By: Raúl Zibechi
The end of the progressive cycle implies the dissolution of hegemonies and the beginning of a period of dominations, of greater repression against the organized popular sectors. Until now we have been commenting on the causes of the end of the cycle; now it’s necessary to start to comprehend the consequences, tremendous, unattractive, demolishing in many cases.
The recent election of Mauricio Macri as president of Argentina is a turn to the right that calls to light the flame of social conflict. The response of the editors of the conservative daily newspaper La Nación with an editorial that openly defends State terrorism is a sample of what’s coming, but also of the resistances that will have to confront the project of the traditional right.
We are not facing a return to the 1990s, neoliberal and privatizing, because those below are in a different situation, more organized, with greater self esteem and understanding of the model that they suffer and, above all, with greater ability for confronting the powerful. Collective experiences don’t happen in vain, they leave deep impressions, wisdoms and ways of doing things that in this new stage will play a decisive role in the necessary resistance to the new rights.
The period that is opening in the whole South American region, where President Rafael Correa already announced that he does not aspire to re-election, will be one of greater economic, social and political instability; of increasing interference of the Pentagon’s militarism; of new difficulties for regional integration, which already crosses through serious difficulties; of the deterioration of the living conditions of the popular sectors, whose incomes started to erode in the last two years.
In this new climate, I find some questions central:
The first is that there will not be political forces capable of governing with a minimal consensus, like the one that the progressive governments had obtained in their first stage. There will not be consensus in governments like those of Macri; but it’s convenient to remember that the Lula hegemony broke under the second mandate of Dilma Rousseff, as well as under the governments of Tabaré Vázquez, Correa and Maduro, although the causes are different.
When hegemony vanishes, the logics of domination are imposed, which lead us directly to the exacerbation of class, gender, generation and race-ethnicity conflicts, The domination-conflicts-repression triad will affect (is already affecting) women and youth of the popular sectors, the principal victims of the systemic turn to the right.
The second question to take into account is that the political-economic model is more important and decisive than the people who conduct and administer it. In the lefts we still have a political culture very centered on caudillos and leaders, which without a doubt are important, but are not able to go beyond the structural limits that the model imposes on them. Extractivism is the one largely responsible for the crisis that runs through the region, for the erosion that the governments suffer and, in short, is the bottom line that explains the turn to the right of societies.
Unlike the model of industrialization over over substitution of imports, which generated inclusion and promoted social growth, the current extractive model generates social and economic polarization, generates conflicts over the common wealth and destroys the environment. Therefore, it is a model that generates violence, criminalization of poverty and the militarization of societies and territories in resistance.
The inability of the progressivisms to leave the extractive model and the express will of the new rights to deepen it augur times of pain for the peoples. The recent tragedy in Mariana (Minas Gerais) because of the rupture of two of the Vale mining company’s dams,  which provoked a gigantic tsunami of mud that is leveling cultivated fields and entire towns, is a small sample of what awaits us if a limit is not set on the mining-soybean-speculator model.
In third place, the end of the progressive cycle supposes the return of the antisystemic movements to the center of the political scenario, from which they had been separated by the centrality of the dispute between the governments and the conservative opposition. But the movements that are activating are not the same, nor do they have the same modes of organizing and of doing, as those that championed the struggles of the 90s.
The piquetero (picketer) movement no longer exists, although it left deep footprints and lessons, and an organized sector that works in the villas in the big cities, with new kinds of initiatives like the popular high schools and women’s houses. The campesino movements, like those of Sin Tierra, have been transformed by the geometric expansion of soy, but new subjects emerge, more complex and diverse, where neighbors of those affected by mining or agro-toxics participate, as well as a wide gamut of health, education and media professionals.
The impression is that we are seeing new articulations, above all in the big cities, where the demands for more democracy and inequality inundate the trenches of the parties and unions, but also of the movements of the neoliberal decade of privatizing.
Lastly, the progressive cycle must close with a serene analysis of the errors committed by the movements. It would be demoralizing that in the next cycle of struggles they repeat the same errors that have affected autonomy in these years. It’s probable that the greatest difficulty to confront consists in knowing how to accommodate the double activity of the movements: the struggle against the model (the defense of one’s own spaces, mobilization and formation) and the creation at each possible level of the new (health, production, housing, land and education).
While street action permits us to stop offensives from above, new creations are steps in autonomy. They are the modes that we learn to continue navigating in the storms.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, November 27, 2015