Zibechi: The End of the progressive cycle accelerates

June 2013 demonstration in Rio

June 2013 demonstration in Rio de Janeiro marches along Copacabana Beach

By: Raúl Zibechi

Each one chooses the place from which she views the world, but that choice has consequences and it determines what she can see and what irremediably escapes her. The point of observation is never a neutral place, as she cannot be what she observes. Moreover, the observer is formed by the place elected for realizing the task, to the point that she stops being a mere spectator and becomes a participant –although she may say she is objective– in the scene that she thinks she is only observing.

The most diverse views are displayed before us: from those located within the states (parties, armed forces, academics), those that are emitted from the powerful countries and from financial capital, to the views anchored in the indigenous and black communities, and in the anti-systemic movements. A broad fan that we can synthesize, with certain arbitrariness, as views from above and views from below.

The views expressed in recent months about the situation that runs through the progressive South American governments say more about the observer than about the political reality that they pretend to analyze. From the popular movements and organizations that resist the extractive model, things are seen very differently than from the state institutions. Nothing new, although that it usually alarms those who think they see the hand of the right in the criticisms of progressivism and in the resistance movements.

To the writer, it’s the activity or inactivity, the organization for the fight, the dispersion or cooptation of the movements, the central aspect to take into account at the time of analyzing the progressive governments. Other considerations only appear in second place, like the economic cycles, disputes between the parties, electoral results, and the attitude of financial capital and of the empire, among a lot of other variables.

More than two years ago we talked about the “end of the Lula consensus” at the root of the massive mobilizations of millions of Brazilian youth in June 2013 (http://goo.gl/lS9K9R). Various Brazilian analysts explained the mobilizations of that year in a similar sense, emphasizing that we’re dealing with a parting of waters in the region’s most important country.

A year ago I said that: “the progressive cycle in South America has ended,” in relation to the balance of forces that emerged from the Brazilian elections, a direct consequence of the June 2013 protests (http://goo.gl/z92152). The Parliament that emerged from the first round was considerably more right-wing that the previous one: the agribusiness defenders got a smashing majority; the “bullet caucus,” composed of police and military members that propose arming against crime, and the anti-abortion caucus, rose to positions as never before. The PT went from 88 deputies to 70.

Many underestimated the importance of June 2013 and of the new correlation of forces in the country, trusted in the charisma of leaders like Lula, in his almost magic capacity for countering a scenario that had turned against them. The results are seen now.

We can see the end of the progressive cycle with greater clarity in light of the new data that recent acts shed on it.

First. We are facing a new phase of movements that are expanding, consolidating and modifying their own realities. We are still not facing a new cycle of struggles (like those that Bolivia experienced from 2000 to 2005 and Argentina from 1997 to 2002), but big actions are registered from those below that can be announcing a cycle. The mobilization of more than 60,000 women in Mar del Plata and the enormous demonstration “Not one less” (300,000 in Buenos Aires alone against chauvinist violence) speak as much of expansion as of reconfiguration.

The resistance to mining is paralyzing or slowing down projects of the transnational corporations, above all in the Andean region. Peru, in which is concentrated a high percentage of environmental conflicts, registered various popular and communitarian uprisings against the mining companies. For the first time in years, mining investment in Latin America is receding. It fell 16 percent in 2014 and in the first half of 2015 it fell another 21 percent, according to the Cepal. The reasons that they adduce are the fall of international prices and the stubborn popular resistance.

Second. The fall of commodity prices is a hard blow to progressive governability, which had settled on social policies that were possible, in large measure because of the excesses that high export prices were leaving. In that way the situation of the poor could be improved without touching the wealthy. Now that the economic cycle has changed, social policies can only be sustained by fighting privileges, something that passes through popular mobilization. But mobilization is one of the biggest fears of progressivism.

Third. If the right capitalizes on the end of the progressive cycle, it’s not the fault of the movements or the popular struggles, but rather of a model that promoted “inclusion” through consumption. An excellent work of the Brazilian economist Lena Lavinas about the financialization of social policy assures that: “the novelty of the social development model is having instituted the logic of the market in the entire system of social protection.” (http://goo.gl/XyrcPF).

The Lula and Dilma governments were able to exploit mass consumption by means of financial inclusion, “conquering the barrier of social heterogeneity that stopped the expansion of the Market society in Latin America.” We’re talking about a setback for the popular sectors, the supposed beneficiaries of social policies: “Instead of promoting protection against risks and uncertainties, it increases vulnerability.”

Consumerism, Pasolini said almost a half-century ago, depoliticizes, strengthens individualism and generates conformity. It’s the breeding ground for the Rights. They’re reaping what they sowed.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, October 30, 2015

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/10/30/opinion/021a1pol





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