We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Four articles regarding the false hopes in minority leaders

I've come across four articles that relate to disappointment in leaders identified with minorities. Most of these leaders are in Latin America, but the same phenomenon exists here in the US regarding Obama.  Here they are:

Rethinking Imperialist Theory by James Petras. In his review of global political trends during the past decade, he makes this observation:
...between 2000-2005 major popular upheavals and mass mobilizations took place, overthrowing incumbent neo-liberal client regimes, calling for the renationalization of privatized firms, the renunciation of the foreign debt, radical agrarian reforms and income redistribution. Neo-liberal ideology was totally discredited and US foreign policy was subject to a thorough discredit.  Anti-imperialist — if not anti-capitalist — ideology held sway among broad sectors of the working, middle and even elements of the political class.

This radical moment, however, did not lead to a break with the capitalist system.  Instead a series of ‘center-left’ regimes took power and favored by extraordinarily high commodity prices, proceeded to stimulate an economic recovery, and a marked improvement in social conditions.  These policies led to the de-radicalization of the social movements and a modicum of normalization of relations with Washington, albeit with greater autonomy.
Venezuela: Capitalist Revolution versus Human Emancipation by by Franz J.T. Lee. He expresses his disappointment with the Bolivarian Revolution this way:
One thing's for sure, something is going wrong and has to be corrected urgently. To begin with, the glaring difference between the political program of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the reality on the ground, the ideological wedge of what politicians say or write and what they actually do, has to be eliminated. Only when this is done, only when the dialectics between praxis and theory has been established, can we hope to once again grasp the imagination, fantasy and unconditional enthusiasm of the Venezuelan workers, just like in the years 2002/2003 when for a brief time-span our emancipatory ideas transformed themselves into a material, liberatory force. The absence of theory and praxis and the nefarious presence of ideology and practice, where one thing is said and another thing is done, is the major reason why the Bolivarian ship of state is getting stuck in the Caribbean doldrums.
The Techno-Fantasies of Evo Morales: The Consequences of Modernization  by Chellis Glendinning. She writes this:
...President Morales has made zero use of the perspectives drawn by such voices -- who curiously share with him a fundamental critique of capitalism and the dominant civilization, as well as respect for the traditional wisdoms of indigenous cultures. Not to mention the myriad intellectuals, social-movement comrades, and indígena thinkers within Bolivia, many of whom have become cynical about that glorious hope surging through the Plaza de los Héroes in 2006. ...his sister, water activist Marcela Olivera, claims she is witness to two different Evo Morales’: the one who makes international eco-proclamations and the one, at home, who is pushing dams, uranium excavation, cell towers, and mega-highways.
Who is the real Barack Obama? by Lawrence Davidson.
This president has lost his way. And we have, at least for the foreseeable future, lost important aspects of our constitutional rights. What does this tell us? Those who seek success in politics are rarely fundamentally principled people. They are folks whose principles are associational and that lets them move freely in a world where opportunism is thought to be survival trait. And, it would seem, it is in the modern democratic milieu that this way of politics has been brought to a fine art. 
As you can see, the leaders all have been identified with exploited minorities. However, this doesn't really apply to Obama. The fact that it has been, demonstrates the extreme naiveté of progressives in the US. Obama was mostly raised by his white banker grandmother. His mother worked for USAID and the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, both organizations are often used as fronts for the CIA. His schooling in Hawaii was in elite private schools. Then he went to Harvard. The fact that he has black skin has meant very little in the shaping of his values and perspectives.

The other articles refer to the lack of people empowerment in Latin America and the continuing development of capitalist enterprises, especially in Venezuela and Bolivia, but to some extent in Brazil and Argentina. Both Chavez and Morales had humble, minority origins and were brought to power by widespread popular support. Both use the rhetoric of popular power, but both have done very little to implement it. 

It seems to me that the lack of progress in Latin America is due to the fact that the leaders were not brought to power through organized revolutionary movements, but through the normal political structures of capitalist societies. Leadership means nothing without being incubated, nourished, and brought to maturity through a fundamentally radical organization, one that has built into it real people power from the grass roots upward.  Otherwise all the tools of the corrupting influence of the capitalist class come into play--co-optation, group-think, temptations of power and affluence, etc.--to transform these leaders into servants of the system.