CWI School: Latin America

Beginning to feel full effects of world crisis

This year’s CWI school held a commission discussing the political developments Latin America and the role that the Marxist forces of the CWI are playing within the continent. As comrade Dimitri, from Brazil, pointed out in his introduction, the economic crisis arrived late in Latin America when compared with Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, the full force of the crisis, and its effects in the social and political arena is now beginning to be felt deeply across the continent.

This session came after a more in-depth plenary discussion on the ‘Fifa go home’ protests in Brazil, which formed a back-drop to much of this session. Dilma Rouseff’s government in Brazil, as well as the regime of Bachelet in Chile were both described as ‘rapidly running out of steam’. Both the export of primary products – one of the main factors behind Latin America’s growth – and credit based consumption have come up against their limits in recent years. This has helped to provoke crises and splits among the main capitalist parties and has precipitated political realignments, both on the right and the left.

Dimitri, from LSR (CWI in Brazil) introduces the discussion

In Brazil, the legacy of 2013’s enormous June demonstrations is still crucial to understanding the movements developing today. The CWI in Brazil (LSR) proudly took part in these protests and called for the trade unions to intervene decisively – not just by supporting the movement in words but by organising mass strikes. While the unions did organise short work stoppages that coincided with the protests this was largely ‘too little too late’, and it meant that the workers’ movement was unable to decisively put its stamp on this crucial mass movement.

Similarly PSOL, the broad left formation within which the CWI participates, failed to properly intervene within this movement, perhaps fearing some of the ‘anti-party mood’ which understandably existed due to the betrayals of the PT. The increasing authoritarianism and bureaucratisation in the leadership of PSOL must be fought if it is to be able to play a full role in helping to develop a new mass workers’ party within the country. Despite these problems, however, PSOL is still able to act as a magnet for some of the most advanced layers of workers. LSR is fighting within PSOL to fight for democratic organisation and a radical left socialist programme. We will stand candidates on their list during the next set of elections.

In Argentina the crisis is particularly pronounced. At the time of the school, the country was on the verge of a (now realised) debt default. This is set to have profound consequences for the Kirchner government, particularly as the Kirchner dynasty had been widely credited with helping Argentina to escape its 2002 debt crisis. The country is now on the verge of economic collapse. Inflation has sky-rocketed – despite Kirchner’s attempts to paper over the problem by the producing fraudulent figures. Average rents increased by more than 36% over the last year. A huge rise in poverty is leading to a social crisis, made particularly acute given that Argentina at one stage had living standards comparable with those of workers in Europe.

As Tony Saunois, CWI Secretary and Danny Byrne from the CWI International centre pointed out in their contributions, this has led to increasingly large numbers of workers to make a political break with the government. This is most clearly shown in the in the industrial field, where factions representing more than 40% of trade union members have now formally split from the Kirchner government. Recent strikes including a police strike, have caused economic paralysis within the country.

In this context, we have seen very significant gains made by Argentina’s left in the last elections. The FIT alliance, made up of a coalition of Trotskyist currents, was able to gain a very substantial vote – over 1.2 million. This gave the alliance 3 national MPs and provincial MPs in 7 regions. This stands as clear evidence of the huge possibilities for wining support to the left of the Kirchner government. The CWI has pointed out the urgent need for the FIT to play a role in developing a new mass force of a broader nature, allowing for its development into an organisation with a genuinely mass character in the future.

Discussion was also held on both the developments in Venezuala and Bolivia, previously seen as beacons of hope across the continent and the world. In the case of Bolivia, the Morales government has deepened its move to the right. This is epitomised by a recent new law allowing children to work from the age of 10. This emphasises the need for the development of new organisations that can challenge Morales from the left.

In Venezuala, Maduro’s election has opened up a new situation in the country. The death of Chavez has given confidence to and strengthened the right wing. The country is currently facing big economic problems, including capital flight and inflation. ‘Chavismo’ without Chavez is proving problematic, and has provoked tensions within his party. All this means that the gains made by workers and the poor under Chavez are in danger of being lost – with struggle the only way to defend them. It may also be necessary to struggle against reformism and counter-revolution carried out under Chavismo’s banner. With this in mind, our most pressing task is developing a revolutionary block within Venezuala, work which our small section within the country is beginning.

As Danny remarked in his contribution the Bachelet government is currently tasked with containing an explosive political situation in Chile. Mass struggles have taken place, including a big student movement. Overall there is a radicalisation taking place within Chilean society. This is in part reflected by promises made by all main political parties to reform the old Pinochet constitution. Bachelet has also introduced some limited tax reforms and proposed a limited form of free third level education, but students are demanding an end to all profiteering within education.

Across the continent of Latin America, the most urgent task is the building of genuine Marxist forces, which can take full advantage of the huge opportunities presented, and intervene decisively in the developing mass struggles. As Tony Saunois pointed out, Latin America provides an example of the rapid changes in the rhythm of struggle that can take place. Like in 2000-2002, Latin America is once again to the fore in developing workers’ struggles. It is a continent rich in working class tradition and ripe for socialist change. The CWI continues to work tirelessly to help build a movement that will be capable of achieving it.

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