18th Meeting of the
Forum of São Paulo
(This Background Document is not a draft resolution and will not be submitted for approval in the 18th Meeting. Its only purpose is to organize the issues under discussion and stimulate the debate.)
Overview of the International Situation
1. The facts essentially confirm the assessment of the international crisis made by the Forum in its last meetings. The international crisis is not just an economic crisis in its strictest sense, but a systemic crisis of capitalism in its basic dimensions: economic, social and political. It also includes the environmental and food crisis.
2. The crisis in the capitalist center (Europe, Japan and the United States) moves forward and deepens. After the financial system meltdown, governments, mainly from southern Europe, like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, began having problems with their public debts. Recession persists in the developed countries and will probably linger for a long time: there is already talk of a lost decade for some European countries. The direct impact of the recession on workers’ life conditions is undeniable: rising unemployment, falling wages, the reduction of social benefits and of retirement pensions. Its political impact is also evident, and the governance crisis, which is already perceived, challenges the viability of liberal democracy.
3. As a result, there is a growing popular resistance to the crisis and the neoliberal policies, resulting in the emergence of broad social movements in some countries such as Europe and the United States. These movements, who call themselves “Indignants” (“Indignados”) or “Occupy”, together with the mobilization of thousands of workers from trade unions in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain conform the popular resistance to neoliberal policies. All this occurs amid a shift of the world geopolitics. The weakening of U.S. hegemony and their yearning to preserve it, relying on a warmongering strategy, contrasts with the growing multipolarity embodied in the birth of CELAC, UNASUR and ALBA, while the BRIC countries increase their global influence, as part of the displacement of the worldwide power towards the South and the East. It should be added that the crisis of the capitalist center is accompanied by an increasing aggressiveness and by a desire to militarize various parts of the world.
4. Although the epicenter of the crisis is still in the U.S., in early 2012 its most acute phase is taking place in Europe, where there is a mixture of different phenomena. For quite a long time now, there has been a need to consider European structural economic stagnation. We have to take into account the neoliberal basis that prevailed in the European unification and its implications on the weakest states, which are legally unable to adopt countercyclical monetary and exchange policies because of the rules of the single currency (the euro). Finally, we have to contemplate the impact of the crisis on the European institutions which, on the one hand, push nations towards conforming to certain policies and, on the other hand, are unable to meet the challenges of the crisis.
5. Although the severity of the crisis has manifested itself mostly in southern Europe (in the north of Europe, we would have to include Ireland and Iceland), the stronger economies, such as France, Germany and Great Britain, have also been affected by the crisis, putting in suspense the whole European system. The viability of the “euro” is being questioned and a thrill of great proportions is looming over all the political institutions of the European Union.
6. All the forecasts for 2012 are negative: global growth will drop from about 4% to 3%, mainly due to Europe, where there will be a -1.2% sharp contraction. In addition, unemployment rates will keep on rising in this part of the world, particularly in Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, so that social unrest will also continue growing. The Eurozone has gone into a long economic crisis that has already developed into a political crisis both within nation states as well as in the European institutions. The elections that will take place in some European countries, particularly in France and Greece, will hardly provide a solution to the crisis. The trend seems to be that of an extended social and political instability. In the case of the U.S., growth can also be slower this year than in 2011. The political struggle for the presidency is an ingredient that will not allow for major changes in the strategy against the crisis; in fact, it could aggravate it.
7. In Europe the situation is so serious that the dissolution of the EU or the abandonment of the single currency by some countries is still being considered. If either of these measures are taken, the economic impact on Europe and the world will be very strong. Nevertheless, Europe will experience a prolonged period of low or no growth, high unemployment rates, uncertainty and social and political conflicts.
8. Germany's dominant interests and the predominance of the financial capital have prevented the weakest European countries from finding a solution to preserve people's interests. In the U.S. the very timid proposals by the Obama administration have been resisted by Congress, which is dominated by Republicans, and thus the recessionary trends in the country have accentuated. But, most importantly, priority has been given both in Europe and the United States to the interests of the big financial capital. So what is happening in these regions of the world is not only a threat to the rest of the Welfare State, but also to the viability of representative democracy, of the sovereignty of nation states and indeed of the survival of European institutions.
