By Pedro Campos
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”. 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.
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.