The Right is Building Armies of Confrontation

U.S. liberalism fears attempts to build independent, sovereign political projects far more than it fears  fascistic governments, writes Vijay Prashad.

Unknown victims and prisoners at the Navy School of Mechanics, or ESMA, 1976-1983. (Photographs by Victor Basterra, Argentina; collage by Daniela Ruggeri)

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

At the U.S. State Department’s Summit for Democracy (Dec. 9–10), U.S. President Joe Biden announced a range of initiatives to “bolster democracy and defend human rights globally.”

These measures are to be funded by $424.4 million from the United States. This money will go towards the same institutions that have — for the past 60 years — intervened to undermine the sovereignty of democratic processes from Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) to Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019).

The U.S. focuses on falsely portraying governments that are unwilling to accept U.S. leadership as corrupt — as was with the case Brazil’s ‘soft coup’ against former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva — all while shielding its allies who have documented evidence of corruption — such as the outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández. His political bloc was defeated by the left in the recently conducted presidential election.

Washington’s measures amount to a “Plan to Destabilise the Planet,” a stark contrast with the “Plan to  Save the Planet” recently launched by 26 research institutes.

Biden’s attention is on countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, China and Russia, Iran and Zimbabwe. Despite all the howls of despair during Donald Trump’s presidency, there seems to be less urgency amongst liberals regarding the global consolidation of far-right forces. If anyone went to the Summit for Democracy thinking that concerns would be raised about the consolidation of right-wing forces in Latin America or about the tight grip established by right-wing forces in Europe, they would have been disappointed. U.S. liberalism fears attempts to build independent, sovereign political projects far more than it fears the terrible nightmare of fascistic governments.

Mastermind Rubio

Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio effectively operates as Washington’s ambassador for the destabilization of the left and the establishment of far-right governments around the world. Between meddling in the fortunes of the Cuban people and the people of the Solomon Islands, Rubio recently met with Chile’s far-right José Antonio Kast to discuss their common antipathy to the growth of the socialist forces in Latin America.

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Meanwhile, Santiago Abascal, the leader of the Spanish far-right party, Vox, went to the United States to meet with the Republican Party and the Heritage Foundation as part of their tour to create the right-wing think tank Dissent Foundation (Fundación Disenso) and the right-wing political network the Madrid Forum (Foro Madrid).

The Vox-inspired “Charter of Madrid: In Defence of Freedom and Democracy in the Iberosphere” warns about the rise of the left in both Spain and Latin America, using exaggerated language about the “totalitarian yoke” of left-led governments and warning how the “advance of communism poses a serious threat to the prosperity and development.” This framing projects its own authoritarian agenda onto the left, stoking fear amongst the public. The Madrid Forum has brought together the Brazilian far right (rallied by President Jair Bolsonaro) and the Portuguese far right (CHEGA), a development blessed by the right-wing political forces in Washington and in European capitals.

As an impetus for the creation of the Madrid Forum, Vox points to the role of the Communist Party in the Spanish government, to the growth of two formations in Latin America (the São Paulo Forum, established in 1990, and the Puebla Group, established in 2019), and to the electoral victories of the left from Bolivia to Nicaragua.

For far-right forces like Vox, such electoral results and the defense of the revolutionary processes in Cuba and Venezuela must be fought by any means. The histories and legacies of destructive coups run through these men, whose commitment to democratic principles and institutions is limited.

The Dissent Foundation and other similar endeavors are designed to delegitimize the governments and movements of the left, painting them in the worst light and then offering regional support for the U.S.-driven hybrid war.

No comparable gathering of the left (the São Paulo Forum or the Puebla Group) has ever asserted such politics. Instead, their goals center around finding ways to strengthen co-operation and learn from each other about policy initiatives that undermine both imperialism and neoliberalism and further the interests of humankind. There are two sides to the developments in the Iberosphere: while the left is trying to drive a project of collaboration, the right is building armies of confrontation.

Also in Europe

Similar moves by the right are afoot in Europe, although with limited results. Over the past few years, several meetings have taken place between Brussels and Warsaw, but, apart from the release of vague statements about unity, little actual political coordination has taken place. “Russia” and the “European Union” stand in for “Venezuela” and “Cuba,” with hyperbolic language intended to mask the real dangers of the ruling parties of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

In the European Parliament, these right-wing groups compete in two formations: the European Conservatives and Reformists, dominated by Poland’s far right, and the Identity and Democracy group, dominated by France and Italy’s far right.

