization. The common elements vary according to the impact of the economic, political, health, ecological and institutional crisis in each country. New massive and radical mobilizations, semi-insurrections and rebellions constitute a pre-revolutionary situation that has social and political polarization as a central element, where media, oligarchic and judicial corporations, linked to the old and new right-wingers, also have a heavy influence.
After the progressive cycle, the right in power only aggravated the crisis situation. The response didn’t take long to appear. In 2018, a rebellion broke out in Nicaragua in the face of the Ortega-Murillo IMF agreement, and Haiti marked the first chapter of a revolutionary uprising that still continues. In Ecuador, a rebellion occurred in 2019 with the indigenous peoples and peasantry at the forefront that cornered the government of Lenin Moreno and the neoliberal austerity plan it had prepared with the IMF. Its fall was apparent but the leadership of the CONAIE did not advance despite having managed to reverse the agreement. Chile then experienced a true revolution against the Pinochetist legacy. It began with the raising of the subway fare and spread to all the people. They developed instances of self-organization and self-defense with demands against the government of Piñera and for a new constitution, but the absence of a revolutionary leadership allowed a pact to be sealed by the whole regime. In Colombia, there was a general strike in November 2019 and, after the pandemic, a generalized rebellion in 2021 against the fiscal reform and Duque’s repression. In Bolivia, Evo succumbed in 2019 after weeks of genuine protests; the right wing took advantage of that opening to push through a pro-imperialist puppet coup and impose Áñez, who was later defeated by the mininer’s mobilization.
In Brazil, Bolsonaro was unable to implement his reactionary program and had to face feminist and anti-racist struggles that impacted the whole country, adding more political polarization with the return of Lula. In Argentina, the political and economic crisis added further antecedents after the pandemic and the government of Fernandez decided to seal a new pact with the IMF. Social tensions and struggles of the unemployed and the unions, especially in the health sector, anticipate what is yet to come. In Peru, the Fujimori regime has deteriorated, the institutional crisis continues and there have already been six presidents in four years. In 2022, a qualitative leap took place with the vacancy of Pedro Castillo and the popular response to get rid of the coup government and the entire corrupt regime. In Mexico, although the mass movement is farther behind, the main bourgeois political references are weakened and new expressions emerge outside the PRI. In mid 2022 Ecuador once again had a national strike and a partial victory of its demands. Last July, Panama experienced a strong upsurge and enormous mobilization led by teachers and other popular sectors that marked the whole situation. Haiti was once again in commotion in the streets. And in Cuba, protests have been going on for some time now, more than during the 1994 crisis, due to the lack of food, energy and medicines, aggravated by the crisis and the blockade. Movements against bureaucracy are emerging, with popular sectors that genuinely want to make themselves heard. It is important to follow the Cuban case and see how we can engage critical sectors of the left that participate in the mobilizations. At the same time, this process, in which it is correct to try to intervene with our policy, has contradictions to be taken into account because they are taken advantage of by political actors of the right who are promoting a pro-US path of direct capitalist restoration. That is to say, it is necessary to respond politically to this crisis from an independent, anti-capitalist and socialist position, critical of the Cuban regime and completely separated from the reactionary forces of the continental right.
This new moment contains elements that explain the phenomena of the first wave (2018-2019) and the post-pandemic wave as a continuity of a cycle of rising class struggles. Their common denominator is the struggle against austerity plans and the strong repression of governments which trigger a greater social response. Although during the pandemic, due to health measures and popular concern, mobilizations were slowed down, after the phase of greater lockdowns, the economic crisis worsened and then the world was shocked by the Russian imperialist invasion of Ukraine, accelerating the alarms of global crisis and adding an inflationary crisis of historic levels.
Another characteristic of the current upsurge is that no organizations of self-determination of the masses or of the working class emerge from the struggles. This hinders the task of defeating the regimes and opening conditions to fight for workers’ governments supported by organizations of our class. The rise is rather popular in general and although it is deep and widespread, it has not yet made qualitative progress in terms of workers’ self-organization nor in a democratic centralization of the sectors in struggle. This can be seen in the current struggle of the Peruvian people and in previous processes.
