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Nature in the Latin American ideological conformation

Nature in the Latin American ideological conformation


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By Joel Sangronis Padrón

Latin Americans in general, and Venezuelans in particular, try to build an economic-social organization model different from the one that has been dominant in the world in the last 300 years, with different structures and principles, a model that surpasses the capitalist historical model, with its implicit aberrations, its chronic injustices and the increasing and unstoppable environmental destruction that it inevitably brings.

Nature in the Latin American ideological conformation. Build a socialism to fight against nature and make it obey us?


Men make their own history, but they do not make it at their own discretion, under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under those circumstances with which they directly encounter, which exist and have been bequeathed to them by the past. - Carlos Marx.

Gray is the theory my friend and green, very green the tree of life. - Goethe.

Spurred on by the systemic crisis that contemporary world society is going through and that manifests itself in ecological, economic, axiological and existential aspects, Latin Americans in general, and Venezuelans in particular, we try to build a different economic-social organization model from the one that has been dominant in the world in the last 300 years, with different structures and principles, a model that surpasses the capitalist historical model, with its implicit aberrations, its chronic injustices and the growing and unstoppable environmental destruction that it inevitably brings; But it was also different from the bureaucratic socialism that was established in the USSR and in other countries, and that in environmental matters differed little from the model it claimed to fight against; But as Karl Marx correctly points out in the epigraph with which we began this work, this new model that we are trying to build cannot be born out of nothing, we cannot build it with our backs to who we are, to our history, to the circumstances that have molded our culture and our collective psyche.

Latin Americans have existed as a mestizo society for approximately 500 years. We are the product of the violent process of colonial and genocidal invasion that the Europeans exercised on the original peoples settled on this continent and of the process of kidnapping and slavery to which they subjected the majority of sub-Saharan African peoples. Our genesis as a people was extremely traumatic; the fiery red of colonial and slave violence lit our birth and marked deep scars on our collective identity that still endure. The first Europeans who came to America brought a short-term vision of exploitation and robbery of the wealth that could exist in these lands; In principle, they looked for precious stones and metals, but in the cases in which they did not obtain them, or that these were quickly exhausted, they proceeded to loot all forms of natural products, human labor among them. It is necessary to remember that during the first century of conquest, the official Spanish sources designated the aborigines of the new continent with the term "natural", that is, as a hominid extension of nature, so if nature was susceptible to private appropriation, so were the indigenous, as part of it.

Latin American society was born deeply divided into classes. Europeans and their descendants formed material relations of domination from the beginning, and ensured that their ideas were the dominant ideas in the societies that were born, through religion and the subjugation of autochthonous and African cultures, which despite all resisted and survived.

The European who comes to America in the early days of the invasion of our continent is the Renaissance man, a man who feels himself at the center of creation and considers everything natural to be privately appropriate; it already carries within itself, in embryonic form, the ideas that will produce the capitalist model. He comes to America to amass a fortune with which to achieve a social place of privilege that, until that moment, the rigid and hierarchical European feudal society had denied him, for this, he will seek in all possible ways and using any type of means, to transform nature and human labor into capital, capital that in turn translates into power, honors, privileges, that is, the capital for which they fight, kill, steal and enslave is already beginning to be an end in itself rather than a monetary instrument of exchange.

These ideas of the ruling classes will permeate, in one way or another, the thinking of the rest of the social classes that made up our colonial society. Nature will be seen from then on, by the entire population, as a potential source of capital capable of being privately appropriated to be translated into power. The ideas that in the following centuries will continue to arrive from Europe will deepen this vision.

