A Reply to Greek CP on 21st Century Socialism

The Marxist-Leninist recieved the following article from Stansfield Smith, a member of the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5 and Latin American Solidarity Coalition Coordinating Committee, in response to the KKE article on 21st Century Socialism. While in princple I agree with many of the points in the Greek Party’s article, Smith makes significant points about the role of the united front in the national liberation movements. Hopefully this will generate further discussion of these important questions:

Reply to Greek CP about the “Opportunism” of 21st Century Socialism

A new world is possible and that new world is being built in Latin America. The Bolivarian process in Venezuela is an inspiration for millions of people around that world, and has stimulated renewed interest in socialism. Dimitris Karagiannis writes an article that reads like a sectarian condemnation of the direction of this whole revolutionary movement taking place in Latin America – except that in Cuba. (But it is impossible to imagine a Cuban periodical printing what Karagiannis wrote.)

He criticizes Latin American countries for condemning imperialism and identifying imperialism with the U.S., and for calling US imperialism an “empire.” He does not explain what other imperialism there is that is ravaging Latin America, nor does he explain why he thinks the U.S. is not running an empire. Though he shies away from stating this, his is a criticism of the Cuban Communist Party and Fidel Castro who have always focused, correctly, their attacks on U.S. imperialism and the U.S. empire, and of organizing all world forces against it.

This identifying imperialism with the U.S., Karagiannis pretentiously states, shows a “lack of class analysis.” Why? It supposedly submerges the need for a class confrontation with the owners of capital in each country.

I should note that the traditional Communist Parties have always called for national liberation struggles through an alliance of the workers, peasants, petty bourgeoisie with the patriotic national bourgeoisie in these countries against imperialism and their local puppets in the native bourgeoisie class. Other parties have called for the workers to lead the peasants against all the owners of capital, the whole native bourgeois class and imperialism. These latter parties are the Trotskyist ones.

Karagiannis states, “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, he takes the traditional Trotskyist position in this debate.

In contrast to what Karagiannis seems to think, none of the socialist revolutions that took place in the 20th century intended to overthrow capitalism rapidly. Each envisioned a long slow process taking place, but was forced by imperialist attempts to destroy the revolution to go faster than it wanted. The Bolsheviks eliminated capitalism only due to the demands of the civil war of 1918-20. By the end of the civil war, industry in Russia basically did not exist, and as a whole was about 10% of the level it was before 1914. To revive industry, Lenin called for the introduction of state capitalism, where the working class party would rule over the development of a controlled capitalist economy.

Cuba’s socialist revolution developed, not because they sought to institute socialism and eliminate capitalism. It began with the distribution of lands to the peasants, lands mostly owned by U.S. corporations. The actually existing U.S. empire would not sanction the example this would set for the rest of its empire’s subjects, so it took retaliatory economic measures, which led to Cuba taking further measures against U.S. corporations, eventually nationalizing all U.S. imperialist properties in Cuba. Since there was no real national bourgeoisie in Cuba, this ended large-scale capitalism in Cuba.

Karagiannis states,“this so-called “anti-imperialist process for national liberation” does not lead to a confrontation with the bourgeois class that still holds economic power.” While he is referring to Venezuela today, we should note that the cases of Cuba, and especially China, prove him wrong. If he were analyzing the Islamic Republic of Iran, he would be correct, but they of course do not say they are building socialism of any sort.

But Karagiannis is referring to Venezuela. Unlike the revolutions we have mentioned, Chavez came to power not through any revolutionary overthrow but by winning a bourgeois election. He became president of a bourgeois state, defended by a bourgeois army and bourgeois police force. He headed no revolutionary party. Venezuela remains a capitalist country, but it has gone very far towards educating and mobilizing to population towards overthrowing capitalist rule and running the country themselves.

However, to say as Karagiannis does, that this anti-imperialist process for national liberation does not lead to a confrontation with the bourgeois class holding power is ridiculous. What was the failed coup by the bourgeoisie in 2002? What was the 2002-3 oil industry lock-out and sabotage by the bourgeoisie controlling the oil industry? What was the recall referendum in 2004? These were not a confrontation of the anti-imperialist national liberation movement with the bourgeois class? Who else on earth besides Karagiannis thinks that?

It is true as Karagiannis states in the end of his article that so-called 21st Century socialism does not grasp what is required to create socialism in a country. If it were instituted piecemeal in Venezuela that would be unique in modern history. In Venezuela the economic power of the capitalist class in the system of production and distribution has been challenged, but not broken.

Unfortunately, Karagiannis’ approach, not one of solidarity with the new world being built in Latin America, but a sectarian attack on it, is not going to win him listeners there. By contrast, the Cubans have a wise and sound approach: work and fight side by side with them, help whenever possible, and let the peoples of those countries understand through comradely discussion and by seeing the example of Cuba.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a great loss for the peoples of the world. But we ought to remember how it ended, and what people would learn from that end if we hold the Soviet bloc up as a model. The socialist countries in eastern or central Europe fell because the people mobilized against what they considered a government imposed by a foreign power. In the Soviet Union, a conflict broke out among the ruling layer, and the people basically sat on their hands and watched. In contrast, the imperialist-inspired coup in Venezuela brought hundreds of thousands out into the streets to protest, and the working people of that country crushed that coup in 2 days. There is no way around the fact that Venezuelans can say, “We knew that we were defending something that belonged to us so we came out to defend it. Obviously, the people in the Soviet bloc did not think their 20th century socialism belonged to them or that they needed to defend it. If they had it and didn’t want it, why should we build that here?”

A Communist who is out to teach 21st Century socialists a thing or two is going to have to answer that question to be taken seriously. Karagiannis avoids it altogether.

He could have gone beyond what sometimes sounds like a recital of a Communist manual and instead given an overview of what so-called 21st Century socialism has contributed to building socialism, and what it can itself learn from the positive aspects of 20th century examples. But as it is, his article reads like a self-righteous dogmatic attack, which would only reinforce negative feelings people have towards this Soviet era Marxism.

31 responses to “A Reply to Greek CP on 21st Century Socialism

  1. kalashnnikov red

    thats what im saying

  2. This was said by a fellow Comrade on a revolutionary leftist forum, in response to this article. I’m posting it here to try & get anywhere from a response, criticism, or maybe even a discussion on it:

    This attack at Karagiannis is deeply flawed. First of all, the U.S. Imperialism is not the only imperialist power in the world, and won’t be the dominant one forever -actually, its hegemony is waning before our eyes. The Chinese proto-imperialist state capitalist power is its incipient successor, and the role of India in propping up the reactionary forces (such as Sinhala nationalists in Sri Lanka or Nepali Congress) is well-known, yet many leftists somehow pretend that these emerging imperialist powers are somehow “progressive” and “oppose the U.S.” and therefore should be supported. Such an attitude is reminiscent of 1914, when the SPD argued that German Empire should be supported because it is “against British imperialism that is a dominant capitalist force”, or when Kropotkin called to support French Third Republic because it is a “successor of the French Revolution” (just as many people calling themselves “Marxists-Leninists” and ‘Anti-Imperialists” call to support China because it is “a heir of 1949 Revolution”).

    Secondly, the strategy of allying with “patriotic bourgeoisie” failed miserably every time it was conducted. In modern globalised world there could be no more differences made between so-called “patriotic” and “comprador” bourgeoisie, therefore such an “alliance” is completely pointless and reactionary. The betrayals of right-wing of the Chavista coalition show this profoundly.

    Thirdly, this article tries to present the Bolsheviks as if they were glad to be confined within the framework of state capitalism out of their free will, providing excuse for the inconsistent Chavista policies, but the words of Nikolai Bukharin, who was at this time one of the prominent Bolshevik leaders, ran counter to this:

    We conceived War Communism as the universal, so to say ‘normal’ form of the economic policy of the victorious proletariat and not as being related to the war, that is, conforming to a definite state of the civil war.

