One of the various consequences caused by the so-called oil crisis, in 1973, is that it is the moment that is generally chosen as a watershed and from which internationalization, interdependence, globalization, or whatever we want to call it, appears as an unavoidable element for economic and social analysis.
Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye defined in Transnational Relations and World Politics: An Introduction, that model of action, then novel, as transnational. The international sphere no longer belonged exclusively to the state or government world, and other actors began to be protagonists with accepted legitimacy.
The economy was the one that adapted the fastest to this “new world” and, in those years of the 1970s, it was embodied in what were called the transnational companies. Curiously, transnationalism was also a common practice among groups of the radical and armed left. They skillfully used informal networks as a way to carry out their revolutionary plans. Without fixed geographical bases, they managed to thread links between different groups and places on an intercontinental map whose nodes, among others, were Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaddafi’s Libya and the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.
Networks and actors
Transnational activity spread beyond the left. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was the dominant trend in globalized politics. He boomerang effectwhich Margaret Keck and Katherine Sikkink defined so well in the book Activists without borders, graphed the democratization of access to the international arena for national actors. Thus, it did not matter how small, isolated or disempowered they were. Any group could appeal to the world to obtain resources or set limits on national states that persecuted them.
But the changes were also observed in society, not only in the transformations suffered by some sectors, for example, in the reduction in the number of traditional workers and the increase in workers linked to the service sector. It was also observed in the fragmentation of a policy that was beginning to show the diversification of social demands. These included the environment, feminism, anti-nuclear or the demands for more freedoms in the face of the advance of the heavy and bureaucratized European States.
Networks beyond borders gave renewed life to the associative world. Non-state or parastatal actors and groups were also comfortably located in this new terrain: organized crime, financial networks, the media. Other phenomena that soon became repeated and did not respect national borders were forced migrations, pandemics or climate disasters.
The globalizing phenomenon took shape as a crisis of national states that began to rapidly see the capacity for intervention and regulation of a market that was no longer exclusively national and acquired another magnitude in its logistical, organizational and resource management scale.
The national becomes international
Simply put, the formula for success that had been built since the Second World War, the welfare state, was beginning to have serious problems in continuing to be sustainable and its political and intellectual legitimacy was wavering with it. Other demands were growing in societies that the stale European social democracies could not even correctly characterize.
This framed the well-known crisis of representation (which, corrected and increased, continues to this day) which then reflected the growing social discontent with a nationalized political system that could no longer provide answers to the problems, to the challenges that had a character format. global.
For politicians, activists and all those who understood political action beyond theoretical reflection, this also translated into a challenge that required innovative responses that transcended national borders, but for which there was precedent. And this challenged the political world beyond whether the protagonists occupied central places in States and governments or were part of small party or non-governmental organizations.
In the document The world is not enough. Political networks and struggles for democracy in Latin Americapublished by Diálogo Político and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, I presented an investigation trying to organize and find a strategic meaning in the current world of transnational political activism.
To do this, I emphasized three types of strategies: international government networks, informal policies, and transnational policies. The latter, in turn, dividing them between transnational activism networks and partisan political networks beyond borders.
The aforementioned work also started from a transversal hypothesis that gave meaning to the tense and conflictive map of Latin American politics. Current political transnationalism has been translated with a new meaning by leaders and movements, especially those belonging to the so-called pink tide, 21st century left, new Latin American left or populist left, and their successors. And that sense has become dominant.
Beyond the borders
This wave of activism and transnational politics was very well taken advantage of by those who adhere to authoritarian, illiberal, even antidemocratic projects. He emptied the internationalist movement of its traditional liberal influence based on ideas of cosmopolitanism or the internationalization of democracy. The Sao Paulo Forum, Clacso and the riots organized to delegitimize non-leftist governments in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are just a few examples of an equation that is much more coordinated than it appears.
This new transnational phenomenon is sustained from a discourse catch all, stated hegemonically from the political, academic and cultural world, and which combines contemporary and 20th century elements with the patriagrandista tradition, widely present in the political history of the region. Added to this are elements from the classic socialist discourse propagated by one of the most important and traditional nodes of the network, Cuba.
This model of regional nationalism as the basis of a renewed national political activism takes up some classic issues in this type of movements: an agonal view of politics, anti-liberal ideas and an anti-imperialist, but at the same time conservative, story. However, the research also shows a renewed transnational activity of political parties, in a range that far exceeds the universe of the left.
Possibly, the most important (and optimistic) result of the text published by Diálogo Político is that transnational party organizations (OTP), despite not being popularly recognized, have grown significantly. They can become a very useful tool both to face the demands of societies dissatisfied with national politics as a hope to confront the authoritarian discourses of the left and right that are becoming stronger today in Latin America.
*This text was originally published in Political Dialogue
Fernando Pedrosa is a Doctor in contemporary political processes and coordinator of the Asian and Latin American Studies Group of the Institute of Latin American and Caribbean Studies of the University of Buenos Aires.