Francis Bacon and René Descartes are going to be two of the philosophical founders of European modernity, and their ideas are going to have an undoubted influence on the shaping of Western thought and, by derivation, also in Latin America. Bacon in his masterpiece, The Novum Organum, announces and presents a philosophical-naturalist research project aimed at achieving the restoration of knowledge, and consequently of the power, that Adam had in paradise over nature and that humanity had lost as a consequence. of original sin. Here it must be remembered that the new world for Europeans meant, in many cases, the idea that the land of Eden was being reached. Christopher Columbus himself believed he saw earthly paradise in eastern Venezuela and confused the Orinoco River with the Euphrates, so there was nothing strange in the statement or belief that in America European man had returned to paradise with the full original powers. Bacón reinforced the ideas of domination over the environment when he affirmed: “Nature must be persecuted in its wanderings, forced to serve and enslaved. The goal of a scientist is to torture her until she reveals her secrets ”… the conquerors and colonizers (and later their descendants) interpreted that she had to be tortured not only to reveal their secrets but also to give up their wealth.

Descartes, for his part, was the pioneer of modern rationalism with which the process of demystification and desacralization of nature begins, ("the vocation of the human being resides in the fact of being teachers and possessors of nature" he wrote), opening the way to turn it into a simple commodity susceptible of being privately appropriated.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will be the centuries of enlightenment in Europe. This powerful philosophical and humanistic movement is going to profoundly impact the thinking of a good part of the Latin American elites, whose ideas in turn will influence the rest of the population of our continent. Enlightenment (with the exception of J.J. Rousseau) promoted and defended (European) culture, reason, society and science as instruments to overcome the "natural", understanding this term as the wild and the backward. Here began to form the current (dogma) of thought that advocated infinite progress illuminated or guided by the lights of science and reason. Inmanuel Kant, one of the most representative philosophers of Western modernity, pointed out that: "nature is a primitive state to be overcome by human beings" (European, white and Christian).

This improvement could only be achieved by distancing oneself as much as possible from the rest of nature; He had to begin by taming himself with the adoption of social rituals, manners, and "civilized", unnatural rules of conduct. Later, that same project was extended to domesticate and reform the rest of nature (circuses with shows of tamed wild animals come from that time).

For the European cultural model of modernity, a mirror in which our elites, nature, the natural were tried to reflect, it was something alien, strange, something that had to be fought against, controlled and finally overcome; Here we can find the explanation or justification of the historical phrase of Simón Bolívar pronounced moments after the earthquake that destroyed the city of Caracas in 1812 and that was attributed by some Catholic priests of the time to a divine punishment for the uprising that against the order In the colonial era, Venezuelans had declared: "If nature opposes it, we will fight against it and make it obey us." This phrase from the Liberator has been since then a dogma of faith for generations of Venezuelans and Latin Americans in their vision and way of relating to nature.

The separation between man and nature was total. Nature was not only something to fight and dominate, but to do so was a civilizing imperative and a necessary condition for progress. We were born as a homeland with the false consciousness of seeing nature as an enemy that had to be dominated and even redesigned. We change our understanding of nature and the way we relate to it. We went from seeing it as a divine and magical work to seeing it as something imperfect and limited by reason (the disenchantment of the world in Weberian etymology). We went from a contemplative attitude to a pragmatic and instrumental one, which sought (and still does) to exploit nature, reduced to raw material; with this, we lost the necessary natural connection with the world around us.

Positivist, ordered, mechanical, objective and rational science legitimized, for most of the 19th century, the intellectual and physical control of nature, first by the scientist, and then by the capitalist, who was the one who paid the scientist. The 19th century witnessed the apotheosis of the idea of ​​progress, not coincidentally associated with the zenith of European imperialism and the beginning of the world expansion of the capitalist model.

In independent Latin America of the 19th and 20th centuries, the liberal ideology served as a political platform for the new needs of the emerging republican oligarchies, and its main motto or slogan was "civilization or barbarism." Barbarism, savagery, backwardness, should, in the name of civilization, be fought with progress, discipline and order; Our countries were victims of iron dictatorships that imposed the order and progress that the positivist ideology, the Creole oligarchies and the new invading capitals, advocated as a necessary condition for all forms of progress, even in Brazil, the motto of order and progress was instituted on its national flag.