    (Nikolai Bukharin, The Path to Socialism in Russia, 1967. New York: Omicron Books, pp. 178)

    One may argue that the Bolsheviks were forced to abandon War Communism but not to adopt it, i.e. they instituted these policies out of genuine attempt to eliminate private property, commodity production and market exchange, not out of forced necessity. Of course, the development of productive forces in Russia at that time did not allow to do this, but that is not to say, as the article claims, that Bolshevisk were some kind of moderate left reformists of Chavista kind.

    Thirdly, this name attack at Trotskyists is simply ridiculous and could be likened to the same attack of Labourists and Social-Democrats against Marxists because of their alleged “extremism”.

    Finally, it is quite nice that the author acknowledges that Venezuela currently is a bourgeois state. Of course, this is not to say that we should equate it with the previous neo-liberal regime, but my criticism of Chavez is based not on the fact that he is not a revolutionary (it is no wonder), but on the fact that he is not a reformist enough, being too meek in his policies, while adopting quasi-revolutionary posturing.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this article. Truly, our Greek comrade is wrong in the head. Solidarity with our comrades has always been our greatest strength. Further, the fact that Karagiannis seems to be holding a Trotskyite bent, it is even out-right ironic, considering how Trotskyites seem to hold up Internationalism as a core principle…

  4. Karagiannis would do best to show us how it’s to be done in Greece–and he’ll get the solidarity needed from the rest of us.

    Meanwhile he ignores the lesson that every new revolution breaks the molds of those before it. This is dead dogma, not concrete analysis of concrete conditions. As Lenin was fond of quoting Goethe: ‘Theory is grey, but life is green…”

  5. On the whole, and despite that I still think the Venezuelan analysis of the Soviet Union is incorrect, I’m inclined to agree with Stansfield Smith, for several reasons:

    1. It’s a very dangerous business to start telling another country’s workers how to run their revolution. The exact circumstances are almost impossible to know if you don’t live there. That’s why most Marxists have avoided making any criticisms of the Nepalese Maoists’ recent decisions.

    2. The Venezuelans have actually begun the process of moving towards a socialist economic structure. The role of capitalism in the Venezuelan economy is dramatically less than it was in 1998.

    a. Almost the entire oil industry — except the parts for which Venezuela does not have sufficient technical expertise in its own country — is now in state hands, whereas in 1998, the situation was such that, although the oil was state owned, mechanisms existed for the profit to find its way into private hands.

    b. Many other areas of the economy are increasingly state controlled, including the distribution of food.

    3. The Venezuelans have succeeded to a considerable extent — though not entirely — in remaking the state, that is in cleansing it of elements which were compromised with the old social order. This process partly took place through the constitutional reform. Partly it took place when so many military officers were removed and others promoted in the wake of the coup. And it is continuing, for instance, in the creation of the national police force.

    I think that the discussion of the national bourgeoisie here is a very interesting one. It has been said by one of the commentators that the national bourgeoisie in Venezuela are not a good ally in an anti-imperialist struggle because they’re basically all compradors. But in that case, the problem doesn’t exist: An alliance with the national bourgeoisie is impossible, can’t possibly be occurring now, and therefore is nothing to worry about — that is, unless someone is trying to say that the Bolivarian Revolution is not only not a socialist revolution, but not even a genuinely anti-imperialist movement.

    And the fact is that a very considerable part of the national bourgeoisie in Venezuela IS make up of escualidos. They are a key bulwark of reaction, and the main reason that the Bolivarians and their allies in the CP Venezuela don’t sweep the vote in elections.

    The PSUV is a multi-class party, but aside from the proletariat, the most represented classes are the peasants and the petit-bourgeoisie. I would guess that most of the theoretical errors of the PSUV are due to petit-bourgeois influence.

    None of this answers how generally applicable the model of the Bolivarian Revolution is to other countries. I think it’s very, very clear that it could not be done in Colombia or the Philippines.

    Concerning Chavez’s attitude toward the FARC, we also have to keep in mind the difference between state policy and revolutionary policy, and the legitimate needs of a state — particularly one under siege by powerful foreign enemies — to act in a certain way to protect its interests. Venezuela can hardly be accused of working against the FARC, and the FARC have not made that accusation. The question is how much they can do FOR the FARC.

    Communists have always considered the principle of non-interference by one nation in the internal affairs of another a key rule of international relations. The Venezuelan government has been harsh and unrelenting in its criticism of the U.S. role in Colombia. What more is Venezuela doing, in refusing to affirmatively support the FARC, then respecting that same principle?

  6. I think the first comment, forwarded by BJ Murphy, is putting a lot of words in my mouth, and people ought to read what others write before they respond by criticizing them for things they never said. (But in their defense, I am unaware of what I wrote being on any other list, so I do not know if it was butchered or not.)
    First, I did not say US imperialism is the only imperialism in the world. I agree with the Cubans, however, that is it the main enemy of the peoples of the world, and especially so in Latin America. And I am sure the Cuban view reflects the views of the bulk of humanity. Cuba and Venezuela do not regard China as an enemy, but as an ally, not any close ally, but an ally.
    Second, I made no statement about the wisdom of an alliance with a “patriotic bourgeoisie.” or could I claim that this was a policy that Lenin articulated. He and others, however, were in favor of working with any bourgeois elements if it helped advance the struggle towards building a state with the working class in power. This is a sensible policy: to form temporary alliances with other class forces that aid in the victory of the working class, the only consistently revolutionary class.
    Third, nowhere in my article does it state Lenin was “glad” to adopt the New Economic Policy, and give new life to state capitalism (capitalist development under control of the working class in power). Cuba adopted the same policy in the Special Period, the harsh isolated position it was in during the 1990s – to a much lesser degree, because however bad the economic decline after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, it was nowhere near the almost complete collapse that happened in Russia by 1921 after the civil war. Neither Lenin nor Castro were “glad” to do this: they were faced with a choice, step backwards to recoup and then advance again, or face losing the revolution altogether. Nor did I state the Bolsheviks were “moderate left reformists.”
    I should emphasize again, that unlike these other socialist revolutions, Chavez took power before there was a revolution in Venezuela. He did not lead a revolutionary-minded people mobilized and organized in a struggle to power as in Cuba, Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. He won a bourgeois election and ran on what was basically a radical bourgeois platform. He has steadily moved towards Marxist conclusions, and he is leading the Venezuelan people in that direction. Even if he were Lenin, he would be constrained by the level of consciousness of the people, their level of self-organization, and by their level of commitment to actively fight for what they wanted. The question should be “Is he organizing and educating the people to advance their own demands and to fight for them?” And is he trying to do the same for the rest of Latin America? In these other countries, the decisive battles with the bourgeoisie basically ended with their leaders taking power. They had the new state and the new “armed bodies of men” under their control. In Venezuela, Chavez’ taking power began the process in which this could now begin.
    Fourth, there is nothing in my article attacking Trotskyists. I simply stated the traditional Trotskyist position. I was simply noting the irony I find, that people defining themselves as Stalinist as opposed to Trotskyist, and vice versa, often adopt each others’ positions without being aware of it. I can also note the irony that of the comments on my comments, the one who used the most Marxist terminology understood it the least.

  7. Fidel is an enormous presence looming over the Venezuelan process. He has been a mentor to Chavez and a key adviser in many crucial times, including during the coup. I think that if you do not understand Fidel’s thoughts on these things, you are likely to struggle to understand what is happening in Venezuela.

    In light of that, I wanted to comment on this from Stan Smith:

    “He won a bourgeois election and ran on what was basically a radical bourgeois platform. He has steadily moved towards Marxist conclusions, and he is leading the Venezuelan people in that direction.”

