Two Paths in the Face of Capitalism's Global Breakdown

Below is a summary that Richard Fidler has written of an article that appears on Links, International Journal of Socialist Renewal. The world economic crisis is reflected in conflict between South American nations. Some are lining up with the Bush-U.S. proposals and others, with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) who have decide to replace the U.S. dollar to be used in an equal trade relationship among ALBA members.

Links has posted an English translation of an important article on recent developments in Latin America: The author, Luis Bilbao, described by Links as "a central participant in the construction of the mass United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the Union of South American States (Unasur)", reports on an important decision at the recent ALBA summit: to create a new currency, the Sucre, as a monetary mechanism to be used in egalitarian trade relationships among the ALBA partners, as a substitute for the U.S. dollar. "Sucre" stands for Sistema Unitario de Compensación Regional, or Unitary system of regional compensation, and is also the name of the general who led the creole and mestizo forces in the final battle against the Spanish empire in the 19th century.

The article, on “two paths in the face of capitalism's global breakdown”, explains the growing conflicts among the South American nations under the impact of the developing world economic crisis, and describes the somewhat divergent roads being taken by Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, on the one hand, and the ALBA states on the other. It contrasts the November meeting of the G20 nations convened by Bush in Washington with the meeting of ALBA presidents that month in Caracas:

“In the capital of the empire the G20 agreed upon an erratic document lacking any precise definitions, except the common aim of propping up capitalism and correcting what different heads of states classified as “excesses resulting from the lack of regulation”. In Caracas, after diagnoses that expounded the graveness of the systemic crisis and its structural character, transcendental economic and political measures were adopted, such as the creation of a common monetary zone, the decision to put an end to the hegemony of the US dollar in international trade, and defence of a multipolar worldThe G20 meeting, attended by Brazil and Argentina as well as China, reflected, says Bilbao, “the decision of the strategists in the State Department, who have their sights set on an objective of a strictly political nature: impede China and Latin America lining up in the direction of the formation of regional financial subsystems and entering into the new international scenario opened up by the crisis with action plans independent of the will and the interests of the G7 (United States, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Italy and Britain).”

Bilbao sees the G20 summit, as a “relative success of the imperialist strategists” and notes that:
“. . . looking only at this hemisphere, with the exception of ALBA, none of the regional bodies have met to take into consideration the issue of the crisis and design a common response. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a recent formidable conquest in the direction of South American convergence, remained mute and paralysed, likewise Mercosur, not to mention the moribund Community of Andean Nations (CAN). Rather than convoking an urgent meeting of UNASUR, Brasilia and Buenos Aires went to Washington. Meanwhile, the heads of state of Peru , Chile and Colombia took refuge at another summit which Bush attended, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), which met in Lima.”

He asks whether we are seeing a “reversal of the trend”:

“Following eight years in which the centripetal forces in South America have produced a drastic geopolitical change to the detriment of imperialism in general, and more specifically the United States, an unknown remains: is the tendency reversing, and will a centrifugal force accentuated by the global collapse destroy the conquests achieved so far this century?

“The increasing number of clashes for the most diverse reasons between Brazil and Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil are indicative of the multiple gravitational pull of internal and externals forces that are working to undermine the process of regional union which has predominated in recent years. As was noted in these pages some time ago, following the great victory against ALCA (Free Trade of Americas Agreement or FTAA), an imperialist counter-offensive introduced a number of factors that pull in the opposite direction of South American convergence. Nevertheless, the most potent forces of disintegration result from the role played by the regional bourgeoisies. The competition for markets prevails and the more powerful the dominant classes of each country are, the more they feed internal shock troops. With the eruption of the world crisis, these objective forces come together in order to drag with them governments verbally committed to the Latin American cause. This is the crossroads at which all will have to make their choice without further delay.”

And Bilbao concludes:

“Within this framework one begins to see the real dimension of the agreements reached in Caracas by the countries of ALBA. The final declaration of the summit affirmed the decision of ‘constructing a monetary zone that initially includes the country members of ALBA (Dominica will participate with the status of observer) and the Republic of Ecuador, through the establishment of a common unit of accounting, the Sucre (Unitary System of Regional Compensation) and a chamber of payment compensation. The creation of this monetary zone will be accompanied by the establishment of a stabilisation and reserves fund with contributions from the member countries, aimed at financing expansive demand policies to confront the crisis and sustain a policy of investments for the development of complementary economic activities.’“The heads of state present unanimously approved the decision to create ‘an economic and monetary zone of ALBA-TCP [People’s Trade Agreement] that protects our countries from the depredation of transnational capital, promotes the development of our economies and constitutes a space liberated from the inoperative global financial institutions and the monopoly of the dollar as the currency for trade and reserves’. They affirmed the decision to ‘come up with a regional response, driven by ALBA-TCP, which seeks independence in respect to the global financial markets, questions the role of the dollar in the region and advances towards a common currency, the Sucre, and contributes to the creation of a pluri-polar world’. From its anti-imperialist perspective, moving in the direction of socialism of the 21st century, ALBA shifted from words into action, in sharp contrast to the rest of the countries.”

The article can also be read in the Spanish original on the web site of the publication América XXI, under the title: El Alba crea el Sucre: moneda común y símbolo para América Latina — Dos caminos frente a la quiebra mundial del capitalismo, at