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An analysis of the ‘left-turn’ in Latin America and its

potential as a counterhegemonic movement

Wallpainting in Valparaiso, Chile

Hilde van der Pas

Master Thesis
Political Science, International Relations
Universiteit van Amsterdam
August 2010

An analysis of the ‘left-turn’ in Latin America and its potential as a

counterhegemonic movement

Master Thesis
Political Science, International Relations
Universiteit van Amsterdam
August 2010

Hilde van der Pas, 5952174

Afstudeerproject: Political Economy of the Developing World
Supervisor: Dr. Antonio Carmona Baez
Second reader: Enrique Gomezllata


This thesis focuses on the ‘left turn’ in Latin America and its possibilities as a
counterhegemonic movement, utilizing the intellectual legacies of Antonio Gramsci
(1891-1937). I will look at the rise and fall of the intellectual hegemony of
neoliberalism in Latin America, which led to a Polanyian ‘double movement’ towards
a more socially embedded economy. Social forces have led to the election of
progressive leaders who have changed the forms of state and institutionalized their
vision of a multipolar world, at least at the regional level, with the development of the
ALBA (Alternative Bolivariana par alas Americas).

Secondly, the necessary conditions for counterhegemonic movements to successfully

challenge the current (neoliberal) power structures will be explored. I will focus on
the importance of establishing an alternative Weltanschauung, the decolonization of
knowledge and subjectivity and the question of the importance of state power when
looking at the ability of a worldwide counterhegemonic movement, towards a world
order in which many world can co-exist.


I enjoyed (almost) every moment of writing this thesis, exploring the literature and
theories and connecting those with contemporary developments in international
relations and political economy. I would like to thank my supervisor Dr Antonio
Carmona Baez for his support, feedback, and helpful insights, my second reader
Enrique Gomezllata for the many useful comments and my friends and family for
their patience and moral support.

Hilde van der Pas,

August 18, 2010


Abstract p. 3
Acknowledgements p. 4
Introduction p. 7
0.1 The movement in Latin America p. 8
0.2 Current relevance and the media p. 9
0.3 Central Research Question p. 11
0.4 Methodology & Subjectivity p. 12
0.5 Definition of Terms p. 14
0.6 Chapter Outline p. 15

Part 1: Theoretical Framework p. 18

1.1 The ‘Mainstream’ Theories p. 19
1.2 The legacies of Karl Marx p. 20
1.3 Finding the ‘Truth’ p. 22
1.4 Gramsci and Intellectual Hegemony p. 26
1.5 On Hegemony p. 27
1.6 Consent and Common Sense p. 29
1.7 State, Civil Society and Historic Bloc p. 32
1.8 Passive Revolution, Transformismo, War of Movement of Position p. 33
1.9 Counter Hegemony and Alternative Historic Bloc p. 35
1.10 World Hegemony p. 36
1.11 What about the State? p. 40
1.12 Delinking and Decolonisation p. 45
1.13 Concluding Remarks p. 49

Part 2: The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism in Latin America p. 52

2.1 The troubles with liberal democracy p. 55
2.2 Neoliberalism and its effects on society p. 57
2.3 The rise of the Left p. 62
2.4 The new Left p. 63
2.5 The Movements p. 65

The Zapatista Uprising p. 65
Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Process p. 67
The Battle of Seattle p. 70
The Water Wars p. 71
The World Social Forum p. 72
Crisis in Argentina p. 73
Lula and the power of the Workers Party (PT) p. 75
The indigenous revolt and Evo Morales p. 76
2.6 Concluding Remarks p. 77

Part 3: Building Counter Hegemony p. 79

3.1 What are we Resisting? Hegemony in Practice p. 80
3.2 Double Movement p. 84
3.3 Crisis p. 85
3.4 Zapatistas and the birth of a countermovement p. 88
3.5 Lessons from Chile p. 91
3.6 Bolivarianism as a Gramscian process p. 94
3.7 Regional integration and Cox’ hegemony model p. 98
3.8 Bolivia, Ecuador and the role of culture and decolonisation p. 103
3.9 “The Model”: Necessities for counterhegemony p. 107

Conclusions and further recommendations p. 110

References p. 115


Although this thesis focuses on recent social and economic developments in Latin
America, the importance of reviving Gramscian theories can also be stressed when
looking at what is happening in European politics. Voters don’t trust the European
Union and feel neglected by politicians who don’t seem to be able to make much
difference because economic decisions are no longer being made at the national level,
but in Brussels, the WTO and by the power of big corporations. This sense of
powerlessness has not given rise to a sense of class-consciousness in Europe. Rather,
it seems to lead to a believe in the existence of a ‘clash of civilizations (Huntington,
1993)’, people seem to be scared of the ‘other’ and blame non-European immigrants
for the loss of their jobs, social security and safety net. It is in this light that Gramsci’s
theorization of ideological hegemony and countermovements are of great relevance to
analyze the effects of the crisis of European liberal democracy. Antonio Gramsci
(1891-1937) was a leader of the communist party in Italy and has written his most
influential theories while imprisoned by the fascist Mussolini party. In the Prison
Notebooks, Gramsci analyzed the breakdown of the liberal regime in Italy, when the
balance between force and consent, or in other words the mutually reinforcing
relationship between the state and society broke down and created circumstanced for
a new order and counterhegemonic movements. Needless to say, this led to the rise of
fascist parties in Europe and the outbreak of the Second World War.
Counterhegemonic movements can thus be nationalistic and from the far right (see for
example Worth, 2002), or be progressive and democratic, fighting for a more
democratic controlled, socially embedded economy. It is the possibilities and crucial
necessities of these countermovements that will be explored in this thesis.

Ideological hegemony is about creating consent for a certain order, and making the
other classes believe that to sustain this order is in their best interests, even when it
seems evidently clear that it is not. One example from the Netherlands, is the way in
which the rhetoric of a ‘clash of civilizations (Huntington, 1993)’ has been used to
‘scare’ ‘civil society’ in order to gain their consent for a certain order. In ‘Policing the
Crisis’, Hell at al. (1978) show the way in which issues of ‘race’, crime and ‘law and
order’ have historically been used by the print and television media and politicians to

‘…construct an ideological frame though which people would experience economic
and social change as a threat to ‘national’ integrity (Quoted in Martin, 1998: 124).’
The way in which the extreme right has become salonfähig in Dutch politics since the
2010 elections, underline the new ideological hegemony that has been given shape
because of the disillusionment with the ‘political establishment’ and their disability to
solve the problems of ‘the people’.

0.1 The movement in Latin America

In Latin America however, the crisis of liberal democracy, disillusionment with the
political elites, and the effects of far-reaching neoliberal restructurings have given rise
to a different movement. The Zapatistas uprising on new-years day 1994 in Chiapas,
Mexico, signalled the beginning of a counterhegemonic struggle in Latin America.
Starting on the day that the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) would
be implemented, the movement is seen as a resistance against neoliberalism, but also
one against so-called modernity in the European sense (see Bahn, 2009). As such,
they have been establishing an alternative epistemology, another philosophy of
history and a way of organizing society that is more compatible with the indigenous
way of living. With their basic demands of work, lands, shelter, bread, health,
education, democracy, liberty, peace and justice (EZLN quoted in Khashnabish,
2010), the Zapatistas portray their struggle as the struggle of all the dispossessed and
invisible peoples in the world. Bolivia has a history of drastic and far-reaching
neoliberal restructurings, which have been the catalysts for indigenous uprisings that
have been able to oust two presidents and lead to the election of the first ever Bolivian
indigenous president: Evo Morales. Bolivia has implemented a new constitution,
which recognises the 36 indigenous languages and cultures as official national
cultures and languages, besides Spanish. It prohibits the sale and privatization of
national ‘resources’, to enable people to ‘live well’, in harmony with nature and with
each other. The new constitution explicitly seeks to decolonize the country and to end
the neoliberal economy that has been disastrous for the poor indigenous majority of
the population. The election of Hugo Chávez Frias in 1998 in Venezuela will be
explored in this thesis as a ‘showcase’ for a Gramscian counterhegemonic process.
Venezuela was an exemplary case for liberal democracy, it was one of the only South
American countries that did not experience a military dictatorship in the 1970s and

80s and instead had a stable system of two political parties (AD and COPEI) sharing
the power. Nonetheless, this pact, the punto fijo system, was highly exclusionary and
illiberal, modelling citizenship by an image of the middle and upper-class sectors of
the population, while ignoring the poor majority (see for example Buxton, 2009). Just
like in Europe, the economy was not regarded as being part of the democratic sphere,
which in Venezuela meant that a very small part of the population enjoyed the
prosperity of the oil wealth, while 80 percent of the population lived in poverty. In
1989, the signing of an IMF agreement by the government of Carlos Andres Perez,
which would commit him to implementation of a neoliberal restructuring program,
caused the social explosion and mass protest known as the ‘caracazo’, which later
would bring down the punto fijo pact, lead to a period of instability and coup
attempts, and later on the election of Chávez. As I will explain, the election of Chávez
was made possible because of the establishment of an alternative ideological
hegemony, which in liberal democracies is always necessary because of the
entanglement between state and civil society. This, I will argue in accordance to
Gramscianism, is one of the reasons why his previous (1992) coup-attempt failed.

Left wing of left of centre governments have been elected in 1998 in Venezuela,
followed by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil in 2002, Ricardo Lagos and Michelle
Bachelet in Chile in 2000 and 2006, Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner in Argentina in 2003 and 2007, Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay in 2004, Evo
Morales in Bolivia in 2005, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Rafael Correa in Ecuador
in 2006, Alvaro Colom in Guatemala in 2007, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2008
and Mauricio Fuentes in El Salvador in 2009. However, it needs to be noted that not
all these presidents are necessarily progressive and part of a counterhegemonic
movement and the recent election of the right wing business billionaire Sebastian
Pinera in Chile and Uribe’s successor Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia seem to
underline that the movement is far from heterogenic nor a linear process.

0.2 Current relevance and the media

In the mainstream Dutch, as well as North American and other Western European
press agencies, the ‘left turn’ in Latin America is viewed with suspicion and their
portrayal of the process is one by which the left wing presidents are corrupt,

authoritarian, non-democratic, non-sensible and dictatorial (see for example Gott,
2005: 245-248). Their ‘radicalism’ is perceived as being a threat to democracy and
stability in the region. Besides viewing the left turn from a western perspective and
mainly resonating the views of the elites living in the suburbs of cities like Caracas
(ibid.), it seems that the mainstream media is still working within the cold war
framework, in which socialism means Stalinism and left wing presidents are
automatically considered to be against freedom of any sort. The way in which the
denial of a new broadcast licence for the Venezuelan privately owned RCTV has been
covered by the foreign media is exemplary in this case. There was no mention at all of
the fact that about 90 percent of the media in Venezuela is privately owned, is
extremely hostile toward the government, knowingly spreading lies (even calling on
the assassination of the president) and supporting the 2002 failed coup against Chávez
(see for example Lander, 2008; Gott, 2006 and documented in the Irish documentary
‘The Revolution will not be Televised’). Moreover, the fact that, according to the
Latinobarimetro 2009 annual rapport, 81% of the Venezuelan population states that
there is complete media-freedom (which is one of the highest score in Latin America)
in the country is not resonated in the foreign (as well as oppositional national) media.
In stead, in news reports and opinion articles it is stated time after time that there is no
freedom in speech in Venezuela and that the country is turning into some sort of
Stalinist testing ground for socialism. This is why it is important to understand what is
going on in the region and to be able to look beyond the mainstream framework, that
is resonated in the media.

In July of this year, the Dutch media covered the news about a Dutch airplane that had
flown over Venezuelan territory and Chávez’ anxiety about the possibility of a
foreign intervention with a certain disdain. However, being a US ally just a few miles
of the Venezuelan coast and regarding the history of US interference in coups against
democratically elected presidents in the history of Latin American (with the latest
attempt in Venezuela in 2002) such a fear is not completely outlandish. The building
tension between Venezuela and its neighbour Colombia, a US ally with a growing
number of US military bases, also underlines the current relevance of understanding
the changes taking place in Latin America. Breaking off relations with its neighbour
have been portrayed in the Dutch media as another ‘silly act’ of an authoritarian Latin
American leader, while it would not go amiss to explain some of the historical

background and the difficulties with pursuing an independent policy in ‘America’s
Backyard (Livingstone, 2009)’.

0.3 Central Research Question

This thesis tends to analyze the ‘left turn’ in Latin America within the Gramscian
theorization of counterhegemonic movements and intellectual hegemony. By doing
this, the purpose is to answer the question to what extend the process can be seen as a
counterhegemonic movement and to filter out the prime necessities for
counterhegemony. The central research question therefore is twofold and can be
stated as follows:

What are the necessary conditions for counterhegemonic movements to

successfully challenge the ideological hegemony of the current power
structure? Can the ‘left turn’ in Latin America be considered a
counterhegemonic movement?

To be able to answer these questions, I will fist explain the core concepts of
ideological hegemony and counter hegemony. However, I will start the theoretical
framework with a short description of the mainstream theories. This is important
because the way the world is presented to us by the mainstream media resonated with
the way the realist and (neo-)liberals see the world. These ‘problem-solving’ theories
can as such be considered to be theories that offer something like a ‘manual’ for states
to maximize their interests in a hostile environment (see Dunne & Schmidt, 2008;
Cox, 1981). Since Gramscianism is a neo-Marxist theory, born out of a response to
positivist Marxism, I will briefly explain the origins of Marxism and then touch on the
debate on subjectivity and post positivism, the importance of which will be explained
in the next section on methodology and subjectivity.

The second part of this thesis will explore the rise and fall of the hegemony of
neoliberalism in Latin America. I will outline the troubles with liberal democracy, the
effects on neoliberalism on society and the rise of the left as a response to these

In the third part of the thesis, I will explain how hegemony works in practice, what
US hegemony has meant for Latin America, the role of crisis and building counter
hegemony. I will analyze the movement in Latin America using neo- Gramscian
theories, and as such formulate an answer to the question to what extent the ‘left-turn’
can be considered to be a counterhegemonic movement and what the necessities are to
successfully counter the existing power order.

0.4 Methodology & Subjectivity

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet socialism gave birth to a neoliberal
triumph and the believe in an ‘End of History (Fukuyama, 1989)’ in which all states
forever would be liberal democracies with market economies. However, it also led to
a proliferation of a new form of Marxism, free from authoritarianism and Stalinism.
The new left has moved away from economic determinism and has incorporated
issues of race, culture, ideology and subjectivity. It is plural and horizontal in its
organization, has multiple social bases and political agendas, and has an emphasis on
‘deep’ or ‘participatory’ democracy (see Rodriguez-Garavito, Barret & Chávez,
2008:12-17 and Raby, 2006: 65). Going back to my critique on the mainstream
media, it seems that they are still stuck in the ‘end of history’ terminology which is
fundamentally linked with a cold war framework in which there is no space for the
‘new left’. The current financial/economic crisis is also covered within this
framework and even left-leaning journalists and politicians only look for solutions to
the crisis from within the neoliberal paradigm. At the 2010 World Social Forum in
Porto Alegre, Brazil, David Harvey (2010) stated that the current crisis is a systemic
one; it cannot be resolved within the framework that caused the crisis. The crisis has
been worsened in Europe as well as Latin America, by a crisis of political legitimacy
and it is my hope that this crisis will lead to openness to new ideas. A new pool of
young researchers that have not been overly exposed to the cold war ‘propaganda’
and as such are not stuck in the cold war mentality nor have the feeling to have to
‘apologize’ for being (radical) leftwing can make a difference in countering this
ideological hegemony. As the Soviet experience has shown, socialism is not possible
without democracy and any such attempt is doomed to failure. The ‘left-turn’ in Latin
America therefore can be seen as a source of inspiration for anyone curious for new

ways to organize society, politics and the economy in such a way that is meets the
needs of the majority of the people, rather than implementing policies from the top
down by the rules of ‘The Book’ (whether this is ‘Das Kapital’ or a ‘The Road to

Analyzing a Latin American process as a non-Latin American researcher can be

problematic if one isn’t aware of the subjectivity of the researcher. Since I have lived
and studied in ‘the west’ most of my life, I cannot escape from analyzing certain
things from within this framework. Knowledge and science cannot be neutral, one has
to keep in mind where theories come from and what purpose they serve. Or as Robert
Cox famously stated: ‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose (Cox,
1981: 87).’ Knowledge cannot be seen independently from power, since power
produces knowledge and knowledge presupposes certain power relations (see
Foucault, 1980: 109-133). We should always keep in mind the context in which a
theory is used, the framework from which we theorize, and analyze the theory within
its specific time and place in history. In Orientalism, Edward Said has shown how the
‘oriental’ has historically been seen as the source of knowledge and the ‘orientalist’ as
the knower. By establishing this power relation of knowledge, the westerners have
been able to gain power and establish an imperialistic relationship with the ‘oriental’
in order to establish its economic and military domination (Said, 2003). Since, as I
will explain later on, one of the main factors of a counterhegemonic struggle is
decolonization and breaking free of the so-called ‘colonial matrix of power’, two
Latin American scholars, Anibal Quijano and Walter Mignolo, form a crucial part of
the theoretical framework of this thesis. This year, most Latin American countries
celebrated the 200th birthday of their formal dependence. However, regarding the
decolonization of knowledge and subjectivity, as well as the organization of society,
politics and economics, independence is only a formality. Therefore, Quijano and
Mignolo stress the importance of breaking free from the colonial matrix of power and
knowledge, and to create new epistemologies and ways to see the world.

With my background as a journalist, I have become intrigued by the way in which

certain ideas are regarded to be common sense and certain developments that do not
fit this framework are so inadequately covered in the media. The role of the media in
establishing ideological hegemony and consent for a certain order as unquestionable

‘common sense’ seems particularly true considering the coverage of the news from
and about Latin American. I have always felt very uncomfortable with any notion of
unquestionable commonsense knowledge, which to me means an uncritical
conception of the world and the way society is organized to fit a certain world order.
The mainstream media is only ‘critical’ as long as the developments that they cover
fit the mainstream framework. Moreover, I have always felt compelled about the
structurality of poverty and inequality, which is why it is my opinion that the social
world should be analyzed in its totality to be able to see the systemic particularities
that create a certain power order and the ideological hegemony that keeps society
from demanding structural changes.

0.5: Definition of Terms

Some core concepts need to be defined to improve the clarity of the statements and
research. There are numerous definitions for democracy and there is not one
standardized indicator to determine how democratic a country is. For the purpose of
this thesis, I will differentiate between liberal and radical democracy. I see liberal or
representative democracy as the Schumpeterian notion of democracy. This is an elitist
version of democracy in which the role of the people is to vote for the person they
want in office once in four years and minimize their political role to that one event.
Voters are seen as consumers and the political spectrum as a market where elites
compete for the votes. Radical or participatory democracy means that voters are
considered to be more actively involved in the political process. This means that they
can regularly vote in referenda that have the power to implement or overthrow certain
decisions made by the government or for example the implementation of governance
councils at the local level.

With the left-turn in Latin America I mean not only the election of left or left of
centre governments, as I outlined above, but also the ‘Latin Americanization of
politics (Dominguez, 2009: 37-54)’. Latin America is adopting a different kind of
politics, independent from the intellectual paradigms from the old left as well as the
neoliberal dogma’s. As such, the left-turn can be seen as an emancipatory project that
is tightly linked with the ‘new left’ and incorporates questions of exclusion, race,
culture, and ideology.

Civil society is a phrase that is used extensively in Western social sciences. One
should keep in mind however, that in for example Latin American societies, there a
large amount of the population is not officially registered and as such is not included
in the official use of the phrase. For the purpose of this thesis, if I speak of civil
society, I use it in the Gramscian manner, in which means the area in which consent is
being established. In section 1.7 the use of ‘civil society’ will be explored in more

0.6 Chapter Outline

The first part of this thesis covers the theoretical framework on which the further
argumentation will depend. I will start with a short coverage of the dominant theories
in the study of International Relations (1.1) since, as I stated before, this resonates
with the framework that is used by the mainstream media and as such influences that
what is considered to be commonsense. Part 1.2 covers the legacies of Karl Marx and
in 1.3 I will introduce the debate on subjectivity, post-positivism and the
power/knowledge debate. This is necessary before I can cover Gramsci and his
intellectual legacies (1.4 – 1.9) since his theories are constructed as a critique on
positivist Marxism. After explaining ideological hegemony, counterhegemony and
other core concepts, I will cover Robert W. Cox, the theorist who introduced
Gramscianism in the study of IR and world politics (1.10). In 1.11, I will introduce
the autonomist’s debate on the importance for a countermovement to seize state
power. Is it possible to change the world without taking state power? Last but not
least, the questions of delinking and decolonization will be explored in section 1.12.

The second part of the thesis covers the history of neoliberalism in Latin America.
The wave of democratization that followed the dictatorships of the 70s was combined
with a transition toward free market capitalism and neoliberal reforms. This is
particularly interesting because a while before the 80s, free market capitalism and
democracy where considered to be incompatible (see Panizza, 2009). The countries
where democratized, but the economies where not, and that is why in section 2.1 I
will explain what the troubles are with liberal democracy. Section 2.2 will cover the
effects that neoliberal policies have had on Latin American societies and 2.3 will

cover de rise of the left, which was born out of a response to these effects. In the next
part, 2.4, I will explain the differences between the old and the new left and after that
I will introduce some of the most notable left wing movements (2.5): the Zapatistas
uprising, the Bolivarian process in Venezuela, The water and gas wars in Bolivia and
the election of Evo Morales, the Argentinean crisis, Lula da Silva and the PT in
Brazil, and the birth of the World Social Forum and the global protest movement that
grew out of the Battle of Seattle.

In the last part of this thesis, I will analyze the contemporary left-turn in Latin
American using the theoretical framework that has been developed in part one. First
in section 3.1, I will explore what it is that we are resisting. How does hegemony
work in practise and what have the effects of US hegemony in Latin America been?
Next, I will cover the Polanyian Double Movement (3.2) that can be considered the
natural response of a people trying to preserve their autonomy in the face of free
market capitalism. Crisis (3.3) can be seen as an opportunity for the development of
new categories of thought, since it means that hegemony is fading. However, it also
means that the fading hegemon is going to rely on more coercive means to sustain its
power. The Zapatista uprising can be seen as the birth of a countermovement (3.4)
and I will stress the importance of their development of new epistemologies and the
horizontalism of their movement, which make it a source of inspiration for the new
left movements around the world. However, the danger of pursuing radical reform
without having state power, will be explored in the next section: Lessons from Chile
(3.5). The Unidad Popular government of Allende in the 1970s in Chile, did have
official government power, but lacked the support of the military and other crucial
state institutions. I will explain how this led to the bloody abortion of the revolution
and that the importance of having state power should not be underestimated to be able
to successfully challenge the national and international power structure. The
Bolivarian process in Venezuela (3.6) seems to have all the necessary conditions that
the Allende government lacked, an as such has been able to even counter coup
attempts and economic strikes. I will analyze the current movement in Venezuela as a
Gramscian process, and use Robert W. Cox’ hegemony model to stress the
importance of regional integration and the institutionalization of ideas (3.7). Ecuador
and especially Bolivia are important since they have done even more that Venezuela
to break free from the ‘colonial matrix of power’ by implementing institutions that are

specifically designed to decolonize the country (3.8). In the last section (3.9) I will
explore the necessities for counterhegemony and the possibilies for a worldwide
movement of counterhegemony.


In order to develop a ‘model’ for counterhegemony or to analyze the possibilities for

a counterhegemonic movement in Latin America, it is necessary to recall the
theoretical debate on hegemony and counterhegemony. In the Realist and some
Marxist traditions, hegemony means domination, but Gramsci conceptualized
hegemony as something else and stressed the importance of consent and intellectual
or ideological hegemony. Gramscian thought is established as a critique on orthodox
Marxism, which is occupied too much with the ‘hard power’ or coercive part of
hegemony. Gramsci introduces the concept of intellectual hegemony to explain the
failure of a proletarian revolution to take place in Western Europe. Intellectual
hegemony is the ability to let the subordinate classes to think that the current system
of power relations, which benefits the ruling classes, is in their own interests. Even if
it seems evidently clear that they are disadvantaged by it. In ‘modern’ democratic
states, coercion is not sufficient to maintain the status quo, one has to rely on the
consent of the other classes. This effects the options for revolutionary change. Since
the state has considerable power, not just material but intellectual, an alternative
intellectual hegemony has to be established, before the state can be attacked.

Besides Gramsci (theorizing in the 1920’s and 30s) and Cox (writing in the 1980s and
90s), who introduced Gramscian though to the study of international relations, I will
cover other thinkers who theorize on counter movements. The autonomists like
Holloway and Hardt & Negri stress that we should not aim at the state, since the state
has declined considerably because of neoliberal globalization and we should,
according to Holloway, aim for a society of anti-power, in stead of just establishing a
different form of power. Other thinkers (Amin and Bello) propose to ‘delink’ from the
system, and postcolonialist thinkers (Quijano and Mignolo) go even deeper and stress
that we should delink knowledge and subjectivity from coloniality.

Since Gramscian thought is build on Marxism, I introduce some basic points of

departure from the Marxist tradition. I will also briefly cover the ‘mainstream’
theories. This is important, because the way the world is presented to us though the

mainstream media and everyday politics, resonated with the way the Realists and
Neoliberals see the world. In order to understand intellectual hegemony, which is
established though the media, education and other institutions that enjoy some
autonomy from the state, it is important to understand why the world is presented to
us in that particular manner. Since these theories are foundational and positivists, they
believe to know the ‘absolute truth’ it is also necessary to explore the debate on the
existence of an objective social science. I will start the theoretical framework with a
brief explanation of the mainstream theories and the roots of Marxism. Then I will go
on to discuss the debate between the positivist and post-positivist thinkers, before I
introduce Gramsci and his concept of intellectual hegemony. Robert W. Cox is the
theorist who introduced Gramscian thought on the level of world politics, so in what
follows I will cover his model for worldwide hegemony. Next, I will discuss the
autonomists debate on the importance of the state, the ‘delinkers’ and conclude the
chapter with a brief introduction on de-colonization. Taken together, these ideological
currents will form some sort of model to work toward a worldwide counterhegemonic
movement, to be analyzed at the end of the thesis.