Another central feature of these uprisings is their dynamics. Rebellions and revolutions are generated, their democratic objectives are of great importance but are combined from the outset with the most deeply felt social demands of the mass movement. The mobilizations confront the regimes and their anti-democratic institutions and advance in economic demands so deep that they cannot be resolved in the framework of the current capitalist decadence. Each advance or progressive reform is increasingly ephemeral if the system is not structurally confronted. Therefore, the rebellions we are seeing are objectively anti-capitalist, although unconsciously in the absence of a revolutionary leadership with mass influence to help advance the consciousness of the working class to transform them into socialist revolutions. This contradiction generates polarization, prevents resounding victories and so long as the basic issues are not resolved, situations of recurrent crisis are provoked, which present us with new opportunities to intervene, insert ourselves and build revolutionary parties. The lack of strong left alternatives is used by the questioned regimes to remain in power or to recycle themselves.
Increased polarization and instability
The current upward cycle in the region differs from that of 2000 by: (a) the backdrop of economic crisis that makes it impossible for the reformist leaderships to provide contention, with greater social instability; (b) greater social and political polarization that dynamites the political center; sectors of the masses begin to seek answers outside the traditional parties and the institutions of the regime, with which extreme right options grow and at the same time more space opens for the revolutionary left; and (c) the past experience had with “progressives” in government, which weakens those leaderships and generates a greater lack of control in the face of the mass processes.
The absence of strong socialist and revolutionary leaderships, plus the non-emergence of democratic organizations in the rebellions, are qualitative weaknesses and explain the electoral distortion that once again brings “progressive” and center-left forces to power.
Although, unlike in the previous 2000 cycle, after the current social uprisings, most of the new governments arrived already weakened and without mass support. The current electoral victories were partly defensive. In Chile, Boric together with the FA and the PC lost in the first round against proto-fascist Kast, then, more sectors of the population voted for Boric in the second round to defeat the danger of the ultra-right. In Brazil, Lula won by a small margin in the face of the concrete possibility of Bolsonaro’s continuity. In Mexico, AMLO won due to the deterioration of the historical PRI, but without constituting his own base to implement his plans. In Argentina, Fernández triumphed in the face of Macri’s disaster. None of them generates parties or movements like the Brazilian PT, the Venezuelan PSUV or the Bolivian MAS were before. This aspect expresses less control of the grassroots processes.
The new governments emerge weaker and in a context of a rising of the mass movement in the face of the economic crisis. The right wing promotes its policies with the support of large sectors of discontented people, including middle class and very poor sectors, marginal and poor people. They are also associated with churches, mass media, judicial, oligarchic and repressive apparatus sectors, which in the midst of the crisis do not tolerate the rule of lukewarm reformist variants. Brazil is a clear example of this. After the defeat of Bolsonaro, its adherents, supported by sectors of the repressive apparatus, used methods of direct action, similar to the case of Trump, seeking support from the military to carry out a coup. In Chile, fascistoid groups encouraged by the migratory crisis and the reorganization after the rejection of the new constitution are organizing. In Argentina, this is seen in the attempted assassination of Cristina Fernandez and the emergence of the fascistoid-libertarians. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele applies repressive measures, human rights violations and attacks on women’s and LGBTI rights, with a cabinet and security forces accused of corruption and other crimes the investigation of which is stopped or diverted by a justice system that is sympathetic to him.
These phenomena are not generalized, but they are growing. And, since there is polarization, they find strong responses in working class and popular actions, the feminist and LGBTI movement against conservatism, the environmental movement against climate change negationism and the anti-repression youth against authoritarianism.
The global phenomenon of the extreme right is also expressed in Latin America. Faced with the failure of the governments of traditional bourgeois forces, the new right-wingers rely on the discontent of politically backward sectors. At the same time, the classic right wing uses bourgeois democracy to gain space, the current parliamentary coup in Peru; before that, the actions in Bolivia, the judicial persecution in Brazil and the media-judicial accusations against Cristina. We denounce such actions, without defending Evo, Castillo, Lula or CFK, whom we criticize from the left.
Although imperialism and the bourgeoisie do not, in the present conditions, consider trying to defeat the mass movement through dictatorships like in the 70’s, we must prepare ourselves for a hardening of repression and authoritarianism of the governments, including those of the center-left, and also for confrontations with neo-fascist groups. In Nicaragua, Venezuela or Cuba, due to the characteristics of their governments and regimes, they will maintain a dictatorial type of social control.
