What Happened to the Pink Tide?

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 1293, by Kyla Sankey, Aug 16, 2016.

When the ‘pink tide’ of left-leaning governments first rose to power on the back of anti-neoliberal protests across Latin America in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the initial reaction from the Left was euphoric. Striving to move beyond the “there is no alternative” mantra, many pinned their hopes on what seemed to be a new wave of actually existing alternatives to neoliberalism. Amidst the revolutionary fervor of social forums, solidarity alliances, and peoples’ councils, it appeared an epochal shift was underway, which Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa optimistically dubbed “a genuine change in the times” … //

… Argentina and Brazil: … //
… Challenging Neoliberalism: … //
… Neo-Developmentalism: … //
… Transformation Undermined: … //
… Rising Tensions: … //
… Venezuela’s Example: … //

… Left Neoliberalism:

The experience of left-wing governments in power is representative of the problems of trying to “humanize” capitalism, or build an “Andean-Amazonian” capitalism without going beyond it. Despite a fierce anti-neoliberal platform, with the exception of Venezuela few steps were taken toward a complete rupture with the previous order.

Instead, the result was what some described as “left neoliberalism,” whereby the new governments continued to manage a post-neoliberal society but were not able to overcome capitalism. So far, they have been successful neither in preventing the contradictions of the operations of global capitalism in Latin America from erupting into crisis, nor in preparing the masses to organize and propose their own solutions going forward. This must change if these governments are to retain their hold on power.

In the face of crisis, people want change. Bolivian vice president Álvaro García Linera has pointed out that the Right has no alternative proposal. The neoliberal policies they propose resemble those implemented in the 1980s and 1990s that initially caused economic devastation and popular protest. Yet after over a decade in power, the pink tide governments seem unable to move beyond the impasse and provide an alternative to the economic woes facing the people.

Rather than implementing pro-market policies and making pacts with sectors of the elite, the key is to push for a solution to the crisis by increasing popular protagonism through mobilization, unification, and education. In the face of crisis, the popular sectors must be prepared to build toward another type of society.

This involves strengthening political consciousness and collective organization to protect the social gains made under progressive governments, but also providing greater space for social activism to limit the expansion of capitalism, and building a social and ecological economy beyond extractive capitalism.

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Political parties must open up to self-criticism and national-level debate with popular movements about the type of social, ecological, and economic model people need… The primary task is to steer away from extractivism toward a socialized economy that is ecologically sustainable. ”

This cannot be achieved simply by spontaneous self-activity, but nor can it come from technocratic decisions from above. Political parties must open up to self-criticism and national-level debate with popular movements about the type of social, ecological, and economic model people need, that will have a real impact on the party’s program. The primary task is to steer away from extractivism toward a socialized economy that is ecologically sustainable.

An important example of a left alternative is emerging from the continent-wide ALBA social movements project. The goal of ALBA movements is the construction of a continental social movements network in order to mobilize, unify, and educate diverse sectors of the popular movement around a common project, from peasant, indigenous, and African communities to students, workers, and co-operatives.

ALBA’s response to the current conjuncture is to build toward “the creation of an alternative proposal based on popular power” which “seeks a solution [to the crisis] in accordance with the interests of popular organizations.” This means precipitating the struggle for the construction of an alternative, postcapitalist economy that can be “socialist, ecological, communal, feminist, and self-sustaining.”

In the face of an exhausted model, processes like ALBA will be critical to building “political subjects” capable of acting as forces of radical change. The pink tide governments may have failed to tame capitalism, but what the Peruvian journalist and socialist activist José Carlos Mariátegui envisioned as “the socialism of our Americas” is still a project worth fighting for.

(full long text, hyperlinks).

(Kyla Sankey is a Toronto-based activist and political commentator. She is a Ph.D. candidate in human geography at the University of Toronto. This article first published on the Jacobin website).


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