1.1 The ‘Mainstream’ Theories

The ‘common sense’ way to look at international relations still is, despite the
proliferation of Pluralism and Marxism, through a Realist and positivist lens. The way
the world is presented to us through the conventional media resonates with the Realist
portrayal of world politics. This is why it is important for the purpose of my thesis
(and the concept of ideological hegemony) to explain some basic ideas that form the
positivist tradition, of which Realism as well as Neoliberalism are part.

Realist and Neoliberal theories are both problem solving and positivist theories,
which means that they believe to be finding absolute truths that are free from values.
Neo-Liberals see ‘the market’ as a natural phenomenon, as opposed to a human
invention. The core economic assumptions of the neoliberal ideology, leading back to
thinkers as Hayek and Friedman, and put in practice by the Reagan and Thatcher
administration, are that free trade, property right and free markets will lead to a more
innovative, richer and more tolerant world (Lamy, 2008: 131). Economic failure is, in
their perspective, often the result of too much state intervention (O’Brien&Williams,

2007: 19). Because of this, massive privatizations of state enterprises are advised, not
only because these are supposed to be more ‘efficient’, but also because it is believed
that this will increase exports and an integration in the world capitalist system, which
leads a trade surplus to accommodate debt service payments and control inflation in
order to close budget deficits and restore fiscal solvency and macroeconomic
equilibrium (Robinson, 2008: 19). The implications of Neoliberal policies and its
effects on a society will be discussed in the historical chapter, in the neoliberal history
of Latin America and neoliberal thoughts and practices as the hegemonic paradigm
since around the 1970s.

1.2 The legacies of Karl Marx

In Latin American countries, the wealth has been distributed highly unequal, with
large segments of the population being beneath poverty lines, which is one of the
reasons why social movements have been influenced by Marxist and neo-Marxist
theories. A rich variety of Marxist schools of thought have emerged since Marx’
publications, some of which are directly relying on the legacies of the traditional
literature (Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto), and others following a more
anti-systemic version or focussing on the shortcomings of ‘orthodox’ Marxism. The
varieties and disagreements between these schools of thought are so wide, that in no
way I can explore all of them here. For the point of my thesis, I will outline some
basic assumptions on which most Marxist thinkers agree, and later on in this chapter
introduce the Marxist schools of thought that I rely on in my analysis.

The first Marxist legacy that most theorists agree on is that the social world should be
analyzed in its totality (Hobden;Jones, 2008: 145). There should be no academic
division between economics, politics, sociology, history etc since all of there are part
of the same process and as such are interrelated. A second element is the assumption
that processes of historical change are reflections of the economic development in a
society: the materialist conception of history (ibid.). This dynamic occurs out of a
tension between the means and relations of production, which together form the
economic base. As the means of production change (for example through outsourcing
or technological development), the relations of production automatically change. This
then works as a catalyst for change in society as a whole; changes in the legal and

political superstructure (ibid.: 146). As will be explained later, Marxist thinkers like
Gramsci, do take this legacy but develop their own particular ideas on how changes in
society occur, leaving the explicitly economic explanation. The third basic Marxist
point of agreement is that there is no harmony of interest, as the Liberals would like
us to believe, there is a struggle between classes: ‘The history of all hitherto existing
societies is the history of class struggle (Marx; Engels, 1998: 55).’ In capitalist
societies, there is always as struggle between the rich bourgeoisie, who own the
means of production, and the poor working class or proletariat. When taken to the
international sphere, this lack of harmony of interest become clear in the way the
relative prosperity of a few is dependent on the deprivation of the many. In Marx’
own words: ‘Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time
accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality at the opposite
pole (in Hobden; Jones, 2008: 145).’ The way in which inequality (within as well as
between countries) and extreme poverty, as well as the numbers of billionaires are
still rising around the world seems to under scribe this point (see World Bank, United
Nations Development Programme, Jubilee Research in Hobden;Jones 2008).

With regard to the means of science, Marx didn’t argued that in stead of just
explaining, the point of science should be to change society. He was committed to the
cause of emancipation. One thing that clearly differentiated Marxism with Realist en
Liberalist thought, is that the latter’s representation of the world collides with the
world that is presented by us though the traditional media, while Marxism presents an
unconventional view of international relations. It aims to expose a deeper, hidden
truth: all the events of world politics occur within the structures (of global capitalism)
which at the same time influence these events (Hobden;Jones, 2008: 144). This
challenges us to look more closely at the systemic features of the world capitalist
system and explore the way power relations influence the social world. The world-
system Marxists, New Marxists, Post-Marxists, critical theorists and Gramscian
Marxists draw to different extends from the direct legacies of Marx and their
differences are to wide and numerous to be explored in this thesis. They do take the
basic Marxist thoughts as their point of departure, but end up in different destinations.
The Gramscian and post-Marxist and critical theories that are useful in explaining
counter-hegemonic tendencies, will be explored in this chapter later on.

1.3 Finding the ‘Truth’

As I will stress later on, when theorizing on counterhegemonic movements, it is

necessary to keep in mind the subjectivity of the researcher, to realize that facts
cannot easily be separated from facts and that it would be disturbing to see one’s
analysis as ‘the truth’. Since postcolonialism and decolonizing is one of the central
pillars of a counterhegemonic movement in Latin America, I will outline the basic
post-modern theories and explore the debate around the possibility of the existence of
‘the truth’.

Realism, (Neo-)Liberalism and some Marxist theories are foundational and problem
solving theories. There ‘rationalists’ believe that there are objective criteria against
which the social world can be measured and seek to find objective laws and
generalizations. Truth claims are either true of false. Anti-foundationalists and critical
theorists claim that there is no such thing as ‘the truth’ or objective social science and
distrust any theory that claims to have ‘the truth’: there are no neutral grounds to test
these claims to. Positivists see a difference between facts and values and post-
positivists see no such distinction. This is the main difference between positivists and
post-positivists of which social constructivists claim to be in the middle of. Social
constructivists’ main objective is to show how ideas shape the international structure.
They claim that the meaning and construction of the material reality is dependent on
ideas and interpretation, which is called the social construction of reality (Barnett,
2008: 163). The difference between social constructivist and post-positivists is that
the latter don’t believe in an objective ontology nor epistemology, while the former
don’t believe in the objectivity of an ontology but do believe in an objective
epistemology. In other words: social constructivists agree on the post-positivists’
assumption there is no such thing as ‘the truth’, but they do believe that we can
uncover these different truths. It explores the way in which people view the world is
constructed by their (subjective) ideas and assumptions. One famous example of the
social constructivists line of reasoning is Alexander Wendt’s 1992 article ‘Anarchy is
what states make of it’. His central argument is that anarchy is not a structure but a
process (Wendt, 1992: 394) and that the Realist assumptions ‘selfhelp’ and
‘powerpolitics’ have to be seen as institutions and not as essential elements of
anarchy. Thus, ‘anarchy is what states make of it (ibid.: 395)’. In other words, if states

believe that nobody is to be trusted than they will automatically start behaving in that
manner. With this theory Wendt shows how the Realist line of reasoning and their
disposition of knowing the absolute truth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He
shows how different believes and practices generate different patterns of organization
and action of world politics. According to social constructivists, actors are ‘produced
and created by their cultural environment’; their identities and interests are socially
constructed. Knowledge (symbols, rules concepts etc) shapes how actors construct
and interpret their world (Barnett, 2008:163).

Because reality is socially constructed, we must question that what is taken for
granted (common sense). Richard Ashley has shown how different regimes of truth
reflect the ways in which power and truth develop together in a mutually sustaining
relationship throughout history. Certain claims are only ‘true’ within certain
discourses. According to Jaques Derrida: ‘..the world is constructed like a text in the
sense that interpreting the world reflects the concepts and structures of language, what
he terms textual interplay (in Smith, Owens, 2008: 186).’ All knowledge is situated in
a particular time and place and issues from a particular perspective. There is no one
grand history, it is not possible to identify general laws and explain continuity over
time. There is no ‘truth’, only ‘regimes of truth’ (Devetak, 1996: 82) in which the way
in which truth and power are mutually produced and sustained. Foucault, who claims
that there is no truth outside power, works out this theory further. Power produces
knowledge and knowledge presupposes certain power relations (Foucault, 1980: 109-
133). According to Derrida, these regimes of truth have to be exposed by double
reading and deconstruction. Deconstruction is a way of showing how all theories and
discourses rely on artificial stabilities produced by the use of seemingly objective and
neutral oppositions like good and bad, male and female etc. Double reading is a way
to show that there is no one correct way of reading a text but to show that there is
always more than one reading.

Postcolonial theories (the ‘post’ in this sense doesn’t mean something like ‘after’
colonialism but rather implies that the theories fall under the post-positivists
tradition), to be explored later on in this chapter, make a lot of use of these concepts
of regimes of truth, the social construction of reality and the use of language. Walter
Mignolo states, for example that: ‘The point should be to avoid the ‘modern

expectation’ that there is a word that carries the true meaning of the thing instead of
the form of consciousness and the universe of meaning in which the word means.
Meaning is not a ‘true value’ but a reflection of cognitive (epistemic and hermeneutic)
force and import within particular geo-political designs (Mignolo, 2007: 476).’ He
therefore stresses the importance of de-colonizing knowledge, a concept that I will
develop further on in this chapter.

There is also a difference between explanatory and constitutive theories. Explanatory

theorists believe that the world is something external from our theories about it and
that the main task of a social scientists is to uncover regularities. The constitutive
theorist however believes that our theories help construct the world and our language
and concepts to do this help create a certain world (Smith, Owens, 2008: 177). I
already briefly discusses this idea with Waltz’ theory about the social construction of
anarchy, but an even more accurate and contemporary example is the debate on the
so-called ‘Clash of Civilization (Huntington, 1993)’. This is not the place to discuss
the fact whether or not there actually is a Clash of Civilizations but what interests us
here is where the debate touches the question whether one uses an explanatory of
constitutive theory. Samuel Huntington’s central thesis is that the fundamental
sources for conflict after the Cold War will no longer be ideological but cultural
(Huntington defines culture mainly by religion) (Huntington, 1993: 22). Huntington
claims, as a rationalist and explanatory thinker, that he only discovers and analyses
the ‘clash’, but Amartya Sen’s (2006) main point of ‘clash’- criticisms is that
Huntington doesn’t see that he also feeds and influences the ‘clash’. Theories
influence social reality and if people think that they have fundamental differences
which lead to a ‘clash of civilizations’, they will start to behave in that manner. This
is how the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (Sen,

Robert W. Cox, a critical theorist who’s thoughts on hegemony will be covered later
on in this chapter, gives a very clear distinction between critical and problem solving
theory. Problem solving theory takes the current order with its social and power
relations as given and helps solve specific problems, for a smoother functioning of the
existing order. Problem solving theories serve particular national, sectional, or class
interests which is comfortable within the given order (1995: 31-32; 1981: 88-98). An

example is of course Realism, which can be seen as advising states to survives in an
anarchic and hostile international sphere (Dunne; Schmidt, 2008: 92). Cox indeed
states that structural or neo-Realism has transformed the Realist tradition in a form of
problem solving theory (Cox, 1981: 91). Critical theory on the other hand, is
concerned with how the existing order came into being and what the possibilities
could be for change. It is aware of perspectives, its relations to these different
perspectives and open to the possibility of choosing a perspective, which leads to
different outcomes. Critical theory does not take institutions and social relations for
granted but looks at the origins and possibilities for change. By doing this, it leads
toward the construction of a larger picture of the whole. Critical theory can be a guide
to strategic action which leads to change and brings about an alternative world order
while problem solving theories can be seen as guides for strategic actions to maintain
the given order (1995: 32; 1981: 88-90). As Holloway (2002) (among others) states,
Realist theories see ‘what ought to be’ as no part of reality. They claim to theorize
only to discover the truth (which in practise means to maintain the given order and
power relations), while critical theorists theorize to work toward change. Holloway
therefore pleads for a unity of ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’ is social science’s
(Holloway, 2002: 7)

Cox famously stated that ‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose (Cox,
1981: 87).’ With this he means that there is no theory independent of a concrete
historical context (Cox, 1995: 31). All theories have perspectives and these derive
from a specific period in time and social and political conditions. People see the world
from their (social, political, national) standpoint of domination or subordination etc
(Cox, 1981: 87; 1995: 31). We need to look at the context in which a theory is used
and whether the used aims at maintaining the current order or at changing it (Cox,
1995: 31). Cox outlines some basic premises of a critical theorist: be aware that action
is never free but ‘….takes place within a framework for action which constitutes its
problematic (Cox, 1981: 97). Theory is also shaped by this problematic. We have to
be conscious of our own relativity. The framework for action changes over time; one
has to understand these changes, and the framework is to be viewed not from the top
but from the bottom or from outside (Cox, 1981: 97).

Robert W. Cox utilizes this line of theorization to bring Gramscian thought to the
study of international relations. I will now explore Gramsci’s concept of ideological
hegemony and counterhegemony, in what can be considered to be one of the most
important parts of the theoretical framework.

1.4 Gramsci and Intellectual Hegemony

Gramsci’s Marxism can be seen as a response to positivist Marxism. Gramsci saw

Marxism as an ideology and not so much as a scientific methodology. Marx himself
saw man as the maker of history, but this aspect of his thought has been neglected by
most of the influential Marxists after Marx. The generation of Marxists from Kautsky
to Stalin upheld the assumption that the historical process obeys certain laws of
regularity. The growing numerical strength of the labour class would automatically
result in a transition from a capitalist to a socialist society (Salamani, 1974: 361). As
this revolution didn’t occur, Gramsci sought to explain the reasons for the failure of a
proletarian revolution in Western Europe. Marxist revisionists such as Bernstein,
stressed that socialist transformation could only occur through democratic, legalistic
and parliamentary manners, because of the growing strength of capitalism. But
Gramsci stressed that there are no universal laws and automatic outcomes; human
agency is what brings about change in a society. ‘Socialist revolutions failed and will
continue to fail (…) as long as the subjective components of Marxist theory are
deficient (Salamani, 1974: 363).’

Hence, one of the main differences between orthodox Marxism and Gramsci is his
emphasis on human agency and its ability to bring about change, in contrast to the
determination of human subjects by economic relations of production (Martin, 1998:
76). Gramsci believed that the relations of production didn’t evolve according to
general self-generating laws but are regulated and modified by ‘human
consciousness’. This ‘economic moment of consciousness’ consists out of a ‘…
negative phase (realm of necessity) in the historical ascendancy of subaltern classes
toward political hegemony, which must be transcended and replaced by a positive
phase (realm of liberty) characterized by the creation of a new proletarian
Weltanschauung providing the masses with entirely new categories of thought
(Salamani, 1974: 367).’

Besides human agency, subjectivity plays an important role in Gramscian thought.
According to Gramsci, it was necessary to reintroduce ‘subjectivity’ into Marxist
thought, and to move away from the positivist rationalism. There was not enough
attention for subjective conciseness in Marxism and the role it plays in constituting
economic relations of productions and the role they could play in overthrowing them.
Only when a class manages to represent its own structural needs ‘as a unifying,
universal conciseness or collective will’, in other words; when is has established its
own cultural and political hegemony, it is able to exercise state power (Martin, 1998:

Gramsci agrees with Marx on the principle of the social determination of knowledge
(which means that ideas do not have an independent existence but are linked to
specific socio-economic conditions and the dominant ideas are those of the ruling
class), but according to Marx, this is not an obstacle to objectivity since the proletariat
is the bearer of objectivity (Salamani, 1974: 375). For Gramsci however, all
knowledge, including science, is ideological (Ibid.: 376). There are always alternative
forces in society but these are disintegrated and need to organize to form a historical
alternative. For Gramsci, the superstructural element, such as consciousness, ideology
and culture determine the outcome of a possible revolution.

Having briefly outlined the main differences between orthodox Marxism and
Gramsci’s political thought, those being an emphasis on human agency, subjectivity
and the open ended-ness of history, I will now move on to explaining Gramsci’s most
important intellectual legacies: ideological hegemony.

1.5 On Hegemony

Antonio Gramsci introduced the concept of ideological hegemony to explain the

failure of the proletarian revolution to take place In Western Europe (Hobden; Jones,
2008: 150). According to Gramscian thought, in hegemony ‘a certain way of life and
thought is dominant, and is diffused throughout society to inform norms, values and
tastes, political practices, and social relations (Katz, 2006: 335).’ This, political, moral
and cultural hegemony results from a combination of coercion and consent and allows

the values of the dominant group to become accepted by subordinate groups and
classes as their own (Hobden; Jones, 2008: 150). The reason that a revolution won’t
take place, in other words, is the fact that some aspects of ‘civil society’ are co-opted
by the state and used ‘to secure acquiescence of the dominant classes and
identification with the hegemonic world-order (Katz, 2006: 335).’ The ruling class
thus creates cultural and political consensus and is able to rule out ideas that is sees as
potentially dangerous. In this way, society is held together by a form of hegemony,
which is rooted in ‘civil society’ (Birchfield, 1999: 42).

For Gramsci, hegemony reflects his conceptualization of power. His notion of

hegemony stems from the intellectual legacies of Machiavelli and Lenin. Machiavelli
wrote in ‘The Prince’ about a creature that was half man, half beast: a combination of
coercion and consent. But where Machiavelli looked at the individual prince, Gramsci
looked at the extended state, which will be covered later on in this chapter, and the
revolutionary political party engaged in developing a dialogue with its base of support
(Cox, 1983: 127). Throughout history, Marxists have almost exclusively focussed on
the coercion part of Machiavelli’s concept of power. Gramsci stressed that this might
have led to an accurate analysis of what happened during the Russian Revolution, but
that this was not the case in the ‘modern’ West. Here the order was maintained
through consent. This differentiation also leads to different recommendations in the
case of revolutionary struggle (‘war of manoeuvre’ or ‘war of position’), which will
be dealt with later on in this chapter. In the West, consensual power must be at the
forefront for hegemony to prevail. Force is only applied to marginal, deviant classes
because most of the time, hegemony is enough to ensure the behaviour of people
(Cox, 1983: 127).

The second ideological legacy that Gramsci used in conceptualizing his notion of
hegemony, is that of Lenin. But where Lenin conceptualized hegemony as the
dictatorship of the proletariat, which was actually a form of domination, Gramsci saw
hegemony as something that was ideological first, and political only secondly
(Salamani, 1974: 368). Also, Gramsci began to imply this theory on the bourgeoisie;
to the mechanisms of hegemony of the dominant classes (Cox, 1983: 125-126). In
contrast with Lenin, Gramsci also focussed on the self-governance of the masses; and
his concept was one of ‘inclusive hegemony (Martin, 1998: 86)’. In the dictatorship of

the proletariat, the other classes are left out, while in Gramsci’s notion of hegemony,
the other classes are being incorporated with the use of consent.

Gramsci’s notion of hegemony goes beyond an economist Marxist view which would
see hegemony as a false ideology which blinds the masses to the reality of state power
and their exploitation in the system (Buci-Glucksmann, 1982: 116). He looks at the
different ways in which consent can be established in different societies in different
historical periods by different classes and develops the possibilities for alternative
systems to arise, and the opportunities for the transformation of liberal democracy and
the creation of new forms of democratic control (Ibid.). Gramsci thus addresses the
issue of power and domination through a lens of culture and ideology (Martin, 1998:
2). In ‘modern’ Western societies, more force means less hegemony. Moreover,
hegemony is never imposed on a class; ‘…it is conquered through a intellectual and
moral dimension and through policies of alliances which must open up the national
perspective to the whole of society (Buci-Glucksmann, 1982: 120).’

In short, hegemony by the ruling classes in society allows the moral, political, and
cultural values of the dominant groups to be accepted by the subordinated groups as
their own. ‘The hegemony of a class consists in its ability to represent the ‘universal’
interests of the whole of society and to unite to itself a group of allies (Showstack
Sassoon, 1982: 111).’ This takes place though the networks of civil society (media,
education system, NGOs), which enjoy just enough autonomy from the state to
maintain the status quo. It must be stressed that Gramsci’s notion of hegemony is a
very broad one, which means that I am not even close in covering the possible uses of
the concept in a Gramscian sense (see for example Martin, 1998). Next, I will cover
the other concepts developed by Gramsci, which help explain how hegemony works
and what the possibilities could be for counter-hegemonic movements.

1.6 Consent and Common Sense (in the ‘Western’ tradition)

Where traditionally, Marxists have focussed on the coercion part of hegemony, in

Gramscian thought consent is the most important component in the establishment of
hegemony. The traditional/Liberal account of consent, leading back to John Locke is
the limitation of the power of the state to a restricted area while protecting the rights

of the individual. In the Gramscian sense, consent has become to mean something
completely different. Consent has to be seen as an integral component of modern
mass politics. In ‘modern’ western states, the bourgeois was able to maintain
economic advantage over the proletariat by getting their political and cultural support.
As mentioned before, consent is more important than force; more force can even
mean less hegemony. In contrast with orthodox Marxism, Gramsci stressed that the
economic base does not entirely determine the political and ideological
superstructure. There is a correspondence between the base and the superstructure in
which one class is able to promote popular consent to its rule in the form of
‘intellectual and moral leadership’ (Martin, 1998: 65). This makes hegemony a ‘mode
of social control by which one group exerts its dominance over others by means of
ideology (Martin, 1998: 66).’

In ‘modern’ Western European capitalist states this interaction between the state and
‘civil society’ has even led to the protection of the state by ‘civil society’ (Martin,
1998: 68), which necessitates a ‘war of position’ in the case of a revolutionary
uprising (which will be covered later on). According to Gramsci, class politics in
these states has transformed because now the working class is now incorporated by
the system, with the use of consent.

According to Buci-Glucksmann (1982) consent can be passive and indirect or active

and direct. Passive consent is thus indirect (without popular initiative), through statist
domination, is repressive and bureaucratic, with bourgeois domination, and is statist:
which means that a passive revolution can take place. Active consent is direct (self
organized by the masses), through hegemonic leadership, is expansive and
democratic, working-class dominated and anti-statist: which means a popular and
democratic active revolution (Buci-Glucksmann, 1982: 122).

As mentioned before, hegemony is never imposed on a class. Far from that, consent is
arrived at through a series of struggles in which the dominant social group makes
some compromises with the subordinate groups in order to promote some general
interest (Worth, 2002: 298). This “general interest” serves the hegemonic norm and
their norms and values are saturated in civil society as being their owns.

Hegemony functions in the public sphere not just through political aspects but
through a network of institutions that enjoy some autonomy from the state like the
media, the education system, the church, art, literature etc (Birchfield, 1999; Hobden;
Jones, 2008). In the words of Birchfield (1999): ‘Ideological hegemony comes into
play when there is uncontested common sense, despite the internal contradictions of
any such single conception of the world which serves the dominant few to the
detriment of the marginalized many (Birchfield, 1999: 45).’ ‘Common sense’ can,
according to Birchfield, be understood as a fragmentary and uncritical conception of
the world.

In the Gramscian way of thought, common sense does not have the same meaning as
it does in ‘common’ English language. In fact, it can be seen as an‘…incoherent and
sometimes contradictory set of assumptions an believes held by the mass of the
population. (Showstack Sassoon, 1982: 13)’. Gramsci conceptualized ‘good sense’ as
its antithesis, which can be understood as meaning the ‘common’ use of the notion of
‘common sense’ in English language.

In the 1960s it was commonly said that there was no revolution happening because
everybody benefited from capitalism. As a response, a Gramscian would criticize this
assumption on the basis that there was a ‘…passive common consent achieved
through the control of public institutions such as the media and education system by
groups inclined to support the status quo (Martin, 1998: 119).’ In other words, there is
a ‘common sense’ in civil society institutions that the maintenance of the status quo is
in everybody’s best interest. The same can be said about the current assumption that
free trade economic policies benefit everybody. This believe has been common sense
in most of the world since about the 1970s (and perhaps still is) while free trade is
mainly in the interest of the richest countries and deprives most of the worlds

Another example of how ‘common sense’ assumptions can be used to achieve the
consent of the population for a certain order is described by Hell at al. (1978) in
‘Policing the Crisis’. They describe the way in which issues of ‘race’, crime and ‘law
and order’ were used by the print and television media and politicians to ‘…construct
an ideological frame though which people would experience economic and social

change as a threat to ‘national’ integrity (quoted in Martin, 1998: 124).’ We can see
the same thing happening at this moment in Western Europe and the media’s and
politician’s obsession with the ‘immigration problems’ and the Islam.

1.7 State, Civil Society and Historic Bloc

Gramsci didn’t see the state in the Realist sense of the word, but talked about the
extended state, in the sense that it incorporated the church, educational system, press
and all other institutions which help to establish hegemony and create in people
certain modes of behaviour and expectations consistent with the hegemonic order
(Cox, 1983: 126).

Within a state, political and civil society represent coercion and consent and a
particular balance between them is necessary for hegemony. At the time of writing,
this was the case in western capitalist societies and not in Russia, which is why the
Russian bourgeoisie was so easily overthrown. According to Cox, the hegemony of
the dominant class bridges the categories of the state and civil society (Cox, 1983:
127). So, the political society is identified with the exercise of coercion and in civil
society hegemony is being exercised through ‘spontaneous consent’ (Martin, 1998:
69). The effect is that a different form of ‘emancipation’ is needed: the state is not just
a bourgeois instrument but also carried interests of several non-state actors so ‘…a
strategy designed primarily at assaulting state institutions (political society) would
still find that the old bourgeois order retained support in civil society (Martin, 1998:
72).’ This leads to Gramsci’s explanation of the failure of a proletarian revolution in
Western Europe. The orthodox Marxist failed in grasping the way in which the base
and superstructure where entangled and society in Western Europe was more complex
than they thought it was. According to Showstack-Sassoon (1982)‘… the extended
state is a product of a situation in which the potential of the mass movement is a
constant threat (Showstack-Sassoon, 1982: 103).’ This means that in order to establish
hegemony in a ‘modern’ capitalist society, some concessions have to be made with
the subordinate classes in order to receive their consent for the given order.

