Printer Friendly

Democracy and revolutionary movement.

I. Reevaluating Democracy

For many years, in defending the dictatorship of the proletariat, organizations of the Marxist-Leninist Left scorned the other side of the coin, broader popular democracy. They were influenced by Lenin's emphasis on the former as a necessity in defeating a counterrevolution that did not accept the rules of the game and that attempted to regain its lost power by relying on the aid of the world counterrevolution. Until just a few years ago, leaders of these organizations proclaimed themselves revolutionaries and labeled the other progressive forces of the Left democratic. This was an ideological aberration, because the more revolutionary a political organization, the more democratic must its project be, and, conversely, the most radical democracy can only be won through the realization of profound social transformations -- that is to say, through the adoption of revolutionary measures.

At the same time, the "New Left" in particular was unable to understand that democracy was the immediate goal of the majority of the people. Because Left forces were unable to raise the banner of democracy forcefully and consistently, they were not able to lead people toward their proposed socialist project. In its discourse and propaganda, this Left emphasized the dictatorship of the proletariat as the great objective. More than a few Communist parties, on the other hand, despite including in their programs and speeches the dictatorship of the proletariat as the final goal, concentrated in their political practice only on struggles for general democratic demands. They did not attempt to link these demands to the struggle for socialism and thus fell into the trap of reformism, following behind the bourgeoisie.

Today, the Left is making an enormous effort to take back the banner of democracy. Before continuing, however, we must first define what is meant by democracy. The different definitions of democracy can be grouped around three fundamental aspects:

1. The problem of representation and citizen rights, or political democracy;

2. The problem of social equality; and

3. The problem of participation, of the people's role as protagonists.

Political democracy is what some have called government of the people. It can, as happens with bourgeois democracy, favor minority sectors of the population; as a result, some call it formal, since in the name of a people, it favors only a minority. Within such a democracy, there exist first- and second-class citizens. Accordingly, the Marxist-Leninist Left has taken a very pejorative attitude toward this type of democracy, forgetting that the democratic gains made in this terrain were not gratuitous gifts from the bourgeoisie; rather, they were won through historic struggles of the popular movement for universal suffrage, the right of women to vote, the right to organize trade unions, etc. The firsthand experience of living without such democratic rights during the military dictatorships caused the Left to begin to reassess the value of this aspect of democracy.

The second aspect is expressed in substantial or social democracy, or government for the people, the fundamental aim of which is to search for solutions to the real, most acutely felt problems of the population: bread, land, work, education, housing -- all of the things that allow progress toward a more egalitarian society. In practice, this form of democracy can be exercised by a political system that does not function with the same mechanisms of representation used in countries with traditional "Western" democracy. The third aspect is expressed in participatory democracy, or government exercised by the people.

The Left project for society -- socialism -- must combine these three types of democracy. It must seek a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

A government of the people is the system in which the interests of the diverse sectors of the population are represented in the state. It is not possible to govern without delegating the tasks of government to representatives of the people. Direct democracy is appropriate at the local level, in small communities, but it cannot be exercised at the national level, except in very exceptional cases (e.g., plebiscites, referendums).

The Left should be concerned that minority currents are represented and protected at the level of the state in its proposed society. Consequently, I value the abundant attention given by Latin American sociology over the last decade to the technical aspects of representation, or to what I would call "the techniques of representation." The problem with work done on this issue is not in its content, but in the absence of a social characterization of the democratic system that will use these "techniques."

Referring for the moment only to the technical, institutional aspect of representation, it seems to me that the new society should have tools with which to defend itself from the demagogy of bourgeois electoral campaigns, in which everything is promised and nothing or very little is delivered.

Therefore, a basic principle of representation should be the search for mechanisms by which representatives can be recalled when they have failed to carry out the mandate of their electors. To this must also be added the necessity of term limits set by the people to avoid the "gerontocracy" that has developed in the majority of socialist countries. Such a phenomenon is completely foreign to classical Marxist thought, in which bureaucratic functions were seen as something transitory because of their rotating character. Limiting the terms of office also implies avoiding the moral, personal, and social trauma involved in actually removing a leading cadre from a post, since any removal that is not contemplated by rules and regulations is viewed as a sanction.

It is interesting to note here the comments of the distinguished French sociologist, Alain Touraine (1991), concerning the transition from military dictatorships to "democratic" regimes:

In the first place, the Latin American continent has not returned to an

earlier situation, but has entered a new situation, another phase of its

evolution. In the second place, to say that it has entered into democracy

seems to me quite an exaggeration. I would say that Latin America, as a

whole, is now a politically free continent. Having free elections is

fundamental. There is not the least doubt. However, is that sufficient in

order to talk about democracy? That seems doubtful to me. The fundamental

test is whether or not active participation in the social product,

political decisions, and culture is progressing. Eliminating the dictatorships

was half the battle, but to date there has been no progress in reducing

social distances.

In the continent's most important country, Brazil, with or without

dictatorship, social inequality increases every year. The "rich get richer

and the poor get poorer" remains a more or less adequate formulation. It

is difficult to consider a political system democratic when it leads to or

does not impede such results.

Socialism must also realize a government for the people, which puts into practice the profound social transformations and moves toward ever greater social equality.

However, the democracy most characteristic of socialism is that put in practice through a government by the people, or participatory democracy, in which the people are the real protagonists in the construction of a new society, in which all forms of popular self-organization are encouraged and respected, without efforts to submit them to the party or the state.

Socialism as a project, then, cannot be separated from democracy; it can only be the highest expression and an enormous expansion of democracy in relation to limited bourgeois democracy. Democracy is a cause championed by revolutionaries, and not by the bourgeoisie who appropriated it, taking advantage of the deficiencies of the socialist countries in this regard.

Some people, in expressing their just struggle against all dictatorial systems, have called into question one of the cornerstones of Marxism: the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marxists have been put on the defensive regarding this issue, and in rightfully repudiating the term dictatorship of the proletariat, they have often questioned Marxism's pivotal position on the state. Here it is necessary to make things very clear in order to be understood. I think that the term dictatorship of the proletariat should be abandoned, because words serve to communicate, and when one uses a term that nobody understands, or they understand something other than what one is trying to say, what sense is there in using it?

To use an image, when one talks to people about a liquid to drink, one uses the term water, not [H.sub.2]O. In the same way, it makes no sense to talk about the dictatorship of the proletariat in political discourse, and less so when, given our most recent experiences in Latin America, what we have seen and what the people know are military dictatorships. How are we going to say to the people, who have not studied Marxism and who lack scientific knowledge: "Comrades, we come to offer you a new dictatorship, only this time it is the dictatorship of the proletariat?" I think Lenin was the first to teach us to leave aside used-up terms -- social democracy, for example, when the experience of the European masses in his era led them to associate this word with social chauvinism and betrayal of proletarian internationalism.

Political discourse is one thing and theoretical discourse is another. From the theoretical point of view, in order for a democratic political system to reflect the interests of the majority of its people, it is necessary to limit the realization of the interests of those who oppose measures beneficial to the people. Concrete societies are not neutral societies in which all interests coincide. Any society is made up of contradictory interests. Obviously, societies of popular majorities can function only if they employ mechanisms that allow them to respect the interests of the majority, which will necessarily conflict with the interests of the previously privileged minority. Historically, that minority has only submitted when it has been pressured to do so. If the minority were to voluntarily submit to the interests of the popular majority in power, the majority could implement a democracy without limits. This is not an idea of mine, but rather of Lenin himself. Limits are not imposed by the people, but by the very actions of the enemy.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is simply the other side of the coin of broader popular democracy, i.e., the strength of the majority. If this strength were not used against the opponents, it would be going against the very concept of democracy by disrespecting the majority.

Marx, and especially Lenin in State and Revolution, developed the concept of dictatorship to explain how all states function. According to them, even the most representative bourgeois democracies, i.e., the most democratic, are bourgeois dictatorships, because they express the supremacy or the rule of the bourgeois class. That is, their class interests are imposed on the rest of society. No bourgeois politician, of course, is going to carry out a political campaign raising the banner of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, he will try to make people believe that his system is the most democratic in the world. "Dictatorship of the proletariat" does not imply, therefore, disrespect for the laws set down by the people, or the absence of a state of law; rather, it means the exercise of this state of law against the minority that opposes those democratically chosen changes.

The bourgeoisie, which so passionately advocates respect for the state of law when it is their state, puts up immense obstacles when progressive and revolutionary forces try to modify that state of law through constitutional reforms that allow a greater expression of popular interests, as has occurred recently in many countries, such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc.

II. Overcoming Errors of the Sixties and Seventies

This reevaluation of democracy has been possible within the more mature Left of the continent because it has been able to overcome errors and deviations into which it fell during the 1960s and 1970s. The following examples are among the most important.

1. From Marxism as a cosmovision to Marxism as a tool of analysis with the consequent acceptance of ideological pluralism:

The Marxist Left has changed its view of Marxism enormously. From a dogmatic Marxism, as a cosmovision or philosophy that included everything and had answers to everything, Marxism has begun to be perceived as an effective tool for analyzing society. This change implies recognizing several things. First, Marxist textbook knowledge cannot substitute for concrete knowledge of the country in which one lives. Second, the development of Marxism as a scientific

tool of analysis has been retarded in important respects by the stagnation suffered throughout the long decades of Stalinism and the succeeding regimes in the USSR, during which time nothing changed in this sense until the advent of perestroika.

Third, while it is true that Marxism continues to be an ideological referent for the majority of the Latin American Left, the same cannot be said of Leninism. Today, many socialist parties tend to publicly declare themselves as non-Leninist including both those carrying the name and those distinguishing themselves from the Marxist parties of the Third International, which arose more out of national realities and were from the beginning critical of Stalinism and Soviet foreign policy (intervention in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, to mention some of the most recent and relevant examples). My personal opinion is that this is largely because Leninism has always been associated on our continent with the Stalinist interpretation of Lenin's thought and work. I maintain, for example, that the conception of a Marxist-Leninist party, which that Left defended and tried to implement for many years, was in fact a Stalinist deviation of Lenin's thought and not his original conception.

In this sense, I feel like a Leninist, although I do not think Lenin ever would have called his theoretical and political project "Leninist." I agree with those who believe that this label emerged from the Stalinist period. At the same time, I accept that while Lenin made very important contributions to some aspects of the development of the science of history begun by Marx and was the most extraordinary political leader of his era, he also committed errors. As a product of the ideological struggle against social-democratic deviations at that time and of the serious internal situation that existed in his country, Lenin placed greater emphasis on the need to crush the counterrevolution than on the democratic aspects of the new society he hoped to construct. Yet to judge him fairly, one must never forget the historical and political context in which he was forced to operate: a solitary red island surrounded by the world's most powerful imperialist forces. I am convinced that very few have studied Lenin's thought in depth and the evolution it suffered as he became more certain that the dynamics of history were not what he had foreseen.

It would be very interesting, for example, to closely study Lenin's thinking about the relationship between socialism and the state. It is clear that in his classic work, State and Revolution, a symmetry is established between socialism and the state. At that point, he thought that once the state passed into the hands of the proletariat, social property would be identified with state property. Lenin at that point imagined socialist society to be like a huge state enterprise and its citizens to be the employees of the enterprise. Later, because of the practical experience of the first proletarian revolution and of the unforeseen new realities that emerged in the construction of socialism, Lenin's analysis of the role of the state became more nuanced. He began to distinguish between "state-ization" and socialization of the means of production. Later, during the New Economic Policy, he began to place ever greater value on cooperative organization. Moreover, he came to see that the model of the existing state had very little to do with what he had imagined before the triumph of the revolution. The bureaucratic residuals were so great that Lenin concluded that very little had changed from the czarist model of the state, and he thought it was correct that the workers should struggle and go on strike against bureaucratic deviations of the state, although he still considered it to be a proletarian state.

2. From social movements as mere transmission belts to respect for their autonomy:

The role played under socialism by social organizations and, more concretely, trade unions, is well known. The unions were probably the only powerful organization in postrevolutionary Russia and they were conceived of as mere transmission belts for relaying decisions taken by the party-state or state-party to workers at the base. This conception presupposed a complete identification between working class-vanguard party-state, a conception that, as I have suggested, was abandoned by Lenin when he began to think that the unions could and should strike against the state because of its bureaucratic deviations. This change went unrecognized by the Marxist-Leninist parties, which, until quite recently, thought that the idea of the transmission belt was the Leninist thesis for the relationship between the party and social organizations under socialism.

