By Sacha Llorenti – Jun 27, 2023
The recent speech of Chilean President Gabriel Boric at the Summit of South American Countries calls for a debate on the meaning of the term “progressive.” This word appears in almost every reference to the political moment Latin America is going through and there is talk of a “second progressive wave” or attempts to place under this umbrella a wide variety of political positions.
Fraternally, I ask you: can someone who repeatedly attacks Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua without considering the serious aggression of the United States against those countries be considered “progressive?” Is participation in the UNITAS military maneuvers organized by the Southern Command and carried out within the framework of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) “progressive?” Is it “progressive” to support NATO? Is it “progressive” to accept at face value the international disorder promoted by bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF)?
This is not a superfluous debate. The struggle over the meaning of words is an important part of the cultural battle and the construction of hegemony. Many of you shy away from words like imperialism, colonialism, or leftism. It is clear that you want to moderate, to neutralize. Whoever backtracks in language will also retreat in action. On the other hand, one who names, specifies; one who specifies, wins.
It is striking that from this “progressivism,” not only is reality analyzed with the constant of imperialism eliminated from the equation, the word is not even mentioned. I think that this is inadmissible, it constitutes a cultural and political defeat that in fact would also mean a capitulation.
Imperialism, as an economic, financial, commercial, political, military, technological, institutional, communicative and ideological phenomenon, is an undeniable reality and is one of the main obstacles to the construction of a more just society. So, comrades, is this “progressivism” anti-imperialist?
On another level, some “progressives” seem to limit the political and economic horizon to the redistribution of resources, the expansion of certain rights and the widening of the democratic field through the struggle for identity. Nothing wrong with that, but what about the class struggle? What about obscene inequality? What about the enormous power of transnational corporations? What about ownership of natural resources and strategic companies?
Some have apparently lowered the flags of the struggle against capitalism, ignoring that this system not only plunders resources and exploits peoples, but is also the cause of the climate crisis, the effect of which could be the extinction of the species.
You may recall that, a few years after leaving power, Margaret Thatcher was asked what she considered her most important achievement as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The destroyer of British labor unionism and staunch defender of apartheid in South Africa replied: “Tony Blair and New Labour,” referring to the rightward shift of the British Labor Party.
As we know, Thatcher’s main ally in our region was the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Probably, seeing the outcome of the Chilean constituent process, the alignment of the Boric government in relation to the United States and its attacks against several revolutions, could Pinochet also say that this “progressivism” is among his greatest achievements?
I know that these statements may seem harsh, but the cultural battle and the clarity of positions are very important and losing them has a very high cost.
US political philosopher Michael Sandel answers the question of why the extreme right is growing, pointing out that one of the reasons is the failure of the policies of the social democratic or progressive parties to confront the growing inequality caused by what he calls the “excesses of capitalism.” Probably there we can find the answers to the failure of the Chilean constituent process or the outcome of the Argentinean government’s negotiations with the IMF and the tragic possibility of the right wing returning to these “excesses of capitalism.”
The German philosopher Walter Benjamin said that behind the return of fascism there was a failed revolution. Probably, the resurgence of fascism in Europe and in other latitudes of the planet is due to the new failure of social democrats and progressives who promise changes and, by not modifying the structural causes of the crisis, betray their discourse and their voters.
The Slovenian Slavoj Zizek says that, in reality, these types of political currents cannot see beyond the limited horizon of “liberal and democratic capitalism,” and, therefore, become followers of Francis Fukuyama, who in the face of the collapse of the socialist camp in the 1990s decreed the “end of history.”
In our context, the “Latin American Fukuyamists,” disguised under the title of “progressives,” are functional for both capitalism and imperialism. They contribute to the demonization of revolutionary processes and leaders, as well as to the demonization of words and their meaning. They try to take away the essential content of the left by diluting it to the ambiguities of “progressivism.”
The effects of this tendency are very dangerous because in fact they move the center of the political spectrum to the right, and with it, the transforming horizon. From the left, we must recognize that this is a very important issue. We cannot allow confusion and conformism to be nurtured, to try to domesticate hopes and, in this way, to sustain the status quo.
To conclude, dear comrades, if being “progressive” means raising the banners of anti-imperialism, of the class struggle, of the struggle against colonialism and against capitalism, count on me to take the sky by storm.
Sacha Sergio Llorenti Soliz was formerly the secretary general of ALBA–TCP and the former permanent representative of Bolivia to the United Nations from September 2012 to November 2019. He is a former Bolivian government official, an author, and a former president of Bolivia’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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