By: Raúl Zibechi
Political cycles are not capricious. We’re experiencing a period of the growth of the right, especially in South America. The progressive cycle ended although governments of that type continue to exist, but they will no longer be able to develop the policies that characterized their early years because a conservative inflection is imposed, although the discourses may say something different.
A good example of that irony can be found in Ecuador: an Alianza País government that carries out a conservative adjustment. Unless he opts for the extraordinary thesis of “treason,” Lenin Moreno shows that even progressives must take a turn to the right to be able to continue governing.
We say that cycles are structural and governments are conjunctural. The progressive cycle is characterized by elevated prices for the export of commodities in a general climate of economic growth, strong popular advocacy and pressure for greater social justice. Those three aspects were weakened since the 2008 crisis. Now we suffer a strong rightwing offensive on every terrain.
Despite bad economic results and an elevated social conflict in which the forced disappearance of Santiago Maldonado stands out, the Mauricio Macri government obtained a resounding victory in recent Argentine elections. The Macrismo is not a parenthesis; it won a certain hegemony that is rooted in the economic changes of the last decade, in the weariness with progressivism and the increasing weakness of the movements.
The first question to take into account is that the extractive model (soy and mining) has transformed societies. The Argentine edition of Le Monde Diplomatique for September contains two interesting analyses from José Natanson and Claudio Scaletta, which clarify the productive changes of the soy complex and its social repercussions.
The first analysis maintains that the soy map coincides “almost mathematically” with the territories where Macri wins. It emphasizes that the countryside is more and more connected with finance, industry and big media, and that the landowners and peons, who were the leading characters of the oligarchic period, now coexist with technicians, lessees, agronomists, veterinarians, agricultural machinery mechanics and fumigation pilots, among others.
Technology is even more important than ownership of the land that the “seed pools” lease, while the growers connected to the globalized world are awaiting the prices on the Chicago Stock Exchange, where cereals are quoted.
The second analysis maintains that we are facing more complexity in the rural middle classes and the emergence of new “rural-urban” middle classes. Consequently, the conflict with the countryside the Kirchner government maintained in 2008 was not the classic contradiction between the oligarchy and the people.
Starting from that moment, a more complex conglomerate of actors became visible with a much more extensive social base, which rejects social policies because they perceive urban poverty as a very distant reality. That social block is what brought Macri into government and what maintains him.
The extractive society generates conservative values and social relations, just like industrial society generated a powerful working class and values of community and solidarity. Thousands of workers were converted into a class by organizing to resist the bosses in the big factories.
To the contrary, the extractive model does not generate internal subjects; that is, inside the “productive” framework because it is a speculative financial model. Resistances are always external; those affected are generally the leading advocates.
The second question is the weariness of progressivism after a long decade of governing. Two elements appear here: One, the internal wear and tear, natural or through corruption and bad management, and combinations of both; Two, because the model itself de-politicizes and disorganizes a society that is only joined together through consumption. There is where the right bites.
Consumption is the other face of the extractive society. A society that doesn’t generate subjects or strong identities with values linked to dignified work; that is, productive work, but rather mercantile and individualistic “values,” does not have the conditions for strengthening long-term projects for social transformation.
The third question that explains the rise of the right is the weakness of the popular field, which affects the movements, the culture of work and the culture of the left. The extractive society creates the material and spiritual conditions for this anemia of organization and struggles. But there’s more.
The social policies of progressivism, above all inclusion through consumption, multiplied the predatory effects of the model as far as disorganization and de-politicization. Class contradictions disappear in the shopping centers, including ethnic and gender contradictions, because in those “non places” (Marc Augé) the atmosphere disappears the humanity of persons.
But the movements are also responsible for the options they choose. Instead of looking at long-term construction, preparing for the inevitable systemic collapse, they took the electoral shortcut that led them to construct impossible alliances with pathetic results. Some Argentine movements that opted for allying with the Justicialista right, could give an evaluation of the disastrous results they obtained, and I don’t refer to the meager harvest of votes.
Finally, we must think about the teachings that leave us with the rise of the right and the crisis of the social movements. The extractive society of the Fourth World War cannot be resisted with the same logic as the worker struggle in industrial society. A class to be directed does not exist. Collective subjects must be constructed and maintained every day. The organizations must be solid, carved for the long term and resistant to the institutional shortcuts.
Originally Published by La Jornada
Friday, October 27, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee