Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Latin America: The Middle Class, Social Movements and the Left

The James Petras website
Latin America: The Middle Class, Social Movements and the Left
...In Argentina, ... With the economic crises (1999-2002) and collapse of the economy (December 2001-December 2002), the middle class saw their bank accounts frozen, lost their jobs, businesses went bankrupt and poverty affected over 50% of the population. As a result, the middle class ‘radicalized’: they took to the streets in a mass rebellion protesting in front of banks, the Congress and the Presidential palace. Throughout the major cities, middle class neighborhoods formed popular assemblies and fraternized with the unemployed workers organizations (piqueteros) in blocking all the major highways and streets. This spontaneous middle class rebellion adopted the apolitical slogan Que se vayan todos! – All Politicians Out! – reflecting a rejection of the neo-liberal status quo but also of any radical solution. The left public employees trade union (CTA) and the right-wing private sector union (CGT) provided little in the way of leadership – at best individual members played a role in the new social movements based in the villa de miseria – the vast urban slums. The left and Marxist parties intervened to fragment the mass unemployed workers movement while over-ideologizing and dissolving the middle class neighborhood assemblies. By the middle of 2003, the middle class shifted to electoral politics and voted for Kirchner who campaigned as a ‘center-left’ social democrat. Beginning in 2003, world commodity prices rose significantly, Argentina postponed and later lowered its debt payments and Kirchner stabilized the economy, unfroze the bank accounts of the middle class who then shifted toward the center.
...Argentina illustrates how middle class politics can shift dramatically from conformity to rebellion but lacking any political direction moves back to the right. With stabilization, the private middle class splits from the public employees, with the former backing neo-liberals and the latter social democracy....
...The new center-left (CL) programs of Lula,Kirchner, and Morales are in reality the new face of the neo-liberal right: The CL regimes have followed the same macro-economic policies, refused to reverse the illegal privatizations from previous regimes , have maintained the gross inequalities of classes and weakened the social movements. The CL regimes have been stabilized by the boom in commodity prices, budget and trade surpluses, allowing them to provide minimal poverty alleviation programs. Their main success has been to demobilize the left, restore capitalist hegemony and a relative degree of autonomy from the US by diversifying markets to Asia

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