Monday, June 27, 2016

Nikos Mottas- Venezuela and the Opportunist Theory of “21st Century Socialism”

Venezuela and the Opportunist Theory of “21st Century Socialism”.

By Nikos Mottas.

Translated version of an article published on

Rapid developments have taken place in Venezuela during the last months. From last December's electoral victory of the right-reactionary opposition until the recent assassination of a retired Army General, we have seen a series of events which lead to the destabilization of Nicolas Maduro government. Eighteen years since the rise of Hugo Chavez in power, in 1998, the “Bolivarian Revolution” trembles dangerously, while the conservative opposition is on the counter-attack and a number of external agents (US government, OAS etc.) are variously trying to intervene in the country's internal affairs.

The crisis in Venezuela has two sides: On the one hand, the government and its people are facing a multidimensional attack from imperialist centers which aim in exacerbating the situation to such extend so that a possible (external) military intervention would be justified. The attack on Venezuela must be examined as part of the broader framework of inter-imperialist, inter-bourgeoisie contradictions and antagonisms which- fostered by the US policy- are taking place in Latin America. That comes out also as a result of the developments in Brazil (the 7th largest economy worldwide) where the inter-bourgeoisie confrontation and the scandal-mongering political orgy led to the expulsion of President Roussef.

On the other hand, the crisis in Venezuela is connected with the nature of the “Bolivarian Revolution” itself, as well as with the nature and character of the broader left-progressive movements which emerged in Latin America during the last decades. Therefore, specific questions arise: What is the class-nature of the bolivarian process as well as of other radical, left movements in countries like Bolivia? How these forces responded to the situation of poverty and social misery which the decades-long right-wing governments left behind? Where did this radical movement which emerged in Latin America in the end of the 20th century lead, politically and economically?

Without doubt, during the last twenty years there were positive social and political developments in Latin America; developments and changes which were followed by the expectation and hope that the people of this oppressed continent could break their imperialist chains. However, on the same time, the same changes were followed by illusions regarding the way through which the mass and popular Latin American movements could approach Socialism. These illusions found fertile ground during a period when Marxism-Leninism, the historic Socialism of the 20th century, was facing a relentless ideological attack by supporters of eurocommunist and opportunist ideas. The ideological war against the Socialist construction in the USSR and Eastern Europe went side-by-side with the emergence of a “new” ideology- the so-called “Socialism of the 21st Century”. This theory became the basis for movements like Hugo Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution, the Morales' government in Bolivia, Rafael Correa's authority in Equador and other forces in Latin America.

The problem with the “Socialism of the 21st century” consists of two basic issues: First, despite it's emergence as a relatively new theory, it is in fact a mixture of old, anti-marxist ideologies. Second, this theory is not related to Socialism (wth the genuine Marxist-Leninist approach), but to a modified kind of Social-Democracy. Although this theory appeared intensively during the recent global capitalist crisis (2007-2008), it's ideological conception began in 1996 by the German sociologist Heinz Dieterich.
An anti-marxist set of principles posing as a 'revolutionary' theory. 
The theory of the so-called “Socialism of the 21st Century” follows the ideological rails of “Eurocommunism” (democratic way to socialism). However, its illusions and opportunism goes even further. The theory starts with the admission that both Capitalism and historical Socialism have a large deficit of democracy and failed to give solutions to the pressing issues of humanity. In a few words, the theory of Dieterich equates the great achievements of historic Socialism with capitalist barbarity. Furthermore, underpinned by an idealist, anti-marxist perception of history, the 21st Century Socialism theory denies the historical role of the working class as a revolutionary subject and rejects the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to “Socialism of the 21st Century” theory, Capitalism doesn't need to be overthrown and therefore the solution is a mixed economy where private property in the means of production is allowed.

Heinz Dieterich himself had publicly admitted that, according to his theory, the only feasible way to Socialism is a mixed economy with three “ingredients”: the State, the private initiative and the public property under the form of co-operatives.

This is the kind of “socialism” Mr.Dieterich is talking about! Nothing more and nothing less than a theory which incorporates ideological elements of Eurocommunism and Social-Democracy, interspersed with anti-neoliberal rhetoric. The theory of “21st Century Socialism” is quite conventient for the bourgeoisie and the authority of the monopolies, as far as it spreads illusions to a large part of the working-popular masses, both in Latin America and Europe.

The anti-marxist ideological framework of “21st Century Socialism” had a huge influence on Latin American movements during the last decades. Under variations, it was adopted as an “alternative model” against neoliberalism by a number of Latin American leaders: Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, Lula da Silva etc. More specifically, in Venezuela the “Bolivarian Revolution” was constructed on the ideological basis of this theory (H.Dieterich has served as a advisor to President Chavez) in an effort to move towards a broad wealth redistribution by allowing the economic activity of private capital.

Two major cadres of the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), Ali Rodrιguez Araque and Alberto Muller Rojas have clarified the nature of Bolivarian Socialism in their book “Socialism in Venezuela and the Party that Will Promote it”. Among other interesting things, they write about the “Bolivarian Revolution”: “It is a process that does not restrict economic freedoms as it considers that antagonism is democratic provided that it is clear and does not lead to the creation of oligopolies or monopolies”; “it does not make the mistake to consider that it may be imposed through the dictatorship of the proletariat”. (The book has been published in Greece by the ΚΨΜ editions, Athens, 2009).

Ideological references such as the above bring in our mind the known and tested Social-Democratic policies in Europe and Greece. The socialism of the “Bolivarian Revolution”- despite its undoubted good intentions- was and still remains a kind of market socialism; a popular reformist agenda within the framework of the capitalist system and private property in the means of production. However, how effective (for the masses) can be such an experiment which tries to approach Socialism through social projects, strengthening of the co-operatives, nationalization of sectors of the economy, without touching the heart of the problem? How effective for the working class can be such an experiment which tries to reconcile the historical and insurmountable class differences by leaving intact the private property in the means of production and allowing the dominance of private sector in economy?

A predictable development.

The recent developments in Venezuela do not consist a surprise. They came as a consequence of the route of the Bolivarian project itself. Venezuela's bourgeois-class- which has close ties with US monopoly interests- was waiting for the appropriate opportunity in order to hit. The economic crisis in the country, the political corruption within the governing PSUV and various disadvantages of the Bolivarian authority created the ideal conditions for the local bourgeoisie in order to destabilize the Maduro government.

The crisis in Venezuela exposes something more: It shows the wrong perception that exists in circles of the Latin American (and European) Left about the crucial issue of Imperialism. It is a perception which regards the- actually existing- unequal relations between the Latin American countries and the US as the almost exclusive reason for the under-development of Latin American economies. Therefore, a large number of progressive Latin American movements (including “Chavismo”) focused on the so-called anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggle and downgraded the role of the local bourgeoisies. Within the framework of the above perception, the bourgeois-class was divided (“patriotic” or “pro-imperialist”) according to its stance towards US Imperialism. This is definitely a wrong perception as long as it divides the relations of dependence and inter-dependence existing in the imperialist pyramid from struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist way of production.
And what about the bourgeoisie? The national bourgeoisie generally is not capable of maintaining a consistent struggle against imperialism. It shows that it fears popular revolution even more than the oppression and despotic dominion of imperialism which crushes nationality, tarnishes patriotic sentiments, and colonizes the economy. 
A large part of the bourgeoisie opposes revolution openly, and since the beginning has not hesitated to ally itself with imperialism and the landowners to fight against the people and close the road to revolution. [...] 
When we speak of winning power via the electoral process, our question is always the same: If a popular movement takes over the government of a country by winning a wide popular vote and resolves as a consequence to initiate the great social transformations which make up the triumphant program, would it not immediately come into conflict with the reactionary classes of that country?  
- Ernesto Che Guevara Cuba: Historical exception or vanguard in the anticolonial struggle?, Verde Olivo, 9 April 1961.

Conclusion: Either a Socialist Revolution or a Caricature of a Revolution.

The global capitalist crisis highlighted Latin America as a field of inter-imperialist contradictions and antagonisms. Within this framework, the weaknesses of managing the capitalist system were exposed more than ever- that became apparent in many countries including Brazil and Venezuela. It is clear that nobody can predict the outcome of the crisis in Venezuela. However, both the recent events as well as the whole Bolivarian process prove that the so-called “Socialism of the 21st Century” is just a Latin American version of Eurocommunism; a theory which promotes the illusion that the capitalist system can be “humanized” and managed in favor of the peoples' interests. The experiments of the Left, progressive, social-democratic governments in Latin America prove what history has already taught us: that there is no democratic way to Socialism. The cases of Jacobo Arbenz's Guatemala in 1954 and Salvador Allende's Chile in 1973 are major historical examples.

Our solidarity towards the people of Venezuela, as well as our absolute condemnation of the barbaric imperialist intervention, is firm, definite and beyond any doubt. What we need is to combine our firm solidarity to the popular strata of Venezuela with the proper conclusions.

Our era- the era capitalism in its higher stage- is an era of the passage from the rotten capitalist system to Socialism. It is- and must be- an era of proletarian revolutions. On that, no “third ways” and no illusions are allowed.