The Tide May Be Turning in
tell me that I put more store by books than by direct experience. Probably
true. But since I lack first-hand knowledge of
NACLA’s first volume in its new series, Dispatches from Latin America: On the Frontlines Against Neoliberalism, reported on an array of popular initiatives and left-leaning regimes across the continent. The second volume, Latin America After Neoliberalism, is also a collection of essays; but it is organized by themes and is more academic, though still accessible. The book is a useful guide for activists wanting a better understanding of the profound transformations underway in the region.
The essays are
grouped in three sections. The first one deals with
In “The Left
The recent emergence
of the left was fueled by impoverishment and mass protest as governments hewed
Vilas’ main theme is the similarities that characterize national-popular governments today: pragmatic and moderate in espousing national capitalism. Currently these governments have no plans for systematically changing the social order. In part, this stems from the constraints imposed by the international lending agencies. However, there exists a tougher stance toward the North. With it comes a shift to regional economic integration and national autonomy.
In underlining the commonalities of left regimes, Vilas differs from Jorge Casteñada writing in the May/June 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs. Casteñada makes a sharp distinction between “two lefts:” the moderate social democrats with whom he sides and the radical anti-American populists interested only in personal power (a false charge!). Vilas, too, recognizes differences, but believes that the similarities tell us more about what is new and significant in Latin American politics.
Thus Vilas offers an incisive and nuanced analysis of the left that should help us understand the dynamics at play.
Norma Chinchilla and Liesl Haas have given us a rich farrago in “De Protesta a Propuesta: The Contributions and Challenges of Latin American Feminism.” Because they examine so much, I will summarize two important themes which pertain to the movement now. The first is the shift from being outside to being inside the political system. The second is the emergence of transnational organizing.
Both tendencies emanated from the greater openings that the democratization of the 1990s brought with it. However, the move from protest to political participation, while broadening the scope of feminism, created deep divisions in the movements. Some women feared cooptation by the state and the dilution of a radical agenda. (A similar problem has arisen with regard to indigenous organizing. As Shane Green shows in this volume, political participation often takes place at a considerable price: Governments marginalize or suppress demands considered too radical.)
The issue of
dampening down radical demands surfaced again in the creation of national
women’s ministries throughout the region. They tend to promote narrow,
non-controversial policies and prefer to work with NGOs that have an excessively cautious
approach to social policy. Moreover, they are not accountable to the women’s
movements, as the feminist NGOs are not accountable to the grassroots ― a
charge often made by the feminist leader, Sofia Montenegro, with regard to
To turn to the second theme, the 1990s saw the rise of what the authors call transnational feminism. It flourished because of the conviction that in a globalized world, women’s problems cannot be solved on the national level alone. Regional alliances and conferences provided a fruitful forum for strategizing. Yet there was a downside: a diversion of energy from local work.
Like the women’s and indigenous movements, labor organizing has become more transnational in recent years in response to globalization. Mark Anner’s piece, “Labor and the Challenge of Cross-Border, Cross-Sector Alliance” zeroes in on this phenomenon. These themes are the subject of two case studies: the anti-sweatshop movement and the opposition to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
Even with an
ally like the Textile Workers’
Enter the NGOs, North and South, onto the sweatshop scene. In cross-sector and cross-border alliances with other NGOs and unions, they were more successful than labor alone in defending workers’ rights. Though labor focused on organizing drives and NGOs on media expos¾s, these efforts were complementary.
struggle against FTAA, the labor movement played a larger role than in the maquilas. The Hemisphere Social Alliance (
generally to successful organizing in the region was Northern domination of
Southern partners, as happened in the maquilas of
challenge that Anner glosses over is the continuing
conservative streak in the
Latin America after Neoliberalism
supplements the more country-specific Dispatches
from Latin America. It gives us an in-depth analysis of the burgeoning left
today. But as