21st Century Socialism - Venezuela

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Gregory Wilpert begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting:

"Chavez often mentions that one of his most important ideological influences, Simon Bolivar’s teacher Simon Rodriguez was an early socialist, a utopian socialist in the tradition of Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. “If Simon Bolivar had lived like Simon Rodriguez, for 30 years more, … [he] would have been one of the precursors of utopian socialism, here in the lands of the Americas…”

When specifying what he means by 21st century socialism, Chavez goes on to mention that it means,

- “transformation of the economic model, increasing cooperativism, collective property, the submission of private property to the social interest and to the general interest…” Further, such a socialism is community-based, stressing that the center-piece of the project, the new “communal system of production and consumption” must be created “from the popular bases, with the participation of the communities, through the community organizations, the cooperatives, self-management, and different ways to create this system.”

Also, this socialism is not pre-defined. Rather, said Chavez, we must, “transform the mode of capital and move towards socialism, towards a new socialism that must be constructed every day.” Repeatedly Chavez emphasizes that this socialism has to be home-grown and must be developed gradually.

At other times Chavez makes a strong connection between the values of Christianity and socialism, saying that Christ was the world’s first socialist: “The symbol of capitalism is Judas and of socialism it is Christ.”

Finally, another aspect that Chavez mentions this type of socialism should have is that it enables “human and social development.” In this aspect Chavez reiterates aspects of Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, which states, for example, "everyone has the right to the free development of his or her own personality,” (Art. 20) and that Venezuela’s education system should be devoted to "developing the creative potential of every human being and the full exercise of his or her personality in a democratic society." (Art. 102)

In other words, according to Chavez, 21st century socialism would, in essence, value the traditional values of the French Revolution, of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Also, he emphasizes its compatibility with Christian values of love and solidarity and its relationship to the constitutional values of human and social development.

The problem with such a definition of socialism that is based almost entirely on values, ideals, and goals, is that it makes it indistinguishable from a wide variety of other economic and political projects. First off, one could argue that 20th century socialism wanted these ideals too. Not only that, but many who support capitalism and liberal democracy believe in these ideals too. Thus, what is needed is an institutional definition or at least set of defining features of socialism in order to know what socialism really means. This has, however, been hard to come by in Venezuela (and elsewhere)."

Source: Appendix to Gregory Wilpert's book: Changing Venezuela by Taking Power.

See http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/book/changing_venezuela