The mutually reinforcing relationship between the socioeconomic relations (base) and
political and cultural practices of the state and civil society (superstructure), where

described by Gramsci as an historic bloc, which forms the basis for the given (world-)
order (Hobden; Jones: 2008). They are a mutually independent whole, are organically
linked and reciprocal (Martin, 1998: 84). Gramsci went further than Marx’s
understanding of false consciousness, which in fact plays a big role in the
establishment of an hegemonic order, by realizing that there was a sort of
entanglement of the base and superstructure in which social forces where operating to
maintain the system (Birchfield, 1999: 42). For Gramsci, the superstructure is of main
importance for an accurate explanation of hegemony and change in society.

An historic bloc can also be seen as the ‘solid structure’ which is created when
hegemony is in place; in ‘binds’ and ‘glues’ other parts of society together and makes
homogeneous norms of political economic practices and culture (Worth, 2002: 298-
299). The state maintains cohesion and identity within a bloc by the propagation of a
common culture and the survival of the bloc depends on the strength of its hegemony.
When this is ideologically challenged, the bloc begins to wither away to make place
for a passive, or a counter-hegemonic revolution.

1.8 Passive Revolution, Transformismo, ‘War’ of Movement or Position

Not all Western European states where bourgeois hegemonies, some had never had a
social revolution but had imported the revolutions started in other states, without the
old order being displaced. In these countries, the industrial bourgeois failed to achieve
hegemony, which created the conditions for a ‘passive revolution’ in which changes
do not involve any arousal of popular forces (Cox, 1983: 129). In these cases,
transformismo is in place, to co-opt the potential leaders of subaltern groups. It can
serve as a strategy of domesticating potentially dangerous ideas by adjusting them to
the policies of the dominant order with which it obstructs the formation of ‘class-
based organized opposition to established social and political power (Cox, 1983:
130).’ A passive revolution is a counterpart of hegemony. It describes a non-
hegemonic society.

In a bourgeois hegemony, a ‘war of manoeuvre’ (military attack) is ineffective as a

means to revolution. This was only effective in the Russian Revolution (and perhaps
later on in Cuba), as their bourgeoisie only relied on coercion and not on consent. It

was not a hegemonic society like most Western European states where. As I stated
before, in Western capitalist states, the state is not just a bourgeois instrument but also
carried interests of several non-state actors so ‘…a strategy designed primarily at
assaulting state institutions (political society) would still find that the old bourgeois
order retained support in civil society (Martin, 1998: 72).’ What is needed is a ‘war of
position’: an intellectual and ideological ‘war’ to undermine the hegemony of the
dominant classes. This is a long-term task to create an ideological alternative for a
more sustainable form of resistance. Revolution should not be imposed on the masses
and then seek their consent but it is necessary to form collectively endorsed set of
ethics. This is also a big difference with Lenin’s notion of the proletarian revolution.

Organic intellectuals are of great importance for the establishment of a new ideology.
They perform a revolutionary political role on the basis of intellectual and moral
leadership over the people (Martin, 1998: 99). Gramsci didn’t have an elitist notion of
organic intellectual; everyone could be an intellectual but some of us made it their
fulltime commitment.

Thus, the strategy should be to start with a ‘war of position’; a series of ideological
attacks on the outer defences, to weaken the ideological hegemony of the dominant
classes and build an alternative ideology. Afterwards, one should seize state power
(Martin, 1998: 96). Seizing state power does not imply a military coup or anything of
that kind, since that would imply a ‘war of movement’. The ‘seizure’ of state power
can in this sense be established by winning elections etc. When an alternative,
proletarian hegemony is established, a military assault is a strategic option according
to Gramscian thought, because the defence of bourgeois civil society is already
weakened. Under contemporary conditions, there was no obvious tension between
classes but class power was manifested through efforts to adapt civil society to
economic needs defined as ‘universal’ and promoted through the state (Martin, 1998:
73). I will now cover the Gramscian notion of counter hegemony and the
establishment of an alternative historic bloc. Gramsci didn’t just theorize on
hegemony, he looked at the possibilities for change in the system of power relations,
by establishing an alterative form of hegemony to counter the hegemony of the ruling
classes. This is what makes it a crucial aspect for analyzing the current movement in
Latin America.

1.9 Counter Hegemony and the Alternative Historic Bloc

The reason to start a ‘war of position’ is to develop an alternative historic bloc within
the current system. Only when an alternative is already built, once an alternative
ideological hegemony is established, a counter-attack can be successful. An old
society can only be destroyed if a new one is already consolidated (Showstack
Sassoon, 1982: 15). The state and society together form a solid structure, which
means that the only way that a ‘revolution’ can be successful is by developing an
alternative structure to replace the first (Cox, 1983: 131). This structure can be seen as
an alternative historic bloc; an intellectual defence against the co-option by
transformismo (ibid.). Ideological hegemony is the prime necessity for the actual
seizure of state power and the creation of a new state (Salamani, 1974: 268). A new
bloc can be formed when a subordinate class (for example the workers) establishes its
hegemony over other subordinate classes (like small farmers etc).

An alternative historic bloc needs a hegemonic class of organic intellectuals, but this
should not be seen in an elitist way, as I emphasized before. The organic intellectuals
of the working class need to evolve a ‘…clearly distinctive culture, organization, and
technique (Cox, 1983: 132)’ in constant interaction with the members of an emergent
bloc, to create a new historic bloc under working-class hegemony within the society

Hence, what needs to be done firstly is the creation of a new Weltanschauung for the
subordinate classes, since an ideological revolution is a precondition for a political
revolution in ‘modern’ Western societies. In the old historic bloc, the bourgeois
classes have managed to create the consent of the subordinate classes by
‘impregnating’ them with their Weltanschauung: ‘Bourgeois Weltanschauung
diffused, popularized, and finally internalized by the masses become “common sense
knowledge” (Salamani, 1974: 370).’ The organic intellectuals of the proletarian
classes have to develop a new concept of the world with new ideas, institutions, a new
culture and new social arrangements to challenge bourgeois Weltanschauung. This is
the only way to create a new intellectual order and win consent for their worldview; to
transform the ideological hegemony. This transformation can happen in stages. It

usually starts with a disillusionment with the current order. This order is then
challenged by alternative ideologies and social forces which serve as
counterhegemonic forces. In the end, certain compromises are made with the resistant
groups and they become saturated into the new hegemonic order (Worth, 2002: 299).
This incorporation of other classes is indeed the main difference between Lenin’s
dictatorship and Gramsci’s hegemony of the proletariat.

It needs to be stressed that according to Gramscian thought, history is open ended.

Organic intellectuals can try to win consent for their alternative ideology, but in times
of crisis contradicting ideologies can also win the consent of the masses. In the Prison
Notebooks, Gramsci analyzed the breakdown of the liberal regime in Italy, as the
balance between force and consent, the state and society, got lost and created
circumstanced for a ‘new order’. In opposition to orthodox Marxism, Gramsci
stressed that economic crisis’s by themselves didn’t create ruptures on a global scale;
there are other necessities. To begin creating an alternative historic bloc, what is
necessary is not just an intervention by the working class but the ability to unite
different social forces going beyond their corporate interest (Showstack Sassoon,
1982: 114). The role of organic intellectuals shouldn’t be underestimated in this
sense. Owen Worth (2002) stresses that counterhegemonic tendencies can also be
nationalistic and from the far right; not the progressive ‘modern prince’ Gramsci was
talking about. In these cases, the progressive organic intellectuals need to join forces
to establish a different ‘war of position’ to fight for the hegemony of their ideology.

1.10 World Hegemony

Gramsci’s theories have to be understood in their particular time and place (Italy
during fascist rule) and it has to be taken into account that Gramsci theorized about
the national sphere. Robert W. Cox can be seen as the theorist who introduced
Gramscian thought in the study of world politics and international relations.
According to Cox, hegemony ‘…means dominance of a particular kind where the
dominant state creates an order based ideologically on broad measures of consent,
functioning according to general principles that in fact ensure the continuing
supremacy of the leading state or states and leading social classes but at the same time
offer some measure or prospect of satisfaction to the less powerful (Cox, 1987: 7).’

Cox thus argues that dominant powers in the international system have shaped the
world in order to suit their interests. They have done so by using both coercion and by
managing to generate broad consent for that order, even by those who are
disadvantaged by it (Hobden; Jones, 2008: 151). Dominance is a necessary but not a
sufficient condition for hegemony. Hegemony consist out of a ‘fit’ between ‘a
configuration of material power, the prevalent collective image of world order
(including certain norms) and a set of institutions which administer the order with a
certain semblance of universality (Bieler; Morton: 86). Cox thus takes from Gramsci
the idea that hegemony functions through force and consent, and that force is not
needed when the weak accept the prevailing power relations as legitimate. One is
hegemonic if this group or class can express their leadership in terms of general (and
not just their own) interest (Cox, 1981: 99).

In the field of international relations, hegemony is very often used to describe

dominance of one state over another, but as I explained before, this is very different
from what Gramsci meant and how Cox explains hegemony in the international
sphere. Cox differentiates four historic periods, which are either hegemonic or non-
hegemonic. The fist period, between 1845 and 1875 was hegemonic with, Britain as
the hegemon. Their economic doctrines and ideas (free trade, comparative advantage,
gold standard etc) spread over the world. The second period, from 1875 to 1945 was
non-hegemonic; balance of power destabilized and the 2nd world war broke out. The
third period, between 1945 and 1965 was hegemonic again, with the US in the centre.
They used the same doctrines as Britain but had to operate in a more complex world
economy. Since the decline of US hegemony Cox sees three opportunities: (1) a new
hegemonic period generated by the internationalization of production and a
broadening of political management on the lines of the Trilateral Commission; (2) a
non-hegemonic world structure of conflicting power centres and; (3) the possibility of
a counterhegemonic movement based in the Third World (Cox, 1981: 113-155; 1983:

If you look at these examples, it looks like historically to be hegemonic it is necessary

to ‘…found and protect a world order which was universal in conception…’, which
means not just the direct exploitation from one state of another but an order which
other states find compatible with their interests (Cox, 1983: 136). A world hegemony

begins in the national sphere where it is established by the dominant social class, it
than expands outwards as the culture, the technology, the economic and the social
institutions associated with the hegemon become patterns for accumulation abroad
(Cox, 1983: 137). In the more peripheral countries this happens as a passive
revolution as their elites are embedded by transformismo. World hegemony is more
intense and consistent is the core that in the periphery, where it is more laden with
contradictions (Cox, 1983: 137). World hegemony should not be seen as an order
between states, but an order within a world economy in which modes of production
go beyond borders and links into subordinate modes of production. International
social relationships connect social classes around the world. ‘World hegemony can be
described as a social structure, an economic structure, and a political structure; and it
cannot be simply one of these things but must be all three (Cox, 1983: 137).’
Universal norms, institutions etc lay down the rules for states and civil society to

Cox developed a model for hegemony in which three categories of forces interact
within a structure, in a reciprocal manner: material capabilities, ideas and institutions.
Material capabilities can be dynamic as technological and organizational capabilities,
or accumulative as natural resources. Ideas are of two kinds: intersubjective meanings
and collective images of the social order. Intersubjective meanings are shared notions
on the nature of social relations which then perpetuate habits and expected behaviour
(Cox, 1981: 98). Because people think in the same way, their actions perpetuate this
reality (Cox: 1995: 33). This also involves ontology’s: what we see as significant,
what are the basic entities and key relationships (ibid. 34). Institutionalization is a
means of stabilizing and perpetuating a particular order; to encourage collective
images that are consistent with the power relations. ‘Institutions are particular
amalgams of ideas and material power which in turn influence the development of
ideas and material capabilities (Cox, 1981: 99).

In the international sphere, international institutions function as ‘…the process

through which the institutions of hegemony and its ideology are developed (Cox,
1983: 137).’ This is because of five reasons: the institutions embody the rules which
facilitate the expansion of the hegemonic order; they are themselves a product of this
order’ they ideologically legitimize the norms of the world order; they co-opt the

elites from peripheral countries (transformismo) and; they absorb counterhegemonic
ideas (Cox, 1983: 138). These international institutions are usually initiated by the
state which established the hegemony (Cox, 1983: 138). ‘Hegemony is like a pillow:
it absorbs blows and sooner or later the would-be assailant will find it comfortable to
rest upon (Cox, 1983: 139).’ Transformismo works as to absorbs potentially
counterhegemonic ideas and makes these consistent with the hegemonic order.

This method of historical structures is applied on three levels: social forces, forms of
state and world orders. Seen separately, these can be seen as particular configurations
of material capabilities, ideas, and institutions. The three levels are interrelated;
changes in the organization of production bring about new social forces which
generate changes in the structure of states and if these are generalized the structure of
states alters the world order (Cox, 1981: 100). But changes in the world order can for
example bring about changes in the mode of production. According to Cox, change
happens in the realm of social forces, and these are formed by changes in the relation
of production (Cox, 1981: 105). For him this is the starting point of thinking about a
possible future. Change can come about because each historical structure has its
coherence but also its elements of contradiction or conflict. In the Gramscian fashion,
Cox explains that contrasting alternative structure arise within existing dominant
structures (Cox, 1995: 35).

Presumably, the emergence of a new historic bloc will happen trough fundamental
changes in social relations in the national political orders. Cox explains that the
prolonged crisis of the ’60 and ‘70s caused the developments which led to
possibilities for change, and this could be said about the current economic and
political crisis as well. An alternative needs to be established in the national order but
is influenced by world-economic and world-political conditions, which influence the
prospects for change. According to Cox: ‘….only a war of position can, in the long
run, bring about the structural changes, and a war of position involves building up the
socio-political base for change through the creation of new historic blocs (Cox, 1983:
140).’ A Gramscian modern prince, in the international sphere identified as effective
political organization, is needed to build a bridge between different grassroots
organizations and to rally the new working class (Cox, 1983: 140-141). But the task

of changing world order begins with the ‘…long, laborious effort to build new
historic blocs within national borders (Cox, 1983: 141).’

In the next part of this chapter, I will go deeper into the question of what a
counterhegemonic movement should look like. Certain post-Marxist thinkers claim
that we should forget completely about state power, while others (neo-Marxists for
example) stress the importance of political parties for a successful counterhegemonic

1.11 What About the State?

The collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall on the one hand leaded to
a neoliberal triumph: a believe in the ‘end of history (Fukuyama, 1989)’ in which all
the countries in the world would be capitalist and have liberal democratic, capital
friendly governments. In common sense media and thought, especially in Western
Europe and the United States, but also among the elites in Southern countries,
socialism and communism where in disregard and associated with repressive Stalinist
policies. On the other hand, the collapse of Soviet ‘communism’ opened a window of
opportunity for Marxist thinkers who, after the end of the Cold War, where able to
argue in favour of Marxist ideas, without having to defend the actions of the
governments of so-called ‘actually existing socialism’. Out of this Marxist revival,
grew a group of ‘autonomists’ (anti-systemic thinkers, as opposed ‘pre-determined’,
‘authoritarian’ Marxism), who argued that it was no longer useful to take state power
to change the world. Globalization had let to a decline of the state and the Soviet
experience had shown that a revolution was determined to fail if pursued through the
capture of state power. I will now discuss the arguments of some of these autonomist
thinkers and also explore the main critiques of a revolution without taking power.

Taking the Zapatista uprising as his empirical point of inspiration, Holloway (2002)
stresses that we should ‘change the world without taking power’, meaning that we
have to fight for a society in which power relations are dissolved, rather than just
fighting for a different system of power (Holloway, 2002: 17). The dominant
paradigm for revolution has been, for more than a century, to change the world by
seizing state power. But because production and work are organized on a capitalist

basis means that the only thing that the state can do is maintaining the system of
capitalist organization, or find themselves in isolation and economic crisis (ibid.: 13).
The communist governments in China and Russia, trying to change the world by
taking state power, did little to nothing to ‘..create a selfdetermining society or to
promote the reign of freedom which has always been central to the communist
aspiration (Holloway, 2002: 12).

Holloway differentiates power-to and power-over (as a relation of power over others
and the incapacity to do). The social flow of doing is broken once power-to is
transformed into power-over. ‘Doing is broken as the ‘powerful’ conceive but do not
execute, while the others execute but do not conceive (Holloway, 2002: 28).’ In
capitalist society this power-over relations is based on the relation between the ruler
and the done, and no longer between the ruler and the doer. For the ones who do not
own the means of production, the only way to survive is to sell their power-to-do to
the owners of the means of doing (Holloway, 2002: 30).

Holloway makes several references to the concept of Hegel of the relation between
the ruler and the ruled: the ruled depends on the ruler for work but the ruler depends
on the ruled for survival. Asymmetry between the exploiting and the exploited class
means that the exploited only depends on the exploiters for the reproduction of their
status while the exploiters depend on the work of the exploited for their very
existence (Holloway, 2002: 35, 178) This, for him is a basis for hope (36).

The point is then not to construct a counter-power but rather an anti-power, which is
completely different from ruling-over. It is the dissolution of power over and the
emancipation of power-to. (Holloway, 2002: 36). We should create a society free of
power relations and by doing this, we should go beyond class struggle, as proletarian
power no longer exists and has been replaced by undefined anti-power (Holloway,
2002: 155). Revolution is the intensification of crisis; crisis shouldn’t be seen as just
an opportunity for revolution or that crisis can be equated with its restructuring.
‘Crisis is (…) the falling apart of the social relations of capitalism (Holloway, 2002:
204).’ According to Holloway, the most important is the process, not necessarily the
‘outcome’ of struggle. He claims that for people involved in strikes, the most
important outcome is usually not their specific demands but ‘…the development of a

community of struggle, a collective doing characterized by its opposition to capitalist
forms of social relations (Holloway, 2002: 208).’

Struggle is the ‘….reaffirmation of social doing, the reoccupation of power-to

(Holloway, 2002: 209).’ We don’t want to make the property or means of production
ours, we rather want to dissolve property and means of production. Revolution has to
be seen as a movement against ‘… the denial of movement (Holloway, 2002: 210).’
A Gramscian ‘modern prince’ in the form of a revolutionary party of another form of
‘organic leadership’ is not necessary, because revolution should come about
spontaneously: ‘The aim of revolution is the transformation of ordinary, everyday life
and it is surely from ordinary, everyday life that revolution must arise (Holloway,
2002: 211).’ The Leninist Marxist tradition saw revolution as a means to an end but
this inevitably reproduces the power-over by the subordination of struggles to the
struggle (Holloway, 2002: 14). Holloway concludes with no conclusion: we don’t
know what revolution means nor which way to ho but this ‘not-knowing’ is inevitably
part of the revolutionary process. ‘We have lost all certainty, but the openness of
uncertainty is central to revolution (Holloway, 2002: 215).’

According to Phil Hearse (2003), Holloway’s ideas are dangerous and can lead to
catastrophic outcomes. His strategic conclusions (or lack thereof) will lead to ‘a world
without left parties’. His argument is that the current power relations are indeed
oppressive, but we need to work with them and understand and seize power in order
to change power relations. Holloway’s ideas will never become hegemonic and it is
structurally impossible for them to do so. Revolutionary parties will form themselves
automatically once a revolutionary movement expands. ‘Revolutionary parties cannot
be done away with, not until the work they have is done away with as well (Hearse,
2003: 45).

One crucial mistake that Holloway makes is that he actually sees the state in the
Realist sense; he sees no great difference between them. But as Hearse stresses: the
concept of the socialist state is one in which the state is democratic and self-organized
by the masses, without the dictatorship of a party. His alternative is the smashing of
the state in a huge social uprising, so not just taking the state and practising their own
form of power (Hearse, 2003: 36).

Hearse emphasises that what Holloway claims to be the only way for revolutionary
change, actually happened in Chile in 1971-73. ‘Firms where collectivized, land was
seized by peasants, the basis of an alternative, popular system of administration based
on the committees and collectives could be seen in outline (Hearse, 2003: 39).’ But
what happened was that they where defeated with bloody consequences. The
revolutionary masses where unable to seize state power and this is a necessary
condition for the success of a counter-movement. A successful form of the ability to
change social relations on the local level sees Hearse in the barrios of Caracas since
the Bolivarian process in Venezuela. But he stresses that these experiments of local
peoples power will be crushed if Chávez is brought down by local elites or US
imperialism (ibid.).

It would be very nice, according to Hearse, if we lived in a world where it is possible

to change social relations without going through ‘…the disgusting, murky business of
building parties and fighting for power’. But as Ernest Mandel would say: ‘…this is
unfortunately impossible in this ‘wicked world of ours’ (Hearse, 2003: 40).’

Holloway agrees with Hardt & Negri in Empire (2001) on the emphasis on the
centrality of the struggle and that the state is no longer the locus of power (as it was
during imperialist times) (Hardt & Negri, 2001: xii) , which means that it no longer
makes sense to talk about revolution by seizing state power (Holloway, 2002: 168-
169). According to Hearse (2003) Holloway has in common with Hardt & Negri the
assumption that the power of the ‘bosses’ should not be confronted: we should instead
withdraw from it and create autonomous spaces (Hearse, 2003: 34), but Holloway
stresses that to ‘opt out of the system’ is not an option: What is needed for revolution
is the ‘dis-articulation’ of social relations to threaten the production of surplus value
(Holloway, 2002: 190). Also, the main argument Hardt&Negri have in common with
Holloway is there agreement that the state is no longer the sovereign actor it used to
be during imperialism, which means that it is useless to revolt against the state or
seize state power. In Empire (2001), the authors actually stress that it is useless to
form local forms of self governance and autonomy (like the Zapatistas do in Mexico),
and this is very different from Holloway’s argumentation. Counter-Empire must be
formed at the global level, since and globalisation ‘…must be met with counter-

globalization, Empire with counter-Empire (Hardt&Negri, 2001: 206- 207).’ To be
able to do this, it is necessary to create a new society in the shell of the old (ibid.: xv,
207), which is a very Gramscian perspective, but to do this without establishing fixed
and defined power structures, which is in accordance to Holloway.

Empire can be read as Hardt&Negri’s assessment of the global structure of

neoliberalism. With the growth of the global market and global modes of production,
a global order started to establish itself, which is now the new form of sovereignty.
‘Empire is the political subject that effectively regulates these global exchanges, the
sovereign power that governs the world (Hardt&Negri, 2001: xi).’

The main point that the authors make is that the state is no longer is a sovereign
entity, but that sovereignty has taken on a different form (Empire). This ‘Empire’ has
no territorial centre of power, which means that the view that the US is the centre of
power like Europe was before is wrong (xiii); imperialism no longer exists (xiv).’
Empire rules the entire ‘civilized’ world and represents itself as a-historical, as being
at the ‘end of history’. Its rule extends down to the depths of the social world and
although it is bathed in blood, its concept is always dedicated to peace (xiv-xv).

According to Claudio Katz, the main problem with the ‘autonomists’ is that they fail
to grasp the advantage that the oppressors have when the countermovement lacks
organization or intellectual coherence and leadership (Katz, 2005). This led to the end
of the piqueteros movement in Argentina, and the incorporation of the protest
movement by the ruling classes. The members of this movement failed to develop an
own political project to really counter the economic power relations. Also, Holloway
doest see that the Zapatista uprising is not just ‘spontaneous’; it was actually the
outcome of a ten year long preparation of political strategies. They don’t avoid the
state, as Holloway would like to see: their demands are made toward the state. Katz
wonders: “How can one avoid the state? How can the target of every popular demand
be ignored? (Katz, 2005: 6)”. He agrees with Hearse that the state needs to be
reformed, but to be able to do so, one must seek state power and look at the
consequences of not taking power. “….refusing to take over the state leads to the
preservation of the status quo and the consolidation of the impoverishment of the
dispossessed (Katz, 2005: 7).”

It can be said that Hardt&Negri and perhaps to a lesser extend Holloway take some
views from the Gramscian perspective, but come to very different conclusions than
Cox when it comes to world hegemony and counter-movements. Where Cox (and
Katz and Hearse) emphasizes the importance for a counterhegemonic movement to
begin in the national sphere and take state power, according to Hardt, Negri and
Holloway this is completely useless. The world has become ‘globalized’ to such an
extend that the state has lost is sovereignty and that we must go straight away to the
global level (Hardt&Negri) or get evolved in small-scale autonomous movements of
resistance (Holloway). But there is one aspect that so far everyone agrees on: for a
counterhegemonic (or anti-power or counter-Empire) movement to be successful, it
must be established within the current order. An alternative order, with an alternative
ideological hegemony must be established, before it is possible to take power or
change the world without taking power.

