People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 13

March 25, 2012




The Mole Is Forever Digging

R Arun Kumar


Emir Sader, The New Mole: Paths of the Latin American Left, London: Verso, October 2011, pp 185, price: £ 15 (hardcover)


“Europe know-how and the prosperity of the United States are for our America two enemies of freedom of thought. The new republics are unwilling to adopt anything that does not have their stamp of approval...If you are going to imitate everything, imitate originality.” – Simon Rodriguez (teacher of Simon Bolivar, quoted by Eduardo Galeano in Mirrors)


THE world political map has been radically reshaped post-Soviet Union. The setback to socialism, which acted as a countervailing force to imperialism, had adversely affected the progressive forces world over. Imperialism not only won new markets, but also marched aggressively all over the world. The arguments trumpeting ‘the end of history’ and 'there is no alternative' gained currency. In this gloomy political atmosphere, starting from the late 1990s, the militant struggles against the neo-liberal policies and the subsequent formation of many progressive governments in Latin America provided a ray of hope to the Left and progressive forces world over. These struggles challenged the rationale of neo-liberal philosophy, developed alternatives and most importantly dealt a political blow to the ruling classes by capturing State power in many countries. 11 of the 19 countries in Latin America are now ruled by progressive governments – Centre-Left or Left. These phenomena continue to attract attention of all the people struggling for an alternative social system. The book, The New Mole: Paths of the Latin American Left, written by Emir Sader, makes a significant contribution in enriching this understanding.


Emir Sader is a Left leaning political science professor from Brazil. The title of his book, as he himself states, is an interesting inspiration from Marx. Marx had used this allegory of 'mole' (acknowledging Shakespeare's Hamlet for it) in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonoparte to describe the work of revolution. Sader develops on this allegory to analyse the progressive developments taking place in Latin America. The 'mole', which had first appeared in Russia in 1917 and subsequently in many parts of the world, appeared for the first time in Latin America in 1959 – with the triumph of the Cuban revolution. Sader analyses Latin American developments, 'sniffing out the signs', for the 'mole'.


Latin America, a region rich in resources has a history replete with colonial occupations and popular struggles against the aggressors. Independence from colonial masters did not bring an end to exploitation. The US, which was always looked at with suspicion as an aggressive northern neighbour, entered the arena and exerted its influence over the region. Dictators were propped up, coups encouraged and democratically elected governments were toppled with the overt and covert guidance of the US. It always meddled with the internal affairs of the countries, deciding their socio-economic policies. All the progressive governments in the region and the social movements have a history of fighting these manoeuvres of the US. Identifying this commonality, Sader states that there still is a difference between the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador on one hand and the likes of Brazil and Argentina, on the other.


Sader categorises Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador as post neo-liberal governments, for implementing policies clearly demarcating themselves from those dictated by the Bretton Woods institutions. On the other hand, the governments of countries like Brazil, though had initiated many measures for the benefit of the poor and the downtrodden, do not differ significantly with neo-liberalism. He argues that the 'independent' central banks and the bureaucrats still influence the economic direction of these governments, instead of the political leadership. He subjects the trajectory of Workers' Party (PT) of Brazil to extensive analysis and traces the changes it had brought out in its policies in order to become a ruling party – how it had deviated from its 'will to not repay IMF loans' rhetoric. Sader categorises Brazil as a 'hybrid' government as it had not yet completely come out of the neo-liberal embrace.


Another interesting argument Sader brings forth is how the neo-liberal project assimilated Social Democratic parties in its fold. In fact, Sader states that Francois Mitterand of the Socialist Party in France had initiated this process. This process had a far reaching impact on the continent as we can now witness in Europe. Under the gaze of intense economic crisis, many of the ruling parties that have been implementing the same neo-liberal policies are losing their elections held in this period. This change of hands – Conservatives to Social Democrats and vice-versa notwithstanding, all the ruling parties are eager to implement 'austerity' measures. Finance capital, Sader states, does not create any 'social base' for the ruling parties and this is the reason why the proponents of these policies lose elections.


A similar process took place in Latin America too, 'the laboratory of neo-liberalism'. What was started in Chile by the right-wing dictator Pinochet, was slowly replicated in the rest of the continent by all the ruling parties. Discussing the failure of the socialist and communist parties, Sader states that the dictatorships in many of these countries, together with the growth of nationalistic parties (like the Peronists) and the changes brought in the economy due to the neo-liberal policies (fragmentation of labour resulting in the TUs losing their central position, etc) had weakened them. For example, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), which is celebrating its 90th anniversary has been legal only for 28 years. In the period between 1930-1985, it was legal only for one year, six months and ten days. It was legalised only in 1985 and is now enjoying its longest period of legal activity – 21 years. At the same time, people lost faith in the 'traditional' political parties as they perceived them all to be similar. It is in this background, he traces the ascendancy of social movements.


The question that naturally follows is how did the social movements contribute to the establishment of the progressive governments, especially given their explicit opposition to 'political parties'? Sader gives credit to the social movements for developing anti neo-liberal consciousness among the people, but points that they provided only a critique against them and not any political alternative. Political parties like the PT in Brazil and the Peronists in Argentina used this discontent to ride to power. In Bolivia, after a thorough debate among the social movements, a 'political instrument' (as they like to call it) Movement for Socialism (MAS) was formed and this provided the platform for Morales to contest and win elections.


Tracing the history of Latin America, Sader says that the continent had seen many cycles of political struggles, ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. But the 'Left was able to recover faster from the losses in Latin America than its European counterparts'. The present progressive regimes, for him, are a result of the historical part played by the Left – the democratic reforms introduced by the likes of Allende, Vargas and Peron, the guerilla struggles, right from Che in Bolivia, to the rural and urban guerilla movements that the Cuban revolution had inspired and the struggles against dictatorship and right-wing regimes.


Defending these governments, Sader counters the arguments of both the ultra-left and the reformists. Sader states that the debate, reform/revolution always existed in the Communist Parties and the Left. For him, both are necessary, but according to the objective conditions existing at that particular point of time. Sader cautions that the right-wing is once again on the rise in the continent and it now depends on the Left to come out with a proper strategy to retain control over the 'hegemony' they had won after a prolonged struggle. In a world controlled by 'arms, money and words', it requires a vigilant Left with the masses to retain its hegemony.


The New Mole certainly adds to our understanding of the region, particularly in this period of crisis when everyone is looking for an alternative. The protests in Tahrir square, the Occupy movement, all had their sources of inspiration from the protests, struggles and experiences of the people of Latin America. Chavez had added to this debate by putting in his vision of socialism – Bolivarian Socialism – which he calls as '21st Century Socialism'. He, in fact, had initiated efforts to establish a 'fifth international' by bringing together all like-minded political parties/groups and share/exchange their opinions on this concept. Sader is right when he says that there is no theoretical work done in the continent, generalising the experiences in building an alternative, except for some work in Bolivia. Such efforts will enrich our understanding and struggle for a socialist alternative and help us in 'sniffing out signs' for the mole.


“Revolution never repeats itself; it always appears as a heretic...It (the mole) never returns by the way it came, but always opens up a new and different path. When it cannot be seen, it is not because it has disappeared; it has simply become invisible. The mole is forever digging” (Sader).