This misguided thesis was applied by the Communist parties and, in general, by the rest of the Left in its work first with the trade-union movement and later with the social movements. The leadership of the movement, positions within the leading bodies, the platform of struggle -- in sum, everything -- was resolved among the party leadership and later "the line was taken down" to be followed by the particular social movement, without the latter's participation in developing positions on any of its main concerns.

This situation is changing today. In some way, the crisis of the left parties and the simultaneous rise of many social movements has contributed to this. The social movements matured and recognized that they were better able to achieve their objectives through their own initiatives, which were closer to the concerns of their bases than to those of political leaders who made decisions regarding the fate of their struggles while seated at desks. The political leaders also became aware that the vertical style of leadership worked ever more poorly and produced fewer results. They began to understand that the rhythms of struggle of each movement cannot be completely subordinated to their political project, because distinct dynamics are at work and it is important to respect these dynamics and to include them in a broad movement against the common enemy. They have become increasingly convinced that this will not be achieved by imposing a line from above, but by winning a guiding role from below, because the movement will only take up projects that it considers closest to its own aspirations.

3. From self-proclaimed vanguard to vanguard proven in practice:

In the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, the majority of left political organizations proclaimed themselves to be the only vanguard of the revolutionary process, and many of them claimed to be the vanguard of the working class, even though this class was practically nonexistent in some of those countries. In those years, it was nearly unthinkable to accept that other organizations were equally or even more revolutionary, or to accept the possibility of shared leadership. Each organization competed to be labeled as the most revolutionary, the most just, etc. The political-military organizations considered all of the parties that were not engaged in armed struggle to be reformists. The latter, in turn, and especially the Communist parties, some of which maintained that no one existed to the left of them, pejoratively branded the organizations on their left as ultraleftists. Today the situation is totally different. Very few revolutionary organizations remain that call themselves "the vanguard," with Sendero Luminoso in Peru perhaps being an exception.

Most of these organizations have come to understand that it is not possible to struggle effectively against a common enemy without united leadership -- although this does not necessarily mean forming a single party. We must not fetishize either the single party or multiparty systems, since everything depends on each country's concrete conditions.

4. From the only vanguard to the shared vanguard and from single party to multiparty politics:

The characteristics of the leading political force cannot be different from the characteristics of the society it hopes to transform. We would say that the political subject of the revolution in Latin America should include the most lucid and most advanced of Latin America's social subjects.

Schafik Handal, secretary general of the Communist Party of El Salvador, was the first Latin American communist leader to raise this issue when, in 1981, he addressed the causes of divisions among the Left on our continent. According to Handal (Harnecker, 1988), new social subjects emerged in El Salvador during the rapid expansion of dependent capitalism in the 1950s and especially in the 1960s:

A new working class emerged that was more skilled, from the technical

point of view, but with a much weaker class consciousness than the old

artisan working class, because of its recent social origins in the peasantry

and provincial petty bourgeoisie; an agricultural proletariat and

semiproletariat, which was very resentful of its recent proletarianization

and consequently very explosive; an enormous marginal urban sector,

the product of rural emigration provoked by the development of capitalist

agriculture; and an important petty bourgeois intellectual sector, also

marginal, which was born of the expansion of middle-level and university

education and which did not fit within the employment opportunities

afforded by the national economic establishment. The urban middle

sectors in general also grew.

The Salvadoran leader argues that it is "impossible to understand the full array of political forces facing one another in El Salvador today without taking into account these new social subjects" (Ibid.).

In Latin America today, then, diverse forces are confronting in practice their respective oligarchies and engaging in anti-imperialist politics. These do not necessarily correspond to the Leninist definition of the most revolutionary class. Other social sectors have great revolutionary potential. In the most backward countries, the working class is a small minority in comparison with all wage earners. This is even more so if we consider self-employed workers, a very generalized phenomenon not only in the poorest countries, but also in the continent's most developed nations, where the industrial work force and the service sector have been reduced by neoliberal policies that lead to the closing of inefficient enterprises and the shrinking of the state sector.

