We introduce this issue of Socialism and Democracy with the major portions of Fidel Castro’s most recent speech in New York. It is rare, at this moment in history, to encounter even a ritual expression of anticapitalism, let alone a vibrant one such as this, on the part of someone who is also a head of state. Of course, Cuban society has not been spared some of the costs of its unique position (a matter on which our next issue will feature in-depth analyses by writers living in Cuba). The associated hardships, however, in no way diminish the importance of Cuba’s role—vividly expressed here-in keeping alive the sense that radical alternatives are possible, and, beyond this, that a society whose members value social goals above personal gain has an extraordinary capacity for resistance, adaptation, and outreach.
The search for a popular social agenda persists throughout Latin America. While its strongholds may shift over space and time, the intellectual ferment cuts across such boundaries. Julio Gambina’s discussion starts with an Argentine focus, but expands to reflect initiatives that have embraced the whole Southern Cone, including Brazil, and that have largely reversed the Left’s defensive turn of recent years. The bourgeoisie’s now-dominant neoliberal agenda, even when implemented by electoral regimes, has prompted so much suffering-and so broad a repudiation-that credibility within the Left is once again shifting toward those who take an explicitly anticapitalist stance. Capital’s World Economic Forum (with its annual conferences in the Alpine resort of Davos) is now being challenged by the first meeting, in Porto Alegre, of the World Social Forum. At the same time, preparations are underway to confront neoliberalism’s next big project (still secret in its details) the Free Trade Area of the Americas, to be convened in Québec in April, 2001. Gambina’s essay articulates the growing opposition to such structures.
Fujimori’s ten-year reign in Peru (1990-2000), with its distinctive blend of electoralism and arbitrary rule, epitomizes the political essence of neoliberalism, even while the deal-making that framed his resignation dramatizes neoliberalism’s refusal to commit itself to any single formula for stability. Aníbal Quijano’s article relates the disintegration of Fujimori’s power-base on the one hand to the unacceptable social costs of the neoliberal agenda and, on the other, to the embarrassment that the regime’s corruption caused for its international patrons. Deborah Poole and Gerardo Rénique describe the popular mobilizations that finally toppled the regime, conveying the breadth and depth of their underlying constituencies, whose political potential has yet to be fully tapped by the organized Left.
One of the core tasks of the global Left is to demonstrate that socialism, far more than capitalism, is the natural correlate of democracy. This objective, already noted in Gambina’s article, is implicit in the political ferment of the late ‘80s that generated the Berlin-based “Historical/Critical Dictionary of Marxism” (HKWM). The HKWM, beyond its grounding in the original Marx/Engels texts, owes much of its viability, as Jan Rehmann explains, to its role in providing a common framework for scholars from hitherto disparate if not antagonistic sectors of the global Left. The task of blending these perspectives within a common project has enabled the HKWM to benefit intellectually from the Left’s current transitional condition. What appears politically as a moment of disarray turns out, in this light, to be an opportunity for reflection, recollection, and renewal.
The articles by Mehmet Tabak and by Derek Boothman serve, in this spirit, to deepen our understanding of long-familiar terms of Marxist discourse. Tabak, in his discussion of democracy, draws on the full range of Marx’s political writings to argue that they provide much more guidance for state-restructuring than has been commonly assumed. In particular, not only was Marx an advocate of popular rule (proletarian dictatorship being understood as the rule of the self-organized majority); he also offered, at least indirectly, a framework for assessing alternative structures of representation. Boothman, in comments prompted by Wolfgang Haug’s analysis of praxis (S&D, no. 27), gives further particulars on Gramsci’s use of that term, and then goes on to explore some of Gramsci’s other key concepts, in relation both to the original texts and to the different translations. While the intricacy of the discussion might at first seem daunting, what is remarkable is the centrality, in political terms, of the interpretive issues that are brought to light.
In a final section, we begin to address the distinctive challenges now facing the U.S. Left. Although our material pre-dates the climactic power-plays of the 2000 election, it lays out both graphically (through Diane Greene Lent’s photos from Philadelphia) and descriptively (through Martín Hernández’s first-hand account from Los Angeles) some of the factors that will shape the building of an effective Left movement. These include: popular mobilizations building on those of late 1999 in Seattle; other grassroots efforts such as those described for Los Angeles by Hernández; the Nader campaign, along with broader challenges to the electoral system; and, from the other side, the sharpening of a regressive social/economic agenda and the persistent drive toward disenfranchising the poor and people of color-processes spearheaded by Republicans but acquiesced in by the leading Democrats. The resulting heightened polarization will continue to occupy us in future issues.
We note with sadness the death of Daniel Singer, who chose as his farewell message the very lines from Rosa Luxemburg with which he brought to a close the Brecht Forum’s Manifestivity colloquium of 1998 on “The Future of the Left” (S&D, no. 25): “Tomorrow the revolution will raise its head again and proclaim to your horror, to the sound of trumpets: I was, I am, I shall always be.”