[Marxism] A reply by Lebowitz to comments on his article "The Spectre of Socialism for the Twentieth Century"

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Tue Jul 15 08:20:12 MDT 2008

Here is my response to Michael Lebowitz's reply to me, which I
have just posted to the Links web site. -- RF

Michael Lebowitz's clarification is appreciated. In fact, his list
of the attributes of 21st century socialism (the 12 points) is a
useful summary not just of the topics addressed by 21st century
socialism but of many of the topics of debate and struggle that
absorbed the attention of socialists in the 20th century. 

I still don't think that Michael's summary of goals and processes
- "democratic, participatory, protagonistic society as the
necessary way for the complete development of people, individually
and collectively" - adds up to a strategy, which to my way of
thinking refers to the coherent responses forged by the masses
themselves in a dialectical process of responding to and
overcoming the challenges and obstacles that arise in the
revolutionary process. That is why I see the internal debate
within the Chavista movement not as an obstacle to the success of
the Bolivarian Revolution (as Michael put it in his speech) but
rather as the means by which the masses themselves are working
their way through those problems and developing their

As Michael reminds us, he has the benefit of first-hand
observation of this process through his presence in Venezuela. I
look forward to his accounts in future of how these strategic
debates within the revolution are proceeding - the element that
was absent from his speech. 

In this sense, I would question Michael's assertion that it is
somehow contradictory to pose the struggle to defeat the
endogenous right, the "Bolibourgeoisie", within the Chavista
current as one that must necessarily unfold within an
anti-imperialist framework. 

If there is one overriding distinction between the socialisms of
the 20th and 21st centuries, it is that the latter must be imbued
with an internationalist, anti-imperialist content. Both
Social-Democracy and Stalinism, the twin devils of 20th century
socialism, were products of imperialism as a system:
Social-Democracy as an ideology reflecting the relative privilege
of workers in the imperialist countries; Stalinism as the ideology
of the ruling caste that seized control in a Soviet republic
isolated within a world dominated by the imperialist powers. At
bottom, both ideologies were and are an expression of nationalist
interests, not internationalist. 

While most socialists today reject these ideologies, the system
that spawned them remains in place, stronger and more universal
than ever. This reality poses some particular challenges to the
socialist movement. It does not mean erecting a Chinese wall
between anti-imperialism and socialism (as Michael says the
Venezuelan CP does), but it does mean incorporating the
anti-imperialist perspective as a vital component of socialist

It is no accident that the Cuban revolution, which has been imbued
throughout its history by this anti-imperialist, internationalist
perspective, is the most successful and enduring of the 20th
century socialist revolutions. 

That is why I regard the internationalism of Hugo Chávez and the
Bolivarian Revolution, along with Cuba, as emblematic of the
attempt to build a socialism of the 21st century. This is
expressed in the international exchanges of solidaristic social
programs, the formation of ALBA and other non-market based
economic and trade relations, the strong stance of international
solidarity with all the victims of imperialism, and not least the
ongoing attempts to forge Latin American and Caribbean unity and
integration as a counter-force to the imperialist colossus of the

As the socialist forces within Venezuela and other countries
advance, the threat from imperialism will increase, and the
challenge of confronting it is a major issue already facing the
participants in Venezuela's fledgling protagonistic democracy,
from the PSUV to the grass-roots councils in communities and
workplaces. These debates and struggles will be a key arena in the
battle against the Bolibourgeoisie and the endogenous right wing,
which imperialism is already manipulating through the media, NGOs
and a plethora of institutions based within the state structures
inherited from Venezuela's semi-colonial past. 

-- Richard Fidler

-----Original Message-----
From: Fred Fuentes [mailto:fred.fuentes at gmail.com] 
Sent: July 11, 2008 7:16 PM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition; sv-circle
Subject: [Marxism] A reply by Lebowitz to comments on his article
"The Spectre of Socialism for the Twentieth Century"

Below is a reply posted on the Links website www.links.org.au by
Michael Lebowitz to a comment from Richard Fidler (reposted here
Fred Feldman) on Lebowitz's initial article
Original article by Michael Lebowitz "The Spectre of Socialism for
Twentieth Century"
Comment by Richard Fidler
Reply by Lebowitz

A Missing Strategy... or a Different One?
There is a curious phenomenon among some putative revolutionaries
they reason that distance from a revolutionary process is an
because it gives one a perspective that is not available to those
close to the ground. To fill in the inevitable knowledge gaps, the
formulae of old texts, the scripts of old movies and the
of revolutions past are always available.


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