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For 200 years Latin America has been formulating projects that have universal underpinnings. The revolutionary wars fought for independence between 1808 and 1824 put forth a new Nation-State ideology expressed in the writings of Bolivar and others.

At the end of that century, Jose Marti put forth a new set of ideas addressing social issues. In the mid XX Century the “Latino-americanists” strived with no avail towards industrial development trying to gear the continent’s future towards economic growth through import-substitution polices.

The new national markets created by industrialization gave rise, however, to a belligerent working class as well as to new aspirations on behalf of a local class of entrepreneurs. This “populist” alliance gave hope to a national project based on productivity and equality.

Cuba’s 1959 populist revolution was forced by a failed US-led military invasion and a blockade (now in its 44th year) to jump over this “phase” of creating the “national market” going straight to a radicalized political process. In the Southern Cone countries of Latin America, populism also led to an inevitable show-down with the US.

On the one hand, vis-à- vis Cuba a weaker middle-class existed and, on the other, a very powerful military was organized under US guidance to contain changes and unleash one of the bloodiest political reactions in history. The first objective of the military dictatorships of the 1964-1989 era was to smash the “populist” alliance and follow up with the destruction of the working class.

The first objective was swiftly accomplished due mainly to the lack of a political commitment on behalf of the middle classes that were not able to coalesce behind the “national project.” The second goal was more difficult due to the essence of capitalist development based on the accumulation of surplus labor. A new strategy was needed to control the worker’s protests and especially their class organizations.

Neo-liberalism was unfolded to enhance capitalist accumulation but more specifically to control workers and their organizations. Deregulation, flexibilization and privatization were the three miracle words in the neo-liberal vocabulary. Globalization entailed a new ideological strategy to weaken the workers and block any class alliances. After the neo-fascist onslaught came to an end, the neo-liberal objective was altered in the 80s: The goal was no longer to submit the working class and destroy its organizations.

The new tactic was even more radical: wipe the working class out and make it disappear through globalization. Shrink it in size and make it competitive as well. Presidents like Collor (Brazil), Menem (Argentina), and dictator Pinochet (Chile) were given the task. All three failed miserably and left their countries in shambles.

Since the 90’ a new tactic has been developed. Globalization still means shrinking the size of the working class and making it competitive (squeezing any class solidarity out of it) but a new very important component has been added: Bring the working class into the political equation inviting its political parties to lead the way into globalization.

These are apparently the new roles of former working class revolutionary parties such as Brazil’s PT, Chile’s PS, Argentina’s Justicialistas, Uruguay’s Frente Amplio. Mexico will probably follow shortly (2006) with PRD. Where there are no alternative working class political parties available, a Chavez (Venezuela) will appear and an Evo Morales (Bolivia) will surely be present.

There is an optimistic reading of current events in Latin America. What seems to be a triumph of globalization over local or regional alternatives can give shape, paradoxically, to a new - polycentric - scenario in the near future. Brazil has its own strategy and has been able to block US plans to “perturb” its political ambitions. Argentina has all the promise (a “first world” country in the late 19th Century) and will probably have to back Brazil as the “world player” in the region.

Mexico will probably support with enthusiasm the new regional project once the PRD government takes over in 2006. Chile has always been a wild card but will probably follow Brazil’s leadership in the short run.

Can the US continue controlling events in Latin America as it has done since annexing half of Mexico in 1846? The pessimistic scenario is put forth by Thomas Barnett, professor at the US Naval War College. (2003) The US is planning on setting new political boundaries with its southern neighbors. The new boundary set by Barnett’s perturbed world by 2050 would be the great Amazon basin in the heart of South America.

No more speculations. Latin America is on the road to new unforeseeable political and social arrangements in the near future. At present they cannot be predicted. However, the world system and/or imperialism’s conflicting interests still foresee a subjugated Latin America. It is up to the Latin Americans to build their own alternatives. To paraphrase Samir Amin (1987):

The challenge will therefore only be taken up by the Latin American peoples, the day that the necessary popular alliances enable them to delink their development from the demands of transnationalization. ----------- Samir Amin, “Prologue”, in Mohamed Lamine Gakou, 1987, The crisis in African agriculture - Studies in African political economy, London and New Jersey: The United Nations University, Zed Books Ltd. Thomas P.M. Barnett, 2003, The Pentagon’s New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. * Extract taken from paper presented at the African Congress of Political Science, Cairo, 27 June 2005.