1.12 Delinking and Decolonisation

Samir Amin (1990) and Walden Bello (2002) propose a radically different strategy
for countermovements. Bello’s strategy is one of ‘deglobalisation’: we need to break
way from the current paradigm, since this paradigm is in crisis (Bello, 2002: 105).
This is a strategy of ‘deconstruction’ and ‘reconstruction’. We need to coordinate a
global protest movement to create a critical mass, work with national movements and
assist developing countries to formulate strategies to counter the WTO
(deconstruction). Then we need to create and ‘alternative system of global governance
(reconstruction) (Bello, 2002: 111-112).’ We need to deglobalize the national
economy and at the same time construct a pluralist system of global economic
governance (ibid.). In practice this means that countries have to start producing for the
local market and draw their financial recourses from within, without depending on the
international financial institutions and markets. Further strategies are land
redistribution, de-emphasise on growth to reduce environmental damages, make the
economy more democratic, monitor the private sector within civil society, develop
cooperatives as well as private- and state enterprises but exclude TNC’s and
encourage the production of goods at the community and national level (Bello, 2002:
113-114). So Bello mainly looks at strategies at the national level and emphasizes the

importance of the state in de process of ‘deglobalization’ (or delinking). He does
recognise that this is only possible in an alternative system of global economic
governance (ibid.: 115) but it is clear that countermovements have to start at he
national level. Though at first sight comparable strategies, Samir Amin’s proposal for
‘delinking’ is very different from Bello’s ‘deglobalization’. Delinking here means the
‘…refusal to subject to the national development strategy to the imperatives of
‘worldwide expansion’ (Amin, 1990: 62), and as such goes much ‘deeper’ than the
delinking in Bello’s assessment. The meaning of delinking is, in Amin’s own words:

‘…(the) pursuit of a system of rational criteria for economic options founded on a law
of value on a national basis with popular relevance, independent of such criteria of
economic rationality as flow from the dominance of the capitalist law of value
operating on a world scale (Amin, 1990: 62).’

So besides just opting out of the global economic system, it is also a refusal of
development strategies, which can be read as a refusal of working toward ‘modernity’
in the Western European sense of the word. The postcolonialist’s assessment of
delinking is even more radical than the (mainly) economic version developed by
Amin. It is indeed also a refusal of this ‘modernity’, but Walter Mignolo (2007)
stresses that Amin’s delinking project is not one of delinking but rather one of radical
emancipation, within the rhetoric of modernity and the logic of coloniality (Mignolo,
2007: 462). Before moving on to the post- (or de-) colonial version of delinking and
countermovements, I will first explore the main postcolonial ideological currents and
explain the differences between postcolonialism and decolonialism.

Probably one of the most widely known postcolonialist works is ‘Orientalism’ by the
Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. This work is a critique of the way the
‘orientalists’ have theorized their ‘subjects’ in what is now known as the Middle East.
Said shows us how the subjects are seen as the ‘other’: the ‘oriental’ is the source of
information and the ‘orientalist’ is the knower. By establishing this power relation of
knowledge, the occidentals have been able to gain power and develop an imperialistic
relationship with the oriental and the economic and military domination of the ‘West’
over the ‘East’ (Said, 2003). The way Said looks at power/knowledge relations can be
traced back to Foucault. Foucault argues, in contradistinction to the Kantian idea that

knowledge must be free of power relations because power corrupts knowledge, that
power actually produces knowledge and knowledge in turn produces power. Power
requires knowledge and knowledge relies on and reinforces existing power relations.
This means that there is no ‘truth’ or knowledge outside power (Foucault, 1980: 109-
133). The power/knowledge claims can also be traced back to the Gramscian notion
of ideological hegemony. By showing in which ways certain ‘common sense’ ideas
on what knowledge is has benefited one part of the world, or one class, or even one
‘race’, at the expend of another, the postcolonial thinkers clearly have some
intellectual links with Gramsci.

Aníbal Quijano (2007) notes that while the cultural destruction in Africa, Asia and the
Middle East because of colonisation was of course terrible, it has nowhere been as
intensive than in Latin America (Quijano, 2007: 170). The massive genocide and
cultural repression by the Spanish oppressors has led to the deprivation of highly
developed cultures into illiterate, peasant subcultures, deprived of their own patterns
of ‘…formalized, objectivized, intellectual, and plastic of visual expression (ibid.)’.
The Europeans destroyed the patterns of expression of the inhabitants of the
Americas, by degradation them to ‘others’ or ‘subjects’ with no own culture, religion
(so they must be the work of the Devil) or history (because they had no alphabetic
writing). Since these inhabitants didn’t fit the standard model set by the ‘White
Christian Men’ and did themselves not have the legitimacy to classify people around
the world, they where degraded to inferior beings by those who did have the authority
to decide ‘who was who (Mignolo, 2007: 479)’. Quijano has developed a model to
explain how the formation of the colonial matrix of power has been established. This
has happened in four domains: (1) the appropriation of land and the exploitation of
labor; (2) the control of authority (the state and military); (3) the control of gender and
sexuality (the Christian family, gender values etc) and; (4) the control of subjectivity
and knowledge (In Mignolo, 2007: 478). For the formation of a counter hegemonic
bloc, I will focus on the last part of the colonial matrix of power: the colonial control
of subjectivity and knowledge. This is the most important part since it corresponds
with the notion of intellectual hegemony and the way in which power and knowledge
reproduce one another in a reciprocal manner. Also, this is the part of decolonisation
which is the hardest to achieve. After the formal independence of colonized countries,
the first two (the third is also more complex) can be overcome, but the control of

knowledge and subjectivity is much harder to change. I already noted in this respect
that the ‘Indian’ where considered to have no own history since they had no
alphabetic writing. To control subjectivity and knowledge meant that the world would
be conceived only from the perspective of Western Christian Men (Mignolo, 2007:
478). This means that the task that lies ahead is to ‘de-colonize’ knowledge.

Before we go on to the strategy of de-colonizing knowledge, let me explain the

difference between postcolonial and de-colonial strategies. According to Walter
Mignolo, post-coloniality emerged out of the intellectual foundations of Foucault,
Gramsci and Derrida and Edward Said’s work can be seen as a postcolonial project.
De-colonial projects developed in Latin America out of dependency theory and the
philosophy of liberation (Mignolo, 2007a: 163). What de-colonisation means is
delinking from the colonial (Western) epistemology, which is grounded in Greek and
Latin and has been expanding around the world by the imperial European languages
of modernity (Mignolo, 2007: 493). This delinking shall lead to a epistemic shift
toward plury-versality (ibid.: 453). We are not looking for a different form of
universality, because there is no one truth. Every society, language etc has its own
truth, memory and ethics, which means that we have to open up pluriversal ‘spaces of
experience’ and the ‘horizon of expectations’ (ibid.: 497). In accordance to Amin,
Mignolo and Quijano stress the importance of delinking from the rhetoric of
‘modernity’ (which the postcolonialists call the ‘constantly reproducing coloniality’)
but they include the ‘logic of coloniality’ in the project of delinking. It is not enough
to just delink from the international economic sphere of domination, it is necessary to
delink form the dominant epistemology which underpins the colonial matrix of
power. Delinking in the post- or de- colonial sense thus goes much deeper that the
economic Marxist delinking: ‘Delinking means to change the terms and not just the
content of the conversation (Mignolo, 2007: 459).’ It means changing the hegemonic
ideas of what knowledge and science are and consequently, what politics, ethics,
philosophy and the organization of society should be. By laying bare the power
relations which have formed the way we think about these concepts, a beginning can
be made in delinking from the colonisation of knowledge. Samir Amin’s delinking is,
according to Mignolo, framed within the politics of knowledge and understanding.
He, in other words, changes the content but not the terms of the conversation, and this

is the reason why is delinking is no delinking in de postcolonial sense of the word
(ibid.: 461).

The colonial matrix of power actually became the foundation of capitalism, in the
sense that with the conquest of what now is called Latin America, a new world order
was constituted, which five hundred year later culminated in a global power, covering
the whole planet (Quijano, 2007: 168). Race and class go hand in hand, as Mignolo
notes: class became in the industrial revolution in Europe what race was in the
colonies (Mignolo, 2007: 497). The main difference between them is pointed out by
Frantz Fanon: in the colonies the economic base is also a superstructure: ‘The cause is
the consequence: you are rich because you are white, you are white because you are
rich (Fanon, 2004: 5).’ This is way a decolonial strategy should never be subsumed
under Marxist ideology; it should be the other way around. A good example of this
strategy is of course the Zapatista uprising, where the Marxist ideology underpins the
indigenous struggle. For a counter movement to be successful, an alternative to
modernity and neoliberalism must be created and the doors must be opened for all the
‘principles of knowledge’ that have been colonized, repressed and silenced (Mignolo,
2007: 494). It is important to be aware of one’s place in society, in the world and
location in the complex power relations structured by imperial and colonial
differences. The object of this struggle to delink knowledge from coloniality is a
pluriversality in which many worlds will co-exist (ibid. 498-499).

1.13 Concluding Remarks

A counterhegemonic movement has to start within the existing order. In countries

considered to have liberal democracies, a ‘war of movement’ or direct attack on the
state is not a viable option for revolution. A ‘war of position’ should be waged, by
establishing a different ideological hegemony and, in case of ex-colonial countries, by
delinking knowledge and subjectivity from coloniality. On a larger scale, this also
means abandoning the practice of positivist social science, since, as I have stated in
the above, there is no such thing as ‘the truth’. Theories are dependent on the use of a
specific language, ontology, geography and theories have to be understood in their
particular historical context. Robert Cox states that hegemony should be established
in thee reciprocal categories: ideas, institutions and capabilities. This structure is then

applied on three levels: social forces, forms of state and world orders. Change in each
of these levels means changes on the other levels. According to Cox, change is most
likely to happen through social forces, at the state level. In the next chapters I will
focus in more depth on how hegemony functions in practice and what Cox’ model
means in the ‘real world’.

The anti-systemic or autonomist thinkers, Holloway, Hardt and Negri, take the failure
of so-called ‘really existing socialism’ as a starting point to stress the impossibility to
change the world by taking state power. Holloway pleas for a struggle of anti-power,
and takes the Zapatista uprising as his point of departure. However, Katz stresses that
the Zapatistas don’t ignore the state: all their demands are directed toward the state.
“How can one avoid the state?” Katz wonders; “How can the target of every popular
demand be ignored? (Katz, 2005: 6). “ Hardt and Negri stress that because of
neoliberal globalization, the state has seized to be the sovereign power and that
because of that, a counter-power should be established at the global level. The failure
to socialize Chile, however, seems to emphasize the point that change is not possible
without achieving state power. As I will explain in ‘Lessons from Chile’ in the
analytical part of the thesis, without having the support (or consent) from the military
and other state institutions, reforming society is doomed to failure or can even be
dangerous and lead to bloody consequences. The anti-systemic thinkers do point to
the fact that orthodox (or a too systemic version of) Marxism should be avoided, and
agree with the post-colonial thinkers on the assumption that ‘the book’ should never
be considered more important than ‘real life’ (indigenous) struggle. This is what
actually happened during the Zapatista uprising, giving ‘class’ a different meaning
and using Marxist theories mainly to underpin the actual 500 years’ indigenous
struggle against global capitalism. The autonomist thinkers emphasise the importance
of local struggle over theories that should be applied worldwide. However, Gramscian
thinkers do stress the difference between states, the ways in which common sense and
consent are established and how this effects the way in which society can be changed.
Here it becomes clear that the autonomists fail the complexity of what a state is and
how, as Cox stresses, it can also be a catalyst for change.

In what follows, I will cover the rise and fall of neoliberalism in Latin America,
writing about the period from about the 1980s, when a wave of democracy

incorporated a wave of neoliberalism and the implementation of the Washington
Consensus. The effects of the Consensus and have led to the rise of ‘new left’ leaders
and the beginning of a possible counter-movement.


There is no region in the world that has felt the impact of neoliberal policies as
extensively as the peoples of Latin America. Embedded in the international financial
institutions (the IMF and World Bank), the policies where implemented to structurally
adjust the economies to the needs of large corporations. The fact that these
adjustments, which deprive most of the population of the wealth of a nation, where
implemented not just by authoritarian regimes but mainly by the newly elected liberal
democratic presidents, caused a widespread disillusionment with liberal democracy.

In this chapter, I will cover de rise and fall of these neoliberal practices, the effect
those policies had on societies and the problems with liberal democracy. The rise of
grassroots movements and the turn to the left in Latin America can be seen as direct
effects of these economic policies. Starting with the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, I
will cover the other most notable movements currently happening in the region and
the worldwide movements supporting their cause: The Bolivarian process and the
election of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, The Battle of Seattle, The Water Wars in
Cochabamba, Bolivia, the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, the 2001
Argentina crisis and the protest movements, the election Lula in Brazil, the
indigenous revolt in Bolivia and the election of the first indigenous leader: Evo

During the 1970s Latin America was in the grip of a dictatorial and authorian right
wing wave, which scattered every a social contract that had previously existed in the
region (Dominguez, 2009: 45). The repressive politics where designed to prevent any
obstacle (like trade unions and other social organizations) to halt the implementation
of neoliberal politics (ibid: 46). US-inspired and/or supported dictatorships where
established in Brazil in 1964, Bolivia in 1971, Chile and Uruguay in 1973 and
Argentina in 1976 while Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico where ruled by non-
democratic and pro-US regimes (ibid: 45). During this period of time, the Pinochet
dictatorship was the first government to fully implement neoliberal structural
adjustment policies (see for example Klein, 2007: 66-124 ; Robinson, 2008: 16-17,

Panizza, 2009). Neoliberalism as an ideology had already become the dominant line
of thought at Western universities and governments, following the intellectual legacy
of Friedrich Hayek and later Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys, who actually
designed the economic policies for the Pinochet dictatorship (Robinson, 2008: 16-17).
It was under the Reagan (1981-1989) and Thatcher (1979-1990) administrations, that
neoliberalism became embedded in the international financial institutions (IFIs) like
the World Bank and the IMF, to be imposed on third world countries as a
‘development’ model.

The transition to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s for most of Latin America was
combined with a transition toward free market capitalism and neoliberal economic
structural adjustment policies. For a while before this time, free market capitalism and
political democracy where widely considered to be incompatible (Panizza, 2009: 19).
The crisis of the ISI (import substitution) model for development and the debt crisis
of the 1980s narrowed the economic options for Latin American countries and
contributed to a paradigm shift toward neoliberalism (ibid.:17), supporting the
perspective that there was ‘no alternative’ .

The ISI model for development (Import Substitution Industrialization) has to be

viewed in the historic moment in which Keynesianism and Fordism where the ruling
economic models. This order was the result of class and social struggles from the late
18th century into the post WWII period in Europe (Robinson, 2008: 11).
Keynesianism has as its main economic points for development credit and
employment creation, progressive taxation and government spending on public works
and social programs in order to sustain spending. Keynes argued that ‘…the market
on its own could not generate sufficient aggregate demand and (…) that such demand
had to be fomented in order to avoid more crisis like the 1930s depression (ibid.:10).’
Fordism is based on the assumption that ‘….capitalists and governments should
stabilize the national industrial capitalist systems that had emerged in the previous
century through higher salaries, benefits, and secure employment coupled with tight
control and regimentation of the workforce (ibid.).’ ISI denoted high tariff rates to
make a nations own products more competitive, develop domestic industries and as
such develop behind protectionist barriers (O’ Brien; Williams, 2007: 304).

Keynesianism, Fordism and later on the ISI model collapsed in the wake of the
economic crisis of the 1970s, which indirectly caused the ‘peso crisis’ and ‘lost
period’ of the 1980s in Latin America. The immediate effects of the crisis where
recession, decline in labour productivity, stagflation, energy crisis, unemployment,
international debt and a balance of payment crisis. Politically the crisis caused a string
of revolts worldwide, heightening class conflict, armed liberation struggles and
‘countercultures’, which developed into ‘…a system wide crisis of hegemony and
political domination (Robinson, 2008: 13).’ Robinson sees the crisis of the 1970s as
the ‘…transition to a new transnational stage in the system’ of market globalization
(ibid.: 14) toward the neoliberal order. He also notes that The Trilateral Commission
(a private foundation, originally organized to bring together the US, Europe and
Japan) launched a report in 1975, The crisis of democracy and diagnosed that the
problem of the crisis and its responses was too much democracy and therefore not
enough ‘governability’ (in Robinsons words: ‘…social control and obedience’

Hence, Keynesianism was replaced by another economic model, with monetarist

policies, deregulation, a supply side approach, regressive taxation and new incentives
for capital. The outcome was a new capital-labour relation based on deunionization,
flexible workers, and deregulated work conditions as a replacement for Fordism
(Robinson, 2008: 15). Robinson notes four key developments, associated with
neoliberalism: (1) the flexibilization of labor; (2) a new round of extensive
(reincorporation of the former 3rd and 2nd world into to system) and intensive
expansion (public and community spheres where opened up through privatization,
extension of intellectual property rights etc); (3) the creation of the WTO as an
example of the creation of a global legal and regulatory structure in the interests of
business; (4) the imposition of neoliberal model on developing countries, structural
adjustments (ibid.16). According to Panizza, the core elements of what later would be
called the Washington Consensus, where: fiscal discipline, a redirection of public
spending priorities toward fields offering both high economic returns and the potential
to improve income distribution, such as primary healthcare, primary education and
infrastructure, tax reform (reduce marginal rates and broaden the tax base), interest
rate liberalization, a competitive exchange rate, trade liberalization, liberalization of

foreign direct investment, privatizations, deregulation, secure property rights and
labour flexibility (Panizza, 2009: 11).

2.1 The troubles with liberal democracy

In most of Latin America, the first democratically elected presidents since the
dictatorships where rightwing and pro-neoliberal. Even in Chile, where the first
government was centre-left, it wasn’t possible to make constitutional changes without
the support of rightwing forces, as Pinochet imposed electoral laws which gave the
right overrepresentation in Congress (Panizza, 2009: 94). There are several factors
which explain the peculiar conjunction between democratization and neoliberalization
in Latin America.

First, the economic crisis and historic time ‘favourized’ liberal, capitalist democracy.
The political defeat of the rightwing dictatorships collided with a military defeat of
leftwing guerrillas and the collapse of the Soviet socialist model (Panizza, 2009: 19 &
76), which made the world ‘safe for capitalism’. Fukuyama famously argued that
‘The end of history’ was marked by a worldwide shift toward (neo-)liberal democratic
governments (Fukuyama, 1989).

Second, human rights activists and NGOs where deprived of a common enemy.
NGOs shifted their attention to other parts in the world and human rights activists
where excluded from negotiations on the switch toward democracy, which where then
conducted between the military and political elites (Panizza, 2009: 93). One important
exception is the development of the PT in Brazil, which will be covered later in this
chapter. The promotion of democracy and human rights changed from being part of a
counter-hegemonic, anti-doctorial strategy, to being incorporated in the strategy of the
hegemon itself. Under the Reagan administration, democracy became the element that
brought right wing policy makers and left wing academia together in the struggle
against authorianism. (Panizza, 2009: 99). Also, because of the trauma of military
rule, ‘…the left’s conception of human rights changed accordingly from a view of
rights only realizable in a radically transformed socio-economic setting to the
acceptance and defence of universally held right under liberal democratic rule
(Panizza, 2009: 87).’ Punishment of the former authoritarian rules was in most cases

not possible because the military still had the power to destabilize the democracies.
This caused an open conflict between the newly democratic governments and civil
society, which in the past had been a part of the movement toward democracy (ibid.:

The third factor is the Schumpeterian notion of democracy, which prevailed in the
West as well as in newly democratic Latin American countries. According to
Robinson, there was never actually a transition towards democracy, but rather one
toward polyarchy. This ‘…refers to a system in which a small group actually rules, on
behalf of capital, and participation in decision making by the majority confined to
choosing among competing elites in tightly controlled electoral processes (Robinson,
2008: 273)’ Democracy, as the power to ‘…meet objective interests, to shape social
structure in function of there interests (ibid.)’ is actually not even compatible with
neoliberalism, which seeks to separate the economy from popular control. In order for
a ‘real’ democracy to function properly, the state needs to be sufficiently autonomous
from business elites, and embedded enough in society to hear and give voice to the
demands of the popular sectors and be accountable to citizens (Panizza, 2009: 118).

The redefinition of democracy in the Schumpeterian notion took place in the West
(especially the US), and was more built on elitism; ‘…an enlightened elite to rule on
behalf of ignorant and unpredictable masses (Robinson, 2008: 273.).’ Robinson
stresses that this notion of democracy (polyarchy) has become dominant in social
sciences, politics and the mainstream media (ibid.:274). This means that the results of
popular protests against the repressive regimes where changes in the political system,
while leaving the unjust socioeconomic structures intact (ibid.).

Panizza and others note that in Latin American democracies, there is actually a lack of
real choice. A great number of presidents that where elected on opposing neoliberal
reforms, still implemented them once in office (Panizza, 2009: 95, Robinson, 2008:
275). ‘The dominance of centre-right governments that implemented broadly similar
policies of free market reforms with the support and tutelage of international financial
institutions raised questions about whether democracy was effectively allowing voters
to make meaningful policy choices (ibid.).’ Robinson seeks the explanation to this
problem in the elitist notion of ‘governance’. After the transition to democracy or

polyarchy, the challenge for the capitalist elites still was how an elected president
could push through these unpopular neoliberal reforms. The outcome was seeing
‘governance’ as ‘…the ability not to meet, but to diffuse, mass demands on the
political system (Robinson, 2008: 275).’ The duality of the polyarchic definition of
democracy is that it claims to be separating the economy from the political sphere,
while it does exactly the opposite in insisting neoliberalism as the only economic
model compatible with ‘democracy’.

The trouble with the liberal democratic wave which blew over the region during the
1990s, is that it has a conservative bias as it depended mainly on the ability of the
subordinate groups to fight for inclusion and for the economically powerful elites to
be reassured of their position and privileges (Panizza, 2009: 100). The discourse of
liberal democracy and free market neoliberalism has many things in common, since
impersonal market exchanges do not care about social hierarchies or privileges, and
neither does democracy (ibid.:101). But it can be argued that this is where the
similarities end.

2.2 Neoliberalism and its effects on society

According to Robinson, the current, final, stage of capitalism began with the
colonisations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and concluded with the re-
incorporation of the former Soviet-block and third world revolutionary states in the
early 1990s after their attempts to withdraw from the system. (Robinson, 2008: 6).
The main point to make is that at this moment ‘…there is no longer anything external
to the system, not in the sense that it is now a ‘closed’ system but that (1) there are no
longer any countries or regions that remain outside of world capitalism or still to be
incorporated through original accumulation and (2) there is no longer autonomous
accumulation outside the sphere of global capital (ibid.:7).’

As an ideology, neoliberalism sees the market as a product of nature, as opposed to

something which is created and structured by state and societal relations of power and
domination. Robinson sees neoliberalism as ‘….a concrete program and an ideology,
a culture, a philosophical worldview that takes classical liberalism and individualism
to an extreme (ibid.: 16).’ For transnational elites, this line of thought fitted perfectly

at the historic moment of time, and this helped establish it as a dominant economic
model (ibid.)

According to neoclassical economic thought, on which neoliberalism is based, in

order for a country to develop, it is necessary to create a trade surplus to
accommodate debt service payments and control inflation in order to close budget
deficits and restore fiscal solvency and macroeconomic equilibrium (Robinson, 2008:
19). Free trade, private property, and free markets are believed to make the world
more prosperous and tolerant (Lamy, 2008: 7). The idea is that privatizations (besides
being more ‘efficient’ than state owned enterprises) and trade liberalization will
increase export which results in the integration in the world capitalist system, which
in turn is believed to be important in achieving the above mentioned goals.

Between 1978 and 1992 more than 70 countries around the world undertook 566
stabilizing adjustment programs, imposed by the IFIs (Robinson, 2009: 18-19). As
mentioned before, neoliberal ideology became the dominant line of thought at the
World Bank and IMF during the Reagan and Thatcher administrations. Most Latin
American countries adapted the structural adjustment policies in the wake of
economic depression and growing debt. In the 1970’s, the developing countries where
able to get massive lending’s, thanks to a combination of depressed profits in the
‘First World’ and loose US monetary policies.

Nonetheless, when the United States reversed its monetary policies and started to
compete aggressively in the world finance markets, this turned into the “drought” of
the 1980s. This was first signalled by the Mexican default of 1982 and then created an
environment for capital-friendly changes in policies that the Washington Consensus
began advocating at about the same time (See Silver; Arrighi. 2003: 346). The IMF
and WB’s influence immediately grew once the private sector lending ‘drought up’.
Where the IMF once functioned as a provider of short-term loans to governments with
balance of payments problems, it now assumed a key role ‘in restructuring the
countries’ foreign debts, conditioning financial assistance to the promotion of
structural reforms along free market principles (Panizza, 2009: 31).’ At the same time
the WB’s role changed from lending money for developing projects to the promotion
of the structural reforms, associated with the free trade and open markets ideology

(ibid). The model imposed on developing countries attempts to harmonize fiscal,
monetary, industrial, labor and commercial policies to enable transnational capital to
function freely among numerous border (Robinson, 2008: 18). One of the most
important aspects of this tactic is the elimination of state intervention (by declining
the state’s influence) in the economic sphere and the regulation of nation states over
the activities of capital in their territories (ibid.). Robinson differentiates two phases
in the neoliberal restructuring of developing countries. The fist is ‘stabilization’,
which is ‘…a package of fiscal, monetary, exchange and related measures intended to
achieve macroeconomic stability inside the adjusted country (ibid.:19).’ This means
no more subsidies for food, transportation, public employment and cuts in the
spendings on healthcare and education. The second phase is the ‘structural
adjustments’ phase, which is characterized by the liberalization of trade and finances;
deregulation, which removes the economy from state (and democratic-) control; and
privatization of formerly public spheres (ibid.).

One of the most important policies of the neoliberal agenda is the privatization of
various public spheres and enterprises. No region in the world has ever been as
extensively privatized as Latin America in the 1980s. From telecommunication to
land and water, practically every sector was privatized. Health and education also
have become ‘for profit’, instead of meeting human necessities in a process that
aggravates social inequalities and polarization. The outcome of such an intensive
form of privatization is the reduction of the ability of the state to engage in economic
planning; thereby privileging private sector control. Robinson calls this process the
‘…extension of the transnationalization of ownership in the 3rd world (Robinson,
2008: 186-187).