    First, the radical bourgeois platform. That’s actually not all that different from the Cuban Revolution. It’s common to hear people say that Fidel was not a communist at the time he came to power. That’s not correct: He just was not openly a communist. And the reasons for that are pretty obvious. I sincerely doubt that Chavez has moved towards a Marxist conclusion, though I agree that he is moving the Venezuelan people in that direction, gradually.

    Second, the gradualism of the process. I cannot look at that without thinking about Allende and the advice which Fidel has said that he gave Allende which went unheeded. Above all, it was Fidel’s view that it was necessary to consolidate the revolution much more before moving against foreign owned copper mines.

    Both Chavez’s initial platform and the gradualness with which he has moved to the left are best understood in light of yet another huge presence over the Venezuelan process: The United States. That Chavez succeeded in reaching the presidency in the first place is probably due in part to the fact that they hesitated to conclude he would really turn Venezuela this sharply to the left. Since coming to power, Chavez has had both more difficulty consolidating support in Venezuela and more need to do so because of the onslaught against Venezuela which the U.S. has led.

  8. This article has provoked a great deal of good discussion and debate. On balance I would generally agree with the points made by the Greek comrade Karagiannis. Mr. Karagiannis recognizes the positive advances that have been made by Venezuela, Bolivia but points out that one should not fall into the trap of conflating a struggle with a foreign power (the Empire) and the struggle against capital.

    Dietrich, and the many of the proponents of “21st century socialism” are promoting a new Kautskyism; that is a a reformist platform whereby the class struggle is replaced by a reconciliation between the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the working classes and peasants; revising the Marxist principle that the interests of the working classes and the bourgeoisie are diametrically opposed.

    Chavez’ confusion on this issue is seen with his recent remarks in the meeting with the genocidal Colombian President Santos in Santa Marta, Colombia. There he criticized the FARC-EP and told them to lay down their arms without any preconditions. The FARC-EP have been in a bitter struggle with the Colombian Oligarchy since 1964, and are a socialist organization made up mainly of peasants and workers. Chavez appears to have put the interests of his own national bourgeoisie, who have lost a lot of trade because of tension with Colombia, before the workers and peasants of Colombia. The same confusion can be seen when the proponents of “21st century socialism” summarily dismiss the experiences of “real-existing socialism”.

    This is not to take away from the tremendous gains that have occurred under Chavez and other left-of-center regimes in Latin America; i.e. Bolivia and Nicaragua. Under Chavez amazing gains in education, health care, nutrition, should all be vigorously defended. Chavez’s movement in power has made a huge opening for struggle in the Americas, and this should be lauded and defended.

    However, to ignore the fact that the bourgeoisie stills holds a grip on much of the economy of Venezuela and the state machine itself, should not be forgotten. Many in Chavez’ movement, and Chavez himself bitterly complain that the state machinery does not allow for the implementation of his reforms, without even talking about the corruption that has traditionally (pre-Chavez) been endemic and continues to this day. One should also not forget the marxist precept of the state as an instrument of class rule, and the idea that the working class needs its own state machine and cannot simply use the capitalist state machine for its own purposes.

    To point to nationalization as signs of socialism can sometimes be confusing. In Venezuela it is true that the funds from PDVSA have allowed Chavez to implement many of his reforms. But one should be careful: nationalization for whom? After World War II all of the major European imperialist powers nationalized major industries and this did not bring socialism. The nationalizations were made to benefit the capitalist classes of the respective countries. When these national industries were no longer useful to the interests of the capitalists they were dispensed with. For example in the 1980’s Britain decided to practically abolish the previously nationalized mining industry, which led to massive unemployment, strikes, the militarization of the coalfields, and anti-trade union laws.

    To call Karagiannis a Trotskyist is a surprising conclusion. Marxists have supported coalitions with bourgeois elements in the past but for limited purposes and not as and end in itself. The United Front against Fascism and War before WWII being the prime example whose main proponent was George Dimitroff. But allying with bourgeois elements was for a specific purpose, not a substitute for the class struggle.

    I would like to make the point that leftists from major imperialist countries should perhaps show a little humility when dealing with movements from other countries, even if you disagree with them. Some socialists from South Asia recently asked a friend of mine what was the left in the US like and he responded that you could probably gather all of the leftists in the US together and you could fit them into a school gymnasium. The Greek CP has a tremendous history of class struggle that stretches into today. The Greek CP led the partisans against the Nazi occupation, the war against the national capitalist class and British imperialism after WWII (which lead to thousands of death and thousands of persons exiled), the struggle against the Colonel’s fascist regime in the 1960s-70s, and most recently the massive general strikes and protests against neo-liberal reforms in Greece. I think to dismiss the writer’s arguments because the Greeks haven’t done anything , which is implied in some comments, is unfair. It should be noted that the Partido Communista Marxista-Leninista de Ecuador (PCMLE) mad a similar analysis to Karagiannis.

    In summary, I think that we need to support and defend the great gains of Venezuela et al., but we need to analyze, and when necessary criticize, in a comradely way, some of the idealogical precepts of “21st century socialism.”

  9. Mr. Pollit’s response has a few items in it with which I feel compelled to take issue.

    First:

    *****
    Dietrich, and the many of the proponents of “21st century socialism” are promoting a new Kautskyism; that is a a reformist platform whereby the class struggle is replaced by a reconciliation between the interests of the national bourgeoisie and the working classes and peasants;
    ****

    I have not read Dietrich, and I can’t comment on what he has to say. But if there is not a struggle between the Bolivarian Revolution and the national bourgeoisie, who was behind the coup? Who was behind the oil strike? Why is it that the private media is UNIFORMLY anti-Chavez? If even some part of the national bourgeoisie were seriously compromised with the Bolivarian Revolution — today in 2010 and not in 1998 when the project began — wouldn’t we expect some part of the private media to reflect that? Wouldn’t we expect some part of the Venezuelan upper classes to support Chavez? Wouldn’t we expect some part of the bourgeois political world to take at least the position of the loyal opposition? Yet we see none of these.

    In the face of the polarization of Venezuelan society, the thesis that at this point the Bolivarian Revolution is in major respects a compromise between the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and the Venezuelan working class is very difficult to maintain.

    In the very early years of the revolution there were considerable sections of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie did indeed support Chavez. Their most important representative was Luis Miquilena, a pseudo-leftist who visited Chavez in jail after his first coup attempt and served as a minister in his first government. But those sections had decisively broken away by the time of the coup. Miquilena is famous for saying it was not the people who restored Chavez but the incompetence of the coup plotters. He is now indistinguishable from the guerrilla turned social democrat Teodoro Petkoff in their shared hatred of the Venezuelan revolution.

    Next:
    ****
    Many in Chavez’ movement, and Chavez himself bitterly complain that the state machinery does not allow for the implementation of his reforms,
    ****

    I would accept this was true in 1998 beyond a doubt. But since then there have been some rather colossal changes in the Venezuelan state.

    1. The constitutional referendum, which rewrote the Venezuelan constitution and led to new elections for all the key political offices and new selections for the supreme court.

    2. The changes in important military commanders during the pre-coup days. These led to the promotion of General García Carneiro and other key players in the counter coup.

    3. The changes in the military and the courts after the coup. In the coup, the opposition military figures showed their hands decisively. Although the courts refused to allow the prosecution of the murderers and coup plotters, they were ousted from the military overwhelmingly. There has been no coup attempt since. Further, there have been changes to the courts, directly as a result of this, which have resulted in the courts generally allowing the Chavez government to do its business.

    4. The creation of the greater Caracas Municipal Government, which has taken police functions in Caracas out of the hands of the opposition crooks and their pet death squads, which exercised a rain of terror on Chavez supporters in the early days of the government.

    5. The National Bolivarian Police, still in the process of formation, which are going to remake policing in Venezuela from the bottom up.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that a revolutionary leader elected to office in a bourgeois state has his hands tied to an enormous degree. This was the basic position of Zelaya and Allende, and the Nicaraguans and Salvadorans consider the position so hopeless in those countries that they have not even tried to carry out a revolutionary platform — in El Salvador, they did not even run a revolutionary candidate.

    But it seems to have been the opinion of Castro since the Allende years that in the right circumstances a revolutionary movement could overcome these problems and use the election of its leader to a bourgeois presidency as a key step in a revolution.

    Next:
    ****
    Chavez’ confusion on this issue is seen with his recent remarks in the meeting with the genocidal Colombian President Santos in Santa Marta, Colombia. There he criticized the FARC-EP and told them to lay down their arms without any preconditions… Chavez appears to have put the interests of his own national bourgeoisie, who have lost a lot of trade because of tension with Colombia, before the workers and peasants of Colombia.
    ****

    Every error that a revolutionary commits is not down to the revolutionary being in effect an agent of the bourgeoisie. In my view, that particular assumption has done an awful lot of harm to the unity of the international communist movement.

    Lenin made the point in his pamphlet Marxism and Revisionism that revisionism is often the outlook of newly proletarianized elements of the petit-bourgeoisie. The Greek section heading, “the petit-bourgeoisie and the preservation of capitalism,” at least suggests that they have a similar view of the Venezuelan errors.

    Next:
    ****
    To point to nationalization as signs of socialism can sometimes be confusing. In Venezuela it is true that the funds from PDVSA have allowed Chavez to implement many of his reforms. But one should be careful: nationalization for whom?
    ****

    Nationalization for whom is an excellent question. So who benefited from the renationalization of Venezuelan oil? Not the Venezuelan oil bourgeoisie: They organized the oil strike to fight it. Your own paragraph provides the answer: Ordinary Venezuelans who had access to social programs paid for by oil money.

    ****
    I would like to make the point that leftists from major imperialist countries should perhaps show a little humility when dealing with movements from other countries, even if you disagree with them.
    ****

    I think that this principle is of even wider application than that: That communists should be slow to criticize, particularly publicly rather than directly, communists from other countries. It is hard to know the conditions of struggle in the other country well enough to have a well-formed opinion.

    But the application of the principle here is a little more complicated, because we are dealing with the Greek Communists criticizing the leader of a Venezuelan socialist party for his criticism of Colombian Leninists.

    So, do we follow the Greeks in criticizing Chavez? Or do we criticize the Greeks for criticizing Chavez?

  10. I would like to thank Professor Toad on his comments and briefly reply to his response to my comments.

    1, The PSUV is a broad coalition and does contain bourgeois elements. the Partido Communista de Venezuela (PCV), which is not part of the PSUV but part of Chavez’ electoral coalition, recognizes this and reserves the right to run candidates against PSUV candidates they view as suspect, and also campaign jointly in districts where they view the candidates to be from the more progressive wing of the PSUV. For an example of national boureois types, in the second circuit of the state of Gurarico a former general of the ancien regime (pre-Chavez) Roger Cordero Lara, is running for the PSUV. In his former life he hunted down and killed Marxist guerrillas for the Venezuelan Oligarchy. Just because a large faction of the bourgeoisie are comprador and extremely pro-USA does not mean that the PSUV does not have bourgeois elements in it.

    2.To accuse me of implying that because Chavez criticized the FARC and told them to disarm he is simply an agent of the bourgeoisie is a gross over simplification of my comments and of what is occurring in Venezuela. The national bourgeois elements in the Bolivarian process were pushing for a re-conciliation with Colombia , due to a tremendous loss of trade, and with Chavez’ statements on the FARC that is what they got. If you read articles in El Tiempo and El Espectador at the time of the summit in Santa Marta it is clear who these remarks pleased: the Colombian Oligarchy. The point is that the PSUV is a broad platform with national bourgeois elements, as well as socialist elements, and the bourgeois elements need’s won out when it came to the issue of reconciliation with Colombia. PCV published an editorial critical of these remarks.

    3. My point about nationalization is that a nationalization does not socialism make. The nationalization PDVSA was a good thing that disenfranchised the large multi-national oil companies, as well as national bourgeois elements. Mexico also has nationalized it oil industry in 1938. Mexico’s nationalization of it oil as well as the nationalization of PDVSA does not make a socialist economy.

    4. The PSUV and the “Bolivarian Process” should be supported and defended to the hilt. As I stated previously this process has given a huge opening to struggle in the Americas and given great relief to Cuba as well as improved.

    But should we be attacking communists and progressives who make valid criticisms of “21st century socialism” that was invited by Chavez himself? Chavez called for a 5th socialist international, presumably based on “socialism of the 21st century”, and asked for comments on his proposal. To say that the response was underwhelming is kind. The most enthusiastic response that I am aware of were from left-liberals like Chomsky. I didn’t detect much enthusiasm in the Cuban press.

    Karagiannis gave the Greek CP response to Chavez’ invitation to comment on his call for a 5th international. Some other left parties made similar analyses. To condemn someone because they disagree with Chavez’ conception of socialism is concerning. It reminds me of the situation in prior decades where people were supposed to be silent on the revisionist Soviet formulations of the State of the Whole People etc. because it came from the CPSU and therefore was untouchable. This is neither healthy nor Marxist. We all know where that led. Perhaps there is some legitimate criticism about the form and forum of the criticism; criticism that gives strength to the enemy, even though this does not seem to be the case in this case.

    I think that we can support the Bolivarian process as a great anti-imperialist movement, but with our eyes open to the political and philosophical implications of “21st century socialism.”

  11. I think parties and people can say whatever they like about anything. What I pay most attention to, however, is when they speak about the reality they know most about, their own country’s circumstances, their current strategy for getting to socialism in the 21st century there, and how it’s coming along today. That’s what I’d like to hear from the Greeks, rather than an exposition of old dogmas they want to apply to the revolutionary processes unfolding in another hemisphere.

    • I don’t think the KKE is merely criticizing from the sidelines here. You’ll find the Communist Party of Greece has plenty to say about their own movement and their own strategy as well, Carl. You’ll find that at their website: http://inter.kke.gr/

      As you probably know, the KKE’s All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME) has been leading the massive strikes in Greece to resist the austerity measures.

      But “old dogmas”? Dismissal is probably not the most constructive way to address their criticisms, which have provoked a very good discussion here.

  12. Re-replies to Harry Pollitt on a couple of points. Respectfully.

    ****
    For an example of national boureois types, in the second circuit of the state of Gurarico a former general of the ancien regime (pre-Chavez) Roger Cordero Lara, is running for the PSUV. In his former life he hunted down and killed Marxist guerrillas for the Venezuelan Oligarchy.
    ****

    He certainly sounds like a terrible fellow. Of course he seems to have redeemed himself somewhat by siding against the Carmonazo, doesn’t he?

    I’m not sure whether this fellow is or is not personally a member of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. To be part of the bourgeoisie, after all, doesn’t mean that you work for a bourgeois state, but rather that you own capital.

    But the larger question is this: Does the PSUV have a social base among the Venezuelan bourgeoisie? That’s a separate question from whether or not one or two members of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie — assuming that this fellow IS a member of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie — are members of the party.

    If it were the case that the PSUV had a social base among the bourgeoisie, shouldn’t we be able to see that reflected in things like the country’s private media? Yet the private media is uniformly anti-Chavez.

    Shouldn’t there be a split among the bourgeois politicians, with some of them supporting Chavez and some opposing them? Yet there is a holy alliance among the Venezuelan bourgeois politicians against Chavez, isn’t there? Even the most left of them, even Miquilena and Petkoff, have a bottomless hatred for him.