The Russian concept of the worker-peasant alliance has very little to do with the reality of our countries, where new phenomena have emerged to broaden and diversify the moving forces or the social subjects of the revolution. Within the latter, besides the working class and peasants, we should include students and revolutionary Christians, the most radicalized neighborhood movements, important sectors of the so-called middle classes, progressive sectors within the military, indigenous movements, the feminist movement, and humanist and environmental currents.

Though this means that the vanguard or the leading force of the revolutionary process must represent the interests of all of the exploited people, the vanguard cannot be confused with the latter, nor with the whole working class; rather, it is made up of the most lucid and combative forces of this social conglomeration.

Out of this reality emerges the difference between the concept of the vanguard and that of the political front. The latter includes all of the social and political forces that are disposed to carrying forward revolutionary changes in the current stage of the revolution, changes that are concretized in a program of economic, social, and political transformations of society. For its part, the vanguard is the political leadership of the revolutionary process, that is, the leadership of the class struggle. There are social and political forces that may form part of the front, but that, because of their own characteristics (sectoral, regional, etc.), do not have a complete view of society and, consequently, cannot lead the struggle against the ruling regime.

It is necessary to give some thought to the theoretical and organizational implications of the fact that in a given country various revolutionary parties may coexist, each having years of arduous experience building internal organizational tools and influence among the masses. In such cases, it is very unlikely that a vanguard party would emerge; most probably, the exercise of leadership should be shared, which in turn implies that the vanguard of the process would have to be collective.

Some prefer to use the term "leading force of change" to take into account this broader concept of political leadership and to avoid arguments with those who cling to the dogmatic concept of the vanguard, that is, the concept that attributes the character of a vanguard exclusively to the working class and its party. This narrow and dogmatic conception of vanguard is currently being overcome. A growing number of Latin American Marxist-Leninist, revolutionary leaders today talk about a collective or shared vanguard, and some include within that all agents of social change.

However, since being a vanguard means nothing other than having the ability to lead the class struggle, this leadership cannot be constituted through the simple addition of parties or revolutionary organizations; it cannot consist of a simple combining of the whole alphabet soup of parties. This is not about declaring a priori that all of the left organizations of a given country should unite to form the vanguard of the process; there is a minimum prerequisite: they must represent a real revolutionary force, that is, they must really lead the struggles of some sectors of the population.

This concept is not something that has sprung from the brain of a revolutionary intellectual; it has been forged in political practice itself. Further, it is not surprising that Clodomiro Almeyda [leader of Chile's Socialist Party -- Eds.], from our perspective, was one of the first to employ this concept during the era of the Popular Unity (U.P.) in Chile, when the necessity of a single political leadership was the most urgent subjective task. It would not have been sufficient to constitute a left political front; it was necessary to make a qualitative leap toward the construction of a unified leadership, both to apply the program of the Popular Unity and to engage in the struggle against the counterrevolution, which was gaining strength daily and had succeeded in establishing a more unified and largely efficient state.

Why a shared vanguard rather than fusion into a single party? Considering what has been said thus far, I think one reason is that the structural crisis is increasingly severe on our continent and we feel with increasing force the backwardness of the subjective conditions in relation to the objective conditions. Under these circumstances, it is necessary to give priority to the tasks of forging a unified leadership over those of building a single vanguard organization. It takes years to build a revolutionary party. It is not easy in a short period of time to forge the ideological and programmatic homogeneity required by such an enterprise.

Another factor to consider is that the Latin American case does not involve unifying different groups that define themselves as Marxists and work with the working class, as occurred in Russia at the end of the 19th century. Besides the Communist, Trotskyist, and Maoist parties, which have presented themselves as class-based parties, other revolutionary organizations have emerged, I many of which, despite proposing a socialist project, are not easily characterized as workers' parties. Additionally, new social subjects have appeared on our continent and some of these organizations more generally represent these new subjects than they do the working class. It is noteworthy that not only do these organizations represent different social subjects, they also conceive of themselves as front movements rather than as class-based parties. To these factors, we also must add the existing differences between the so-called Marxist-Leninist parties and the political-military organizations.

