CP of Greece (KKE) on the theory of “21st Century Socialism”

The following article is by Dimitris Karagiannis, who is a member of the editorial board of the daily Rizopastis, organ of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The article appears in a collection recently published by the KKE. It is originally from Rizopastis, and is being republished here from the website MLToday:

The positive developments that have taken place during the last years in several Latin American countries (Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, recently in El Salvador, Honduras), to a different extent and depth in each country, have created important expectations as well as various confusions and illusions throughout the world.

The new situation is mainly defined by opposition to US imperialism -this however leads to the identification of the concept of imperialism with the US, and its characterisation as “empire”. The issue of relations of dependence that each country faces in the framework of interdependence within the world imperialist system is also approached in an incorrect, one-sided way.

The lack of a class approach, the necessity for class struggle and confrontation with the interests of capital are obvious. At the same time, due to the erroneous analysis of the contemporary world and the prevalence of opportunist influences, the bourgeois class is wrongly differentiated as a national one and one subjected to foreign influence .

Thus, sections of the bourgeoisie, who are owners of means of production and control the economy, often participate in fronts that manage to win the elections without aiming to overthrow capitalism but to better promote their interests and claim a bigger slice from the pie of the conflict with capital, in particular the US one. This actually occurs in all countries from Brazil, Argentina and Chile that claim to play a leading role in the region, to El Salvador, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, where this process is more advanced.

This intention of the bourgeoisie in each country, in relation with the level of capitalist development, is in line with the spontaneous anti-imperialism and anti- Americanism that exists among the popular strata. It constitutes a response to the cruel anti-people’s policies implemented the previous decade throughout the continent by political forces that had good relations with US monopolies. At the same time, through the intense promotion of the platform for “21st century Socialism”, particularly in Venezuela and Bolivia, a blurred picture of the socialist perspective is created.

The New Theory is …Old.

Let’s examine this “new theory” that is presented as “21st century Socialism” which, by no accident, has been adopted by various political forces compromised with the system, reformists and opportunists, such as the European Left Party. The so-called theory of the “21st century Socialism” was promoted in 1996 by the German sociologist Hans Dietrich Stefan who has lived and taught in Mexico since 1977 and has served as advisor to the president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez.

This theory was developed after the overthrow in the socialist countries. It is based on the arbitrary assumption that “capitalism and real socialism have bred a huge deficit of democracy and failed to solve urgent problems of humanity such as poverty, hunger, exploitation, economic oppression, sexism, racism, the destruction of natural resources and the lack of a truly participatory democracy”.

Dietrich and his theory annihilate the contribution of socialism in the 20th century, lumping together the exploitative system and the socialist construction that offered great achievements to humanity and paved the way for a society without exploitation of man by man. He says that “the social programme of the bourgeoisie and of the historic proletariat” have failed and underlines that “it’s time to overcome the culture of the ruling class towards a post-capitalist global society, a generalised liberal democracy”.

This fabrication is presented as the “new socialism of the 21st century”. Dietrich claims that it will be based on “the mixed economy, on the diverse forms of ownership (social, cooperative and private)” which, supposedly, will give priority to social ownership and “will be based on the Marxian labour theory of value while the values produced will be distributed democratically to those who produce them, in contrast with the principles of the market economy”.

It is evident that this theory is utopian and arbitrary due to the fact that in a society where private ownership of the means of production for profit exists, that is a capitalist enterprise, there cannot be social priorities. Dietrich, in order to make his contrived notion even more persuasive, claims that private capital will be forced by the prevailing social state production to be at the service of development in favour of the people that “the public sector will prevail over the private”.

He also goes beyond the issue of central planning as an essential element in socialist construction saying that it will be solved by the capabilities of new technology nowadays. It comprises a “mixture” of opportunist and utopian ideas that cannot be implemented because mixed socialism or socialism with a market cannot exist.

However, it is a theory as old as the first revisionists of Marxism. It actually wants to give a “left” cover to a social-democratic type of management of capitalism. This theory, however, exerts a broad influence on the popular strata with little political experience in countries of Latin America and elsewhere. It is also promoted the view that broad political alliances can be developed without the need of ideological homogeneity, as if policy and ideology can be separated by great walls.

A key issue in order to understand that this theory is actually a variant of social-democratic management of capitalism is the criterion of ownership of the means of production, the analysis from the class point of view of who is served by this “new theory”. The opportunist position presented as “socialism of the 21st century” sidesteps the fundamental issue that the interests of the workers, of the popular strata, are opposed to those of the bourgeoisie, of the capitalists and cannot be identified in the name of a “participatory and pluralistic democracy”; it neglects the fact that the class struggle is irreconcilable.

