On April 8, 2013, Olavo de Carvalho, President of the Inter-American Institute was interviewed by The Intelligencer Journal, from Patrick Henry College (VA), on Latin America and Socialism,.
I. The Causes of Socialism
The Intelligencer: What do you believe are the underlying causes for Latin America’s shift toward socialism/communism after the region had implemented at least forms of capitalism?
Olavo: The history of Latin America in the last half century can be divided into three stages. The first, that of military dictatorships and defeat of the armed left. The second, the return of democracy and a phase of fleeting and skin-deep enthusiasm for free-market capitalism, coinciding with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Finally, the general rise of the left. Clearly, the third stage was prepared during the second, when the public opinion thought that communism was dead and buried forever, when in fact it was only playing dead to catch its enemies by surprise. What happened was that, at the time, the right did not understand at all the process of internal transformation of the communist movement. First, the military had focused on combating the armed left without doing virtually anything against communism at the ideological and cultural levels, which, precisely at the time of the greatest repression, were quietly taken over by leftists. In almost all Latin American countries, leftists dominated the cultural and journalistic apparatus precisely at the moment when the fall of the USSR created among them a state of ideological confusion which is very conducive to a thorough strategic review, which occurred with remarkable speed, without the right—so drunk it was with triumphalistic delusion—even noticing it. This review consisted of the following items: (1) an organizational reform of the communist parties, which abandoned the old vertical chain of command and adopted a more flexible form of organization based on network structures in order to provide a strategic coordination among all factions of the left, bypassing old ideological divisions, (2) a radical shift in the left’s ideological discourse, which, instead of focusing on a structural transformation of the economy, began to emphasize all sorts of group interests that were antagonistic to the system—against which the left no longer waged open war, but rather launched attacks from a thousand quarters, creating a total confusion in society. These changes reflect what Augusto del Noce called, somewhat ironically, “the suicide of the Revolution:” once any clear vision of a socialist future was dissolved, the revolutionary struggle crumbled into a seemingly unconnected thousand combat fronts which, according to the same del Noce, did not advance the socialist cause ostensibly, but eroded moral and cultural values of capitalist society, which thus assumed increasingly malignant and odious features.The new generations of supporters of capitalism, already educated without the moral and cultural values that held up the regime, contributed to this process, surrendering themselves to an amoral pragmatism that made capitalism precisely the monster that leftists would wish it to be. Meanwhile, leftists took advantage of this in order to promote and denounce corruption at the same time, laying all the blame on capitalism. The situation as a whole became so confusing that no one on the right understood what was going on. Stunned and paralyzed, conservatives and free-market liberals gradually yielded to an ideological advance whose communist profile they completely failed to notice. That is how a faction that seemed almost extinct in the early 1990’s became the almost absolute dominating political force on the continent.
The Intelligencer: Do you think President Chavez was largely responsible for this movement?
Olavo: No, not at all. Chávez was only a decoy used by the left to distract American observers, who focused their attention on him while far larger enterprises orchestrated from Brazil—that is, from the São Paulo Forum—gradually consolidated the position of the left on the continent. The American government and the American media were so out of touch with reality that they came to believe that there were two lefts in Latin America, a totalitarian and threatening one, represented by Hugo Chávez, and a democratic and even pro-American one, personified by former Brazilian President Lula. Well, the truth is that Lula founded the São Paulo Forum and ran it for twelve years as its supreme leader. And also the truth is that the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, viewed that organization in a more realistic manner than the Americans, since they did not take long to realize that the foundation of the São Paulo Forum was the salvation and the future of the communist movement. Chávez only became a member of the Forum in 1995, after that organization had been operating for 5 years, and when its strategic plans for the continental takeover were already fully underway. There was never the slightest disagreement between Chávez and the Forum, or between Chávez and Lula. Lula himself, in two official speeches as president—which came to be published on the official website of the Brazilian presidency— acknowledged that the Forum had placed and kept Hugo Chávez in power. Chávez was always a docile instrument of the Forum: he was charged with drawing into himself all the international fears so as to provide a cover up for the Forum’s large-scale operations in the rest of the continent.
The Intelligencer: What role do organizations like Foro de São Paulo, CELAC, and the Bolivarian Alliance play in Latin America’s socialist movement?
Olavo: The São Paulo Forum was Lula and his mentor Frei Betto’s original idea, which was presented to Fidel Castro in 1990, who enthusiastically approved it. The central idea was to unify the continental left under a more flexible and diverse strategy, neutralizing or postponing ideological definitions that could give rise to internal conflicts. The Forum is, without a shadow of a doubt, the command center of the communist revolution on the continent. None of the socialist governments that currently dominate Latin America do anything which has not been previously approved at the general meetings of the Forum. By ineptitude or conscious complicity, the American media and most of the political class in the United States have helped keep the invisibility of the São Paulo Forum’s power, precisely during the years in which it desperately needed secrecy in order to develop in peace without attracting any attention, as indeed Lula himself said it. The largest think tank in America, the Council on Foreign Relations—through their "experts" in Latin America, Kenneth Maxwell and Luis Felipe de Alencastro—even came to deny the very existence of the Forum at a time when I myself had already widely disseminated the complete minutes of the general meetings of that organization. Whoever read these minutes, ten years ago, would know in advance the blueprint of everything that came to pass in Latin American politics. The Bolivarian Alliance and the CELAC are simple branches of the São Paulo FOorum and nothing else.
