[Marxism] Analysis of Venezuela referendum defeat

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jun 18 11:06:51 MDT 2008

The Only Road Is Practice
Michael A. Lebowitz

I am certain that, like many people these days, the first thing on your 
mind is the question of the referendum on reform of the Bolivarian 
Constitution—what the defeat means and where do we go from here. What I 
want to talk about today is not on that topic specifically, but it is 

Some people have said lately that they don’t know what the word 
socialism means. That was certainly a question raised about the proposed 
reforms. There were people who were determined to generate confusion and 
fear, and they were asking, what is all this talk about socialism in the 
constitution? Are we talking about Stalinism? Are we talking about an 
authoritarian society?

No one who knows President Chávez’s speeches, however, should be 
confused about the specific socialist path that he has been stressing: 
it is a humanist socialism, a democratic socialism, a socialism from the 
bottom up. Look, for example, at his closing speech at the January 2005 
World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, when he surprised many 
people by saying, “We have to re-invent socialism.” At that time, Chávez 
emphasized that “It can’t be the kind of socialism that we saw in the 
Soviet Union, but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are 
built on cooperation, not competition.” Capitalism has to be 
transcended, he argued, if we are ever going to end the poverty of the 
majority of the world. “But we cannot resort to state capitalism, which 
would be the same perversion of the Soviet Union. We must reclaim 
socialism as a thesis, a project and a path, but a new type of 
socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the 
state ahead of everything.”

That is precisely the central focus of socialism for the twenty-first 
century as it is being constructed in Venezuela—the explicit focus is on 
human beings and, in particular, upon the concept of human development, 
building new subjects. And not only in Venezuela; the echoes can be 
found elsewhere. For example, Rafael Correa has been talking about a 
“citizen’s revolution” in Ecuador and said recently that “to advance 
that citizen’s revolution, we need a twenty-first-century socialism.” 
And, Correa pointed out that although people have suggested that this 
project be called humanism, he commented that “we are not impressed by 
that word; rather, we call our project socialism because it coincides 
with the socialism of Marx and Engels.”

full: http://monthlyreview.org/080601lebowitz.php

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