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Weakness in the forces of change

Conservatives are advancing and reaping victories through the electoral route. Bukele's hegemony in El Salvador and Milei's victory in Argentina are signs in the region. Moreover, the possibility of Trump's reelection may lead to a global cycle change.

If the existing order leaves out the majority, if there are more of us who would like to live in a world different from this one, how can we explain that, in the end, the political and social struggle is increasingly being won by those who seek to avoid any change?

One answer to consider in the current conditions is that, while we nonconformists appear divided into many trenches that communicate occasionally and weakly, those who try to keep things as they are — and even return us to times we thought we had left behind — have a common program that they wield in many countries and diverse scenarios. That is why we are losing the so-called “culture war”.

There are not two adversaries in this war, each with a vision of what he wants. In reality, there is a contender that has a clear and homogeneous vision against another that has different proposals that have not even been harmonized or made compatible.

Contestants vs. conservatives

For a long time, those who wanted to change the world were called “left” and those who opposed them were called “right”. That characterization placed conservatives in a defensive position that is not the one they have today, with an aggressive platform that seeks to reverse everything achieved by their adversaries through social and political struggles.

Proof of this: conservatives know what they want. A central issue is what they call “the defense of the family”, under which they attack equality between men and women; they claim for parents a central role in the education of their children, that is, a sort of privatization of contents that cancels the search to form citizens for a life in common; they fight against the right to abortion, even when the victim is a minor or has been raped; they oppose granting legal form to same-sex couples and, of course, the possibility for them to adopt children, and they fight against the recognition of the rights of homosexuals.

This platform is raised in different countries with minimal variations in one or another. This is no coincidence: agents of a kind of reactionary international carry the common program, mainly from the United States to Europe or from Argentina to various countries in the region. They have managed to unite behind these program sectors that for centuries had little in common; Catholics and Evangelicals, for example, who in Peru march together under the banner “Don’t mess with my children”.

A left that is gone

On the other side is the memory of the label “left”, which has been fading under the effects of the so-called “really existing socialism”, which, in its name, built authoritarian societies in which civic freedoms disappeared or were imprisoned under tight controls. As a result, those of us who once challenged the social order from a leftist point of view have fallen into orphanhood and bewilderment.

Moreover, the left was stunned — and has not yet recovered — by a transformation of that capitalist world in which Marx had assigned to the proletariat the role of main subject of the great change. The proletariat has lost relative weight in developed societies and never achieved it in underdeveloped ones; the trade unions have been co-opted by capital, are dedicated to the defense of the achievements of their rank and file and have no concern for the rest of the citizenry, who, precisely, constitute the majority.

Workers have diversified and most of them are not “proletarians” dependent on an employer. Consequently, their demands and demands — which they have and are often very important — are not homogeneous. The self-employed worker does not have the same demands as the small merchant; neither of them shares a list of demands with a casual worker or a street seller, and so on.

Heterogeneity of the protesters

Meanwhile, social movements that question the existing order have launched themselves in different directions that do not converge. Some are defending women’s rights, advocating gender equality and working to combat violence against women. Others are committed to the defense of human rights. Environmental movements recruit another sector. Still others are dedicated to asserting the LGTBI agenda. And then there are those bent on affirming animal rights or opposing globalization. As the list goes on, the list continues, increasingly atomizing those who contest.

All of them can be considered as protest movements insofar as they question a certain portion of the existing social order. And some of them take this questioning to levels of radicalism that go beyond some reforms and, in effect, touch on the axes of the social order. However, having taken charge of a sectoral trench that does not communicate with others, nor does it try to build a common program with them, leads them to end up in limited mobilizations, which suffer from an inability to attract masses of people.

Often, the calls and slogans of these groups are directed to those who are already convinced and neglect the task of reaching out to others. In this direction, they sometimes reach levels of radicalism that are incomprehensible to those who are not part of their dynamic.

Thus, while the preservation of order relies on groups that, although they may respond to a specific concern, raise with others a joint platform, the challenge to that order is scattered in a multiplicity of actions, each of them insufficient to be effective.

The result of this balance of forces is that the conservatives now have the upper hand because they have been able to put aside differences in order to present a unified front against those of us who question the status quo. Instead, as a result, the forces of change appear divided, focused on our own public and, in fact, unconcerned about attracting majorities that often fail to understand what they are aiming for clearly. That is our weakness.

That landscape is the one in which conservatives are advancing and reaping triumphs not through armed actions but through electoral means! Bukele’s hegemony in El Salvador and Milei’s victory in Argentina are important signs in the region. And the possibility of Trump’s return as president of the U.S. government may lead to a change of cycle in the world. We are in that landscape now.

*Translated by Micaela Machado Rodrigues from the original in Spanish.


Otros artículos del autor

Sociólogo del derecho. Ha estudiado los sistemas de justicia en América Latina, asunto sobre el cual ha publicado extensamente. Ha ejercido la docencia en Perú, España, Argentina y México. Es senior fellow de Due Process of Law Foundation.


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