This September 11th will be the forty-second anniversary of the US-backed coup against the democratically-elected Chilean government, led by the Socialist Salvador Allende, kicking off a battle that is still being fought: in Chile, protests led by students, indigenous peoples, and workers to rollback the “neoliberalization,” or Pinochetization, of society, are a continuing part of everyday life.
Neoliberalism is hard to define. It could refer to intensified resource extraction, financialization, austerity, or something more ephemeral, a way of life, in which collective ideals of citizenship give out to marketized individualism and consumerism.
But Allende offered a pretty good definition back in 1972, in a speech to the United Nations given less than a year before his overthrow and death. He said: “We are faced by a direct confrontation between the large transnational corporations and the states. The corporations are interfering in the fundamental political, economic and military decisions of the states. The corporations are global organizations that do not depend on any state and whose activities are not controlled by, nor are they accountable to any parliament or any other institution representative of the collective interest. In short, all the world political structure is being undermined.”
Like rust, neoliberalism never sleeps. The global rentier class that enriches itself off the neoliberal property-rights regime had, a decade ago, hoped to lock-down Latin America under the hemisphere-wide Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). In its original version, the FTAA was meant to be a special carve-out for Washington and Wall Street, as global “free trade” advanced under the umbrella of the Doha round of the WTO. Kind of an economic Monroe Doctrine, whereby the US could maintain its regional hegemony over Latin America while still promoting, when it suited, globalization. But that scheme fell apart with the return of Latin America’s post-Washington Consensus left, led at the time by Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina. And the Doha round stalled.