Latin America’s socialist alternative to capitalist crisis and wars

Sao Paulo Forum 2012 Caracas

By Stephen MacAvoy

The most advanced political struggles in the world today are taking place in Latin America where governments of the left not only predominate but where a number – especially the government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela – are seeking to move beyond the capitalist framework altogether.

In July, governments, parties and social movements from the left in Latin America came together in the 18th São Paulo Forum to co-ordinate their response to the current capitalist crisis and the imperialist offensive in the Middle East.


The conference, held in Caracas, Venezuela, met under the title of ‘The Peoples of the World against Neo-Liberalism and for peace’ and was attended by 800 delegates, from 100 parties and organizations from 50 countries. Many of the parties in attendance from Latin America currently form part of their nation’s governments.

The documents produced by the Forum make a valuable contribution to the international left’s understanding of the current international political situation and many of the points raised in these assessments are shared by Socialist Action. Below are some extracts but readers are especially encouraged to read in full the Background Document (released in June 2012) and the Forum’s Final Declaration (July 2012) which are available in English.

Aspects of the world political situation

The documents of the São Paulo Forum explains that it was taking place ‘amidst a severe structural crisis of capitalism, concurrent with a dispute for geopolitical and geo-strategic spaces, the rise of new centres of power, threats against world peace and the military and intrusive aggressiveness exerted by imperialism in its attempt to reverse its own decline’.

Thus ‘the nature and depth of the crisis, [means] it is likely that the coming decades will be dominated by a prolonged period of instability, within a context of strong social, political and military conflicts’.

Regarding the dominant political situation in the Western nations, the documents correctly point out that: ‘In regions such as Europe and the United States, neo-liberalism is still the ideological cornerstone of economic policies’ and there ‘priority has been given to the interests of big financial capital’.

This is in contrast to the situation in Latin America, where ‘progressive and left-wing forces run significant portion of the nations in the area and launch initiatives that have made it possible to prevail to some extent –over the “long neo-liberal night”.’

On the weakness of the political response in the imperialist nations to the crisis, including amongst social democratic currents, it states: ‘in some countries, significant left wing sectors remain committed to neo-liberal adjustment policies, while in other countries, where they represent the opposition, they are struggling to build an alternative program and organize the popular forces’. To help turn this situation around, the Sao Paulo Forum pledges to ‘expand our links with different sectors of the European left, particularly, with parties and anti-neoliberal resistance movements’.

Importantly the SPF pays attention to the development of right wing racist forces being marshalled by capital in the West to distract the working class from the real culprits of the economic crisis – the capitalist class – by scapegoating Muslims, immigrants and other communities. It explains that: ‘In Europe and the United States, right wing parties and other governing political forces are increasingly racist, xenophobic and authoritarian, which adds another point of concern to the stability of the world.’

Hands off the Middle East

Opposing the US war drive is at the core of the Forum’s documents, with the Background Document stating that ‘Peace and the need to create alternatives to neo-liberal capitalism must be key issues on the agenda of the Forum of São Paulo’.

It warns that the US may respond to its dwindling power and the rise of China and the other BRIC economies with: ‘greater temptation on the part of the United States and its allies, particularly NATO, to opt for military action’ and they point out that US military spending is ‘higher than the total military spending of the ten most powerful countries in the world after USA.’

On the current imperialist offensives in the Middle East it states that:

The Middle East, a geo-strategic region (for its oil and gas resources), is being recolonized by the world’s most powerful countries. This situation has exacerbated existing conflicts, and led to the emergence of new ones.

The region is the test area of an imperialist methodology that promotes regime change through media campaigns which distort domestic situations and favour military intervention.’

Thus the Final Declaration states that: ‘We vigorously oppose any foreign armed intervention in Syria and Iran’ and calls on ‘progressive and left-wing forces to safeguard peace in the region’.

The São Paulo Forum also ‘expresses its support for the struggle for sovereignty and self-determination of Palestine and its admission to the United Nations as a full member’.

More widely the document addresses the attempts by the US to encircle China ‘under a new… long-term strategy that includes redefining allies, military zones of control and various diplomatic actions’.

Social progress in Latin America

The US attempts to overturn the left developments in Latin America were given great prominence in the Forum, with the Final Declaration pointing out that

‘Imperialism and the Right try to offset the growth of democratic, popular, progressive and left-wing forces in Latin America and the Caribbean in several ways, for example, with the systematic aggression of the United States government …[including through] coups.

It is worth mentioning that in Bolivia there have been two attempted coups and one attempted assassination in addition to the police mutiny that was recently quelled by social movements. Other coup-related events are as follows: in 2002, President Chávez was ousted for 47 hours and in June, 2009, President Zelaya was deposed; in September, 2010 there was an attempted coup in Ecuador that was not carried through thanks to the immediate mobilisation of the Ecuadorian people and the prompt intervention of the international community. It was only a few weeks ago that Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was ousted. The coups in Honduras and Fernando Lugo’s removal from office are a clear sign that the Right is willing to resort to violent means and/or manipulation of institutional paths in order to overthrow those governments that are not subservient to its interests.’

The background document also highlighted the ‘settlement of U.S. military bases in Colombia, the presence of the US Fourth Fleet and the militarization of the dispute over the Islas Malvinas’ (Falkland Islands’) sovereignty with the introduction of nuclear weapons are a proof of this’.

Given the centrality of the role that Venezuela has played in strengthening the left, both in Latin America and in awakening interest in socialism internationally, the Bolivarian revolution faces ongoing attempts to isolate and overthrow its leadership. With Hugo Chávez standing for election in October this year, the Forum stated:

‘The central battlefield in the upcoming months will be Venezuela, where elections are to be held on October 7th. Striking popular mobilisations were the hallmark of the onset of the campaign, showing support for Chávez’s candidacy and the programme he has proposed. All opinion polls give Hugo Chávez a clear lead of 20 points over the right-wing candidate. With elections only a few months away, the Right takes Hugo Chávez’s electoral triumph for granted. For this reason, while the Right takes part in the electoral process, it is setting the stage to disavow both the result and the National Electoral Council. Faced with this situation, the Forum of São Paulo summons progressive and left-wing forces to support Venezuelan democracy and to reject the destabilising attempts made by the Right.’

Fighting all forms of oppression

The São Paulo Forum also paid great attention to ensuring the inclusion of all oppressed groups was represented in the Forum, with seminars on the rights of Black communities and indigenous people, as well as a special youth conference and a Women’s Conference. This was reflected in the various texts passed with, for example, the Final Declaration making clear its opposition to sexism, stating: ‘It is simply not possible to build socialism (or a socialist, fair and egalitarian society) if those traditional roles and patterns historically assigned to and adopted by men and women are not modified’.

The Final Declaration concludes: ‘The 18th Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo concludes with a bid to all peoples to join in the struggle against neo-liberalism and wars, to build a world of peace, democracy and social justice. A different world is possible and we are building it: a socialist world’.