    ****
    2.To accuse me of implying that because Chavez criticized the FARC and told them to disarm he is simply an agent of the bourgeoisie is a gross over simplification of my comments and of what is occurring in Venezuela. The national bourgeois elements in the Bolivarian process were pushing for a re-conciliation with Colombia , due to a tremendous loss of trade, and with Chavez’ statements on the FARC that is what they got. If you read articles in El Tiempo and El Espectador at the time of the summit in Santa Marta it is clear who these remarks pleased: the Colombian Oligarchy. The point is that the PSUV is a broad platform with national bourgeois elements, as well as socialist elements, and the bourgeois elements need’s won out when it came to the issue of reconciliation with Colombia. PCV published an editorial critical of these remarks.
    ****

    I did not mean to accuse you of anything. Perhaps what I said was inartfully phrased. What I was getting at was this:

    There are two perspectives on right errors in revolutionary movements. One is that those errors are in every case a result of the revolutionary movement containing bourgeois elements. The other is that in some cases they are the result of the continued force of non-proletarian ideas within the proletariat. This second perspective is, in fact, Lenin’s perspective, as we see from his article Marxism and Revisionism:

    “These new small producers are just as inevitably being cast again into the ranks of the proletariat. It is quite natural that the petty-bourgeois world-outlook should again and again crop up in the ranks of the broad workers’ parties. It is quite natural that this should be so and always will be so, right up to the changes of fortune that will take place in the proletarian revolution.”

    In particular, Trotksyism has almost always found its social base among the petit-bourgeoisie or recently proletarianized petit-bourgeoisie.

    I am inclined to blame most of the errors of the PSUV on the influence of the petit-bourgeoisie within the PSUV, which is plainly very large.

    And I will repeat: A rush to assign all revisionist errors to the existence of an actual bourgeoisie within the party was a major factor in the rupture in the international communist movement in the last few decades.

    It would be a gross oversimplification, a form of vulgar materialism, to say that ideas are always held only by members of the social class whose interests they serve. Let me say clearly, I am not accusing you of doing this, but there are those who do make that error, and we need to be conscious of it.

    *****

    More generally:

    Yes, it’s true that there are times when it is necessary to criticize other country’s parties. I don’t say we never should do it. I only say we should be both hesitant and careful. The unity of the international communist movement is one of its most powerful weapons. The split in the international communist movement in the 20th century was one of the greatest tragedies in human history.

  13. Thanks for the link to the KKE’s articles about their own strategy. Here’s what they say:

    The political proposal of the KKE

    The line of rallying together and struggle that is proposed by the KKE takes into account that an alliance cannot be based on agreement over the issue of socialism. We do not require that there be agreement between us on our view of socialism, on how the passage to socialism will be accomplished, etc. We consider the basis for agreement to be the common interests of the anti-imperialist anti-monopoly social forces, i.e. the working class and the petty bourgeois strata of the city and countryside. On the other side of this line is assimilation into management of the system, defeat and retreat, and the sharpening of social, political and democratic problems.

    The anti-imperialist anti-monopoly alliance that we are proposing aims at victory on the level of political power, at putting power in the hands of the people, who will create and organise the people’s economy. Power to the people as governance, irrespective of its form, much less its content, is unrelated to centre-right and centre-left forms of collaboration. We are talking about class, not just party change at the level of power.

    Its main features will be: the socialisation of the basic and centralised means of production, production cooperatives where centralisation has not been satisfactorily achieved, nationwide planning with sectoral and regional specialisation, labour and popular control, and the new institutions of the people’s power; disengagement from international commitments and choices that hinder development by the people and for the people; Greece’s withdrawal from imperialist campaigns and from participation in occupation forces. Central planning will include international cooperation based on mutual interest.

    In the meantime, we certainly cannot postpone finding solutions to all problems until power is in the hands of the people under socialism. We are certainly convinced that the popular movement can have certain victories and successes in the daily struggle, but none of the major problems faced by the peoples today can be resolved by the political power of the monopolies and of capital more generally. Improving the correlation of forces can bring some relief, but it will be temporary and disputable unless there is an overthrow at the level of power.

    So they are for an anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly government as an initial stage in the longer-term struggle for socialism. In the course of this, they will make alliances with non-monopoly, non-imperialist capital and tactically, they wage the battle step-by-step, in tune with the balance of forces.

    It’s not a formulation I argue for here in the U.S. I call for a united and popular front against finance capital, segmenting business, first, between speculative and productive, and, second, high road and low-road. (Such as GAMESA, a high-road green wind turbine plant partnered with the USW and the state of PA). I’m not suggesting this for Greece, but they may learn something from it, if they want to expand productive jobs.

    In any case, I see no major difference between their strategy and what is unfolding in Venezuela, save for tactics, timeliness, and balance of forces issues. There own strategy, as stated, is not a direct class-vs-class, immediate transition to socialism, either, unless I’m reading something entirely incorrectly.

    What I mean by ‘dead dogma’ is the supposed role, or lack of one, for the national bourgeoisie in these less developed countries. I think it’s an open question, and will vary according to time place and circumstance.

  14. In reply to Carl Davidson:

    ****
    In any case, I see no major difference between their strategy and what is unfolding in Venezuela, save for tactics, timeliness, and balance of forces issues. There own strategy, as stated, is not a direct class-vs-class, immediate transition to socialism, either, unless I’m reading something entirely incorrectly.
    ****

    I don’t think you grasp the arguments that the Greeks are making. Their criticism of the PSUV might be summarized like this:

    1. The lack of an independent workers party. The Greeks have an independent party which is explicitly a workers party.

    2. The criticism of revolutionary violence. I don’t see Chavez’s position on this as open to a serious defense. Whether the FARC disarms or does not disarm is a matter for the FARC and the Colombian working class to decide, not Chavez. In light of the fate of the patriotic front, the notion of a Bolivarian Revolution in Colombia is very far-fetched. The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela was made possible by the existence of revolutionary elements in the Venezuelan Army. There is little doubt in my mind that this is an almost indispensable element of the formula: Bolivia may be the exception, but possibly only because the Bolivian army is so small and Morales could count on support from Venezuela. Etc.

    3. Confusion on the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    4. A failure to defend the contributions of 20th century socialism.

    5. In general, and encompassing the above, the prevalence of petit-bourgeois revisionist ideas in the party.

    Somebody help me out if I’ve let something out here.

  15. During an interview between Comrade Leila Khaled & the PFLP Solidarity Campaign of the Workers Party of New Zealand, the Solidarity asked Comrade Khaled about the feelings of Chavez & Morales & their revolutionary uprising within Venezuela & Bolivia. Here’s the section of the interview where this is stated:

    What is the PFLP’s analysis of the growing anti-imperialist movement in South America, lead by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, who both recently cut all diplomatic ties with Israel and expelled Israeli diplomats?

    Just when Chavez was elected and then afterwards Morales and their policies we have seen more hope and more strength to face the American imperialism and since that time we have good relations with the parties there and with the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia. This gives us also strength to tell our masses not only in Palestine but also in Iraq, in Egypt, in the Arab countries that American Imperialism is not our destiny so we can face it. And now people can see that there is hope to stop the occupation in Palestine and Iraq as well. Because now there are two Arab countries which are occupied by Israelis and Americans. So those poor people in Venezuela and Bolivia changed the idea and the attitude of the American administration, that South America is the garden behind the White House, changed to be that these are free countries, free people, who are struggling for their human rights, for their progress. This gives us more patience, more courage to continue our struggle.

    I have to say that in the demonstrations last year during the war against Gaza, people, our people were carrying Chavez posters, as if looking upon him as a hero, not only for Venezuela but also for all peoples who are looking for their freedom. Which shows that our people understood directly that such personalities in history, even if they are far away in geography, it meant for us that those people have brought freedom to their countries and they will help those who are living under occupation in Palestine and Iraq too.

    http://www.pflp.ps/english/?q=new-zealand-solidarity-campaign-interview-comrade-

  16. The Greek party is a workers party and the socialists in Venezuela, the PSUV is not? Only if you’re thinking like a Platonist…

    I’ll leave the relations between Chavez and the FARC to their bilateral nature. I certainly wasn’t a fly on the wall.