Our latest dossier, “New Clothes, Old Threads: The Dangerous Right-Wing Offensive in Latin America,” offers a thoughtful journey through the emergence of the right wing across Latin America. The dossier explores different right-wing forces, assessing them in terms of their relationship to major capitalist interests and testing three hypotheses, each of which have much to offer to our assessment of the right wing:

The major capitalist forces recognize that the bourgeois system is in crisis and that the left wing has begun to make gains. Eager to prevent the ascendency of the left, the ruling class quite comfortably aligns itself with far-right forces and with a new authoritarian form of government (such as the elites’ alignment with Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, though that is now fracturing).

  • The right wing does not have a proper economic program but is willing to adopt whatever economic policy measures the local oligarchs and Washington wish to impose. This includes taking direction on the types of major projects to be developed and who should develop them (such as El Salvador’s rejection of the Chinese deal for the La Uníon port).
  • The ruling classes acknowledge the instability generated by extreme financialization and by the power of global capital. This leads to new discourses, new reactionary utopias, and new forms of mobilization produced by the new right as part of their urgency to “modernize” capitalism.

A Crisis of Imagination

These hypotheses allow us to take the reader on a journey through the current realities in Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. The new discourses of the right continue to trouble our ability to generate a new commitment to a dignified, socialist future. No modernization of capitalism is possible, neither by the harsh policies of the far right nor by the center right. Such a modernization program puts at its center the defense of capital accumulation and profit above the pressing needs of humanity and nature.

This dubious program has been able to provide trillions of dollars to prevent the collapse of the capitalist system during the Covid-19 pandemic but has failed to provide the resources needed to prevent the erosion of basic human needs around the planet. Amidst the million crises that have befallen humanity, the crisis of imagination is one of the foulest. We struggle to imagine a better world while allowing ourselves to pickle in the hatred of social hierarchies and xenophobia.

The art in this newsletter is from the dossier, mocking the monsters that emerge in the “interregnum,” in Antonio Gramsci’s words, in these clever tarot-like cards: The Libertarian, The Anarcho-Capitalist, The Anti-Scientist, The Techno-Feudal Lord, The Anti-Communist Savior, The Pacifier and The Interventionist. Hovering above these figures is a caricature of the right wing’s greatest fear – The Specter – which for the rest of us is a symbol of hope and resistance that is ushering in a new world.

The history of the far right around the world is ugly; its monuments are the ruins of factories and torture chambers, ugliness that strips dignity from the vast mass of humanity. Five thousand student and trade union activists were tortured and killed between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina’s Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) in Buenos Aires of the more than 30,000 people killed and disappeared by state terrorism during that time.

Before the torture began, Victor Basterra, a prisoner at ESMA, was forced to photograph each of the other prisoners. Among these photographs is the image of a defiant woman which opens this newsletter. She could hear the screams of unknown militants in the basement where she was detained. She knew that was her fate. She guessed that she would not survive this experience, as 30,000 others did not. This brave, unknown woman stood in front of the camera and raised her fist in a revolutionary salute. Her bravery is a signal across time to all of us. If you are resisting, you are not defeated.

In the dying days of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, Raúl Zurita, a Chilean poet, reflected on the thousands of people who had been arrested, tortured and killed in his country. They are the martyrs of the hideous old right. In his Canto a su amor desaparecido (1985), Zurita, like the anonymous woman detained at ESMA, rejects despair and holds fast to love as our necessary antidote:

But they won’t ever find us because our love is bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
Bound, bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
Bound, bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
My girl died, my boy died, they all disappeared.
Deserts of love.

Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the chief editor of Left Word Books.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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10 comments for “The Right is Building Armies of Confrontation

  1. robert e williamson jr
    December 22, 2021 at 12:17

    Vijay Prashad:

    Washington’s measures amount to a plan to “Destabilize the Planet “, a stark contrast with the “Plan to Save the Planet”, recently launched by 26 research institutes. Truly very powerful words, indeed!

    I have long held the opinion that any outcome derived by a solution to attacking or ending almost any problem depends heavily, maybe entirely, on the mentality applied to the problem to be interdicted.

    One must accurately assess the problem, issue, or “other”, develop plan depending on the true nature of the problem to be addressed and the end result desired. Creative, forward looking thoughtful careful planning. With a beginning, a middle and an end.

    The perceived problem of Vietnam was bogus and the outcome predictable. The result of the smartest men in the room misrepresenting the problem (lying) and their intentions (lied to again). Those smartest men in the room doing the “deciders job” never received any serious rebuke for the lies and crimes of Vietnam and nothing of worth to the country was gained by our foreign policy planners. The MIC got richer and assume more influence and power instead.

    One ‘s solutions are doomed when the problem is faux .

    Then came 911 the origin of the problem there never admitted to by a contemptuous ruling class with a grudge.

    The real problem criminally ignored, and criminally created by that same ruling class. The mentality applied to the solution of real problem, one completely ignored went missing, The call for war was never intended to solve anything. Laying waste to a country and it’s population was a piss poor plan. Garbage in and garbage out! Exactly what should have been expected when the actual problem was the mentality of those who tasked themselves with solving a non-existent problem. One cannot solve a problem that does not exist.

    As a result the leadership of this nation and congress, both parties have failed desperately at accomplishing anything constructive, and in so doing failed the nations people. Creating more divisiveness, anger and desperation of those masses instead.

    The mentality in D.C. is all centered on staying in power and gaining more power. Not solving problems. These people present a clear and present danger to themselves and everyone else and need to be dealt with accordingly.

    I believe I have the right problem identified and the solution is obvious although very troublesome. If we as a nation intend to continue to exist this problem needs to be addressed. The first step is identification of said problem now we need a plan.

    Check out Beau of the Fifth Column on the Youtube you just might be pleasantly surprised by his fresh ideas. The man is all about solutions and has learned his lesson well. No violence just action!

    And remember the longest journey starts with the first step. We know what he problem is . . . . . we do not need to become part of it by doing nothing.

    Everyone be safe these holidays and love each other!

    Thanks CN

  2. michael888
    December 22, 2021 at 09:49

    While Pinochet was a right wing fascist, he was the US’s monkey, just a small part of our evil circus. Krystal Ball recently pegged Pinochet as the founder of NeoLiberalism, but he was clearly a puppet of The US Elites at the time (Joe Biden was sworn in as US Senator before Pinochet came to power, and Poppy Bush has the CIA building named after him mostly for his covert activities in Latin America), but Biden has probably done more damage with death squads and narco states, trained and propped up by the US. Leftist? Fascist?
    I doubt it’s a question of Right or Left, just misuse of power. Remember Mussolini was the Head Socialist in Italy before he self-converted to Fascism (he didn’t really change). Trump and Republicans may have a reputation of misused authority, and a lot of history (such as Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare, with Bobby Kennedy at his side), but Biden and the Democrats have just finished five years of Russiagate, and are starting a War on Domestic Terrorism (after being major Architects in the War on Drugs and Doubling Incarceration rates). The people involved are never accountable and always fail up.
    Powerful Politicians are not good people, but are Effective. That has given us Civil Rights and Vietnam under LBJ, and OSHA, the EPA, man on the moon, and opening of China by Nixon (meanwhile pointlessly bombing South East Asia into oblivion, and getting caught in Watergate). What is scary is not the aligning with Fascists and Communists, but the lack of political discourse and critical thinking, in favor of some nonsensical consensus view, and the view that compromise is evil; it often may be, but is a necessary evil.

  3. Hide Behind
    December 22, 2021 at 01:55

    Financial managers are not independent of banks and how Governments intervene, they are one and same.
    The massive bailouts of last few years amount to trillions in debt borrowing by US Sovereigns and its use of an artificial interest rates for themthat have made corporations hundreds of billions but not from investing in US, but as owners or partners with foreign nations industry and their growth.
    Bailouts have not increased publics buying power or increased its numbers of smaller than international corporates buisness within US.
    While there has been a recent small rebound in domestic service jobs the productivity of demestic industrials have fallen.
    A vast disparity exist among exporting firms with vast majority of exports are of foreign firms that Canadian and US government subsidize heavily.
    American auto manufacturing still depend upon imports to be assured the three USA JOBS continue to see steep declines in sales compared to large increase of foreign manufacturing firms gaining in market shares.
    The increase in imports of foods, high end, increase while we export but 3 grain crops and even in grains foreign interest own grow and lead in exports.
    Expertise swung from production knowledge, with military receiving largest inputs of brain power from foreign interest.
    Money managers not production engineers or high tech having to hire more foreign help due to Colleges and Universities monies from Drpt of Ed goes into their bureaucracy and gains by owning partial shares, shares done for Research and Developement of Pjarma and military/ Agricultural Gmo firms.
    US is a massive fail as military ducks brain power with worlds highest cost and wages while worldwide nations are taking more and more towards consumer and electronics with far more innovative production methods.

  4. December 21, 2021 at 15:12

    In its quest for global dominance, the US has boxed itself in a fascist corner.
    Fascists, in their myriad permutations, lurking in darkest allies across the planet are the only resource the US has to confront the emerging multipolar world order.
    The US has revealed itself to be the exact opposite of what it purports to defend.
    The shiny city upon a hill is actually a murky dungeon in a swamp.

  5. Aaron
    December 21, 2021 at 07:24

    The capitalist culture is what Henry Giroux calls the disimagination machine. It’s paradoxical. One would think, that entrepreneurial spirit would spark more imagination in our minds, but it seems to have the opposite effect, at least on consumers. I think it’s the internet more than anything, and people with their “smart” phones that keep them constantly distracted and unable to think critically. They have the attention span of a ferret, not exactly the kind of cognitive state of mind that facilitates imaginative, big ideas. Also, as wealth is more and more transferred upwardly, folks are very busy just trying to stay alive in the pandemic and pay the bills. They don’t have much time to ponder and worry about the specter of rising global fascism. Of course that’s the way the fascists like it. I think one of the biggest techniques fascists are adept at using is instilling fear in people about illegal immigration. They play that card all the time at rallies and it seems to pull angry folks into their sphere of influence. While there seems to be some optimism at the moment that unions are growing again, I’m not sure that it will totally come to fruition, I think it’s just because the pandemic has cause “the great resignation” and employers have no leverage at all now. If the pandemic ends, they ownership class will crush any budding unions as soon as they can.

    • December 21, 2021 at 15:24

      Capitalism and “the entrepreneurial spirit” are incompatible.
      In the capitalist world, real entrepreneurs are feared, despised, and repressed because they represent innovation, competition, and change — the very forces capitalists fight against.
      In their lieu, the capitalists seize upon the Myth of the Entrepreneur to assign saintly status to has-beens like Elon Musk and Borring Bluff-It.
      That’s co-optation, not innovation.
      That’s the disimagination machine, and there’s nothing paradoxical about it.

        December 21, 2021 at 15:25

        Or they buy up an innovative competitor.

      • Hide Behind
        December 21, 2021 at 23:50

        American history has been pounded in falsememes since before there was a US of A.
        THIS CAPITALISM IS ONE HUGE FALSE MEME as US commerce was noose than a copy of British privileged mercantalism under guidance and control by the few over the many
        Back to beginning of US needs taxation I order to keep a central government expenses met was soon overtaken by taxes upon multiple goods.
        When a bill say to build a port for warshipswas wanted a tax was first passed by peoples houses to use.
        A Capitalist was even worse than a 4 letter word until Norths Civil War.victory.
        A capitalist was when goverent gave away public funds and properties to private or corporate friends from publics held in Trust.
        THE IDEA THAT gov could give to RR first Cas and then everyotjher section of public owned lands and then RR kept all future profits was anathema to American public, money to privileged was Brit style East Idia and Hudson Bay and tax back to goverent was CAPITALISM.

        • December 22, 2021 at 09:26

          Agreed. India in the last five years has done the very same. Gave away significant portion of Public entitis to cronies of BJP.

    • December 22, 2021 at 09:23

      Not to forget the role played by TV and radio prior to internet. Along with these gadgets, the idea that “every individual should look out for him/herself” is poison for a society. Breakdown of family unit leads to breakdown of neighbourhoods, communities and societies. It is easy to manipulate dis-united society.

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