By Erik Loomis
Since 2016, topics pertaining to Latin America have frequently appeared in the headlines. Sadly, this is not because of a newfound journalistic interest in the lives of Latin American people or the dynamics of the region’s politics. It is because of the openly white supremacist agenda of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. The latest in several waves of racist nativism that has long haunted this country, the current mania to build a border wall, to separate children from their families, to place people in concentration camps, to deport as many immigrants as possible, and to let immigrants die untreated in detention centers is rightly considered a national shame by liberals and leftists alike.
However, it is not as if the American left has a consistently strong history of support for Latin America. Both the labor and the environmental movements have complicated pasts when it comes to immigration, to put it mildly. Since the 1980s, the plight of Latin Americans and immigrants has been important to many on the broader left, but support has been uneven at best, with activists careening from crisis to crisis rather than developing a sustained political project seeking to confront U.S. empire.
Two excellent new books examine the complex and problematic relationships the United States has with its southern neighbors. Steve Striffler’s Solidarity: Latin America and the US Left in the Era of Human Rights and Daniel Denvir’s All-American Nativism: How the Bipartisan War on Immigrants Explains Politics as We Know It both provide much for liberals and leftists to consider as we attempt to figure out both how to resist the racism of the Trump era and how to rebuild an internationalist left in the United States. Although both authors are concerned with the effects of U.S. policy abroad, their principal concern is the condition of the left and liberalism at home.
Two excellent new books . . . provide much . . . to consider as we attempt to figure out both how to resist the racism of the Trump era and how to rebuild an internationalist left in the United States.