The Counterinsurgency State by Ruy Mauro Marini

Date: 2021-09-11T22:33:13+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

To commemorate the anniversary of Salvador Allende’s death and the fall of Chile’s Popular Unity government, we present this analysis of reactionary military governments in Latin America by Ruy Mauro Marini in honor of all who have died fighting for socialism in the hands of Pinochet’s counter-revolutionary military regime. Translation by Jorge M and introduction by Renato Flores. 


As the majority of the capitalist core and parts of the periphery seem to be sliding into more right-wing politics, the question of whether something is or not fascist is occupying a significant part of the discourse. Can we only call what happened in Italy and Germany (and maybe Spain) fascism? Was it an inherent part of capitalism, which had come home from the colonies, as Aimé Césaire said? Should we rely on the definitions of Dimitrov or Trotsky, which date from the 1930s, or should the definition be updated? Should we denote the US as always fascist, as George Jackson did? Or should we try and acknowledge that fascism in the US will always take a peculiar character due to the settler-colonial origins of the country, and follow something like Sakai’s definition? Should we acknowledge that Trump and the neo-far right in Europe are radical breaks? Or are they just an intensification of white supremacy?

Parts of this debate are semantic, but other parts have implications for our strategy. In this context, we offer this new translation of work by Ruy Mauro Marini. Marini (1932-97) was a member of a Chilean revolutionary communist organization Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria, serving on its Central Committee in 1972, as well as a political-economist who extensively wrote on Dependency Theory and is acknowledged as one of its creators. However, in this piece dating from 1978, he tackles the character of the military regimes that ruled Latin America at the time. Military coups and the regimes that followed were not new in Latin America, having been an ever-present part of many countries. However, a qualitative change in military regimes could be seen in the late 60s and early 70s. Until then, it was within the realm of possibility that a coup would result in a regime that was left-leaning and nationalist. But since the series of coups that started in ‘64 such as the Brazilian generals’ coup or the Barrientos coup in Bolivia- the military regimes took up increasingly anti-worker and neo-liberal politics, which were especially evident in Pinochet’s Chile. 

In this piece, Marini is attempting to theorize what changed in the 70s among the Latin American bourgeoise for this new type of regime to arise. He recognizes that the regimes are fascist-like, but they cannot be fully identified with European fascism. Unlike Germany or Italy, these regimes had come into power through military coups. However, there was a preparatory period for these coups which involved the building of consent for the coup through tactics such as economic sabotage. And of course, there was the ever-present US influence. Marini ends the piece by thinking about the possibilities of the mass democratic opposition to these regimes. They could either lead to the building of a peasant-worker alliance which will take its fight beyond democratic objectives to the fight for socialism, or they could also be co-opted into recovering a symbolic bourgeois democracy that did not conduct significant economic reforms, something that ended up happening decades later throughout Latin America.

In summary, this piece gives us an alternative perspective on fascism and how to fight it in these days where debate on this topic is very lively. We present it in the hope of providing a new view for stimulating debate, and for introducing Marini, a lesser-known thinker in the anglosphere who has been barely translated and is worth engaging on his own right for his economic and other ideas.


I will start from the observation that we are going through a counterrevolutionary period in Latin America, in order to, once this period has been characterized, investigate to what extent it affects the State. Indeed, the State being, as it is, the concentrated force of society, the synthesis of the structures and relations of domination that exist there, the validity of a counterrevolutionary process necessarily affects it, affecting its structure and functioning. It is the awareness of this situation that has led intellectuals and political forces of the continent to consider the analysis of the counterrevolution, generating the discussion on the fascist or non-fascist characteristics of this process.

Now then: it seems to me valid, from a certain point of view, to resort to fascism as a term of reference. To the extent that European fascism also represented a counterrevolutionary period, it provides a point of comparison to analyze the Latin American situation. However, I believe that -rather than looking for similarities and differences between the Latin American counterrevolutionary process and European fascism- it is preferable to start from the assumption that both constitute particular forms of bourgeois counterrevolution and thus try to verify the specificity of the Latin American counterrevolution, especially from the point of view of the State. We will thus be following the teachings of European Marxists, who have used, for the analysis of fascism, the point of reference they had at the time with respect to the bourgeois counterrevolution: Bonapartism, without assuming that they were identical phenomena; rather, they were concerned with establishing the specificity of the fascist process and the forms of domination and the State to which it gave rise. If they had not proceeded in this way, if they had confused the particular forms with the general process that produces them, we would not have today the studies on fascism, which have enriched Marxist political theory and allow us to approach with more certainty the analysis of the Latin American counterrevolution.

