Archive for March 9th, 2007

Venezuelan Style Socialism: Five little problems by Raul Gonzalez Fabre: Fourth Problem: The Phantom of the New Man

March 9, 2007

Part Four of this article, here are parts One, Two and Three.

Fourth Problem: The Phantom of the New Man

The response of the regime to these obvious matters is to denounce that they are made form the neoliberal capitalistic mind frame and that socialist education will bring us a New Man, capable of working with solidarity for the collective, independently of what he will get in the distribution of the products. “To each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs”, according to what was said by Marx, the bearded one.

There are a number of problems here. The first one is that the New Man will not appear at the same time laborious and with solidarity, nor with the socialist education nor with any other one. Human adult existence takes place in the mist of some tensions, which can be lived as destructive or as creative ones. The tension between individuality and the community is one of them. Education can help a young person alleviate some of those tensions in a constructive manner, but it can’t resolve them for him. That is the task of the moral life of each person. The State cannot substitute people in it, without weakening society in its own nucleus: the person as a moral subject that makes projects for himself and for the world. If it is tried, the result will not be solidarity, but social paralysis.

This has been confirmed by historical experience. Socialism has been governing countries and building the New Man, from the monopoly of education, to propaganda, to the media and repression. Raymond Barre noted in the 70’s that the 3% of the cultivated land in the Soviet Union dedicated to family plots, produced as much as the 97% of the collective exploitation of the koljoses and sovjoses. Once the soviet regime disappeared, what turned out to be behind it was not the New Man, but the vodka mafia. In China the “Great leap Forward” killed with hunger some 30 million “New Men”, appropriately framed inside the popular communes. By way of contrast, the current economic take off, began in the mid seventies with the reform that allowed the return of private ownership of the land. Today three quarters of the Chinese GDP is generated by the private sector. Close to us, Cuba offers another interesting example: almost fifty years guided by the New Man himself and they have not even managed to provide their own country with toilet paper.

To build a socioeconomic model on the basis of anthropological fictions happens to be extraordinarily costly in time, money, blood and dignity. The most reasonable path is to assume people as they are on average, without presuming that political power can provoke extraordinary changes either culturally or morally in a short period of time. From that point, society can organize itself in such a way that altogether people will inhibit negative trends and reinforce the positive ones.

The XXth. Century demonstrated clearly how you do this: you have to distribute power as much as it is functional in both the State and Society, in such a way that the tone of political life will be provided by civilized negotiation, mutual control and the respect for the agreed rule of law. And one has to establish mixed economies in which about 60% of the gross product takes place within free markets, open and competitive of private goods and around 40% will take place through a democratic Government with strong political, judicial and media control, for the production of public goods, the conservation of common resources and a certain equality of opportunity.

The details have to be adapted to each country, but this general formula has been proven with success in the European, American, Latin and Asiatic contexts composed of normal people, with the usual motivations and moral qualities. In Venezuela we are going to do exactly the opposite-concentrate power and blind the precarious markets that do exist-which is obvious can not succeed with the normal Venezuelan,- but requires an extremely novel one, that acts by motivations which are precisely the opposite to those that move so many ordinary people to vote for Chavez.

The whole talk about the New Man denotes that this project has economic failure built into it; we will see Chavez time and time again fighting with this ghost, protesting that his own people do not act in the way that is needed for XXIst. Century Socialism, requiring a Venezuelan which does not exist for the State that he wants, instead of asking how to adjust the State that Venezuelans have, to make both of them functional. At the end, he will conclude, like Adolph, that we did not understand him and we did not deserve him.