The Four Pillars of Neo-Liberalism

Over the past five to seven years, peoples on the continent, worthy people, working people, oppressed people have slowly begun to initiate processes of mobilization, struggle, and confrontation against what we call Neo-Liberalism. Latin American people without a doubt are in the vanguard of the struggle against Neo-Liberalism that has materialized and taken root all over the world in the last 25 years.

Paraphrasing Marx, one can say that the specter of anti-Neo-Liberalism or of post-Neo-Liberalism is stalking the continent, from Oaxaca in Mexico, through Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, etc, to Tierra del Fuego in Chile. The continent serves as the vanguard of reflection and planetary mobilization responding to Neo-Liberalism and its effects. To look into this, to know why we are fighting, it is important to remind ourselves of the 3-4 main points as to what Neo-Liberalism is.

First off, Neo-Liberalism signifies a process of fragmentation – structural disintegration – of support networks, solidarity, and popular mobilization. Throughout the whole world, especially in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, Neo-Liberalism has grown out of the pulverization, fragmentation, and disintegration of the old workers’ movement, the old peasant movement, and the urban mobilizations that developed in the fifties and the eighties.

The fragmentation of society and the destruction of both solidarity networks and the fabric of cohesion have fostered the consolidation of Neo-Liberalism.

Secondly, Neo-Liberalism has taken form, advanced, and imposed itself on the world through privatization, i.e. private appropriation of collective wealth and public properties, including public savings, land, minerals, forest, and pension funds. Neo-liberalism developed through privatizing those resources.

Thirdly, The introduction of Neo-Liberalism was accompanied by reducing the state and deforming it, especially that aspect of the state relating for better or worse to the collective or to ideas of commonwealth. Neo-liberalism set out to destroy this notion of the state as collective or commonwealth in order to impose a type of corporate ideology calling for appropriation and squandering of collective wealth accumulated many times over by two, three, four, or five generations.

Fourth, the implementation of Neo-Liberalism led to limitations on people’s political participation; democracy was ritualized into casting a vote every four years. The citizen voter no longer takes part in decision-making. Tiny circles of the political elite take it upon themselves to represent the people. These then are the four pillars of Neo-Liberalism – fragmentation of the laboring sectors and worker organizations, privatization of public resources, the diminished state, and impediments to people’s decision making.

If there are four items, four pillars of Neo-Liberalism that have created so much poverty, marginalization, and misfortune in the country, then clearly we have to remove them. We must substitute other structures, other mechanisms, by which society, nations, and poor working people might regain the right to decide their own destiny.

Bolivia exemplifies the workings of social fragmentation. But we can also look at Mexico, Ecuador, and Argentina. The best way to resist Neo-Liberalism is through consolidation of the social movements. These include popular networks and autonomous organizations of men and women, youth, workers, peasants, professionals, students, and indigenous peoples. Organization, i.e. the re-establishment of civil, popular, peasant, and indigenous society, becomes our first pillar for dismantling the neo-liberal regimen. That means organizing the hardest hit sectors of the last 25 years, the working class, women workers, the indigenous, peasant, and youth sectors, all of them, fragmented, weakened, and marginalized, their rights abused. The task today is to devise new methods of worker organization that correspond to the prevailing style of fragmented production work, work that is no longer concentrated in big production centers, organization also of peasants and indigenous people defending their rights to take back land. Young people need to be mobilized to pursue real citizenship, so that they no longer turn into economic exiles in Europe or North America. This work – reconstruction from below, from the base – is the first great task we have to undertake to bring down the neo-liberal regimen. We have taken steps along these lines here in Bolivia, and we are very pleased. We look to the world in a direct, respectful way as we offer a body of experience toward remaking the social fabric – less now in the workplace, and more where people live – around quite specific issues, water, land and hydrocarbon. These are the vital, basic points of unification essential for reforming networks of popular, worker, peasant, and indigenous groups that have been dismantled over the last 25 years.

Secondly, struggle against neo-liberalism implies a return to socialization of the collective wealth, restoring to the rightful owners what belonged to all before it was privatized over the last decades by small family groupings. And that means recovering natural resources, hydrocarbons, water, land, and forests. Only by means of social re-appropriation of wealth common to us all can we go about dismantling the Neo-Liberal core. Experiences throughout the continent and in Bolivia particularly indicate this to be the road by which people will be standing up for themselves. People at the base have been thinking and pondering in directed, independent ways. Here in Bolivia, mobilization was based on defense of the coca leaf, defense of water, of land, gas and oil. These were the axes around which society recovered confidence and regained capacity for mobilization, leadership development, and building networks to unify city and country. Thanks to that we can now say that in Bolivia we have a government of social movements.

The third mechanism for struggle against neo-liberalism relates to empowerment of the state. Why the state? Why is it important to build up the state now? Situations of adverse international context and state take-over go together, especially when political regimes that disregard national borders are involved or foreign companies with more economic and political power than two, three, or four states together. The purpose of consolidating a state with economic, cultural, and political strength is to provide a protective shield for the social movements, an international armor for growth of the social struggles. Yes, reinforce the state, but not in the sense of the old state capitalism, which was a way to privatize public resources. It is a subordinated state that has to be strengthened, one always controlled and permeated by the demands, activities, and insurgency of the social movements, which exist to keep the state from serving as an alibi for new entrepreneurs and new privateers.

And a fourth feature of this struggle against neo-liberalism is the introduction and unfolding of democracy in ways that place personal destiny in one’s own hands. Democracy is not just casting a vote every four years. Rather it is having the capacity to participate in what’s happening in the country, from the matter of municipal investments to deciding if a petroleum contract should be signed or not signed. And in Latin America we are full of experiences of democracy at the base, what with our indigenous communities, urban neighborhoods, workers’ districts, and groups of unemployed. There are many seeds of real democracy, direct democracy, democracy in the community, and participatory democracy. These are the necessary settings for development, initiatives, proposals, and realization of rights. People have to fight for their rights in order that rights sanctioned by law and the state can gain legitimacy. .

So this struggle against neo-liberalism is based on four fundamentals: varying forms of democratic expression (community-based, territorial-based, direct, and participatory), the recovery by society of its collective wealth, the reinforcement of the state – subordinated to society – for the sake of international protection, and, lastly, unification of the social movements. Country and city come together, also indigenous people and peasants, young and old workers, the unemployed and the homeless, and the landless and the destitute.

Having taken these four items into consideration, I do nnot have the least doubt that the consolidation of whatever follows Neo-Liberalism, or replaces it, will take place initially on this continent, and from here extend to other continents, if we have the strength and capacity. May Latin Americans stay in the vanguard of the construction, discussion, and organization of post Neo-Liberal societies.

FROM: Neo-liberalism and the new socialism: A speech by Alvaro Garcia Linera, the Vice-President of the Republic of Bolivia

The Four Pillars of Neoliberalism