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The Rise and Fall of the Latin American Left


In The Nation, Omar G. Encarnación traces the emergence and eventual dissolution of Latin America’s “Pink Tide”—the left-wing, non-communist governments and social movements that arose in countries like Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia in the mid-2000s. Encarnación attributes the fall of the Pink Tide to an economic downtown and corruption, as well as to the backlash of traditional right-wing elites in Latin America. Read an excerpt from the article below, or the full text here:

All this said, largely overlooked in obituaries of the Pink Tide is the right-wing backlash that it provoked. This backlash aimed to reverse the shift in power brought on by the Pink Tide—a shift away from the power brokers that have historically controlled Latin America, such as the military, the Catholic Church, and the oligarchy, and toward those sectors of society that have been marginalized: women, the poor, sexual minorities, and indigenous peoples. Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016 perfectly exemplifies the retaliation organized by the country’s traditional elites. Engineered by members of the Brazilian Congress, a body that is only 11 percent female and has deep ties to industrial barons, rural oligarchs, and powerful evangelical pastors, the impeachment process was nothing short of a patriarchal coup.

In a 2017 interview, Rousseff made note of the “very misogynist element in the coup against me.… They accused me of being overly tough and harsh, while a man would have been considered firm, strong. Or they would say I was too emotional and fragile, when a man would have been considered sensitive.” In support of her case, Rousseff pointed out that previous Brazilian presidents committed the same “crime” she was accused of (fudging the national budget to hide deficits at reelection time), without any political consequence. As if to underscore the misogyny, Rousseff’s successor, Michel Temer, came into office with an all-male cabinet.

Image: Brazil’s ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva surrenders to authorities to serve a twelve-year prison sentence, April 2018. Via Axios.


All the talk of misogyny being the key element in understanding why the Pink Tide governments have been or are being ousted by the right-wing forces is a total diversion. Brazil’s Lula da Silva - a man; the Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro - hated and targeted for overthrow by the right-wing - a man.
No; the left-nationalist governments in Latin America are being overthrown or facing mounting coup attempt pressure because they lose their constituencies because they cannot deliver their reformist promises at a time of worsening slump crisis and because they are half-way house “revolutions” or left-reformist movements that are feeble in the face of imperialist warmongering crisis, manipulation, capitalist media shit-storms and counter-revolutionary intriguing.
Latin America keeps getting half-way towards Leninism with Castro, the Sandinistas, the FMLN, the Chavez-led Bolivarian Revolution etc - and then the attempted leaderships collapsing back into anti-Marxist reformist idiocy, admittedly under the vast pressure of US financed death squads, contra rebellion, CIA subversion, bourgeois coup conspiracies etc - all the usual forces of counter-revolution.
The Cuban revolution survives precisely because it is a workers state - in the form of a one-party socialist state that has a powerful track record of fighting off the counter-revolution (Bay of Pigs etc). Its socialism has bravely survived the collapse of the USSR and Castro’s leadership strengths were on full display in this period. But the Cuban Communist Party has a woeful record of “advising” other leaderships in Latin America to back off from full-scale revolution, in favour of compromising with the death-squad bourgeois governments or forces in Latin America because the revolutionary fight for proletarian dictatorship is “unrealistic” or “not wanted by the people” or a “provocation to US imperialism” etc. Just recently, the Cubans have been pouring cold water all over the Colombian revolution by advising the FARC to back down and get into peace talks in that country; the likelihood is that this giving-way in Colombia at this time will meet the same murderous fate that befell the same movement when it went “open” in the 1980s as Union Patriotica, only to see its activists gunned down by the thousand.
Not only that, but fascist US imperialism has been using the so-called “Colombian peace dividend” - the end of mass FARC revolutionary actions - to reposition the Colombian army (and its US advisers) to the border with Venezuela, with the obvious plan being to storm in as and when the Maduro government weakens in the face of the capitalist class’s coup attempts and violence in that country.
The Venezuelan Bolivarian government - the Maduro government - hasn’t even expropriated the bourgeoisie in Venezuela - no wonder the capitalist ruling class thinks it can get back into full political power if it just keeps pushing, and stoking up the middle-class violence. And if the Venezuelan bourgeoisie has not been expropriated, why should workers believe that this is a revolution worth fighting and dying for?? It is a half-way house, and as such it is permanently on the capitalist chopping block.
All this shows how stupendously foolish reformism and revisionism are. Latin America needs Leninism; it needs the fight for proletarian dictatorship; revolutionary leaders need to inspire the masses, arm the masses, and prepare the masses for any amount of counter-revolutionary violence. Political activists need to get into Lenin’s revolutionary theory so they know all about the stupidities of revisionism, reformism and anti-Soviet Trotskyism. They need to know all about the fatuous middle-class politics of political correctness and how imperialism uses bourgeois feminism to split women from men, and divert women (and men) from Marxism.
They need to know how to dialectically be able to love the Cuban revolution and support its heroic leadership, while being prepared to tell them they are talking twaddle when they advise revolutions to “give up and do peace talks”. See, for example, on the block-headed behaviour of Castro at the time of the ending of the socialist revolution in Grenada in 1983, when he sided with the drunken, pro-American counter-revolutionary idiot Maurice Bishop against the majority of the New Jewel Movement, led by Bernard Coard.
Of course it should be said that revisionism and anti-Marxist confusion is a world problem, not just that of Latin America, bound up with the Stalin group’s theoretical collapse into “peaceful road to socialism” idiocies, post-WW2 boom conditions, and the poisonous anti-Soviet hostility of the middle-class reformist and Trotskyist movements.
But their foundation on such conditions is coming crashing down in the global capitalist economic crisis and worsening inter-imperialist trade war, ratcheted up by Trump. The most vicious fascist nonsense is being unleashed as Palestinians are shot down by the Zionists, Yemen is destroyed, and fascist World War Three is prepared by US imperialism’s slaughtering mayhem across the Middle East and threats to Iran (that could bring in Russia).
The need for revolution is getting clearer all the time.
Fight for proletarian dictatorship. The way to the full flowering of socialism is to STRENGTHEN the party-led socialist state; the Marxist “withering away of the state” comes later when socialism is on a world scale, counter-revolution fully extinguished, and administering things without coercion totally normal.
Build Leninism. See