Friday, January 17, 2020

First book review of "Latin America's Pink Tide: Breakthroughts and Shortcomings"

The following is the first review of my edited “Latin America’s Pink Tide: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings” published by Rowman and Littlefield, 2020. The review is by Cynthia McClintock 

As the momentum behind Latin America’s left recedes, this important, cohesive, timely volume, edited by Ellner, a well-known scholar of Latin America, takes stock of the successes and failures of the Pink Tide. Separate chapters consider “radical" Pink Tide governments (Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador), “pragmatic” Pink Tide governments (the Workers’ Party in Brazil, the Frente Amplio in Uruguay, and "Kirchnerism" in Argentina), and the left in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico. One of the volume's core arguments is that aspirations for structural transformation were severely constrained by the hegemony of global capitalism as Pink Tide governments largely maintained "extractivist" economic models based on commodity exports. However, despite these constraints, these governments sought to reduce social and economic injustice and succeeded, according to the authors. Contributing scholars hail from diverse countries, providing a wealth of valuable information for each case study. They effectively engage with questions regarding the implications of global capitalism's hegemony for the political economy of Latin America, though this reviewer would have liked them to wrestle more vigorously with questions drawn from the dictum “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Hamilton versus Jefferson: what was at stake?

Today, my wife Carmen and I toured the Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton, in Hamilton Heights on 141 Street, NYC. Hamilton's rise from being an orphan as a child to fighting in the Revolutionary War and becoming a confidant of George Washington and then Secretary of the Treasury was spectacular. But with the election of his unyielding rival Thomas Jefferson as president in 1800, his fortune changed. As cabinet members in the 90s, the two men fought bitterly, and Jefferson accused Hamilton of unethical conduct. Us progressives tend to sympathize with Jefferson over Hamilton, who after all had been a banker. But the fact is that Hamilton represented a nascent capitalism which in the context of post-Revolutionary War USA was progressive, in contrast to the system of slavery that Hamilton opposed and Jefferson, as a champion of states rights and agrarian society, defended. The Grange in the largely unsettled northern Manhattan, was a refuge for him together with his strong-willed wife Elizabeth and their 8 children.

Friday, December 20, 2019


In yesterday’s presidential debate, corporate media asked the candidates about repression by China against the Uighurs and in Hong Kong, but nothing about the recent wave of deadly repression against anti-neoliberal protests in Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Haiti, Lebanon, Iraq, Colombia or the deadly racist governments of Bolivia and Brazil. Nor did the press take up on Bernie's statement about excessive military spending. Nor did it take up on Bernie's and Elizabeth Warren's opposition to Pete Buttigieg and Biden's closed-door fund raising with millionaires, allowing other candidates to attack Warren for being divisive.

CNN classified Bernie as the debate’s leading “loser” because he failed to go beyond attacking the billionaire class. The statement is deceptive because Bernie's discourse attacking corporate wealth and abuse has struck a responsive chord among skeptics, many of whom often do not vote. Bernie pointed that out last night when he said in response to accusations of being divisive and jeopardizing the effort to defeat Trump in 2020: 'I'll tell you how to beat Trump,’ he said. ‘You do it by animating those who don’t vote.’ (He’s talking about 46 percent of the electorate who didn’t vote in 2016.)

But actually CNN has a point. Bernie would do well to broaden his message by emphasizing military spending and the double standards of US foreign policy: international sanctions with devastating effects against Venezuela and Iran while maintaining friendly relations with repressive and undemocratic governments, the number of which is too lengthy to list here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The movie “The Report” sheds light on what Poulantzas called “Power Centers” and others call the “Deep State”

The movie "The Report" puts on full display what Nicos Poulantzas calls “power centers,” which operate within the state with a degree of autonomy. The movie shows how Daniel Jones a staff member of the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein uncovered the “enhanced interrogation” (euphemism for torture) program of the CIA in black sites involving a minimum of 119 cases of detainees. The CIA intentionally held back key information from then President George W. Bush and members of his cabinet and used illegal means to sabotage the senate committee’s investigation. Poulantzas’ concept of “power centers” represent what today is referred to as the “deep state.” But Poulantzas was a Marxist and did not view power centers as “subjects,” but rather as expressions (he used the term “condensations”) of class forces. This is quite different from the notion derived from Max Webber of the “bureaucracy” as an entirely separate and independent entity with its own interests. The power that the CIA wielded in this case demonstrates once again that it’s not enough for a leftist party favoring far-reaching change to gain control of the executive and legislative branches through electoral means. A more thoroughgoing shakeup of the state is necessary and that’s not going to happen by negotiations or manipulations from above.   

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Representatives of the 14-nation Lima Group walked out of the assembly hall at the time of the speech given by Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza at the COP25 summit in Madrid. One of the countries that participated in the boycott of Arreaza’s speech was Chile, which is exercising the presidency of the summit.
One aspect of the boycott goes beyond absurd in that it is nothing short of tragic. By making a political statement against the Maduro government, the Lima Group is politicizing a conference that is addressing the problem of climate change which threatens civilization as we know it and future generations. Such a decision is irresponsible, especially because of the imminence of a climate disaster which is already manifesting itself to the detriment of millions of people throughout the world.

But the decision of the Lima Group is also absurd and pathetic when you consider that the fierce repression against protesters in Chile in real time includes the use of rubber bullets that have resulted in 200 reported victims who have lost sight in one or both eyes. Does the repressive regime of Sebastián Piñera have the moral right to criticize another government for alleged violation of democratic norms? 
Another absurd and pathetic aspect of the boycott is the statement of Juan Guaidó’s representative in Spain, Antonio Ecarri, who justified the move saying that the “usurper” Arreaza was sent by the “regime that is the biggest depredator of the environment in Latin America.” Does Ecarri not know that the Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo of the Bolsonaro regime of Brazil, another member of the Lima Group, claims that climate change is a “Communist plot”? This is not to mention Bolsonaro’s encouragement of forest clearing by cattle ranchers which led to this year’s devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest. 
How ironic! The COP25 originally was to take place in Brazil, but Bolsonaro reneged on the nation’s previous offer, obviously because of his refusal to take seriously the issue of climate change. Then it was to be held in Chile, but at the last moment Piñera (whose acceptance according to surveys has reached low of 4.6%) backed out because of the protests against his government and the concomitant police repression. 
Those who are ambivalent about the international campaign against Maduro, which includes stringent sanctions and the threat of military intervention, should consider that at the helm of that campaign are right-wing governments whose positions on climate change and democracy are absurd, if not pathetic.

Monday, December 9, 2019

New Report Reveals Systematic, Blatant Lying about Afghanistan

A study of the War in Afghanistan published by the Washington Post demonstrates how the U.S. public has been systematically misled and how the versions presented by government spokespeople and politicians have been diametrically opposed to what military personal on the ground were saying. Once in a (long) while the U.S. media in its reporting on foreign policy and affairs gets it right. But  what the Washington Post isn’t saying is that this systematic lying has characterized U.S. interventionism throughout the world since the end of World War II, if not before. “Remember the Maine.” Remember the Pentagon Papers. And those are just two cases. There are scores and scores, if not hundreds, of others.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Miliband versus Poulantzas y su vigencia en el siglo 21: clase que di patrocinada por CLACSO

Lo siguiente es una clase sobre teorías marxistas del estado patrocinada por el Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) en el marco de “Espacio de Formación Virtual: Un espacio para desarrollar el pensamiento crítico desde una perspectiva latinoamericana.” Se postulo la vigencia del debate entre Ralph Miliband y Nicos Poulantzas sobre el estado realizado en los años 70. Hoy en día mas y mas personas están asumiendo posiciones críticas hacia el capitalismo del siglo 21, que es cada vez mas parecido al “capitalismo de amigos” o Crony Capitalism, y hacia el intervencionismo norteamericano a nivel mundial que asemeja el imperialismo del comienzo del sigo 20 analizado por Lenin. Hace falta un contexto teóríco para entender los acontecimientos del siglo 21 y por eso las teorías de los grandes pensadores como Marx, Miliband y Poulantzas deben ser retomadas, analizadas, modificadas cuando necesario y aplicadas al mundo actual. Y por eso la importancia de esta iniciativa de CLACSO