Due to the weakness and instability of the bourgeois regimes and institutions, the ruling classes bet on “normalizing” the situation by means of the carrot of democracy and the stick when they have no other option. And in a scenario of integral crisis, recurrent instability will characterize the pre-revolutionary stage in the continent, where the revolution/counter-revolution dispute will be more direct and open every day. Even with ample possibilities in the class struggle and the political plane, in this later aspect there is still a delay and no strong left-wing expressions have emerged that mirror the response in the streets. This is the challenge to be faced in the coming period.
4. The new progressivism: limits, debates and prospects
After the failures of the progressivism of the first round, the right wing sought to retake the initiative together with US imperialism through the Lima Group. The governments of Piñera in Chile and Duque in Colombia wanted to go a step further in the region with the Forum for the Progress of South America (Prosur) in 2019, but failed due to the rebellions that struck both countries, bastions of neoliberal stability and US doormats. Thus, the electoral pendulum swung back to the center-left, in the midst of an inter-imperialist dispute that tensions Latin America between the advance of China and the US counter advance.
A new progressive cycle?
In 2022 there were some important elections. Petro won as Colombia’s first leftist president. In a close runoff, Lula returned to power with the PT in Brazil. A year earlier, in a polarized election, Castillo defeated the daughter of ex-dictator Fujimori. Xiomara Castro won in Honduras as a distorted expression of the social uprising. Boric won in Chile in a second round against the ultra-right candidate. Earlier on, Luis Arce came to power in Bolivia in 2020, Alberto Fernandez in 2019 in Argentina and AMLO in 2018 in Mexico. The main feature was that of the social uprisings and the political polarization, with several elections contested by progressivism and the right.
Large sectors sought to vote for the left; this was distortedly expressed in progressive variants due to the lack of strong left-wing options. The defeated right-wing variants still achieved support from broad sectors. In view of this, the mouthpieces of progressivism/possibilism argue that “the relation of forces does not allow” for progressive changes due to the influence of the right wing and fascism. With this excuse, and within the global framework of economic crisis and inter-imperialist dispute, they turn the programs of their new governments to the right. In addition, due to polarization and the lack of a revolutionary alternative, many of them came to government as a result of a defensive vote against ultra-right variants. In other words, these governments are more fragile and unstable than those of the first “progressive” wave.
García Linera, Evo’s former vice-president, stated to a Chilean medium that “it is not by chance that the return of progressivism to government in countries like Bolivia or Argentina has had moderate candidates at the head, and that this is what allowed them to win the elections (…) the sign of the times is not that of great reforms, but of the administration and rechanneling of those that were initiated in the first wave,“ a definition that he had already proposed of the previous leadership when he stated that “the first wave of Latin American progressivism began to lose strength in the middle of the second decade of the XXI century, in great part, due to the fulfillment of the first generation reforms that were applied“, that is to say, achieving supposed goals and then new governments having to manage them, although he also predicts that the new progressive wave has “political opponents increasingly leaning towards the extreme right. Rightists have overcome the moral and political defeat of the first progressive wave and, learning from their mistakes, occupy the streets, the social networks and raise banners of change. They have gained social strength through regulated discursive implosions that have led them to raise anti-indigenous, anti-feminist, anti-egalitarian and anti-State discourses“.
That is to say, the assessment that one of the main theoreticians of this sector makes is that after the first progressive victories, the social majorities turned their backs on them because of… the progressive reforms they applied. Thus, with a stroke of a pen, he erases the political responsibility for the social deterioration caused by those governments, which was what gave space to the right. And he proposes to be more moderate than before, because moderation is a positive symbol for the administration of the bourgeois state!
Following the same path, Atilio Borón, an Argentine Stalinist leader, before the second round of the presidential elections in Chile stated: “The Nazi-fascist candidate José A. Kast, because that is what he is, were he to triumph, would head a government that would be much more nefarious than that of Augusto Pinochet. He would keep the formalities and appearances; he would set up a sophisticated pseudo-democratic simulacrum that would be exalted by the rogue press, the powers that be and the empire, but he would apply a savage policy of repression, persecution and imprisonment against any expression of discontent or opposition“. A new exaggeration to annul the debate of the “lesser evil” and the adaptation of progressivism to capital.