The Intelligencer: What about the role of outside allies such as Russia, Iran, or China?
Olavo: The entire strategy of the São Paulo Forum clearly fits into the plans of Russia and China to create a “Brand New New World Order” to be built upon the devaluation of the dollar and the collapse of the American economy. Needless to say that the acronym BRICS could be reduced to RC, so great is the disparity in military power—and in strategic vision—between Russia and China and all the other members of the block. Trade agreements that abandon the dollar in favor of local currencies, of a pool of several currencies, or even in favor of a new international currency will intensify in the months ahead and break the backbone of the American economy—except on the hypothesis that the American economy pulls off a spectacular recovery through massive exploitation of the country’s oil shale reserves).The greatest of all the Russian strategists, Professor Aleksandr Dugin, describes today’s global politics as a contest between emerging nations and the banking elite that dominates the West. But, in my view, this is pure disinformation. Vice President Joe Biden’s appeal in favor of a “New New World Order” clearly shows that the banking elite, the Obama administration’s support base, has nothing against the collapse of the dollar and the fall of the United States. Note that, at the very moment that the United States are under threat of war, the Obama administration is all about weakening the American military and strengthening domestic law enforcement agencies (arming them even with military-style equipment) at the same time it promotes the destruction of the American economy through pharaonic borrowing and spending. To me it seems that the BRICS’ “Brand New New World Order” is already in power in Washington and sees as inevitable—if not desirable—the social crisis that will allow it to severely limit democratic freedoms.
The Intelligencer: Do you believe that the majority of citizens in socialized Latin American nations really believe in socialist policies, or are demagoguery and/or corruption driving the movement?
Olavo: You have no idea of the state of mental confusion and disconnection from reality in which public opinion finds itself in Latin America, especially in Brazil. None of the problems I have mentioned here is ever discussed in the mainstream media or in the Parliament. Most people believe they still live in a capitalist democracy and do not see the slightest danger of a communist dictatorship. It is as though the last newspaper that came into their hands were from about August 1990. Public debates do not reflect absolutely anything that is really going on. Moreover, it is necessary to understand that many of the profound changes that have been introduced into the social, economic, cultural, and educational life in Latin America have been established through administrative decrees, ministerial directives, and judicial rulings—that is, they have never gone through legislative debate, and they have rarely received any media coverage. Everywhere people understand democracy only as an electoral process, failing to notice that without access to essential information, this process is only a façade, with no reality inside. The state of political ignorance in which the population live today in Latin America, and especially in Brazil, shows that the difference between democracy and dictatorship has become relevant. In the United States, things have not yet reached that point, but they are very quickly approaching it.
II. The Future of Socialism
The Intelligencer: What political ideologies do you believe will dominate Latin America in the future?
Olavo: Everywhere on the continent, the political “right” is disjointed and disoriented. In Brazil, the only thing that exists under the name of “right” is the most moderate wing of the left. In the coming decades, it is possible that some right resurfaces, not so much inspired by the traditional conservative discourse as by moral and religious grounds, since the the dominant left’s insistence on quickly modifying the country’s framework of moral values comes into direct conflict with the religious beliefs of the majority of the population. What seems that is going to happen is not a struggle between socialism and capitalism, but rather between the revolutionary spirit and Christianity.
The Intelligencer: Do you expect 21st Century Socialism to continue without President Chavez’s leadership?
Olavo: Hugo Chávez never—I repeat never—was the leader of the continental left. The São Paulo Forum’s general assemblies make all the important decisions and completely run the show, and there has never been the slightest sign of any serious disagreement among the Forum members. Chávez was never more than a decoy. It was created and used by the São Paulo Forum, which in due course, will know how to create many others like him.
The Intelligencer: If so, who do you see as taking the mantle of leadership for 21st Century Socialism in the post-Chavez era?
Olavo: I think the disappearance of Chávez from the political scence is very beneficial to the São Paulo Forum, which now can continue its operations while keeping a low profile till it finds it suitable to create a new poster boy.
The Intelligencer: Do you believe Chavismo politics will continue in Venezuela without major changes?
Olavo: Any antichavista government that rises to power in Venezuela will be surrounded, isolated, and ruthlessly attacked by its neighbors until it becomes completely inoperable.
Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute, Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.
Translation by Alessandro Cota.
The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute.