The end of the cycle (that wasn’t)?

In the face of the difficulties facing post-neoliberal governments, certain commentators lament that this is the end of the cycle for progressive governments, adding their voices to those of the right.

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In the face of the difficulties facing post-neoliberal governments in several countries, certain commentators, with a penitent face and grave tone, lament that this is the end of the cycle for progressive governments in Latin America, adding their voices to those of the right. A cycle that they had never recognized actually existed.


Earlier, they said that there had been no rupture, that the new governments were the continuance of the previous ones, and just as neoliberal as they were. According to these versions, the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez reproduced that of Acción Democrática or Copei. The government of Lula was the continuation of that of Cardoso. The Argentina of the Kirchners was no different to that of Menem. The governments of the Frente Amplio were new versions of the programmes of the Uruguayan right. Evo Morales and Rafael Correa were re-editions of the conservative governments that preceded them.


While the transformations achieved by these governments in their countries have substantially diminished inequality, poverty and social exclusion, even in the framework of an increase of these phenomena on a world scale; when the regional integration processes have diminished the scope of US influence in the region and have projected their own spaces for action; when the States of these countries have recovered their own capacity for economic, political and social action, those voices have been silenced, only to return now with the idea that those governments have run out of steam.


But what does the end of a cycle mean? It was, for example, the collapse of a long cycle of development on a worldwide and Latin American scale, that led to its substitution by neoliberal governments. Or it was the exhaustion of the neoliberal cycle that led to the rise of post-neoliberal governments.


What is the meaning of the exhaustion of the post-neoliberal cycle?  On the horizon, the only perspective is a conservative restoration, with a return to the neoliberal model, the programme proposed by all sectors of the opposition, all from the right. The ultra-left, through the whole post-neoliberal cycle, begun over a decade and a half ago, has not built alternatives anywhere, has not occupied any significant place in the political field; it has limited itself to critical proclamations and to alliances with the right against these governments.


The end of the cycle will be when new transcending alternatives appear on the political horizon. It will be when the right attains -- if it can do so -- a conservative perspective of surpassing the present governments. Or when the post-neoliberal governments themselves exhaust their present proposals and look for higher objectives, for example, anti-capitalist ones.


Without doubt, various post-neoliberal governments now face difficulties, some greater, some lesser. They are affected by the heritage of neoliberal governments, such as deindustrialization, the enormous weight of primary exporting sectors, the hegemony of speculative capital, the predominance of neoliberalism and austerity policies applied on a global scale. Also, other difficulties that some of these governments have been unable to overcome, in addition to those mentioned, include the weight of private media monopolies, the role of money in electoral campaigns, the ‘American way of life’ and consumption, among others.


What is ending is a first phase of post-neoliberal governments, which are those with the best conditions to face these difficulties from a progressive perspective, moving forward in the route followed up until now, to guarantee advances and overcome present problems. With more regional integration, favouring the building of a new productive matrix, with new proposals that will allow for definitively overcoming neoliberalism.


The right will be impotent in the face of these advances, while the ultra-left will continue to turn their backs to real history.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


- Emir Sader, Brazilian Sociólogist and Political Scientist, is the Coordinator of the Laboratory of Pubic Policy of la Universidad Estadual de Rio de Janeiro (Uerj).
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