All these pretexts have a direct correlation with the programs of the new progressive governments, which, in turn, is not a unique political phenomenon, but presents diverse discursive styles ranging from developing the welfare state to focusing on social rights under the free market. Although they speak less and less of post-neoliberalism and have already abandoned any reference to “21st century socialism,” they assume the premises of moderation and that fronts with classic neoliberal sectors are needed in the face of “the powers that exist as a matter of fact and the empire, which would apply a savage policy of repression,” broad fronts with the right, like that of Lula and his vice president Alckmin.
From progressivism to the administration of neoliberal-capitalism. Some debates
Petro, before winning the elections, proposed to generate a “great coalition” to advance in a transition “from extractivism to production, from authoritarianism to democracy, from violence to peace.” Upon winning, he proposed “Latin American progressivism.” Lula was categorical: “Petro has the right to make all the proposals he considers he has to make. But in the case of Brazil it is unreal. In the case of the world it is unreal. Oil is still necessary for a while.“
Thus, he ruled out any perspective that would not allow the bourgeois state to implement an extractivist plan in continuity with what has been done.
As a summary, Petro, beyond his proposal, is sailing his first term in office in Colombia with a cabinet that includes new reformists and old leaders of the Uribist regime, in tune with his economic course that does not affect the big capitalist interests. As the comrades of the ISL accurately express from Colombia, “the ‘progressive’ government of the Historic Pact is a government of class collaboration of a broad sector of the reformist left with the most rotten elements of the bourgeois establishment“. Meanwhile, Lula prepares to govern in a conciliatory mode towards a new austerity plan. The main bourgeois media had asked: “Which Lula will govern? The social democrat of the first half of his first term? The one who defended a long term fiscal reform capable of reducing the public debt, increasing the primary surplus, promoting reforms to improve the business environment, improve the instruments of credit and reduce the restrictions to competition in the private sector? Or the national-developmentalist who came later?” (O Globo). Meanwhile, on the democratic agenda, prior to the elections, Lula had already stated that the right to abortion would not come with his mandate. Thus, after a narrow victory, he now begins a new term of office where he may clash with his own electoral base, although, at the same time, the country is in a strong polarization with a Bolsonarism that continues to act even with clashes in the streets, as we saw with the seizure of Congress, the Court and the Government House. Together with this polarization, what is coming as a government project is also shown by Lula’s new cabinet, with referents from several parties, including recognized right-wingers. He himself said that “many people will not like the cabinet” and tried to disguise this bourgeois content by also including social leaders.
To these two examples we can add the case of Argentina, where the Front of All (coalition led by Peronism) governs tied to the pacts with the IMF, the application of austerity and social cuts. Thus the main countries of South America are aligned according to the matrix imposed by the agencies of world capitalism. In Argentina, due to the failure of the Peronist government, it is highly probable that a right-wing opposition front will win again in 2023 and govern.
In this context, political debates on the way out of the crisis are being reactivated in the region. One of them is the nature of the constituent assemblies in countries with charters inherited from dictatorships and which the rebellions are putting under tension. The Chilean and Peruvian cases illustrate this debate.
During the 2019 revolutionary crisis in Chile, the regime made a pact to save Piñera from his downfall due to the uprising and to regulate the constitutional change. Thus the “Agreement for peace and the new constitution” was negotiated. Once the Frente Amplio coalition and Boric came to government, they quickly began administering the institutions inherited from the dictatorship, maintained the political prisoners of the rebellion, corroborated the impunity of the repressors and removed the social aid implemented in the crisis. This was a trigger for the rejection of the new proposed Constitution, as a punishment to the government. It unleashed many debates globally. The centrism of the Unified Secretariat and the magazine Jacobin Latin America, which had raised the Constituent Assembly as the one that opens “a stage in which the political struggle will have as its floor a Constitution partly created, defended and approved by the peoples,“ abandoned the revolutionary perspective and bet on developing “what is possible” within the current institutionality and consciously turned to support parliamentary dialogue and disarticulation of social protest. But even this lukewarm reformist perspective clashes with the needs of capital to reestablish institutional legitimacy. The abandonment of mobilization, self-organization and revolutionary party building by these sectors complements the road map useful to the regime and to a new legal framework of capitalist re-boost. This erroneous policy not only leads to setbacks, but also gives space to the recomposition of the regime.
