Communism in Latin America Essay

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A Critique of Democracy: the Latin American Left

Introduction

The Latin American Left was mainly inspired by the idealism of Marx. Marx (1873) believed that “the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind and translated into forms of thought.” For the Left, the main problem has always been rooted in class—as materialism is the basis of their worldview, class and class struggle was the biggest issue, and equality and egalitarian principles enacted and served in society were the goal. Marx wanted the workers to own the means of production and thus end the rule of the bourgeoisie over the laborers. This was his ideal—and the Latin American leaders on the Left made it their priority to nationalize private industry and for the state to take control of the means of production. Whether it was Evo Morales in Bolivia, Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, Castro in Cuba or Lula in Brazil, the Left was of one mind when it came to addressing the social problems of the day: the state would take care of everything. And, indeed, for a period of time it seemed to work. The exports of the Latin American nations were in high demand and prices were good. As Castaneda (2016) points out, “from roughly 2003 through 2012, Latin America enjoyed one of the greatest commodity booms in its modern history. Exporting everything from oil to soybeans, Latin American governments received windfalls, which they spent on social programs, which were often well designed and affordable.” However, when the boom turned to bust, the Left found itself in dire straits, dependent upon exports to fund its social welfare programs. The ensuing collapse of the Latin American Left has brought about the need for reflection on what went wrong and what led to their rise in the first place. This paper will use the foundational political thought of the West to explain how the Latin American Left came to be what it is today.

How Communism Destroyed International Relations

The idea of communism is not that far from Plato and his concept of the Republic. Plato believed that the state should essentially consist of two groups: guardians and craftsmen. Guardians would be responsible for safeguarding the culture and morality of the people in the Republic. The craftsmen would be responsible for providing the services and goods the people of the state required. Plato advocated a kind of communal style of living in which people recognized that they were essentially all in this life together. But Plato also believed in a higher power that could be relied upon to regulate society and temper its compulsions. Plato believed in the Transcendentals—the one, the good, the beautiful—all attributes of the divine. In Phaedrus, Plato refers to God as “the true being” from which all knowledge and intelligence comes, and before which all souls pass prior to entering their “human form”—for God is the source of everything, according to Plato’s view, and a “soul which has never seen the truth”—i.e., the divine being—does not take on human form (p. 417). This sense of the divine is missing in Marxism and Communism, which are atheistic and materialistic in nature. Plato advocated philosophy and movement towards the higher reality. Communism instead focused on centralism and state control over the affairs of man, viewing itself as capable of setting the Ideal and living up to it. For the Marxists of Latin America, they had “dispensed with the idea of God and, accordingly, [were] forced to turn elsewhere to explain the origin and nature of man. Consequently, [they] adopted materialism” (Martin, 2006, p. 156). The Left of Latin America viewed man as “an evolutionary animal, the highest of the animals, and yet an animal and no more; man is, as it were, matter in motion” (Martin, 2006, p. 156). This materialistic, mechanistic notion of human kind in Latin America is as demoralizing there as it was in Soviet Russia. Even China has had to adopt new approaches to governance to fill the gaps in motivation left by Communism. Plato offered the Transcendental Ideal—i.e., God—but Communists offer nothing but devotion to one’s neighbor, which is only a motivator for saints, and not all people in Latin America (or anyone) are saints.

For that reason, Communism leads to internal problems, especially where selfishness and corruption are concerned. Corruption has been at the heart of the Brazilian government for years, for example, and has led to the Left’s Lula being barred and a populist winning the election this year, which has caused some commentators to view it as a Trump-like victory in Brazil. Venezuela’s infrastructure has crumbled and hyperinflation has decimated the country as a result of corruption.
As Augustine would say, sin is misplaced love—and the sins of the Latin American Left have been to place all their love in the things of man rather than in the things of God. Plato argued that man alone does not have the capacity to good—but that this knowledge comes from God and therefore man must orient himself towards God. The Allegory of the Cave explains this best: if man is not oriented towards and drawn to God, who will forever remain in the darkness of the cave thinking flickering shadows the reality. Essentially, that has been the fate of the Latin American Left: having forsaken their Western (and Christian) heritage and adopted secularism and Marxism as their guiding doctrines, they have cut themselves off from the source of knowledge and goodness and dithered away in the caves of their own desires. This in turn has led them to become alienated from the other nations of the world that at least still respect the principle of private property and acknowledge some kind of divine source for inspiration.