    Confusion on the ‘d of the p?’ Have the Greeks ever exercised one? Who isn’t these days, or has ever not been? Only the dogmatists.

    Failure to defend the contributions of 20th century socialism? You’re kidding! You’re ignoring the fact that the list of them is essentially contested. In fact, there is no common list. I’ll draw the lessons that seem appropriate to our struggle, and even then with a grain of salt, and leave the rest for historians to wrangle over.

    Ideas labeled petit-bourgeois in a party? The only one to claim he got rid of them all was Hoxha and perhaps Kim Il Sung, and we know they were both wrong. Every party, if it’s alive, has a mixture of ideas of all sorts.

    I’ve seen this movie before. It’s old Comiternism and Coninformism about who’s in and who’s out, who’s up and who’s down. It was tragic in its first run, when you got purged from the earth for making the wrong move; since then, it’s farce.

    Thanks, but no thanks. Making revolution and revolutionary theory here starts with solving some of our problems–how do you unionize 88 percent of the workers, who have no organization; how do you supplant the Dems without aiding the far right; how do you help deconstruct and cure people of the imprisoning idea that they’re ‘white, ‘ how to you get ALL the troops home, how do you organize the country’s largest employer, Walmart, and so on. I’d give priority these, for starters, and much more if you get through these and want more.

    Meanwhile, all power to the KKE and the Chavistas! They have my solidarity in waging their battles, and the main way I’ll contribute is by trying to keep the US out of their way.

  17. And, again in response to Carl Davidson:

    First of all, I listed for you the main criticisms the CP Greece made of the PSUV. I thought that was necessary because it seemed from your writing that you thought their main criticism was that the PSUV had entered into an alliance with the Venezuelan capitalists. I suspect that you had that impression because you had not actually read the Greek article.

    Now, in your response to me, you reply to me as though these were MY criticisms. I assume this is because you STILL have not read the Greek article, and, furthermore, didn’t really read what I wrote.

    Still, here are some responses:

    ****
    The Greek party is a workers party and the socialists in Venezuela, the PSUV is not? Only if you’re thinking like a Platonist…
    ****

    I assume, then, that you don’t know how the PSUV defines itself. If you did, you would not call it a workers party. The PSUV’s website describes the PSUV thus (the translation is mine):

    “The manifestation of political and social unity of an overwhelming majority, comprise of workers from all sectors, peasants, youth, professionals and small producers from the countryside and the city…”

    In short, the PSUV is not the party of the workers only, but the party of the workers, peasants and petit-bourgeoisie. This is the difference which the Greeks are criticizing, and it is a clear enough difference. It is clear to anyone who looks at the issue with an interest in learning, rather than coming in with an attitude that says they know everything and have nothing to learn from any further discussion.

    ****
    Confusion on the ‘d of the p?’ Have the Greeks ever exercised one? Who isn’t these days, or has ever not been? Only the dogmatists.
    ****

    You are here using the term dogmatist as nothing but a term of abuse. You do not refute the Greek point about the dictatorship of the proletariat in the slightest. Clearly you’re not all that interested in serious discussion.

    As for “only the dogmatists”, the number of people in Leninist parties across the world which hold to the Marxist understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat is in the tens of millions. This includes the ruling parties of several countries. So, when you say, “only the dogmatists,” you mean, “only the communists in Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, China, Korea, Greece, the Philippines, Colombia, etc., etc.”

    ****
    Failure to defend the contributions of 20th century socialism? You’re kidding! You’re ignoring the fact that the list of them is essentially contested. In fact, there is no common list. I’ll draw the lessons that seem appropriate to our struggle, and even then with a grain of salt, and leave the rest for historians to wrangle over.
    ****

    The implication of this is that the Greeks shouldn’t criticize Venezuela over something they disagree about. So, I suppose we should only criticize people for agreeing with us? That doesn’t make sense, does it?

    There is indeed a debate about socialism in the 20th century. The Greeks are trying to continue that debate with Venezuela.

    Furthermore, the debate is not actually entirely unrelated to the issue of the FARC, or the issue of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The criticism of the FARC’s methods of trying to achieve socialism in Colombia is not at all unlike criticism of the methods used by some 20th century socialists to build socialism. They are related questions.

    ****
    Ideas labeled petit-bourgeois in a party? The only one to claim he got rid of them all was Hoxha and perhaps Kim Il Sung, and we know they were both wrong. Every party, if it’s alive, has a mixture of ideas of all sorts.
    ****

    Well, actually, I said that the Greek criticism was “the prevalence of petit-bourgeois revisionist ideas in the party.” You see the difference? Existence vs. prevalence? The existence of petit-bourgeois ideas in the party is probably inevitable and not necessarily a problem. But once they reach a certain level of prevalence, then they are a problem. Unless you hold to petit-bourgeois ideas, that is, in which case you probably see that as a good thing.

    ****
    I’ve seen this movie before. It’s old Comiternism and Coninformism about who’s in and who’s out, who’s up and who’s down. It was tragic in its first run, when you got purged from the earth for making the wrong move; since then, it’s farce.
    ****

    Yes, yes: The invariable ultimate refuge of the revisionist: “Look, Stalin was REALLY TERRIBLE.” What that has to do with China or Cuba has never been clear to me, but it doesn’t keep people from bringing it up as an argument.

    You don’t like the word petit-bourgeoisie. That’s just a silly prejudice on your part. It’s a perfectly good word with a very clear meaning. But replace it with the phrase “small producer” which the Venezuelans use if you like.

    The fact is that these people bring a different outlook to revolutionary activity than do proletarians — or, if you are also offended by that word, wage laborers. It was recognized by Lenin many, many years ago, and it is a fairly obvious part of the discussion between the Greeks and the Venezuelans.

    Yelling “STALIN” is not going to make those facts go away.

    ****
    Thanks, but no thanks. Making revolution and revolutionary theory here starts with solving some of our problems–how do you unionize 88 percent of the workers, who have no organization; how do you supplant the Dems without aiding the far right; how do you help deconstruct and cure people of the imprisoning idea that they’re ‘white, ‘ how to you get ALL the troops home, how do you organize the country’s largest employer, Walmart, and so on. I’d give priority these, for starters, and much more if you get through these and want more.
    ****

    Hmmm. Well, those are all very interesting, but we are talking about Venezuela, Greece and Colombia, after all, and none of those are actually problems in either of those countries. In Colombia, they actually have to solve the problem of whether or not to use violence as a revolutionary tool — though it is not a hard choice since the ruling class has closed off all the alternatives. In Venezuela, they really do have to solve the problem of how to relate to Colombia, what can be accomplished through ALBA, and what economic structure the country is going to have in the coming years.

    So, if we are going to talk about those issues, limiting ourselves to the question of how to unionize the 88% of American workers who are not in unions would be absolutely surreal.

  18. First of all, I have never mentioned Stalin in any of this. I’ve read all of his works in English, some more than once, and I do have views about them. But I find none of it helpful to our problems today and tomorrow, so I rarely bring up the matter.

    Second, by your definition of whether a party was a ‘workers’ party of not, ie, having a good number of small producers and peasants as members, you’d have to exclude the CCP, the Vietnamese Workers Party and most communist parties in the rest of the world as well. The PSUV deserves our solidarity in any case, so what’s the point, save sectarian nit-picking?

    Third, the KKE is free to carry on any disputes about 20th history it likes with the PSUV or any other group. I just don’t put much stock in them as to their relevance. But I do think it’s true that any itemized list of things we must uphold will be essentially contested. That’s a term that means there’s no common definition, ie, like ‘Good Christian,’ you have to define it yourself to use it.

