Friday, August 15, 2014

Critique of the Latin American Left from the Left

Via Robin Grier, I found this new working paper by José Gabriel Palma, an economist at Cambridge, with the casual title of "Latin America social imagination since 1950. From one type of 'absolute certainties' to another -- with no more (far more creative) 'uncomfortable uncertainties' in sight." Yes, that is in fact the title.

It's an ideological and intellectual critique of the Latin American left, which he argues is bereft of new ideas. His criticisms come from the left's left, so to speak, as he wants something new and radical. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, along with dependency theorists, provided a rich and critical body of work. Dependency theorists started to give up in the 1970s, and nothing new grew from it.

Reading the political analysis of most ‘dependentistas’ at the time, one is left with the impression that the whole question of what course the revolution should take in the periphery revolved solely around the problem of whether or not a ‘proper’ capitalist development was viable. Their conclusion seems to be that if one were to accept that capitalist development is feasible on its own contradictory and exploitative terms, one would be automatically bound to adopt the political strategy of waiting (‘Penelope-style’) and/or facilitating politically such development until its full productive powers have been exhausted — and only then to seek to move towards socialism. As it is precisely this option that these writers wished to reject out of hand, they were obliged to make a forced march back towards a pure ideological position in order to deny any possibility of meaningful capitalist development in the periphery at the time — even if this was taking place in front of their own eyes. 

So they stagnated instead of offering a socialist critique of the way in which capitalism was developing in the region. This part seems overstated to me--he says that he wouldn't have enough material on such critiques to fill a review article, but those critiques were already plentiful when I was doing my doctoral coursework in the mid-1990s, though of course I was reading political science rather than economics journals.

At any rate, he criticizes the Latin American left for going from one certainty (socialism) to another (capitalism) instead of finding uncomfortable alternatives. He notes, for example, the Chilean socialists, who are so supportive of capitalism that the name "socialist" seems odd these days. Same with the Brazilian PT.

The result? Self-proclaimed leftist governments talk the talk, but actually end up producing more millionaires than their "neoliberal" counterparts.

And LA’s ‘new left’ has proved to be remarkably effective in the implementation of their upside-down hegemony; according to a the Wealth Report (2014), in the last ten years no other main region in the world has created so many millionaires as LA has done (i.e., individuals with US$ 30 million or more in terms of net assets, excluding their principal residence), centa-millionaires (those with net assets of more than US$ 100 million), and billionaires. And within LA, perhaps not surprisingly, those countries with ‘centre-left’ governments are the ones with a rate of increase of these types of millionaires well above-average. Among these, in terms of new millionaires created in the last decade (defined as above) Uruguay comes joint first with Venezuela, followed by Brazil Argentina and Chile; as for new centa-millionaires, Venezuela ranks first, followed by Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile; and for new billionaires, Argentina ranks first, followed by Brazil, Chile and then Venezuela.36 During this period, in turn, traditionally ‘right-wing’ Mexico had an increase of people in these three categories which was only one-fourth to one-sixth those in the ‘new-left’ countries.

That won't surprise anyone following the news about Venezuela.

He concludes with a certain amount of frustration because markets have wooed everyone and their negative effects are swept under the rug by just about everyone, but most frustratingly by a new left.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP