FIL of Guadalajara: Álvaro García Linera and Jeremy Corbyn: the left before an unhinged time

Jeremy Corbyn (Chippenham, 71 years old) says that in the seventies, while he was backpacking, the police stopped him a couple of times in Bolivia. “They sure thought it had something to do with Che Guevara,” he recalls. The former British Labor leader returned to Bolivia in 2009, at the height of Evo Morales, when the new Bolivian Constitution buried decades of governments without much popular support and inaugurated a multicultural country. A decade later, that collapsed. The outbreak of the radical right, at the end of a convulsive month of protests that ended in the resignation of Morales in the face of pressure from the Army after 14 years in power, evidenced the fragility of the left that flourished in the region at the beginning of the century.

But the left keeps coming back. There is always another chance. Today I have hope for countries that are going to elections like Chile or Brazil, and I celebrate the results in Honduras ”, says Corbyn in conversation with EL PAÍS at the Guadalajara Book Fair. The British parliamentarian participated this Friday in a discussion on neoliberalism in a new era inaugurated by the coronavirus, nothing less than with the former Bolivian vice president who accompanied Morales in power, Álvaro García Linera. They both come off a rough couple of years. In July 2019 Corbyn lost the elections against the conservatism of Boris Johnson, and in April of last year he was replaced as leader of the Labor Party, after five years at the front, and his formation took a radical turn towards the center. García Linera left Bolivia with Evo Morales in November 2019 on a Mexican Army plane. He lived in Argentina while an improvised government took over the reins of a wounded country. A year later, his party returned to power with a thunderous electoral victory.

“Politics is going through a moment of short defeats and equally fleeting victories,” says García Linera to EL PAÍS. “This is a chaotic time where uncertainty prevails, in which the world is defining its next course.” The former Bolivian vice president, who studied sociology in prison after being arrested for forming a guerrilla group in the 1980s, reads the current moment as an era of disengagement. “The first is that of the elites: some advocate a strengthened market, others protectionism. The second occurs between democracy and neoliberalism. Although this arose in Chile during the dictatorship, in the nineties it married with democratic logic. Today political elites begin to emerge that begin to think that perhaps democracy is not the way out. “

The neoliberal narrative, says García Linera, has been cracked. “He is not exhausted, but he feels tired.” “The popular classes of the world have improved their income and the upper classes have seen theirs skyrocket. Meanwhile, globalization has dynamited those of the middle class, ”he says. “That is the material foundation of the emergence of radical conservatism in the middle sectors.” In the radicalization of broad social sectors, Corbyn adds a detail: “The so-called internet freedom, which is not at all.” “The algorithms control the information and give it a direction. And the big Internet providers, when it suits them, are very happy to turn it off. Google and Facebook tailor coverage for particular regimes. It occurs in Russia, China or Myanmar. If we believe in freedom of information, we have to avoid this conspiracy between governments and big companies ”.

García Linera and Corbyn presented the book this Friday Postcovid / Postneoliberalism: Proposals and alternatives for social transformation in times of crisis (Editorial Siglo XXI), coordinated by the Mexican academic John Ackerman. There are 24 essays signed by politicians and thinkers from the left around the globe over which a constant question flies during the pandemic: Will the world learn to be more supportive after this traumatic experience?

“I am optimistic, but realistic,” says the Bolivian, “any solution will depend on social organization, collective action must accompany the State.” Always from Marxism, García Linera also proposes a superstructural change that will reform the State: “The books, the investigations, the stories, express the afflictions of the time. In a more poetic way, in a philosophical way, or from the analysis. In some cases, they also propose new horizons. When one comes across a book, one understands its time better. The structural, the politics, the economy, the State, many times find their starting point in the narratives. Narratives that radiate, that spread, and that build a new common sense ”. He does not find these narratives in fiction, about which he declares himself “ignorant”, but in authors who think of a new capitalism: the French economist Thomas Piketty; the theorist of “popular capitalism”, the Serbian-American Branko Milanović; and the “innovative progressivism” of the Italian Mariana Mazzucatto.

While the United Kingdom faces a migration crisis, shortages, and the paradox of the lack of workers with high numbers of unemployment after leaving the European Union, Corbyn defends culture and youth as a hope in the face of a radicalized world. During the presentation of the book, he warned about the “destruction of our own existence.” “We cannot continue if profit is the great reason for our existence. The ideas for this great change in society, to inaugurate a different view of the world, come from economic analysis, from social research. But also of the arts ”. he said, and closed his speech radiating hope. In more than dignified Spanish, he recited to Víctor Jara: “Walking, walking / I’m looking for freedom / I hope I find a way / To keep walking.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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