Left Vindicated, but Offers No Replacement

Excellent article. As readers know, neoliberalism is the language of choice used by governments and economists in Latin America. It’s failure is colossal, but it’s eradication is proving more difficult than not. Another great report from IPS follows on neoliberalism’s future.

    ECONOMY: Left Vindicated, but Offers no Replacement
    By Julio Godoy

    BERLIN, Mar 10 (IPS) – ‘Post-neo-liberalism’ – that mouthful of a word was making the rounds at an international congress on the economic turmoil in Berlin last weekend. Just another buzzword, as some participants thought, or something necessary to describe the world past the now exposed economics of neo-liberalism?

    latin-america-after-neoliberalismIt described perhaps some new ideas in the air after the old ones seem to have crashed, as many had predicted they would. Ana Esther Ceceña, professor of economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said these new ideas are expressed in the popular call to consume less and oppose phoney development projects, and still lead a “good life”.

    How these ideas can be put into effect is another matter.

    The ideas came up for serious consideration among about 2,500 delegates from around the world at the congress titled Kapitalismus am Ende? (Capitalism – no exit?) organised by the German bureau of the civil society group ATTAC.

    ATTAC (Association pour une Taxation des Transactions financières pour l’Aide aux Citoyens, or, Association for Taxation of Financial Transactions and for the Support of Citizens) was created in France 12 years ago to combat neo-liberalism, and has spread widely in many European and Latin American countries.

    Scholars, union members, representatives of non-governmental organisations, and students from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America came together in Berlin Mar. 6-8 to analyse the global financial meltdown and more specifically, discuss ways to get rid of neo-liberalism.

    “Popular movements in Latin America have understood long ago that the global crisis of neo-liberalism is a social, economic, and environmental crisis,” Ceceña told IPS. “We now know that neo-liberal capitalism leads us to large-scale catastrophe, and that we need to confront it with radical change in our way of life.”

    Ceceña pointed to the widespread opposition to mining projects in Guatemala, Peru, Chile and other South American countries, and to the growing resistance in Brazil to deforestation of the Amazons region.

    “People have come to realise that eroding the Amazonian forest to grow soy beans, sugarcane or maize to distillate so-called bio-combustibles destroys the environment, and that this loss is too high a price for false economic projects which most of the time benefit only multinationals and local oligarchies,” Ceceña said.

    “By consuming less and opposing such projects, people are eroding the objectives of transnational corporations and forcing capitalism to rethink itself.”

    Not everybody seemed so sure, though, what should be done instead. Several participants doubted the capacity of supposed ‘post-liberal’ groups to carry through their ideas, implying as this does a radical change in the balance of political power, nationally and internationally.

    “The question is not whether we should put an end to neo-liberalism, but how to do it,” said Astrid, a German political science student.

    That was a question that hung heavy over the conference. On the one hand, it was a success – the organisers had counted on less than 1,000 participants. On the other, while most agreed on the causes of the financial crisis, they could not on what should now be done.

    Many proposals were too radical even for the left. Michael Brie, professor of social philosophy, said the government should nationalise the battered carmaker Opel and use it as a technological platform to reinvent the public transport system. The proposal was not received with much enthusiasm.

    Sven Gigold, co-founder of ATTAC in Germany and now Green Party candidate for the European parliament elections, proposed another ‘post- neo-liberal’ strategy that he called “a new Green deal.” This would mean massive state investment in renewable energy sources, new social policies to counter the erosion of the welfare state, and global fair trade.

    The sheer number of proposals made at the congress showed what a participant called the “helplessness of the left before the global crisis of capitalism.”

    “We leftists were right when we foresaw the crisis of capitalism, when we said that it leads us to social and environmental catastrophe,” said Hans-Juergen Urban, head of IG Metall, the largest German union of metal industry workers. “But now that capitalism has effectively failed, we have no proper answer to the crisis. We have forgotten to think critically about capitalism.”

    Promising answers were rare. Not surprisingly, the most immediate proposal was to organise mass protests.

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~ by Daniel on March 11, 2009.

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