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Sunday 5 January 2014

Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica: leftist hero, rejects communist economic theory

I'm sorry I keep writing about this guy, and not about RPGs (for those of you who'd rather hear about RPGs than about latin american policies), but it seems that now that Mujica is on his last year as President, he's decided to tell some very 'inconvenient truths' to the latinamerican left.  And I think that considering how many Fashionable Liberals denizens of G+ or Facebook or the blogosphere idolize the guy (as I said yesterday, they idolize him for the wrong reasons! He deserves to be idolized but specifically because he's NOT the kind of leftist-hero they want to imagine him to be!), its important from my slightly privileged position as someone who is rather closeby to him to report on how he really is.

In an interview yesterday, Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica said some very interesting things, while he took pride Uruguay's enormous growth over the past decade, its huge increase in social mobility, its proportional rate of per capita increase in prosperity. He acknowledged that his government did not, in its economic policy, follow the standard economic theories of the extreme south-american Left, and instead encouraged investment and promoted Capitalism, and that this was the key of his successes.

He said (quoted and translated from Spanish): "Uruguay learned various important lessons, all of these policies you see around out there: controlling the exchange rate, inflation, operating with two different values for the Dollar, we've tried all of these in the past 60 years; and well, we developed some collective wisdom and have some clue of what can be done and what absolutely should not be done."

All of the (disastrous) policies he mentioned are policies being presently enacted by the failing economies of the Argentinian and Venezuelan governments. In other words, he was specifically calling them out (without going so far as to say the word) as idiots who've learned nothing.  Uruguay has succeeded, and all the "bolivarian revolution" countries who followed Chavez's idiot-leftist war drum have failed. And the reasons are obvious: following leftist ideology, all the latter followed economic plans that have been a DISASTER every time any government anywhere in history has tried to impose them (and they have now fallen into totally predictable economic crises as a result); while Uruguay (under Mujica, and Tabare Vasquez before him) did not; in spite of being run by a leftist coalition, in spite of having a president who 50 years earlier fought in an anti-democratic guerilla movement trying to impose those very policies.  He looked at the history, and realized that the marxist economic model is a failure.

He also spoke of the role of the State in modern societies, stating that he thinks that the Tupamaros (The maoist-communist party of Uruguay, which he heads) needs to hold firm to its values but radically change its way of thinking "(Socialism) needs to change its ideas; its that because of this pattern that you create its very easy to unleash a cataclism: you nationalize this, you nationalize that, suddenly your production starts to drop, your figures start to plummet, and then people have to wait in line for products, and do without this and that, and people end up suffering for it. I would rather go a slower route. Make peace with Capitalism, let it do its thing; yes, you have to complain to capitalism a bit, and get your cut, but not kill it, because if you kill capitalism you kill the goose that lays all the golden eggs. You have to use it (at the same time as you allow it to prosper) to make other changes in non-economic areas."

"The state has to handle certain things; like social security; there's always groups in society that will be disadvantaged. Who will take care of the handicapped if not the public service? There are some things that inherently need to be taken care of by the state."

"Capitalism is formidable for generating wealth but doesn't do a great job of spreading it around. You have to complain to it and gripe to get your due because Capitalism is always stingy, and it cries crocodile tears when it has to give up as much as a drop to the public. So the State sometimes has to put some screws on it to get it to share, because if not there's a group of people who will get buried under the force of Capitalism. BUT, if you pull too much in that direction, Capital gets scared and stops investing. And if it doesn't invest, its like you don't have seeds to plant with. So you have let Capitalism win; you have to let it invest and in the long term if you encourage Capitalism it will end up having a bigger payoff, because it generates more wealth. But you always have to be complaining to Capitalism so that it doesn't forget about the weakest people. So what you have to do is (not to strangle capitalism) but to develop a parallel social economy. And you have to make very sure that you fight every day for the State to be more honorable, and more efficient!"

"But I don't like bureaucratism. I think that anytime someone has a secure position (ie. can't get fired), he'll 'pig out'. I can't say everything I think about this or they (his own party, and the unions) will want to kill me!"


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H Beverwyck


  1. So a social democrat basically.

    There's basically no soviet style communists left.
    The capital S socialists nowadays basically want something somewhat left of Sweden.

  2. And heck, the quoted bits are still left of any political voice in the US, save people like Bernie Sanders

  3. No Ivan, you're very wrong. There still are Soviet style communists left, in Uruguay.
    The Partido Communista del Uruguay, who were a direct 'satellite' organization of the USSR for most of their history, still exists. So do many communist parties, sure, except that the PCU had specifically had the option as to whether to change or not; in the 1990s there was a conference called up by some of their membership, who argued that it was clear that the Soviet model had failed and that the PCU should change focus and disavow that sort of communism at its end goal.

    The motion resoundingly failed. The PCU enshrined in their constitution that they are STILL absolutely determined to try to establish Soviet-style communism in Uruguay.
    The PCU (fortunately) has very little popular support, but because their membership trains in how to subvert organizations (with tactics like calling for very sudden meetings, giving long filibusters until enough people leave to give them the majority when a vote is finally called, etc) they actually have enormously disproportional influence in the Unions, in student organizations, and in the Frente Amplio coalition itself, to the point that our current Montevideo city mayor is a nobody from the PCU who because mayoral candidate by a machination of the FA primaries. She's done an utterly shit job, of course, but the institutional left and the FA is forced to defend her now and continue raising the profile of the CPU.

    That's the kind of idiocy one has to deal with here, which is part of why its so astounding that Mujica has done the kind of things he did. And that he's managed somehow to get anything at all accomplished in spite of everything.

  4. So now that you've pointed out that I am talking about of my ass, let me correct my original statement to be europe and the us

    Out of curiosity, is there an english language version of the PCU constitution somewhere?