Introductory note by translator: This article, accessible in Spanish at the URL below, concerns the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), formed recently at a gathering in Cancun attended by every nation in the Western Hemisphere, except Canada and the United States. What they did is of "enormous significance," wrote former Cuban President Fidel Castro. "No other institutional event of the past century in our hemisphere is so transcendental," he explained.

This commentary on CELAC testifies to the importance of the venture. Its author, Joao Pedro Stédile ,was founder 26 years ago of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST) and leader of the international peasant movement Via Campesina speaks for great masses of small farmers, the landless, and the hungry. In books, interviews, and articles, he has applied notions of land concentration and usurpation of food production by multi-national corporations to the organizing and teaching of rural and dispossessed workers. In this article, Stédile epitomizes the signal role of social movements, here peasant mobilization, in processes of Latin American integration, anti-imperialism, and movement toward socialism. Stédile’s grounding in Marxist theory and analysis is clear from his short 2009 analysis of socialism’s contemporary relevance, excerpted below.

The day February 23 will remain part of the history of Latin American peoples coming together and their governments doing likewise. The realization of a successful continental conference with heads of state of all 33 countries participating and with Canada and the United States excluded marked political death for the Organization of American States (OAS). It’s the beginning of a new stage of political integration among Latin Americans themselves through formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

A Little History

The founding of the OAS took place on April 30, 1948 within the framework of U.S. military and political hegemony over Latin America. The recently initiated cold war against socialist governments of the East and popular forces in our countries provided the backdrop. Twenty one countries from the entire continent participated in the founding conference, all of them subordinated to the interests of the empire, in the North.

The object was clear: to have at hand a legal mechanism for promoting the subordination of Latin American and Caribbean governments to the interests of U. S. capital and to put into practice the Monroe Doctrine, or "America for the Americans"- in the North!

And that’s the way it was. The U. S. government transformed the OAS and the subordinate governments into puppets for its interests. Whoever stepped out of line was punished. They used the OAS throughout those decades in order to justify coups and interventions in almost all countries: 1954 in Guatemala; 1965 in the Dominican Republic; and several military coups during the decades of the 1970’s. In 1962 they threw Cuba out of the organization after the revolution proclaimed itself socialist! One remembers that more recently the OAS representative was first in line to get himself to coup monger Pedro Carmona, president of Venezuela after the April 11, 2002 coup. In 2009, OAS efforts to slow down the coup in Honduras were absurd. Everybody knows that the military – industrial complex of the United States had set the coup off.

In the economic field, the OAS in the decade of the 1960’s sponsored the Alliance of progress as a response to revolutionary advances in the region. In the decade of the 1990’s it sponsored U.S. initiatives on behalf of the Free Trade Areas of the Americas. Promotion of regional "free trade" is one of OAS’ statutory objectives.

The years passed, and the OAS was discredited and politically defeated. It even tried opening doors to Cuba, which loftily refused to return. And defeat imposed via popular mobilizations in the streets against FTAA and the military coup in Venezuela now extended into the diplomatic salons.

Historic Decision

The historic conference went ahead with exclusive participation of Latin American presidents, even the right wing governments of Mexico, Colombia, and Panama. It left out the imposter Honduran government, but accepted Honduras as a people. The presidents took an historic decision: to found a new association of Latin American states, without the presence of Canada and the United States.

CELAC is born

CELAC represents the victory of the Latin American people against the hegemony of capital and the government of the United States. It signifies rescue of the beautiful dream of Simon Bolivar, who convoked a Latin American conference in Panama in 1826 in order to create an assembly leading to union of the peoples of the south aspiring to confront the empires. Bolivar has finally defeated Monroe.

CELAC is the fruit of many previous efforts over a long history. The first CELAC political conference, of a constituent nature, is already scheduled. Significantly, it is planned for July 2011, the bicentennial of the beginning of independence for Latin American countries. And it will take place in Caracas, Venezuela, Simon Bolivar’s homeland.

Parallel to that conference and to solidification of institutional ties among states, the construction of an avowedly political convergence and integration of peoples is advancing also, the ALBA. The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of the Americas brings back the spirit of Bolivar, Marti, Mariategui, Che Guevera, Allende, Marighella, Prestes, Jacob Arbenz, Haydee Satamaria, and so many others, in order to construct our grand Latin American homeland.

We have one homeland with a people and territory united, one that will be integrated through the complementary nature of its natural resources, work force, and culture – and through joint effort. The purpose is to construct more just, egalitarian, and fraternal societies instead of maximizing profit and earnings.

The road opening up to us as ALBA and CELAC take shape is long. But at least now we can commemorate a little victory: Bolivar did defeat the Monroe Doctrine – at least on the diplomatic front.

Source: Brazil de Fato. Edition 366 of March 4, 2010 

Translation: T. Deronne, from Portuguese to Spanish for; W.T. Whitney Jr., from Spanish to English.

Excerpts follow from Stédile"s contribution to "Latin American Agenda 2009: Toward a New Socialism," worth reading in its entirely. It’s accessible at

During the middle of the 19th century, Marx, Engels, and other working class thinkers exposed—…..the perverse nature of capitalism as it actually functioned. They described in detail the laws that governed this mode of production. ….But they also discovered that this mode of organizing society also brought with it insurmountable contradictions…They also insisted that this transition from capitalism to socialism would not be accomplished by the will of an idealistic, intellectual, or friendly guide. Rather, it would only be possible if the workers organized, fought, and won the changes themselves…..

There were many attempts at creating socialism. ….Many of these failed. …. They did not succeed in ensuring that this socialization was truly democratic. When workers as a class failed in their historical experiences, capitalism was not stalled, but, instead, advanced even further. In the past 20 years, capitalism reached a new phase: the predominance of internationalized financial capital over the entire economy and over every country….But, just as the classic thinkers had warned, all these forms of exploitation of capital bring contradictions….. By transforming everything into merchandise—plants, seeds, water, rivers, genes, culture, habits, knowledge — it exploits everyone and everything. It puts our very survival at risk…..

The reaction of capitalist logic, in every crisis, is always to appeal to a military solution. Lenin, Bukharin, and Rosa Luxemburg explained to us that, since war destroys merchandise (arms, ammunition, real estate, human work, human beings…), capital uses this tactic to open up space for a new period of expansion of capital. …..

Today there are lessons that were not so clear in the 19th and 20th centuries. Workers are learning that the form of exploitation of capital and the domination of capital is more and more internationalized. They realize that this is being done with the same methods throughout the globe. Now workers will have to fight and mobilize at the international level in order to confront their common enemy …..

The world hegemony of capital provokes a convergence of adverse forces. These cause discouragement, apathy, and hopelessness. ….But a new wave of mobilization will come with new generations….. We have learned that people have to organize themselves in every possible manner—in the neighborhoods, schools, factories, rural communities, churches, and unions. The party is only one instrument. Its job is to debate and articulate projects for society.

But popular organizations must involve themselves in every sphere of life….We have also discovered that it is insufficient to elect governments. Changing society — socialism—does not just consist in taking control of the government, in controlling the State. Socialism means deep structural changes in the very functioning of society. It means changing the owners of mass media; it means ensuring workers receive a just salary. Changes so that we overcome all types of discrimination and prejudice among ourselves ….

All of this seems distant, but globalized capital is shortening the path. Believe me, in the next few years there will be huge changes in humanity. New winds are beginning to blow.