Maduro’s Betrayal of Chavez and Socialism of the 21st century

May 8, 2017 |

By Pedro Campos

Heinz Dieterich Steffan.  File photo: cubaencuentro.com

HAVANA TIMES — Because it has become a habit to call the disaster that has taken root in Venezuela “Socialism of the 21st Century”, it has become essential to recall that the original ideas that came with this name, didn’t correspond to Chavez, much less to Maduro, as it was put forward by a German academic, Heinz Dieterich, who was Chavez’s advisor and ended up separating himself from the former president, precisely because what Chavez was doing was moving further and further away from his own ideas.

I have already written about this subject on several occasions, knowing the cause very well as I had the opportunity to be involved with that movement and to get to know Dieterich personally, discussing these ideas and his scientific bases, as well as participating in two international events with him in 2006 and 2007 in Bolivia and Ecuador, respectively, where we put forward and publicly discussed the essence of Socialism of the 21st Century.

This was three-fold: 1- Participatory and decision-making democracy, with local participatory budgets, which would become more and more direct thanks to Internet technology, when it comes to freedom and civil rights, regular elections and referendums for the main laws. 2- Incentives for progress in freedom of association, worker management, production cooperatives. 3- The exchange of equivalents on the market, trying to minimize the effects of the laws of supply and demand.

Chavez initially liked the name “Socialist of the 21st Century”, he consulted Dieterich for several years, he drew up the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which guaranteed civil rights and three independent powers, where the basic principles of a direct participatory democracy was established and he began to develop all kinds of cooperatives, offering funding and support to self-management establishments under the control of workers in some State-owned companies.

Neither Fidel Castro, nor his brother Raul, ever supported these ideas and they never uttered the words “Socialism of the 21st Century”. File photo/ cubadebate.cu

Neither Fidel Castro, nor his brother Raul, ever supported these ideas and they never uttered the words “Socialism of the 21st Century”. In 2007, I personally left both of them a CD in their offices with a series of works and investigations that I had carried out along with other colleagues about the need we have for the State decentralization of society and especially the economy, promoting cooperatives and business self-management. I never even received acknowledgement of receipt. I always knew about the Castros’ opposition to the power of the people and workers, but then we tried to have an influence from the inside, taking advantage of the boom in those ideas pushed forward by Chavez, hoping that they might fall on kind ears here in Cuba.

However, the opposite happened. Under Fidel’s influence, Chavez slowly moved further and further away from the ideas of Socialism of the 21st Century, but he continued to use the same name – just as the Castros have done with the word “socialism” – while cooperatives they funded became sources of corruption, companies which were initially converted into co-management businesses were completely nationalized and the general idea of paid state salaried labor, characteristic of Stalinism and Castroism, took root.

In spite of the trouble with democracy, Chavez remained loyal to the principles of the Bolivarian Constitution which he constantly brandished as proof the legitimacy of his government.

However, after his death, Chavism was already in decline as his reelection bid proved, and power was passed on to Maduro, a hardline pro-Castroist, who won the first election because of a difference that has always raised suspicions. However, instead of taking into account the correlation of forces, everything he did later only served to worsen the economic disaster, increasing the opposition and deepening his divide within Chavism, bringing about his election defeat, with a majority vote against his party in the National Assembly.

“Socialism of the 21st Century” defended by Maduro was nothing but the Venezuelan version of Cuban arbitrary state socialism, with all of the disastrous consequences that this entails for the economy and society. His opposition, later, to the constitutional recall referendum, his precipitated attempt to control the Supreme Court of Justice before the elected representatives took possession of the new National Assembly controlled by the opposition majority, and his attempts to fail to recognize it, were crowned with his recent call for a new Constitution, clearly aimed at excluding the opposition from the Assembly and avoiding a referendum for presidential elections.

In a nutshell, in trying to ensure Maduro’s group’s grip on power, declaring themselves the heir of Chavism and socialism of the 21st century, they are trying to bury the best of Chavez’s legacy: the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro with a painting of former leader Hugo Chavez in the background.

