Alternatives to neoliberalism
Reviewed by Shelley Walia

The New Mole: Paths of the Latin American Left
by Emir Sader. LeftWord Books. Pages169. Rs 250

Emir Sader: The writer believes that Latin America is the laboratory of neoliberalism
Emir Sader: The writer believes that Latin America is the laboratory of neoliberalism

Within the context of the rise of right-wing economies, the wider processes of society have come under the brunt of imperialist forces and the free market economy with an outlook that has emerged from the workings of neoliberalism and its world-wide dominance. Latin America, according to Emir Sader in his book The New Mole (originally published by Verso, London), is "the laboratory of neoliberalism": "Here it was born, here it spread and here it took on its most radical forms. As a result, the continent suffered a neoliberal hangover and became the weakest link in this chain, with a proliferation of governments elected on the back of opposition to neoliberalism, contrary to the tendency elsewhere in the world."

Sader’s study of the Left suggests a roadmap for Left politics in Latin America. This calls for revisiting Neo-Marxism that takes into consideration agents of change, not only the working class but the peace movements, ethnic and national movements as well as struggles for a more socialist consciousness geared for ushering in new forms of change through new radical politics. Resistance to the triumph of neoliberalism is most conspicuous in Latin America, particularly in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador and Venezuela where the Left has steadily asserted itself through a number of electoral victories and intensely aggressive politics.

The New Mole: Paths of the Latin American LeftThe book throws light on the turbulent history of Latin America, replete with uninterrupted disintegration and renewal, of struggles and contradictions, of violence and suffering. The grandnarratives of globalisation and capitalism stand suspect giving rise to political upheaval engineered by leaders like Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela who have inspired radical change through mass movements of rural workers, landless peasants as well as the urban working class. The defeat of public dignity by hunger and war, the unrelenting siege of many nations by bankers and by the "commercial masters of the world", as Eduardo Galeano has put it, are some of the factors that have incited Marxists to condemn the systems that usurped socialism in Latin America.

Emir Sader sets out to reread Marx from this perspective of the cultural and political logic of the philosophy of liberation and ideology which help in reconceptualising the nature of power and the conditions of existence in modern Latin America. Marxism, as argued by Sader, gets locked directly into the structures of industrial dominance, military aggression and ideological legitimation propelling acts of resistance to western hegemonic systems.

A unilateralism of the school of thought that favoured the triumph of liberal democracy has to be offset by a resurrection of the Left, thereby probing the sincerity of political programmers, the working of free market economy and the notions of freedom and human rights. Though there has been diminutive success in Latin America in fulfilling promises of socialism, Sader draws attention to the progressive Left ideology which strikingly holds visible forms of opposition to globalisation. Taking the "Old Mole" theory from Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire, Sader goes headlong into examining the slow and quiet role of subterranean revolutionary movements, conjuring up Marx’s image of "the blind animal which moves below ground unbeknownst to us, and then suddenly appears where we least expect it." (Page 2). According to this thesis, failed revolutionary movements in Russia and Europe gave rise to the Cuban revolution while the defeat of guerrilla movement’s lead by Che Guevara in Argentina and Bolivia led to the victory of Velasco Alvarado in Peru in 1969 and of Allende in 1970.

This view of Sader has for its background the history of imperialism with its strategies of sparking off bloody coups in Nicaragua and Chile, as well as the demise of Soviet Union that becomes an example of the defeat of socialist forces at the hands of Western capitalism.

In these days of global acceleration the restructuring of the Left within Latin America remains a serious issue facing political scientists, especially the re-evaluation of economic progress, prognosis of the future of Marxism, and the uncertainty of democratic institutions.

It is imperative to take into consideration the role of the Left and the drive towards socialist thinking that can reach out to millions across the Latin American continent, keeping its social and economic history in the forefront so as to come to grips with the need to offer resistance in an increasingly exploitative political order.