In Peru, the mobilization that has put in check the new government of Boluarte, imposed by the coup Congress, is in full swing. The regime has carried out a harsh repression, but has not been able to placate the insurgency and has proposed to anticipate the general elections. With this proposal, they attempt to postpone the fall of Fujimori’s reactionary institutional model and seek to divert the discontent through electoral channels. They are trying to legalize the parliamentary coup and prevent progress towards a Constituent Assembly, a promise unfulfilled by Castillo, which would dismantle the Fujimori regime. A Constituent Assembly that has been shown to be possible only if the mobilization in the streets defeats the old regime expressed in Congress, the repressive forces and all the institutions inherited from Fujimorism, which would imply at the same time opening the perspective of a government of the sectors in struggle.
These debates are of great importance, since, in the face of political crises, a sector of the bourgeoisie is betting on controlled democratic solutions. But its capacity of containment and concession of democratic measures is increasingly unstable due to the crisis of the capitalist system. In this context, the reformist and centrist left encourages democratic or broad fronts to confront the right-wingers that arise, precisely, due to the failure of the “progressive” governments. In these cases, we promote the proposal of a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly to reorganize the country on new bases, but being aware that it can only be imposed with great workers and popular mobilizations to dismantle the old regime. This proposal is framed in our strategy of a government of the workers and the people.
In these debates, the processes of rebellion and revolution should not be confused with their leaderships in order to refrain from contesting layers of the masses. On the contrary: it is necessary to intervene with political independence and an anti-capitalist and socialist program. The sectarian movements have shown their limits, like that of the Argentine PTS, which, in order to explain the new cycle of struggles, had to publish an article entitled “The return of the class struggle,“ and thus justify and rearm themselves after their initial characterization of a turn to the right, a point on which they agreed with the possibilists. That erroneous analysis and characterization at the time disarmed them; nowadays, they continue not intervening in open political phenomena such as the PSOL in Brazil (in the midst of a debate over the capitulation of its majority leadership to the pressures of the regime and the Lula government, while there is still a fight to be fought in the rank-and-file). In the case of Argentina, it leads them to not accept the Left Front Unity becoming something far superior to an electoral front, as proposed by the comrades of the MST and the ISL in that country.
5. The political orientation to build ourselves and our program
In the midst of this dynamic situation, it is very important to specify how to position ourselves politically and programmatically in order to deeply intervene in the most dynamic processes of the region. The policy and program we need to build and the orientation to insert ourselves in dynamic processes of the class struggle and new political phenomena are determinant to advance.
The policy and program
- Our entire policy and program must be articulated around appearing as socialist and anti-capitalist organizations and an international that intends to promote class struggle against the entire system and build revolutionary and internationalist parties whose strategic objective is a workers’ government and socialist revolution.
- At the service of that strategy we promote struggles and their coordination to extend and develop mobilization. In each of the rebellions we promote the development of democratic and centralized organizations of our class and the sectors that mobilize to overcome the bureaucratic leaderships, provide the movement with a class program and give continuity to the struggle until the plans of austerity, governments and capitalist regimes are defeated. Our privileged method of struggle is the general strike. At the same time, in the face of repression we promote self-defense. And we express our policy of government of the workers and the people by considering the sectors in struggle and their organizations, seeking to make it as specific as possible. All this is key in the face of leaps in the class struggle, for example in Peru. There, we have been stating that it is “decisive to coordinate until forming a Great National Coordinating Committee of the organizations in struggle to defeat the right-wing government, close the Congress and impose a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly that will allow us to get rid of the disastrous regime of ’93 inherited from the dictatorial government of Alberto Fujimori and thus advance towards a government of the workers and the people that begins to walk the road of real solutions for our people, an anti-capitalist and socialist government“.
- We have this fundamental position because it is not possible to intervene in such a heated situation and in processes of social and political rise and polarization if we do not raise proposals that give revolutionary socialist answers to the situations posed, against all variants of reformism/possibilism (with its double negative role, being a conscious obstacle to prevent the advance of the revolutionary left and at the same time responsible for opening space for the right wing because of its failure when it governs).