In this way, Maduro and his group, clearly being advised by Havana and trying to repeat the antidemocratic essence of the 1976 Castro “socialist” constitution, are definitively betraying Chavez’s legacy and the original ideas of Socialism of the 21st Century, which they continue to brandish with the same impertinence as the Castros have, speaking about socialism all these years.

This step, along with Venezuela’s departure from the OAS and the attempt to arm thousands of Chavists, in an extremely divided society, marked by violence and killings, outline the preface to a sharpening of the contradictions in Venezuela and their terrible consequences in the region, not only for the Venezuelan people.

While being an attempt to stop, forcefully, the sharp fall of the statist populist wave – including the collapse of the Castro government – which began when Chavez came into power and Fidel Castro’s encouragement of a second attempt to establish himself within the region, this time democratically creating an anti-US stronghold, supposedly anti-imperialist and socialist, which was supported by the economic power derived from Venezuelan oil and the support they had from European leaders.

However, the world has changed, the fundamental contradiction which moves it today isn’t left-right, nor capitalism – alleged socialism, but democracy-dictatorship.  Those who don’t realize this and try to continue imposing open or disguised dictatorships will pay for the consequences of this, sooner rather than later.

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  • Carlyle MacDuff

    A very interesting well-informed article which reveals the deep problem for “socialist” thinkers and supporters. What is socialism in theory and what is it in reality? It appears that like beauty, the definition lies in the eye of the beholder
    The Oxford English Dictionary – which is qualified to define the meaning of words, defines socialism as:

    “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole
    *policy or practice based on this theory. *(in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.
    The term socialism has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism. Soviet state Communism ans social democracy, however it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammelled workings of the economic market. The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended towards social democracy.”

    Clearly from that definition, there is a wide spectrum of views upon how to achieve the objective of socialism, from hard-line Communism through to democratic socialists who even support the right of the people to have alternative views and political parties and to select government by vote.
    However, theory and reality are often at odds and that is demonstrated in the history of the wide variety of socialist governments. In Cuba, Fidel Castro declared in an article in ‘Granma’ the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, that to him, Communism and socialism were the same and he defined his regime as practicing: “Socialismo”.
    Although the political incumbents in both Cuba and Venezuela claim to be socialists, they are in reality Communists who seek to have absolute control of the means of production, distribution and exchange as if they in themselves actually represent the community as a whole. Put bluntly, they seek and in Cuba have achieved dictatorship. In Venezuela, Maduro is locked into death throws in his endeavors to crush the opinions of the people and to achieve that same level of power and control which the Castro regime has achieved.
    But after 58 years of application of socialist theory what has happened to production in Cuba? It has undeniably declined over the years. What of distribution, it can best be described as chaotic and exchange is farcical having been based upon Cuban currency being similar to that of the US.
    It in consequence is of no value on the international market but has to be exchanged for ‘hard’ currency before making foreign payments. Cuba demonstrates the difference between theory and practice.
    Cuba can properly claim to be socialist and Communist, it is the reality. Academic theory has given way to reality.
    Whereas those of socialist persuasion who contribute to these columns may put forward their own definitions of what socialism means to them, the practice and its results are there for all to observe.
    Is this really the future deserved by the community as a whole – that is by humanity? Should individuality be eradicated and a ‘mass’ developed controlled by the non-elected few? Where is there space for further development of a society where the talents, intelligence and initiatives of the individual can find opportunity? With all its multitude of faults, capitalist society provides such opportunity to many and socialism to none.

  • Chuck Bailey

    The problem with a socialism based society, is simply it has to run by people!! A republican form of government puts law ahead of personal needs or desires.

    • CErmle

      You need to spend a little time in Trump land”, and see what the rule of law is really like.

  • Doug1943

    What we need is a thorough, deep, objective look at what went wrong in Venezuela. Why did such a promising movement end up this way?

    • Moses Patterson

      The answer is simple. Socialism is not viable when led by corrupt men.

      • N.J. Marti

        Complex systems need check and balances. It is the only approach that leads to self correcting systems. Everything else leads to corruption.

        After 150 years of experiments we have learned that utopian approaches where everyone works for a common good unpaid for their labor does not work. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

        The type of socialism that has worked in the real world is one where regulations frame a market and taxes are used to fund common goods. This type of democratic institution approach just does not appeal to the dictator model, so they keep trying the sure loser model.

        • Moses Patterson

          I heard a phrase today that perfectly names what you just described. …Political Necrophiliac. Someone who loves DEAD political systems and forms of government.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Great phrase Moses! Thanks for sharing it!
            Marx ought to be pondering it as he rests in Highgate Cemetery and did the crumbling corpse of Lenin just give a smile?
            The sell-by date passed long ago!

          • CErmle

            Spoken like a true capitalist. Your right wing friends will reward you handsomely.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    I made a serious contribution to this subject, but it has disappeared from this page. Readers may however find it on the RSS Readers Comments.

  • Cort Greene

    As someone who just returned from Venezuela last week after spending the last 6 months their. I can tell you you can not make half a revolution and Venezuela was never socialist, even though Chavez wanted to take that path. The bureaucracy did all it could to stop it from going forward. I return in September.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      It would be interesting Cort Greene to have your opinion about Maduro sidelining the opposition controlled legislature of its rightful powers and his intention to establish a constituent assembly of 500 members with half being his appointees and the rest being selected by “people’s committees” similar to the communist soviets. His appointment of ever more generals (now over 2,000 – the US has 950) with former military officers running eleven of the thirty two ministries and holding eleven of the twenty three state governors appears to indicate who it is that benefits from Maduro’s largesse.
      It is not surprising that Vladamir Padrino Lopez as head of the armed forces endorsed the evident dismantling of democracy. With the army in charge of food distribution – modelled no doubt upon the system in Cuba where GAESA subsidiaries operate all the shops, the endeavor to exert absolute power and control is self evident.
      Do you think Cort that the worm will turn and that Maduro will be deposed, or do you anticipate a military dictatorship with Maduro retained as a figurehead? What is your guess?

      • Cort Greene

        I am no supporter of Maduro but of the grassroots and rank and file militants of the revolution. Also the National Assembly has broken the laws on several occasions and many of the opposition are behind the illegal overthrow of the government since 2002. I can tell you in the US, many of them would never get out of jail for what they have done.
        It sounds like you are misinformed about many things.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Cort Greene, do please correct any errors I have made?Did I get the number of generals wrong? Would I be incorrect is saying that on one day in 2016, Maduro promoted 195 people to the rank of general? Am I incorrect in saying that eleven of the thirty two ministries are run by generals? Is it incorrect that eleven of the twenty three state governors are military?
          Perhaps you can also explain how and when the constitutionally elected legislature has “broken the law on several occasions”, but that a so-called constituent assembly appointed by Maduro would be more representative of the electorate?
          It doesn’t wash Cort. You know that Maduro although in control of the political and administrative system was only elected by 51%. You know that there were approaching two million signatures seeking his recall. But yet you maintain that I am misinformed about many things? List them !

          • CErmle

            You are simply not interested in knowing the truth, my friend. You are stuck in a time warp.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    So now the Marxists and socialists are back to denying that Maduro is either socialist or communist and in consequence their slate is clean. Marxism and socialism, are theories which according to the believers have never actually been practiced and in consequence are beyond criticism. Apparently we ought not to associate all the endeavors of Stalin, Mao Tse Dong, Pol Pot, Xi, the KIm family in North Korea, the al-Asad family in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela and the Castros in Cuba with either Marxism or socialism.
    That in turn is meant to excuse Marxism and socialism for any responsibility for the all too evident transgressions of those who claim or have claimed to be practicing either. The gulags, mass executions, repression, denial of human rights are not apparently a consequence of such practice, but distortions.
    Cort Greene as a self-proclaimed Marxist is able to shed any thought of his beliefs being practiced anywhere by anyone and therefore any form of associated responsibility. The purity of whatever beliefs he has are unsullied. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but challenge his failure to address reality.