Let us see, then, what factors have provoked the opening of this counterrevolutionary process in Latin America, let us examine its influence on the structure and functioning of the State, in order to raise the question of whether or not the changes it has undergone represent a transitory phenomenon and how they affect the revolutionary strategy.

Three aspects of the Latin American counterrevolution

In my opinion, Latin American military dictatorships are the result of a three-pronged process. As we shall see below, this process not only generated military dictatorships but also affected states that did not assume that form. In this sense, the first effect of the action of these factors is not so much the Brazilian coup of 1964, as it is argued, but the changes in the Venezuelan state after 1959, under the Betancourt government.

The first aspect of the Latin American counterrevolution is the change in the global strategy of the United States, which intervened at the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties, and which was decisively implemented by the Kennedy administration. Its main motivation is the fact that the United States, as the undisputed head of the capitalist camp, is confronted with a series of revolutionary processes in different parts of the world, such as Algeria, Congo, Cuba, Vietnam, which produce different results but which shake the world structure of imperialist domination. This is accompanied by the modification of the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union, which implies a greater equilibrium between the two. All this leads to the change in the American strategic approach, which passes from the contemplation of a massive and global response, in a direct confrontation with the USSR, to that of a flexible response, capable of facing the revolutionary challenge (which, in the US perspective, is always a Soviet challenge) wherever it arises.

The new US strategy has several consequences. Among them, modifications at the military level, with emphasis, for example, on means of mass transportation and conventional forces; the creation of special corps, trained in counter-guerrilla warfare, such as the Green Berets; and the reinforcement of national armies, what McNamara in his book The Essence of Security called “Indians in Uniform”, through training and armament programs. But the most significant, for what interests us here, is the formulation of the counterinsurgency doctrine, which establishes a line of confrontation with revolutionary movements to be developed on three levels: annihilation, conquest of social bases, and institutionalization.

Three aspects of the counterinsurgency doctrine should be highlighted. First, its very conception of politics: counterinsurgency is the application of a military approach to political struggle. Normally, in bourgeois society, the purpose of political struggle is to defeat the opponent, but the opponent still exists as a defeated element and may even act as an oppositional force. Counterinsurgency, in a perspective similar to that of fascism, sees the opponent as the enemy that must not only be defeated but annihilated, i.e. destroyed, which implies seeing the class struggle as war and thus entails the adoption of military tactics and methods of struggle.

Secondly, counterinsurgency considers the revolutionary movement as something alien to the society in which it develops; consequently, it sees the revolutionary process as subversion provoked by infiltration of the enemy. The revolutionary movement is, then, something like a virus, the agent infiltrated from outside that provokes in the social organism a tumor, a cancer, that must be extirpated, that is to say, eliminated, suppressed, annihilated. Here, too, it is close to the fascist doctrine.

Thirdly, counterinsurgency, in claiming to restore the health of the infected social organism, that is, of bourgeois society under its parliamentary and liberal political organization, explicitly proposes the re-establishment of bourgeois democracy, after the period of exception represented by the period of war. Unlike fascism, counterinsurgency does not at any time question the validity of bourgeois democracy, but only proposes its limitation or suspension during the campaign of annihilation. Through the reconquest of social bases, it is therefore necessary to move on to the phase of institutionalization, which is seen as the full reestablishment of bourgeois democracy.

The second aspect of the Latin American counterrevolution is the structural transformation of the Local bourgeoisies, which tends to translate into modifications of the dominant political bloc. The objective basis of this phenomenon is the imperialist integration of the systems of production taking place in Latin America, or more precisely, the integration of the Latin American systems of production into the imperialist system, by means of direct investments of foreign capital, technological subordination and financial penetration. This leads to the emergence and development of a monopolistic bourgeoisie, closely linked to the imperialist bourgeoisie, especially the North American one, during the course of the fifties and even more so during the sixties.

