by Vijay Prashad
article was produced by
Globetrotter, a project
Independent Media Institute.
1 November 2019:
demonstrator dressed as the Joker
Mapuche flag during a protest
the government in Santiago, Chile.
(Photograph by Reuters/Pablo Sanhueza)
Neoliberalism has wrecked the world.
It is why the
people of South America
are taking to
the streets and the ballot box
to advocate for
The slogan is pithy:
más (Neoliberalism Never Again)...
It was chanted in the
streets of Santiago, Chile; it was drawn on the walls in Buenos
Aires, Argentina; and in a more sober register, it is mentioned in a
seminar in Mexico City, Mexico.
Elections and protests rattle the continent.
protest by Chilean students against
metro fees has now become a general protest against the government.
In Colombia, the right
wing suffered significant defeats in the local elections. Bogotá's
mayor is now Claudia López, the first woman, the first gay
woman, the first gay woman from the Green Party to win the post; the
mayor of Bogotá is the second most important person after the
In the town of Turbaco, near Cartagena, a former guerrilla from the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - Guillermo
Torres or "Julian Conrado" won the mayor's post.
This is the first time
that FARC - which had been in an armed struggle for over half a
century - won such a significant election.
They now joke in
FARC has more mayors
than Juan Guaidó - the man set up by Washington to
overthrow Nicolás Maduro...
In Argentina, the electorate tossed
out the government of Mauricio Macri, who had taken his
country to the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
produced a harsh austerity budget and then disregarded the pain felt
by his compatriots.
If Haiti and Ecuador
simmer with "IMF Riots", Argentina had an "IMF Election".
The incoming government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina
Fernández de Kirchner promises an exit from neoliberalism.
debt is at about
$285 billion, just under $6 500
per person. This foreign debt is almost 75% higher than when
Macri took office in 2015.
In August, Fitch cut
rating to CCC, slipping closer and
closer to the dreaded D rating.
As an exporter of
minimally processed food, Argentina is dependent on prices set
elsewhere - a victim, as are many countries that export raw
materials, of the
financialization of commodity
It has imported
expensive debt and exported low-priced foods...
Forty years ago, the propertied classes revolted against any social
democratic arrangement in their countries.
As a result of fears over
capitalist turbulence, Keynesians argued that the state must
intervene to smooth over the instability of the business cycle.
Pressure from the
workers' movements and the Left forced governments to finance,
Funds for state
intervention and for social spending came - largely - from
The rich no longer wanted to
make these payments...
One of the earliest
countries to undergo a neoliberal transformation
As the rich withdrew from taxation, governments - of a variety of
political persuasions - struggled to fund their own borrowing and
the social spending won by the workers.
organizations - such as the IMF - and ratings agencies punished
countries that had high deficits; this is why many countries passed
balanced budget amendments that prevented borrowing to pay for
A combination of the
tax strike by the rich and the balanced budget
amendment squeezed government spending.
To raise funds,
governments did at least five things:
off public assets that had been built by the sacrifices of
previous generations - assets such as public banks, public
utilities and public lands.
of social life
allowed private firms to charge money for the delivery of
goods that had previously been seen as social and whose
delivery was not for a fee - such as water and
business enterprises allowed governments to both protect the
public from the excesses of profit-making - such as
environmental pollution - and allow fees to be collected by
Gave subsidies to
To attract big
corporations to their jurisdictions, governments began to
provide massive subsidies to them - subsidies that were
often larger than the funds laid out toward social services.
In the United States, this is called "corporate welfare" -
more welfare for corporations than for the indigent.
became the norm, with states cutting social security,
education, healthcare and elder care.
This remains the core of
neoliberalism. It has wrecked the world...
It is why they are saying
"never again" to neoliberalism in the ballot box and on the streets
of South America.
The new government has pledged to abandon the road of austerity, to
robustly fund the social commitments of the government and to adopt
a national development strategy.
How it will do so with
the massive debt overhang and the expected pressure from the
creditors and the multilateral organizations is to be seen.
In Argentina, debates around the exit from neoliberalism have been
ongoing; the recently released book
Salir del Neoliberalismo (Exit
Neoliberalism) captures the thrust of these debates.
In his essay in the book,
Claudio Katz lays out four different scenarios for Argentina,
which include a repetition of the story of Portugal and of
Toward the end of his essay, Katz says that the cost of the crisis
should not be borne by the public but by the authors of the crisis -
namely, the creditors.
An audit of the
enormous $57 billion IMF loan to Argentina is necessary; so too
is a suspension of payment to service that debt.
Drawing from Katz, one
can go further:
All subsidies to
corporations should be suspended.
There should be
an audit of each of these subsidies.
An audit should
be immediately ordered of the taxation department.
Letters of intent
should be sent off to tax havens that hold the money of
And so on...
Such means - fairly
straightforward - should be part of a national debate about tax
revenues and subsidies to corporations.
If subsidies are
suspended and if taxes are collected, there should be enough money
to finance not only food sovereignty schemes that tackle endemic
hunger, but also cooperative production for food and goods.
We are in a period of transition.
There is no doubt that
the ruling classes
have no idea how to solve the problems posed
policy framework of the past 40 years, is now in serious crisis. No
full alternative is available. We have glimmers of the future;
experiments need to be tried.
will be under pressure to test an exit to neoliberalism.
There will be excluded
workers and feminists in the streets making sure that it does not
betray their hopes.