By thinking themselves different, somehow, the leaders of the Latin American Left made themselves vulnerable to the same pride and hubris that has always been at the root of all falls. As Castandeda (2016) puts it, “too many Latin American leftist leaders fell prey to the region’s endemic corruption — and underestimated growing intolerance to it. By the time some governments, like Chile’s and Bolivia’s, started to focus on the issue, it was too late. They had become as deeply enmeshed in Latin America’s tradition of corrupt practices as their conservative predecessors, civilian or military, elected or imposed.” The Latin American Left failed to realize and address the corruption at the heart of the leftist power structure—and that is what has caused them to be blind to the problems underling their societies. In turn, the international community has found it difficult to embrace any type of policy that views these governments as legitimate.

The Attitude of the U.S.

The attitude of the U.S. towards the Latin American Left has been largely antagonistic. Milan (2018) points out that while “forces on the left are mobilizing in Latin America and the Caribbean to confront the right wing offensive which, encouraged and financed by the United States, is underway in the region,” the Latin American Left is still faced with the prospect of severe strife should it be cut out of the international community because of its Leftist politics. The U.S. is still the strongest economic power in the world, and any country that wants to come sit at the big table must play according to the house’s rules. The global economy operates essentially out of the house of American capitalism—and many on the Left in Latin America are opposed to this house—but at the same time they recognize that in order to provide for their people they must play by the rules or risk being cut off from the global economic system. North Korea has long been considered a belligerent state on the other side of the world—Leftist and totalitarian and resolved to antagonize the capitalist model. Yet, when Trump expressed interest in meeting with North Korea to iron out their differences, North Korea jumped at the chance because ultimately it realized that by playing by the rules of the house it could provide a better economy for its people. The Left in Latin America has yet to realize this lesson and thus views the West as problematic. This causes the U.S. and other countries in the West to view the Latin American Left as troublesome, which is why they “use of strategies meant to foment political destabilization and discredit progressive governments in power and former elected leaders” (Milan, 2018). In truth, the U.S. is not about using such strategies to circumvent or destabilize political regimes it views as troublesome. It used NATO to oust Gaddafi in Libya, a bogus pretext as cause for invasion in Iraq and ultimate overthrow of Hussein, and unsubstantiated claims against Assad in Syria to settle troops in there. In Latin America, it has a long history of intervention and scandal—from the Bay of Pigs incident in which the CIA tried to assassinate Castro to the Iran-Contra affair in….....

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References

Augustine. (1998). The City of God against the Pagans. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Castaneda, J. (2016). The death of the Latin American left. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/23/opinion/the-death-of-the-latin-american-left.html

Durden, T. (2018). Venezuela’s Gold In Limbo Amid Tug-Of-War At The Bank Of England. Retrieved from https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-12-19/venezuelas-gold-limbo-amid-tug-war-bank-england-0

Locke, J. (2008). Second Treatise on government. Retrieved from https://earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/locke1689a.pdf

Machiavelli, N. (n.d.). The Prince. Retrieved from https://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/publications/paul-nation/Prince-Adapted2.pdf

Martin, G. (2006). Prevailing worldviews of Western society since 1500. Marion, IN: Triangle Publishing.

Milan, Y. (2018). Challenges facing the Latin American left. Retrieved from http://en.granma.cu/mundo/2018-09-13/challenges-facing-the-latin-american-left

Plato. (2000). The Republic, ed. G.R. F. Ferrari, transl. Tom Griffith. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought Series. UK: Cambridge.

Simoes, M. (2018). Brazil’s Polarizing New President, Jair Bolsonaro, in His Own Words. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/world/americas/brazil-president-jair-bolsonaro-quotes.html

Spinoz. (2017). Treatise on Theology and Politics. Retrieved from https://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/spinoza1669.pdf

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