Marta Harnecker, author of numerous books and articles advocating her vision of 21st Century socialism" in Latin America recently published an article in Spanish in an online journal focused on Venezuela. It was translated into English and appeared on Links, Portside, Real News Network, Monthly Review as "Venezuela After the Elections: What is to be done?"
We should note first of all that the most important issue facing Venezuela after their May 20 presidential election is coping with the continually increasing US-Canada- European Union economic sanctions and their goal of overturning Chavismo in Venezuela. Of this Harnecker says little. She begins with Chavez' vision for Venezuela:
"he specified that this was a 21st century socialism to differentiate it from the Soviet socialism of the 20th century. He warned that we must not "fall into the errors of the past"; into "Stalinist deviations" that bureaucratized the party and ended up eliminating popular protagonism; into state capitalism that focused on state ownership and not on the participation of workers in the running of companies.
"Chavez viewed socialism as an economic system that had human beings, not profits, at its heart; one based on a pluralist and anti-consumerist culture in which being took primacy over owning. This was a socialism based on genuine and deep democracy, where the people assumed a protagonistic role. This is one element that differentiates it from other democratic socialist proposals. For him, people's participation in all spheres was what could allow people to win confidence in themselves and develop as humans."
Then she jumps into Post-Election Challenges. We cannot follow her so quickly. The above are the views of Chavez, except for Harnecker's own assertion that the Soviet Union was "state capitalist" (a term that has the "advantage" that nobody actually knows what it means), but Harnecker does not bother to look at the degree Chavez' vision has become a reality, what has obstructed its implementation.
Venezuela has not built socialism; the country remains capitalist. Nor can Venezuela be said to have a superior form of democracy when Washington and the local oligarchy possess significant power to heavily influence the nation's voters and disrupt their practice of popular democracy. Chavez did build a socialist party, the PSUV, but it is more a bureaucratic organ than an organ of popular protagonism.
Bolivarian Venezuela has made great achievements providing housing, food, services, education and self-respect for the people. It has been a strong anti-imperialist bastion for almost 20 years, has advocated for the struggle for socialism as the solution to humanity's problems, and has encouraged organizing an Americas wide anti-imperialist and pro-socialist movement. But has it created a "21stCentury socialism" superior to the "20th Century socialism"? (Both misnamed because the only 21stcentury socialisms existing are those constructed in the 20thcentury).
Passing to Post-Election Challenges that Venezuela confronts today, Harnecker states:
"There are those who think we do not have to tell the people the problems that exist because this can be disheartening. I believe the complete opposite: I am convinced that our peoples are sufficiently intelligent to understand and tighten their belts when necessary, if we are capable of clearly explaining to them the origins of the existing crisis, and honestly recognizing that the right is making use of the weaknesses and errors of Chavismo.
" What we need to seriously analyze is what we did wrong and what we have learnt along the way that we should not repeat."
Yet while proclaiming her conviction here, she tells us nothing about what she thinks went wrong but simply switches the subject.
In concluding she calls for increased international solidarity and points out quite accurately:
"Venezuela kicked off the cycle of changes in Latin America. It was the rebirth of hope and of a form of governing focused on resolving the problems of the most underprivileged, understanding that the problem of poverty could only be resolved by giving power to the poor. It was the incarnation of solidarity with the fraternal peoples of the region who faced economic difficulties. Today, this country, which is suffering more than others from the impacts of the world crisis of capitalism and the economic war waged against it, and which is the focal point of aggression for reactionary forces around the world, deserves all our solidarity. Let us repay its noble and incredibly broad generosity with the poorest nations and peoples of the region and world by forming, together with all those who support the process, a cordon in defense of the Bolivarian revolutionary process.
"Without doubt, Chavez's legacy has marked his people and allowed them to mature, something I saw with my own eyes during the years that I lived in the country, and something that can be seen in the high vote obtained by Maduro in the recent elections. I believe that all these people, those who were given the opportunity to study, to think, to participate, to build, to decide -- and that grew enormously in terms of self-confidence and human development -- will defend the process."
But how does she answer the question: what is to be done? She copies the title from Lenin's famous book about the need and the method to build a revolutionary party to lead a revolutionary movement of workers and peasants to take power in Russia. But unlike Lenin in his book, she is short on answers.
Harnecker, like George Ciccariello-Maher and Dario Azzellini has long advocated building cooperatives and communes and a national communal system as the road towards building socialism. These are not new ideas in the anti-capitalist movement, and have been taken up long ago in the socialist movement.