[Marxism] inferences from that Ultimas Noticas interview

michael a. lebowitz mlebowit at sfu.ca
Thu Feb 22 12:35:26 MST 2007


Nestor wrote the following re my interview published in Ultimas Noticias:

>Translation: Lebowitz pointed out that President 
>Hugo Chávez himself has said that he once 
>believed that [a human capitalism] was possible. 
>"It might be possible in theory, but not in 
>practice, because the oligarchy, here, won't 
>accept it. They were very happy to live along 
>with exploitation and poverty while earnings were allowed to flow Northwards"
>Thus, in order to bring to effect a revolution 
>which -in theory- will accomplish things that 
>historically had been the lot of the "bourgeois 
>revolution", socialism becomes a necessity. That 
>is, national revolution is a necessity and 
>socialism the single way to bring it to effective realization.

         In 'Build it Now', I proposed that the 
individual measures involved in the 49 Laws 
introduced by Chavez in 2001 were not challenges 
to capitalism as such but that the whole was 
greater than the sum of its parts taken by 
themselves, and that the oligarchy (and some of 
the Chavist layers) suddenly realised that Chavez 
was serious about changing things. There's an 
important omission in Nestor's translation, 
though: I was quoted as saying that “Maybe it was 
possible theoretically but not in practice 
because the oligarchy here was not prepared to 
accept that and it had support from imperialism, 
which was quite happy to live with exploitation, 
poverty as long as the profits flowed north.” 
Ie., the part about imperialism was left out.
         But, that raises a very critical point. 
I was simply recounting what happened in this 
Venezuelan case, and I think that is 
indisputable--- Chavez's initial conception was 
not to build socialism, and he was driven in this 
direction. I think, though, that it is a mistake 
to draw from this the universal lesson that 
Nestor draws. After all, imperialism learns, 
too--- it adjusts to the correlation of forces. 
Capitalism can live with social democracy, and it 
does when it feels it has to, when to do 
otherwise as a tactic is counterproductive. We're 
not hearing echoes of the 'alliance for progress' 
at this point, but the courting of the 'good 
left' of Latin America surely points to the 
flexibility of capital's response. Can 
imperialism not live with a Brazilian bourgeois revolution?
         in solidarity,
         michael

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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