- We must propagandize that the anti-capitalist and socialist left is the only political sector that proposes a path of struggle against all capitalist powers, beginning by denouncing the interference of US, European and Chinese imperialist corporations in our common goods. We reject all types of extractivism and plundering, we want all multinational corporations to leave. We denounce the new attempts of US interference and IMF plans in the region, and we also oppose the growing interference of China through investments and loans (which competes with the US for its own geopolitical and plundering interests). And we actively participate in socio-environmental actions across the continent. In the Amazon, against the corporations and polluting companies responsible for deforestation, for them to assume the socio-environmental reparation of the affected areas and communities. In Argentina, against the surrender and destruction of the Argentinean sea and against all extractive corporations in the mountain range provinces and others. In the struggles against mining companies in Peru, in the denunciation of the Venezuelan government for the surrender of the riches of Orinoco and the rest of the examples in other countries. The socio-environmental struggles are a great axis of activity, dispute and possibilities to build ourselves.
- Against all imperialist interference, we propose an economic and productive model in which energy and mining policies are developed without corporations and led by the state under the management of its workers, professionals and technicians, and in consultation and agreement with the affected communities, for us to democratically decide what productive model to apply and what type of exploitation not to carry out if it negatively affects human life and the environment. And on that basis, we strive to put an end to a Latin American model of mere exportation of raw materials; we encourage a model of industrialization at the service of social needs and solidarity exchanges of our wealth among the countries of the continent.
- We fight to defeat the anti-democratic capitalist regimes led by the parties of the system, at the service of the profits of a minority of capitalists and the privileges of the political, judicial and clerical caste and other spheres of power. We call on the peoples to fight relentlessly to achieve the convocation of free and sovereign Constituent Assemblies where everything is debated and where we propose fundamental economic and political changes, in the perspective of a workers’ government and socialism.
- Against all coup attempts, we call to confront them through social mobilization and we demand the trial and punishment of those materially and politically responsible. In the face of the authoritarian and repressive advances of the capitalist governments, we defend democratic rights, guarantees and liberties. For the freedom of political prisoners and the closing of the judicial cases against popular fighters. For the dissolution of the police and all the repressive apparatus. For the end of all military treaties with imperialism and the withdrawal of its bases.
- For the rupture of all agreements with the IMF, the free trade agreements with the US and the agreements of the Silk Road along the Pacific coast, which also have a character of surrender and plunder. Against all political plans of interference and the pro-US resolutions of the OAS, and against the economic plans of the Mercosur that represent the interests of the big Brazilian and Argentine bourgeoisie. We question the plans of the Puebla Group that speak of social needs but the governments, parties and former presidents that are grouped there applied or apply capitalist plans of austerity and surrender.
- We stand for a totally different Latin American Unity, one that resumes the dream and the revolutionary and independence deeds of Bolivar, San Martin, Sucre and other liberators, but that, in this era of capitalist-imperialist domination, surpasses them politically and programmatically in an anti-capitalist and socialist nature. For a Latin America without any imperialist interference or capitalist corporations that plunder and pollute us. For state control of all financial and foreign trade systems. For the support of the struggles of our sister peoples and the solidarity exchange of natural wealth and technologies. For a Socialist Federation of Latin America, governed by its workers.
- Of course, we intervene daily in workers’, peoples’, gender, youth and peasant struggles. For living wages in the private and public sectors, updated according to inflation. Against all labor reforms and precariousness, which the bourgeoisie and imperialism intend to deepen. For the defense of social subsidies and real public investment in genuine job programs based on heavy permanent taxes on big business, banks and fortunes. Against union bureaucracy, for a new democratic and militant union leadership.
- For the right to land to work and live with dignity. Against the large estates and for deep agrarian reforms as a step towards ending the agribusiness model and advancing towards a model of diversified food production in accordance with the needs of the people.
- For equal rights for women and LGBTI people in all spheres of life. We are protagonists of these struggles and support their demands. Likewise, we defend the native communities that fight for the right to their ancestral territories and an effective inclusion with full rights guaranteed by the states. And we repudiate all repressive attempts against these peoples.
The political orientation to contest political influence and build our organizations
On this strategic programmatic basis, and other specific points that exceed the scope of this text, we promote in each country the construction of revolutionary parties and political alternatives of the left, to try to appear with the greatest possible strength against all the variants of the right and reformist possibilism.
