The Iranian Marxist publication, Iranfardamag, interviews Rainer Shea.
What’s your take take on Petro’s electoral victory and the prospects of his administration joining organizations such ALBA? Would he become a Boric-style president or a Morales-style one?
I believe he’ll become a Boric-style president for three main reasons. One, he’s more likely to have his progressive alliance lean into the centrist-inclined governments in Chile and Argentina than into the region’s consistently anti-imperialist governments. If he joins ALBA I’ll be proven wrong, but I’m concerned I’ll be proven right. Two, he has a plan to disarm Colombia’s liberation movements, but not the Nazi-influenced forces which make up the country’s military. He aims to complete the peace deal with the guerrillas, but he doesn’t plan to create a people’s army like the Chavistas have, or even create an anti-imperialist military school like Morales did. He’s leaving the country’s left vulnerable to a coup, or whatever other types of violence the reactionaries carry out in the coming years. Three, his actions so far indicate his agenda is more centrist than leftist. He’s nominated a right-wing former Minister of Mines & Energy to be his foreign minister.
The solace we can take from this is that even Boric has been successfully pressured by Chile’s people into so far taking tangible steps towards dismantling neoliberalism. If he can be held in check that much by Chile’s masses, Petro can be held in check enough by Colombia’s masses to substantially improve the country’s conditions.
Do you think the leaders of the new so called pink tide are more centrist and moderate than the leaders of the previous pink tide?
I do believe they’re more centrist than the leaders of the previous Pink Tide. As I said, the Chavistas in Venezuela created a people’s army, and the Movement for Socialism in Bolivia created an anti-imperialist military school. The latter proved insufficient for preventing a coup, but it was at least an effort to preempt imperialist meddling. We’re seeing little or none of these tactical measures from the leaders of the new Pink Tide. We’re also seeing centrist policy tendencies among many of these newer leaders, such as those ones from Petro that I mentioned.
What we should consider, however, is that the original Pink Tide had both revolutionaries like Chavez, and leaders who were willing to serve imperialism despite supporting social democracy for their own people. Lula occupied Haiti on Washington’s behalf for a decade, and the U.S. only carried out a coup against him after the imperialists no longer had use for him. Leaders like Lula will capitulate to imperialism when they believe this serves their best interests. But as Washington’s grip over Latin America continues to weaken, and the transition into a multi-polar world order progresses, they’ll increasingly see anti-imperialism as in their interests. We’re seeing this in how Boric has decided to listen to his people’s demands on economic policy, rather than uncritically accomodate a northern bully country that’s decrepit in its reach and widely hated.
Recent elections of left wing leaders in Peru, and to some degree in Chile, haven’t so far led to any tangible achievements and social progress for the working class there, have they? Both in Chile and Peru, still the right wing forces are dominating most political and economic institutions and preventing any radical social reforms. Doesn’t this prove the limits of liberal/ capitalist democracy once again?
From what I’ve gathered, in Chile there’s been steady progress towards dismantling neoliberalism. Boric’s government has been able to raise the minimum wage, and it’s implemented a program to further mass education on the history of the country’s constitution. This is good news. But the fact that it’s seemingly more substantial than what Peru’s Pedro Castillo has been able or willing to accomplish, and the fact that it’s essentially all Boric has been able to accomplish, shows how strong of a grip the imperialists and the regional bourgeoisie still have over these countries. Progress is absolutely being frustrated, and we’re seeing this (for one example) in how Castillo has been getting bogged down by politically motivated legal scrutiny. What this shows is that as communists, we should be consistent in international solidarity with the struggles of oppressed peoples, while not pretending like those struggles are a linear path towards victory, or while pretending like their leaders are above criticism. Boric, Petro, Castillo, Lula, and other Pink Tide leaders in the region haven’t fought against the bourgeois structures of their governments in the ways Chavez, Maduro, or Morales and his party have.
How can the left go beyond the limits of liberal democracy if there is no grassroots working class revolutionary environment and organization?
