The Latin American and Caribbean left’s social and political struggle has a much wider scope, but undoubtedly the aim of attaining control of the state is one of the main objectives, at least as a condition for subsequent progress.
This struggle seems to be subject to the fluctuations that change the balance of power every so often.
Currently, an advance of the left and of progressive forces can be seen in countries like Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina, and it is likely that this tendency will be consolidated if Lula triumphs in the forthcoming election in Brazil and if in Chile the progressive candidate manages to win the election soon be held there.
According to clear indications and if no unexpected events occur, in Colombia as well the centre-left candidate, Petro, appears to be the clear possible victor next year.
In this political panorama one can observe that the left, when it is in government, does not manage to stabilise its reforms. That prevents change becoming a lasting reality and the old structures of material backwardness and, above all, deep social inequality, being overcome, whether by maintaining capitalism or by undertaking the hard adventure of a creole socialist model.
In some cases, those who reach government do openly set themselves the goal of overcoming the current social order, favouring an essentially different one.
However, in most cases, the left in government contents itself with the objective of correcting at least the harshest aspects of the current neoliberal model, but it is not clear what type of capitalism would allow reforms -many of them structural- without affecting its own nature. Much more importantly: neither the left nor the centre explicitly propose an objective to radically change the way these countries are integrated onto the world stage.
To change their position as minor, dispensable economies playing a complementary role to the system’s centra
l economies, and the political relationships that bind these countries to the Western powers, in particular to the United States.
This is played out with those who attempt to build some form of socialism and with those who are content to simply get out of the evident predicament that the current neoliberal model represents.
The left and progressive forces generally encapsulate the very wide-ranging demands of the social majorities very well.
However, those majorities who are so clear in their mobilisations and citizen protests do not reach the necessary levels of organisation nor do they harmonise their demands, something which is partly a product of their enormous geographical dispersion.
The traditional left still does not seem capable of overcoming a narrative linked to so many forms of socialism from the last century (in all its tendencies) or of finding the right format for today’s world.
For its part, the new forms of social protest do not manage to link their particular demands to those of society as a whole.
And a large part of the discontented social sectors have a deep distrust of the institutions and of politics generally.
In Colombia, for example, abstentionism permanently accounts for half or more of the electoral census, at least in the last half-century.
This phenomenon is reproduced, although to a lesser degree, in other countries in the region where social mobilisation is wide but is not accompanied by a similar level of electoral participation, weakening the left and leaving the institutions to the mercy of the right.
To the traditional division of the parties of the left is added the dispersion of social organisations and the growing electoral abstention of the popular sectors.
All of which works in the right’s favour since it counts on the weaknesses of the left.
But also its current model of domination is showing signs that it might fail. Therefore, its ideologues debate between deepening neoliberalism (the far right) and seeking some formula that allows at least some relief of the impact of the crisis (exacerbated by the pandemic) on the social majorities, and trusts in changes in the same direction as those taken in the United States and Europe.
But, above all, the right has key weapons that guarantee its domination.
These include its hegemonic control of the principal levers of the economy, its monopoly of the mass media (crucial for the manipulation of public opinion), the political backwardness of certain popular sectors that support them, and the sure support of the military who, ultimately, use weapons to suppress the will of the citizens.
That is why the left and progressivism must have as a strategic objective advancing as much as is feasible with the strengthening of the public sector of the economy (legal control of the market and effective presence in the essential sectors).
It must also set about neutralising the right’s propaganda, intensifying direct contact with social sectors and maintaining a permanent presence in them (unions, associations, various communal groups etc).
And finally, it must not forget to take to the police and military rank-and-file -almost all of them of popular extraction- the message of the need for change and achieve the neutralisation of the most resistant sectors that incarnate the falsest forms of patriotism.
Venezuela’s armed forces were changed radically and turned into allies of the process. This does not seem an exceptional case.
It would not be the first time on this continent that generals have headed a transformation process of a progressive nature.
When nobody is expecting it, generals emerge such as Velasco Alvarado in Peru and Jacobo Arbenz, a patriotic military man who directed the national resistance to foreign aggression when his people’s government attempted agrarian reform, affecting the land of the “mamitayunai”, the same resistance who (with a new name) is arming, financing and using paramilitaries in Colombia to exterminate unionism and the left.
The balance of power can be changed in favour of the left and of progressivism if the large movement of social discontent that exists across the whole continent is given a channelled outlet, taking it to the polls to defeat the right and take government, as an initial step.
From the government, the project’s stability undoubtedly depends on ensuring the functioning of the economy and putting an end to the hegemony of the market, winning the ideological battle, contributing to popular organisation and neutralising, better still, conquering the military for the nationalist cause.