The Central Command of the Latin American right is in the U.S., not in Spain

Save exceptions, Latin American armies are ones of caste, García Linera indicates.
Photo: La Jornada

By: Luis Hernández Navarro/Part 1 of 2

The conservative command of the Latin American right is in the United States, not in Spain. Vox is small and clumsy. By contrast, Washington promotes a series of basic values: market, individuality, institutionalism against social convulsions and wealth as life’s objective, affirms Álvaro García Linera.

The vice president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia between 2006 and 2019 is one of the most prominent contemporary leftist intellectuals. His extensive and thought-provoking intellectual production is the result of a political commitment that landed him in jail for seven years, and of a solid theoretical training.

Back in Mexico, where he studied mathematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and where he was in asylum due to the coup d’état against him and President Evo Morales, he talked to La Jornada about the difficult relationship between the continent’s progressivism and the middle classes, the right-wing project in the area and the excessive reliance that national-popular inspired governments have had on their armies.

–What does progressivism in Latin America consist of?

–Progressivism has a broad spectrum, but it shares things in common. The first thing is that there are new political forces that burst onto the political scene, in criticism of the old traditional political system, which had been bolted to State structures for 40 years, and in other countries for 50 or 70 years.

“The second is a vindication of the people, of their presence, of their rights. It seeks a modification of the composition of the distribution of the national economic surplus between capital and labor, in favor of the popular sectors and labor. And a recovery of the protagonism of the State as manager, administrator or amplifier of common goods and collective rights. That is what is common to progressivism.

“From that you have, from more moderate views that comply with this lowest common denominator and stay there, to more radical progressivism, that propose productive protagonism of the State, through nationalizations of certain strategic sectors of the economy. And mobilization, as a way of managing the administration of the State.”

“These three elements: the consistent presence of the State, social democratization in the management of that which is public, and modification of the class composition through State leadership, would be the most radicalized progressivism.”

–Is it a project different from that of social democracy, that of the old revolutionary nationalism, that of communism and that of national liberation?

–There are no sharp breaks. In some cases, it’s the continuation of the national-popularism of the ‘50s. Middle-class elites committed to the popular that make certain decisions, as happened in the 1940s, ‘50s and part of the ‘60s in Latin America. But in other cases, no. In other cases, it’s a substantial rupture.

“The presence of Indians governing, in the case of Bolivia, broke with any continuity with revolutionary nationalism or with the national-populism of the 1950s. Although there is continuity in terms of a role of the State, it is a modification in the class composition. It’s the serf becoming the master. There you have a 180 degree turn in the composition of the State.”

The same interests

–Does the Latin Americana right have a project?

–It always has a project: fundamentally, protecting its interests. The question is whether it has an expansive, seductive, universalist project, as it came to have in the 1980s, when neoliberalism on a global level was presented as the answer to the crisis of the welfare state in countries of the north. And it was presented as the necessary conclusion to the collapse of the experiences with real socialism.

“Not today. Today it is: let’s return to privatizing, to deregulating work, to opening markets and concentrating wealth among the rich where it will trickle down to the poor. But, now in the midst of in a war, in a crusade against those who oppose it: communists, indigenous rebels, migrants (depending on what country you are in), the populism of the rulers, the empowered unions.

“Now, the discourse has lost its universality. It no longer seduces you, but rather seeks to impose on you. Its content is the same: defending the rich through that playbook of the four axes, but now based on a holy war against the infidels of this political-economic creed. It’s a discourse that comes to impose, no longer to convince.”

–Is the organizing center of the Latin American right the face of José María Aznar or of Vox, in Madrid?

–No. Vox is still small and clumsy. Its colonial mentality doesn’t allow it to understand the Latin American reality, beyond nonsense like showing civilization to Latin Americans. Today, that story is given to you only by the pure racists from the continental political life. Those who are grateful, every time they have lunch and cross themselves, for having a foreign surname and a lighter skin color than the rest of their compatriots.

“The conservative command is still in the United States. It is very powerful. It does it through USAID, the State Department and the institutions that promote human rights and support entrepreneurship. The strength of this discourse remains there. Not in its extreme version, because North Americans are the Empire of the last 100 years. They are more intelligent than the extinct and cadaverous Empire that the Spanish oligarchy represents.

“The North Americans have more skill. They promote a series of basic values: market, individualism, institutionalism against social convulsions, wealth as a life objective. There is the main strength, the command of the continent’s conservative sectors. And it’s a local creation of each country, how all those elements are wrapped in more democratic or more authoritarian discourses.

“The authoritarianism and racialized speech of the Latin American right emerge more as an instinctive reaction to a series of risks they see with the emergence of populisms and progressivisms. What Vox is doing is attempting – on that neoconservative, authoritarian and racialized right– to put together a kind of Ibero-American coordination, an international-continental kind. But it’s very awkward. There, the North Americans give lessons on how to get to know local realities in order to have a greater impact.”

Gramsci’s Transformism

–How do you explain the romance and divorce between the middle classes and progressivism in Latin America?

–Predictable, but not obligatory. Gramsci called this transformism, in one of its facets. How sectors of the middle or upper class, not as a class, but as radicalized groups, in certain moments of political crisis can feel attracted by the emergence and novelty of the popular. But with time, –says Gramsci–, the  class call is made. You go back and forth from where you started. It’s predictable, but should not be something obligatory.

“It is necessary to see how progressivism didn’t do enough to delay transformism, to prevent the fulfillment of that vicious circle of going and returning to their place of origin. Each country has its own path to transformism.

“The middle classes are becoming politicized, they organize, debate, discuss. But it’s not a politicization of the left, like what took place in the 1970s. We have a politicization of the middle classes with a conservative logic, which makes it even more difficult for you to reverse it.

“Progressivism is having a problem with the middle sectors. Also, in the coming decades the United States is going to have racialized fundamentalist sectors as active political subjects.”

–What relationship has been established between the Army and the progressive governments?

–An excessive reliance. In progressivism we have believed that respecting institutions, promoting the presence of the people, was sufficient. But, save exceptions, the Latin American armies are caste armies. Some more than others, the commanders have been commanders of caste. And if they are not of a real, visually verifiable caste, they are of an imaginary caste.

“In order to have loyalty of the armed forces to the processes of democratization of wealth, and of the rights that progressivism carries forward, it’s not enough to promote a participation of the people in the selection mechanisms for promotion in the commands, nor is a respect for it as an institution enough.

“In progressivism we have not made a substantial reform of the military doctrine inherited from the cold war years, in which the enemy of the institution is the internal enemy, camouflaged, but the internal enemy. We have not finished eradicating that doctrine in our minds. This is one of the pending tasks and one of the risks for any radical progressive project on the continent.”


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada onSaturday, December 11, 2021. English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee. Edited an re-posted by Schools for Chiapas.

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