Thus, to build a vanguard organization in Latin America, it is fundamental that its pluralist origins be taken into consideration. As a rule, this is the result of a convergence of diverse revolutionary currents. Very rarely does a single revolutionary organization manage to cover all or even the greater part of the revolutionary political space, subordinating all the others to its leadership.

The shared vanguard of pluralist origins, then, leads to a revision in the idea of a single party being one of the necessary conditions for the consolidation of the revolution. Today, the growing tendency is to consider a multiparty regime as much more in accordance with existing ideological and social pluralism and more conducive to the democratic development of the transition to socialism.

Nevertheless, if the organic structure of political leadership should be a tool rather than an objective, as noted above, we should not fall into absolutizing the multiparty system and associating democracy with the existence of more than one party. We need only remember that in the Somoza era, there was a multiparty system in Nicaragua, as there was in Poland and in many Eastern European countries. Everything depends upon the concrete circumstances in which the revolutionary processes develop. This is why we value in all its dimensions Jose Marti's proposal for a single party for the Cuban nation as the necessary tool with which to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule and to defend its sovereignty, given the island's distance of only 90 miles from the "monster" he knew so well from having lived within its belly. A single party in Cuba is more necessary today than ever, especially since in the post-persian Gulf War period, the threat from the world's greatest military power has grown and knows of no counterweight -- militarily, politically, diplomatically, or in terms of the communications media -- that would impede its interference in the internal affairs of another country.

In synthesis, we must not fetishize either the single party or multiparty systems, since everything depends on the concrete conditions of each country.

5. From viewing armed struggle as the best and only road for the conquest of power to considering it as one means imposed by the enemy for obtaining democratic objectives:

In the 1960s, faced with the necessity of making space for armed struggle, which had been discarded by the majority of the Communist parties as they chose peaceful means to bring about social change in their countries, the political-military organizations nearly transformed armed struggle into an end in itself. The more one defended armed struggle, the more one was a revolutionary, and one could only be a meaningful revolutionary by taking up a rifle and heading for the mountains. Very few armed revolutionaries first attempted to demonstrate to their people that all other avenues had been closed, as Fidel Castro did in Cuba. Shortly before launching the Granma expedition, Fidel proposed again to Batista the possibility of avoiding war by holding truly free elections; he did this to make clear to the people that violence was not chosen by the revolutionaries, but was imposed by the enemy.

Today, on the other hand, the most advanced revolutionary movements, especially the Salvadoran movement, with its proposal for the demilitarization of society, are making an effort to show their peoples that it is not they who have chosen war; rather, the attitude of the enemy has forced them to take this road. For this reason, they have been proposing a general disarming of both sides, which has permitted them to unmask the army before the nation and world public opinion and to construct the broadest spectrum of internal alliances since the war began.

III. Revolutionary Democracy: A Project of the Majorities without the Ghosts of Real Socialism

There is no doubt that it is impossible to conceive of any revolutionary transformation without winning power. However, there are many ways of conceiving the road to obtaining this objective. Today, ever larger numbers of the Left discard the idea of taking power as some kind of single act that is undertaken at a given moment. Rather, the struggle for power is understood as a much more complicated process, from which armed confrontations are certainly not excluded.

Currently, there is a tendency to place ever greater value on attempts to come to govern via elections, because it is thought that this offers a key position from which to advance toward the taking of power. However, it is recognized that the problem of how to achieve power once in government has not been resolved by the Left. What happened in Chile is a difficult argument to avoid.

Yet it should not be forgotten that there was another Left that also came into the government via elections in 1982, the Unidad Democratica Popular (UDP) in Bolivia. That experience produced a reaction even more dangerous and negative for the interests of the Left and the anti-imperialist and working-class currents than did the errors of the U.P. in Chile, which the Pinochet coup brought to a dramatic, painful, and harsh, but nonetheless, clearly defined end -- with those who defended legality and the U.P. program on one side and the CIA-supported fascists on the other. In Bolivia, the UDP, with the support of the entire Left, assumed power; but rather than facing a coup by the Right, the very government of Siles Suazo (1982-1984) self-destructed by applying the program of the IMF and the creditor banks against the people who had elected it. This resulted in a pulverization of the Bolivian Left for a long period.

