Links 06: Editor's introduction

What alternative for Latin America?

The “New World (Dis)order” has by now become a commonplace, and a common fate for the world’s peoples. With all nations forced to become “winners” or perish, every national entity, large or small, North or South, capitalist or “ex-communist” is being put on the same boring, but deadly, diet— deregulation, privatisation, “flexibilisation”—in the name of achieving the unachievable holy grail of competitiveness. Obedience to this tyrannical external constraint can often seem the only realistic path for national politics, even left politics, and recent splits in a whole range of radical and left organisations, like the FMLN and the FSLN , attest to the strength of this pressure for “realism”. This issue of Links focusses on the efforts of left parties to confront this-conundrum: how-concretely, really-to advance towards the anticapitalist outcome in today’s conditions of “globalisation” and the “end of communism”? First, we initiate a discussion on the real nature of “globalisation”, a term charged with ideology but one which also reflects a reality. Michel Husson discusses what is real about “globalisation” in “Three dimensions of neo-imperialism”, an attempt to synthesise the main trends in world economy today. Links’ Moscow correspondent, Renfrey Clarke, in a thorough comparison of Russian and Mexican politics, analyses the monetary tricks that are available to neoliberal governments desperate to dupe an increasingly cynical populace. James Petras (whom we welcome to Links as a contributing editor) and Steve Vieux analyse the theorisation of the “new realist” viewpoint in Jorge Castañeda’s book Utopia Unarmed, which has “outfitted postures with arguments, captured a mood of disillusion and anti-utopianism and systematised this whole assemblage into something like a social democratic doctrine for the 1990s”. In a searching critique Petras and Vieux score Castañeda’s equation of revolutionary politics with guerrilla activity, stressing that “there is not a single, sustained analysis of any independent mass mobilisation in the entire book”. The geographical focus for the discussion is Latin America. Stephen Marks, Links’ correspondent in Managua, reviews the 1995 São Paolo Forum, held in Montevideo. Gerson Martínez, leader of the FMLN’s parliamentary group, tackles the question of developing an alternative to neo-liberalism in El Salvador, stressing the need for a broad alliance of all its victims-from shantytown dwellers right through to losing sections of national capital. Our interview with Raul Pont, vice-mayor of Porto Alegre in Brazil, starts more locally. What can a radical power operating at the municipal level do to draw people into social action? How can this local democratisation and empowerment relate to a national (and international) anti-capitalist project? International Secretary of the Brazilian PT, Marco Aurélio Garcia, points out in his presentation to the Fifth Meeting of the São Paolo Forum, that it is not enough for the left to defend that which the right is attacking-the “really existing” public sector and national economic apparatus, if it wants to avoid being dubbed as opponents of “modernisation”. In a sober analysis of the 1993–95 cycle of Latin American election results, he details the failure of many left parties to go far beyond the politics of denunciation. We also reprint the South African Communist Party’s strategy document Socialism is the Future, Build it Now, as adopted at the party’s April Congress. In seeking to avoid the ultimatism of the “far left” and the opportunism and immediatism of the “realists”, the SACP document presents action and mobilisation around the Reconstruction and Development Programme as the most direct way to socialism in South Africa. As a latest issue of The African Communist puts it: “Worker Power—The Key to the RDP”. Finally, Boris Kagarlitsky addresses the issue of “escaping the labyrinth” at a more general level, weaving into the discussion some new observations on the old but always actual debate on reform versus revolution. Links is beginning to accumulate a number of replies to articles already published. From the next issue we will be publishing a correspondence section, to which all our readers are heartily invited to contribute!