9. The rigorous reaction of the leadership of the EU against the referendum proposed by the previous Greek government is impressive and worth noting: the cradle of democracy rejects the democratic right of people to decide about their future. Instead, technocratic governments have been enforced in Greece and Italy, reflecting the crisis being experienced by parliaments, parties and political institutions. More recently, the German minister of finance defended the cancellation of Greek elections to be held last April. The crisis in the richest capitalist countries, where harsh measures against the rights of peoples are been taken without listening to their voices and protests, shows the growing erosion of the capitalist liberal democracy. It is possible to notice a sharp contrast between this erosion and the fact that the rulers of these countries intend to keep on playing the role of arbiters of the political situation in other parts of the world. In Latin America, especially, they are still entitled to grant certificates of good democratic behavior, thus revealing the hypocrisy and double standards on the concept and practices of democracy.
10. In 2012 there will be national elections (president, parliament) in several governments which are members of the so-called G20. There are contradictory signals: while there is a growing social unrest and mobilization against conservative policies, in some cases there is also a growing electoral strength of the extreme right. It will be important to watch the the results in 2012 European elections to measure the progress of the extreme right in a region where this trend has experienced an upward growth in recent years: the case of Hungary and the ruling party Fidesz is an example. In Europe and the United States, right wing parties and other governing political forces are increasingly racist, xenophobic and authoritarian, which adds another point of concern to the stability of the world.
11. We must also evaluate the fact that, in some countries, significant left wing sectors remain committed to neoliberal adjustment policies, while in other countries, where they represent the opposition, they are struggling to build an alternative program and organize the popular forces, since this is the only way to prevent the current situation from being politically capitalized by the right and extreme right forces.
12. The indignants and occupy movements in Europe and the United States must not be overlooked. While they do not represent an electoral alternative or a homogenous political front, they became a political reference of resistance against neoliberalism and the effects of the crisis. This is due precisely to the radicalization of the right-wing and sometimes to the weakness of a partisan opposition which is clearly separated from neoliberalism. The indignants have gained moral authority and they are already a cultural symbol against the greed of financial capitalism and the inability of governments to resolve the crisis. In some cases, it is important to preserve spaces for reflection and anti-neoliberal proposals in Europe and America. The Forum of São Paulo sympathizes with this movement, inviting them to interact with parties and popular organizations that question the neoliberal model.
13. The dynamics of the crisis in Europe, U.S. and Japan weakens the hegemonic capacity of those who, in the past two decades, set out to be the "guiding center" of the world, and paves the way for a still-evolving geopolitical realignment, whose outcome cannot be accurately predicted.
14. The shockwaves of the crisis affect the rest of the countries, including China and the BRICs. China and India will have a relatively lower growth in 2012, which will produce still uncertain effects on other parts of the world, including Latin America. In the long term, depending on how the crisis unfolds in Europe, the United States and the so-called emerging countries, this could lead to three different situations: a trend towards multipolarity, the constitution of a new hegemonic center, or the maintenance of the old hegemonic center, having the U.S. as the leader.
15. In this context, the Forum of São Paulo should follow closely the evolution of the electoral and political settings, as well as of the social mobilization, both in the EU countries and the United States, and wherever possible engage in the ideological debate over the alternatives to neoliberalism and capitalism, particularly within the leftist context. It is also important that party members of the Forum participate in the social mobilization against the crisis.
16. We must support the efforts made by the European left-wing sectors to overthrow the neoliberal paradigm and the limitations that characterize the initiatives introduced as “technical”. In this respect, the Forum of São Paulo will continue to devote energy to the European Regional Secretariat of the Forum of São Paulo. Hence, it is important to discuss the role to be played by the party members of the São Paulo Forum who live in countries hit by the crisis, which are consequently scenarios of social mobilization, and especially the role of Latin American immigrants. According to our experience in Latin America, we must contribute, whenever possible, to the creation at the heart of the European left-wing sector of a growing identification with the need to develop a transforming strategy, which is a good way to prevent the current situation from being politically capitalized by the extreme right forces.
17. We must deepen the debate on the situation in the U.S. On the one hand, it is clear that the Obama Administration continued the practice of military intervention. Security policy, according to the President of the United States, must undergo significant changes as announced on January 5, 2012. The identified priority areas were now the Near East and Asia. In the latter case, it is about facing China under a new approach of a long-term strategy that includes redefining allies, military zones of control and various diplomatic actions. However, the main focus of attention in the short term lies in the Middle East, and particularly in Iran and the Strait of Hormuz. Also political changes and instability in the Arab world (Syria, Libya and Egypt) continue to draw the attention of U.S. and Israel.
