Europe has been for the better part of the last five centuries the fulcrum of cultural exports. We all long for Italian designs; French style, cuisine and fashion; English history books; German philosophy, Spanish flamenco and Nordic smorgasbord. These nontraditional exports from the Old Continent to the Americas have inspired writers, film-makers and composers for many years even before the Internet made them available to the masses.
The turn has now come for Europe to receive “soft” or cultural exports from the Americas. And it is paradoxical that these exports have entered Europe through the country recognized by the whole world as the cradle of democracy and the nation recognized for staging one of the best transitions from authoritarianism to democracy.
Greece and Spain have indeed caught the world attention for the support their people are giving to newly emerged parties which mimic the behavior and political credo of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Both Alexis Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias, leaders of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain respectively, have emerged in two societies where discontent with the leadership has crossed the point of no return.
Spain and Greece acted like children in a toy store when they entered the European Union. These were the days marked by a thunderstorm of subsidies aimed at making their economies competitive. Instead, the subsidies made the Greeks and the Spaniards addicted to rent extraction. Little value creation took place and corruption was truly horrific.
And while the European GDP grew, both countries could enjoy the free ride. But when the worldwide financial crisis in 2008 forced economies to adjust their spending to their capacity to produce, Europe suddenly discovered that besides Germany only the Scandinavian countries could pay their bills.
Adjustment was unavoidable and debt financing too. Germany, the economic engine of Europe, lent its support to a bailout plan for Greece and the equivalent of a standby agreement for Spain.
It is needless to enumerate the social pain wrought by economic adjustments, but in the midst of this economic conundrum cum political disbelief Syriza and Podemos emerged.
Just as in Venezuela at the turn of the 20th century, both parties claim to be the people’s avengers. And they promise to bring trouble to the otherwise staid democracies of Europe. Their advent was highly praised by the Bolivarian Group at the Venezuelan National Assembly whose speaker claimed Tsipras and Iglesias as comrades and their parties as sisters organizations. And while there are no trails that lead to a Venezuelan subsidy of Syriza, there is a road of evidence on the payments received by both Iglesias and Monedero from Venezuela. But what is beyond reasonable doubt is the influence over the three political movements exerted by Fidel Castro.
Contrary to Marx who in his late years had drawn the conclusion that the stabilization of capitalism was extinguishing the proletariat‘s revolutionary flame, Castro realized that economic dualism could be the cradle of revolution.
Marx’s line of thought was that as workers got a stable pay that could allow them to pay for their living quarters, their food, their clothing, their transportation and the education of their children, their interest in revolution would decrease. As they entered the middle classes, they would embrace conservative credos.
Lenin, on the contrary, saw in the middle classes a potential revolutionary fuse. From his viewpoint, middle classes political motivations are fear and hope. Fear to lose economic ground and hope to gain economic ground. During the low stage of the cycle therefore middle classes would play the leading revolutionary role.
Castro took Lenin’s thinking to what Marxists dub capitalism's periphery. In emerging markets (as underdeveloped countries are now called) economic dualism would be the trigger. No need to wait for a world economic cycle. As long as these economies created a dual society were middle classes and poverty coexisted, proper takeover of power tools could lead to revolution.
And he thus concentrated in identifying, nurturing and unleashing successors who would secure his legacy well into the 21st century. And he succeeded in Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, which in turn passed on the scheme to Greece, the birthplace of Democracy, and Spain, the window case for democratic transitions. Good time to retire!
Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.