The Left in Power in Latin America: Ideological Poison Against the Working Class

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With the elections of Evo Morales in Bolivia and Michelle Bachelet in Chile, the bourgeoisie’s mouthpieces are once again spewing ideological venom, according to which these democratic elections have opened the door to new possibilities to help the have-nots in certain countries of Latin America. This is possible because the victors of such elections belong to Left parties, or to Center-Left coalitions. People such as Carlos Fuentes [1] portray the election of Morales to the Bolivian presidency as a positive event, which supposedly serves to strengthen democracy, as before then “The Left had no other recourse but armed insurrection” (Reforma, 02/01/06).

This trend began with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; then Lula in Brazil; Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador; Kirchner in Argentina; Tavare Vasquez in Uruguay; and Toledo in Peru. Could it be that democracy is finally paying off? Have the have-nots finally succeeded in electing candidates to office that represent their interests? Is the “Bolivarian dream” of a united American continent becoming a reality? Could this new united America—or at least part of it—offer a response to US imperialism, and in this way improve the lot of poor countries?

Perhaps we would do better by asking ourselves why it is that the bourgeoisie itself has been so welcoming of the newly elected Left, as the World Parliamentary Forum did: “We claim as ours the powerful presence of popular movements, one of the central elements in building alternatives that strongly put in question the capitalist model on its phase of neo-liberal globalization – a presence in which the social movements, and the mobilizations of native American Indians are on the first line of combat. In particular we claim the importance of the victory of the popular sectors in Bolivia and the election to the presidency of their American Indian leader Evo Morales…” (Final Declaration of the WPF, February 16, 2006).

Both, Left and Right Parties Have the Same Objective: Perpetuating Exploitation

Those still holding illusions about democracy and the democratic process believe that the main factor determining the policies of a particular candidate for office is his character. That is why the bourgeois media has focused greatly on the personal and social lives of presidents, in their “revolutionary” language, and on whether or not they are “indigenous.” These bits of information are used as guarantees that these governments will act on behalf of the exploited, and in opposition to the bourgeoisie.

However, we need to understand that it is not a candidate’s party affiliation, his intentions, or his ethnic origins that will determine the type of politics he will practice. On the contrary, his influences will always be the necessities of the capitalist system. That is why in today’s world it is impossible to implement a Left political platform that is essentially different from that of the Right.

Under decadent capitalism, parliamentary structures and electoral processes are mere circuses that the bourgeoisie uses to trap the working class in a democratic illusion. This is why left parties that participate in the electoral process - by claiming to champion the interests of the exploited - help reinforce the oppression of the exploited. These parties serve as agents of the capitalist class who have infiltrated the ranks of the working class. When they use names and rhetoric similar to that historically employed by the working class, or by “revolutionaries,” they do so with the intention of keeping the exploited under the illusion that a vote for the candidate that “fights on their behalf” will help the exploited “win” and have a chance for a better future.

In Revolucion Mundial (ICC newspaper in Mexico) No. 86, May-June 2005, we wrote that the arrival of left parties to Latin American governments reflected “…a weakness of the political apparatus, which desperately seeks to unite the bourgeoisie and strengthen its control of the workers, in a time in which the later have been making their will known as a response to the on-going and deepening crisis of capitalism.” By following this line of thought, it becomes possible to understand that the political presence of left populist governments is fundamentally due to:

  • The necessity of national bourgeoisies to confront the effects of an economic crisis that is primarily felt by countries within the “periphery” of capitalism.
  • The weakness and political decomposition of the bourgeoisie in the Third World.
  • The imperialist interests of each national bourgeoisie.
  • The urgency of stopping (or accelerating) social discontent.

This is why the election of left parties, and the celebration of the “triumph of the oppressed” are only means by which the bourgeoisie takes combativeness and class-consciousness away from the class struggle.

In Latin America in particular, the election of leftist administrations have made the myth of democracy more believable once again (in the past, decades of poor living conditions in the continent had almost ruined the reputation of democracy). This is why we contend that although the elections of these “new” governments in Latin America reflect the inability of the bourgeoisie to produce a candidate capable of imposing discipline among the different factions of the ruling class; it is also an opportunity for the bourgeoisie to strengthen its ideological dominance. For example, with the election of Evo Morales, the Bolivian bourgeoisie accomplished something it had not been able to do in 40 years: to obtain the support of 54% of the population during the election. This trend can be seen in Brazil with Lula, in Argentina with Kitchner, and (as is expected) in Mexico with Lopez Obrador.