Imperialist integration corresponds, together with the super-exploitation of labor, to the accentuation of the centralization of capital and the proletarianization of the petty bourgeoisie. For this reason, it sharpens the class struggle and aims at breaking the scheme of alliances adopted until then by the bourgeoisie, both because of the contradictions existing between its monopolistic and non-monopolistic fractions, as well as due to the struggle between the bourgeoisie as a whole and the petty bourgeoisie, which ends up pushing the latter towards the search for alliances with the proletariat and the peasantry.

The result of this process is the rupture, the abandonment of what had been, until then, the norm in Latin America: the populist State, that is to say, the “State of the whole bourgeoisie”, which favored the accumulation of all its fractions (even if they took unequal advantage of the benefits made available to them). In its place, a new State is created, which is fundamentally concerned with the interests of the monopolistic fractions, national and foreign, and establishes, therefore, selective mechanisms to favor their accumulation; the other bourgeois fractions must subordinate themselves to the monopoly bourgeoisie, their development remaining strictly dependent on the dynamism achieved by monopoly capital, while the petty bourgeoisie, remaining privileged in the alliance of classes on which the new bourgeois power rests, is forced to accept a redefinition of its position, loses political importance and remains, it too, totally subordinated, with its living conditions linked to the initiatives and dynamism of the monopoly bourgeoisie.

The third aspect of the Latin American counterrevolution is the rise of the mass movement which the bourgeoisie had to confront in the course of the sixties. This movement had been developing since the previous decade: the Bolivian revolution of 1952, the Guatemalan revolution of 44-54, the radicalization of the populist movements in different countries, had had their first high point with the Cuban revolution. This particularly influenced the petty-bourgeois intellectual strata, which were going through, as we have seen, a period of readjustment in their relations with the bourgeoisie, accentuating their displacement towards the popular camp. There, the peasant movement gained increasing importance, while a new workers’ movement developed, a product of the new proletariat created by the industrialization of the preceding decades. It is, in short, this broad mass movement, which bursts into the gaps in the system of domination created by the fracture of the bloc in power and which has an impact in the sense of aggravating the contradictions existing there, which explains the violent reaction of the bourgeoisie and imperialism, that is, the counterrevolution that is then unleashed in the continent.

Counterrevolutionary processes

Let us examine briefly how this counterrevolution is carried out and where it leads to and we will see that it cannot be identified mechanically with European fascism, although it is like it a specific form of bourgeois counterrevolution and takes from it its general characteristic: the recourse by the victorious faction to State terrorism to subdue its opponents, from the rival fractions too, and very especially, the working class. Roughly speaking, the Latin American counterrevolution begins with a period of destabilization, during which the reactionary forces try to rally around themselves the whole of the bourgeoisie and to sow in the popular movement division, distrust in its forces and in its leaders; it continues through a coup d’état, carried out by the Armed Forces, and is resolved with the establishment of a military dictatorship. The specific Latin American societies impose their own particular stamp on each of these moments.

In the phase of preparation of the coup, or of destabilization, fascist features are observed, but these are secondary. Through propaganda, verbal and even physical intimidation, which may involve the use of armed bands, the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie seeks to demoralize the popular movement and gain strength, adding allies and neutralizing sectors. However, since these are societies based on the super-exploitation of labor, in no case does it have the conditions to gather sufficient forces to politically defeat the popular movement, it does not even reach the structuring of a political party; it is interesting to note that where fascist methods of struggle were used most abundantly, that is, in Argentina, sectors of the left deny that a fascist counterrevolution has taken place. Be that as it may, the counterrevolutionary forces never achieve a clear political triumph, but need to use force to take over the State and use it to their advantage; State terrorism, as a method of confrontation with the popular movement, intensifies precisely because this movement is intact and many times apparently strong, at the moment when the counterrevolutionary fractions manage to fully subordinate the state apparatus, not having suffered a previous process of defeats, which in fascism could be expressed, as in Germany, at the electoral level.