18. For its part, the policy for Latin America and the Caribbean has remained virtually unchanged: blockade against Cuba was maintained, conditions for migrants have worsened, and actions favoring Wall Street were taken. On the other hand, the Republican Party continues radicalizing to the extreme right, of which the Tea Party is one of the most visible expressions. We only need to look at the debate between Republican candidates to learn about the level of fanaticism, primitivism and ignorance that exists in the politics of the world's most powerful nation.
19. Unlike Europe, the left does not have an outstanding electoral expression in the United States. In this context, the Forum of São Paulo must continue its efforts to establish the Regional Secretariat of the Forum of São Paulo in the United States. One of the most important debates that we must follow will be the one that the Latin American organizations will have to face as regards the orientation of the Hispanic vote in the November elections, which will be very important and complex, considering the impact that the potential policies of the Republican Party would have on the left and progressive movement in Latin America.
20. The geopolitical shift (North / South, West / East) and the rise of the BRICs cause, among other reactions, may result in a greater temptation on the part of the United States and its allies, particularly NATO, to opt for military action. While Obama announced a $500 billion cut in defense spending over the next decade, the budget is scheduled to be $662 billion, a figure similar to the budgets of George Bush Administration and higher than the total military spending of the ten most powerful countries in the world after USA.
21. At this moment, there are strong threats of external military aggression by the United States and Europe against Syria. This idea is supported, as in Libya, under the pretext of humanitarian intervention. Moreover, it is noteworthy that the State of Israel and powerful sectors of the United States have announced their intention to bomb Iran and unleash a regional conflict with incalculable consequences for the world.
22. Iran has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, as established by the agreement signed between this country, Turkey and Brazil in May 2010. This cannot be a reason to attack this country militarily.
23. The Latin American left-wing sector support the defense of sovereignty and self-determination of Syria and Iran, they strongly oppose any foreign military intervention and believe that peace in the region and the world is at serious risk. Therefore, they will make their best efforts to stop the war that is already being prepared by the interests that drive the American war machine.
24. The Middle East, a geostrategic region (for its oil and gas resources), is being recolonized by the world's most powerful countries. This situation has exacerbated the existing conflicts, and led to the emergence of new ones. The region is the test area of an imperialist methodology that promotes regime change through media campaigns which distort domestic situations and favor military intervention. This model constitutes a threat to the progressive processes in Latin America and the Caribbean.
25. Especially in countries ruled by parties of the Forum, there is a need to strengthen the measures favoring peace and solidarity with the peoples, in particular the recognition of the State of Palestine by the UN. Peace and the need to create alternatives to neoliberal capitalism must be key issues on the agenda of the Forum of São Paulo. In this regard, the Forum will support and participate in the Thematic Social Forum on Palestine on November 2012, in Porto Alegre (Brazil).
26. Along with the crisis, concerns are intensified by environmental degradation, which will soon be discussed at the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil. Using the flag of the so-called “green economy”, developed countries, in practice, are against of peoples’ aspirations for sustainable development. Capitalism, in its imperialist phase, wants to privatize the natural resources and control the sources of these resources in developing countries. The natural resources of each country must be defended as people’s assets.
27. The desire of giant corporations and governments of the capitalist center to control the sources of raw materials has led to strong social conflicts with indigenous peoples and farmers as a consequence of water management, pollution and these companies' revenue and profit concentration in the context of widespread poverty.
28. There is a debate on the need for a sustainable and renewable economy, and on the need to abandon the scheme of primary-exporting economies subject to world market. We reject the way imperialism manipulates environmental issues for the purpose of preventing the development of nations, especially, in Latin America.
29. In view of the nature and depth of the crisis, it is likely that the coming decades will be dominated by a prolonged period of instability, within a context of strong social, political and military conflicts. This makes the unity and integration of Latin American and Caribbean countries even more urgent and important, as well as the debate over the nature of the changes we want to make in our region and over the role of political parties, social movements and governments.
Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean
30. Regarding the regional situation, the following must be considered in detail: (a) the impacts of the international crisis on the regional economy; (b) the evolution of the political context, considering that there are different situations between the South and the Central / North / Caribbean region.
31. In the Central / North / Caribbean region, the United States political and ideological influence, military presence, economic strength and impact of its crisis can be felt more strongly, which have impacted negatively on the exponential increase in poverty, social exclusion and violence in the region.
