Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera and Juan Carlos Monedero, founder of the progressive Spanish party Podemos, met Tuesday in the second day of Clacso’s First World Forum on Critical Thinking to discuss the future and limits of the Left and the rise of neoliberalism.
"This is a great lab of continental and international hope," Garcia Linera said of the Clacso forum, which brings together progressive and left-wing thinkers and political leaders to reflect on the contemporary political scenario in Latin America and beyond.
On the discussion of what is the Left, Garcia Linera highlighted the achievements. “What does it mean to be leftist? Lifting 72 million people from poverty in Latin America. What does it mean to be progressive, populist, socialist? Strengthening unions and social movements.”
For Monedero, the difficulties to define what is the Left and what is the Right can be addressed by revisiting the past. These "are categories that emerged with the French Revolution... To the king's right sat the good thieves... and to the king’s left the Jacobins who symbolically wanted to inhabit a space of confrontation to power.”
However, it is not left and right that Monedero wanted to highlight. "Fraternity is the greatest ideal of the French Revolution that has been left out." A central concept to counter the dominant view of a world made up of selfish, self-motivated entrepreneurs "in constant competition."
We must clarify our idea of human nature, Monedero said in his opening remarks. “There is a central idea that differentiates progressives and conservatives. Progressives trust in human beings and conservatives don’t, and people who don't trust human beings will justify authoritarian regimes, violence, and paramilitarism.”
For Monedero, the rise of right-wing governments in the region and of fascists leaders across the globe can be explained by the victory of fear over hope. “When fear wins the right-wing wins. When fear becomes the common sense the right-wing wins,” he cautioned.
“(Antonio) Gramsci was right, any political or military victory by the people requires cultural victories in the university, in the family, in the radio, in daily life,” Linera said.
"Neoliberalism is difficult to fight because it is not only an economic model but a common sense," Monedero said signaling to the importance of positioning new perspectives in the cultural realm. “There are people who want to justify welcoming refugees because they have a degree, because they will pay taxes. That’s wrong, we receive refugees because they need us, because they’ve been beaten, not because they are profitable,” he said to exemplify warning that neoliberal common sense seeks to capture our values.
However, Garcia Linera sees a weakened neoliberalism that he characterized as fossilized and contradictory. "The neoliberalism that has gained recent victories is repeating the same recipes applied 20 years ago that led to disaster, there is no creativity, no inventiveness, no hope; it’s just an old repetition."
"It is contradictory because in the 80s neoliberalism presented itself to the world as a mobilizing hope, a mobilization of supports, neoliberalism today is only mobilizing hatred and resentment, hatred to the poor, to the liberated women, resentment to organized workers and unions that slow down the accumulation of wealth,” the Bolivian VP argued.
That is why he is certain of the imminent rise of a second progressive wave against "zombie neoliberalism."
He also identified the virtues of Latin American progressive governments.
“In the face of historical determinism that thought there was only one subject of social change... Latin American progressivism has had the virtue of promoting and inventing a series of contingent social articulations: workers, Indigenous, neighborhood, youths, women, professionals, Campesinos as plebeian articulations where there is not one subject predetermined to lead and conduct the rest.”Other virtues are the ability to think and promote post-neoliberal forms of economic management, to expand common goods, and strengthen national and regional sovereignty.
Garcia Linera also highlighted the limits the Left has encountered and stressed they must "serve as lessons for the next wave."
Among them, the sustainability of economic growth with redistributive policies and the weakness in the transformation of the dominant worldview or common sense.
That is why people who overcame poverty through our policies later voted against progressive governments, Linera said. We might think it is lack of consciousness but it isn’t. "We must recognize it as our weakness."
Finally, he stressed the need to resolve the paradox between economic growth and environmental protection. "The next wave will need to bring about ecological Socialism," he sentenced.