Neoliberal policies where the cause of a very unstable form of development in Latin
America (Harris, 2005: 406). The number of people living under the poverty line was
greater at the end of the 1990s than in the beginning of the decade (Panizza, 2009:
102). In 1996, the absolute number of people living in poverty was 210 million;
higher than ever before. 18% was living in extreme poverty, which was 16% in 1980
(ECLAC report 1997, cited in Panizza, 2009: 129). Economic growth was grounded
on shaky foundations and created few jobs (ibid.:130). Direct effects of the
neoliberalization where a fall in popular consumption, a deterioration of social

conditions, a rise in poverty and unemployment, a rise of the informal sector, no
access to social benefits, a decline in the quality of life, more insecurity, greater
inequalities, social polarization and anomie and more political conflicts and alienation
(Robinson, 2008: 20; Panizza, 2009: 102). Education levels also remained below the
economic development level. Another important factor that goes hand in hand with
rising inequalities is something that could be called cultural polarization: a small elite
got to feel more connected through their lifestyles with their European and American
counterparts that to the society in which they where born (Panizza, 2009: 102).
Indigenous peoples and peoples from African descant, females and children where
amongst the ones who where mainly effected by the deepening poverty, with which
deeply rooted social divisions where intensifies (ibid.: 130). Because globalization
brought an increase in communication and travelling (tourism), people where exposed
to ‘…a symbolically close but materially distant world of luxury goods and affluent
lifestyles (ibid.: 131).’ This has led to an explosion in social violence, which has
separated urban spaces in for example Caracas or Rio into secured and unsecured
territories (ibid. 132).

Additionally, neoliberal market reforms in Latin America where designed to shrink

the influence of trade unions, to reduce public employment, to ‘liberalize’ labour
codes and to make the workforce more flexible (Robinson, 2008: 239). This didn’t
lead to an increase in jobs (as claimed) but to rising unemployment and the growth of
the informal sector. The real wages didn’t improve (as claimed) but declined in the
formal as well as the informal sector (ibid.: 240-244). The shrinking of the formal
working class and the rise of the informal sector of self- or semi-employed workers,
caused a massive weakening of the working class. This didn’t immediately lead to a
radicalization of politics, like in the 1960s and 70s, due to a lack of organization
(Panizza, 2009: 104). This is important for the business elite because a weak and
improvised, unorganized working class is not able to form a huge threat to corporate
power or fight for their own interests (ibid.: 107-117). The drive by elites to attract
global capital and the abundance of cheap flexible labour as a ‘comparative
advantage’ has led to massive poverty and inequality and new capital-labour relations
in the Latin American region (Robinson, 2008: 238).

Another important outcome of the neoliberalization of the workforce is what
Robinson calls the ‘Transnationalization of the class structure in Latin America (ibid.
167). This means that new dominant groups and fractions tied to the global economy
are on the rise and that the older middle class have to deal with a downward mobility.
There is a ‘rise of new working-class constituencies’ because of the proletarianization
of peasants and artisans while the poorer classes become flexibilized and informalized
(ibid.). These changes lead to struggles between nationally and transnationally
oriented elites and struggles waged by popular sectors against global capitalism and
neoliberal restructuring (ibid.: 169-170).

Because of neoliberal globalization, old centre- periphery divisions are said to be no

longer useful. Robinson also notes that the process causes local fragmentation and the
integration of selects strands of the population on the global level (ibid.: 44). The
traditional North-South framework (according to which the North exploits the South
through an international division of labor in which the latter sends foods and other
raw materials produced with cheap labor to the North) also needs to be reconsidered.
This is still a useful level of analysis, but because of the process of neoliberal
globalization, the North-South story has become even bigger. In the larger picture,
one has to take into account the facts that: ‘(1) the North also sends to the South foods
and other raw materials produced with cheap labor and advanced technology and
yields, so that California “factories-in-the-field” and agro-industry market output in
Latin America through globalized commercial networks; (2) the new agro-industrial
complexes in the South, especially NTAEs, are “Californized”, that is, based on the
same combination of cheap labor and advanced technology and yields; and (3) the
output of these complexes in marketed globally through the very same globalized
retail networks as information technologies and the logistics revolution allow mega-
retail chains to set up distribution centres, sourcing networks, and joint-venture
operations to both supply local stores and export product to the global market
(Robinson, 2008: 195).’

In short, neoliberal policies have caused a rise in poverty and inequality and a
weakening of the organized working class in Latin America. As Robinson concludes
in his covering of the period from 1980 till 2006: ‘Latin Americans have worked
harder and harder to increase the wealth they produce for the global economy yet the

income they have received form that work has decreased as they have become more
impoverished and exploited (Robinson, 2008: 256).’ It off course couldn’t be long
before these developments would lead to a social and political crisis, which is not
necessarily a crisis of production but rather on of the distribution of wealth and power
in the region. In this light, Panizza notes that ‘democratization’ did have some
positive influences. Even when liberal and embedded in neoliberalism, it did have a
positive effect on the development of social movements. When in the decades before
those had to work in ‘illegality’, now, state repression of popular protests comes with
high legal and political costs (Panizza, 2009: 119). This raised the effectiveness of
mass protest against the status quo, like the Caracazo of 1989, Argentinean protest in
2001 and Bolivia in 2001 and 2003, which all led to changes in governments and the
abandonment of neoliberal practices.

As James Petras writes in a respond to the ‘neoliberal triumph’, hurrayed by

Fukuyama and his Latin ‘counterpart’ Jorge Castañeda: ‘Rather than a linear
trajectory in which neoliberalism is seen as the “end of history”, we are experiencing
a more familiar cycle of ascendancy, consolidation, and decay. Instead of a harmony
of interests between producers, smallholders, and labour in North and South, we are
witnessing the re-emergence of political, social, and economic contradictions and
conflicts among classes, states, and ethnic groups (Petras, 1999: 4).’ One could
perhaps say that peoples have started contesting the colonial matrix of power
(Mignolo, 2007).

2.3 The rise of the left

Global capitalism is in a crisis of polarization, overaccumulation and state legitimacy

and political authority. There is a crisis of polarization because the system isn’t able
to meet de needs of the majority of the population or ensure social reproduction.
Inequality continues to rise within and between countries (Robinson, 2008: 230). The
crisis of overaccumulation is happening because workers per definition can never buy
the products that they produce because their wages must be less than the value of
those goods and services for the investors to make profits (ibid.: 226). This leads to
overproduction, economic recession and so called ‘casino capitalism (Strange, 1997)’.
Because of the marginalization of a large part of the population from direct productive

participation, the system cannot expand. The world market isn’t able to absorb the
world output. And last, because of the political crisis, the system is facing expanding
counter-hegemonic resistance movements. ‘The neoliberal state retains essential
powers to facilitate globalization, but it loses the ability to harmonize conflicting
social interests within a country, to realize the historic function of sustaining the
internal unity of a nationally conceived social formation, and to achieve legitimacy
(ibid.: 232).’

The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico can be seen as the symbolic beginning of a
large grassroots protest movement against neoliberal globalization. On the first of
January 1994, the day that the NAFTA agreement was signed by the Mexican
government, the movement started their decades long struggle against the Mexican

Boron (2008) sees four reasons for the turn to the left, and why this happened at the
specific time in history, which in great lines collides with the above written and with
Robinson’s covering of the uprising. First, there was an exhaustion with
neoliberalism. Second, the model of democratic capitalism failed for the region.
Democratization has brought structural adjustment policies, high levels of
unemployment, rising international debt and foreign takeovers of the economy. Third,
there is a crisis of the traditional form of political representation and last, there is a
globalization of the struggle against neoliberalism (Boron, 2008: 236-237),
symbolized by the World Social Forum (2001) and the Seattle protest against the
WTO policies (1999). Panizza adds to this point the fact that undemocratic actors
(like the military) now have less political influence to block these developments and
that the US after the Cold War have less rationale to support right wing dictators
(Panizza, 2009: 179). He also agrees with the importance of the failure of
democratization, which brought free trade policies and dissatisfaction with the status
quo (ibid. 182). Although since democratization, elections have been free and fair in
the eyes of western institutions, political institutions have been weak and corrupt.
This is why anti-systemic candidates seem to win elections all across Latin America
(ibid.: 185).

2.4 The new left

The end of the Cold War didn’t mean end of history in which each country was
capitalist with liberal democratic governance, but for Latin America it meant the end
of the ‘old left’, which was defined by the experiences of the Cuban revolution, the
Popular Unity government in Chile, the Sandinistas revolution in Nicaragua, and the
military rebellion of the FARC. The dominant tendency of the left in Latin America
shifted from armed rebellion, to protest through popular uprising and winning
elections (Rodriguez-Garavito; Barret; Chávez, 2008: 1-2). Today, left wing or
progressive political parties an figures govern in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela. What is original about the new left is
that there policies don’t merely concern economic equality but concern ethnicity,
gender, race, environmentalism and all other forms of inequality. According to
Rodriguez-Garavito, Barret and Chávez in Utopia Reborn, the old left can be
classified into five groups: communist parties (who’s top down approach seized to
work after soviet authoritarianism), the nationalist or popular left and the reformist
parties (who became pro-neoliberal and started to rely on third-way capitalism), the
guerrilla organizations and the social left (2008: 6-8). Some basic characteristics of
the new left are: (1) Plurality, horizontality and decentralized form of organization. A
good example is the Zapatistas movement, distancing themselves from the Leninist
‘obsession’ with taking national power, as will be explored later on in this thesis. But
another example are the Venezuelan grassroots committees, who work under, but
independent from, the national government. (2) Multiple social bases and political
agendas. This can be seen by the integration of indigenous rights with social equality,
gender rights and more traditional Marxist objectives. (3) Reformism: Institutional,
elections or non-violent mobilization (see Rodriguez-Garavito; Barret; Chávez, 2008:
12-17). Another crucial aspect of the ‘new left’ movement is the notion of another
democracy, or ‘deep’ democracy. It is inadequate to analyze the new left from a cold
war perspective, like the mainstream media in Europe and US does. They
automatically link the ‘radical’ left with Soviet Union authoritarianism and as such
fail to grasp what is really going on. Left leaders in LA are far from authoritarian or
‘top down’: radical, participatory democracy is one of the central pillars and social
movements which have led to the election of these leaders. According to Raby (2006),
the crucial difference with the socialism of the 20th century lies in popular support.
Socialism isn’t able to work on a authorian base, as was the case in for example the

Soviet Union under Stalin . '…. (a) revolutionary state of popular power, which may
be what socialism in a transitional stage really amounts to (..) cannot operate as a
self-contained and distinct mode of production, which was the Stalinist illusion, but
through its popular-democratic and military strength it can function with a non-
capitalist or anti-capitalist logic, with a combination of nationalized industries, worker
cooperatives, other forms of social property, and capitalist enterprises both national
and international. As a revolutionary state it can negotiate with transnational capital
from a position of relative strength, and it can create and protect a society based on a
large measure of social justice, participatory democracy and economic sovereignty,
but it cannot break completely with the global capitalist system until such time (still
remote) as revolution and popular power/Socialism spreads through most of the world
(Raby, 2006: 65).’ In what follows, I will cover some of the most notable progressive
uprisings that have been happening in Latin America as a response to neoliberal

2.5 The movements

“Everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves”

The Zapatistas uprising

On the day that the Mexican government signed the NAFTA agreement, on New
Years day in 1994, an army of 5000 young indigenous man and women took control
of several cities in Chiapas, the most resource rich and poverty stricken southern
Mexican state. Their uprising was the result of 500 years of resistance to
‘modernization’ and exploitation, intensified by capitalist development with
neoliberal globalization as the ‘death sentence’ to indigenous peoples in Mexico.
Chiapas experienced an economic boom in the 1950s and 60s, but the land stayed in
the hands of a small elite, excluding the rural poor of sharing the richness of the
country. In the 1982, the Mexican economy collapsed and a structural adjustment
program was implemented, to enable the government to receive IMF loans. Besides
the obvious, above stated effects of these programs (like mass impoverishment,
privatizations and rising unemployment), the patron-client consensus based political
system was in crisis because the government needed money to maintain the political
consent. The loss of political legitimacy provided a political opening for alternative

forms of mobilization and organization, in which the Zapatista movement (named
after Emiliano Zapata, leader of the Liberating Army of the South in the Mexican
Revolution in 1910) was able to develop.

In the ‘First declaration of the Lacadon Jungle’ spokesperson and subcommandante

Marcos declared war against the Mexican government and outlined their basic
demands. It is important to state that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN)
didn’t declare war against the state itself but to the ‘one party’ political system led by
president Carlos Salinas and the federal army (Khasnabish, 2010: 111). With the
statement of the basic demands of work, land, shelter, bread, health, education,
democracy, liberty, peace, independence and justice (EZLN in Khasnabish, 2010) the
organization was able to communicate to a large part of Mexican society and the rest
of the globe and state that their uprising was open for everyone to participate in.

The federal army at first reacted with brutal force and the government and private
media tried to picture the Zapatistas as a terrorist group, sponsored by foreign (narco-)
organizations. When it became clear that a large part of the population supported the
Zapatistas and rejected the counter-attack, the army started relying on low-intensity
warfare, which in practice meant targeting and repressing the civilian population to
destabilize the social base of the Zapatista supporters (Khashnabish, 2010: 8). After
mass protests, Salinas called for a ceasefire and negotiations on January the 12th.

Using media, the internet and excellent communication skills, the Zapatistas (and
especially subcommandante Marcos) have become symbols around the world for the
oppressed and exploited peoples by dominant political and economic systems
(Khasnabish, 2010: 16). Zapatismo developed when the urban and Marxist core of the
EZLN came in contact with indigenous culture in the Chiapas mountains in 1984.
This confrontation would develop into a subordination of the hardcore Marxist
ideology to the indigenous culture of resistance, which had experienced 500 years of
development. Robert Young identifies their ideology therefore as ‘transculturated
Marxism’ (cited in Bahn, 2009: 541-542). Zapatismo is a source of inspiration for
grassroots movements around the world because of its radical notion of democracy,
its horizontality and its focus on justice, democracy and freedom as a radical critique
of power relations (Khasnabish, 2010: 84). Their perspective of the world is one

characterized by multiplicity and diversity, something it has in common with recent
developments in Bolivia and Ecuador to declare itself a ‘plurinational state’.

In the morning of 19 December 1994, Marcos announced that Zapatista units has
taken position in thirty-eight municipalities in the east of Chiapas, establishing
autonomous local governments, welcomed by the local population (Khasnabish, 2010:
121-122). In the years that came, peace talks with the government where held with
varying levels of success, but with two parallel forms of (pro- and anti- Zapatistas)
governance in Chiapas, the situation far from stabilized. The Acteal massacre, in
which forty-five indigenous people (mainly women and children) where murdered in
a church by paramilitary forces in December 1997, is by far the worse atrocity
committed during the Zapatista rebellion. The massacre provoked worldwide protests
and the Mexican government had shrunk to a new low in the eyes of the international
community (Khasnabish, 2010: 145).

Following failed peace talks with newly elected president Vincente Fox in 2000, who
continued on the path of economic liberalization, the Zapatistas engaged in the
building of effective autonomy in their territories. In 2003, subcommandante Marcos
announced the ‘birth’ of so called ‘Caracoles’ (snail shells) in different municipals in
Chiapas to function as political and cultural centres, ‘gateways’ into and out of
Zapatista territory and places of communication between the Zapatistas and national
and international ‘civil society’ (Khasnabish, 2010: 154). The Zapatistas also
announced their formation of Councils of Good Governance, to complete the political
autonomy in the 29 municipals, made up from 2,222 villages and some 100.000
Zapatistas (ibid.: 155). At the time of writing, they have successfully defended this
autonomy with now five Zapatista Autonomous Municipal Zones in Chiapas. The
Zapatistas have been able to build ‘…the dignified, directly democratic, and
autonomous socio-political and economic structures that powerholders so desperately
sought to deny them (Khasnabish, 2010: 201).’

“21st century socialism”

Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian process

It is perhaps remarkable that one of the most outstanding contemporary anti-
neoliberal transformations is happening in a country that used to be seen as a
‘showcase for democracy’. Venezuela’s ‘punto fijo’ system, consisting out of a pact
between the two major parties, AD (Democratic Action) and COPEI (Committee of
Independent Electoral Political Organizations), agreeing to share the power, was
actually highly exclusionary, illiberal and unrepresentative (Lander, 2008; Buxton,
2009). Their view of ‘citizenship’ was modelled by an image of the middle and
upper-middle class, ignoring the rest of the countries poor majority. This dominant
‘Adeco’ culture was defined by the taste and interests of the US-culturized, ethnically
white part of the population (Buxton, 2009). The ‘apartheid’ in Venezuelan society
particularly became apparent in 1989 because of the social explosion and mass street
protests, know as the ‘Caracazo’. The positive sum game the system was able to
provide thanks to the ‘oil bonanza’, ended in the 1980s when ‘gross economic
mismanagement, declining oil rents, institutionalized corruption and impunity, and
rising authorianism catalysed popular antipathy towards the parties and the Puntofijo
state that they had created and colonized (Buxton, 2009: 59).’ According to Lievesly
& Ludlam (2009), the crisis of political representation and the political economy
produced the state massacre of 1989 (the protests led to a military repression by the
government, leaving more that 500 people dead), which later brought down the
puntofijo pact (Lievesly; Ludlam, 2009: 10). The caracazo converged with the signing
of an agreement by the government of Carlos Andres Perez with the IMF. This off
course committed the government to the implementation of a structural adjustments
program, leading to the deprivation of the poorer sectors of society. Perez prematurely
had to end his presidential term because of a corruption scandal, but his successor
Rafael Caldera also signed (in contrary to his electoral promises) an agreement with
the IMF to implement a neoliberal structural adjustment program. The effects of this
Agenda Venezuela (which included a severe reduction of workers’ social benefits and
liberalization of the oil industry) where the ‘sustained deterioration of the
population’s living conditions’ as well as a ‘deepening crisis of legitimacy of the
political system, its parties and its leaders (Lander, 2008: 75)’.

The 1990s where signed by coup attempts and mass protests and political instability
in the context of deepening poverty and inequality, which in 1998 led to the election
of Chávez’s Fifth Republic Movement with a majority of 56,20% of the votes

(Lander, 2008: 75-76). Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement (MRB) was
established in 1982 and came to public attention by committing a (failed) coup d’etat
in 1992. By publicly declaring that the movement had failed ‘for now’, Chávez gave
Venezuela’s poor the hope that a change was actually possible.

Drawing ideological inspiration from the ‘Tree of Three Roots’: Simon Bolivar,
Simon Rodriguez and Ezeguiel Zamora, Chávez has changed the official national
culture and the Venezuelan state in profound ways. Bolivarian cultural nationalism
focuses on indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan traditions and identifies itself with South
America, in contrast with ‘Adeco’, which was focused on US culture (Buxton, 2009:
60). Dominguez (2009) notes that the Venezuelan state has ceased to function as a
normal bourgeois state (52). These changes have been described by Lievesly &
Ludlam (2009) as a part of the Latin Americanization of politics (37-56).

Chávez’s worldview, using Bolivar’s intellectual legacy, is a multipolar one, in which

the power of the US has to be balanced. Thanks to the oil wealth, Venezuela is able to
launch social programs and have the economic necessities for alternative regional
projects. . In 2005 the Venezuelan government launched, in cooperation with
Argentina, Cuba, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, the Caracas-based
regional TV channel TeleSur; an important initiative to counter the ideological and
cultural hegemony of CNN and the private media in Latin America (Lievesly;
Ludlam, 2009; Harris, 2005) and to diminish the ‘US cultural and political influences,
and promoting traditional cultures and national cultural values (Buxton, 2009: 64)’
ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las America) is a proposed alternative to the US
sponsored FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) and focuses on a socially
embedded, sustainable form of economic development as opposed to just profit
maximization. Starting as a barter agreement with Cuba to exchange doctors for cheap
oil supplies, the ALBA now includes Bolivia and has Ecuador’s support. ALBA
appeals to the ‘…egalitarian principles of justice and equality that are innate in human
beings, the well-being of the most dispossessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated
sense of solidarity toward the sessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated sense of
solidarity toward the underdeveloped countries of the western hemisphere (….)
((Arreaza quoted in Harris, 2005: 413).’ By pursuing this alternative form of
development and regional integration, the Bolivarian process functions as an example

for some of the other ‘left turn’ newcomers in Latin America, strengthened by a
growing international protest movement.

“Jam the WTO”

The Battle of Seattle

When asked what the international community could do to help the Zapatista
movement, ‘…an old Zapatista said ‘More Seattle’s… (Ryan, 2008: 118).’ The rise of
the international anti-neoliberalism or ‘other-globalists’ is indeed a positive
development of large importance to the possibilities of the ‘left turn’ in Latin

On 30 November 1999, the streets of Seattle, host to the World Trade Organizations’
Third Ministerial conference, exploded in protests. Identified by the New York Times
as the ‘coming out party’ for global activism, the Seattle protests where indeed the
first time that a large sector of formerly excluded political actors where actually heard
(Kaldor, 2000:106). For many, the Seattle protests marked ‘the beginning of a new
cycle of radical activism (see for example Khasnabish, 2010: 167).’

When the mass protests filled the newsrooms, debates where heightened about the
possibilities alternatives to ‘savage capitalism’ and activists, who first focused on the
unethical behaviour of a single cooperation, now began to question the logic of
capitalism itself (Klein, 2005: 447; Kaldor, 2000: 106). What is unique of this
emerging protest movement is that it binds a diverse range of actors and organizations
and manages to coalesce divergent interests. ‘Trade unionists, environmentalists and
anarchist groups differed in their goals but shared a common hostility to the way that
global markets were being sliced up and controlled by the most powerful
governments and corporations (Hertz, 2001: 255).’ Mary Kaldor sees ‘Seattle’ as an
‘expression of global civil society (Kaldor, 2000: 106)’ and the first step in the public
debate on the future of (the democratization of) globalisation (111-112). In this way,
the protests reflected the new political cleavages between the New (authoritarian)
Right, the Cosmopolitan Right (neoliberalizers), the Old (traditional statist-) Left and
the Cosmopolitan Left, the ‘Global Civic Networks’ (109). One the one side, the New
Right was allied to the liberal globalizers, which would foreshadow a world order

dominated by corporate interests. On the other hand, the global civic networks also
had some allies amongst the global liberalisers, for a ‘democratization of
globalization’. In Kaldor’s view, nobody was actually against globalization (111).
Although many have argued that Seattle was a predominantly ‘white’ and ‘elite’
protest movement (see for example Martinez, 2000 and Kaldor, 2000), Marc Edelman
argues that the significance of the proportion participants of people from the global
South is not of great importance. The impact on the delegates from the global South
who did come and on the people following the event on other places must not be
underestimated (Edelman, 2009). A great example is off course the Zapatistas’ claim
that ‘more Seattle’s’ from them would be the best way to support their movement
from the ‘global North’ (Ryan, 2008).

‘The water is ours!”

The Water Wars

In September 1999, Cochabamba’s water and sewerage services where privatized by

the government of Hugo Banzer Suárez. Since the late 1980s though, Bolivia had
already been a ‘testing ground’ for far-reaching neoliberal economic restructurings,
started by the Sanchez de Lozada government. Previous privatizations did lead to
some violent protests, but that didn’t prevent de policies from being implemented.
Banzer’s attempt to privatized the water in Cochabamba though, led to a massive,
largely unpredicted public protest movement which forced the government to cancel
the contract with the US corporation Bechtel (Crabtree, 2009: 94-95). This
demonstrated the government’s weakness in the face of social mobilization, which in
this case consisted out of a broad range of actors from the indigenous peoples from
the highlands and lowlands and landless peasants to the poor urban residents of El
Alto (ibid.).

The privatization resulted in an explosion of water prices and the expropriation of

community water systems, while Bechtel was making huge profits (Sanchez Gomez
& Terhorst, 2007: 122). The privatization was illegal at the time, but made legal by
the later drafted pro-privatization law. Two other elements provoked the mass
mobilization. The first was a new concern about the privatization of natural recourses.
For many Bolivians it was unimaginable that a gift of nature like water could be

privatized to enable large foreign companies to make profit out of it. The second,
highly connected to the first, element is the increased salience of ethnic politics and
the rise of the indigenous movement in Bolivia (Crabtree, 2009: 95). This, in
combination with the next mass mobilization in 2003 against de Lozada’s plans to
export Bolivian gas to the US (the Gas War), led to the rise and election of Evo
Morales, which will be covered in this chapter later on.

“Another world is possible”

The World Social Forum

It was at the World Social Forum in 2005 that Hugo Chávez announced his plans to
create his ‘21st century socialism’. According to J.R. Webber, it was due to the social
movements that Chávez ‘radicalized’ (Carmona, Baez: 2009). Walden Bello has
indeed called the WSF a space for a movement to ‘…paint, elaborate, and debate the
vision, values and institutions of an alternative world order (Bello, 2002: 29).’ The
social movements that the WSF seeks to unite, have strengthened the left turn in Latin
America. The uniqueness of the WSF is that in brings local, national and global
struggles together. It is an emancipatory in which the resistance to neoliberalism is
combined with questions of womens- and gay rights, the environment and other social
struggles. The Forum can be seen as a way for organizations to expand their actions
and be heard. According to de Sousa Santos, the WSF is a manifestation of the
richness of social struggles today (de Sousa Santos, 2008:266) as it combines a
diverse range of movements and organizations in their struggle against neoliberal
globalization and a fairer world.

The WSF, organized for the first time in 2001 in Porto Alegre, calls itself no group or
organization, but an open meeting place for social movements, NGOs and other civil
society networks opposed to neoliberalism and the dominance of global capital can
come together for debates, to network for collective action and formulate proposals.
The Forum claims to be characterized by plurality and diversity and has no
government- or party alliances (WSF).

The importance of the WSF for the left turn in Latin America has to be seen in the
light of the importance that the global anti-neoliberalism movement has in

strengthening the projects in these countries. Developed thanks to the growing of the
international protest movement after Seattle and the local PT government in Porto
Alegre can now be seen as one of the central meeting places for the development of
ideas on the possibility of ‘another world’.

