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Post Can There Be a 21st-Century Marxism? From Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 02/10/19 3:55 AM

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Can There Be a 21st-Century Marxism? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 02/10/19 3:55 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Thanks to José Ignacio Soler (February 9th) for answering my questions on Chávez's "Bolivarian" ideology in Venezuela, and especially the question of similarity to Marxism-Leninism.

As I gather from Nacho's Castro quote (essentially: "You call it Bolivarianism, we call it socialism"), he is saying that (at least to Castro) there is little difference, except for convenient labeling. Another example, Sandinista Nicaragua, seemed to work differently: the Marxist-Leninist labels were kept intact, down to the big wall portraits of Lenin in State Security offices that solidarity visitors seldom saw; but the program itself, with its collective farms like the Soviet sovkhoz/kolkhoz, and other touches, never got to solidify (as Timothy Brown can recount from the halls of power). I don't know what kind of gloss President Daniel Ortega uses now, after confusing ups and downs, but in the euphoric 1980s even the veneer that barely obscured the symbols in Nicaragua was itself a page from the old Leninist "United Front" playbook. That was effective enough to cause tortuous journalistic protocols requiring that the regime be called only "Marxist-led," and not "communist."

Maybe the deeper question I'm getting at in all these cases is that of delusion. To what extent does the grand vision represent a delusion that is doomed to fail (thus raising a warning flag against future dives off the cliff), and to what extent might a "21st Century" retooling actually deliver some of the promises?

JE comments:  Couldn't we say that Chávez's "21st Century" label did little more than sound good/trendy?  Perhaps he was referring to TV (Aló Presidente) and Twitter instead of marathon speeches and broadsheets.  At the same time, an attempt to place a 21st-century spin on socialism is a tacit acknowledgement that the 19th- and 20th-century versions didn't work.


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  • Heinz Dieterich and "21st-Century Socialism" (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/14/19 3:45 AM)
    In his latest WAIS post about Bolivarianism, Gary Moore (February 10th) made some interesting remarks which made me suspect that I was not clear enough about the differences between Bolivarianism and 21st-century Socialism.

    As I said previously, they are different concepts but two sides of the same coin. Let me explain further.


    There are several books about Simón Bolívar and his legend, the patriotic symbol and his cult, which I would recommend to interested readers. The first is in Spanish, El culto a Simón Bolívar by a good friend and highly reputable historian, Germán Carrera Damas.  The second is a book by John Lynch, Bolívar, a Life, which explains much better than I could that Bolivar's political thinking was not even close to any sort of "socialist" ideology. He may have been a extraordinary military and political leader, perhaps a liberal humanist and progressive politician, a visionary, but he was still an aristocratic landlord, a slaveholder and firmly of capitalist values.


    Chávez interpreted Bolivarianism for his own objectives:  national autonomy, participative democracy, a self-sustainable economy, political ethics, a more equitable distribution of oil income, and a fight against corruption and poverty. (It should be easy to see the dramatic irony of his ambitious goals in contrast to the results achieved.) Anyway, this was only the first side of his "coin"; the so-called "Bolivarian Revolution" was eventually replaced and absorbed by "Socialismo del siglo XXI," two or three years after reaching power.


    Chávez embraced this new political idea influenced by the friendship of the author of this ideology, the Mexican-German Heinz Dieterich Steffan, as well as Fidel Castro´s strong leverage in his frequent visits to the island.


    Our editor John E is right when he commented that "to place a 21st-century spin on socialism is a tacit acknowledgement that the 19th- and 20th-century versions didn't work." I agree with him. In fact, 21st-century socialism is just a revision of Marxist-Leninist socialist theories, to "adapt Socialism to the new world" (in Dieterich's words).


    If I understood correctly, Dieterich's economic theory requires coordinated central planning, a "value measure" of production (a complex concept very difficult to apply or explain briefly), and the "equivalent interchange" of products (based on the equivalent value-measure of products, another idea difficult to implement), together with political and social instruments such as "regional democratic developmentalism" (regional integration), intensive participative democracy (frequent elections, referendums, etc.), and "grassroots popular organizations" (communes, cooperatives, "Bolivarian circles," neighboring committees, etc.).


    Dieterich's ideas were not only adopted by Chávez, but also by Lula da Silva in Brazil, Correa in Ecuador, Morales in Bolivia, in to some degree also by Ortega in Nicaragua, and no surprise, by many socialist extremist and radical groups in Europe, France, Spain, Italy, etc.


    It just so happens that very recently, a couple of days ago, I listened Mr Dieterich saying in an interview, among other things, that 21st socialism is a failure in Latin America.


    Finally, John also asked whether a post-Chavista era will diminish Bolívar's stature, meaning, that his name has now been inextricably linked to a discredited regime. Well, my guess is that the myth will survive. Bolívar is deeply rooted in Venezuelan patriotism, although perhaps future generations will use and abuse his name, the cult, and the legend, in a more discreet and cautious way.


    JE comments:  Dieterich is an interesting figure, who was extremely close to Chávez but never formed a close relationship with Maduro.  In a recent interview (perhaps the same one Nacho Soler references above), he predicts the military will oust Maduro--or more precisely, it will cease to protect him and let the Venezuelan people do the ousting.  Of more concern, at least to this Gringo, is Dieterich's appeal to Russia and China to broker a transition.


    A question for the WAISitudes:  In what country will Maduro take exile?  Cuba?  Bolivia?  Russia?  Possibly Spain?  He no doubt has enough money squirreled away for a comfortable retirement.

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