32. The United States promotes the militarization in the region by empowering armies to carry out public security tasks. The real reason why they strengthen the military forces is their own geopolitical interests. To justify the use of this strategy in the region, they encourage the local armies to fight crime, organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, etc. However, no action is taken in the United States, which is the country of destination and the world's largest consumer of illegal drugs.
33. Generally speaking, the global crisis will have a negative effect on Latin America. In spite of this, the predictions for 2012 are better for this part of the world than for Europe or the United States, since the region expects a 3.3% growth. These predictions may vary depending on the course of the global crisis, mainly in Europe. However, given the economic dependence of many countries of the Central / North / Caribbean region on the United States, the impact will be more severe in this part of LATAM. It is estimated that Mexico and Central America will grow 2.7% while South America will grow 3.6%. Moreover, the political and ideological influence of the United States and its military presence are also higher in this part of Latin America.
34. The security crisis and the violence that has been observed in Mexico in recent years are the result of a prolonged economic and social deterioration, of the corruption of Government institutions and of the complicity of the international financial system with the money laundering of organized crime. Various countries in the region, particularly in Central America and Colombia, are affected by this situation. Because of this, the progressive and leftist parties are facing serious challenges that need to be discussed.
35. The possible victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the Mexican elections on 1 July 2012 has a great importance as this would bring positive changes throughout the region, and to Central America in the first place. The victory of the progressive and leftist parties in Mexico will also strengthen the efforts towards Latin American integration and independence from U.S. hegemony.
36. Moreover, Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico conditions must be analyzed in detail in the 18th Meeting.
37. The Latin American left pays great attention to Cuba, for what it represents historically and for the importance that the successful process of economic renovation will have in Cuba, renovation through which its people expect to consolidate the socialist road. Pressured by the still extant U.S. economic embargo, it is urgent to strengthen cooperation with the island, just like the governments of Brazil and Venezuela do. It is equally important to struggle against the U.S. embargo and for the release of the Five Heroes.
38. The struggle for the decolonization of Puerto Rico shouldn't be abandoned, and there is a need to supervise the humanitarian crisis that Haiti is going through, as well as the approach of its government to the progressive and leftist political forces on the continent.
39. In the South region, there is less U.S political and ideological influence. However, there is an increase in the imperialist military presence: the settlement of U.S. military bases in Colombia, the presence of the Fourth Fleet and the militarization of the dispute over the Islas Malvinas' (Falkland Islands) sovereignty with the introduction of nuclear weapons are a proof of this.
40. Economic dependence in the Southern region is not as big. Changes in the macroeconomic policy that strengthen domestic and regional markets, and growth in exports and sustained increase in the price of commodities are among the factors behind the positive economic environment that has allowed the leftist and progressive sectors to rule in this sub-region of our continent. However, in 2012, this region will also suffer from the negative effects of the fall in world growth. Compared to recent years, there will be larger difficulties concerning the development of social programs, the improvement of employment and the living standards of its peoples.
41. The 18th Meeting must make a detailed analysis of the South American situation, in the context of a deeper discussion about how the Latin American left must face the crisis.
42. The United States maintains its military and economic presence in the Andean region, particularly in Colombia, where there is a struggle for a political solution to the armed conflict, peace with social justice and a new economic and social model that reduces inequities and guarantees human and nature rights. The persistence of the Colombian war is one of the obstacles in the struggle to achieve Latin American unity and integration.
43. The US meddling and influence can be felt in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela through several attempts at influencing the Venezuelan election, promoting undemocratic outcomes to the October 2012 election. For the Venezuelan and continental left sectors, the reelection of Commander Hugo Chávez in the October 7, 2012 elections is central.
44. The success of Governments which are driven / integrated / supported by the Latin American left grouped at the Forum of São Paulo will depend increasingly on the right combination of regional integration, national sovereignty, strengthening of the State, economic development focused on the domestic market, building of popular power, creation of growing areas for a direct popular management of the economy, creation of new political models characterized by increasing popular participation in public affairs and the struggle for peace. In these contexts, it will become increasingly possible and necessary not only to confront the crisis and overcome the neoliberal model, but also to discuss alternatives to capitalism and the ways to socialism.
45. The global crisis and geopolitical changes in the global power relations will further complicate the definition of a political line by the parties of the Forum of São Paulo. In the case of parties that hold a position in the government, economic management will become more difficult: the conditions for faster growth will be diminished; in this regard, the relationship between economic growth and the improvement of people’s living conditions should also be discussed. We must therefore emphasize the urgent need to implement alternative policies at both national and multinational level, particularly among Latin American countries. The long-term success of these alternative policies is the best way to cope with the onslaught of the right in each country, which create internal and external political tensions in an attempt to constrain, co-opt and defeat the progressive and leftist governments.