This is a very important task and political position, since, in a convulsed continent, with strong elements of political and social polarization, and political phenomena to the right, a key task is to strengthen political poles to the left. Those poles can attempt different and qualitatively superior experiences to those of reformism, which, when they govern, manage capitalist power, apply austerity and thus fail and open space to right-wing phenomena. As recent examples, Boric’s government quickly turned to the right, conciliated with the Chilean regime and even repressed struggles. In the case of Lula, beyond some initial social measures, he will surely follow a similar course, as did the PT every time it was in power. And in Colombia, Petro’s new government is also advancing in a consensus with traditional and conservative political groups.
That is why it is fundamental to do everything possible to achieve alternatives of the anti-capitalist and socialist left, to achieve them where there are objective and subjective conditions, to build and be part of fronts or regroupements of the left that confront all the political representatives of the system. The strong rise of the class struggle in the region is not enough to turn the situation around if it does not end up being expressed in political and revolutionary changes on the left. That is why the parties and groups that make up the ISL must have policies and tactics to promote and be part of political tools that can play a positive role from the left in certain countries.
There are no eternal recipes for this. We must part from the reality of each country to see the concrete possibilities. In Brazil, for example, for many years we have been part of the PSOL, which, since its foundation as a broad left-wing party, has played a positive role. In the latest stage, the advance of its most reformist currents made them end up capitulating to the PT, refusing to present their own presidential candidacy in the first electoral round and making a campaign mimicking a Lulist and uncritical discourse, which made the PSOL lose a great opportunity. This is aggravated by the recent vote of its leadership to support the government from outside, with a section that wanted to directly enter the government, which would have worsened this regressive course even more. That is why, in the most recent period, we are acting as a very critical left wing, now strengthened by the upcoming merging of our two organizations in Brazil, Alternativa Socialista and Luta Socialista. As there are no other left phenomena outside the PSOL and there is a strong debate among its rank-and-file, in which we are deeply involved, we continue to fight politically within that party with full independence of our positions, and in the future we will see if the need and possibility of building another tool arises. But for now we continue to be part of it because there is a dynamic sector of its militant and sympathizing base to contest and we are advancing precisely because we are taking part in this internal political struggle at the same time that we intervene and fight for influence in sectors of the working class with a good position in ConLutas, a space of class based articulation.
Another example is Argentina, where more than three years ago we formed the Left Front Unity with three other forces that claim to be Trotskyist. This front is the main left alternative in the country. The FITU plays a positive role as a unitary political expression of the anti-capitalist and socialist left and is the only electoral alternative to the parties of the regime. At the same time it has many limits and weaknesses due to the sectarian and electoralist vision of the other member forces, which refuse to give the front a more comprehensive character, to constitute ourselves as a political movement or common party of democratically organized internal currents, of unity in the class struggle, with openness to the social and intellectual left, and not only electoral. We are an active part of the front, at the same time contesting its course in a strategic struggle that will continue. The FITU advancing a lot is on the table, so while we wage this political struggle within it, we prioritize the construction of the MST as a revolutionary party, which is indispensable to winning more and more on the left in general and within the FITU in particular. Of course, we develop this policy together with intervening in the class struggle, with a strong influence in the health sector and being part of the leadership of the PSC (Plenary of Militant Unionism) and of the Unidad Piquetera, a space of unity of unemployed organizations.
In other countries, such as Colombia and Chile, where there have been strong rebellions and political processes and class struggle in recent years, we have continued building our organizations. In the case of Colombia, we are aiming towards the unification of Impulso Socialista and the Grupo de Trabajadores Socialistas, within the framework of the ISL, which will strengthen us, and from which we act with a policy on the working class and popular base that voted for Petro, raising our proposals and following the political course to see if in the medium term progressive ruptures arise with which to think of new groupings or left-wing political fronts independent of the government and the regime.
In Chile, through Movimiento Anticapitalista we attempt to advance in our construction, at this stage prioritizing the youth. Since the rebellion of 2018, we have raised policies and tactics towards other sectors. We did so with the phenomenon of independent candidacies, which then defected, and we had tactics and proposals towards another leftist force, the PTR, akin to the Argentine PTS. Now we are prioritizing strengthening our group and we remain attentive to the new phenomena that may arise, posing the need to unite the anti-capitalists.
