Revolution and Revolutionary Politics in Latin America

June 16, 2019 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

R.G. Williams

This short essay is a study of revolution and revolutionary politics in Latin America. The need for social revolution and political revolution is obvious in Latin America — a need which is obvious from Mexico to Argentina. While this need is different in the various countries of Latin America the overall nature of the struggle for social revolution and political revolution in Latin America is very similar. There is almost a general need for social revolution and political revolution in Latin America. The history of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America, since the 20th century, shows the necessity of such a social revolution and such a political revolution. For the Left in Latin America that struggle continues today. There is a need for revolution and revolutionary strategy in Latin America. There is a need for Socialism in Latin America. There is a need for Socialist Revolution in Latin America.

The type of revolution and revolutionary politics that Latin America needs today is obvious. It needs Socialism and Socialist politics. The real economic, political, social, and historical development of Latin America, from the past to the present, shows that Capitalism has failed to achieve either development or human freedom in Latin America. The only real solution to the problems of Latin America, today, in revolutionary terms, is Socialism and Socialist politics

Latin America, today, is a continent that is exploited and oppressed by Capitalism and by Imperialism. This social reality makes social revolution both necessary and inevitable. Latin America, today, cannot develop or liberate itself without achieving both social and political revolution. Without both social and political revolution, Latin America will continue to be dominated by Capitalism and Imperialism.

Latin America requires social change today. It is clear that Latin America needs Socialism today. It requires real social and political revolution. Just like every continent, Latin America is exploited and oppressed by Capitalism. Just like every continent, Latin America needs to be liberated by Socialism. Latin America requires both revolution and revolutionary politics.

The revolutionary struggle for revolution and revolutionary politics in Latin America has to engage with the politics and history of Latin America. This has always been true and will continue to be true for the social struggle in Latin America. The politics and history of Latin America inform the struggle for Socialism in Latin America.

The social struggle in Latin America is primarily a struggle by the working class of Latin America. If Latin America is to ever achieve a social revolution or a political revolution, today, then it must be led by the working class of Latin America. This basic fact is a constant of any revolutionary strategy for Latin America. Only the working class can achieve real social revolution in Latin America.

The revolutionary struggle in Latin America has a rich tradition and a rich history — going back to the revolutions of the 20th century. The Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Chilean Revolution of 1970-1973, the Nicaraguan Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, are all examples for the Latin American Left to draw upon and to learn from — for the struggle for revolution today. The Left, in Latin America, needs to learn from the experiences of the 20th century.

The social struggle in Latin America has taken many forms over the last century. Today the social struggle in Latin America is primarily a political struggle and a social struggle. It is a political struggle and a social struggle because both are needed to achieve Socialism in Latin America — and both are vital.

In the end, the struggle for social change in Latin America needs to come from the working class of Latin America. Only the workers of Latin America can emancipate themselves. Only the workers of Latin America can make a real social revolution in Latin America. If Latin America is to be changed, in a positive way, in the coming century, then it will be up to the real social struggle of the workers of Latin America. Only they can achieve social revolution in Central America and South America. Only they can achieve Socialism in Latin America.

Most Socialists in Latin America have noted the need for social revolution and political revolution in Latin America. Indeed, for the last century and a half, every serious Socialist thinker has noted the need for social change and social revolution in Latin America — specifically the need for a political revolution. This need for social revolution, political revolution, and Socialism, in Latin America is what gives the Left its particular power and its particular strength in Latin America. Yet the Left in Latin America has, so far, failed to achieve the victory of Socialism and political revolution in the states of Latin America. This is, of course, for reasons often outside the power of the Latin American Left itself — specifically because of the power of Capitalism in Latin America, and the power of US imperialism. Yet if the Left in Latin America is to ever achieve the continent-wide social revolution and political revolution that Latin America needs then the Left will have to engage with the politics of making revolution and the politics of revolution and revolutionary strategy. As Lenin said: ‘without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement’.1 There can be no revolution in Latin America without a revolutionary theory. There can be no revolution in Latin America without a revolutionary strategy.

