Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #6 -- The need to unite the party left and the social left

Marta Harnecker.

[This is the sixth in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. The rejection by a majority of the people of the globalisation 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 marginalised, 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 police and the subordinate cadres of the army (junior officers). Moreover, we should not only keep in mind those who are affected economically, but also all those who are discriminated 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, those 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 defence of the environment.

5. These movements differ in many ways from the classical labour movement. Their platforms have a strong thematic accent and they reach across classes and generations. Their forms of organising 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 mobilise that has manifested itself among youth, fundamentally organised through electronic means, with the object of rejecting actually existing globalisation; resisting the application of neoliberal measures, promotion very powerful mobilisations against war and now against military occupation, and spreading experiences of revolutionary struggle, breaking up 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: Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, El Salvador, Bolivia. In some, such as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico, powerful social movements have arisen, which have transformed themselves into major political actors, becoming important opposition forces that occupy the frontlines of the fight against neoliberal globalisation.

9. However, despite the depth of the crisis that this model has provoked, the breadth and variety of affected sectors that embrace 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 favourable 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 objective conditions which are favourable 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 of strategic importance 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 the left that belongs to left parties or political organisations; 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 organisation. Among the former are those who prefer to accumulate forces by using institutions to aid transformation, while others opt for revolutionary guerrilla warfare; among the latter, some attempt to create autonomous social movements and different types of networks.

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 recognise that this conceptual separation is not always so 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. The strategic task therefore is to articulate the party and social left so that, from this starting point, we can unite into a single colossal column, the growing and disperse social opposition.

Marta Harnecker’s bibliography on the topic:

La izquierda después de Seattle, Siglo XXI España, 2002.

[Marta Harnecker is originally from Chile where she participated in the revolutionary process of 1970-1973. She has written extensively on the Cuba Revolution, and on the nature of socialist democracy. She now lives in Caracas and is a participant in the Venezuelan revolution.]