Accordingly, from the ISL we have to follow other processes in the region and help the intervention of our groups. In Peru, now in the midst of a rebellion that has been going on for weeks and tends to deepen against a coup government that is unable to settle and has unleashed a brutal repression. Castillo’s inconsistencies, turn to the right in the government and lack of courage to make radical changes have weakened him and this has given rise to an offensive by the most reactionary sectors, but also to a revolutionary process that, as we write this document, continues to grow. We are intervening in this process and accompanying our comrades, whose challenge is to respond with a correct policy and try to advance in building a solid and dynamic revolutionary nucleus.
The reality is very different in other countries where we intervene, not of strong rise or rebellions, but of resistance against very hardened and anti-democratic regimes such as in Venezuela and Nicaragua. In both cases, comrades of the ISL are trying to build in a difficult objective situation. In Venezuela, from Marea Socialista we try to group with us some activists and working class leaders in Caracas and other states, at the same time we have a policy towards other left sectors that are independent of Maduro’s government, with whom we promote some actions for social and democratic demands. We do the same in the women’s movement, which is weak in this country, but from time to time generates initiatives in which we intervene. In Nicaragua we mainly act from the vanguard youth that is organized in exile and we have posed the challenge and the opportunity to strengthen ourselves among the exiles in Costa Rica, from the successful internationalist campaign that we led for the freedom of political prisoners and positioned us as a reference inside and outside Nicaragua.
In Costa Rica, the comrades of the PRT are also joining the ISL; they will contribute their experience and express a new political leap in that region, which puts us before the challenge of designing a policy and orientation for Central America as a whole. The construction of our group in Nicaragua and the advances in Costa Rica are a new example and lesson of the importance of internationalist political campaigns, on the one hand to respond to the reality of the class struggle, and at the same time to advance in our extension, strengthening and construction. To maintain and deepen the political initiatives and campaigns of the ISL is a privileged political task that all the groups and parties of the continent have to take to heart every time an internationalist campaign is launched.
Along with these examples, we have comrades and opportunities in other countries of the continent. In Paraguay, after the strong mobilizations of 2021, our group Alternativa Socialista is trying to strengthen its construction and has launched a public call for a radical front, an anti-capitalist and socialist third space against the right turn of the Frente Guazú. In Mexico we have the challenge of exploring the approachment of valuable comrades. In Uruguay we have a small trade union work but it has been difficult to advance politically.
As a summary, and beyond the unevenness in objective situations and in our own development in each country, we are heading towards a 2023 where new processes of struggles, new rebellions and greater political and social polarization are coming. In this exciting situation we have to intervene in depth in the real processes, moving away from any propagandistic orientation. We need to continue the political experiences of our own revolutionary constructions and fraternal tactics where possible and we can strengthen our groups to intervene in the following period, responding to the main processes of the class struggle and contesting the sector’s leadership. To contribute from our continent to the general strengthening of the ISL is a strategic task to which we must give priority, also prioritizing the formation and politicization of our cadres and militants.
This document was approved with the following additions that came up in the debate:
• The importance of noting the unevenness of the continental rise, which presents greater and more critical processes in South America that we must respond to, and a different situation in Central America, although there are also new political possibilities there to follow and take advantage of with new initiatives.
• The denunciation of AMLO’s agreements with Biden and the imperialist policy of using cheap and immigrant labor with the relocation of companies to Mexican territory is also incorporated.
• The importance of participating in the process of mobilizing Native American peoples, peasants and the Black movement in the countries where it takes place was ratified, in all cases supporting the demands and claims of these social sectors.
• At the same time, it was specified that our privileged strategy is to intervene, fight for the leadership, build our organizations and structure ourselves socially and politically in the working class and the youth.
• The need to deploy policies of demand and denunciation in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia or Mexico, where so-called progressive forces reached the government as a way of helping sections of their social bases to exhaust their experience with those governments was highlighted.
• The need to continue with the tasks of support and solidarity with the struggle of the Peruvian people was specified. Likewise with the new actions carried out by our Nicaraguan comrades in their struggle against the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. And the task of including actions to support the struggle of the people of Haiti against imperialist interventions there and against the policies of looting and attacks on the social rights of its people was incorporated. • Incorporating the contribution of the document on the situation in the US, which is an important part of the debates on the situation of the entire continent, was valued.