“Que se vayan todos”

Crisis in Argentina

After almost 20 years of neoliberal policies, embedded in the democratization that

followed the Videla dictatorship from 1983 onward, 2001 market an end of this
historic period in Argentina. Raul Alfonsin (1983-1989) was unable to control the
economy, because of the enormous power of the financial world on the newly
democratic country (Schuster, 2008: 164). His successor and neo-Peronist Carlos
Menem (1989-1995/1995-1999) engineered, in contrary to his electoral promises,
enormous economic transformations along the neoliberal lines of thought
(privatizations, labour flexibility, free trade etc). This not only led to deepening
poverty and inequality within the society, but also to an ‘internationalization’ of the
Argentinean economy; a transfer of resources not only from the lower to the middle
and upper class, but also from the national upper class to the international sphere
(ibid.: 165).

In 1992 the so called ‘convertibility regime’ was launched, which hard-pegged the US
dollar to the Argentine peso at one to one, and was believed to attract more capital
flows. This actually led to a deepening recession, runs on bank deposits, capital flight
and the destruction of national enterprises because it made them less competitive
compared to foreign ones. The Argentine ‘transformismo’, the period from 1989 till
2001 also was signed by privatizations of the countries most important enterprises,
which led to ever growing unemployment, falling salaries and the weakening of the
middle class. In 1995, Menem decided, in alliance with the IFIs to implement a
structural reform of social security to maintain investors’ confidence in the Argentine
economy. This aggravated the problems it was supposed to solve (Vivares et. Al.,
2009: 202). The IMF withheld from an emergency loan because of the governments
failure to meet with agreed fiscal targets, which then led to an political and economic

collapse. The riots and street violence where violently repressed by the police; 24
people where shot dead (Panizza, 2009: 133).

While the economic situation worsened (with reduced productivity, capital volatility,
and high state debt), the social effects of the neoliberal policies where becoming ever
clearer: the model had produced and aggravated a highly exclusionary society
(Schuster, 2008:165). The political effects where a public disillusionment with the
establishment (Alfonsin’s inabilities and Menem’s ‘corruption’ of the public good),
resulting in the mass protests main slogan: ‘Que se vayan todos’. They all had to
leave. This makes the Argentinean situation a good example of how after the
democratization of the political sphere, the economy was never actually
democratized. While Argentina had known huge protests during the Alfonsin and
Menem years, the 2001 protests brought new forms of political construction to light,
which where build from society rather than the political establishment (Schuster,
2008: 165). The organization of unemployed, poor and middle class people
(Piqueteros, caceroleros and asambleistas), emerged out of a crisis of political parties
and of the traditional unions (ibid.), who had also abandoned their support base.

In 2002 the new Adolfo Rodriguez Saa government abandoned the convertibility plan
which was the offset for the biggest recession in Argentina since the 1930s. The
economy during this period shrank with almost 11% (Panizza, 2009: 133-134). The
then minister of economics, Roberto Lavagna, blames the IMF for acting in behalf of
private investors in stead of the Argentine economy, which led to the deepening of the
economic crisis (ibid.: 140).

In 2003 Nestor Kirchner assumed office, cancelled Argentina’s debt with the IMF,
reduced the power of foreign financial actors over state finances and has regulated the
powerful agro-export sector to maintain domestic mass consumption, national
reserves and maintain the exchange rate (Vivares et. Al., 2009: 204-205). The culture
of protests has led to the situation that Kirchner cannot risk its legitimacy with not
standing up to the IFIs (ibid.). In 2006, Argentina renationalized the social security
system and had an outstanding average of 8,8 percent annual growth in GDP (ibid.:

“Lulinha Paz e Amor”
Lula and the power of the Workers Party (PT)

Brazil has for long been one of the most unjust societies in the world with the
countries wealth and land in the hands of a small elite. Brazil’s foreign policy has
been completely submissive to the world’s main economic powers and especially the
US. Free trade agreements, neoliberal policies and the Washington Consensus
adjustment programs have been implemented as a ‘common sense’ way for economic
development while opponents where condemned as ‘childish’ and based on
‘ideological’ protests to relations with the US (Sanchez et al., 2008: 58).

It is in this light that the 2002 election of Lula da Silva, a formal industrial worker and
leader of the Workers Party (PT) is a massive change in Brazil’s political landscape. It
was in 1989 already, that the PT and Lula came to attention when for the first time in
Brazil a candidate who was openly socialist won 16% of the electorate (which equals
11 million votes) (Sanchez et at., 2008: 42). Even though Lula lost the elections three
times before assuming the presidency in 2002, by then the PT already governed in
187 municipalities and was in charge of three state governments (ibid.: 43). The most
important and internationally known example of local governance of the PT is the
‘participatory budget’ experience in Porto Alegre. With the unique emphasis on
radical, direct democracy, the Porto Alegre experience became an example for
alternative governance around the world. The PT has thus been able to use this
experience to promote the ‘PT way of governance’, which is signed by ethical
governance, democratic participation and administrative efficiency as a way to
distance oneself from the traditional political elites (Panizza, 2009: 212-213).

The creation of the PT in 1980, has to be seen in the light of popular mobilization and
protests against authoritarianism that developed during the 1970s. The PT is
significantly different from mainstream Brazilian political parties in that it combines
internal pluralism with internal discipline and a programme of radical social and
economy reform. It also has strong links with the countries social movements and
even though it does participate within the political system, it is always highly critical
of it (Panizza, 2009: 212).

Nonetheless, Lula has moved significantly to the centre of the political spectre and
even within the PT, criticism rises around is inability or unwillingness to change
power relations in the social and economic sphere. ‘Lulinha Paz e Amor’ has always
made it clear not to endorse any social conflict and has, during his 2002 electoral
campaign, made clear to respect business and repay international debt ones in office
(Sanchez et al., 2008: 46-48). He promised to abandon the neoliberal economic model
imposed by the predecessors, implement a developmentalist model and establish a
government for the society as a whole, while seeking to reduce social inequalities
while respecting business interests and private property (ibid.). Moreover, changes
would be implemented gradually, on the basis of negotiations and not by ‘destroying’
the existing model.

“Living in harmony with others and with nature”

The indigenous revolt and Evo Morales

In December 2005, the MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) won the national elections,
which made Evo Morales the first indigenous president in a country where 60% of the
population is Amerindian. The election of ‘Evo’ and the success of the MAS can be
seen as a direct result of the struggle against racism, neoliberal policies and the
exploitation of natural resources. The ‘water war’ in 2001 in Cochabamba and the
‘gas war’ in 2003, in which the Sanchez de Lozada government attempted to export
gas to the US, led to an explosion of popular protest and the collapse of the

In the 1990s, Bolivia was made a ‘testing ground’ for far-reaching neoliberal policies
under the Washington Consensus and this is when the indigenous communities
actually started the resistance (Buxton: 2). Besides the fact that this created more
poverty and inequality, the indigenous communities (8,6 million inhabitants) have
always been marginalised and have suffered mass exploitation since the colonial area.
62,7% of Bolivians live in poverty (of which most are indigenous) and 26,5% in
extreme poverty (Moreno & Aguirre, 2006: 3). The water war represented a new form
of political organization and a convergence of new democratic forms of social
mobilization (Tapia, 2008: 223). After the ‘gas war’ ousted the de Lozada

government, the newly elected ‘Evo’ was quick to (re-)nationalize the gas reserves.
When before the nationalization, around 18% of the revenues went to the state and
82% to foreign companies, the nationalization reversed the figures (Tapia, 2008: 225).

Despite harsh resistance by the economic elites in the east of the country and the
private media, 61% of Bolivians voted for the new constitution in 2008 (Buxton: 1).
The constitution declares Bolivia a plurinational state, with which it recognises the 36
indigenous nations and languages as official languages besides Spanish. “Living
well”, the indigenous way of not living ‘better’ but to live in harmony with others and
with nature is also one of the main themes of the new constitution. Given the history
of the water wars in Cochabamba, it is interesting to note that the new constitution
prohibits the privatization of water and the for-profit control of other public services
(Buxton: 4).

2.6 Concluding remarks

Neoliberal policies in Latin America, which where imbedded in transition to liberal

democracy, in the 1980s and 1990s, have caused a rise in poverty and inequality,
unemployment, a decline in real wages, a rise in the informal sector, cultural
polarization, no access to social benefits, more insecurity, an unstable form of
development and an economic growth at the expanse of the gross of the population. It
also led to a disillusion with liberal democracy, since elected presidents have almost
always been more inclined to listen to the stockholders of (mostly foreign) investors,
then to the people they where supposed to represents.

The rise of the left, thanks to grassroots movements, happened despite the
polarization of the formal working class but thanks to the fact that the military in most
countries had lost its ability to destabilize countries in the way they did in the decades
before (with notable exceptions in Honduras and Colombia). Beginning in Mexico
with the Zapatista uprising, the election of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Morales in
Bolivia, Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina, have been strengthened by the
globalization of grassroots protest movements starting in Seattle in 1999 and leading
to the organization of the World Social Forum as an alternative to the elitist and
corporate driven economic forums around the world. The economic crisis and the

crisis of liberal democracy, which will be developed in the next part of this thesis, re-
revealed the anti-systemic movements and made possible their further developments
in the political sphere.

The outcome of these struggles is still open ended and the election of the rightwing
Piñera in 2010 in Chile, and Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, have shown that the
‘left turn’ in Latin America is far from a development which just spills over from
country to country. And of course, the differences between the movements are so
numerous, that is can be questioned whether or not we can speak of one counter
movement against neoliberalism. In what follows, I will analyze these movements in
the light of the theories on hegemony and counterhegemony and explore the abilities
for a successful counter movement that could move beyond Latin America. I will first
explain how the hegemony of the United States and the neoliberal ideology in Latin
America has been established, cover what we have to learn from the failure to
socialize Chile and after that analyze the possibilities for a successful
counterhegemonic movement.


For decades, United States has held hegemony over Latin America, establishing the
ideological hegemony of neoliberalism, which was institutionalized through the
Washington Consensus. The effects of the implemented policies have been outlined
above, and, as I will explain, the reaction to these policies can be seen as a Polanyian
double movement of peoples and nations trying to preserve their own autonomy
through a more democratically controlled economy. Moreover, at this moment we are
experiencing a financial/economic crisis that has caused a crisis of political legitimacy
of liberal democracy, the failures of which have also been outlined in the previous
chapter. In contradiction to what we read and hear from politicians, left and right of
the spectrum and the mainstream media, this crisis is a systemic one and, according to
David Harvey (2010), one that cannot be resolved within the neoliberal paradigm. We
need new epistemologies to understand what is going on in the world. And, as I will
stress later on, this crisis can be seen as an opportunity, because it means that
hegemony is fading.

In what follows, I will place the movements in Latin American in the theoretical
perspective. The Zapatistas, as the autonomists, have created a new a
Weltanschauung, by combining the indigenous struggle with Marxist theories. But
their lack of state power can be problematic. To stress the crucial importance of
having state power we will look at what happened in Chile in the 70s, when
progressive reforms with a lack of state power and mass popular support led to a
bloody abortion of the process. Allende lacked the crucial characteristic of the
Bolivarian process in Venezuela: support of the military, large popular base and the
ability to communicate with the masses (Raby, 2006). I will stress that the
Bolivarianism in Venezuela can be seen as a Gramscian process. Chávez first engaged
in a ‘war of movement’ (the 1992 coup attempt). When this failed a ‘war of position’,
the establishment of an alternative ideological hegemony, took place. This in effect
led to the election of Chávez as Venezuelan president and the consequent
transformation of the state and the national culture. Bolivar, one of the main sources
of inspiration for the Bolivarian process had a dream of integration Latin America in

the face of imperialism. This dream has been revived by Chávez and I will look at the
Latin American regional integration through Cox’ hegemony model and highlighting
the ALBA and TeleSur. Next I will look at how Bolivia and to a lesser extent Ecuador
are delinking from the colonial matrix of power and knowledge by the
implementation of a radical new institution that tends to decolonize the country. I will
conclude this chapter with highlighting the necessities for counterhegemony, future
prospects and possibilities for a worldwide movement of counterhegemony.

3.1 What are we Resisting? Hegemony in Practice

In order to develop a model for counterhegemony, it is crucial to understand the ways

in which hegemony works in the real world. How and where is it established, how
does it work and what are the possibilities for change? I will use Robert Cox’s model
for hegemony to analyse the way the current hegemonic order functions and how the
United States have managed to establish not just domination but hegemony in Latin

Although Hardt & Negri argue that ‘Empire’ has no geographical centre since
imperialism no longer exists (Hardt&Negri, 2001: xiii-xiv), Susan Strange stresses
that it is impossible for any state to ignore the United States; it is impossible for
corporations outside of the US to not do business with the United States, which gives
them centralized power in the current system (Strange, 1988: 129). Also, as I will
explain in this chapter, the United States is the place where the current international
institutions, the believe system and the economic and military power are based or at
least have come into existence. I will analyse the hegemony of the United States (in
Latin America) using Cox’s model for hegemony in which ideas, material capabilities
and institutions form the three spheres of nation states, world orders and relations of

The United States came out of the Second World War as by far the most powerful
state worldwide. Concerning material capabilities, the first of the elements of a
hegemonic sphere, the United States had been uncontested regarding military as well
as economic power. For example, by 1948, the US national income was more than
twice the combined national income of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the

Benelux countries, and more than six times that of the USSR (Silver; Arrighi, 2003:
340). This gave them considerable leverage in introducing certain institutions, which
served their interests (like the International Monetary Fund and World bank).
Regarding their military forces, at this moment US forces match the rest of the
world’s combined; with 725 bases in 140 countries, it stands unchallenged in the
international system (De Zoyosa; Newman, 2008: 417). There is a large pool of
popular US critics (like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and many others) who point
out the savage domination of US politics worldwide, the way they support coups and
repressive regimes in order to keep markets open to US companies, using military
(war) as well as economic power, regarding the trade embargo on Iraq and Cuba as
well as the implementation of IMF programs. What they seem to oversee is that
domination and material capabilities alone don’t imply hegemony and that the US
never could have played the role of the hegemon without the consent of subaltern
states. Coercion has been a partial, and sometimes even counterproductive, basis for
US power (Harvey, 2005: 39). The point is that for the US to be hegemonic, it has to
at least act in such a way that it can claim to act in the general interest, even when it
might be acting out of sole self-interest. This is where the importance of ideas comes

The ruling, dominant idea has been, after a Keynesian intermission after the
Depression of the ‘30s until the around the ‘70s (Schwartz, 2000: 177-196), ‘free
trade’ or neoliberalism. The concepts associated with this idea (such as the reduction
of state spending, currency devaluation, privatization and the promotion of free
market) are widely considered to be ‘commonsense’ policies, which benefit everyone;
while in fact, it mainly suits the interests of the hegemon (Hobden; Jones, 2008: 152).
Recognising that capitalism has to expand outwards in the search of new markets,
with the open markets and free access to the developing world ‘as outlets for capital
investment along with plentiful cheap labour supplies’, the free trade ideology has
been at the United States’ advantage (De Zoyosa; Newman, 2008: 415). Second, it
will always be in the interest of the hegemon to promote free trade, because, assuming
that it is the most effective producer, its products will be the cheapest and most
competitive in the world (Hobden; Jones, 2008: 152). Only when other countries
would put up trade barriers, their own products would be cheaper than the United
States’. Third, if developing countries are going to compete in free trade markets, they

most likely will stay reliant on raw material export; presumably the only products
with which they can compete (Ibid). Fourth, with the privatizations of the main
spheres in life, investors from the US (and Europe) have been able throughout history
to buy important (oil-, telecom-, etc) companies at bargain prices and make profits,
which then flow back to the ‘first’ world (ibid). Why then, do countries that do not
benefit from free trade implement these policies? The answer seems to lie in
ideological hegemony: ‘Whether or not ‘market logic’ is hegemonic depends on how
widespread the view is that the market functions according to inexorable laws
(Birchfield, 1999: 34).’ The Cold War provided the perfect opportunity for the US to
claim to be acting in the general interest, and not just their owns. It could claim to be
acting in the interest of the ‘propertied’ part of the world population, which kept
subaltern states gratefully in line, when faced with the ‘danger of communism’
(Harvey, 2005: 40).

Furthermore, the free market ideology has been institutionalized in the world’s main
international financial institutions (IFIs), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and
the World Bank (WB). The believe system of free market and free trade thus provides
the ideological foundation for the Washington Consensus (Harris, 2005: 406). The
reforms associated with the Consensus have promoted uneven and unsustainable
forms of development throughout Latin American countries (Ibid). In the 1970’s, the
developing countries where able to get massive lending’s, thanks to a combination of
depressed profits in the ‘First World’ and loose US monetary policies. ‘When the
United States reversed its monetary policies and started to compete aggressively in
the world finance markets, the “flood” of capital of he 1970s turned into the
“drought” of the 1980s, first signalled by the Mexican default of 1982, the drought
created a propitious environment for the capital-friendly change in policies that the
so-called Washington Consensus began advocating at about the same time (Silver;
Arrighi. 2003: 346).’ The IMF and WB’s influence immediately grew once the
private sector lending drought up. Where the IMF once functioned as a provider of
short-term loans to governments with balance of payments problems, it now assumed
a key role ‘in restructuring the countries’ foreign debts, conditioning financial
assistance to the promotion of structural reforms along free market principles
(Panizza, 2009: 31).’ At the same time the WB’s role changed from lending money
for developing projects to the promotion of the structural reforms, associated with the

free trade and open markets ideology (ibid). The voting system of the institutions
reflects the interests and power of their large shareholders, especially the US, Japan
and the EU (ibid) and the US government was the leading force behind the strategy to
restructure the IMF ‘to incorporate economic growth into the stabilization agenda,
which materialized in the so-called growth-oriented structural reforms (ibid: 34).’
Panizza furthermore notes that besides the ‘hard power’ the WB and IMF possessed
regarding Latin American countries (grounded on financial asymmetries after the debt
crisis’s the countries suffered), they also made use of the ‘soft power of policy
learning and the construction of ideological consensus (ibid: 37).’ This enabled the
institutions to redefine the domestic actors’ preferences in accordance to their own,
i.e. the preferences of their main shareholders.

Katz (2006) notices that the neoliberal thought can thus be seen as the hegemonic
ideology, ‘with the backing of the United States as the dominant state, as well as a
host of other states, interstate, and non-state actors (such as the European Union,
WTO, WB, and IMF) forming a historic bloc, which inevitably co-opts the major
organizations in global civil society, and uses them to promote its agenda under the
cloak of openness (Katz, 2006: 334).’ Although regarding Latin America it was
sometimes the case that the structural adjustments have been implemented ‘thanks to’
the ruling of authoritarian, military regimes, backed by US military forces (Harris,
2005; Klein, 2007; Livingstone, 2009), this has not always been the case. The point is
that rule by force is not necessary, when you are able to rule with the ‘consent’ of the
dominant classes, and restructure their preferences according to your own (Panizza,
2009). We can thus conclude from the above that the US can indeed be seen as the
hegemon when we use Cox’s three elements that constitute the spheres of hegemony.
It has the material capacities (economic as well as military), their hegemonic ideology
is neoliberalism (seen throughout the world as ‘commonsense), which has been
institutionalized through the IMF and World Bank.

This method, of combining ideas, institutions and material capabilities in order to

establish a hegemonic order, can be applied at three levels: social forces, forms of
state an world orders. Change in each of these levels generates change in the others. I
focus on the United States as the hegemonic power, because hegemony is likely to
start (according to Cox) on the national level, and then expends his reach outwards,

with which it influences world orders and social forces. By using the intellectual
hegemony of neoliberalism and embedding this ideology in the international financial
institutions, the United States government has been able to alter the world order and
make its ideology into a form of common sense. The way the US have been perusing
their ‘national interest’ in the last ten years or so, especially the way it handles the
‘war on terror’ and invaded Iraq without the consent of a large part of the world (even
‘befriended’ European countries), seems to imply that the US is relying more and
more on coercion and less on consent. More force implies less hegemony but
moreover, if hegemony weakens, the former hegemon can turn to far more coercive
tactics to keep its power in tact (see for example Harvey, 2005: 74; 138-212).

3.2 Double Movement

According to Hagai Katz’s (2006) account of hegemony, counter-hegemony and

hegemony form ‘simultaneous double movements’ that reciprocally shape each other.
At the global level, hegemony is produces by a dominant mode of production that is
forwarded by dominant state and institutions. At the same time, counter-hegemony
needs to combine these factors, it needs to connect social classes in different
countries, forming a global ‘counter-hegemonic historic bloc (Katz, 2006: 336)’.

A countermovement can be seen, according to Polanyian thought, as ‘…the natural,

spontaneous response of individuals and collective society to preserve not only their
own autonomy but their very existence by trying to shape their destiny through a
more democratically controlled, socially embedded economy (Birchfield, 1999: 39).’
Polanyi saw free markets as nothing spontaneous; he didn’t believe in the ‘invisible
hand’ of the market. The unregulated market would eventually be restrained by
actions from above or from civil society because the project of self-regulating market
is utopian and unsustainable on its own terms. It is ‘… one that is bound to wreck the
“fabric of society” and call forth “agencies” that will move to protect “society” from
the ravages of the satanic mill (…) (Silver; Arrighi, 2003: 326).’ Polanyi recognised
that agents from the movement toward the market could range from the local and
national to the global haute finance, the agents of the countermovement were largely
local and national, aiming at protecting local or national interests (ibid: 328). Just like
in the nineteenth century, where Polanyi was actually writing about, the movement

toward far-reaching free market policies and practices, has called forth a
countermovement of protection from the disruptions caused by intensifying
worldwide competition for capital and markets (ibid: 347). Silver and Arrighi (2003)
also emphasise that the current counter movement’s driving force, mainly had been
resistance from the south. The developing countries that stuck with the Washington
Consensus saw a massive drop in the median growth of 2,5% in the period between
1960-1979 to 0% in the period from 1980-1998 (ibid: 394). According to Birchfield
(1999), Polanyi’s double movement can be seen as two organizing principles in
society working together. Economic liberalism, the establishment of the self-regulated
market relied on the trade classes and the ‘double movement’ aimed at social
protection and the conservation of ‘man and nature’ and relied on the support of those
directly effected by the outcomes of free trade policies, mainly the working- and
landed classes (Birchfield, 1999: 39).

The emphasis should therefore be on the way free market ideology and practice
excludes the economic sphere from democratic control (ibid: 38). ‘…the private status
granted to corporations, despite their enormous social power, effectively removes
from political discourse the whole host of issues that from the democratic perspective
should be subjected to public debate- not the least of which is the wage labour system
and the asymmetries between the power of labour and the power of capital (ibid: 34).’
George Soros saw as the biggest problem of economic globalisation that ‘markets are
almost always wrong, and they have to be made right (quoted in Silver; Arrighi, 2003:
350).’ According to Silver and Arrighi (2003) however, the real problem is that where
some countries have to power to make the market work according to their
preferences, the ones that don’t have that power can only bear the costs. ‘The weight
of those costs has provoked myriad resistances (…) (ibid).’ The concept of double
movement in the context of globalization and neoliberal policies could thus be seen as
society’s self-protection against the commodification of all aspects life (Birchfield,
1999: 38).

3.3 Crisis

Even some left wing politicians like to tell us that the current crisis is a merely
economic one, and claim that we should go on in the same direction, sometimes with

a little more security against the effects of neoliberalism. On the other hand, on the
right as well as the left of the political spectrum, there is a widespread belief that this
crisis should be resolved with a deepening of neoliberalism: more cuts on public
spendings and less social security. This belief is echoed in the mainstream media and
the idea that the people should pay for the crisis is common sense and as such hardly
questioned. Even left wing politicians don’t seem to see that this crisis is not a mere
economic one that can be fixed with a band-aid and that the economic can’t be seen
apart from the social and political. What we need is new ways to understand the world
and to see that this crisis can’t be resolved by thinking within the neoliberal paradigm.
According to David Harvey, the mental conceptions that are associated with
neoliberalism and the commercialization of universities and the media, for instance,
have played a crucial role in the production of the current crisis (Harvey, 2010). The
current crisis is also a crisis of (political as well as moral) legitimacy. As Walden
Bello states (even before the 2007-08 crash): ‘ (….) in little over a decade, global
capitalism has passed from triumph to crisis. September 11, in retrospect, was a slight
reversal of this prolonged crisis, but the widening cracks in the system of global
capitalism – including the liberal democratic political regimes and American military
hegemony that act as its protective canopy- cannot be papered for long (Bello, 2002:
27).’ The crisis can’t be solved by mere adjustments within the system, as these
would only postpone a bigger crisis (See Bello, 2002 and Harvey, 2010).

The current crisis is not just an economic crisis but, as I have stated, a crisis of
political legitimacy (of liberal democracy) and, moreover, a systemic crisis. At the
World Social Forum in 2010 in Porto Alegre, David Harvey stated that the current
crisis has its origins in the steps taken to resolve the crisis of the 1970s, in other
words, the deepening of neoliberal policies. These are (1) an assault upon organized
labour, resulting in a global wage repression, (2) intensifying global competition,
resulting in lower non-corporate profits and uneven geographical development, (3)
utilizing money capital to reallocate capital resources, thus sparking
deindustrialization in traditional core regions and new forms of repressive
industrialization of natural resources in emerging markets, (4) a heightened reliance
on ‘accumulation of dispossession’ (privatizations), (5) an intensification of effective
demand by pushing the debt economy to its limits, (6) compensating for low rates of
return in production by the creation of asset market bubbles, leading to the property

bubble that burst in 2007-8 (Harvey, 2010). All of this happened under the ideological
hegemony of neoliberalism and the liberal democratic state that was more inclined to
listen to the large stakeholders than to the population is was supposed to represent.
The disillusion with the liberal democratic establishment has led to a growing support
for anti-establishment politicians of the progressive kind (in Latin America), but also
to the election of neo-fascist or ultra right anti-immigration parties in Western
European countries.

