Anne Housekeeper, comparative essay on Brazil, Venezuela, and

Anne Housekeeper
History 449
Essay Project 2
May 31, 2007
In Latin America, several countries have elected leftist leaders who appear poised
to authorize radical political change. The most prominent of these are Brazil’s Lula,
Venezuela’s Chavez, and Bolivia’s Morales. These governments are joined by
Nicaragua’s Ortega and Ecuador’s Correa, who recently beat right-oriented candidates in
elections. While Latin America is no stranger to radical politics, the recent convergence
of leftist governments, especially in the creation of MERCOSOR, suggests that they
might prove themselves a force to be reckoned with in the international
economic/political arrangement. In this paper, I will examine the situations in Brazil,
Venezuela, and Bolivia in order to assess the degree to which these countries present
challenges to the “neo-liberal order”. As noted in my preceding paper, “Liberal Ideology
in Latin America,” neo-liberalism seems to be reaching a point of crisis in this region,
and around the world, illustrated by the fact that in Chile, the “poster-child” of neo-liberal
reformist success, “…distribution of wealth remained the most unequal in Latin
America” (Chasteen 316). Therefore, the rise of leftist influence in Latin American
should be considered significant as a response to neo-liberalism and a contender to fill the
ideological vacuum vacated by neo-liberalism.
The current ensemble of left-leaning Latin American states is “radical” in the true
sense of the word: the politics of these nations are rooted in the unique history of Latin
America, specifically in colonization, independence, the development of export-led
economies, and the ongoing relevance of indigenous communities. In structural terms,
Latin America’s location on the economic “periphery,” or rather its status as a supplier to
“First World” industries renders it in a position of inferiority and dependency in relation
to the West. From the beginning of the colonial period, Latin America was essentially a
mine for the development of the West. It was not until the influx of foreign capital in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that the economies of Latin America grew
sufficiently to foster political stabilization and democratization (Bergquist, 1996: 83).
This allowed the strengthening of large landowners and foreign capitalists as well as the
development of “professionals” and workers who “proved to be the most powerful and
consistent force for democratic change” (Bergquist, 1996: 83). Bergquist highlights the
fact that in many Latin American countries, the early struggles of export-sector workers
led to institutionalization of labor interests in unions and parties by the mid twentieth
century which have “held firm in our times” and continue to influence politics (8).
are notable for their left-lea
In “Latin American Revolution, US Response,” Charles Bergquist notes the paradoxical
radicalization of Latin America in light of American imperialism: Even though the
further extension of the US market abroad bolstered its economy and soothed its
revolutionaries, the intrusion into Latin America
“The expansion of US capital into Latin America in the last decades of the nineteenth
century and the first decades of the twentieth was part of a larger process, a massive
transfer of capital, technology, and even people from the industrialized North Atlantic to
the underdeveloped world…This process brought an end to the economic stagnation and
political instability that had enveloped Latin America since independence” (Bergquist
“Over time however, export-led economic growth generated powerful social and political
tensions within the nations of Latin America” (1996: 83).
Strengthening of large landowners and foreign capitalists
Fostered the development of “professionals” who worked in the service sector and
the workers who “proved to be the most powerful and consistent force for democratic
change” (1996: 83).
Two general patterns:
Large-investment and sophisticated technology, control by foreign capitalists: “In these
societies the struggle for reform typically acquired a leftist dimension and the potential
for social revolution was great” (1996: 83-84).
Bolivia among these
Where, in contrast, export production depended primarily on control of land resources
and labor, and demands for capital were limited, Latin American capitalists retained
Argentina, Brazil, Colombia
“Until 1970, four countries in LA had experienced social revolutions”
Between 1952 and 1964 in Bolivia
“Labor mobilization helped destabilize the old order in all four countries, and labor
organizations were among the primary beneficiaries and supporters of the revolutionary
regimes” (1996: 86).
US intervention: left Bolivia alone because of lack of private investment (1996: 97)
Charles Bergquist, in the publications X and X stresses the importance of the
development of Latin American economies into primary-commodity-exporters post 1880.
This “export oriented transformation”
The historic compromise (1986: 4) “capital’s commitment to organized labor”
“As manufacturing industry moved abroad, and domestic industry failed to modernize
and become less competitive in the world market, developed Western societies began to
experience declining economic growth rates, chronic balance-of-trade problems, high
unemployment, and rising inflation” (1986: 6)
Conceptual dichotomy in LA labor history
“By the mid-twentieth century, and in countries such as Mexico and Chile much earlier,
that trajectory was institutionalized within the unions and parties of the labor movement
and within the pattern of labor relations sanctioned by the state” (8)
“…the value of Venezuelan oil exports has until recently expanded geometrically. The
Venezuelan labor movement developed under Marxist leadership and early cemented a
broad anti-imperialist alliance with other social groups. But these developments were
truncate after 1945, and again in the early 1960’s, by liberal reformers able to win huge
concessions from the oil companies (14).
“The basic structure of the Venezuelan export economy favored the initial autonomy and
organizational strength of labor and the left; its special feature helps to explain the
displacement of the left by the reformist liberal governments that emerged in the 1940’s
and 1950’s (16)
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