Is South America’s ‘Progressive Cycle’ at an End?

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 1229, by Claudio Katz, March 4, 2016: Neo-Developmentalist Attempts and Socialist Projects.

… The year 2015 ended with significant advances of the Right in South America. Mauricio Macri was elected President in Argentina, the opposition gained a majority in the Venezuelan parliament, and Dilma Rousseff is being hounded relentlessly in Brazil. Then there are the conservatives’ campaigns in Ecuador, and it remains to be seen whether Evo Morales will obtain a new mandate in Bolivia.[1]

What is the nature of the period in the region? Has the period of governments taking their distance from neoliberalism come to an end? The answer requires that we describe the particular features of the last decade.

Causes and Effects: … //
… Frustrations with Integration: … //
… Failures in Neo-Developmentalism: … //
… A New Type of Protests: … //

… Why is the Right Advancing?

  • Macri’s arrival in the presidency represents the first electoral overturn of a Centre-Left administration by its conservative opponents. This turn is not comparable to what occurred in Chile with Piñera’s victory over Michelle Bachelet. That was a substitution of government within the limits of the same neoliberal rules.
  • Macri is a crude exponent of the Right. He resorted to demagogy, depoliticization and illusions of concord. With vacuous promises he transformed the powerful cacerolazos [pot-banging street protests by predominantly middle-class sectors] into a surge of votes.
  • The new President has appointed a cabinet of managers to administer the state as if it was a business. He has initiated a drastic and regressive transfer of incomes through devaluation and increased prices. He is issuing decrees criminalizing social protest and is preparing to repeal recently won democratic rights.
  • Macri’s triumph was no accident. It was preceded by the Kirchner government’s refusal to accept many demands from below that the Right took up in a distorted and demagogic way. The Kirchner followers fail to acknowledge their responsibility.
  • Some progressives see the victory of the PRO, Macri’s party, as a transient misfortune and hope to retake the government in a few years. They do not understand the modifications in the political map that are probable in the interval. Others argue that the election was lost through bad luck or because of an erosion in support over 12 years, as if that weariness adhered to some fixed chronology.
  • Those who attribute the election outcome to the harangue – effective, no doubt – of the hegemonic news media do not accept that the alternative mounted by the official propaganda failed as well. This applies as well to those who banter about Macri’s “post-politics” discourse without noting the declining credibility of the Kirchner discourse. Macri’s victory is ascribable to the frustration with corruption, clientelism, and the Peronist culture of top-down control and loyalty.
  • The reactionary offensive in pursuit of Dilma has not achieved the results it did in Argentina, but it did disrupt the Brazilian government throughout 2015. The Rightists began with big demonstrations in March that they were unable to sustain in August, and even less in December. The social mobilizations against the institutional coup followed instead an opposite course and grew as time went by.
  • The Supreme Court has blocked the political trial for now, and the government has gained a respite that it is using to reorganize alliances in exchange for a certain fiscal relief. But Dilma has only achieved a truce with her opponents in the Congress and the media.
  • As in Argentina, the progressive forces evade any explanation of this retreat. They simply manoeuvre to secure the government’s survival through new agreements with the business lobby, the provincial elites and the partidocracia, the bureaucratic party structures.
  • They don’t bother to investigate the regression of the PT, which has eroded its social base by agreeing to the adjustments. In the last election Dilma won by a slim margin, compensating her losses in the south with votes in the northeast. Support from the old working-class base of the PT has declined and been supplanted by traditional clientelism.
  • Furthermore, the government is tarnished by serious corruption scandals. Shady deals with the industrial elite have come to light that portray the consequences of governing in alliances with the affluent. Instead of analyzing this tragic mutation, the theorists of progressivism repeat their timeless messages in opposition to conservative restoration.
  • A similar regression is observed in Ecuador. Correa’s management is marked by a big divorce between his belligerent rhetoric and his status quo administration. The President polemicizes against Rightists and is implacable in his denunciations of imperialist interference. But day by day he crosses a new barrier in his acceptance of free trade and his confrontation with the social movements.
  • Here too the analyses of progressivism are limited to redoubled warnings against the Right. They overlook the disillusionment created by a president who is compromised with the establishment agenda. This turn explains Correa’s recent decision not to seek a new mandate.

The Centrality of Venezuela: … //
… Unpostponable Decisions: … //
… What the Rightists Conceal: … //
… A Post-Liberal Period? … //
… Unthinking Oficialismo: … //
… Enduring distinctions: … //
… Concrete Controversies: … //
… Socialist Identity: … //

… (full long long text, endnotes, references).


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