Thus, the possibility of coming to govern via elections -- which is a real possibility in countries such as Uruguay, where, in 1989, the Frente Amplio won the Montevideo mayorship, the second-most powerful position in the country -- presents the following alternative: either to administer the crisis in the best possible manner and, consequently, not carry out a left program; or to defeat the strong resistance that will be mounted by the groups closest to monopoly finance capital, to imperialism, to all manner of privilege, who will use legal and illegal means to prevent the implementation of a left program of democratic and popular transformations.

Hence the Left, like any political force with its eyes on power, cannot fail to include the military problem in its strategy. The Right will try to block the elaboration of a strategy of this type by accusing the Left of being terrorist, thereby ignoring the primordial role that the military component has always played in its own strategy: the Right has always counted on the institutional armed forces to defend the bourgeois order.

Naturally, to break the resistance of the bloc displaced from government, it is fundamental to count on political legitimacy, with democratic legitimacy, in the face of any eventual use of force. In other words, force can only be used in the function of democracy, in the name of what the people decided it wanted to carry forward. It is acknowledged that there exists a vacuum of theoretical-political elaboration on this theme, and clearly this problem needs to be developed by the Left in general, because if each organization launches its own strategy, its errors would damage the rest of the Left.

One of the lessons left to us by the Popular Unity in Chile is that it is not possible to try to carry out a project of profound social changes within the rules of the democratic game without the support of a majority of the population. When I speak of majority, moreover, I am referring not only to a relative majority, but to an absolute majority. Although popular support for the U.P. was increasing and nearing an absolute majority -- 42% in the municipal elections of March 1973 -- the U.P. was not able to break the framework of the "three thirds."(2)

The viability of a democratic-anti-imperialist project as an alternative to the capitalist neoliberalism of the Right depends on our ability to build a huge bloc of forces to carry it forward, and that depends largely on the Left's own political project. In past decades, the Left's project, especially that of the Communists, excluded from its culture and vision important sectors of society, even though this was never explicitly stated. If, indeed, no one said that socialism was going to be constructed with a single party, no one spoke to the contrary. If, indeed, no one declared that their model was the model of East European socialism, that was nonetheless the model in many respects. We cannot deny that for the Left, socialism was best when the means of production were the most nationalized and most owned by the state, and when the party was the only party. This was the Left's vision until just a short time ago.

Moreover, there existed the idea of needing to progress linearly from one stage through the next and that certain sectors in the initial social bloc would only go part of the way with the Left -- the famous fellow travelers -- and these sectors were left with the impression that sooner or later they would be displaced.

Perhaps it was never written down this way anywhere, but this is how the Left thought and, what is worse, this is the image it projected to society. With this vision, it was very difficult to put together a social bloc of the broad majority, which is what is needed to move from the government into power by the least traumatic means.

To make possible such a broad democratic project, we need a new Left culture based on respect for political and ideological pluralism; abandonment of hegemonism and sectarianism; a search for each country's own road based on respect for national traditions; the search for a language that permits us to communicate with the people, reaching its deepest sentiments; and, finally, a style of leadership that is not top-down and that allows people to appropriate the project, make it their own, and feel encouraged to enrich the project with their initiatives and to correct errors and deviations with their criticisms.


(1.) Regarding the causes for this plurality of left parties, see the "Vanguard, Unity, and Alliance in Hamecker (1989: 7-49). (2.) The "three thirds" refers to three forces in Chilean political party history, the Right, the Christian Democrats, and the Left -- Eds.


Hamecker, Marta 1989 Che: vigencia y convocatoria. El Salvador: Editorial Sistema Venceremos. 1988 El Salvador: Partido Comunista y guerra revolucionaria. Interview with Schafik Handal. Buenos Aires. Touraine, Alain 1991 Lecture given at the "Tribuna 92" program in Madrid and published in El Gallo Ilustrado, weekly supplement of El Dia (September 29), Mexico, D.F.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Crime and Social Justice Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Latin America Faces the 21st Century
Author:Harnecker, Marta
Publication:Social Justice
Date:Dec 22, 1992
Previous Article:Adjustment and democracy in Latin America.
Next Article:Latin America: socialist perspectives in times of cholera (preliminary notes for a necessary debate).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters