Book Review–Dancing with Dynamite: The Future of Latin America’s Social Movements

[“Dancing with Dynamite” takes a look at the some recent experiences  of democratic grassroots movements within the Latin American social-democratic countries that are aligned with or friendly to the Venezuelan government and ALBA. How workers and peasant movements, indigenous groups, and revolutionary organizations relate to this experience as it continues to develop will be important for internationalists to know and understand.–ed.]

12 October 2010

Kari Lydersen, In These Times

Reviewed: Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America by Benjamin Dangl, (October, 2010: AK Press).

What happens after you win?

That is, as fearless grassroots social movements have brought leftist, pro-worker parties to power in one after another Latin American country during the past decade, how do these movements maintain true democracy and commitment to the rights of the marginalized once faced with the challenge of a neoliberal global economy?

After the wave of worker factory takeovers following its economic collapse a decade ago, such questions played out on smaller scales in Argentina. Taking cooperative control of the factories was only the first step; the workers had to actually run them competitively in a capitalist economy. Similarly, after movements of union members, indigenous activists and other previously marginalized people bring leaders like Bolivian Evo Morales and Venezuelan Hugo Chavez to power, how do they make sure their struggles aren’t declawed and co-opted by the new government?

In his captivating book Dancing with Dynamite, Ben Dangl explores the complicated choreography between unfettered popular struggle and the state institutions that are necessary to a functioning civil society—yet by nature are forces of moderation, compromise and cooperation.

Using a very literal metaphor, Dangl invokes Bolivian miners to describe the “dynamite” of uncompromising popular struggle. The miners and displaced former miners who played a major role in bringing current president Evo Morales to power are part of a movement forged through intense repression and violence, followed by perhaps even more insidious economic suffocation. Continue reading