According to Harvey, three percent compound growth is no longer sustainable

without resort to all manners of fictions such as those that have characterized asset
markets in the last two decades (Harvey, 2010). This would imply an implosion of the
capitalist system since this three percent growth is considered to be the minimum for
a satisfactory capitalist economy. Harvey stresses that there might be no alternative
but to manage a transition toward a zero growth economy and that, if this is be done
in an equitable way, there is no alternative to some form of socialism or communism
(Harvey, 2010). To go on in the way we have been doing since around the 1970s
after this crisis, would mean losing the fruits of labour, surrendering rights to hard-
won asset values such as housing and pension rights, environmental degradation and
off course the deprivation of those already living at rock bottom, which in practice
would mean starvation. Class inequalities will increase, as well as political repression,
police violence and military control (ibid.). The world is integrated into the capitalist
system to such an extent that there is no more space for the capital surplus, which
began to emerge around the 1980s. These difficulties have been resolved by the
creation of fictitious markets, but according to Harvey it is no longer sustainable to
keep making money out of money. The central problem is, in Harvey’s words:
‘Compound growth for ever is not possible and the troubles that have beset the world
these last thirty years signal that a limit is looming to continuous capital accumulation
that cannot be transcended except by creating fictions that cannot last (Harvey,
2010).’ To this can be added the fact that so many people around the world live in
abject poverty while the number of billionaires rises at the same time. Environmental
degradations are showing the impact of the system we have been sustaining and the
poor of the south are much more vulnerable to these effects, without having tasted the
‘fruits’ of economic growth at the first place. Above all that ‘….the levers of political,
institutional, judicial, military and media power are under such tight but dogmatic

political control as to be incapable of doing much more than perpetuating the status
quo and frustrating discontent (Harvey, 2010).’

Crisis can be seen as an opportunity, because it usually means that hegemony is

fading. This can lead to a reliance on more coercive means to maintain the status quo,
but also to opportunities for counterhegemonic movements. The danger still is that
this doesn’t have to be a progressive one, when there is no Gramscian modern prince
who is able to communicate to the peoples that have been disadvantaged by the status
quo. In the 1930s, the crisis led to a rise of nationalist and fascist parties, and in
Western European countries, this seems to be the case once more. A
counterhegemonic movement can be progressive or conservative. What we need for
radical progressive change is several modern princes (and princesses) around the
world, being able to combine grassroots organizations, to channel discontent in the
right direction and to make sure that change in one dynamic triggers social change
and movement in other sectors.

3.4 Zapatistas and the birth of a countermovement

The Zapatistas uprising on the day of the NAFTA agreement in 1994, signalled the
beginning of a counter-hegemonic movement against neoliberalism and put into
practice a new form of rebellion. The fall of the Berlin Wall represented a powerful
defeat of the traditional Left, but also an opportunity to break away from the
authoritarianism that had ruled the so-called ‘really existing’ socialist countries. The
Zapatistas became a source of inspiration for the dispossessed around the world and
showed that there was no such thing as the ‘end of history (Fukuyama, 1989)’ where
everyone would be living happily ever after in the neoliberal system. In
Subcommandante Marcos’ own words: ‘The ending of the third world war -meaning
the cold war- in no sense means that the world has gone beyond the bipolar and found
stability under the domination of a single victor. (….) The defeat of the “evil empire”
has opened up new markets, and the struggle over them is leading to a new world
war- the fourth (Marcos, 1997).’

Besides being the first globally recognised movement against neoliberal restructuring,
the Zapatistas are special for their inclusive form of rebellion with which they

portrayal their struggle as being the struggle of all the dispossessed in the world
(Collier & Collier, 2005: 453). The Zapatistas are horizontally organized,
subcommandante Marcos states to be at the service of the indigenous commandantes
and the whole organization is responsive to the will of the people. Recalling the
debate about the importance of the state in section 1.11, John Holloway takes the
Zapatistas struggle as his main point of inspiration when writing about the anti-power
revolutionaries should aim for in ‘Change the world without taking power’.
According to Holloway, the Zapatistas avoid the state and taking power and aim for
anti-power; to create a world of humanity and dignity (Holloway, 2002: 20-21). For
him, the biggest contribution the Zapatistas have made is to separate revolution from
control of the state (ibid.: 174). Indeed, the Zapatistas aim to create an alternative
system of governance within the state, and don’t directly aim to seize state power.
They did however, five months after the armed uprising, promote participation in the
elections, by proposing change via the electoral path (Bartra, 2008: 195). Also, the
Zapatistas don’t avoid the state, since all their demands are directed toward the state
and they seek to transform the constitution.

The Zapatistas are being cited by the autonomists (recall the ‘what about the state’
debate, section 1.11) for the spontaneousness if their revolt and the open-endedness of
their struggle. This, according to Holloway is necessary because when you start to see
revolution as a means to a certain end, this immediately leads to the subordination of
all the struggles to the struggle (Holloway, 2002: 208). To a certain extent, the
autonomists are right in their assertion of the Zapatistas. As I said, the movement is
horizontal, inclusive and far from authoritarian. But as I stated before, the Zapatistas
might not seek state power, to say that they avoid the state is an overstatement.
Moreover, the Zapatista uprising is far from spontaneous, which is one of the prime
necessities of new revolutionary movement, according to Holloway’s anti-power
notion of it (Holloway, 2002: 211). The Zapatistas uprising was actually, as I briefly
stated before, the outcome of a ten year long preparation and not just a spontaneous
reaction to the NAFTA agreement.

The Zapatista uprising has its origins in the neoliberalization policies and the
subsequent student protests than led to the massacre of 1968 (Bartra, 2008: 194). This
event gave the left the feeling that there was no more room for liberation politics

some activists began to organize an anachronistic guerrilla force in the mountains of
Chiapas. The roots of the rebellion go much deeper however, as there they
encountered the indigenous peoples who had actually been struggling capitalist
reforms for 500 years and decided to subdue their Marxist ideologies to the actual
indigenous struggle and ideology (see Bartra, 2008; Khasnabish, 2010).

The Zapatista ‘war’ is a struggle against the Mexican ‘bad governance’ but has been
interpreted by social movement worldwide as a struggle against global ‘bad
governance’ which seeks to make the world in its own image (Bahn, 2009: 544-545).’
The Zapatista uprising actually has to be seen as local rebellion against racism, but
happened at a crucial time (the signing of the NAFTA) and has been using the media
in such a matter that it has been interpreted as a global struggle against the savages of
neoliberalism. The struggle is not just against neoliberalism but also against so-called
modernity in the European sense. They have been establishing an epistemology, an
alternative philosophy of history and another way of locating themselves in time and
space (ibid.: 541). Recalling the decolonialism debate, it can thus be argued that the
Zapatistas indeed are trying to delink from the ‘colonial matrix of power (Mignolo,
2007)’, and especially the ‘the colonial control of subjectivity and knowledge’. As I
outlined in section 1.12, for Mignolo, a crucial aspect for the success of a
countermovement is to delink from the dominant epistemology which underpins the
colonial matrix of power. “If neoliberalism seeks to fashion the world in a bourgeois
image, the crux of Zapatismo is to offer a mirror reflection of that image (Bahn, 2009:
546). And by doing this, the Zapatistas have been establishing their own
Weltanschauung, to counter the intellectual hegemony of the global power structe.
According to the Zapatistas, capitalism ‘…makes merchandise of people, of nature, of
culture, of history, of conscience (CCRI-CG 2005 cited in Bahn, 2009: 550).’ As a
countermovement, they have established a counter narrative of culture and civilization
that is based on ‘…economic and cultural autonomy, the right to construct their own
narratives and produce their own material culture (ibid.).’ All this has been happening
within the current power structures, as is the fact with their Good Government Juntas;
autonomous spaces of governance that exist within the national power structure, but
operate completely independent from it. As such it seems, when recalling the different
views on counterhegemonic movements, that the Zapatistas are well on their way with
establishing their counter struggle. Nonetheless, the lack of interest or failure to seize

state power can become highly problematic in the future. Will the Zapatistas ever be
successful in transforming the Mexican state without seizing state power? As I have
noted before, oppressive elites can grasp the advantage when a countermovement
lacks intellectual leadership en coherence (Katz, 2005). According to Robinson:
‘…no emancipation is possible without an alternative project, and no such project is
possible without addressing the matter of power of dominant groups, the organization
of that power in the state (including coercive power), and the concomitant need to
disempower dominant groups by seizing the state from them, dismantling it, and
constructing alternative institutions (Robinson, 2008: 342).” The danger of the
Zapatistas movement and the focus of strict horizontalism can be that is becomes a
rigid principle, rather than an emancipatory project which is able to generate mass
working class support (ibid.). The bloody consequences progressive reform can have
without having state power become clear when we look at what happened in Chile
between 1971 and 1973.

3.5 Lessons from Chile

The crucial importance of having state power is underlined by the failure of the left in
Chile. Most Chileans feel uncomfortable with the anti-imperialist discourse of Chávez
and Morales, because it brings back memories of the failed attempt to revolutionize
the country in the ’70, which was brutally aborted. Being traumatized by the
repressive Pinochet dictatorship that followed, Chileans feel that such an attempt is
useless and dangerous and than one should always make concessions with the right
and the United States government (see for example Silva, 2009).

Salvador Allende won the elections with only 36,2% of the votes. His election had to
be ratified by vote in Congress, which meant that Allende had to make certain
concessions proposed by the Christian Democrats (Raby, 2006: 198). The Allende
government (Unidad Popular) did have official government power, but never
controlled the state institutions such as the military, which in Chile is highly elitist, in
contrast with for example Venezuela. For Raby, the failed revolution in Chile
confirms the importance of ‘…broad popular unity, the need to overcome partisan
divisions and sectarianism, the essential role of national popular culture and tradition,
the need for ideological breadth of vision within the limits dictated by popular

interests, and the crucial role of leadership (Raby, 2006: 197).’ To really establish a
revolutionary programme, Allende needed massive popular mobilization among well
over fifty percent of the electorate, but this was never achieved by the Unidad Popular
in the three years of their governance. It seems likely that massive popular support
would also have led to a less hostile military (Raby, 2006: 200). An important factor
for the stagnation of the UP is the inability of Allende to appeal to the masses in the
shanty towns, who where mobilized by his Christian Democratic opponent Frei
(Raby, 2006: 202). Allende couldn’t or didn’t want to communicate with them
directly and was seen, again in contradiction to Chávez in Venezuela, as an
intellectual and not as ‘one of them’. As such, he never actually established an
alternative intellectual hegemony.

The five key objectives of the UP government where: a new institutional order, an
economy based on social property and agrarian reform, progress in basic social
provisions, the promotion of culture and education and greater international autonomy
(Allende, 1973). The special benefits for the poor where medical and dental attention,
social security expansion, housing construction projects, rents where set at no more
than 10% of the family income (Barton, 2003: 11). Barton notes that: ‘The ability of
the government to advocate a deinstitutionalisation of the political struggle and
promote direct action by the masses (…), as well as maintaining the institutional
order, was a constant challenge throughout the period (Barton, 2003: 11).’ Because of
the UP’s commitment to democracy and pluralism in the face of an opposition which
utilized ‘terrorism, manipulation of the productive and services apparatus, and what
Allende called the ‘invisible blockade’, it seemed impossible to achieve the socialist
goals within the constitutional framework (Raby, 2006: 199; Batron, 3002: 10-11).
Also, the rightwing influence over de media perpetuated fear of food shortages and
inflation, disabled the seizure of wholesale distribution and moreover, disabled the
establishment of an ideological counter hegemony (Barton, 2003: 12). Since this is
also the case in Venezuela, where most of the media is controlled by a hostile
rightwing opposition, it seems fair to suggest that the lack of mass mobilization to
counter the private media is one of the main problems the UP government faced.
Industrial renationalization failed because the owners paralyzed production prior to
the takeover and the economy stagnated after Allende’s first year in office due to

growing inflation, balance-of-payments deficits, which was exacerbated by the
opposition sabotage (Raby, 2006: 203).

The coup on September 11th 1973 was supported by the United States, but they didn’t
actually have to intervene themselves as in Cuba or Nicaragua, because they had
confidence in the abilities of the right wing forces in Chile (Raby, 2006: 205). The
radical neoliberal reforms, designed by economists from the university of Chicago,
weren’t implemented because the military junta believed in the free market system,
but because this would lead to the political, economic and social order which would
never allow the left to come back (Panizza, 2009: 15). It required the harshest social
repression to disintegrate the structures of social relation set in place in Chile in the
two UP years (Barton, 2003: 15) and following the coup, discussion among the left
arose on the failure of the ‘Chilean road to Socialism’. The believe that the left should
always make concessions with Christian Democrats, would eventually lead to the
formation of the Concertacion government (Raby, 2006: 29).

Most Chileans seem unconvinced that there will ever be the possibility for radical
change, and as I stated in section 2.1, the dictatorship and the mass exile of leftwing
supporters to Europe has caused a absolute believe in forming alliances and an
unquestionable support for the neoliberal model. Nevertheless, as I have stated here, it
seems reasonable that the Allende government was doomed to failure from the
beginning, mainly because of the lack of popular mobilization and a lack of power
over the main state institutions. As Hearse outlined in his critique on Holloway, who
stresses the importance of revolutionizing society without seizing state power: in
Chile firms where collectivized, land was seized by peasants and the basis of an
alternative, popular system of administration based on the committees and collectives
could be seen outlined. This is exactly what Holloway wants to see happening, but
because Allende lacked the support from state institutions such as the military, the
revolutionary masses where unable to seize state power (Hearse, 2003: 39). This
implicates that revolution without state power is not only impossible, it can have
deadly consequences and this is why we should always keep in mind the lessons from
Chile. It underlines the importance of establishing a ‘war of position’ before going
over to a ‘war of movement’. The Bolivarian process happening at this moment in
Venezuela shows the relevance of having the support of the army, mass popular

organization and the establishment of an alternative ideology to counter the hegemony
of the ruling elites.

3.6 Bolivarianism as a Gramscian process

The importance of having state power, the support of the military as well as the
masses and of establishing a counter ideology us underlined by what is happening in
contemporary Venezuela.

The military in Venezuela has, in contradistinction to Chile, a democratic tradition.

When Hugo Chávez entered the military in 1970 at the age of 17, he had the
opportunity to receive university colleges in social sciences, some of them from
Marxist or left wing scholars (Raby, 2006: 145). This is very different from the
Schools of Americas, the US controlled military training that dominates most of the
military in Latin America. Also, a unique characteristic of the Venezuelan military is
its relationship to the civilian world (Gott, 2005: 40). As Gott notes, Chávez learned
from the radical military experiences in Latin America that preceded his movement,
that it is not possible to make a revolution with the armed forces alone. They need the
support of the great mass of the people. Because of the extraordinary characteristics
of the Venezuelan military and the ability to establish an alternative ideological
hegemony, Chávez has been able to start of one of the most unique counterhegemonic
tendencies in the region. What Chávez has been doing is foster progressive and anti-
imperialist ideology within the military, which now identifies military duty with the
defence of popular democratic rights (Raby, 2006: 205).

Chávez’ charisma, his way of communicating with the masses by speaking their
language and his identification with them, the fact that he is also of mixed race are
things that have created a loyalty that goes much further than just voting for him
(Raby, 2006: 158-159). This ability has proven crucial during the elections, but also
later on when the opposition tried to oust the president by plotting a coup. Where
Allende was seen as an elitist Marxist, Chávez, just like the other ‘new left’ presidents
in Latin America, speaks the language of the people and looks like he is one of them.

As I explained before, the Punto Fijo pact, their exclusionary form of democratic
governance and the implementation of neoliberal reforms led to the caracazo of 1989,
which was the offspring for a politically unstable time, full of protests and coups of
military interventions. In February 1992, Chávez, being the commander of a
parachute regime in Maracay, plotted a coup against the government of president
Perez. The coup failed because the conspirators where betrayed, but what happened
just before Chávez was captured and put in prison changed the course of events.
Chávez appeared on national television for just one minute, but did something that
was unknown to Venezuelans. No one in power had ever taken responsibility for
anything, and in his speech, Chávez took full responsibility for the coup and its failure
(Gott, 2005: 68). But even more importantly, Chávez stated that the coup had failed
por ahora (for now), which gave viewers hope that he would return to overthrow the

According to Gramscian thought, in modern of liberal democracies, a ‘war of

movement’, without establishing an intellectual war of position first, is useless for a
counterhegemonic movement. Civil society is co-opted under the state to such an
extent, that is necessary to create an alternative Weltanschauung before one can wage
a ‘war of movement’ and seize state power. The ‘war of movement’, the military
assault without first establishing an alternative ideological hegemony in Venezuela,
had failed. When this failure turned into an opportunity when Chávez got the ability
to make himself known on national television, the creation of an alternative
Weltanschauung, an ‘war of position’, started to be developed.

The Venezuelan liberal democracy was in crisis. There was an economic crisis and
this was worsened by a political crisis and disillusionment with the political
establishment. The Caracazo, coup attempts and internal dissension in the two
political parties opened up opportunities for change. Caldera won the 1993 elections
thanks to his famous speech in which he legitimized Chávez’ attempted coup (Gott,
2005: 120) which can be seen as one of the signs of the becoming of an alternative
intellectual hegemony in the political landscape. In the subsequent years, new
political forces emerged, Chávez was released from prison, and began to build his
Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement into a political organization with military as well
as civilian support (Gott, 2005:134-135). On the 6th of December 1996, Chávez was

elected as president with 56 per cent of the vote. His main opponent, Salas Romer,
uniting all the conservative powers in the country, received 39 per cent of the vote.
Before his inauguration, rumours spread around the possibility of a coup or legal
actions to prevent Chávez from becoming president, but this didn’t happen because of
the military support Chávez had and because the oligarchy feared a public revolt
(Raby, 2006: 158). Two factors that Allende lacked in the 1970’s and have proven to
be crucial for a counter-hegemonic movement.

As I stressed in the theoretical chapter, the organic intellectuals of the proletarian

classes have to develop a new concept of the world with new ideas, institutions, a new
culture and new social arrangements that challenge bourgeois Weltanschauung.
Recalling the coverage of the Bolivarian process in the historical chapter, the punto
fijo system was elitist and highly illiberal and unrepresentative to most of the people.
They view of citizenship was modelled by the Adeco culture: the image of the middle
and upper-middle class and defined by the interests and tastes of the US-culturized,
ethnically white strata of the population (Buxton, 2009) in which the biggest part of
the population was left out and felt like second class citizens.

Recalling Robert Cox notion of counterhegemony, an ‘…option for change rather

than the preservation of the status quo is dictated more by dissatisfaction with the
prevailing order and hope for improvement than by any blueprint for an alternative.
(…) In the minds of those who opt for change, the solution will most likely be seen as
lying not so much in the enactment of a specific policy program as in the building of
new means of collective action informed by a new understanding of society and polity
(Cox, 1987: 394).’ Indeed, the Chávez government didn’t have systematic,
ideological body of thought when assuming office, nor did they have clear guidelines
of what the country should look like (Lander, 2008: 77). The Bolivarian movement
rose out of a dissatisfaction with the status quo and in the process grew toward
‘Twenty first century socialism’ (Buxton, 2009).

One very important aspect of the process in Venezuela is the notion of ‘another’
democracy or radical, participatory democracy. As I stated before, liberal
representative democracy had brought the region neoliberalism and disillusionment.
The beliefs, actions and attitudes of the supporters of the Bolivarian process are the

strength behind the ‘revolution’, not just the president (Valencia Ramirez, 2008).
Without Chávez, the struggle would be much harder, but Chávez could never stay in
power without their support. Direct democracy takes place through economic resource
programs, local governing organizations and autonomous mobilizing structures (ibid.)
but all of this is made possible with state power, in contradistinction to what is
happening in Chiapas. Besides this, regarding the ‘representative’ part of democracy,
Chávez has gained increased electoral support over the period from 1998-2006 and
has won three elections with increased margins. His supporters have also effectively
defeated a recall referendum in 2004.

Chávez won the 2006 presidential election with a vast majority of the votes and
launched his Five Motors of the Revolution. These can be identified as ‘: the moral
struggle (developing popular revolutionary consciousness); a new geometry of power
(decentralizing authority down to the communities); the economic role of the state
(extending nationalization); and enabling powers (with the right of the president to
introduce change by decree) (Buxton, 2009: 72)’. Indeed, in 2005 Chávez defined his
goal of creating a model of Twenty-first-century Socialism at the World Social
Forum. According to Raby (2006), the crucial difference with the socialism of the
20th century lies in popular support. Socialism isn’t able to work on a authorian base,
as was the case in for example the Soviet Union under Stalin . '…. (a) revolutionary
state of popular power, which may be what socialism in a transitional stage really
amounts to (..) cannot operate as a self-contained and distinct mode of production,
which was the Stalinist illusion, but through its popular-democratic and military
strength it can function with a non-capitalist or anti-capitalist logic, with a
combination of nationalized industries, worker cooperatives, other forms of social
property, and capitalist enterprises both national and international. As a revolutionary
state it can negotiate with transnational capital from a position of relative strength,
and it can create and protect a society based on a large measure of social justice,
participatory democracy and economic sovereignty, but it cannot break completely
with the global capitalist system until such time (still remote) as revolution and
popular power/Socialism spreads through most of the world (Raby, 2006: 65).’
Socialism cannot survive without democracy, something that cannot be said about
capitalism along the neoliberal line.

Hugo Chávez draws from the intellectual legacies of the so-called ‘tree of roots’,
those being Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora. Zamora was a
leader of the federal forces during the civil wars of the 1840s and 50s and had a far-
reaching program of and reform that benefited the peasants, hostility toward the
oligarchy, a project to combine soldiers and civilians in his struggles and a Bolivarian
dream to unite with mind like forces in Colombia. His three slogans are often recalled
by Chávez: Land and free men; General elections; Hatred toward the oligarchy (Gott,
2005: 110-111). The unity of the people and the armed forces is one of the aspects
that can directly be traced back to Ezequiel Zamora.

Simon Rodriguez was a schoolteacher with unorthodox ideas about education and
commerce, and wanted to integrate the indigenous peoples and black slaves by
teaching their children alongside the children of the wealthy whites. One of his pupils
was Simon Bolivar, after whom Chávez’ revolution is named (Gott, 2005: 102-109).

Simon Bolivar had a dream of unifying Latin American countries and this has been a
great inspiration for Chávez and his ideas about the role that Venezuela should play in
the regional sphere. Bolivar had a multipolar vision of the world, which Chávez
incorporated in his Bolivarian policy agenda as one in which the United States should
be have to be balanced (Buxton, 2009: 60). Bolivar had recognised that Latin
American countries alone would be too weak to stand up against Spanish colonial
rule, and that they unite against the outside power (Gott, 2005: 92). Chávez has been
the driving force after the rival of this idea, to integrate likeminded countries as a
counter-force to the free trade agreements proposed by the United States.

3.7 Regional integration and Cox’ hegemony model

Hugo Chávez intents to revive Bolivar’s dream of integrating Latin American

countries to counter or balance the power of the imperialists (then colonial Spain and
now the United States). Chávez seeks integration of the peoples of Latin America in
the political, economic and military field, as a Latin American NATO without the US
(Gott, 2005: 184-185). The world that he envisions is a multipolar one, in which the
self-determination of peoples is fundamental (ibid. 190):

“Before, there was dual globalism, two imperial powers that wanted to gobble up the
world, and then one of them collapsed and the other said, ‘Now its my turn, I am the
owner of the new world order, the single-power world.’ Then the idea collapsed, and
quite rapidly. What we have now is world disorder. There is no order, and there is not
a single superpower. The future will have many centres, and we shall see the
formation of alliances and blocs (Chávez, quoted in Gott, 2005: 190-191).”

Recalling Robert Cox’s model for hegemony, three categories of forces interact with
each other, in a reciprocal manner. Change in each of there sphere sets of changes in
the other spheres and hegemony or counter hegemony comes into being when there is
a certain fit between these forces: ideas, material capabilities and institutions. These
are applied at three levels: social forces, forms of state and world orders. Hegemony
starts in one or more states and then has to expend outwards. Because of this, and also
because of the notion that counter hegemony cannot be seen in some sort of
competing manner, I have started off this chapter with Venezuela, but this could just
as well have been, for example Brazil. The counterhegemonic movement that is being
formed in Latin American should be seen as multipolar and open, not in the Cold War
terminology in which large states compete over hegemony.

The importance of ideas have been outlined in the parts on postcolonial

epistemologies and in the case of Venezuela can be seen in the development of a
different national culture and legacy of the ‘tree of roots’. In the next part I will cover
Bolivia and Ecuador, where the development of a counter- Weltanschauung are
established within the new constitution. Another idea that bonds the ‘new left’
countries of Latin America are a hostility towards neoliberalism, the dominant
financial institutions and the United States government.

These ideas have been institutionalized by the development of economic and cultural
institutions, that are independent from the United States or traditional Latin American
elites. Two of those institutions will be covered in this part of the thesis, those being
TeleSur and ALBA. Starting as a barter agreement with Cuba to exchange doctors for
cheap oil supplies, the ALBA now includes Bolivia, and has the support of Ecuador’s

“The… Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas .. is a proposed alternative to the
US sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), differing from the latter in
that it advocated a socially-oriented trade block rather than one strictly based on the
logic of deregulated profit maximization. ALBA appeals to the egalitarian principles
of justice and equality that are innate in human beings, the well-being of the most
dispossessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated sense of solidarity toward the
sessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated sense of solidarity toward the
underdeveloped countries of the western hemisphere, so that with the required
assistance, they can enter into trade negotiations on more favourable terms than has
been the case under the dictates of the developed countries (Arreaza quoted in Harris,
2005: 413).”

