Greeting to the Congress of the French Communist Party

FSPBy Valter Pomar*
On behalf of the São Paulo Forum I am grateful for the invitation to speak to the delegates to the Congress of the French Communist Party.
I will take this opportunity to share with you some opinions and resolutions that we adopted at the recent meeting we had in January 2013, in Quito, Ecuador.
The first thing we underscored was that the international crisis is still ongoing. Although with different impacts from region to region, country to country, economic sector to economic sector, social layer to social layer, the truth is that the crisis continues and it is around it, its outcomes and the search for its solutions, that the struggle between States and social classes on a national and global scale is hinged.
The international crisis continues partly due to the structural determinants of capitalism in this stage of financial imperialism; partly because the dominant classes in the United States and Europe are still committed to policies of a neoliberal nature, to extreme austerity measures, to policies based on the exploitation of their peoples, on plunder of and war against the so-called peripheries of the world, and also to standing up against countries, small or big, that decide to build alternatives to neoliberalism, to imperialism, to the forces that are still hegemonic across the planet; and also partly because forces of change have not established themselves yet, at least not at the scale required, forces that are capable of superseding the crisis for the benefit of another type of society.
The continuity of the crisis, the stance of the dominant classes and the relative weakness of the progressive and leftist forces indicate that we will continue to go through a period of global instability, marked by economic crises, major social conflicts, and by increasingly more dangerous wars. We cannot predict how long this instability will last, or which trends will prevail in the medium term, since that depends on the struggle being waged today between social classes in each country and between States on a regional and global scale.
This is the context in which we analyze the situation of the United States.
The United States is facing a twofold problem: on the one hand, a decline of its world hegemony; on the other, a relative exhaustion of its productive structure. Surely the two processes are connected. To successfully face both, from the point of view of the dominant classes, by restructuring the US economy and restoring its hegemonic role worldwide, implies among other things a high level of unity of the US dominant class, which only tends to occur in an environment of acute international military conflict and/or internal collapse.
With regard to the first, the US is not in geopolitical and economic conditions to wage a conflict that will have the beneficial collateral effects the Second World War had on its economy.  With regard to the second point, there is no collapse, but rather an important decline which, in turn, generates an internal environment of uneasiness that constitutes the backdrop of the political and social confrontation between the US political and social forces, bringing about permanent tension on a global scale and inclined to solve any conflict by military means.
Compounding the situation, one of its outcomes is the political stalemate and relative equilibrium between the Republican and Democratic parties. Hence, our expectation is that Obama’s second term will be, at best, similar to the first, which is no good news either for the world or for Latin America, both politically and economically.
It is our understanding that the conflict opposing, on one side, the USA and its allies, and on the other, the BRICS is but one of the expressions of a long-lasting process, namely, the geopolitical shift of the world’s dynamic center towards Asia.
The competition between the so-called BRICS and the bloc led by the United States reflects on different regions, like Africa, along with Latin America, posing many challenges to Latin America and the Caribbean, which do not seek to replace the United States hegemony with another one, wherever that may come from.
The so-called Pacific Rim, an initiative stimulated by the United States to undermine autonomous integration efforts like the UNASUR and the MERCOSUR, is also part of the shifts in the political strategy of the US to concentrate efforts in Asia.
As for Europe, what we have witnessed is the commitment of the European dominant classes to extreme austerity measures, to the dismantling of the so-called welfare state and the strengthening of a business Europe to the detriment of a democratic Europe.
This option has led to an antidemocratic and antipopular centralization process that is triggering multiple reactions, from the simultaneous growth of the left and the far-right (as in Greece), to the questioning of national unity (as in Spain), to stimulus to militarism (as seen in several actions by Italy and France over the recent months), threats of a disruption of the European Union (as made by the English government) and so forth.
As for Germany, we do not expect this year’s elections to change the positions of the German government, not only because today’s polls favor Merkel, but mostly because Merkel’s policy is hegemonic with great part of the German society.
As for the European social democracy, both where it is in the opposition, as in Germany, and where it is in government, as in France, our evaluation is that it can neither propose nor implement a really alternative program.
Meanwhile, with important exceptions (as in Greece), the European left has not yet been able to become a government alternative, which casts pessimistic shadows over Europe’s capacity to get out of the crisis, through the left, at least in the short run.