    Fourth, I never said we should ‘limit ourselves’ to solving problems like how to organize the 88 percent of workers in our country that have no unions, or how to get ALL the troops home from the wars. That’s your language. I did suggest, however, that it would be a good place for us to start, with the problems of the US working class and the US revolution, and we can go on to any questions at all from there.

    Fifth, I think all the names of all the classes are fine designators of their relation to production, and I use them all the time. But one thing I don’t do, or at least try to avoid, in internal debates in our movement, is to pin class labels on the ideas we’re debating or the problems we’re trying to solve. I find it discourages discussion and exchange and doesn’t add much. Better to focus on ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’, or whether a given solution to a problem is effective or ineffective in moving the struggle forward and achieving our goals–immediate and longer term.

    In my very first post on this site a few years back, I took on the notion that ‘every idea was stamped with the brand of a class.’ If you’ll look back on it, I think you’ll find that I won out, even if by default.

    • I have a hard time understanding Carl’s point about having a discussion of “problems of the US working class and the US revolution” in the middle of a discussion about 21st Century Socialism in Latin America. Obviously (really, obviously) that’s not what we’re discussing here. I often post articles about those problems on this site, but Carl doesn’t often tend to comment on those. He just comments on this and says we should be talking about that. I think we should talk about all of these things. Pehaps not everything at once though.

      However, he’s made it clear here that he isn’t interested in any of the questions of the debate at hand. He doesn’t think these questions are important (the summation of the experiences of 20th century socialism, how class relates to mode of thinking, and so on), and doesn’t want to talk about them, yet here he is…

  19. That’s an odd way to frame things.

    I’m an advocate of 21st century socialism myself, but I ground it in solving the problems we face today in our own country–not limiting it to Latin America.

    And I usually refer people to David Schweickart’s book, ‘After Capitalism,’ as a good example of it to use in study groups with workers, which I have done, with some success. I also refer folks to Jerry Harris’ ‘Dialectics of Globalization’ and the one I co-authored with Jerry, ‘Cyber-Radicalism: A New Left for a Global Age,’ http://stores.lulu.com/changemaker as other examples of the forward-looking genre.

  20. From Carl Davidson:

    ****
    First of all, I have never mentioned Stalin in any of this. I’ve read all of his works in English, some more than once, and I do have views about them. But I find none of it helpful to our problems today and tomorrow, so I rarely bring up the matter.
    ****

    I don’t buy that for one minute.

    The implication — and of course you’re not candid enough to come out and say it — of this is that you’re not actually anti-Stalin, let alone anti-communist in general. But in light of your previous statement:

    ++++
    It was tragic in its first run, when you got purged from the earth for making the wrong move; since then, it’s farce.
    ++++

    It won’t float.

    The rest of it, the notion that the working class today should not study history, is stupid. Seriously. High school history teachers refute that every year: “Those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it,” etc.

    No one actually believes that we should NOT study the past. In fact, you yourself have used at least one argument based on the history of the international communist movement — the one above about removing people from the earth.

    I find it very hard to believe that you really think we shouldn’t study history, that you really think that the history of European and third world revolutionary movements has no important lessons for first world workers today. It really is too much.

    ****
    Second, by your definition of whether a party was a ‘workers’ party of not, ie, having a good number of small producers and peasants as members, you’d have to exclude the CCP, the Vietnamese Workers Party and most communist parties in the rest of the world as well. The PSUV deserves our solidarity in any case, so what’s the point, save sectarian nit-picking?
    ****

    Oh, come on. You have no idea, none whatsoever, what the class make up of the Communist Party of the Philippines is, and you don’t even KNOW THE NAME of the Communist Party of Vietnam. I was raised to believe you shouldn’t lecture people on subjects you don’t know anything about. Guess you had a different upbringing.

    I reiterate what I said before, which was as clear as can possibly be, and that is that the PSUV defines itself as a party of workers and petit-bourgeoisie. CP Greece and most other communist parties define themselves as workers parties.

    What is the point of that? You know very well what the point is, and if you sincerely didn’t think there was a point, you wouldn’t bother arguing it. The point is the that a party which opens the doors wide to petit-bourgeois elements is going to get more petit-bourgeois thinking.

    Of course, you go hot and cold on whether or not there is such a thing as petit-bourgeois thinking. In one of your prior posts you said that every party had it, and then in the next paragraph acted as though there were no such thing.

    ****
    Third, the KKE is free to carry on any disputes about 20th history it likes with the PSUV or any other group.
    ****

    I’m sure that’s a relief to the KKE.

    ****
    I just don’t put much stock in them as to their relevance.
    ****

    The best possible construction I can put on this is that you don’t actually know who the KKE is. They’re one of the most powerful left parties in Europe, and they recently carried out a general strike in Greece. They have many years of experience, have fought a guerrilla war, etc., etc.

    If you know that and DON’T think their opinions are relevant, I really don’t know what to make out of you.

    ****
    But I do think it’s true that any itemized list of things we must uphold will be essentially contested. That’s a term that means there’s no common definition, ie, like ‘Good Christian,’ you have to define it yourself to use it.
    ****

    What a load of nonsense. You don’t LIKE the KKE’s list, but it’s no mystery to you. You know, I know, Hugo Chavez knows, and anyone else who cares to know can easily know, what countries the KKE considers to have been and to currently be socialist. There is no ambiguity or problem of communication here.

    Furthermore, I would bet a considerable sum of money that Hugo Chavez’s list of socialist countries is not actually all that different from the KKE’s list. They are actually both speaking a language the other understands perfectly well. It’s only you shouting from the sidelines that they’re misusing words.

    Really, look again at the definition the PSUV gives of itself: It very plainly sees itself as a party of the workers and the petit-bourgeoisie, as those terms are used in Marxism. Even in that definitional statement, the PSUV is using the very same concepts that the KKE uses.

    And why not? They’re clear, useful, scientific concepts. As I said before, you apparently have some prejudice against the language, but that’s just silliness.

    ****
    Fourth, I never said we should ‘limit ourselves’ to solving problems like how to organize the 88 percent of workers in our country that have no unions, or how to get ALL the troops home from the wars. That’s your language. I did suggest, however, that it would be a good place for us to start, with the problems of the US working class and the US revolution, and we can go on to any questions at all from there.
    ****

    We are discussing Venezuela, Greece, and Colombia, and you tell us that our theory should start with such problems as unionizing American workers. It was a stupid contribution. This is an embarrassing defense of it, which you can only be making because you’re not capable of admitting that you made a mistake.

    ****
    Fifth, I think all the names of all the classes are fine designators of their relation to production, and I use them all the time. But one thing I don’t do, or at least try to avoid, in internal debates in our movement, is to pin class labels on the ideas we’re debating or the problems we’re trying to solve. I find it discourages discussion and exchange and doesn’t add much. Better to focus on ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’, or whether a given solution to a problem is effective or ineffective in moving the struggle forward and achieving our goals–immediate and longer term.
    ****

    The Greeks pointed out and I have pointed out that much of what is different in the Bolivarian Revolution is due to the class nature of the PSUV. That’s a statement of scientific fact which has many important practical implications. Ignoring it is pretty silly.

    Really, at this point it is hard to take what you are saying seriously. I’m pretty sure I’ve wasted more time replying to what you have said than your contributions deserved.

  21. I just want to briefly summarize one subargument that has been going on here.

    BJ Murphy reposted a comment from some blog attacking the PSUV for making an alliance with the Venezuelan capitalists. That post — not BJ’s, but the one he reposted, was really stupid. As Stansfield Smith pointed out, this person used a lot of Marxist terms but really did not understand the discussion.

    The unfortunate result of this comment was that we then spent much of the rest of the thread discussing whether or not the PSUV was in part a bourgeois party. I say that’s unfortunate, because so far as I can tell that actually wasn’t the Greek complaint. In fact, the Communist Party of Greece attributes most of the errors of the PSUV to its petit-bourgeois elements.

