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The Topsy-Turvy Path to Twenty-first-Century Socialism. The Limitations of the New Left in Latin America
by Nicole Fabricant
Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions: The Future of Twenty-first-Century Socialism.
by Roger Burbach, Michael Fox, Federico Fuentes
London and New York: Zed Books, 2013.
Latin America’s Turbulent Transitions looks at three interconnected themes: confronting U.S. hegemony, social movements, and socialism in Latin America. Divided into seven chapters, the book first lays out the broad political, economic, and social forces at work in the Americas and then focuses on five countries (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador,1 Brazil, and Cuba). It represents an important addition to a series of popular books on the new left (Ellner, 2014; Kozloff, 2008; Webber and Carr, 2013) seeking to understand the political economic landscape that gave birth to a new kind of socialism. What distinguishes it is its on-the-ground analysis of the movements and social forces that brought these regimes to power and the subsequent tensions between movements and left-leaning states. This is not a romantic depiction of the movements that transformed the national landscapes but an examination of the dynamic tensions, contradictions, and challenges of a topsy-turvy route to twenty-first-century socialism. Here I revisit its three themes and pose some questions. While the authors argue that these democratic socialist states may represent hope for a world afflicted by economic crisis and wars, I ask whether we should place our faith in them or turn our attention to the grassroots organizations calling for far more radical change.
Burbach, Fox, and Fuentes first describe the destructive U.S. neoliberal policies that have privatized state-owned industries, liberalized markets, and cut back on critical social programs and the challenge posed by South-South trade relationships such as the ALBA to U.S. hegemony in the region. In fact, many of these so-called socialist states came out of sustained movement-based organizing in resistance to the privatization and foreign control of critical resources. The tight U.S. grip on the region has weakened as China has entered Latin American markets. The authors point out that China has become …
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Latin American Perspectives
July 2015 42: 113-116