A Theory: Socialchavism by Manuel Caballero

March 10, 2005

Historian Manel Caballero wrote this article in yesterday’s El Universal.
I thought it was too long to translate and was going to write excerpts
from it, but it was impossible. Given that I had no work tonight (more on
that in the next post), I simply transalated the whole thing. I hope
you enjoy it as much as I did (The article, not translating it):

A Theory: Socialchavism by Manuel

Playa Girón, Fidel Castro declared his regime “Marxist-Leninist” a formula
invented by Stalin to designate his own personal dictatorship and which later
the Chinese would adopt as the last name of their ideology to signify that, in
contrast to those miserable revisionists from Moscow, they continued to be Stalinists.

a future invasion of Venezuela,
that maybe he will fight against from the first row of the Military Museum,
Chavez announces the conversion of his, into a new socialist country. But since
the time of Marx and Engles, there were already various types of Socialism, as
they stated it in the Manifest. Alive, half dead and completely dead today,
three models have occupied the XXth. Century: the social democratic one, the Stalinist
one and the African socialism.

Which model
does Chavez ascribe to? It is the purpose of the following lines to figure this

I. The despised social democracy.
It is customary to say, in the
history of the internationalist workers that the first one was “that of Marx”,
the second one was Engels, and the third one was “that of Lenin”. The second
one had the longest longevity and the most prestige: it lasted exactly 25 years,
from 1889 until, in 1914, the Great War made it explode; each one of the
parties in conflict turned themselves into patriots and began to back their
respective Government in the carnage.

But before
that, the second internationalist was attacked by all currents: from the
Russian Bolsheviks of Lenin, to the French pacifism of Jean Jaurés and the recognized and admired Karl Kautsky,
whom was called between jokes and truth “The Pope of the international”. But
this all ended, as I have said, in 1914: the socialist divided themselves in
two irreconcilable currents: the revolutionaries, represented by Lenin and the
Russian Bolsheviks and the reformists, represented by the German social democracy,
whose leader continued being the old “Pope” who now Lenin called with bile “the
renegade Kautsky”

We have no
intention of making a history of the second internationalist here. We will only
say that it knew periods of relative prosperity and terrible defeats, the first
allied with the Communists of the Popular Front, the second ones in the hands
of the various forms of fascism and its Communist allies. And that we had to
wait until the final decades of the XXth. Century to have a resurgence, a more
powerful one. Governing and well differentiated from the old Marxists socialisms,
in France Spain, England and
in some fashion, in Italy
(because of the conversion to social democracy of the Communist Party, the largest
one in the Western world)

What is of
interest, in the course of these notes, is to establish which are the current
characteristics of that socialism and how would it fit in its molds the novel “Socialchavism”
We will point out only three elements: The political , the economic and the
social one.

For Modern
European and American Socialism, socialism and democracy are almost synonyms:
the later is nothing but a way of complementing and extending the former.

The Social
democracy means representativity, public and individual freedoms, independence
of powers, and depersonalization of power. But above all, the system is ruled
and follows the law. Which excludes any form of tyranny or approach to it, as
well as the take over of power by the use of violence, by an armed fight. It is
a given that under a social democratic Government, the armed forces do not
rule, they obey.

On the
economic front, social democracy pronounces itself for a mixed economy and, according
to the circumstances and the trends, it leans towards state interventionism and
the respect of market laws; but in no case should one thing substitute the
other one. The objective is the creation of wealth, before proceeding to
distribute it.

On the
social front, social democracy attempts that wealth be distributed with equity,
but starting form the base that the wealth exists and it is the product of work
by society as a whole. Unions are formed to defend the rights of workers, not
to destroy the foundations of the wealth of the nation

The social
democratic model is today being applied or on its way to being applied by the
modern Latin-American left: Lagos in Chile, Lula in Brazil,
Kirchner in Argentina and as
is expected, Tabare Vasquez in Uruguay.

even if he does not share their political, economic and social objectives,
would like the opinion of the Continent to include him in this group.

But there
is a very grave obstacle: It is them that do not want that their model be
compared to the militaristic model of Chavez. With subtlety, they stay away
from him as if he stunk.

The social
democracy can not be the model for Socialchavism for a myriad reasons: because
the hegemony of the Venezuelan discards the essential compromise with a representative
democracy; because his regime is one of gifts, which is not interested in
productivity. Because above all, social democracy was the dominant regimen
during the forty years of civilian Governments, a formula which Chavez hates
with all his soul.