This characteristic of the Latin American counterrevolution derives from the impossibility of the monopoly bourgeoisie to attract to its camp significant sectors of the popular movement. Unlike European fascism, which was capable of dragging along the broad petty-bourgeois masses and of biting even the proletariat, gaining there a certain degree of support among unemployed workers and even active workers, the monopoly bourgeoisie in Latin America cannot pretend to gather a true mass force, which would allow it to confront politically, at the ballot box and in the streets, the popular movement. For this reason, its goal is to reestablish the conditions for the functioning of the state apparatus, even if only temporarily, in order to be able to use it to its advantage. This implies reestablishing bourgeois unity, remaking the bloc in power as it was before its fracture, and reestablishing, even if only to a limited extent, that is, by dividing it, its relations of alliance with the petty bourgeoisie. On this basis, the State can enter to settle the class struggle, by means of the open intervention of the ultimate instrument of defense of bourgeois power: the Armed Forces. These are, then, the real objective of the policy of destabilization practiced by the bourgeoisie and not, as in fascism, the conquest of a political force of its own superior to that of the revolutionary movement. And that is why we find in the Latin American counterrevolution another peculiar feature with respect to fascism: the ideological discourse of defense of bourgeois democracy, that is to say, of the bourgeois state, as opposed to its negation, as the fascist movements put forward.

It is these specific conditions that lead the Latin American counterrevolution to express itself, ideologically and strategically, in the doctrine of counterinsurgency. By privileging the Armed Forces as the central element of its strategy, the monopoly bourgeoisie is conferring on this special apparatus of the State the mission of solving the problem; it is, therefore, passing from the terrain of politics to that of war. To the extent that it finds itself with Armed Forces already ideologically prepared, by the doctrine of counterinsurgency, for the fulfillment of that task and to apply a military approach to the political struggle, the counterrevolutionary will of the bourgeoisie and the will to power developed in the Armed Forces are resolved in a single process. The latter go, thus, beyond the coup d’etat and proceed to the implementation of the military dictatorship; if, from the point of view of the classic bourgeois doctrine, they are the body of the State, they now become its head.

But the original duality, expressed by the monopoly bourgeoisie and the Armed Forces, although it finds a first resolution in the process of the coup d’état, is reproduced at a higher level, once the counterinsurgency State is established. The form of military dictatorship it assumes only indicates that the Armed Forces have assumed control and exercise political power as an institution. It does not reveal the essence of this State, from the point of view of its structuring and functioning, nor does it reveal the fact that the Armed Forces share power there with the monopolistic bourgeoisie. To grasp this, it is necessary to go beyond the mere formal expression of the State, since, whenever we find certain structures, functioning, and co-participation between the Armed Forces and monopoly capital, we will be in the presence of a counterinsurgency State, whether or not it has the form of a military dictatorship.

The nature of the counterinsurgency state

The counterinsurgency State, a product of the Latin American counterrevolution, presents a hypertrophy of the executive power, through its various organs, with respect to the others; it is not, however, a feature that characterizes it with respect to the modern capitalist State. Rather, this distinction must be sought in the existence of two central decision-making branches within the executive power. On the one hand, the military branch, constituted by the General Staff of the Armed Forces, which expresses the military institution at the decision-making level and rests on the vertical structure proper to the Armed Forces; the National Security Council, the supreme deliberative body, in which the representatives of the military branch are intertwined with the direct delegates of capital; and the organs of the intelligence service, which inform, orient and prepare the decision-making process. On the other hand, the economic branch, represented by the economic ministries, as well as the state enterprises of credit, production and services, whose key positions are occupied by civilian and military technocrats. Thus, the National Security Council is the sphere where both branches converge, intertwining, and constitutes the apex, the key organ of the counterinsurgency State.

This is the real structure of the counterinsurgency State, which consecrates the alliance between the Armed Forces and monopoly capital, and where the decision-making process takes place outside the influence of the other institutions that make up the classic bourgeois State, such as the legislative and judicial powers. These can perfectly well be maintained within the framework of the military dictatorship, as in Brazil, or even configure a civilian regime, as in Venezuela, without affecting the structure and real functioning of the counterinsurgency State. Let us recall, in this sense, how Venezuela – where the first counterinsurgency test was carried out in Latin America, in the early sixties – has evolved in the sense of creating its National Security Council and has even reached the structuring of a National System of Public Enterprises, which governs Venezuelan State capitalism outside any control by Congress and other State organs.

In synthesis, the counterinsurgency State is the corporative State of the monopolistic bourgeoisie and the Armed Forces, independently of the form assumed by that State, that is to say, independently of the political regime in force. This State presents formal similarities with the fascist State, as well as with other types of capitalist State, but its specificity lies in its peculiar corporative essence and in the structure and functioning generated therefrom. Calling it fascist does not make us advance one step in the understanding of its meaning.