In general, the mechanism is the same: to convince workers that the left will ‘change things,’ and that it’s enough to follow a ‘Messiah’ to solve society’s problems. The electoral campaigns attempt to have workers do away with their methods of struggle, their strikes and their soviets (soberain general assemblies…) to instead take refuge in ‘democratic channels and elections—and in doing so, they attempt to prevent workers from developing class consciousness, and lose themselves in the labyrinth of a ‘voting citizenry’…The election of Lula needs to be analyzed from a proletarian perspective. The illusions that Brazilian workers had in his candidacy gave the bourgeoisie the tools through which they were able to pass tough economic and political measures. However, let us make it clear: Lula did not betray the workers; his policies were merely a continuation of his anti-proletariat maneuvers that began with his invocation of ‘democracy’ and his alluring ways to trap the workers in the ballot box mystification.” (Revolucion Mundial, No. 86)

Anti-Imperialism, Nationalism, and Latin Americanism: Workers’ Poison

Another myth that the socialist presidential candidates have spread is that their national economies will benefit from protecting their “sovereignty” through the nationalization of businesses, or by confronting “yanqui imperialism.” Hugo Chavez has been the most successful selling this lie, which was helped by his alliance with Fidel Castro.  “Anti-imperialism” is as effective as nationalism in helping the bourgeoisie recruit proletarian participation in the exploitation of the latter, and the defense of the former.

The Bush administration defines Chavez and Castro as “negative forces within this region,” but not because Bush  actually believes Chavez and Castro are dangerous in and of themselves. The Bush administration is aware that these two heads of state are just tools that are used by political and economic rivals of the USA to advance their own national interests. The election of left governments in Latin America will not necessarily strengthen the enemies of “yanqui imperialism,” even if the newly elected left joins the rhetorical anti-imperialist bandwagon. With the arrival of left governments, the Latin American bourgeoisie need not change its political alliances; Lula is a perfect example of this. [2]

When a government or group of governments (such as the ones that came together at the World Parliamentary Forum) screams anti-imperialist clichés, it is safe to assume that either its alliances lie with the imperialist’s enemy, or is attempting to use the anti-imperialist rhetoric to win votes (as Evo Morales did). [3]

The anti-imperialist “formula” used by the left factions of Capital can be summarized as such: the exploited need to take disease, misery and hunger with a smile so that their “poor” national bourgeoisie will not have such a hard time in life. And to help the workers swallow the nationalist poison, the bourgeoisie uses tactics such as protests against neo-liberalism, the advocacy of nationalist populism, the nationalization of businesses, co-operativism, auto-management, etc. all of which are sold as measures that are intended to help the workers, but which actually strengthen their particular state capitalisms and thereby help “save” their economies a little. [4]

What the above discussion suggests is that the bourgeoisie’s propaganda about the left’s advances in Latin America is intended to separate the proletariat from its class struggle. Neither the left nor the right of the bourgeoisie have the capacity to fix the state of the economy in Latin America. On the contrary, regardless of the party in power, the misery of the working class—on whose shoulders the bourgeoisie rests the weight of the crisis—will only grow. We thus need to reaffirm that the only way for the working class to obtain its emancipation is to develop its class struggle.

Hector / February 2006.


[1] Carlos Fuentes is a Mexican writer, and is considered one of the best known novelists and essayist in the Spanish-speaking world, according to Wikipedia.

[2]When asked to comment on the advances of the left in Latin America, and the possibility that this will fuel anti-American sentiments in the region, Donald Rumsfeld, the head of the Pentagon in the United States, answered that the majority of Latin American counties (with the exception of Cuba) are making strides towards democratic governance.” (EFE, 18 February 2006).

[3] Evo Morales invited George Bush to visit him in Bolivia and have a chat ‘face to face’ about the chances of having their countries develop a relationship of cooperation. Morales also asked Bush to extend the U.S.’s Most Preferred Nations Status for Andean countries—which benefit Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, but expire at the end of this year. Morales has also stated that he will not force the DEA out of his country (AP, 2 February 2006). Yet, he continues to use anti-imperialist rhetoric to try to conserve his political image. And regarding the supposed regional Axis of Evil comprised of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, he stated ‘What Axis of Evil? Bolivia does not belong to an Axis of Evil; but from its location in Latin America, it builds an axis for humanity, and seeks to liberate the countries of this region…This is not a time when the people are able to raise their weapons against imperialism; this is a time when the empire makes war on the people.” (16 February 2006).

[4] The information that the news media has broadcast on Evo Morales’ first acts as President clearly demonstrate that even if he presents himself as a representative of the exploited, in actuality he represents the bourgeoisie: “President Evo Morales reached out to entrepreneurs in Santa Cruz, who were his most severe critics during the elections…Last Thursday, Morales met with leaders of the influential Chamber of Industries, Commerce, Services and Tourism (CAINCO), the Association of Private Banks, and associations representing the sugar and construction industries, to whom he pledged his support…He augured a new era of good relationship between the Santa Cruz bourgeoisie and the government in La Paz.” (AFP Y DPA, 4 February 2006).