ALBA can be seen as a direct challenge to neoliberalism, ‘offering instead regional

integration prioritizing, among other things, ‘the fight against poverty and social
exclusion’, the end of ‘unequal exchange’ in international relations, and a revival of
state intervention and political participation, especially by indigenous peoples
(Lievesley;Ludlam, 2009: 6)’. According to Harris (2005), there appears to be a
developing interest throughout South America ‘in revivifying the Pan-American ideal,
currently modelled on Chávez’s Bolivarian dream of South America as a regional
economic hegemon (Harris, 2005: 415).’

The member nations first meeting in 2007 focussed on developing the agriculture and
food sector, tourism, mining, transportation and energy. These initiatives are based on
solidarity and cooperation rather than just competition and profit making ALBA also
includes health care, literacy, education programs, a development bank and TeleSur,
the regional television station that will be covered in the next part. ALBA influence
goes beyond the member states (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Dominica,
Honduras, Ecuador, St Vincent, The Grenades and Antigua (Muhr, 2010: 40)),
Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama have made trade
agreements with Venezuela along the ALBA principles of South-South solidarity
(Valencia Ramirez, 2008: 151). Brazil and Argentina keep siding with Venezuela in
the resistance to the FTAA (which would give US multinationals and investors a ‘free
card’ throughout the western hemisphere), which makes clear that Washington’s
hegemonic approach to economic integration is not likely to succeed any longer in the

foreseeing future (Harris, 2005: 416). According to Lander (2008): ‘….for the first
time in decades, the conditions exist for the creation of economic and geopolitical
proposals contemplated from and for Latin America (Lander, 2008: 92)’. Besides
Venezuela, also Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina seem to be perusing similar foreign
policies and are aiming at the unification of Latin American countries, in a counter-
movement to the unprecedented US hegemony in the region. The Final Declaration of
the Third Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of States and Government of the
Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Agreement
(ALBA-PTA) that was issued in 2008 as a response to the economic crisis, can be
seen as a crucial document in the construction of a counter-hegemonic bloc in Latin
America (Muhr, 2010: 39). Last February, the Latin American countries signed a
trade agreement that left out the United States and Canada, in which even the pro-US
governments of Colombia, Peru and Mexico participated.

Concerning the regional integration as a counter-process to the ideological and

cultural hegemony of the United States, the development of TeleSur is a matter of
great importance. It will compete throughout the region with CNN (US), Univision
(SP) and BBC (UK) by providing an alternative source or information and a point of
view that is no longer European or North American, but South American (Harris,
2005: 421). As Petrich explains the development:

“A strategic project that was born out of the need to give voice to Latin Americans
confronted by an accumulation of thoughts and images transmitted by commercial
media and out of the urgency to see ourselves through our own eyes and to discover
our own solutions to our problems. If we do not start there, the dream of Latin
American integration will be no more that a salute to the flag (Petrich quoted in
Harris, 2005: 421).”

TeleSur was developed in Caracas, and seeks to bring news from a Latin American
perspective. Hugo Chávez had made visits to the headquarters of Al Jazeera, which
can be seen as a source of inspiration for news from a non-US or European angle.
Since the media is a crucial aspect through which intellectual hegemony and consent
are being established, the birth of a regional television network is essential for the
establishment of a counter-hegemonic bloc. Keeping in mind the outright hostility of

the private media in for example Venezuela and the US and European media toward
the ‘left-turn’ developments in Latin America, bringing news from a different angle
might be one of the most important developments for the sustainability of the
movement. It seeks to delink from the colonial matrix of power and knowledge by
trying to counter the almost complete monopoly of North American corporate media
as a source of inspiration in the continent.

Regarding material capabilities, Venezuela’s oil resources give it considerable

leverages in their goal to push through a Bolivarian foreign policy. The United States
are partially dependent on the import of Venezuelan oil, which the Chávez
government uses in its advantage (De Zoyosa; Newman, 2008: 419-420). ‘Oil is
currently the world’s most precious commodity, and, given Venezuela’s rating as the
‘largest single hydrocarbon accumulation in the world’ by the US Geological Survey,
Chávez seems bound to become a significant political player in global affairs (De
Zoyosa; Newman, 2008: 422).’ Moreover, the Venezuelan government is able to
spread his influence throughout the region by making use of the oil as ‘barter
material’. By doing that, it has, according to De Zoyosa and Newman (2008), created
an economic and social model which can offer an alternative to neoliberal capitalism,
one that is better crafted to the particular needs of his neighbours and encouraged then
to break free of the Washington Consensus (De Zoyosa; Newman, 2008: 412-416).
Brazil is becoming one of the major economies in the world, and at the same time the
enormous gap between rich and poor is slowly shrinking. The economic strength of
the individual countries combines by for example the ALBA-PTA agreement, gives
the counter-hegemonic bloc considerably more strength regarding Cox’ model for
hegemony. As I emphasized before, hegemony means a certain fit between the
material resources, the strength of certain ideas or collective images of the world, and
a set of institution to administer that certain order. Latin America as a regional
counter hegemonic bloc seems to be well on its way, when taking into account the
developments in these areas, to be succeeding in doing this.

The method of combining ideas, material capabilities and institutions can be applied,
recalling the theoretical chapter, on three levels: forms of state, social forces and
world orders. Hegemony is most likely to start at the national level, and change is
most likely to occur at the level of social forces, and this is why Venezuela is such an

excellent example of how a counter-hegemonic bloc comes into existence. Because of
the crisis of liberal democracy and the neoliberal order in Venezuela, new forces
came into the political spectrum and these forces where able to elect a president who
transformed the state to such an extend that it has actually seized to function as a
bourgeois state. It then worked as a catalysist for developments in neighbouring
countries and with the development of new regional institutions, an important step is
being made in the direction of changing world order into a multipolar one. This
Bolivarian dream is still far away off course, and there is still much work to be done
on the field of intellectual hegemony. The mainstream press in the US and Europe is
still hostile, unable or unwilling to perceive these changes from a perspective other
then the one they are accustomed with. In their epistemology of good left and bad left
and way of thinking that still resonates with the cold war order (in which socialist
automatically means authoritarian), Chávez, Morales and Correa are portrayed as
irrational, populist, dictatorial and dangerous leaders who threaten the kind of
democracy the ‘West’ sees as preferable around the world. Ecuador, and especially
Bolivia are leading the way in institutionalizing intellectual counter-hegemony at the
national level.

3.8 Bolivia, Ecuador and the role of culture and decolonisation

Evo Morales was the first indigenous leader to be elected president in a country with a
substantial ‘Amerindian’ majority and where the outcomes of far-reaching neoliberal
restructurings have had a disastrous effect on indigenous populations. As I explained
in the first part of the thesis, despite harsh resistance from economic and political
elites in the east of the Bolivia and the private (and international) media, 61% of the
population voted in favour of a constitution that changes Bolivia in a plurinational
state. Since then, Bolivia has recognised the 36 indigenous cultures and languages as
official national languages besides Spanish, and prohibits the privatization of natural
‘resources’ for profit to enable the people to live in harmony with nature (Buxton,
TNI). As I also elaborated in the previous chapters, the election of ‘Evo’ has been the
direct result of a fierce indigenous protest movement in Bolivia, and its role in the
‘water’ and ‘gas’ war. Although they are not one united organization, Aymara and
Quechua Indians have been able to act nationally since the 1980s and their sustained
resistance against neoliberal policies led to the election of their first indigenous

president. The key principles of the indigenous revolt are ‘cultural-political
autonomy, ethnic heterogeneity in place of mestizo homogeneity, and new forms of
collective identity with ethnicity and culture serving as makers for mobilization
(Robinson, 2008: 301).’ In Bolivia, the politics of ethnicity as class have fused around
the indigenous resistance (ibid.: 303). This, according to Robinson, is necessary to
stop the transnational elites to co-opt the indigenous movement in a Gramscian
manner to strengthen the current hegemonic order (ibid. 308).

The new Bolivian constitution can be seen as the final achievement of the indigenous
groups, since it mainly focuses on the extension of indigenous rights and the
decolonisation of the Bolivian state. The following two examples grasp the hart of the

“Article 102: The cosmovisions, myths, oral history, dances, cultural practices,
knowledge, traditional technologies are patrimony of the nation and communities of
indigenous, original agricultural peoples, and form part of the expression and identity
of the State.”

“Article 306: The Unitary Social Communitarian Plurinational State of Law has
human beings as its prime value, and will ensure development through equitable
redistribution of economic earnings through social policies, health, education and
culture. The Bolivian economic model is plural, and is designed to improve the
quality of life, and “living well” of all Bolivians. (both quoted in Buxton, TNI)”

The new constitution focuses on the ‘refoundation’ of the country, in the way it
changes the entire relationship between the state and civil society and extends
indigenous rights (Crabtree, 2009: 101). The document counts 411 articles, and
emphasized the ‘plurinational’ and ‘communitarian’ nature of the Bolivian state. A
‘plurinational’ assembly replaced the existing congress; and a new system of direct,
participatory democracy is introduced. Besides that, all the constitutional bars on
immediate executive re-election are being removed, introducing a concept of recall
for executive authorities that lose the confidence of the people (Crabtree, 2009: 102).
The concept of ‘living well’ is introduced, to enhance the ability of indigenous

peoples to enjoy a reasonable life within their specific environment (Crabtree, 2009:
104). The key areas of the constitution are: indigenous recognition, the plurality of
structures, the re-assertion of the collective and the State against rights for private
capital, a broad assertion of rights and asserting a new just globalization (Buxton,

Regarding indigenous rights, indigenous peoples are guaranteed collective land rights,
their own communication networks, intellectual property over traditional knowledge,
consultation over non-renewable resources and complete control over renewable
resources. Moreover, uncontacted indigenous peoples are guaranteed the right to be
left alone and have their land protected. As Nick Buxton notes: “There can’t be many
states worldwide enlightened enough to mark out no-go areas for its authority within
its own boundaries (Buxton: 3).”

Moreover, the Bolivian state has started a process of decolonising knowledge, by

requiring education to be inter- and intracultural, healthcare has to include research
for traditional medicine, universities are called on to promote indigenous languages,
indigenous languages are official languages besides Spanish. Making the country
‘plurinational’ is considered to be crucial for the decolonisation of the nation. Bolivia
is made out of several nations and not just the one nation founded by the colonizers.

Regarding the re-assertion of the collective and the State against rights for private
capital, the constitution bans the for profit sale or control of basic services, water,
energy companies, and social security. The constitution has 93 articles dedicated to
rights, rather than 4 in the last constitution. Right to water, food security, health,
education, housing, basic services, just wage, to strike and form a union are
guaranteed. Asserting a new, just globalization means the rejection of conditionality
imposed by any international institution, prohibiting foreign military bases and the
sell-of of natural ‘resources’ to foreign companies. Moreover, any treaty regarding
economic integration or giving up institutional competency to a supranational body
has to be approved by referendum, in which it is far more democratic than other
‘western’ states. The Bolivarian constitution declares itself a pacifist state and defends
the liberty of religion, meeting, expression, set up companies, commerce and goes

further than any other western state in defending ‘western’ liberties such as the right
to privacy at home, in communication and correspondence and the right to silence.

Coca, on which the US ‘war on drugs’ policies main focus lies regarding Latin
America, can as such be seen as a symbol of the struggle against outside impositions.
Coca has severe cultural and religious significance for the indigenous peoples in
Bolivia (as well as the other Andean countries) and the fact that Evo Morales comes
from the ‘cocaleros’ movement has put this question even more on the forefront of the
debate on culture and decolonisation. The MAS is actually organized from within the
coca farmers trade unions (Tapia, 2008: 220) and now demands the nationalization of
the coca policy and a move toward multilateral industrialization and
commercialization of the leaf and its processed products (Tapia, 2008: 224).

The new Bolivian constitution seeks to decolonize the state and end the neoliberal
economy that has been disastrous for the poor indigenous majority of the Bolivian
population. According to Morales, this constitution guarantees the decolonisation of
the country (Quoted in Buxton, TNI). What we see happening in contemporary
Bolivia is an excellent example of a Polanyian double movement away from
neoliberalism, a Gramscian counter movement, in which a new ideological hegemony
of being formed and implemented, and the focus on state power to address the ‘Indian
question’, as opposed to the Zapatistas in Chiapas. But what makes this movement
truly unique is that it has gone even further that Venezuela in decolonizing the
country and making decolonisation one of the central pillars of the new constitution.
One off course has to keep in mind the political, economic and societal differences
between Venezuela and Bolivia to recognise that copying a revolution is never an
option. Each counter hegemonic movement has to be unique to its geo-political,
economic and societal history and necessities. This doesn’t prevent these movements
to integrate in pursuing to change world- or regional order, as we can see happening
with ALBA. The movement in Bolivia under scribed once more that, for a genuine
analysis, Marxism needs to incorporate the questions of oppression and exclusion that
are characteristic for most Latin American societies and move away from a narrow
class-corporatist framework (see for example Dominguez, 2009: 50).

Ecuador has also approved a progressive new constitution, in which it focuses on
indigenous rights, but goes even further than Bolivia regarding environmental rights.
Notwithstanding, the situation in Ecuador shows the difficulties with guaranteeing
these rights and trying to develop in a country with a rich variety of natural resources.
Shortly after the ratification of the new constitution, which also contains the ‘living
well’ principle, rights for pachamama, rights the clean water etc., president Correa
signed the Mining Law, which according to environmental groups directly opposed
these guaranteed rights (Dosh; Kligerman, 2009: 22). In practice, it thus seems
impossible for Correa as a ‘peoples capitalist’ to deliver his progressive promises
without breaking his own constitutional rights (ibid.: 24).

3.9: “The Model”: Necessities for counterhegemony

When working toward counterhegemony, it is necessary to keep in mind the

subjectivity of the researcher and the specifics of the region, state continent we are
theorizing on. A counterhegemonic movement is not transferable to other regions or
continents, without keeping in mind the specific culture, history, historic
developments etc. Notwithstanding, some aspects are crucial, no matter where the
‘revolution’ takes place. In this thesis, I have focussed on the current processes of
change in Latin America, but further research should also focus on how a
countermovement can successfully be developed in for example Africa or Asia, and
what has to be done to integrate the struggles into a worldwide countermovement.
More research is thus to be done on the possibility of a worldwide hegemonic bloc.

The most important condition for counterhegemony is the creation of a new

Weltanschauung (new norms, ideas and values) to counter the ideological hegemony
of the ruling classes. This means the creation of new concept of the world, with new
ideas, new institutions, a new national culture and new social arrangements. In
Venezuela this takes places through the abolishment of Adeco as the national culture,
and the implementation of Bolivarianism thanks to the intellectual and cultural
legacies of the ‘Three of Roots’.

A counter intellectual hegemony is made possible by the use of for example the media
and the education system to incorporate the new values, ideas and culture in the

‘common sense’ logic of the masses. TeleSur is the Latin American example to
counter the control of information by the US corporate media with Al Jazeera as its
ally for the Middle Eastern countries. Delinking from the ‘colonial matrix of power
and knowledge’ is one of the central pillars for former colonial countries to form a
truly unique countermovement. It is necessary to break away from the colonial control
of subjectivity and knowledge, something that can linger on decades or even centuries
after formal independence. New epistemologies have to be established, to see the
world free from the perspective of the ‘White Christian Men (Mignolo, 2007)’ and
change the hegemonic ideas of what knowledge is, what politics means and how
society should be organized. As we have seen, in Bolivia this has been done by the
implementation of a new constitution that seeks to decolonize the country, change the
ideas of what development is and what the economy should look like, decolonize
education and health care to enable indigenous peoples to ‘live well’. This method of
decolonisation can be applied to all former colonized countries, but would necessarily
lead to very different outcomes and this is precisely the reason why I said before that
the ‘revolution’ cannot easily be copied from one country to the next.

The establishment of a new Weltanschauung means engaging in a ‘war of position’:

an intellectual and ideological war to undermine the intellectual hegemony of the
ruling elites. This forms of resistance is, in ‘modern’ liberal democracies, far more
sustainable as a form of resistance then an outright ‘war of movement’, like a military
coup before the new ideological hegemony is being established. Afterwards the new
‘organic intellectuals’ can seize state power and make their countermovement

This brings us back to the debate on the importance of seizing state power. I have
argued and shown that in the current world system, ignoring the state can be
dangerous. Although change is likely to occur though changes in social relations, the
goal still has to be to take state power once a war of position is being established. The
failure of the left is Chile remind us that it is not possible to peruse radical changes
when the government doest have the control of state institutions or mass popular
support. This also implies that for the Zapatistas to be successful in the longer term, a
strategy should be explored to be able to establish ideological hegemony at the

national base and then aim for state power. Once state power is achieved, the
transformation of the state can begin to alter or even dissolve power relations.

The establishment of a new ideological hegemony, when done successfully, means

the creation of an alternative historic bloc within the current power structures. Only
when an alternative is already being build, the old society can be destroyed with a
‘war of movement’. Once state power is being achieved, the new ideas can be
institutionalized by the creation of new institutions and the transformation of the use
of material capabilities to financialize the movement (for example oil in Venezuela).
As Raby notes, once state power is won, action has to be taken immediately to begin
to transform all public institutions, all of which must be democratized and made to
serve the public interest (Raby, 2006: 53). This means transforming the formal
government, the police, armed forces but institutions like the media, through which
ideological hegemony and consent are being established. As I have shown, these
changes in the hegemonic ideas, institutions and material capabilities can lead to
changes in the forms of state, social forces and in the end to changes in the world

Regarding the process in Latin America, what we see happening at this moment is
how new social forces have led to new forms of state and how these changes are
creating new regional institutions, which aim at transforming the view of the world
into a multipolar one in which many world can co-exist. This implies opportunities to
be combined with worldwide forces that aim at resisting the current power relations.
Their aim should be to start at the national level by creating a new, ‘independent’
Weltanschauung, to change social relations of power, establish a new ideological
hegemony and aim at state power once the ‘war of position’ is secured. Future
research should focus on the peculiarities of different regions, what their ‘organic
intellectuals’ should do to mobilize for progressive change and to join forces with
counter-movements around the world.


Counterhegemony does not simply mean the substitution of powerful state as the
hegemonic power with the next. Since counterhegemony implies a certain fit between
material capabilities, ideas and institutions to bring about changes in the forms of
states, social forces and world orders the form the counterhegemonic movement takes
on is reliant on the strength of its ideological hegemony. As I have stated in section
1.10, world hegemony is not just an order among states, but an order within a world
economy in which social relations and modes of production go beyond borders (see
Cox, 1983). Since the ‘organic intellectuals’ of the ‘left-turn’ in Latin America
envision a world that is multipolar, a world in which many worlds can exist, the new
order can be one in which there is not one powerful state fulfilling the role of the

To what extent can the ‘left turn’ in Latin America be considered a counterhegemonic
movement? In this thesis, I have outlined the process of establishing a new
ideological hegemony, the decolonization of knowledge and subjectivity and the
institutionalization of these new ideas on the national and regional level in Latin
America (see sections 3.6, 3.7 and 3.8). To answer this question it is necessary to look
at the strength of the new ideas, material capabilities and institutions in bringing about
changes in the social forces, forms of state and world orders. As I have stated in
section 3.8, ALBA can be seen the regional institution in which the alternative
ideology of the Latin American ‘left turn’ has been formalized. The Final Declaration
of the Third Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of States and Government of the
Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Agreement
(ALBA-PTA), issued in 2008, can be seen a crucial document in establishing a
counterhegemonic bloc in Latin America. Designed in response to the economic
crisis, it indeed looks beyond the neoliberal paradigm in finding solutions to the crisis.
As I have stated, the ALBA initiatives are based on solidarity, cooperation and respect
for ‘natural resources’, as opposed to just profit making (Muhr, 2010). Its member
states are Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Dominica, Honduras, Ecuador, St
Vincent, The Grenades and Antigua and other states, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina,
Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama, have made trade agreements with member states
along the ALBA principles of South-South solidarity. Considering material

capabilities, Venezuela’s oil recourses and the growing economic power of for
example Brazil, give the block considerable leverages in persuading their goal of a
multipolar foreign policy. The method of combining ideas, material capabilities and
institution can, as I have stated before, be applied at three levels: social forces, forms
of state and world orders. Change is most likely to occur in the sphere of social forces
and change in each of the spheres channels change in the others. What we see
happening in Latin America at this moment is how social forces have been able to
lead to the election of progressive governments, who have been changing the forms of
state by implementing radical constitutions and/or changing the state in such an
extend that is has seized to function as a normal ‘bourgeois’ state. At the regional
level at least, this has led to a vision of a multipolar world, on in which the power of
the United States should be countered. Worldwide trade agreements along the
principles of the ALBA and south-south solidarity would be a step further in
institutionalizing this new ‘world order’.

Counterhegemony comes into play when there is disillusionment with the current
order and when this order is then challenged by with alternative ideologies and social
forces. This process can be seen as a ‘war of position’: an intellectual and ideological
‘war’ to establish a new ideological hegemony (see sections 1.8 and 1.9). Since the
media plays such a crucial role in this process, the establishment of TeleSur, to
counter the ideological hegemony of corporate and US media in Latin America can
thus be seen as a crucial development in this ‘war of position’, since this is where
consent is being established.

It is important to note however that Gramsci’s notion of hegemony differs from

Lenin’s notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the use of consent. Where Lenin
talked about the dictatorship of the proletariat where the other classes are left out, by
using Gramsci’s notion of hegemony of the proletariat, other classes should be
incorporated by using consent (see section 1.5). Without losing the objectives of the
counterhegemonic struggle, certain compromises should be made to make the
countermovement truly hegemonic (see Worth, 2002). This is still to be achieved in
for example Venezuela and Bolivia, where the outright hostility of the opposition and
oligarchy can cause immense problems and in the case of Bolivia even separatist
tensions. The establishment of independent media that covers the news from a Latin

American perspective, rather than elitist, US or European one, is a big step in the
process of changing common sense knowledge on the process in Latin America. But
before the countermovement can become global, it is crucial to establish consent at
the state (and regional) level. This can, when we keep in mind the way the forces in
Cox’ model for hegemony have a reciprocal relationship, also happen when changes
in the forms of state alter social relations or when changes in the view of the world
system alter forms of state. Thus, hegemony can be strengthened during the process at
different moments and through changes at each sphere of the model.

Envisioning a multipolar world means moving away from universalism and

positivism. Since, as I have stated in section 1.3, reality is socially constructed, we
should question that what is taken for granted and the way the world is presented by
us through the mainstream media. Since certain claims are only true within certain
discourses (see section 1.3), the ‘plurinationalization’ of Bolivia and the recognition
of all 36 indigenous languages as official, national languages are crucial
developments in moving toward a multipolar world order. In the words of Walter
Mignolo: ‘The point should be to avoid the ‘modern expectation’ that there is a word
that carries the true meaning of the thing instead of the form of consciousness and the
universe of meaning in which the word means. Meaning is not a ‘true value’ but a
reflection of cognitive (epistemic and hermeneutic) force and import within particular
geo-political designs (Mignolo, 2007: 476)’. There is not one truth but just regimes of
truth (Devetak, 1996) and as such there is not one ‘grand history’ of the world.
Everything relies on subjectivity, frameworks and contexts, which is why it is so
important for counterhegemonic movements to decolonize knowledge and history
(Mignolo, 2007; Quijano, 2007). As I explained in section 1.12, the ‘Indians’ where
considered to have no own history since they lacked alphabetic writing, and the
control of subjectivity and knowledge meant that the world could only be conceived
by the perspective of the Western Christian Men (Mignolo, 2007). For this reason, the
explicit objective to decolonize the Bolivian state by implementing a new constitution
and making the state plurinational, is an important first step in forming becoming
counterhegemonic and establishing an alternative ideological hegemony.

As I have stated before, the first and most important necessary conditions for a
counterhegemonic movement to successfully challenge the ideological hegemony of

the current power structure is the development of an alternative Weltanschauung.
New ideas, norms, values, visions of the world need to be developed to counter the
ideological hegemony of the ruling ‘classes’. Regarding former colonized countries, it
is necessary to decolonize knowledge, subjectivity and history. In this thesis I have
focussed on the current movement in Latin America, but more research has to be done
on worldwide counterhegemonic struggles, decolonization and the possibility to unite
these struggles, using for example spaces like the World Social Forum. Africa for
instance, has not seen a large scale mobilizations against neoliberalism, but a series of
WFS meetings in Senegal and Zimbabwe are an important step to connect different
social forces demanding social changes. Decolonizing subjectivity, the economy and
the organization of society is an important part of the establishment of an alternative
ideological hegemony that can be applied to all former colonized states but would
necessarily lead to different outcomes. When analyzing the possibility for a
worldwide counterhegemonic bloc and its necessary conditions, research has to focus
on the specificities in societies; the movement has to avoid becoming universalistic
since that would undermine the pluriversality of the movement and the vision of a
multipolar world. As I have stated throughout this thesis, the development of
alternative media sources (like Al Jazeera in the Middle East and TeleSur in Latin
America) are crucial developments for establishing ideological hegemony and
portraying the world from a different angle.

The importance of state power have been stressed throughout this thesis (most notably
in sections 1.11 and 3.5) to further develop the Gramscian process and be able to
make changes in the forms of state to channel changes in the social forces and world
orders. The establishment of an alternative ideological hegemony can, in Gramscian
terms, be called a ‘war of position’, which is a necessary condition to be able to
‘seize’ state power (see sections 1.8, 1.9 and 3.6).

The countermovement begins because of disillusionment with the current (neoliberal)

order and is most likely to start in the global south (see for example Cox, 1981).
Change is most likely to start at the level of social forces, and in this thesis I have
shown what changes social forces in Latin America have been able to channel and
lead to changes in the forms of state. The establishment of an alternative ideological
hegemony with the decolonization of subjectivity and knowledge and changing the

national culture makes possible an alternative vision of world order and the
institutionalization of this order at the regional level. Future research has to focus on
connecting worldwide struggles, trade relations on the basis of ALBA inspired south-
south solidarity and the possibility and necessary conditions of the struggle for a
world order in which many worlds can co-exist.


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