What Happened to the Pink Tide?

Viewed by many as the most promising development for the global left in decades, the Pink Tide is in retreat. To understand its decline, this essay compares its rise and achievements to the rise of the region’s classical left, which emerged following the Cuban Revolution. Whereas the classical left’s accomplishments were rooted in the structural leverage of industrial labor, the Pink Tide has been based on movements of informal workers and precarious communities. The Pink Tide built its base from a social structure that had been transformed by two decades of deindustrialization and industrial fragmentation. This had two critical implications—it gave newly elected governments far less leverage against ruling classes than the earlier left, and it also inclined them toward a top-down, clientelistic governance model, which turned out to be self-limiting. In the end, Pink Tide regimes were undone by their own constituents, whereas the classical left was toppled by the elites that it attempted to dislodge.

Sponsored by Catalyst: A Journal of Theory & Strategy.

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