Save exceptions, Latin American armies are ones of caste, García Linera indicates. Photo:‘La Jornada’
By: Luis Hernández Navarro/Part 1 of 2
The conservative command of the Latin American right is in the United States, not in Spain. Vox  is small and clumsy. In exchange, Washington promotes a series of basic values: market, individuality, institutionalism against social convulsions and wealth as life’s objective, affirms Álvaro García Linera.
The Vice President of the Pluri-National State of Bolivia between 2006 and 2019 is one of the most prominent intellectuals of the contemporaneous left. His extensive and suggestive intellectual production is the fruit of a political commitment that landed him in prison for seven years and a solid political formation.
On his return to Mexico, the country where he studied mathematics at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) and where he was isolated as a result of the coup against him and President Evo Morales, he spoke with La Jornada about the difficult relationship between progressivism on the continent and the middle classes, the project of the right in the area and the excessive confidence that the governments of national-popular inspiration have had towards their armies.
–Of what does progressivism in Latin America consist?
–Progressivism has a wide spectrum, but it shares common things. The first thing is that there are new political forces that burst onto the political scene, in criticism of the old traditional political system, which had been bolted to State structures for 40 years, and in other countries for 50 or 70 years.
“The second thing is a vindication of the popular, of its presence, of its rights. It seeks a modification of the composition of the distribution of the national economic surplus between capital and labor, in favor of the popular and labor sectors. And a recuperation of the role of the State as manager, administrator or amplifier of the commons and collective rights. That is what’s common about progressivism.
“Starting with that you have, from more moderate views that meet this minimum common denominator and stay there, to more radicalized progressivisms, which propose the productive role of the State, through nationalizations of certain strategic sectors of the economy. And mobilization, as a way of managing administration of the State.
“These three elements: the consistent presence of the State, social democratization in the management of what’s public and modification of the class composition of State leadership, would be the most radicalized progressivism.”
–Is it a project different from that of social democracy, that of the old revolutionary nationalism, that of communism and that of national liberation?
–There are no sharp ruptures. In some cases, it’s the continuation of the national-popular of the ‘50s. Middle-class elites committed to the popular are the ones who make certain decisions, as happened in the 1940s, ‘50s and part of the ‘60s in Latin America. But in other cases, no. In other cases, it’s a substantial rupture.
“The presence of Indians governing, in the case of Bolivia, broke with any continuity with revolutionary nationalism or with the national-popular of the 1950s. Although there is continuity in terms of a role of the State, it is a modification in the class composition. It’s the serf becoming the master. There you have a 180 degree turn in the composition of the State.”
The same interests
–Does the Latin Americana right have a project?
–It always has a project: fundamentally, protecting its interests. The question is whether it has an expansive, seductive, universalist project, as it came to have in the 1980s, when neoliberalism on a world level was presented as the answer to the crisis of the welfare state in countries of the north. And it was presented as the necessary conclusion to the collapse of the experiences with real socialism.
“Not today. Today is: let’s return to privatizing, to deregulating work, to opening markets and concentrating wealth in the rich who are going to spill it on the poor. But, doing it in a war, in a crusade against those who oppose it: communists, indigenous rebels, migrants (depending on what country you are in), the populism of the rulers, the empowered unions.
“Now, the discourse has lost its universality. It no longer seduces you, but rather seeks to impose on you. Its content is the same: defending the rich through that recipe book with four axes, but now based on a holy war against the infidels of this political-economic creed. It’s a discourse that comes to impose, no longer to convince.”
–Is the organizing center of the Latin American right the face of José María Aznar or of Vox, in Madrid?
–No. Vox is still small and clumsy. Its colonial mentality doesn’t allow it to understand the Latin American reality, beyond nonsense such as demonstrating civilization to Latin Americans. Today, only pure racists from the continental political life receive that story. They are grateful, every time they have lunch and cross themselves, having a foreign surname and a lighter skin color than the rest of their compatriots.
“The conservative command is still in the United States. It is very powerful. It does it through USAID, the State Department and the institutions that promote human rights and support entrepreneurship. The strength of this discourse remains there. Not in its extreme version, because North Americans are the Empire of the last 100 years. They are more intelligent that the extinct and cadaverous Empire that the Spanish oligarchy represents.
“The North Americans have more skill. They promote a series of basic values: market, individualism, institutionalism against social convulsions, wealth as a life objective. There is the main strength, the command of the continent’s conservative sectors. And it’s a local creation of each country, how all those elements are wrapped in more democratic or more authoritarian discourses.
“The authoritarianism and racialized speech of the Latin American right emerge more as an instinctive reaction to a series of risks they see with the emergence of populisms and progressivisms. What Vox is doling is attempting –on that neoconservative, authoritarian and racialized right– to put together a kind of Iberian-American coordination, an international-continental kind. But it’s very clumsy. There, the North Americans give it lessons on how to get to know local realities in order to have a greater impact.”
–How do you explain the romance and divorce between the middle classes and progressivism in Latin America?
–Predictable, but not obligatory. Gramsci called this transformism, in one of his viewpoints. How sectors of the middle or upper class, not as a class, but as radicalized groups, in certain moments of political crisis can feel attracted by the emergence and novelty of the popular. But with time, –says Gramsci–, the call of class is given. You go back and forth from where you started. It’s predictable, but should not be something mandatory.
“You have to see how progressivism didn’t do enough to delay transformism, so that the vicious circle of going and returning to their place of origin is not completed. Each country has its own path to transformism.
“The middle classes are becoming politicized, they organize, debate, discuss. But it’s not a politicization of the left, like what took place in the 1970s. We have a politicization of the middle classes with a conservative logic, which makes it even more difficult for you to reverse it.
“Progressivism is having a problem with the middle sectors. Also, in the coming decades the United States is going to have racialized fundamentalist sectors as active political subjects.”
–What relationship has been established between the Army and the progressive governments?
–An excessive confidence. In progressivism we have believed that respecting institutions, promoting the presence of the popular, was sufficient. But, save exceptions, the Latin American armies are caste armies. Some more than others, the commanders have been commanders of caste. And if they are not of a real, visually verifiable caste, they are of an imaginary caste.
“In order to have the loyalty of the armed forces to the processes of democratization of wealth and of the rights that progressivism carries forward, it’s not enough to promote a participation of the popular in the mechanisms for selection of promotion in the commanders, nor is a respect for it as an institution enough.
“In progressivism we have not made a substantial reform of the military doctrine inherited from the cold war years, in which the enemy of the institution is the internal enemy, camouflaged, but the internal enemy. We have not finished eradicating that doctrine in our minds. This is one of the pending tasks and one of the risks of any radical progressive project on the continent.”
 Vox is a far-right political party in Spain.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, December 11, 2021
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee