by Manuel Larrabure and Carlos Torchia, Global Research
Perhaps the greatest challenge for the radical left today is to articulate a politics that decisively breaks with the disastrous experiences of many 20th century socialisms. This is a difficult task that requires self-reflection, active questioning, and openness to new expressions of struggle by the always complex and fluid global working-classes. Making this task even the more difficult is that neoliberalism has destroyed or co-opted traditional forms of working-class organization over the last thirty years. This has resulted in the expansion of the logic of capital to every corner of the world. As the ‘great recession’ that began in 2008 demonstrates, capitalism is more global than ever.
Against this backdrop, Latin America has arguably been at the forefront of struggles that challenge the neoliberal claim that ‘there is no alternative.’ Indeed, it was in 1989 that poor communities in Venezuela climbed down from the barrios to protest the neoliberal package about to be delivered by the government. This event, known as ‘el caracazo,’ became the first great mass insurgency against neoliberalism in the region. Soon, others would follow: the Zapatistas in Mexico, the water and gas wars in Bolivia, ‘el saqueo’ in Argentina, to name the most memorable examples. In addition to expressing opposition to neoliberalism, these experiences had a common commitment to think and act outside the ‘red square.’
In each case, communities and workers self-organized and fought with their own hands and feet, rejecting vanguardist approaches of the old left, which often turned into an intellectual-political elite supposedly liberating the masses from above. In addition, many of these movements sought to prefigure new social relations while struggling against the present ones, organizing themselves on the principles of participatory democracy, and horizontalism. ‘Strong leaders make a weak people,’ Emiliano Zapata’s famous principle, popularized by the Zapatistas in the 1990s, perhaps best captured this political moment.
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