This analysis should not lead to misunderstandings. The civilian and military technocrats, who are in charge of the management of the State, are nothing more than the political representation of capital, and as such there is no room for speculation about their autonomy, beyond what can be done with any political representation with respect to the class they represent; in other words, it is deeply erroneous to qualify this technocracy as state bourgeoisie, on the same plane as the bourgeois class itself. In the same way, the fusion of the corporate interests of the Armed Forces and the monopoly bourgeoisie should not obscure the fact that the latter represents a properly capitalist fraction of the bourgeoisie while the Armed Forces (or, to be more precise, the officialdom) is nothing but a body of officials whose economic and political will is strictly that of the class it serves. Finally, it is necessary to bear in mind that, although the State of counterinsurgency is the State of monopoly capital, whose fractions constitute today the bloc in power, it does not exclude the participation of the other bourgeois fractions, just as in its economic reproduction monopoly capital constantly creates for the other capitalist sectors conditions of reproduction (and also of destruction), for which reason it is incorrect to suppose that the non-monopoly bourgeois strata can be interested in the suppression of a State which constitutes the synthesis of the relations of exploitation and domination on which they base their existence; the failure of the anti-fascist fronts which have been attempted in Latin America and which have always clashed with the rejection of the non-monopolistic bourgeoisie, independently of the frictions it maintains with the bloc in power, is due to no other cause.

The revision of the U.S. strategy

I have tried to establish, up to this point, the causes and nature of the Latin American counterrevolution, as well as the character of the State to which it gave rise. I will now concern myself with the current situation of the counterrevolution, corresponding to a phase of institutionalization and, to a certain extent, limited democratization, which aims at what the theoreticians of the US State Department have called “viable democracy” and, even more precisely, “governable democracy”. Undoubtedly, this phase brings with it modifications to the counterrevolutionary State, which we will understand better if we analyze the factors that determine this situation. In this analysis, I will follow the same steps taken for the examination of the origin and crystallization of the counterrevolutionary process in Latin America.

If we start from the first factor considered: American imperialism, we will immediately see that its situation is different from what it was in the sixties. After the economic boom of that period, an economic crisis has ensued, with no prospect of a solution in sight. In this context, American hegemony in the capitalist field is no longer unassailable, as it was then, but is confronted by the economic and political pretensions of the other imperialist powers, in particular, Federal Germany and Japan. The crisis has also been reflected within American society itself, provoking an ideological and political crisis which, through events such as Watergate, hippyism, and others, has affected the legitimacy of the system of domination.

On another level, together with the constant strengthening of the Soviet Union, which has managed to maintain the military balance with the United States, there has been a notable advance of revolutionary forces in different parts of the world. The critical point of the economic crisis, in the middle of this decade, coincided with great victories of the revolutionary movement in Africa, particularly Mozambique and Angola, and in Asia, with the spectacular defeat of the United States in Vietnam, at the same time that, in Europe itself, the popular forces achieved significant advances in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, and even in imperialist strongholds such as France.

In this context, U.S. imperialism has had to make adjustments in its strategy, which has been expressed in Carter’s policy. He has taken office with the explicit purpose of restoring the legitimacy of the system of domination within U.S. society, making use of old myths that are dear to bourgeois ideology in that country, such as human rights, and of measures that try to make the crisis less burdensome for the different social groups in the country. Likewise, it has given itself the task of overcoming the economic crisis, reaffirming U.S. hegemony in the capitalist field; although it admits that this hegemony must be shared, along the lines of that proposed by the Trilateral Commission, the United States intends to maintain itself as the guiding axis of the relationship of forces to be established among the imperialist powers.

Finally, U.S. imperialism intends to modify its world strategy to compensate for and avoid a repetition of the failures of the first half of the decade, a modification that follows two main lines. The first is the polarization of relations with the socialist camp, centralizing them in Europe; the second, the deconflation or cooling of the “hot” peripheral zones. For this reason, Carter has maintained that Europe is the sword of the West and has endeavored to make relations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact tense; although it could eventually lead to war, the aggressive and warmongering policy of US imperialism with respect to the Soviet Union seeks, in reality, a new balance, on the basis of what former President Ford called “peace with strength” for which he privileges Europe, considering that the advance of the world revolution in other areas was worsening the correlation of forces to its detriment. Consequently, he proposes a policy of cooling off the peripheral zones, from measures that try to solve particularly acute problems, such as those taken in the Middle East, Panama, etc., to the revision of the doctrine of counterinsurgency, which aims to iron out its roughest aspects and adapt it to the new conditions of the class struggle.

This is because counterinsurgency, despite the capacity it has shown to halt the revolutionary movement in many areas, has experienced severe setbacks, particularly in Vietnam, and has proved incapable, even where it was effective in halting the revolutionary movement, of securing the conditions for stable political domination, as is the case in Latin America; It is also due to the fact that the European imperialist powers, as they are led to assume greater world responsibilities within the framework of shared hegemony, are forced to consider the strength of the workers’ movement in their countries, which opposes the crude and open violence that counter-insurgency has implied; the use of more subtle counter-revolutionary methods, promoted above all by Federal Germany, has yielded positive results in the countries of Mediterranean Europe. Let us point out in passing that the narrowly national political approach currently taken by the so-called Eurocommunist European parties undermines the capacity of the workers’ movement of those countries to weigh in the correlation of world forces and tip the balance towards the camp of revolution, as was evidenced by the recent reactionary offensive that the French government was able to develop in Africa, on the basis of the electoral defeat of the left in France.

Be that as it may, the main point of the doctrine of counterinsurgency, which is now under revision, is that which refers to the origin of revolutionary movements. Abandoning the simplistic notion of external infiltration, the new theorists of American imperialism, coming out of the Trilateral Commission, like Huntington, see the problem as the result of decompensations, of imbalances affecting the State in modern capitalist society, as the result of the very pressures of the masses, in their efforts for better living conditions. This is valid not only for the dependent countries, but also for the advanced capitalist countries themselves, and leads them to consider the problem of the “governability of democracy”, which necessarily points to the limitation, the restriction of the democratic political game itself, in order to keep it under control.

For Latin America, the reformulation of U.S. strategy has translated into the search for a new policy, not yet fully defined, which, in addition to the elimination of points of friction, such as the Panama Canal, aims at political institutionalization, capable of expressing itself in a “viable”, i.e. restricted, democracy. But this is not only the result of the strategic approaches of the United States, but also, and mainly, of the new conditions of class struggle prevailing in Latin America.

Towards a four-power state?

An important role is played, in this sense, by the diversification of the bloc in power, by the changes intervened within the monopolistic bourgeoisie. In countries where this phenomenon is more advanced, such as Brazil, we can see how the inter-bourgeois contradictions are no longer guided, as in the past, by the divergent interests of the industrial and agrarian bourgeoisie, or of the lower strata of the bourgeoisie with respect to its monopoly sector, but are born of divisions arising within big capital, of the monopoly bourgeoisie itself.

Thus, it is possible to see how in Brazil – since 1974, when the pattern of economic reproduction based on the luxury consumer goods industry went into crisis – the inter-bourgeois struggles are between the national and foreign fractions (fundamentally North American), linked to this industry, and the national and foreign fractions (essentially Euro-Japanese), which are based on basic industry and capital goods. It is a question, today, of deciding the direction of the country’s economy, of the pattern of reproduction it should follow and this, which implies reallocation of resources, fiscal, credit, and all kinds of advantages, stimulates the rivalry between these two sectors of big capital, which polarizes the other capitalist groups linked to one or the other sector. It should be kept in mind that it is no longer possible, in these circumstances, to mask the inter-bourgeois struggles behind nationalist justifications, nor to try to channel them into formulas of the anti-fascist front type, since they divide equally the national and foreign bourgeois sectors operating in the country and confronting fractions of big capital.

In any case, the inter-bourgeois contradictions, as they sharpen, demand political space to be settled. The rigid centralization of political power, in the hands of the technocratic-military elite, must be made more flexible, returning some validity to parliament as a sphere of discussion, allowing the action of the parties and the press, so that the different bourgeois fractions can develop their struggle. This does not clash, moreover, with the demand that the State continues to have sufficient capacity to keep the mass movement in check, since the more absent it is from the political scene, the greater freedom of action the bourgeois factions have to carry out their confrontations and negotiations. This is the reason why the bourgeois project of institutionalization does not depart from the formula of “viable”, “governable” or restricted democracy proposed by the American imperialist theoreticians. In the same way, when the counterrevolution was unleashed, the project of big capital converged towards authoritarian centralism, towards the dictatorial forms proposed by these theorists.

