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LATIN AMERICA: US Policies Doomed to Fail – Book Review

“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”


BOOK REVIEW
U.S. policies doomed to fail in Latin America
By John Catalinotto
Published Jun 12, 2007 11:01 PM

Latin America at the Crossroads—Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements & Political Alternatives, by Roberto Regalado Álvarez, 2007, Ocean Press, 263 pages, available from leftbooks.com.

The Cuban Marxist economist Roberto Regalado, in the preface to the English edition of his book, takes note of the “challenge to write a book that deals with current-day events.” The December 2005 election of Evo Morales as president of Bolivia had forced him to revise the last two chapters before publication.

It is likely Regalado would now like the chance for another revision. Since he wrote those lines the Ecuadorans have elected leftist Rafael Correa president, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won the presidential election in Nicaragua and Hugo Chávez was re-elected by a landslide in revolutionary Venezuela. These new developments, however, only serve to establish Regalado’s main points:
• U.S. imperialism needs to exploit Latin America’s resources and labor even more mercilessly than it did in the period up to the late 1970s. It does this by imposing the policies of “neoliberalism”—essentially, using the state power to aid the banks and transnational corporations to concentrate capital while never using the state to aid poor and oppressed groups or individuals. Washington has tried to do this with minimum intervention, but this has turned out to be impossible; the U.S. is again intervening, subverting and threatening military intervention.
• Washington and the South American oligarchy have allowed the electoral arena to be open to more popular candidates with the plan of gaining a consensus of support for the system. The role of these parties is supposed to be to alternate with the right wing in administering the same neoliberal program. This has led to victories of left-leaning candidates and parties, which are unable to offer significant concessions to the workers and poor within the confines of the existing system.
• These changes, with a big impulse from the 1991 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, are nourishing a debate in the Latin American left. The potential for a struggle for a socialist alternative is gaining credibility, even if such a struggle is not on the order of the day; Colombia is the only country where an armed struggle is under way. This socialist alternative offers the only solution to the crisis of contemporary capitalism.

Regalado is currently the section chief in the Department of International Relations of the Cuban Communist Party. A former diplomat in the U.S. and Nicaragua, he has researched and written on Latin American politics since the 1970s. He also appears to be well acquainted with U.S. politics and even with developments in the U.S. progressive movement.

The book is effective on a few different levels. It summarizes the recent economic development of the worldwide imperialist system and especially in Latin America. It goes over Latin American history and reviews in detail the change in the type of imperialist domination and exploitation from the earlier part of the 20th century to the period since the mid-1970s.

It reviews the political struggles within the Latin American left—the social movements, social-democratic parties and the broad electoral fronts that have led to the elections of “left” candidates or parties in Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela. The next edition will undoubtedly include Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Regalado also makes a devastating critique of the role of European social democracy and the parties of the Second International, especially those that, like British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party, welcomed their new role as administering social cutbacks. In the immediate post-World-War-II period, these parties ran ‘’welfare states” to counter the challenge from the socialist camp, and claimed they would change capitalism. But, Regalado notes:

“It was not social democracy that reformed capitalism, but capitalism that reformed social democracy. This was clear, since by the end of the 1970s, social democracy was participating in dismantling the welfare state and functioning as the spearhead of European imperialism in the South.”

The author discusses the conflicts between socialist Cuba and the U.S., and briefly discusses the Caribbean, but focuses on Latin America. It would be interesting to see what he would write about the U.S. war on Iraq and the impact of the Iraqi resistance on Washington’s ability to intervene in South America, if that were within the scope of the book.

The dilemma the U.S. faces is that the neoliberal scenario continually narrows popular support for the system and its institutions. It wipes out the middle class and impoverishes workers. Thus imperialism is finding it necessary to intervene more directly, as in Haiti and Venezuela, in the Mexican election, etc. While at present the conditions don’t exist for a struggle for socialism, the continued deterioration of living conditions and the threat to humanity from the crisis of capitalism will soon raise this question anew.

“Left political alternatives,” writes Regalado, “will have to include the struggle for revolution.” And “the use of some type of revolutionary violence will be inevitable, because those holding power in the world will cling to it to the very end.”

This conclusion, while not new in classical Marxist literature, bears repetition in this post-Soviet period. To understand how Regalado comes to it, it’s best to read his book.


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February 3, 2008 Posted by | Africa, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, EU, Haiti, Imperialism, Latin America, Mexico, Nicaragua, US, Venezuela | , , , , | Leave a comment

AFRICA SAYS NO – and means it!

above pic: President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade

Africa says no – and means it

By Ignacio Ramonet

The unimaginable has happened, to the displeasure of arrogant Europe. Africa, thought to be so poor that it would agree to anything, has said no in rebellious pride. No to the straitjacket of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), no to the complete liberalisation of trade, no to the latest manifestations of the colonial pact.

It happened in December at the second EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, where the main objective was to force the African countries to sign new trade agreements by 31 December 2007 in accordance with the Cotonou Convention of 2000 winding up the 1975 Lomé accords. Under these, goods from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific are imported into the European Union more or less duty-free, except for products such as sugar, meat and bananas that are a problem for European producers. The World Trade Organisation has insisted that these preferential arrangements be dismantled or replaced by trade agreements based on reciprocity, claiming that this is the only way African countries can continue to enjoy different treatment. The EU opted for completely free trade in the guise of EPAs. So the 27 were asking African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to allow EU goods and services to enter their markets duty-free (1).

The president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, denounced these strong-arm tactics, refused to sign and stormed out. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki immediately supported his stand and Namibia also decided not to sign (bravely, since an increase in EU customs duties would make it impossible for Namibia to export or continue to produce beef). Even French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who made unfortunate remarks at Dakar in July 2007 (2), supported the countries that were most strongly opposed to these agreements, saying he was in favour of globalisation but not the despoliation of countries that had nothing left (3).

The EPAs aroused wide public concern. Social movements and trade union organisations south of the Sahara mobilised against them. And the revolt against them bore fruit: the summit ended in failure. The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, was forced to back down and accept the African countries’ call for further discussions. He has promised to resume negotiations in February.

This crucial victory is another sign that things are improving for Africa. In the past few years, the bloodiest conflicts have been settled, leaving only Darfur, Somalia and East Congo. Democratic progress has been consolidated and local economies prosper under the guidance of a new generation of leaders, despite social inequalities.

Africa has another asset in the form of massive Chinese investments. China will overtake the EU as one of the continent’s principal suppliers and could beat the United States to become its most important client by 2010. The time when Europe could impose disastrous structural adjustment programmes is long gone. Africa has had enough.

December 31, 2007 Posted by | Africa, EU, France, Senegal, South Africa | , , | Leave a comment