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Toward a Democratic Left

A review of Zamora's article in NACLA Report on the Americas, from the Democracy Backgrounder, Vol. 1 no. 3, 6 September 1995

"Toward a Strategy of Resistance"
An Essay by Rubn Zamora
NACLA Report on the Americas
July/August 1995

Rubn Zamora's essay, while more exhortatory than analytical, does offer an important critical perspective about the democratization process in Latin America. Like most progressive political scientists, Zamora condemns the attempt by neoliberals to equate markets with democracy. He makes the insightful observation that in Latin America, "After years of inclusive economic-development policies married to exclusionary military authoritarianism, we now have political openings in bed with economic policies that are highly exclusionary."

Without naming names--although all those who are familiar with the recent evolution of the Salvadoran left will know to whom Zamora is refering--he calls to task "former guerrillas who have discovered modernity and, in their haste to arrive, go straight to the most conservative incarnations of social democracy, without even paying a courtesy call on democratic socialism."

Zamora also sharply critiques the left for its hypocritism with respect to democracy: The left should lay bare the ideological content of neoliberal proposals, but for the critique to have real political meaning, the left must also accept political democracy in practice. Only when the left takes democracy on as its own, which would require a profound critique of its own practice, will its ideological battle with neoliberalism attain credibility and political significance.

Too often leftist leaders and analysts are critical of democracy as being an instrument of neoliberalism, counterinsurgency, or popular pacification or as being too limited in scope, even though they themselves don't accept the basic principles of representive political democracy. This is slowly changing as the ideologues of leftist dogma become increasingly irrelevant to today's struggles.

Faced with new realities and recognizing past errors, the best of the left has begun, as Zamora notes, "to abandon the old dichotomies--economic democracy vs. political democracy, formal (bourgeois) democracy vs. real (workers') democracy--which were only smokescreens that concealed a pitiful reality: an undemocratic, authoritarian left, politically cast in the Soviet mold, which raised the banners of political liberties to attact its opponents, but was not prepared to practice them inside its own structures, not to mention if it ever achieved power."

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