In our countries, the dichotomy civilization or barbarism took on geographical characteristics, the city and the city became synonymous with civilization while the countryside and the peasant, the indigenous, the veguero, in a word, nature, came to incarnate the barbarian and wild. , the backward and the stupid, discrimination that continues to this day. Our literary production contributed in no small part to this vision. Writers such as the Argentine Domingo Faustino Sarmiento with his novel Facundo, the Colombian José Eustacio Rivera with La Vorágine or the Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos with the classic Doña Bárbara, to name only the best known, popularized the vision of nature as something hostile, barbaric. and backward that had to be subdued, domesticated, and civilized in order to advance towards progress and social happiness.


Starting in the last three decades of the 19th century, Latin America was permanently inserted into the world capitalist system. Massive amounts of capital and technologies are entering our countries from the North Atlantic world; Mining-extractive activities and monocultures have spread and become intensive, conditioning our economies to the production of exchange values. The needs and demands of the world capitalist market pushed our countries to the stages of Western modernity. The aggressive social, economic and environmental practices of the representatives of the transnational consortia that in a few decades recolonized Latin America, shaped the new dominant ideas in our societies because, after all, the dominant ideas are nothing other than the ideal expression. dominant material relations. The new forms of division of labor, of social organization and even of language, which transnational capitalism introduced in our societies, produced in our societies severe changes in the ways of relating to men with their environment and with themselves. Selfish individualism in the social field and the ecological estrangement from the environment were the gravest consequences of these changes.

During the first half of the 20th century, most Latin American governments subscribed to the modernizing theses of world capitalism, trying to “Europeanize” their societies through the adoption of developmental economic models and encouraging immigration from those countries as a way to accelerate said modernization. Starting in the 50s of the last century, theses such as that of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC) became popular, which advocated accelerated industrialization and large investments in infrastructure to "integrate" development to most of the territories and populations of their respective states, with almost always disastrous consequences in environmental matters. From the left, the theory of dependency incurred the same developmentalist solution (sin) to the problem of our backwardness and did not offer anything new in terms of the way in which the cultural dependency that we had (and still have) could be broken, to relate to nature to obtain from it what is necessary for life.

Scientific Socialism in Latin America

The revolutionary ideas of European scientific socialism had a relatively late arrival in our American lands, and for multiple causes (dogmatism, lack of originality in their interpretation and application to our socio-cultural realities, devastating and sustained offensive of the cultural industry of the capitalist centers to favor of individualism and consumerism), its impact on the collective consciousness of our societies has since been limited. Among the possible causes of the lack of social roots of these ideas among the majority of our populations could be the absence of an effort to establish solid links between the works of Marx and Engels with the forms of community socialism that, in their productive and practical practices, of social organization, for millennia our native peoples have possessed; efforts that the Amauta José Carlos Mariátegui did make and that must be studied in depth in the necessary task of building a new model of socialism.

The community and collective traditions of our societies have been fought since the beginning of the invasion and genocide process by Europeans and, later, by their descendants transformed into an oligarchic class, on the grounds that they are backward, archaic ideas and practices and contrary to social and individual progress. To rescue, vindicate and revalidate these ideas and these practices is a countercultural imperative against the capitalist model.

The ideas about scientific socialism in our lands began to be disseminated, more or less massively, from the celebration of the XV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929, and its diffusion was characterized by a fierce dogmatism, and in many cases, due to the popularization of Marxist thought in manuals and briefs of dialectical materialism. The dogmatic and canonical Marxism that came from the USSR was unable to adapt to our realities, and its diffusers were unable, in most cases, to understand our historical-social peculiarities. Important intellectual productions such as that of the Cuban José Martí, the aforementioned Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui or the Venezuelans Simón Rodríguez and Pío Tamayo, to name just a few, and the struggles of indigenous, maroon, community and peasant resistance were ignored by scholastic Marxism. orthodox Soviet and his advanced Creoles, as potentially valuable contributions to the processes of revolutionary transformation of our societies. This made it even more difficult to popularize these ideas among our population.