At this point it is important to mention the accomplishments of and to carry on with the joint work between the Party of the European Left and the São Paulo Forum.
The São Paulo Forum is following attentively the situation in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the neighboring areas. As in other periods of history, this region concentrates conflicts and contradictions that are already tragic in themselves for their peoples, yet today may evolve into even more terrible circumstances for all mankind.
Some situations are more urgent. The elections in Israel, which took place a little after the meeting of our working group, reaffirmed that the government will be kept by those who oppose the two-state solution, plus standing for antidemocratic, racist, and militaristic measures. This constitutes a further threat not only for the Palestinians and Iran, but also for world peace.
The conflicts in Syria and Mali, in turn, confirm that a destabilization process is under way in the region for the purpose of facilitating and legitimating the presence of European powers and the United States, under the guise of fighting terrorism or of the hypocritical responsibility to protect.
Overall, the São Paulo Forum finds it necessary to deliver to the European social-democratic parties our critical assessment of their actions in face of the ongoing crisis, the neoliberal policies, and the migrants, and at this particular juncture, in face of the present attitudes of a colonial nature in Europe regarding situations as those of Libya, Syria, Mali, and Iran.
Moreover, we expect the European left to adopt a strong anti-imperialist and anticolonial position and to not give in to speeches of responsibility to protect or the likes of that.
We also expect an attitude of strong support to the anticolonial fight in Latin America and the Caribbean, whether in the case of the Malvinas, Puerto Rico, or the so-called overseas possessions of, among other countries, the Netherlands and France. And Palestina, of course!
The view of the São Paulo Forum about the world situation constituted the starting point for assessing the accomplishments, challenges, weaknesses, and contradictions of the Latin-American and Caribbean regional integration process, underscoring the importance of the Community of Latin-American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and of the UNASUR.
Surely the integration is hinged on the strength of our social movements, parties, and governments, as is the case of Uruguay and Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, El Salvador, Ecuador and so forth.
We expect the European left to help us further divulge the accomplishments of our progressive and leftist governments. We know that all these governments are posed with the need to deepen the changes, yet what has been done so far, in terms of regional integration, national sovereignty, social equality, and political democratization, is highly important.
We also expect the European left to reaffirm its solidarity with the people and government of Cuba, in particular their fight against the blockade and in support of the freedom of the five heroes.
Moreover, we expect solidarity with the people and the government of Venezuela, as well as support for the reelection of Rafael Correa the upcoming February 17.
Besides in Ecuador, in 2013 and 2014 there will be presidential electoral processes in Paraguay, Chile, El Salvador, and Honduras.
In the case of Paraguay, with elections due on April 2l, it is of the utmost importance that the European left support the unity-driven efforts of the Guarani left, which has to win, or at least polarize the electoral contest of April 21.
For those who supported the coup, it is extremely useful that this unity fails to be built and that the left fails to reach the top places. We must ask for your attention with regard to the situation of the peasants that were arrested and of the false trial they are being submitted to, besides their hunger strike. We must demand respect for the human and political rights of the Paraguayan people, as well as their right to free speech.
There are two countries where the current control of the national government by the right constitutes a strategic constraint on a full-fledged regional integration process.
One is Mexico; the other is Colombia. The integration will be fully Latin American and Caribbean when Mexico is governed by the left. And the South American integration will be much more solid when Colombia is governed by the left.
In the specific case of Colombia, we expect the European left to strongly support the FARC-Santos negotiation process not only to make peace possible, but also to keep Colombian politics from continuing to be polarized between Santistas and Uribistas.
As we see it, in the present international context, Latin and Caribbean America still offers better conditions to get the struggle for socialism out of its strategic defensive.
We know that deepening the changes and accelerating regional integration will be easier if we succeed in building a mass, democratic, popular, and leftist culture in favor of integration and of a new development model.
This, in turn, presupposes, among other factors, the strengthening of the political and social left in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an improvement of the working conditions of the São Paulo Forum.
Our experience, since we created the São Paulo Forum in 1990, is that strengthening and enhancing the São Paulo Forum is the partisan equivalent to deepening the regional integration: it does not solve all the existing strategic/political-organizational problems in the region and/or in each country, but it creates an environment in which we will be better equipped to solve these problems.
