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Capitalism reaffirmation: Legacy of a decade of progressive governments

The arrival of the so-called progressive governments to Latin America, after two decades of a neoliberal lunge, opened great social change expectancies, not only within the subcontinent but around the world.

The Latin American resistance and social struggle which faced and in some cases deterred social and economic violence of the structural adjustment coming from the Washington consensus allowed two facts of enormous political history:

1. Delegitimize legal institutionality dominated by neoliberalism and striking neoliberal capitalism hegemony and its privatization policy; foreign debt; destruction of social policy and the national state; and loss of economic and political sovereign due to the submission to international financial organisms and the American government.
A part of Latin American society mobilized against the social and economic devastation of the neoliberal adjustment policies provoked on the majority of Latin American countries. The struggle of different social movements achieved in the following countries:

  • Ecuador toppled three straight neoliberal administrations.
  • Venezuela removed a president from office, accused of corruption.
  • Argentina achieved the resignation of a president responsible of financial crisis.
  • Bolivia promoted a social movement known as the water battle against privatization of the service.

South America found itself in a deep political crisis due to loss of legitimacy of the state neoliberal institution. The motto, ‘let them all leave’ shared by social movements, demonstrated the breakdown of almost all the neoliberal ideological fantasy, as it was not simply to change one administration for another, a capital proxy for another, but to change the political order.

2. Linked and product of the first fact produced institutional vacating of the political power which announced an eventual political fact. Although without risk, they could mention a pre-revolutionary scenario in some countries of the region. Most countries in Latin America led by social resistance movements had achieved important levels of anti-liberal consciousness.

Countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia inclusively began to talk about civil transformations, thanks to the role of ancestral people in neoliberal struggles. Latin America was weaving its own utopia after the fall of the Berlin wall.

The consequence of these two facts, which will be difficult to see again, is the emergence of left-progressive governments. At first these administrations formed and nurtured from social movements,  collected their demands; the rights of nature; the payment moratorium of an illegitimate external debt and a sovereign audit on the prior; ousting of American military bases; payment of social debt and the recovery of a social state, among others.

There were interesting proposals of a sovereign grouping of South America to face the powers of the North American empire, including the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South),  Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América  (The Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America) and the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Community Caribbean and Latin American States) .

Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua launched the idea of XXI Century Socialism, which led to believe that these could be the basis for a real social transformation, not only anti-neoliberal but anti-capitalist.

Not much time passed for the progressive quality of the governments to pass and acquit its leftist attributes. Progressive movements come from an ideological framework of the capitalistic progress and that the quality of the left comes from the antagonistic capitalistic ideology.

The political mandate coming from the progressivism determined, for instance, that these administrations extended the extractive frontier in the continent, which the anti-liberal movement, in some manner, had deterred. They needed the income coming from selling commodities to build a regional infrastructure which would supposedly help step away from the primary exporting economy.

However, this modernizing effort changed the North American capital submission to an Asian submission. A change of a capitalism master deepened the destruction of nature and the territories of the people who lived in them. Then, in name of economic growth, the capitalist development ended in abandoning the transformation project moving away from neoliberalism.

After more than a decade of progressive governments, the cycle ended; the legacy left in Latin America is the affirmation of capitalism in its conservative materialization of its modern progressive ideology, which is palpable in:

  • The advance in extractivism, which means greater and irreversible harm to nature, also meaning destruction of ancestral territories and peasants which are expelled and condemned to social exclusion.
  • Implementation of infrastructure to move capital, in several cases unnecessary, which also means accumulation of capital through structural corruption between the government and private companies.
  • Temporary expansion of a consumerist middle class which serves as a link to consumerist ideology of popular sectors, establishing depoliticization and political conformism.
  • In particular for Ecuador and maybe Bolivia, regression to an anti-colonial conscience of society due to an expansion effect of the modern progressive ideology and its colonial pedagogy against ancestral people.

Beyond this, the worst legacy of progressivism is the ideological defeat of the left utopia. The conservative capitalism modernization with its disastrous consequences was made in name of leftism, provoking in great part, if not the majority of the Latin American society to look back at an old and dying right.

Now just a few want to speak of the left or the right; the speech of the post-ideology has come to stay in Latin America.


Consejo Editorial