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XIII International Seminar in Mexico City

Crisis centered in U.S. hits Latin America

Published Apr 2, 2009 7:47 PM

The crisis that began with the bursting of the real-estate bubble in the United States is not only a speculative and financial crisis, but also a profound crisis of capitalist overproduction and also a crisis of militarism, war and the environment and involves the fate of humanity.

While not a uniform or unanimous view, that was the dominant position presented to and by 190 political activists and analysts from 80 parties and 40 countries at the XIII Seminar of the Workers Party of Mexico (PT) held in Mexico City on March 19, 20 and 21. Representatives came from five continents, with the large majority from Latin America and the Caribbean. Some 200 PT members and other Mexican activists attended.

The Seminar’s main topic was the worldwide capitalist crisis and its impact on the countries, the workers and the peasants in the “periphery” of the world imperialist system. The focus of this discussion was Latin America, where the movement against “neoliberal” imperialist penetration has reinvigorated the worldwide debate about a socialist future. Participants mirrored the differences and debates among Latin American political tendencies.

The PT is the sixth largest electoral party in the Mexican parliament and has supported Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the presidency. Under Sen. Alberto Anaya’s leadership, the PT has hosted the Seminar for the past 13 years. Attending were representatives from parties in power (Cuba, Vietnam, China, north Korea), from those parties elected to office, and those in both electoral and revolutionary opposition from around the world.

Since the early 1990s, left and center-left governments have replaced U.S.-backed rightist and military regimes through much of Latin America. As Cuban Communist analyst Roberto Regalado noted in his contribution, this change is neither completely due to mass democratic action, nor is it completely due to a change in U.S. policy following the end of the Cold War, but is a result of both.

The Seminar cheered the latest such turn, applauding two women from the leadership of the FMLN of El Salvador who sat at the front table through most of the proceedings. The FMLN, which led the revolutionary armed struggle in the 1980s, recently defeated the rightist party in presidential elections.

Crisis of capitalist civilization

The Seminar mirrored the makeup of the real Latin America. There was representation of most of the political tendencies in the region. Many were participating in the left and center-left governments, others were critical and promoting a more openly revolutionary path.

All at the Seminar spoke strongly against U.S. imperialism. Most also spoke against European capitalist penetration, but with diminished anger. There was also almost universal loathing of the Álvaro Uribe regime in Colombia and almost as much of the current Felipe Calderón government in Mexico. There were, however, differences in the different groups’ relations to their local ruling class and different assessments of the left and center-left governments that govern most Latin American countries.

In his keynote talk, Argentine economist and political analyst Jorge Beinstein described “the decline of the dollar” and “the imperial supremacy” of the United States, saying that it is not only “the flagship of the fleet” that is sinking, but that there is “only one ship” in the imperialist fleet and it is “taking on water.” For Beinstein this leads to “a crisis of civilization” with no normal capitalist recovery in sight.

Some of the speakers warned that left parties should not get trapped into a position of managing the capitalist crisis, that is, presiding over increasing unemployment, benefit cutbacks and a collapsing economy until they are replaced by a rightist government. Some added that even if the capitalist economy has no normal recovery, that capitalism will remain dominant unless some party, class or movement pushes it out and replaces it with socialism.

The Dominican political analyst, Narciso Isa Conde, pointed out that the new left and center-left governments have “one section that is revolutionary, one that is social-democratic and one that just rules with a new style.” He added that if the crisis does not “produce structural changes that favor self-determination and motion toward a national and continental alternative to capitalist society,” then the suffering of the weakest sectors of society will be increased.

Solidarity in struggle

Along with the analysis of this main question, there were also discussions of alternate forms of integration of Latin America, migration, special problems of women, youth and Indigenous peoples, and case studies. Berta Joubert-Ceci of the U.S.-based International Action Center gave a report on the immigrants’ struggle in the U.S. and the May Day demonstrations there.

There were also sections of the almost 30 hours of discussion that were statements or demonstrations of solidarity with, for example, the five Cuban political prisoners in the U.S., the representative of the Haitian movement, and the ambassadors of Vietnam, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, China, Libya and Iran. Lebanese activist Leila Ghanem, representing the struggles of the peoples of the Middle East against U.S.-Israeli imperialism, reported on the recent Beirut Forum.

Among the current well-known political leaders addressing the Seminar were López Obrador of Mexico and Ollanta Humala of Peru, both narrowly defeated in presidential elections in 2006, and two ministers of the progressive government in Ecuador. Sen. Piedad Córdoba of Colombia, an opponent of the pro-imperialist Uribe regime, spoke by telephone.

Catalinotto represented Workers World Party at the Seminar and gave a talk on “The capitalist world crisis and the possibility for workers’ struggle in the United States.”