My whole life, save a few brief months in ’88, has been overshadowed by the unipolar, belligerent United States and the growing tide of reactionary domestic politics that is part of such historical circumstances. It feels nice to begin to be able to breath, to speak and be heard, to read and recognize there are others, to know the tide is turning. For me then, the rise of a counter-hegemonic force in international politics is a relief. Latin America has become a kind of new Soviet Bloc, a counter-hegemony to the liberal capitalist empire. Allow me to explain without the exactitude of scientific certitude, but with a look towards history nonetheless.
As Andre Vltchek, Gerald Horne and Robert F. Williams, among others, have pointed out, a counter-hegemonic force in international politics increases the power of oppressed domestic political actors. The black and brown civil rights movements in the United States had fundamental backing in the international press and from competitor nation-states, because so many citizens denied basic human dignity, racism deep within the heart of the “land of the free” demonstrated a fundamental hypocrisy. The welfare state with its social programs and far more democratic usage of resources was a way to placate citizens who believed in certain aspects of social democratic and communist ideas of equality, ideas espoused by geopolitical and ideological competitors.
The past 20+ years have been marked by the absence of those competitors. At bottom, the lack of international rivals has led to an all-out assault by the lone superpower on its domestic population. NSA wiretaps, welfare “reform,” tax breaks for outsourcing, reductions in social security payments, attacks on unions, reductions to regulations, free-range given to finance, predatory loans, increases to the prison population, militarized police, etc. Without the bogeyman of communism as a real possibility, the liberal capitalist nation-state par excellence has been able to reveal more of its true nature domestically.
Well, that twilight is coming to an end. Latin America arises from the ashes of military dictatorships as Che’s ghost is coming to haunt the hell out of everyone in Miami, Florida. TeleSur English is up and running, putting out programs with Laura Flanders, Rebel Diaz, Tariq Ali and Bill Fletcher, written content from folks like Paul Street, Belén Fernández, and Eva Golinger and a Global South oriented daily news cast and clips “From the South.” The “left” – that mixed, ruffled cadre of socialists, communists, and anarchists – seems to have found a government willing to back them in Venezuela and across South America (ok, probably not the anarchists, but that is a different topic for a different time).
With a counter-hegemonic force, a refuge space outside of the world-system’s core, there is a distinct possibility for new lines of flight. The socialist and social democratic governments South of the Border present a challenge of another world being possible (a cliché by now). It also means that other discourses and narratives can be brought into the mix. The world is not resigned to one frame, a frame constructed for the benefits of the powerful. We must break free, as Freddie Mercury sang:
“I want to break free from your lies / you’re so self-satisfied / I don’t need you / I’ve got to break free.”
The 21st Century offers us a fresh start. This time from Latin America we rise!