Farewell to neoliberalism?

By: Raúl Romero*

Neoliberalism is a phase of capitalist social organization which, in a very general way, can be characterized by 1) the destruction or contraction of the social State; 2) the deregulation and expansion of the financial sector; 3) the extinction and privatization of state and para-state industries; 4) the liberation of borders to capital and the increase of immigration restrictions for people; 5) the adoption of “militarized security” models that guaranty the protection of the “strategic sectors” and regional integration; 6) the expansion of transnational corporations; 7) predominance of the extractive economies and of dispossession, and 8) the growth, on a global scale, of organized crime. Some of these phenomena are prior to neoliberalism, but they reach their predominance in this stage.

As in all social formation, in neoliberalism social relations and common senses are modified. Discourses that promote “entrepreneurship,” competition, efficiency and the effectiveness and that argue in favor of the private over the public fill neoliberal rhetoric. Rights are being replaced by “opportunities,” while asocial and ahistorical “explanations” are reinforced as responses to structural problems. These discourses are often accompanied by disqualifications against organizations of the peoples: los unions are the favorite adversaries, but also the original peoples that, in the language of the power, “refuse progress.”

Although capitalism in its neoliberal phase is a global system, it unfolds in different forms in different territories. In third world or dependent countries, the State is modified and the few social conquests are annulled to facilitate the process of accumulation of the imperial centers.

In the case of Mexico in particular, modification of the State included legal and economic reordering. In the economic it meant fiscal reforms, rationalization of public spending, commercial openings and an aggressive program of extinctions and privatizations of banks, credit societies, iron and steel, fertilizers, sugar mills, auto parts, trucks, bicycles, cinemas, airports, airlines, hotels, telephones and railroads. The data are very representative: of the 1,155 para-state companies that Mexico had in 1982, less than 200 are left today.

In legal matters, the reordering of the Mexican State translated into 86 constitutional reform decrees between 1982 and 2009 (See https://bit.ly/2UlJzhF), among which those in Article 27 stand out, which put an end to agrarian redistribution and social ownership of land, opening the way to the dispossession and privatization of ejido lands and natural resources; the reforms to Article 28, which expanded tax exemptions and allowed private investment in satellite communications and railways, and those of Article 3, which prioritized education as an individual right and not as a social right, while it opened the door for churches and entrepreneurs to intervene in plans and programs of study.

It’s also worth noting the counter-reform to Article 2 that, contrary to the agreements signed with the indigenous peoples, refused to recognize them as entities of public right with full right to the enjoyment of their territories, or the reforms to Article 123, which ended up leaving the working class totally helpless versus the ambition of employers and their new forms of exploitation.

As a result of the restructuring of the Mexican State, extractive economies and organized crime came to occupy key places, submerging our society in one of the most violent crises of contemporary Mexico. The thousands of people murdered and disappeared, as well as the dispossession and ecocide that currently characterize our country must be understood not as the result of corruption, but rather as the direct effect of neoliberal capitalism.

Is it possible that some of this will change in the short term? Sadly, no! The signals that the new administration gives point to neoliberal continuity, even though the president has decreed its end. We should no longer undertake a constituent process that, as happened in some Latin American countries, aids in discussing a new social pact. Nor is the suspension or renegotiation of the external debt or reversing the most significant counter-reforms, such as energy on the short-term public agenda. To the contrary: the dispossession projects, which also accelerate integration with the United States, have become a priority for the president.

Neoliberalism will not end by decree. Nor should we deceive ourselves with the nostalgia of a better past that didn’t exist for everyone. Limiting alternatives inside the margins of capitalism would be, besides suicidal, accepting “the end of history.” Re-discussing and proposing forms of social organization without exploitation or domination is urgent. A lot of political imagination and deep and critical study of past and present experiences would be required. Ending neoliberalism and capitalism will be the job of the peoples and their organizations.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




One Comment on “Farewell to neoliberalism?

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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