II Marxist Leninism. It is only alter Lenin’s death
that the Soviet regime began calling itself “Marxist-Leninist”, as a prior step
to five years later begin to call it “Stalinist”. Its main objectives are: on
the political front, the opposition to representative democracy and political
plurality. The Soviet one was a regime of a single party and the smallest
dissidence was penalized with severity: the insane asylum, the Gulag, and even
in cases of minor infractions, the firing squad.

On the
economic front, it attempts to exterminate private initiative and to place all
of the economic life, from production to distribution, in the hands of the State.
As a consequence, it created an inefficient and monstrous bureaucracy that in
real life demonstrated its lack of viability after seventy years and crumbled
like a house of cards.

On the
social front, one can define the Soviet
State as the creator of a
society whose defining characteristic was equality in poverty. For the immense
majority of Soviets there was a very special form of socialism: they would take
from each person according to their work, and they would give them almost
nothing, the shelves of the supermarkets were perpetually empty, thanks to an
economy which was permanently unproductive. By the way, that equality in
poverty was not for everyone, at the end it created a new rich bureaucratic class,
the nomenclature.

The most
conspicuous inheritors of that regime are currently those of Cuba and North
Korea, and still on the political front China, because in the economic front,
the great Asian power learned the lesson of Den Xiaoping, to whom it did not
matter if the cat was black or white, as long as it would catch mice, and today
it is the seat of one of the most savages capitalism in history.

general, the remnants of the nostalgic left, those that cheer Chavez as their Latin
American herald, are in favor of, more or less undercover, of the Stalinist

This is
perhaps the preferred model for Chavez, for that new model that he is proposing
to the world. But there are three elements that prevent him from proposing it
as a model. The first one is that in its beginnings, in the takeover of power,
as all modern revolutions, the Bolshevik was an anti-militaristic movement and
only when it was forced by circumstances did Lenin come around to using for his
defense officers from the old Czarist army.

Nobody can conceive Lenin putting his movement
in the hands of a putschist lieutenant colonel and least of all one who only had
felt the smell of gunpowder in the parties of his hometown, over there, deep in
the Caucasus and on top of that, that when he heard the first shot, he would
run to take refuge in the Military Museum neighboring the Kremlin.

The second
element is that to implement a Dictatorship like the Soviet one, it may have
been relatively easy on people that had never known democracy; in Venezuela,
and the great battles of the opposition have shown it, there is a tradition, a
democratic culture, that not for being short in comparison with the four and half
centuries of authoritarism and submission, is less important and makes it more
difficult to implement a tyranny.

In third
and last place, the biggest obstacle is that this model is dead and everything
makes you think that it has been buried alter the fall of the Berlin Wall. And
since two thousand years ago, nobody has been a witness to a resurrection.

III African Socialism. We are referring mostly to the sub-Saharan
countries, even if you may apply it to some Arab countries like Algeria or Egypt. Their main characteristic
tends to be chaos; if we obviate the old South Africa, where since independence
and under the guide of Nelson Mandela, the model that they are trying to apply,
with some success is the social democratic one, in all of the countries of what
for ease of language is commonly called black Africa, of which the largest majority
have proclaimed themselves to be socialist, they have bloodily oscillated
between tyranny and civil war, in a process that reminds us of Latin America
after its independence.

Some of
them have taken their “socialism” to the extreme that a “Republic of Congo”
used for many years as it’s won a red flag with the hammer and sickle.

On the
political front, the characteristic has been military domination: these are
military dictatorships, with a regimen with a single party, with merciless
repression against any vestige of opposition and, above all, the cult to the
personality of the President: almost the first act of the new socialism is to
erect statutes.

Like all
military regimes, they practice unhealthy nationalism, with a loud and string
voice, professional and, in occasions, genocidal.

On the
economy, these “socialisms” are systems in general subject to the whims of the Dictator,
who, in general, takes care more of his own personal wealth than that of the country
he rules.

As a consequence,
there is practically not one of these territories that does not know the darkest
poverty, hunger and the humiliation of living off public charity, the crumbs
that rich nations send as charity.

On the
social front, it is sufficient to say one thing; there is no other region of the
World where poverty is so atrocious, where there is a lack not of food, but
something more immediate: water

And this, once
again, while the African nomenclature is usually swimming in abundance, with
fat numbered accounts in Swiss banks and their Government officials traveling all
over the world in veritable flying palaces that were never dreamt by the
writers of the tales of the One and a Thousand Nights

IV The Question. With the extermination of our
economy, with the wastefulness with our income, with poverty growing each day at
the same rhythm, the gifts will no longer be possible because the money has ended
up in a barrel without bottom.

With the
military doing and undoing and with the Bolivarian nomenclature fattening their
numbered accounts. To which model of socialism is the one Chavez proposes
closest to?

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