All the parties of the Forum consider that the integration is fundamental and strategic, both as protection against foreign meddling in general and against the impacts of the present international crisis in particular, and to make better use of the region’s potential; and also as an “umbrella” for the various strategic projects pursued by the Forum’s parties.
From those who defend socialism to those advocating a new capitalist development model, all recognize that the integration is a key factor in limiting the reach and the meddling of the conservative alliance between the local oligarchs and their metropolitan allies.
Now allow me to talk not as executive secretary of the São Paulo Forum, but as a member of the Workers Party national board.
To me it seems that, we, the left all over the world -and in Latin America and the Caribbean is no different-, have a theory deficit which delays and distorts the carrying out of our goals.
This theory deficit includes the regional integration itself and a study of more than a decade of progressive and leftist governments, in addition to three other themes: the analysis of the capitalism of the 21st century, since many are still operating with a twentieth-century interpretation of capitalism, a study of the socialist, social democratic, and national-developmentalist experiences of the 20th century, since many repeat some of the mistakes and disregard some of the accomplishments and teachings of those experiences; and the strategy, since in many leftist Latin-American minds Che Guevara still supplants Allende, even though, at least today, most of us are engaged in experiences that have more to learn from Allende than from Che.
Surely when we speak of a theory deficit we do not mean that there is “little intellectual production”, but rather we are referring to the weakness of this production.
In the specific case of Brazil the causes of this weakness are at least three.
Firstly, the loss of status of the “traditional middle class” pressures part of this social sector to have very conservative stances, including a propensity to fascism, while driving other sectors to leftist stances. And as the middle class is the social basis of great part of the intellectuality, including that of the left, this affects theory production.
Secondly, there is the impact and influence of neoliberalism and of the triple crisis (of Soviet socialism, of the social democracy, and of national-developmentalism) in the fields of culture, education, and social communication.
This impact and influence affect the mechanisms of formation and promotion of the intellectuality, and do not favor leftist thought.
Neoliberalism’s influence on culture, education, and communication prevents the creation of a mass thought based on leftist values: there will be no popular culture with tens and tens of millions in favor of sovereignty with integration, of democracy, of social equality, and of a new kind of development unless we have a cultural industry, a public education, and a mass communication of a new kind.
Without these changes we will keep on collecting results such as that of a recent poll that showed that Brazil’s Workers Party is the most admired party in the country (24% against 6% of centrist Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement and 5% of right-wing Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy), yet in a context of a decreasing number of people who declare themselves to have a partisan preference (falling from 61% in 1988 to 44% in 2012).
Thirdly, there are political differences across the Brazilian left on how to accomplish our two great tasks: overcoming neoliberal hegemony and implementing structural reforms that go beyond conservative developmentalism.
These political differences generate two symmetrically ill-conceived positions: either exacerbated governism, with eyes that only see that which is “possible to do” here and now and attacking any critical position; and a leftism that is also exacerbated, with eyes that only see the ultimate goal, without consideration of any realistic analysis of the correlation of forces.
To some extent, governism and leftism express the same phenomenon: a divide between theory and practice, between ultimate goals and political means, between strategy and tactic.
In order to overcome this situation we need a strong linkage between theory and politics, especially now when we have achieved partial success and have also realized that in order to keep moving forward we must change important aspects of the strategy we have adopted so far.
Our field of ideas, whose hard core is prioritizing the social, broadening democratic freedoms, affirming the role of the State, and combining national sovereignty and regional integration, must be made hegemonic through our struggle. Surely this field of ideas comprises an array of positions ranging from the “progressive” to the revolutionary socialists. And this is positive: one of the experiences of the São Paulo Forum is that one should not fear diversity, including ideological diversity, within the left.
Lastly, I would like to say that the global and Latin-American setting today urges us to be faster if we wish to move from an emphasis on superseding neoliberalism to an emphasis on structural reforms. Faster in the integration, faster in changing the countries we govern, more effective where we are the opposition and, overall, with greater unity of the Latin-American and Caribbean leftist parties and organizations. And, obviously, with more dialogue and cooperation between the São Paulo Forum and the leftist parties and organizations of Oceania, Asia, Africa, the United States, and Europe.
I would also like to invite you to continue discussing these themes during the 19th Meeting of the São Paulo Forum that will take place in Brazil, in the city of São Paulo, from July 31 to August 4, 2013.
* Valter Pomar is executive secretary of the Sao Paulo Forum