It is now a question, then, of carrying out a political “opening” that preserves the essence of the counterinsurgency State. What does this consist of? In the institutionalization of the direct participation of big capital in economic management and the subordination of the powers of the State to the Armed Forces, through the State bodies that have been created, in particular the National Security Council. The first point is not, of course, under discussion for the bourgeoisie; at most, it gives rise to confrontations between its fractions to ensure a greater share in the distribution of the spoils represented by the economic branch of the counterinsurgency State. The second is, today, the subject of discussion: in many countries, there is talk of a Council of State, as a controlling body of the other State apparatuses, in which the Armed Forces would have important weight; in Brazil, there is even an attempt to revive the old formula of the monarchical State, which consecrated, in addition to the three classic powers of the State, the moderating power, exercised by the Emperor, and which the ideologists of the big bourgeoisie today attribute to the Armed Forces.

Whatever the formula adopted -and most probably it will present variants in the different countries of the continent-, we are moving, however, towards a State of four powers, or more precisely, the State of the fourth power, in which the Armed Forces will exercise a role of surveillance, control, and direction over the State apparatus as a whole. This structural and functional characteristic of the State will be, of course, nothing but the result of the subjugation of the State apparatus by the Armed Forces (beyond the structures of parliamentary democracy it may have) and of the legal order of military origin imposed on political life, in particular the national security laws. It should be pointed out that, in the framework of this restricted democracy, but a democracy nonetheless, the word fascism will lose even the agitative character it has today and will have to be abandoned; but this abandonment will represent the renunciation of an incorrect analysis of the present situation, and not it’s overcoming by a superior and more adequate analysis to the new political conditions that have arisen, which will leave the left and the popular movement unarmed to be able to confront them.

Democracy and socialism

However, the bourgeois-imperialist project of institutionalization is also the result of a third factor: the mass movement before which it is posed with the purpose of moving to deception and confusion, but which makes it problematic, erratic, and even threatens it with failure. Indeed, it is indisputable that, in a slow, zigzagging manner, the Latin American mass movement, after a period of reflux, has entered since the end of 1976 in a process of recovery. More than that, it presents, unlike what happened until the sixties, a new characteristic, which until then was exclusive to the most developed countries of the region, such as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay: a clear predominance of the working class in its midst. It is enough to look at Central America, Peru, Colombia, to realize that the working class has become, throughout the region, the guiding axis of the working masses of Latin America, which gradually fold to their leadership and adopt their forms of organization and struggle. At the same time, although its influence continues to be great in some countries, the peasantry is giving way to a numerous and militant agricultural proletariat, generally grouped in urban centers, which creates the objective conditions to concretize the worker-peasant alliance, while the urban petty bourgeoisie is increasingly composed of proletarianized and, in most cases, impoverished layers, which maintain and accentuate the tendency, already observed in the early sixties, to shift their class alliances towards the popular camp.

The action of these broad masses, while making more necessary the implementation of new formulas of domination, which can no longer be based on violence pure and simple, complicates the implementation of the bourgeois-imperialist project, insofar as they tend to pose before it with growing autonomy, pressing for unforeseen concessions, as well as the widening and deepening of the proposed reforms. While still markedly situated on the plane of the economic and democratic struggle, the masses have not lost the memory, however, particularly in their most advanced sectors, of the socialist message which, through action, the Latin American left brought them throughout the sixties, as well as in the present decade, which arouses the fear of the bourgeoisie and imperialism, making them cling even more to the guarantees offered by the counterinsurgency State. Consequently, the process of institutionalization is developing in an extremely complex manner, under the onslaught of mass pressures and the efforts of the ruling class to keep it under control, which imposes marches and countermarches and allows us to foresee that its limit is given by the defense to the hilt that it will make of its state apparatus, as it is essentially structured today.

Consequently, there is no reason to suppose that the democratic struggle waged today by the Latin American popular masses can be extended indefinitely, allowing, at a certain point, the natural and peaceful passage to socialism to take place. Everything indicates rather that the democratic struggle and the socialist struggle will be intertwined for the workers in a single process, a process of hard and determined confrontation with the bourgeoisie and imperialism.

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