It is the left’s most worrying problem. Its two most important reference points, communism and social democracy, have suffered a profound crisis since the fall of the USSR and of so-called ‘really existing socialism’ in Eastern Europe along with the neoliberal model’s predominance in a Western Europe which has put an end to the so-called welfare state.
Juan Diego García
The Soviet model collapsed, fundamentally, due to the dynamics created by the same model that holds Stalin as its principal reference point.
The bourgeoisie that dismantled socialism and promoted a capitalism of almost ferocious characteristics was not the result of successful infiltration by Western capitalism, nor of treachery by former leaders. It was the result of those societies’ own dynamics that generated a new bourgeoisie in key areas of its system: large-scale industry and the political and administrative establishment.
Almost without exception, the current leaders of what previously was the socialist bloc did not come from abroad or fall from the sky, they are the fruit of the preceding social order.
For its part, Western European social democracy backed the system’s reform in a dynamic that would end in a new, socialist, order.
From this perspective, the capital-labour pacts that worked in the welfare state (also in similar ways in the United States) involved a substantial improvement in the salaried classes’ living standards and a high-profile role on the political stage for socialist parties.
All the indications were that the path of reform was the right one to such an extent that in Europe the communist parties (with quite a few nuances) ended up supporting the reformist practices.
It is not surprising then that, in the end, almost all of them resolved to abandon revolutionary objectives and backed a model known as ‘Eurocommunism’ which was nothing but a renunciation of their parties’ revolutionary characters. Of those parties, key to the victory over fascism in the Second World War and in so many hegemonic cases in the workers’ movement, hardly anything remains.
The bourgeoisie’s worldwide backing of the neoliberal model has led to a profound crisis of the reformist strategies.
The reasons leading the capitalists to such a decision are probably related to the fall of Really Existing Socialism as many analysts point out, since once the ‘communist threat’ had disappeared the political conditions were created to end the agreements with the trade union movement and with the socialist parties who found their greatest expression in Keynesianism.
However, in the breaking of this social pact between capital and labour and the return to the harshest forms of capitalist exploitation, the current technological revolution (which had barely begun at the time) played a far-reaching role. This revolution triggered a complete renewal of many of the technical conditions in production processes and, therefore, an overwhelming need to amass large amounts of new capital in order to modernise the production processes.
As statistical records all over the world confirm, despite the fact that in the thirty or forty years the neoliberal model has been applied technological changes have led to enormous growth in social wealth, the income of the working classes (modern salaried staff and small and medium-sized property owners) has decreased by almost the same proportion.
Given the way capitalism is expanding worldwide, the growth in the levels of exploitation which is already evident in the metropolitan areas is much more dramatic in the periphery (the so-called poor countries).
In the case of left-leaning parties in Latin America and the Caribbean, this theoretical crisis is not trivial. When the left backed revolutionary change through insurrection it only succeeded in Cuba and Nicaragua.
Cuba backed Soviet-style socialism which in so many ways saved the revolution; but the fall of this model in Europe and the end of support led to the greatest economic crisis the island has experienced.
However, due to the very particular shape of its model Cuba is maintaining its socialist project and is an essential reference point for the region’s left.
Guerrilla-type insurrectionary projects did not succeed on the rest of the continent and little or nothing remains of the political forces that promoted them, with the probable exception of Colombia.
The reformist project in Chile was crushed by the right’s bloody military dictatorship and only the deep crisis brought by the neoliberal model opened new spaces, if not to forces of the traditional left then to new reformist currents supported by that same left.
The most pertinent cases are those of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, and of Colombia, which has recorded the first triumph of left-wing forces and progressivism in its history. But all these new expressions of change are far from assuming the traditional socialist model as a reference point.
Almost all the parties that have taken this model as their inspiration have been subjected to various forms of dictatorship and real extermination campaigns. In Colombia’s case, the murder of almost 6,000 Communist Party militants is, undoubtedly, one of the most dramatic examples of extermination policies inspired by the international right, in particular by the United States.
The reformism strategies do not seem to consolidate a model that could be called ‘new Keynesianism’.
At best, the new reformist forces in Latin America and the Caribbean combine measures intended to improve the condition of the poorest sectors with others of clearly nationalist colour, favouring the defence of local interests against large transnational companies and the powers of the rich West.
But, unlike in other eras when such policies were promoted by a sector of the creole bourgeoisie (with broad popular support) in what was known then as developmentalism, this bourgeois force scarcely shares the reforming and nationalist aims, despite the very negative impact neoliberalism has on small and medium-sized local businesses.
In reality, the new dynamics are driven by sectors of the middle classes, the local working class and the very numerous popular sectors called here ‘the poor folk’.
In any event, the forces of radical change on this continent are making a sensible bet on immediate reforms, but without renouncing big objectives of a revolutionary nature. The clearest examples of this are found in Venezuela and Bolivia (the so-called ‘Twenty-First Century Socialism’).
But the majority of the reformist forces (especially in the countries of greater importance in the region) seem to favour some form of Keynesianism (internally) and regional alliances –so-called integration – which allows them a different role in the world framework, a real exercise of national sovereignty.
For the time being, the left’s enormous ideological orphanhood continues to be a matter of concern.
(Translated by Philip Walker – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay