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Let's Hope This Gift Keeps on Giving (Monthly Review)

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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 05:13 AM
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Let's Hope This Gift Keeps on Giving (Monthly Review)
... The obverse of Europe's development was Latin America's underdevelopment; the one was the cause of the other. Potos, the fabulous city of silver in Bolivia, was, by the mid-seventeenth century, one of the world's largest cities, with metal-bedecked cathedrals and streets made of silver. Silver went from the rich hills to Spain, from whence most of it traveled to England to pay for Spanish debts. A few got rich, including the locals who did their European masters' dirty work. But the silver mines and the mercury production necessary to extract silver from the rocks were dreadfully deadly to the workers, who died by the thousands. Then, when the mines gave out, the city went to ruin, and the many sank into a listless misery -- a process that, with variations, repeated itself over the centuries in every country. When the heart pumped out its last blood through the venas abiertas, all that remained was a desiccated corpse. Galeano says that, "The division of labor among nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations." The winners said that the losers were inferior and deserved their fate, while they were superior and got their just deserts as well. Economists say the same thing today.

Political independence by no means stopped the bleeding. New mechanisms of exploitation replaced the old, and the United States supplanted England as the dominant imperial power. But unequal exchange, financial dependence, the industrial and technical monopolies of the U.S. oligopolies, and the International Monetary Fund yielded the same result. Latin America gave and the rich countries took. When trouble reared its head, that is, when the workers and peasants demanded their due or when a populist government tried to restrain capital's rapaciousness and develop internal markets and diverse economies, military force was ready at hand, local if possible and foreign if need be. Galeano provides a fascinating account of Paraguay, which at the beginning of the nineteenth century was the only South American country independent of Europe. Under the guidance of autocratic nationalist leaders, Paraguay had built a strong and diversified economy and had little of the poverty so common among its neighbors. Such a bold autonomy was intolerable to England, so it engineered a war on Paraguay by Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. This bloodiest war in South American history left Paraguay ravaged and poor, and its effects linger to this day. Paraguay's early leaders were denounced as bloodthirsty dictators, a view still held by modern historians. It is important that lessons useful to the poor be obliterated, and so they were. And are today.

Some critics have argued that Galeano's view is overly pessimistic; Latin America's losing streak never ends. But this is not true. He is encouraged by revolts, wherever and whenever they have occurred. Indians rebelled, slaves revolted, peasants took back their land, workers struck, revolutionaries took to the mountains and jungles. Like Tpac Amaru, most were defeated. Their resistance lived on in the popular imagination, however, waiting for some propitious moment to take wing in the actions of others. The Cuban revolution, for example, has sustained itself against all odds, a shining light for all those who hunger for liberation.

Galeano reminds us that "The ghosts of all the revolutions that have been strangled or betrayed through Latin America's tortured history emerge in the new experiments, as if the present had been foreseen and begotten by the contradictions of the past. History is a prophet who looks back: because of what was, and against what was, it announces what will be." Maybe Hugo Chvez, so much the embodiment of what we socialists hope will be, was thinking of this passage when he gave Barack Obama this most appropriate gift ...
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 08:18 AM
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1. Thanks for the post. I plan to return to read this one closely. It looks terrific. n/t
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