Mao said that to go on the offensive when the masses are not yet ready is adventurism. So if you’re in a situation where there’s little or no organizational basis for revolution, you can’t do something reckless, like engage in revolutionary violence without sufficient mass backing. Without that mass backing, it’s not even revolutionary violence, it’s only violence for the sake of it. You need to take things one step at a time. You need to first put together the revolutionary organizational structure necessary to start defying the state. Which doesn’t mean approaching things from a “we’ll build it and then they’ll come” mentality, where you’re trying to get the masses to support you by prescribing what the masses need on your own. It means finding out what the material needs of the masses are by working amongst them, applying a Marxist analysis to these needs, and delivering improvements to the conditions of the masses. Then you’ll have a social basis to go against the state.
Leaders of the previous pink tide were generally more anti imperialist than the leaders of the current pink tide. Boric and Castillo, whose approval ratings have plummeted sharply, failed to boycott the Summit of the Americas in solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua that were excluded from U.S.-hosted summit. Even Boric went on to attack these countries in the summit. Is any sort of socialist regional integration possible with leaders like these at the helm?
It’s not possible. Not anymore than it was possible for Haiti and Brazil to be united at the same time that Lula was violating the sovereignty of the Haitians. You don’t see actual anti-imperialist leaders like Putin and Xi denouncing each other for a reason: because they’re principled in countering the influence of Washington. No leader of a peripheral or semi-peripheral country who promotes imperialist narratives has their own country’s interests as their first priority. Unprincipled left-leaning leaders in the imperial peripheries like these ones will continue to exist until the U.S. empire gets defeated by the proletariat within its own borders, and the other imperialist powers fall as well. Then their lackeys within the peripheries will have nowhere to go besides the dustbin of history.
Which pink tide leaders/ movements have been more successful than the others in delivering on their promises?
The Chavistas and the MAS have by far been the most successful. Both of them essentially ended the status of their respective countries as U.S. neo-colonies. This is why even though Venezuela and Bolivia have both undergone coup attempts, with their democratically elected presidents having been forced out of office at certain points, the people have mobilized to reverse or defend from these coups. As I said, when you deliver substantial gains to the masses, the masses will have your back.
Is the arrival of the era of multi-polarization in the global community paving the way for the rise of left wing forces? How signficant has been Iran’s role in helping countries such as Venezuela thwart US threats?
The rise of multi-polarity is making the global left more powerful insofar as it’s taking away the leverage of U.S. imperialism, which is the world’s biggest obstacle to the left. With Washington less able to carry out regime change, leftists like the Chavistas and the MAS are now better able to build their power without being destroyed by imperialist meddling. But imperialism’s weakening throughout the last half century hasn’t necessarily produced more left-wing or communist governments, as a lot of the new anti-imperialist governments have been right-leaning or outright reactionary. Iran’s anti-imperialist revolution got hijacked by a repressive religious faction that executed the communists there, Putin’s anti-imperialist foreign policy model has gone along with a neoliberal domestic model, and Afghanistan’s fully breaking away from imperial control has come along with full jurisdiction for the Taliban. The crucial context is that all of these reactionary forces have come about in some way due to imperialist interference. I believe Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan would all be socialist if not for Washington’s sabotage of their communist forces.
Even though the imperialists have been able to frustrate the class struggle in these countries, this isn’t stopping them from weakening U.S. capital. Iran, like China and Russia, is a crucial source of aid for more vulnerable anti-imperialist countries like Venezuela. It’s helped them establish oil networks in defiance of U.S. sanctions, exposing the decrepitude of imperialism’s hand. This has brought the final blow to imperialism far closer.
Probably Iran is the only country in the World that has had a left wing revolution and is at conflict with the US on the world stage, but domestically lacks any strong socialist movement. What are the lessons Iranian leftist forces can learn from the pink tide forces (when it comes organising etc.)?
A lesson for modern Iranian communists (and all other communists) to take away from the Pink Tide is that you need to keep your expectations realistic, and do what’s practical. In Venezuela, there are communists who’ve attacked Maduro because he doesn’t have all the correct positions according to them. And maybe they’re right. But the reality is that the masses in Venezuela support Maduro because he’s protecting them from imperialism, and the Iranian masses support their government for the same reason. In this kind of context, where imperialism is rightly seen as the biggest enemy, combating genuinely bad policies or ideas from one’s own government requires finesse. The best way to win the masses is by delivering tangible material gains to them, by showing them that socialism is a better option than the current order. Otherwise you’ll risk engaging in adventurism that ends up helping the imperialists.Source