Ideas for the struggle #10 - A strategy for building the unity of the left
By Marta Harnecker, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal 1. I have previously referred to the necessity of building unity among all left forces and actors in order to be able to cohere a broad anti-neoliberal bloc around them. Nevertheless, I do not think that this objective can be achieved in a voluntarist manner, creating coordinating bodies from above that end up being a simple sum of acronyms. 2. I believe that this unity can emerge through concrete struggles for common objectives. That is why I think that we can help create better conditions for this unity if we put into practice a new strategy of anti-capitalist struggle. 3. I am talking about a strategy that takes into consideration the important social, political, economic and cultural transformations that have occurred across the world in the last period. One that understands that the new forms of capitalist domination go far beyond the economic and state sphere, have infiltrated into all the interstices of society—fundamentally through the mass media which has indiscriminately invaded the homes of all social sectors, and in doing so changed the conditions of struggle. 4. Today, more than ever, we have to confront not only the bourgeoisie’s apparatuses of political coercion but also the mechanisms and institutions present in civil society that generate a broad acceptance of the capitalist social order. The capitalist elites tend to achieve a significant hegemony over important popular sectors, a real cultural leadership over society; they have the capacity to ideologically subordinate the popular sectors, even those who are exploited by them. As Chomsky says, propaganda is to bourgeois democracy what the truncheon is to the totalitarian state. 5. In those Latin American countries where the government is in hands of the conservative classes, our challenge is to elaborate a revolutionary strategy within the conditions of a bourgeois democracy that enjoys a level of acceptance by an important part of the popular sectors which allows it to maintain itself without having to recur to repression; what’s more, we have to take as our starting point the recognition that large parts of popular sectors accept as good coin the capitalist leadership of the process. 6. For this reason, simple propaganda about an alternative society is not enough. The greater complexity that domination has assumed, the presence of important para-state factors that produce and reproduce the existing popular fragmentation and that attempt to delegitimize the thought and project of the left in the eyes of the public, means that we must demonstrate that we practice what we preach. 7. To do so, we must develop a process of popular construction opposed to capitalism in the territories and spaces won by the left, that seeks to break with the profit logic and the relations this imposes and tries to instill solidarity-based humanist logics. 8. We must promote struggles that are not limited to simple economic demands – although these need to be included – but that advance in the development of a more global, social project that encourages authentic levels of power from the grassroots. 9. What we are dealing with is the construction of experiences in popular democracy that are tangibly superior to bourgeois democracy. For example, the elaboration of a project for a humanist and solidarity-based city in a local government, promoting a diversity of spaces for participation that allow local residents to transform themselves into active members of their community. Or the construction of a community of rural settlements where peasants can establish diverse forms of collaboration among themselves, not only in agricultural production, but in the industrialization and commercialization of their products, in the education of their children and the formation of their cadre, according to a model that foreshadows the new society. Or the building of a student federation that defends the democratic participation of students in the running of a university committed to society. Or the construction of a trade union confederation that puts an end to bureaucratic leadership separated from the grassroots, that defends a social-political unionism, that overcomes simple economism, and that proposes as its objective an active insertion in the struggle for social transformation. 10. A strategy of this type can enormously facilitate the cohering of all the sectors of the left, both those that are members of parties as well as social movement activists, because it involves a different type of call to action. In order to be active, one does not necessarily have to become a member of a party, a mass organization, a movement; one can become an activist simply by participating in putting into practice the project of an alternative model. 11. More than just a propagandized utopia that is sterilely introduced into the minds of men and women in a passive manner as enlightened education without any practice in concrete construction, we are dealing with the construction of popular democratic reference points that, given they reflect different practices, tend to attract new sectors. 12. Moreover, it is only through these practices that many people begin to understand why it is that to expand their humanist and solidarity-based projects it is necessary to put an end to the capitalist system that, with its profit logic, raises enormous hurdles to any type of alternative model. 13. It is therefore an urgent priority to put an end to the “tactics” of shortcuts, of conjuncturalism, and thread together a practice centered on the promotion of democratic struggles from the grassroots; in the local construction of forms of power and popular democracy that allow us to define the meaning and timing of electoral and other forms of struggle. Otherwise, these practices will not overcome the long string of immediatism that we have encountered over the past years. 14. But it is also urgent that we overcome grassrootism, localism, apoliticism, corporatism, all of which limit the struggle of the popular sectors to trade union horizons or economic struggles. This is the tenth 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.