The Bolivarian Process

In this spirit we must examine the so-called Bolivarian process in Venezuela, the country that since 1998 has paved the way for changes in favour of the poor popular strata through the utilisation of important state revenue that is mainly derived from oil. Social programmes that contributed to combat illiteracy, to provide health services to the popular strata, to strengthen the cooperatives, to distribute land to landless peasants, to improve nutrition through state stores with low prices overcoming the speculation of the private food sector, to create lending opportunities and to subsidize other sectors such as culture and sports were based on this revenue. In these programs the mutual cooperation established with socialist Cuba since the very first moment is of significant importance.

However, this so-called “anti-imperialist process for national liberation” does not lead to a confrontation with the bourgeois class that still holds economic power. The socialism that the president of Venezuela refers to and has been adopted by the Unified Socialist Party – a multi-class, multitendency party organised throughout the country – is far from scientific socialism.

In his statements, Hugo Chavez revives positions against the dictatorship of the proletariat and in favour of a supposedly “democratic socialism”. The essence of these positions results from influences from bourgeois, social-democrat approaches to socialism in the 20th century. Even the USSR and the socialist countries we have known in the 20th century are characterized as totalitarian and bureaucratic regimes, although their internationalist contribution to the struggle against imperialism, to Cuba for example, or the support of popular movements cannot be ignored.

The petit-bourgeoisie and the preservation of capitalism In this direction is the proposal for the establishment of the so-called “5th Socialist International” currently promoted by President Chavez and his party as a necessary step for the perspective of “21st century socialism”. This proposal is characterised by a great deal of confusion.

It involves a generalisation with regards to anti-imperialism that encompasses the necessary political- state alliances in order to maintain the current of change in the American continent by promoting unrealistic views that do not go beyond the management of capitalism or of the mutual cooperation of states contrary to what is defined as “US empire”, while it remains within the framework of the dominant system. Such a collaboration is also the progressive form of alliance based on solidarity, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) in which the following countries participate: Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, the small countries of the Caribbean – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, Honduras with the previous (now ousted) president Manuel Zelaya who had signed a joining agreement.

However, the participation of socialist Cuba does not change the character of this interstate alliance between capitalist countries. It is precisely for the fact that it does not constitute an alliance of socialist countries that it cannot be considered as a real counterweight to imperialism; even more so with regards to other unions such as the Union of Nations of South America UNASUR (in which Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, and Guiana participate) where various bourgeois state interests come in conflict. At the same time, major powers in Latin America, such as Brazil, participate in collaborations at an international level such as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and develop relations with Russia, Iran and China.

Thus, it is clear that diplomatic relations and interstate cooperation cannot be confused with platforms for a socialist perspective. This perception dominates in the so-called “Commitment of Caracas” that was proposed by the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela in the recent party meeting in Caracas and it also runs through the proposal of Chavez for the “5th International”.

Socialism as immature communism is the society in which the working class and its allies hold the power (its scientific definition is the dictatorship of the proletariat), a prerequisite for the abolition of capitalist ownership of the means of production and for their socialisation. The struggle for socialism cannot be realised without the existence and action of the revolutionary party – as an independent organization; it is the party of the working class, the Communist Party that leads this struggle and at the same time creates socio-political alliances, for the confrontation with imperialism and the monopolies. History has shown that this struggle will be difficult as imperialism fights “tooth and nail” against any attempt of revolutionary overthrow of the unjust exploitative system.

From this point of view, positions that appear in the text of the “Commitment of Caracas” condemning violence in general, as well as the violence that the militant revolutionary forces assert, actually confirm the social-democrat content of this entire effort that does not recognise the right of the people to decide on the form of struggle they will embrace.

The discussion developed around ‘the new socialism’ highlights the necessity of intensification of the ideological-political struggle, the strengthening of Communist Parties and the creation of the communist pole of Marxist-Leninist parties that will decisively defend the principles of class struggle, the necessity of socialist revolution, the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism based on the political power of the working class, the socialisation of the means of production, central planning and workers’ control.

It is necessary to confront on this basis any illusions, confusion and even more so, any petit-bourgeois ideas presented as “21st century socialism” that are based on the maintenance of private ownership of the means of production, the denunciation of the positive contribution of the USSR and generally of the socialism we have known in the 20th century, as well as the rejection of the laws of socialist revolution and construction, the socialisation of the basic means of production, central planning of the economy, workers’ and people’s control.

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15 responses to “CP of Greece (KKE) on the theory of “21st Century Socialism”

  1. This is an interesting take. Though, Chavez isn’t the end of the Socialist process within Venezuela. With the workers & peasants now armed, the formation of over 180 communes, worker control over industries is rising, & of course the nationalization. True Socialism will rise from the workers of Venezuela. Chavez gave them a new way of life, a life worth fighting for. For that, we must respect & support Venezuela against imperialism that seeks to destroy the very Socialist foundation present before it spreads any further or advances any further in its revolutionary character.