There once was a time when the revolutionary struggle in Latin America relied on guerrilla warfare and guerrilla struggle. Today that is no longer the case. Today only political struggle can achieve a revolutionary struggle in Latin America. Except for a very few cases that type of guerrilla struggle is no longer possible or profitable in Latin America. There is also the reality that except for a few cases, namely the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the guerrilla strategy was a failure and a disaster for political revolution in Latin America — one which resulted in counter-revolution and defeat. Che Guevara was a revolutionary hero — but his revolutionary strategy of guerrilla struggle was largely a failure for the struggle for Socialism. In Latin America, today, the revolutionary struggle for Socialism must rely on political struggles — and not military struggles. If the revolutionary struggle in Latin America is to succeed it must rely today on political struggles by the working class of Latin America. The failure of guerrilla struggle to achieve social revolution and political revolution in Latin America, from Colombia to Peru, highlights the need for political struggle instead in Latin America. This does not mean that guerrilla struggle is useless in Latin America — in the right circumstances guerrilla struggle is perhaps natural and necessary — but rather that better forms of social struggle need to be developed. Only political struggle can achieve revolution and Socialism in Latin America.

The social struggle for Socialism in Latin America, today, is more developed in certain places and areas in Latin America than others. This social reality is key to understanding the dynamic of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — in that some areas are more politically advanced than others. In Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua the struggle for social revolution and Socialism exists at a different level than it does in other parts of Latin America — particularly in places like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. This is because Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua have already undergone some form of social revolution – and are revolutionary societies. This division of the revolution in Latin America is another legacy of past politics and past struggles in Latin America. For the revolutionary struggle in Latin America today it is vital to unite the working-class struggle in all these countries and to develop them towards Socialism. In the case of Venezuela, a key theatre of social revolution and revolutionary struggle in Latin America since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution in 1998, the social struggle there today is already beginning to enter a decisive phase. If the struggle for Socialism is to advance and develop in Latin America, then there must be a struggle in all the countries of Latin America and all the societies of Latin America.2

The political struggle for revolution in Latin America, today, must relate to the political reality of Latin America today. There cannot be a successful social revolution in Latin America today unless the Left engages with the concrete realities of the struggle in Latin America today. Repeating the politics and history of the revolutionary struggles from the past, even from previous successes, is unlikely to achieve revolutionary victories in Latin America today. Instead, it is vital to develop a revolutionary struggle and a revolutionary strategy for Latin America which acknowledges the realities of politics in Latin America itself today. These will be different in the different countries of Latin America. They will, though, all share in common the common need to develop a working-class struggle and a working-class politics as the heart of the revolutionary struggle for Socialism in Latin America. The particulars of revolutionary struggle in Latin America are different across Latin America today — but they all share in common the need for a common working-class struggle and a common working-class politics. For the social revolution and political revolution in Latin America today the working class is at the centre of the struggle — both for revolutionary politics and for Socialism.

All revolutionary struggles must deal with counter-revolution and with counter-revolutionary struggles. In the case of Latin America, the primary opponents of social revolution in Latin America remain the Capitalist states of Latin America and the spectre of US imperialism. Any struggle in Latin America will have to deal with these opponents and find ways of overcoming them. The recent reality of counter-revolution in Brazil, since 2016, and the recent difficulties of the revolution in Venezuela, since 2002, shows how powerful the forces of counter-revolution remain in Latin America — at both a political level and a social level. In Brazil, counter-revolution has led to the triumph of the Right since 2016. In Venezuela, counter-revolution has undermined the potential of the Venezuelan Revolution — since 2002 and especially since 2018 and 2019. The history and politics of counter-revolution and coups in Latin America, since the beginning of US imperialism in Latin America, has always been a threat to social progress and social revolution in Latin America — as the history of the 20th century in Latin America also shows. So long as Capitalism remains a force in Latin America the struggle in Latin America for social revolution and political revolution will remain incomplete. Recent events and past events in the history of Latin America also show the reality of what occurs when revolution fails in Latin American societies — the reality of Capitalist dictatorship and military dictatorship. The working class of Latin America cannot afford any further revolutionary failures.

US Imperialism shapes the politics of Latin America. US imperialism is the ultimate enemy of revolution in Latin America, and the enemy of revolution anywhere in the world. US imperialism is a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America today — as it has been a factor in any revolutionary strategy in Latin America. It is important to stress that the reality of any revolution or revolutionary strategy in Latin America has to be thought of in relation to the reality of US imperialism in Latin America. US imperialism has always undermined the struggle for Socialism in Latin America — and across the world. The political difficulties of the Cuban Revolution, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, highlights this basic fact. The revolutionary struggle in Latin America must always remember this reality of US imperialism and seek ways to overcome it — either by struggle or by solidarity with the struggle of the working class in the United States itself. If US imperialism is not confronted, head on, then there is no chance for the success of social revolution or political revolution in Latin America.3

