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New political extremism in Latin America

After the victory in the primaries of the ultra-liberal economist Javier Milei, who heads the Liberty Advances Party, Argentina has become the new focus of debate on the experimental political changes in Latin America. In fact, Argentine academic and journalistic centers have multiplied their activities around the study of the new far right in the world. Especially considering the prospect of the most favorable model for this type of political force in Argentina, which does not stop at the emergence of a complementary pressure force, like Vox in Spain, but a party that unifies the country’s conservative forces. This fear has been provoked by the fact that Liberty Advances obtained 30% of the votes, surpassing the conservative alliance Together for Change, which obtained two points less in the elections.

Fortunately, the most rigorous reflection on the emergence of the new far right begins by discarding the usefulness of using the category of fascism to refer to this phenomenon. Specialists on the subject, such as Pablo Stefanoni or Steven Forti, warn about the confusion that can be generated by the simplification that leftist groups tend to make when categorizing the new far right as fascism. They state that historical fascism was marked by corporatism and an association with military force as the constitutive basis of the political project that does not appear in the origins of the new far right. The classic Nicos Poulantzas added an important differential note to distinguish it from the dictatorships of Southern Europe: fascism projected its strong nationalism toward external conquest, and it had an enormous imperialist vocation. A fascist regime could not be consolidated by those who wanted it, but by those who could do it.

There is a broad consensus on the characteristics of the new far right. Its anti-progressivism stands out, especially its rejection of the pro-green political narrative; also its rejection of economic globalization, the cause of so much inequality. In relation to this, they show a social nonconformism and a claim against the liberal elites, all of this cemented by a radical libertarian ideology (one of whose manifestations was the anti-vaccine movement). And in this context, they present a critical and conditioned acceptance of the established democratic system.

The biggest problem with this new analysis of the new far right is its bias. As Stefanoni emphasizes, one cannot speak of the populist way of doing politics or of its radical approaches without looking at the other end of the political spectrum. Above all, in Latin America, the far left has been making its presence felt for twenty years and with some notable electoral successes in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Peru, regardless of how the process and its outcome have evolved.

In other words, if the changes in the Latin American sociopolitical dynamics are examined in a comprehensive manner, the new political extremism in the region should be discussed from both sides of the political spectrum. This also has clear historical antecedents, especially in terms of respect for and defense of the rules of the democratic game. It should not be forgotten that in the first half of the 20th century, there was not only one detractor of liberal democracy, but two: communism and fascism, both representing the political extremism of that time. It is true that the new far left no longer reproduces the patterns of communism, just as the new far right does not reproduce those of fascism, but both represent the new political extremism that undermines the social pact that countries need as a basis for the functional development of democratic systems. This comprehensive approach must be the precise one to prevent the debate from falling into segmentations and half-truths.

*Translated by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva from the original in Spanish.


Enrique Gomáriz Moraga has been researcher at FLACSO in Chile and other countries in the region. He was a consultant for international agencies (UNDP, IDRC, IDB). He studied Political Sociology at the Univ. of Leeds (England) wit R. Miliband.


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