46. The creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) last December in Caracas, Venezuela, is an important event from the historical point of view. The integration of Latin America and the Caribbean is growing with the deepening of the convergence of the ALBA, MERCOSUR and UNASUR processes and of other similar ones.
47. The joint integration project must ensure economic and social development, democratization and national sovereignty, together with continental sovereignty and anti-imperialism. A joint integration should be characterized by the avoidance of differences and inequalities between countries and by the promotion of solidarity, cooperation and reciprocity within the region.
48. In particular, the current crisis may deepen the Latin American and Caribbean integration, from different areas of convergence. Regarding the crisis, it is important to articulate, through integration, mechanism and policies for the protection and expansion of industry, for scientific and technological development, and for the employment and domestic markets.
49. The crisis may negatively impact the political context of the Latin America left. On the one hand, it may cause uneasiness among large sectors of the population which naturally focus on the parties in government and, on the other hand, it may stimulate right-wing trends or anti-party and anti-election sentiments. Hence, it is important to analyze which line to follow (depending on each regional reality) to prevent the ruling left from paying the political cost of the crisis of a system, whose replacement by a new and higher one constitutes the rationale of the left. For this reason, it is crucial to build popular power before and after electoral victories.
50. The U.S. empire is working hard to break Latin American sovereign unity and promotes alternative projects, such as the Pacific Alliance between Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile with the United States, the Alliance for Development and the Partnership for Growth.
51. Efforts are being made to prevent that the global political realignment should lead to conflicts between the progressive governments in the region as regards foreign policy. The relationships with the United States and Europe, as well as with countries in conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East can be evaluated differently. Therefore, our role as political parties is to take action so that, facing the global political realignment, our governments can react with greater unity and cohesion, especially in foreign policy.
52. For this reason the unity of the Forum of São Paulo should be strengthened in 2012 and in the coming years. The key to consolidate this unity will be our ability to work towards the political integration of Latin America, while deepening the debate in a context of tolerance and recognition of the ideological and political diversity of the Latin American left.
53. The 18th Meeting of the Forum of São Paulo will analyze integration processes, with an emphasis on the CELAC. Besides, the Action Plan, which includes the following points, will be updated:
54. To keep and expand the conquered areas, particularly, the national governments.
55. To continue fighting to defeat the right where it rules.
56. To intensify the changes where we rule.
57. To strengthen the process of unity and regional integration.
58. To defeat the counterattack by imperialism and the right.
59. To support and broaden social struggles.
60. To advance towards a political and peaceful solution to the situation in Colombia.
61. To support the efforts of the progressive, democratic and leftist sectors in Honduras.
62. To review the Haiti case.
63. To show solidarity with the presidential nomination of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico.
64. To show solidarity with the candidate Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
65. To reaffirm our commitment to the cause of decolonization, self-determination and independence, unity and integration of our peoples. To highlight the cases of Puerto Rico, Islas Malvinas (Falklands Islands) and other British colonies in the South Atlantic, French Guyana, Martinique and Guadalupe.
66. To strengthen the European Secretariat of the Forum of São Paulo and expand our links with different sectors of the European left, particularly, with parties and anti-neoliberal resistance movements.
67. To create the U.S. Secretariat of the Forum of São Paulo and strengthen our ties with resistance movements in the U.S., particularly with movements in defense of migrants and of resistance against the crisis, such as the so-called “occupy” movement.
68. To expand our dialogue with the left parties in Africa.
69. To strengthen our struggle for peace, against external interference and for solidarity with the fighting peoples, beginning with Palestine.
70. To expand the level of dialogue and agreements with the parties from China, Russia, India and South Africa.
71. To expand the drafting capacity of Latin American and Caribbean leftist parties, adopting a positive attitude as regards central themes and highlights; also deepening the debate about the direction of social change, its nature and its short, medium and long-term goals, the alternatives to neoliberalism and capitalism, the role of the different regional expressions of unity and integration.
72. To improve the organic functioning of the Forum of São Paulo by strengthening the coordination mechanisms to guide the debate, coordinate positions and propagate them more and more at a regional and global level, and to achieve increased cooperation in terms of concrete actions undertaken by its member parties.