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Latin America Moves Left

Sasha Wright
Date Published: 
June 01, 2006
    On the fifth anniversary of Left Turn’s coverage of resistance in Latin America, we continue to be inspired by the dynamic and powerful social movements that are achieving huge victories across the continent. While struggles in the US and many places around the globe have been on the defensive, these movements give us hope that we can organize effective resistance and alternatives to neoliberalism and US empire.

With these victories, movements in Latin America must grapple with a new set of even bigger challenges. How should movements relate to the traditional political system? How can autonomous projects continue to flourish in the face of government repression? And how can radicals work for revolutionary change when faced with the possibility of brutal military interventions?

As well as resisting neoliberal policies, a diverse array of movements seek to build radical alternatives. The Zapatistas plan to spread out from Chiapas, to build a national and global civil society alternative to the neoliberal political parties. The Chavez government in Venezuela has initiated alternatives on the regional level to US trade policies and dominance in the media. Workers across Latin America have occupied factories and started to collectively run them as a response to unemployment, poverty, and disenfranchisement.

In a system that has failed to provide for even the most basic human needs, communities are setting examples of the possibilities for a democratic, grassroots, self-run society. Yet many of these projects run under siege, with minimal resources. Movements are discussing how they can build networks of mutual solidarity for these projects to flourish and not be crushed by the market and the state.

Victories at the polls provide new opportunities, but also challenges to the movements from which they sprang. We have already seen the failure of the center-left governments, most notably Lula of Brazil, to affectively uphold the demands of their bases from their new positions within the neoliberal state. The big question for movements facing the recent elections of Bachelet in Chile or Morales in Bolivia is not how much backbone these leaders have, but whether social movements themselves will be capable of pressing and building for their demands. Movements in Bolivia have already fought to nationalize their hydrocarbon resources and hold a “Constituent Assembly” which would radically reorganize the way politics is done from the base up. Any victories will not reflect on Morales, but on the strength and breath of the Bolivian movements.

All these struggles take place within the context of a constant battle for survival, be it with local elites, International Financing Institutions, or intervention from the US. Attempts at building counter-power in Venezuela are under constant threat from an aggressive US regime that already backed the failed coup effort of 2002. Many organizers see their work as building the foundation for revolutionary change in the future.

In this issue we bring further coverage of this historic and hopeful period in Latin America. We hope that we can contribute to the discussions among US organizers on these exciting and challenging questions, and give us some food for thought as we attempt to walk the path to revolution.