Latin America: Class Struggle and Resistance in the Age of Extractive Capitalism

Published on Dissident Voice, by James Petras, August 25, 2013 (Linked with our new blog: politics for the 99%).

Class struggle is central in framing the issues of political rule, the relations of classes, the economic structures and strategies, and the distribution of wealth.
Especially in the era of imperialist globalization, the class struggle takes on an international character, as multi-national corporations, international financial organizations and imperial states directly intervene, or act through proxy collaborator states, in ‘the class struggle between labor and capital’ … //

… While the class struggle in its multiple expressions is a ‘constant’ and moving force in determining economic strategies and the direction of social policy, the organizational form which it takes has changed dramatically over the past half century. Even what appears to be similar organizations, like ‘movements’, ‘trade unions’ and ‘community-based mobilization’ have great variations in their internal make-up and mode of operation. Adding to the complexity, organizations change over time in their structure and relationship to the state, depending on the politics of the regime in power.

Let us illustrate:

During the 1970s, trade unions in Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay were highly political, playing a major role in mobilizing and uniting with parties and neighborhood movements in promoting the socialization of the economy and resisting the military take-overs. Likewise, during the later phases of the military dictatorships in Brazil and Peru, militant trade unions engaged in massive strikes to hasten the advent of democratic electoral politics. Subsequently, with the rise of post-neo-liberal regimes, most of the trade unions engaged in tripartite collective bargaining over narrow corporate’ demands, eschewing any community-based struggles over broader social issues and, in many cases, supporting regime policies through co-opted leaders. In other words ‘trade unions’, have at different times served as ‘social vanguards’ and allies of mass movements, mediators in social compromises and active collaborators and transmission belts of the state. The same organizational concept a trade union covers contradictory responses to the demands of class struggle. The same is true of ‘social movements’. During the onset and onslaught of the neo-liberal regimes, the social movements played a leading role in challenging the ascendant regimes and overthrowing them during the economic crises. The ‘movements’ varied from locally-based unemployed urban workers in Argentina, to community-based Indigenous movements in Ecuador and Bolivia, to centralized rural workers movements in Brazil. With the rise of the post neo-liberal regimes and the upswing of the mega-cycle, the unemployed workers movements virtually disappeared in Argentina, important sectors of the Indigenous movement, especially the cocaleros in Bolivia lost their autonomy and became a political prop for the Evo Morales regime, and the MST (or Landless Rural Workers Movement), diminished their land take-over activity in pursuit of economic subsidies from the Lula-Dilma regimes in Brazil … //

… Case Studies of Class Struggle from Above and Below:

Class struggle has clearly been internationalized. Imperial intervention is a central part of class struggle from above and is endemic, whether in the form of multi-national corporations, investing and disinvesting, or via imperial state-promoted military coups and destabilization policies or by direct or proxy military invasions. Anti-imperialist class struggle from below is less prominent, yet manifests itself in international aid and solidarity policies from Venezuela via ALBA, international strategy meetings of peasants, indigenous people and solidarity movements. Yet the bulk of the class struggle against exploitation finds expression in movements by oppressed and dispossessed peoples who rely mainly on their own resource base in contrast to the ruling classes, which depend on strategic imperial allies.
(full text).


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