The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Latin America:
Tormented by the Economic Crisis

Nov 11, 2019

The following article is translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group active in France.

The wave of demonstrations that has been growing across Latin America is in part the consequence of policies enacted over the last 40 years. It is characterized by the dismantling of the public sector, sold off to big local business or to multinationals. These privatizations have brought massive layoffs of workers, and massive amounts of debt that has continued to grow.

The dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s cleared the path for this privatization. The Chilean military that seized power in 1973 offered their country to U.S. economists as a terrain on which to experiment with ending all regulation of the economy. This opened the country to the voracity of big capital and magnified inequality in Chile.

In Argentina, the military leaders pushed in the same direction, leaving the population a national debt that has never stopped growing. This made the fortunes of financial establishments, while creating increasing poverty for a big part of the population.

And it’s important not to forget that Latin America is, above all else, dependent on fluctuations in the prices of the primary goods that it exports: oil for Venezuela and Ecuador, natural gas for Bolivia, copper for Chile, agricultural products for Brazil and Argentina.

Just last year, some observers could pretend that only Venezuela under Maduro was in trouble. But today it is obvious that no country can escape from the consequences of the crisis of the capitalist system.

The populations of Latin America are no longer willing to pay for the crisis. The years 2000–2011 were marked by the arrival in Venezuela and Bolivia of governments that said they wanted to implement a division of wealth a bit more favorable to the popular classes. This seemed possible in part because the price for hydrocarbons was peaking, reaching 140 dollars a barrel for crude oil. In Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador, governments of the center-left moved in the same direction, implementing some social programs that were denounced by the bourgeoisie and the right, but that did reduce the poverty rate to a certain extent. This turn to the left was quite modest, as none of these leaders even seriously pretended to challenge the dictatorship of capital. And when one or the other of these governments fell into difficulty, the right was ready to come back into power, take things in hand, and take back the social programs.

Today, a big part of the population, in the north and south of Latin America, is mobilizing against the consequences of these attacks, but without a political force that could present a real alternative.