In order to achieve social revolution in Latin America there needs to be working-class politics in Latin America. Only working-class politics can achieve real social progress in Latin America. Indeed, only working-class politics can achieve any social progress in the world today. A key area for revolutionary politics in Latin America remains working-class politics — the need for working-class politics. The Latin American working class needs to become organised – through political parties and social struggles. Failure to develop such politics will only delay a key aspect of the social struggle in Latin America. There is also a need for a unified working-class politics in Latin America — the need for unity between the working class and the rural farmers of Latin America. The Latin American Left needs to overcome the urban / rural divide in Latin America – between workers and poor farmers. Without unity between the workers and the farmers there cannot be either social revolution or political revolution in Latin America. The urban / rural divide in Latin America, historically, has always delayed the social struggle in Latin American history. This divide cannot be allowed to delay the social struggle in Latin America today. The urban / rural divide is not unique to Latin America, politics in Latin America, society in Latin America, or the revolutionary struggle in Latin America, but it is a serious divide. Overcoming this divide, by uniting the workers and the farmers of Latin America, is vital to the success of the revolution in Latin America and revolutionary strategy in Latin America. The workers and farmers of Latin America need to form a united front – in order to achieve social revolution in Latin America. If the Left is to advance in Latin America it will have to develop its working-class politics — politics which can appeal to the poor workers and poor farmers of Latin America.

Left writers have written a great deal about Latin America. This is because Latin America is crucial to any struggle for a better world today. There have been many good writers, from the Left, on revolution in Latin America and revolutionary strategy in Latin America.4 Indeed, some of the best Left thinkers on political revolution have thought about the problems of revolution in Latin America.5 This is because Latin America, itself, is a key theatre for the political revolutionary struggle of today.6 The thought of José Carlos Mariátegui, Che Guevara, and Régis Debray has been crucial in shaping the politics of revolution in Latin America. Such Socialist thinkers have always been crucial to developing practical ways of making revolution in Latin America. Their ideas remain crucial for developing Socialist thought in today’s world — both internationally and in Latin America. Their work highlights both the potential and the possibility for revolution in Latin America. If any strategy or politics for revolution in Latin America is to be developed for today, then it will probably require some aspect of the thought from the older Socialist thinkers of the 20th century — and from the Socialist tradition in general. The ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci, Guevara, and Mariátegui, can still help us today in terms of developing revolutionary politics in Latin America. Their ideas can still shape the social struggle for revolution in Latin America.

The Left needs to become better organised in Latin America. The struggle in Latin America shows the need for both political organisation and for social organisation. The Left in Latin America needs both political organisations and social organisations — Socialist parties, Socialist trade unions, and Socialist organisations. No victory for Socialism in Latin America can occur without such political organisation or social organisation — without Socialist parties and Socialist organisations. Latin America has a history and a tradition of such Socialist parties and Socialist organisations. For the Left in Latin America today it is vital that the politics, tactics, and struggles of such parties are resurrected for the struggle today. The political revolution cannot be won, anywhere, without a Socialist Party.7

Latin America requires social change today. It clearly requires social revolution. It has the potential for social revolution. It has the potential to achieve social revolution. It just needs the right form of revolutionary and working-class politics. How to achieve social revolution in Latin America and political revolution in Latin America is a question of politics and a question of strategy. It is also a question that the Left in Latin America will have to think about — given the reality of politics today in Latin America and the experience gained from the successes and failures of the revolutions of the 20th century. The nature of the revolutionary struggle in Latin America necessitates that the Left in Latin America think long and hard about the nature of the struggle — and how it connects to the international struggle for Socialism. Latin America, after all, is just one theatre of an international struggle for Socialism and this means that success or defeat there affects the struggle for Socialism everywhere else. The nature of American imperialism in Latin America gives the social struggle a further reality and a further political problem. All this means that unity amongst the Left of Latin America is vital for any future success for the Left of Latin America today or in the near future. In many ways the nature of the struggle for Socialism in Latin America remains unchanged from what it was in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries — in that the Left of Latin America has to struggle against both national and international enemies, against both the Capitalists of Latin America and the imperialism of the United States. All of this makes the social struggle and political struggle in Latin America difficult — but not impossible. The struggle in Latin America continues today — and it will continue until victory and the victory of Socialism.

Notes

1. V.L. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, (1905)
2. E. Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, (1967)
3. E. Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, (1967)
4. J.C. Mariátegui, History of the World Crisis, (1924)
J.C. Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, (1928)
5. E. Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, (1967)
6. R. Debray, The Revolution in the Revolution, (1967)
R. Debray, Problems of Revolutionary Strategy in Latin America, (1967)
7. V.L. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, (1905)

(2017)

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