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Ideas for the struggle #6 - The need to unite the political left and the social left

 

 

By Marta Harnecker, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

 

1. The rejection by a majority of the people of the globalization model imposed on our continent intensifies each day given its inability to solve the most pressing problems of our people. Neoliberal policies implemented by large transnational financial capital, which is backed by a large military and media power, and whose hegemonic headquarters can be found in the United States, have not only been unable to resolve these problems but, on the contrary, have dramatically increased misery and social exclusion, while concentrating wealth in increasingly fewer hands.

 

2. Among those who have suffered most as a result of the economic consequences of neoliberalism are the traditional sectors of the urban and rural working classes. But its disastrous effects have also affected many other social sectors, such as the poor and marginalized, impoverished middle-class sectors, the constellation of small and medium-sized businesses, the informal sector, medium and small-scale rural producers, the majority of professionals, the legions of unemployed, workers in cooperatives, pensioners, the subordinate cadres of the police and the army (junior officers). Moreover, we should not only keep in mind those who are affected economically, but also all those who are discriminated against and oppressed by the system: women, youth, children, the elderly, indigenous peoples, blacks, certain religious creeds, homosexuals, etc.

 

3. Neoliberalism impoverishes the great majority of the population of our countries; impoverished in the socioeconomic sense and also in the subjective sense.

 

4. Some of these sectors have transformed themselves into powerful movements. Among those are women’s, indigenous and consumer rights movements, and movements that fight for human rights and in defense of the environment.

 

5. These movements differ in many ways from the classical labor movement. Their platforms have a strong issues-based focus and they stretch across classes and generations. Their forms of organizing are less hierarchical and rely more on networks than those of the past, while their concrete forms of actions vary quite a lot.

 

6. New social actors have also appeared. What is surprising, for example, is the capacity to mobilize that has manifested itself among youth, fundamentally organized through electronic means (internet, mobile phones, etc.), with the object of rejecting actually existing globalization, resisting the application of neoliberal measures, promoting very powerful mobilizations against war and military occupation, and spreading the experiences of revolutionary struggle, thereby breaking down the information blockade that had been imposed on left and progressive ideas.

 

7. This growing rejection is being expressed through diverse and alternative practices of resistance and struggle.

 

8. The consolidation of left parties, fronts or political processes in opposition to neoliberalism is undeniable in various countries. In others, powerful social movements have arisen and transformed themselves into major political actors, becoming important oppositional forces that occupy the frontlines of the fight against neoliberal globalization.

 

9. However, despite the depth of the crisis that the neoliberal model has provoked in those countries where it is still in place, the breadth and variety of affected sectors that encompass the majority of the population, the multiplicity of demands that have emerged from society and which continue to remain unmet—all of which have produced a highly favorable situation for the creation of a very broad anti-neoliberal social bloc with enormous social force—the majority of these growing expressions of resistance and struggle are still far from truly representing a real threat to the system.

 

10. I believe that one of the reasons that helps explain this situation is that parallel to these favorable objective conditions for the construction of a broad alternative social bloc against neoliberalism, there are very complicated subjective conditions which have to do with a profound problem: the dispersion of the left.

 

11. And that is why I believe that for an effective struggle against neoliberalism, it is strategically important to articulate the different left sectors, understanding the left to mean all those forces that stand up against the capitalist system and its profit-driven logic, and who fight for an alternative society based on humanism and solidarity, built upon the interests of the working classes.

 

12. Therefore, the left cannot simply be reduced to that which belongs to left parties or political organizations; it also includes social actors and movements. Very often these are more dynamic and combative than the former, but do not belong to or reject belonging to any political party or organization. Among the former are those who prefer to accumulate forces by using institutions to aid transformation, while others reject that option.

 

13. To simplify, I have decided to refer to the first group as the political left and the second group as the social left, even though I recognize that this conceptual separation is not always so clearly defined in practice. In fact, the more developed social movements tend to acquire socio-political dimensions.

 

14. To sum up, I believe that only by uniting the militant efforts of the most diverse expressions of the left will we be able to fully carry out the task of building the broad anti-neoliberal social bloc that we need to help elect progressive candidates and, from there, advance in the direction of being an alternative to capitalism. The strategic task therefore is to articulate the political and social left so that, from this starting point, we can bring the growing and disperse social opposition together into a single colossal column.

 

This is the sixth in a series of twelve articles that were first published in 2004 and have been updated and revised for publication in a second edition the pamphlet Ideas for the struggle.

 

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