Social Movements and Political Influence in Venezuela, Suriname, Jamaica and Indonesia

Posted on | maart 14, 2011 | No Comments

The political movement that occurred at the time of the hippies

Political science defines social movements as organizations that seek to influence the political system from the grass-roots and are antithetical to the organized political sphere of neo-liberal policy-making. The hypothesis of this paper is that social movements between 1980 and 2000 failed to push for economic reform because many crisis- ridden economies could not afford to dissuade paying off debt. This paper will examine four cases, Venezuela, Suriname, Jamaica and Indonesia, pondering contrasting variants of protest and social movement amid and in the wake of Structural Adjustment Programs, pondering their influence in the political arena and their proclivities for broad-based politicization.

Sourcing from both Arato& Cohen’s (1994) and Linz&Stepan (1996) seminal and extensive work on the role of social movement in the influencing of the political arena, this paper hypothesizes that the proclivity of social movements to influence the political arena depends on their ability to become as the Germans call it salonfahig or not. To put in a less abstract, more colloquial fashion: does a certain social movement have what it takes to participate in the political arena, rather participate or influence decision-making? The relevance of this question hinges on the raison d’etre of social movement. What is the role of social movement? Is the function of social movements to mobilize, empower, aggregate demand or influence political participation? Who or what needs to be mobilized and for what purpose. Let’s put it in simple vocabulary: if social movement is instituted to empower local communities, to improve their immediate surroundings ( to build a road, a school or a farm) then its functioning is determined by grass-roots interests, its exigencies, articulation and execution then stay at grass-roots level. This paper will not deal with previously described type of social movement, despite the fact that it recognizes that this type of social movement can have a wider reach.

This paper will deal with the type of social movement that engenders wider national interest, with, in that sense, the proclivity to compete in the political arena for popular support. A wide array of literature regards this specific social movement as a substitute for political organization, to fight the allegedly elitists forms of representative government, rather than to complement it (ibid, 7). Literature demonstrates that this specific social movement is typically engendered because of existing lacuna in the democratic process or rather lack of proper channels for the articulation of popular demands. This paper proposes to approach social movements from systemic level, based on the contention 1) that systemic level offers sufficient incentives to ponder the actual role of social movement within the political space, its intertwinements, its proclivities and its constraints, and 2) because social mobilization, or rather its associational function helps consolidate democracy. This two-fold contention diametrically opposes intellectual schools of taught, that propone a more radical viewpoint on social movement, derived from the principles of classical Marxism.

This paper will compare social movements in Venezuela, Suriname, Jamaica and Indonesia, and their possible influence during times of economic and political crises, brought on by implementation of austerity measures. The research will focus on the 1980- 2000 period, pondering the in some cases prescribed adjustment programs by the IMF (Venezuela and Jamaica) implemented by the government as measure to monetary stabilize (Suriname) or to end transnational economic crises, (Indonesia). The aim of this paper is to assess the role of social movements within the organized spheres of political policy-making as well as their effectiveness to force government to overturn these measures, or to put measures into effect with ample propensity to reduce the economic pain for the people.

I elected to ponder the contrasting variants between four models, Suriname, Venezuela, Jamaica and Indonesia, based on four criteria:
* The fact that prior to 1980, a credit boom gave impetus to overzealous and wanton spending, incentivized by either generous loans with some sort of commodity as collateral, and/or equally generously doled out by the West;
* Absence of economic program to tackle poverty, disenfranchisement, and lack of human empowerment, in spite of the credit boom;
* Substantial evidence on social movement that protested against impoverishment and social marginalization, prior to and after the economic crisis;
* Existing similarities and contrasts on how social movement acted in the wake of the SAPS, their affect and effect on the body politic and more importantly on the civil arena.
This paper will ponder the following two questions:
* Did the economic crises help unify the various grass-roots movements;
* Did the economic crisis give impetus for professionalization and deepening of the organization, in other words did the social movement become salonfahig?
This paper is divided in an introduction, four chapters:
* Theories and Approaches of political science dialectic on Social Movements;
* The Role of Social Movements Before the economic crises and proclivity for politicization (Cases);
* The Role of Social Movements After the economic crises and proclivity for Politicization (Cases);
* Can Social Movements help politicize and democratize?

1. Theories and Approaches of the Political Science dialectic on Social Movements
Arato&Cohen (ibid. 492) argue that social movements constitute a dynamic element that might realize the positive potentials of a modern civil society, based on the theme of the self-defense of the society against the state. This position is antithetical to the position of plurality and democratic consolidation, a position that we will address later on in this chapter. Arato& Cohen (ibid) view social movements as one-issue movements that champion social concerns (environment, world peace, ecology). Research on post-materialist movements such as the Gruene (green, Groen) movements in Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium demonstrated that these movements after their initial grass-roots phase in the early 1980s, professionalized in the late 1980s to become either NGO’s- Green Peace- or political parties with a Leftist Agenda [Groen Links, Die Grune, AGALEV] (Lijphart 1981; Inglehart 1987).

The concern of this paper is a different one: this paper looks at collective action in developing societies, more precise, at collective action against stringent economic measures, that hurt broad segments of society. This form of social movement is not recognized by Arato& Cohen (ibid) as such, because they argue that one has to abandon ones revolutionary dreams, in favor of radical reform that does not target the state, a conception based on the post-materialist principle proposed by for example Lijphart (1981). This paper concerns itself with social and political reform that radically transforms the political arena, the bureaucracy, within the framework of democracy and without starting a revolution.

The hermeneutic approach proposed by Arato&Cohen (ibid) clearly distinguishes between two positions: that of the observer and that of the participants, in other words, a scholar writing on social movement can either be a participant or an observer. My position is that social movement, like any other social phenomenon should be analyzed from the perspective of the observer (a vulnerable observer at best), to prevent intellectual bias and anecdotal imagery.

The option to approach social movement from systemic perspective, in the specific situation of collective action against economic policy-making, is motivated by the scholarly objective that disproving the notion that social action per definition ad hoc, grass-roots and lacking of resources will shed greater light on the mechanisms of social movement and social action. (I am by the same token, aware of the clear difference in perception of collective action in western societies, versus collective action in democratically less developed societies).

In economically more stable societies the gap between different economic interests becomes narrower if parties are catch-all political organizations, wooing a broadest possible range of supporters, leveling off economic and social disparities. The utopian connotation of my position is blunted by substantive data on political stability in more advanced economic societies, a position corroborated by Welzel& Inglehart (2008). Overwhelming empirical evidence demonstrates that political organization and participation are more prevalent among people with a higher socio-economic status middle classes and upper classes (Lipset 1959, 70). Indeed, international economic indicators on welfare demonstrate that democratically stable societies are more apt to create safety-nets in times of macro-economic instability, easing the suffering for the weaker members of society.

The aforementioned theories weaken for example Sartori (1968, 151) argument, that conflict among the different groups is expressed through political parties (……) [that] represent the interests of the different classes.

The most noted solution for social and economic suffering in transitional societies (less developed societies) is presented by proponents of classical Marxism, who argue that the root of social inequality is hinged on disposition of bourgeois to accumulate capital and henceforth achieve economic preponderance over the lower classes. The walling of the lower-classes caused by economic disposition of the local elites and international center-periphery antimonies appears to foster a static status quo that can only be levied through radical action by the lower classes. The reality teaches us rather bluntly that there are no successful revolutions, the end of the Soviet empire in 1989, unequivocally demonstrated, (and to a lesser extend the Cuban and Chinese cases) the constraints of institutionalized or state-led social mobilization as possible solution to achieve social equality. But the end of the Soviet era, henceforth communism did not shift the intellectual debate on social inequality away from classical Marxism; instead it reiterated its stance, to persist in its position to offer egalitarian solutions in the form of participatory democracy.

As a political scientist and an adept of evidence based research, I find the question how social movements are related to the political arena, whether they fit within the systemic framework of political and bureaucratic institutions, more relevant. Reasoned from political science’s primary concern which is power, the relevance of social movements hinges on their propensity to become part of the political power-structure. The danger point of the proposed systemic approach is its fallacy to overlook the inherent functioning and institutionalization of social movements, which reality corresponds with the Aristotelian conception of ‘….a unified organization with a single set of goals that were derivable from the common ethos’ (Arato&Cohen, ibid, 84).

Social Movement and Structural Adjustment Woes
Economic crises are typically instigated by: 1.-failed export led programs; 2.- lack of failed economic and fiscal policy (making); 3- over-borrowing from private lending institutions using future revenue (of commodities) as collateral; 4-wanton, overzealous spending and under-taxation (failing fiscal policy).

Economic crises occur as credit problems tarnish the solvability of a state, and the private banking industry as a consequence becomes concerned about its creditworthiness. Structural Adjustment Programs come into play as last resort measure, typically prescribed by inter-governmental organizations (IGO’s) such as the IMF and World Bank as precursor for readjustment of loans. Problem is that readjustment disproportionately tackles the most vulnerable groups in society. Governments in that precarious position are typically more willing to comply with the demands of the so called lenders of the last resort, then to focus on a workable solution to tackle economic distress at home. This paper attributes the primacy of the lending institutions over popular interests to a fallacy in the priority- hierarchy of interests, in other words, governments are inclined to opt for restructuring and re-equilibrate macro-economic imbalance, instead of relieving economic distress . To put in colloquial terms: The government has to deal with the international community concerned with repayment, while it ignores its citizens concerned with payment. The repayment-payment dilemma illuminates the intellectual antithesis between the formalized bureaucratic and legal framework of the international organizations and between the primordial, grass-roots framework of society. It also demonstrates the loosely treaded democratic structure of government as well as its overt weakness.

The literature suggests the existence of two types of structural adjustment programs, based on the political ideology of the leaders. Populist leaders exemplified by Chaves, Manley, and Morales, typically adepts of state-led economic programs as impetus for social reform, refute neoliberalism, or the IMF-prescribed restructuring programs as possible economic model. This category typically opts for nationalization as solution for restructuring the economy. The second category of leaders, exemplified by the Bouterse (Wjdenbos), Menem, Fuijmori, Suharto, embrace economic liberalism, and in times of crisis insists on privatization and down-sizing of crucial sectors, while at the same time continuing to implement state-led measures as strategy to win elections and maintain support (note on Suharto). The second category fit the description of political leaders ‘that finds populism and economic liberalism compatible’ ( Weyland 1996, 6).

Neo-Liberal Policies and Macro-Economic Shock-Waves
Between 1980 and 2000, South America and the Caribbean were marred with austerity programming. Suriname is a deviant case, because in spite of its precarious economic position, the government declined IMF assistance, opting instead to implement its own version of a structural adjustment program (SAP) in the early 1990s. Despite the absence of IMF and WB, the effects of the SAP were equally negative on society, specifically the weaker and the poor. Jamaica is also deviant, in the sense that the island from the 1970s onward, tangled with the IMF over readjustment and rescheduling. The IMF became party in the domestic social struggle because Michael Manley used his dispute with the IMF, to campaign on protest platform, to win the elections in 1976, for a second term in office, and to start a grass-roots movement to sustain his PNP. The contrasting variants between Jamaica and the other three cases is that the mere presence of the IMF in the case of Jamaica gave rise to a massive social movement that protested against imperialism, neocolonialism and USA hegemony in the region (that feared spreading of communism to Jamaica).

The trend in the South American region, from 1979 onward, was the emergence of a new type of social movement, chiefly inspired by socialism and classical Marxism. This type of social movement drew support from the victims of the crises, the urban poor and previously disenfranchised from the urban and rural. These grass-roots movements all have a strong political basis, thanks to a large support base that provided the necessary legitimacy turning them into political forces to be reckoned with. Emblematic is the place of these movements in society, as intermittent between the civil and political spaces, a position that offered them substantial leeway to position them as a (credible) political alternative against the traditional status quo ( for example, Evo Morales, Hugo Chaves, Desi Bouterse). The case of Jamaica however demonstrates that a social movement can be the product of politics: Michael Manley leader and prime-minister of the PNP, founded a social movement in 1976, to numerically increase his political power, without opening up the ranks of his oligarchically structured party to the masses. This populist strategy of creating an institution, outside the regular institutional framework fits into the theoretical framework of populism as proposed by Weyland (ibid, 17). Hugo Chaves used a similar route as Michael Manley, articulating the distress of the disenfranchised and the poor, promising change and more power to the people. Like Manley, Chaves’s MAS movement, used militant and vigilante elements to transform politics. Question is if one can consider this specific grass-roots popular militia-style movement part of civility, because the empirics teach us that these radical social movements destabilize society profoundly because of their violence and crime-related activities.

In Asia, the first SAPS saw daylight in the late 1990, during the Asia crisis when a substantial percentage of South East Asian governments were forced to take action against macro-economic shockwaves, to the protect international money markets. Democratization in South-East Asia, until that specific point in history had been placed on the backburner in lieu of economic growth and prosperity, a reality that reflected in the engendering of a social movement that emerged with a completely different pretext. The economic crisis in Indonesia accelerated the fall of the Suharto Regime pressured by broad-based social protest, led by political opponents of the regime. Megawati Sukarnoputri, one of the leaders of the protest, was chosen the new president of Indonesia. One can argue that the social movement then became integrated into the political space, after it had reached its goal of ousting the Suharto regime. In other areas of Indonesia social movement emerged to campaign a different cause as protest movements in Aceh, and eastern Timor, saw an opening to demand cessation from Indonesia. Other more radical elements of the movement protested against the economic hegemony of the ethnic Chinese, blaming them for the economic crisis. The social movement in Ache and Eastern Timor reached some of its goals (East-Timor became an independent republic); the empirics demonstrate that the radicalization of the social movement under the influence of Islam also became successful in its objectives.

2. The Role of Social Movements Before the economic crises and proclivity for politicization (Cases)
Civility has always been an integral part in Indonesia, as part of Rukun honor-code and common and Islam (religion) laws that tie the Kampong (community) together. These strong communities had enabled the independence movement to win from the Netherlands between 1945 and 1949. The fall of Sukarno in 1960, consecutively the rise of an army led government, headed by Suharto in that same year, gave rise to a repressive political regime that curbed the role of civility drastically, forcing it back to the grass-root of the Kampong. In Venezuela, the earliest documented social movement was that of Simon Bolivar, the Independence movement that fought for freedom from Spain. Social movements and civility came back to life after 1950, when the Punto Fijo Accord, established the basis for a consensus type of democracy, in which the civility became one of the consolidators. Punto Fijo helped to equilibrate the Venezuelan political landscape until 1991, when President Andres Perez, acted against the principles of the accord, by ignoring the voice of the social partners on the handling of the macro-economic shockwaves. It was however the influence of the Caracazo or Sacudon, massive student and popular protest in early 1990s gave impetus for a massive transformation of the social and political landscape. After that fact, the political system further broke down, as charismatic leadership emerged that campaigned on a populist agenda instead of on a political platform (Nygren 2003).

Suriname and Jamaica are unlike Indonesia and Venezuela, accustomed to waves of social protest and social unrest, dating back to Slavery (Van Lier 1977; Heuman 2003). Both nations boast a lively civility consisting of social movements, some of which with strong ties in the labor movement and some of which strongly rooted the party-system. In both countries, trade unions since their onset have hybrid function: as political actors strongly rooted in the political arena, and as civil organizations, representing the interests of the workers. In Jamaica, trade union is strongly linked to the PNP (Peoples National Party) and in Suriname, trade unions are connected to three parties: the NPS (Nationale Partij Suriname), the PSV ( Progresieve Surinaamse VolksPartij) and the SPA (Surinaamse Partij van de Arbeid).

The common denominator between all the four cases is that from the standpoint of the incumbents, social protest is typically regarded as an act against government, and government therefore retaliates by using excessive violence to curb social protest. Three of the four cases share that social movement has proven to be relatively successful in forcing a political breakthrough; In Suriname for example social protest between 1969 and 2000, forced several government to step down; In Venezuela, the Caracazo of 1989, reshaped the political landscape profoundly; In Indonesia social protests between 1997-1998, marked the end of authoritarianism and the return of democracy. Deviant case is Jamaica, where social movements, its organization and leadership are strongly embedded in the party system. Noteworthy is that like Jamaica, in Suriname the Stanvaste movement founded by the Military leaders became a working branch of the NDP. In Venezuela, the Cuban style hybrid socialist movement led by Hugo Chaves after his ascend into office became a political organization, a grass-roots branch.

The Role of Social Movements After the economic crises and proclivity for Politicization (Cases); Can Social Movements help Politicization?
All four cases demonstrate the limited proclivity of grass-roots movement to forge change. Assessing the role of social movements that seek to overturn economic restructuring programs, demonstrates a more negative outcome, because social movement typically lack leverage to influence decision making at system level. This outcome enforces my earlier position that social movements need be incorporated into the system, be part of the political arena. The requirement that social movement needs to be part of democratic structures is neither utopian nor dystopian, but based on ample empirical evidence that formal, systemic structured institutions cannot be transformed from the bottom-up. The case of Indonesia demonstrates that existing civil structures, helped to overturn the Suharto regime, and the return of democracy. Economic recovery in Indonesia in the last decade helped to advance the process of politicization and strengthening of the civil arena even further.

In Suriname, the Nieuw Front coalition lost the elections after implementation of a SAP, to the NDP that campaigned on an economic and monetary reform platform. The NDP once in office, tried to sneak in a neoliberal program of privatization of government owned companies, a move that instigated wide spread protest of the middle classes, the opposition and the trade unions, demanding the resignation of the president. The protests brought the Nieuw Front coalition back in government in 2000, and the social movement responsible for the transformation became dormant again. The same cycle can be observed when studying social unrest in Suriname in 1967, 1969, 1973 and 1987. This particular pattern demonstrates that social movements in Suriname lack independence to push for a radical economic and political reform. The same can be argued for Jamaica, where despite social protest, the IMF continued to dictate austerity program that increased poverty, unemployment without actually resolving the debt-crisis that is still marring the country today. After the 1970s massive protest, the Jamaican social movement lost much of its strength, a fact that can be attributed to the fact that Michael Manley’s at that time had already departed from his erstwhile radical standpoint on private enterprise, to become more compromising, less grass-roots, more salonfahig. The contrasting variant between Chaves’ MAS and Manley’s movement hinges on the proclivity of the Venezuelan protest movement to irreversibly transform the political landscape. The case of Venezuela demonstrates that social movements in their most radical and anti-system format, harbor an inherent treat to democracy.

This paper centered on the hypothesis that the proclivity of social movements to influence the political arena depends on their ability to become as the Germans call it salonfahig or not, a hypothesis grounded on the premise that social movements and structural adjustment programs are inherently antithetical. The hypothesis in turn is centered on two questions:

* Do economic crises help unify the various grass-roots movements? In all cases, divergent ideologies and divergent agendas determined the agenda of the protest. The deviant case is Suriname, where in 2000, a unified group of protesters from a wide range of civil organizations, the Unions, civil organizations and students emerged in protest against economic and social injustice and plans for privatization. In Indonesia and Venezuela, the social movement was originally rooted in student protest and oppositional political organizations (Indonesia Megawati); In Venezuela, the student protest in 1989, gained momentum after broad support from the public. In Jamaica, social movement branched from the political arena into the civil space, involving only one of the two political parties.

* Did the economic crisis give impetus for professionalization and deepening of the organization, in other words did the social movement become salonfahig? The answer is that only the Venezuelan social movement became salonfahig, the MAS today is a full-fledged political organization, firmly rooted in the system, with strong oligarchical tendencies. After the return to democracy some elements of the Indonesian social movement did become salonfahig, while some elements radicalized. The Surinamese movements occupy an intermittent position, close ties with the political arena demonstrates political influence, an impression which is only partly correct because the social movement is closely tied to specific political parties, which determines its perpetual shift from the political arena to the grass-roots. In Jamaica, Manley’s movement radicalized, its close ties with the PNP however make assessment impossible.

* Arato Jean, L. & Cohen, Andrew. 1992. Civil Society and Political Theory, Massachusetts and London: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (First MIT press paperback edition, 1994)
* Gilpin, Robert. 1987. The Political Economy of International Relations, Princeton: Princeton University Press
* Inglehart Ronald. 1987. From Class-Based to Value Based Politics in: The West European Party System, Peter Mair ed. (1990), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 266-284
* Lijphart, Arend. 1981. Dimensions of Ideology in European Party Systems in: The West European Party System, Peter Mair ed. (1990), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 253-265
* Janoski, Thomas. 1998. Citizenship and Civil Society, Cambridge, New York and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press
* Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. Some Social Requisites for Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy: Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol 53, No.1 (Mar. 1959), pp. 69-105
* Lier van, Rudolf.1971, Samenleven in een grensgebied: Een sociaal-historische studie van Suriname (derde herziene uitgave), S. Emmering, Amsterdam
* Przeworski, Adam et al. 2003. Development and Democracy: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World, 1950-1990
* Sartori, Giovanni. 1968. The Sociology of Parties in: The West European Party System, Peter Mair ed. (1990), Oxford: Oxford University Press
* Welzel, Christiaan & Inglehart, Ronald .2008.The Role of Ordinary People in Democratization in: Journal of Democracy, vol. 19, number 1, January 2008, National Endowment for Democracy and The Johns Hopkins University Press pp.126-139
* Weyland, Kurt .1996. Neopopulism and Neoliberalism in Latin America: Unexpected Affinities in: Studies in Comparative Developmen

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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