Photo: Credit: Lenin Moreno. Credit: - Photo: 2017

Triumph of the Left in Ecuador, Setback for Latin America’s Right?

Analysis by Marcelo Colussi*

GUATEMALA CITY (IDN) – The triumph of left-wing candidate Lenin Moreno in the presidential elections at the beginning of April is a breath of fresh air and a sign of hope for the people of Ecuador, who can expect to see a continuation of the social measures initiated previously by the government of Rafael Correa.

Had right-wing candidate Guillermo Lasso won, these policies would have been radically suppressed, and society as a whole would have been led towards models of the most savage capitalism with semi-feudal nuances, as had been the case for centuries in the country.

The triumph of Moreno means that the progress recorded in recent years will be maintained and, in this sense, transmits hope.

For the workers, the poor and the excluded of the entire Latin American continent, however, it is difficult to imagine this being a barrier that will stop the prevailing rampant capitalism which goes by the name of “neoliberalism”.

For this reason, it is worth looking in detail what is at stake here, and the scenario in which Ecuador’s presidential elections were held.

For decades throughout Latin America – and throughout the world, and of course, also in Ecuador – policies of extreme capitalism, euphemistically called “neoliberalism”, have been imposed.

For some time it has seemed that the great enemy to be overcome – at least by those in the popular camp – is this neoliberalism, that “monstrous deformation” which appeared to have dominated the planet for years: a capitalism that prioritises the free market and private enterprise over the State.

That “villain of the piece” was said to represent the great problem, the cause of our misfortunes, of exclusion.

In recent years, roughly since the end of the last century, there has been a series of moderately progressive governments in the Latin American region. With the arrival of Hugo Chávez to the presidency of Venezuela, a discourse was retrieved that appeared to have been condemned to the archives, sunk at the same time as the Cold War.

In the popular camp, there was again talk of revolution, of socialism, of anti-imperialism. Socialist ideology seemed to have made a return. And, in order to overcome the constrictions and stigmas of the Stalinism of the Soviet era, the idea of ‘21st century socialism’ was born.

It is in this context that popular, progressive processes appeared, with different degrees of popular participation and progress in conquests. The South American subcontinent seemed to have emerged from its lethargy, after the bloody military dictatorships that had laid the conditions for plans to downsize the State, privatisations everywhere and over-exploitation of the working class.

But none of these experiences (the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, the Kirchners in Argentina, the PT in Brazil, the former Tupamaros in Uruguay, Bachelet in Chile, Lugo in Paraguay, the MAS in Bolivia and the Ecuadorian process with Rafael Correa) had as its objective the profound transformation of structures.

The foundations of capitalist society were never touched, although important steps were taken in the direction of redistributive approaches with greater social justice. Alongside dictatorships and monstrous adjustment policies, with the terrible precariousness of the labour force (at all levels: urban industrial workers, rural workers, middle service sectors, professionals), social democratic approaches with a value of enormous progress saw the light.

For the impoverished sectors, this was a balm. For the right wing, emboldened by the rise of the neoconservative discourse, it was a slap in the face.

The curious thing is that the Latin American right, and even more so the financial sector, had never experienced economic growth as great as it had in recent years under these popular governments. Something is not quite right here: if it is true that Latin American capitalism grew enormously in these years, why was any popular government demonised?

The explanation must be sought in ideological concerns, to a large extent driven by the White House in Washington. The almost absolute dominance that neoliberalism began to recover in the popular camp, over the mass of precarious and disorganised workers, was very timidly called into question with these popular governments.

For this reason, just the mere possibility of seeing leaders talking one-to-one with the people, using a frank and accessible language, sounded the alarm in the ideological centres of the right. The creation of “Castro-communist” ghosts did not take long to appear. Thus, all these social-democratic experiences came under fierce attack.

Systematically bombarded by the media – with the corruption issue as the “hobby-horse” (a corruption, it must be said, which does indeed exist) – as not being true revolutionary processes of change, and lacking an organised popular base (as there is in Cuba), these processes have been receding.

This signals that the work done by the dictatorships of past decades, but even more so the neoliberal policies of impoverishment and subjugation still in force, have profoundly disarmed popular protest, organisation and systematic struggle.

In the face of this ‘orphanhood’ and precariousness, the left – nostalgic of other times, of ideologies that today no longer seem to attract anyone – saw the return of socialism in lukewarm proposals of “capitalism with a human face”, such as those that have been taking place in Latin America in recent years. But everything indicates that there was no such return.

The recent triumph of Lenin Moreno in Ecuador – even though the troglodyte right sees it as an imminent “communist danger”, a landing of Cuban troops to take the children of Ecuadorian families to terrorist training camps and a hyper expropriation of everything can be expropriated (the same ghosts as 50 years ago at the height of the Cold War) – is good news for the workers and the excluded of the South American country.

But it is not the omen of the socialist revolution! Can it be seriously considered as a brake on neoliberalism in the region? Is the right facing a setback in Latin America?

While the left lives by fighting and fragmenting (through protagonism, through sordid power struggles, even if not accepted aloud), the right unites much more monolithically in the face of dangers. It never gets this wrong.

It unites because it has a lot to lose – its class privileges; it’s as simple as that. The right unites as a class and reacts to the slightest attempt to democratise power. That is why all these lukewarm experiences of moderate capitalism (mixed economy, “serious” capitalism, social pact, social enterprise) can be seen as the “communist demon”.

While the triumph of Lenin Moreno and the continuity of the social policies that have been taking place since the government of Rafael Correa are to be welcomed, it seems a bit risky to think that this amounts to a blow to the right.

An objective view of the Latin American reality confronts us with almost all countries being capitalist and governed by neoliberal teams with extreme right-wing positions, with the impoverishment of the large working masses, with the rise of labour insecurity (even in all these social democratic countries!), with foreign investments focused on predatory extractivism, and with 74 US military bases zealously guarding the region.

A setback for the right?

I do not pretend to be a harbinger or a spoiler, nor to take extreme positions. Very modestly, I seek to keep my feet on the ground, which is why I believe that, with the triumph of Moreno, neoliberalism begins to recede in the region, and this is worth celebrating.

More humbly, I say that while populations as a whole are still suffering, beaten and excluded, this victory shows that if they have the possibility to express themselves, they sometimes opt for popular candidates in this restricted capitalist democracy, but capitalism, nevertheless, remains unchanged. That should not be forgotten.

In conclusion, we should not lost sight either of the fact that neoliberalism – if this is how we decide to call this wild hyper-predator capitalism without anaesthesia – is still just another form of capitalism. If we make neoliberalism the enemy to conquer, do we forget capitalism? We should beware of that fallacy.

* Born in Argentina, Marcelo Colussi studied psychology and philosophy and now lives in Guatemala, where he is a university professor and social researcher. He is a member of Utopia Rossa (Red Utopia), an international association working for the unity of revolutionary movements around the world in a new International: la Quinta (The Fifth). The full version of this article originally appeared in Spanish under the title Tras el Triunfo de la Izquierda en Ecuador: ¿Retrocede la Derecha Latinoamericana? in Utopia Rossa. Translated by Phil Harris. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 April 2017]

Photo: Credit: Lenin Moreno. Credit:

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