Regarding the relations of man with nature, Karl Marx, in his extensive and extraordinary intellectual work, always considered human society as part of nature (the inorganic body of man), which is why his work implies the thesis that the struggles for justice for men is, in turn, the struggle for the defense of nature; However, what Soviet scholasticism and its representatives in our lands spread was a wrong interpretation, marked by developmentalism and Eurocentrism, of the thesis that through work, men have the ability to transform nature, and that in doing so, they transform themselves and their society, since man is nature transformed by social praxis.

Since the human species passed the hunting and gathering stage as a means of life, man, in order to survive, has always needed to transform his environment; The magnitude of the impact that these transformations have had on the different terrestrial ecosystems has varied according to the different modes of production through which human societies have passed through time. Until the emergence of capitalism, man transformed nature to obtain goods from it to which he fundamentally assigned use values. The capitalist mode of production dramatically changed this situation. The interventions that human beings are going to carry out in their environment in this system are essentially aimed at producing exchange values, objects that can be translated into capital, that is, goods, and as Marx himself pointed out, the only limit of capital is capital itself. In other words, there are no limits within this system to the looting of natural assets to produce exchange values, and therefore, there are no limits to the destruction of the natural environment.

In the Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx clarifies what later, in the twentieth century, most of his glossers would confuse: “Work is not the source of all wealth. Nature is the entire source, both of use values ​​(which are, equally all, real wealth!) And of work, which is nothing more than the expression of a natural force, the labor force of man ”.

Throughout all of Marx's work it is clearly visualized that he understood the essential contradiction between the potentially unlimited nature of the accumulation of value, on the one hand, and the limited nature of natural resources on the other, therefore, today A revision of the thesis of the deployment and unlimited, constant and sustained development of the productive forces of human society is imposed as a necessary condition for the revolutionary transformation of said society, since in the last 100 years we have been able to verify how the development of these forces productive activities has generated (in capitalism, but also in the socialist trials that have been carried out until now), an uncontrollable dynamic of destruction of terrestrial ecosystems. No one denounced the capitalist logic of production for its own sake (productivism) as much as Marx. The real and correct idea of ​​socialism in Marx (contrary to the foolish and caricatural bureaucratic interpretation) is that of a system focused on the production of use values, goods necessary to satisfy human needs, without contradiction with nature.

The way in which human beings transform the ecosystems in which we live, and of which we are an indivisible part, determines the social model in which we live, since the essential factor of all social praxis is the way of producing the necessary elements for life. A predatory social praxis of the natural environment will necessarily produce a predatory and hostile society for those who make it up, because after all, man and his society are nothing other than nature humanized by that same social praxis.

Without fully understanding these ideas in all their real dimension and driven by the fierce competition that the world capitalist system imposed on them in all fields of social life, the leaders of the Soviet revolution launched their country into a suicidal race in the field of Uncompromising productivism that inexorably led the USSR to state capitalism, a path that later the Chinese revolution would also travel, a path that those of us who aspire to and believe in the possibility of building a viable and sustainable society, both socially and in ecological, which, after all, are two sides of the same coin. The Soviet elites of yesterday, as well as the Chinese of today, seemed not to understand, or geopolitical pressures and threats prevented them, and prevent them from acting in any other way, that the constant and sustained deployment and development of the productive forces of society Human within the capitalist model, tutored or not by the state, generate dynamics that, as we have previously stated, sooner or later become destructive forces of nature and obviously also of man and his society, forces that break the necessary social metabolism for human existence. This misunderstanding persists in a good part of those who today hold leadership positions within the Bolivarian revolution and in many of their actions and opinions the shadow of these historical errors appears.

The construction of a new model of socio-economic organization that eliminates the man-nature antagonism that capitalism has exacerbated to unsustainable limits in the last 100 years, is one of the greatest challenges, if not the greatest, facing the Bolivarian revolution, a challenge that, in addition, has to be faced from the characteristics and peculiarities of a rentier society, historically penetrated by the values ​​of the capitalist-consumer-developmental model that it is intended to change; values ​​that, on the other hand, have on many occasions been, and are, encouraged by representatives of the same government that claims to have the construction of 21st century socialism as its goal and end.

Joel Sangronis Padrón, Venezuela


Video: Geography of the World Latin America Land and Resources (May 2022).


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