Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Marxism in Latin America

Teodor Shanin observed in Late Marx and the Russian Road: "It has been the integration of Marxism with the indigenous political traditions which has underlain all known cases of internally generated and politically effective revolutionary transformation of society by socialists" (p. 255). Latin American Marxism is a very good example of such integration, mixing with Christianity, indigenous people's struggle, the legacy of Bolívar, Martí, and Sandino, argues John Riddell ("From Marx to Morales: Indigenous Socialism and the Latin Americanization of Marxism," MRZine, 17 June 2006). I cannot agree more, and Marxists elsewhere, especially in the Middle East, ought to do the same.

Now here comes a big test of Latin American Marxism. As is reported in the Financial Times, the Hugo Chávez government made Alí Rodríguez Araque "Venezuela's ninth finance minister in as many years" (emphasis added, Benedict Mander, "Chávez's Newest Finance Minister Faces Gloomy Outlook," 18 June 2008). The difficult task ahead of him and the rest of the nation is to figure out what to do with "an economy beset by an inflation rate running at over 30 per cent, the region's highest, while growth slowed to 4.8 per cent in the first quarter from 8.8 per cent last year" (Mander, 18 June 2008). Can Marxists help them do that, beating back inflation while advancing socialism from the bottom up at the same time? In theory, this is precisely the sort of task to which historical materialism can make more contributions than other ingredients of Latin American democracy and republicanism, some of which Riddell discusses.

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