  2. k.s.paarthasaarathy

    I wonder..there is a booklet just published by Monthly Review press as its July-August 2010 isue titled ” Twenty-First Century Socialism:Inventing to Avoid Mistakes by Marta Harnecker, with an introduction by Jhon Bellamy Foster

  3. I’m impressed with the unimaginable strides Venezuela has taken against imperialism. Although I agree that there’s a lot to be done. Class struggle is easily left out with socialism today. We have yet to see a truly communist country.

    So what is the major obstacle against this failure to address the class struggle? Is it because it’s a gradual process and that we are still in the middle of?

    • May I ask what you mean by “true communist country”? I agree with you 100% on your post, though I wonder what you see in a “true communist country”, because many people tend to fall within these lines, searching for “true socialist countries” &/or “true communist countries”. And a lot of those searching for these “true socialist countries” tend to go against countries like Cuba, China, the Soviet Union, the DPRK, etc., because they are not what they consider “true socialist countries” – meaning they are not 100% run by workers, & have a minority capitalist production left. Of course, we can all tell they’re still socialist, but of course, people tend to be too dogmatic to accept reality & fail to understand dialectical reflection.

      • I was logged onto a different account by accident. Forgot it was one. The Vegan Maoist is me. So just respond to me.

      • Well this sentiment was what i’ve been reading with dogmatic marxists. I’m somehow leaning to agree on an objective point-of-view. I think there are no countries yet who followed marxist thought by the letter, which leads me to ask if that’s a good thing or not.

        I’m not siding with them though. I’m all for Cuba, China, Soviet Union and the DPRK united against imperialism. I think these kind of dogmatism leads to a trotskyist path.

  4. But surely the question is in part simply this: Has a country succeeded in really breaking the power of the capitalists, in putting an end to the capitalist mode of production? We can say that Cuba and North Korea have. Vietnam and China did at one time, and if they are allowing now a certain amount of production for profit, it’s in the context of an economy which is still dominated by the state sector. Venezuela is not there yet. We all hope, I’m sure, that it will get there: The contention on the part of the Greeks is that following its current path it will not, that the impressive accomplishments of Bolivarian Venezuela to date are the most that can be hoped for under the current alliance in Venezuela.

    The theory of 21st Century Socialism certainly contains errors which the Greeks have correctly identified. On one hand, there is a question of whether those errors are going to be fatal. But on the other, there is the larger question of who really is in the drivers seat in the PSUV and the new Venezuelan state: The workers or the capitalists?

    • I would say the workers have become the drivers, if not before but have now. They’ve continuously been fighting for worker control over the industries, & there’s been a increasing rise in worker control. The workers are definitely the drivers of this revolution. The capitalists (as in the every-day-capitalist) isn’t what worries me in Venezuela. Rather who will take the place of Chavez when he steps out of office eventually.

  5. I admire the gains made by Venezuela and the other Leftist and national-democratic countries in Latin America who have taken a stand against U.S. imperialism, but I must agree with the KKE.

    The socialist revolution can only be led by a working class party armed with Marxism-Leninism. It simply cannot be led by a multi-class, multi-tendency party. Only the working class has as its most basic class interest to utterly destroy and uproot all exploitation and see the socialist revolution through to the end, and it can only accomplish this if it is armed with Marxist-Leninist theory, with which it may illuminate the complex terrain of the class struggle.

    Every historical attempt at such a project as this “21st Century Socialism” that I can think of has shown us that eventually the revolution either reaches a limit where it stops or stagnates in a lengthy national democratic stage which it can’t seem to get past (because it cannot deal with the class contradictions in its leadership), or it is finally swallowed up by neocolonialism when the national bourgeoisie gets the upper hand and sells the revolution down the river to one or another imperialist power or monopoly group.

    Unfortunately, it is this same social-democratic view that leads people like Hugo Chavez to demand that Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries like the FARC-EP unilaterally release all of their prisoners and lay down their arms, saying that the era of armed struggle is over for Latin America. Of course the FARC wouldn’t listen to this nonsense about a “peaceful road to socialism” back in the 1960s when Khrushchev was pushing it, and they aren’t buying it now either. They know very well, from the experience of the Patriotic Union that there is no peaceful road to socialism and that protracted people’s war, the successful path of the Chinese and Vietnamese revolutionaries, is the only way towards a New Colombia.

    Another good article about this question is by Ludo Martens of the Workers Party of Belgium: Brezjnev and the National Democratic Revolution.

  6. kalashnnikov red

    one question have any of u been to any of these latinamerican countries do any of u have famailies there or do u guys know first hand the life of the peasents? ….actually more then one question i just came back from ecuador the land of my birth and believe me its what people dreamed about and to the greeks whos standing and who has fallen we are growing socialy and economicly and greece aint so dont talk about somweres u guys aint from aint lived in and aint got fam there

    • This is kind of an odd response. I don’t think any of us have stated that Venezuela’s people are suffering or their peasants are unhappy about what places like Venezuela have become. Indeed, much has been built for the people. In fact, before analyzing the “21st Century Socialism” in Venezuela, they clearly state an important fact:

      “.. the country that since 1998 has paved the way for changes in favour of the poor popular strata through the utilisation of important state revenue that is mainly derived from oil. Social programmes that contributed to combat illiteracy, to provide health services to the popular strata, to strengthen the cooperatives, to distribute land to landless peasants, to improve nutrition through state stores with low prices overcoming the speculation of the private food sector, to create lending opportunities and to subsidize other sectors such as culture and sports were based on this revenue.”

      We can very well say that, in comparison with the United States, one is better off in France for it’s got the #1 healthcare system in the world! That’s definitely an achievement for France, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out on other important factors that are not being seen within these countries – great countries, yes, but countries with flaws needing to be clarified.

      I’m a huge fan & supporter of Venezuela & their road to Socialism, but how that road is being led needs to be criticized. Criticism is an important element within dialectical materialism. To correctly criticize is in no means to show opposition, rather is an act to advance above what is being criticized.

      I hope you realize this, Comrade.

  7. yea i see ur point its just that i think that the only socialism right now that is working is that of the bolivariano countries i dont really see china being what it once was and it kinda got me a lil heated to hear all these critics when in fact they havent even been there or got fam there i respect your guys’s opinions but at least from bieng there ive come to realize that this is our brand of socialism and it works if we were to emulate other counties we would surely not have gotten where we are today we cant be so dogmatic and if chavez wants their to be peace between farc and colombia i think thats fine cause colombia has been doing it there way and what has that gotten them nothing but a lot of hate there are more colombians in ecuador by the day and all of them hate farc and we talking about campesinos not the bougy rich people and as long as farc is in colombia usa has an excuse to be in latin america colombia has not reached its socialist goal in 50 years while ecuador vz and bolivia have gotten a lot farther than farc has and we all have had our guerillas and thanx to them we have become more aware and learned how to fight i have yet to see greece come up with guerrillas and yes i agree with no moree rich being in our countries but they aint leaving at all and they do attack our way and their are constant battles between them and us but we are at least doing our thing no ill will to anyone of u guys i just wanted to state the prespective of what is really going on from first hand experience

    • When it comes to Chavez’s opinions on FARC & Colombia, I would have to come to disagree with President Chavez. His opinions shine within Venezuela, but Venezuela & Colombia are very different within their economical conditions. Many peasants support FARC & their armed struggle. When it comes to Chavez’s statements, asking for the members of FARC to release all hostages, he doesn’t understand the reasoning behind these actions, nor who is being held hostage. So, I believe Chavez must worry more of his own country, & allow FARC to continue on their armed rebellion against the Colombian State. Sooner or later, Venezuela will have to take on Marxism-Leninism if they are to completely overthrow the Bourgeois State & create a true socialist economy.

  8. I have to disagree with the KKE here. We must support what is progressive, so I support Ecuador, Bolivia, and its socialist presidents, but I believe Chavez is set apart from these men. Hugo Chavez COUP’D the Government of Venezuela, what occurred was a revolution. What is happening in Venezuela right now is a Revolution, turning it into a Socialist country, the people are creating communes, workers control and unions in factories, this is akin to what happened during the Cultural Revolution with Comrade Chairman Mao Zedong.

    As for Chavez’s opinions on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (F.A.R.C) there is immense evidence that Chavez was supporting, and even funding the F.A.R.C rebels, so I believe his denouncing of the F.A.R.C was merely covering himself from denunciations from the west for “Supporting a ‘terrorist’ group”. The question of the KPRF and Zyuganov and his supposed “reform” is different, however, because Russia is a friend and an anti-imperialist superpower, it would be very strange for us to support the destruction of Russia’s Government, making it easy for the imperialist to pillage the country. At the most, we should oppose corruption in Russia, and the bourgeois in Russia.

    Viva Chavez! Viva La Revolucion de Venezuela!

  9. In the part about Zyuganov, I am not denouncing Zyuganov, I am saying that to support a revolution against Russia would be strange for us Marxist. What I’m saying is that a reform of Russia’s economy could work because its not a country opposed to the Communist movement.

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