Popular, massive anti-government demonstrations and strikes have been challenging the corrupt and anti-popular regimes ruling various Latin America countries, starting at different times over the past six months. These countries include Puerto Rico, Haiti, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.
How the local regimes and their backers in Washington reacted to these revolts — and to similar struggles in other countries in the region — contain lessons also for progressives and revolutionaries in the United States who want to support these popular revolts against neoliberal regimes.
While each of these countries has its own specific issues, their governments have all imposed neoliberal policies in order to wage war on the working class and all poor people. They have imposed rampant capitalism, privatized state-owned property, cut social programs and in general used government and state power to increase the rate of exploitation of the working class and the pillage of natural resources, often targeting Indigenous peoples. These neoliberal policies have served both transnational corporations and the local oligarchy.
U.S. imperialism puts its political, diplomatic, economic, media, and military and intelligence apparatus behind keeping these regimes in power. The regimes, in turn, serve U.S.-based corporate and banking interests. The recent conflicts have shown that the local as well as the imperialist ruling class will use all their advantages and employ the most ruthless and brutal tactics to remain in and expand their power.
Ruling class tactics and the case of Bolivia
What are those advantages? First of all, control of the state apparatus — the rich ruling class has a monopoly on violence. Second, control of the capitalist media, which are owned by the rich and lie incessantly to expand the interests of the rich, while spreading reactionary and often racist ideology. Third, access to the worldwide imperialist economy and the U.S. dollar.
All these advantages were used during the recent struggle in Bolivia — which is not yet over.
The progressive and first Indigenous President Evo Morales won the Oct. 20 election that should have made him legally president until 2025. Bolivia’s racist oligarchy spread the Big Lie that there was electoral fraud, for which there was no evidence. The U.S.-controlled Organization of American States backed this lie, as did the U.S. State Department, and it was repeated in all the local and imperialist corporate media.
Bolivia’s ruling class mobilized a fascist movement based on anti-Indigenous racism and religious bigotry. In the end, the rich used their control of the state — that is, the national police and the Armed Forces — to force Morales and his governmental supporters to leave Bolivia or face death.
Bolivia’s state power, now fully serving a de-facto coup regime with no constitutional standing, then opened fire with live ammunition on mass demonstrations of Indigenous people and workers in El Alto and Cochabamba. The people continue mass resistance under difficult conditions.
Lessons of solidarity during capitalist crisis
The brutality and ruthlessness of the ruling class, especially since its world capitalist system went into crisis mode in 2008, are clear. The lesson for progressives is that we must continue to protest and expose the crimes of U.S. imperialism and its lackeys in the Latin American oligarchy in their use of state power.
That means to protest the Chilean government’s firing at the eyes of the young protesters, the brutality of the Colombian regime and paramilitaries, the murders of Ecuadorian demonstrators in October, and the shooting of Haitians throughout the last year.
Countering media lies is one task that North American progressives should take on with energy. Our default position can be that anything most leading U.S. politicians — of both big bourgeois parties — say about these developments in Latin America and anything the corporate media repeat ad infinitum is an outright lie.
For example, an overwhelming number of reports appeared in all the corporate media in the U.S. that gave “electoral fraud” as the reason Morales was overthrown — without one scintilla of evidence. We should never allow these lies to creep into whatever progressive media exist.
Regarding state power, we note that Venezuela’s Bolivarian government has managed throughout the course of 2019 to defend itself against an all-out imperialist attack and the attempt to organize a coup. Nicolas Maduro’s government has so far maintained its support from the Bolivarian Armed Forces and has organized popular militias of armed workers and farmers.
We should continue to support the Venezuelan government and its righteous use of state forces against reactionary gangs backed by U.S. imperialism.
We should also applaud any attempt by popular movements or governments to break up the ruling-class monopoly on violence. As the Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin pointed out over a century ago, this is a difficult but necessary step for the success of any revolution that intends to put an oppressed and exploited class in power.
Venezuela’s organizing of popular militias is an example of such an attempt. We should give political support to all such attempts.
The Latin American class struggle is in a new phase. The oppressed masses in the Americas who continue to battle against their ruthless ruling-class enemies, with whatever means they are able to employ, deserve our support.