    Here’s the conclusion of the Greek article to illustrate my point:

    ****
    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.
    ****

    “Petit-bourgeois ideas.” Got it everybody?

    And the PSUV is quite frank that the petit-bourgeoisie are welcome in its ranks. Again, from the PSUV’s self-definition on their website:

    ****
    The manifestation of political and social unity of an overwhelming majority, comprise of workers from all sectors, peasants, youth, professionals and small producers from the countryside and the city…
    ****

    Professionals and small producers… That’s the petit-bourgeoisie.

    And, further, Lenin made it very clear in his article Marxism and Revisionism that the petit-bourgeoisie were a major source of revisionist ideas in the party:

    ****
    Wherein lies its [that is, revisionism’s] inevitability in capitalist society? Why is it more profound than the differences of national peculiarities and of degrees of capitalist development? Because in every capitalist country, side by side with the proletariat, there are always broad strata of the petty bourgeoisie, small proprietors.
    ****

    I think most of this thread has concerned arguments other than the actual arguments between Stansfield Smith and the Communist Party of Greece.

  22. Dimitries Karagiannis is cadre in the KKE, the communist party of Greece. In his analysis ‘On the Opportunist Theory of “21st Century Socialism” ‘, he is criticising the political analytical base on which in Latin Amrica is developing an anti-imperialist unity-movement.
    In fact he is criticising a certain EMPIRISM in for example defining “what is imperialism?”: “ 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.”
    That results for example to the fact that “the bourgeois class is wrongly differentiated as a national one and one subjected to foreign influence .”
    And so Dimitri is GENERALISING: “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.”

    Than he claims that the political analytical base of these opportunist deviations is “….this “new theory” that is presented as “21st century Socialism” …” and linked it to the analyses made by the European Left….

    Empirism ok. But it has led to the “experience” that the most important base of antiimperialist struggle in Latin America is the struggle against the colonial productionrelations IMPOSED to Latin America by military, political end economical FORCE. That colonial productionrelations are VITAL and CRUCIAL for imperialism. Those colonial productionrelations make it possible to expropriate the people of Latin America EACH DAY of all those ressources that could be the material base for their economic and social development but which are now “feeding” the global integrated prouction-lines of imperialism (or capitalism in the stage of imperialism).
    And part of the bourgeoisie are all those whose interests (and income) are linked to the CONTINUANCE of imperialism and its colonial productionrelations. The global integrated production-lines are the main-form of the “means of productions”. The capitalist class is composed by those who “own” those global integratend productionlines. That “ownership” is determined by “owning” a controlling part of those “means of production”, sometimes by having a “controlling ownership” of the financial institutions who themselves “controle” and “own” by all kind of financial ties those global integrated productionlines.
    One part of the fight consist of “expropriating “ those capitalists (who are GLOBAL capitalists, having no “motherland”, allthough they have of course to live somewhere…) as much as is possible and to bring in “public ownership” those assets under control of that anti-imperialist popular struggle-front which is responsible for that “expropriation”.
    That anti-imperialist popular struggle front is as broad as possible composed by all those who have CONTRADICTIONS with those colonial productionrelations, so who have interests to participate in that anti-imperialist struggle.
    Those who have objectively the most interests for anti-imperialist struggle are those who have only their workforce to sell to have a income for living: the working class. But a big part of the working class is formed by those who have indeed only their workforce to sell…. but have under that colonial productionrelations of imperialism almost NO OPPORTUNITY, NO POSSIBILITY to sell their workforce. They survive on all possible ways to get SOME income, or at least SOME shelter and food. Another important part of that antiimperialist “united front “ are those whose aspirations are to have a production-facility, a commerce in fact to become “a capitalist” (but who cannot compete against the REAL capitalists – owners of the “means of productions” in the stage of IMPERIALISM). Subjectively they “think” that they are “capitalists”, that they are “bourgeois” but IN FACT they have more OBJECTIVE similarities with the PETTY-bourgeois, who are not a distinct class but always “falling apart” in bourgeois or workers. Those “subective” national capitalists and national bourgeoisie, but OBJECTIVELY petty-bourgeois, who choose ideologically for “anti-imperialist” fight,( because of their nationalist aspirations for a national economic development that can compete with global imperialism) will be an important part of the anti-imperialist united front.
    All depends of the capabilities of the working class (and so of the van-guard part of them) to make a correct and concrete analyse of the ACTUAL situation of imperialism, and to develop based on this analyse a correct and concrete anti-imperiallist strategy with all the stades and tatics, it will have and need.
    So they have to “use” the most honest anti-imperialist aspirations of the (subjective)“national bourgeosie” and of course of the “patriotic” or “nationalist” petty-bourgeois, for a possibility of a economical and social development FREED from colonial productionrelations, so the possibility to “own” productionlines and factories, or a form of nationalist state-capitalism. But the main part of “expropriated” imperialist assets have to be in state-ownership of a state that is in hands of the (organised power of the) working class, as guarantee that it will develop into a socialist plan-economy.

    If the real leadership will be in the hands of the working class or come in the hand of the “national bourgeoisie”, or if the REAL bourgeoisie so what you can call the “compradore” bourgeoisie, that has linked its interests to the integration in the imperialist system will get the leaderhip, when ideologically and politically the working class is to weak, like in Chile in 1979, depends of how the workingclass is ideologically and politically (and so strategically) weaponed, and depends so of the quality of the vanguard that can develop in the ranks of the workingclass.

    And perhaps the KKE has there a point that the real marxist analyting power is still weak, showing som opportunist contamination……Allthough Stansfield Smith in HIS article is relativating that “opportunism” of the PSUV, Chavez etc …..!

    But the KKE is not good placed to make such a critic because she is BLIND for opportunism (and even for plain REVISIONISM) in “own ranks” (that is, in the selfdeclared International Communist Movement: the communist parties and communist organisations which participate at the Intenational Communist Seminar – at which the FRSO is also participating…)
    When the PSUV is (perhaps – it will need discusssion, see Stansfield Smith) developing an EMPIRIST opportunism, the KKE is developing a DOGMATIC form of opportunism.
    I made already some comment on the line of the KKE. I put it in a PDF-file, you can download it here:
    https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B8UoQVLZKKQvMDQ2NzM5ZTAtMjRiYS00NDcyLWFkNGMtNDJhMjM0NjgzZjFl&hl=en

  23. First, I’m very much in favor of workers studying history, especially their own. I just think it unlikely that there’s a common version we’ll all agree to. Take Bukharin, who I had in mind as someone ‘purged from the earth.’ I think the man was a good revolutionary all his life, making both mistakes and contributions in the process, and he certainly didn’t deserve a bullet in his head. But I’m sure many readers of this site will disagree.

    I assumed the topic of this discussion was 21st century socialism, and not just Venezuela, Columbia and Greece. The concept applies worldwide, including in our own country.

    And the Communist Party of Vietnam changed its name several times, and in 1951, it was the Vietnam Workers Party, as they rendered in English. Later, it became, once again, the Communist Party of Vietnam. But the majority of its members came from classes other than the workers, which makes sense in countries where the large majority of the people are peasants. That the PSUV makes this explicit is a strength, not a weakness.

    What is considered the key feature s of ’21st Century socialism’ are still being shaped and will vary from country to country, I’m sure.

    I argue that two elements are important for us.

    One is that the economy under socialism encompasses both markets and plans, with markets segmented into three–labor, capital and good and services. The first two can be abolished or severely restricted, while the latter can persist for some time under proper regulation. This is the point of Schweickart’s book.

    The other has to do with seeing socialism as ‘winning the battle for democracy, and representing the whole, not just the part, and the future, not just the present. It also means all economies, of any sort, all subsets of an ecosystem, whose laws are ignored at considerable cost. Also, we have learned, or would do well to learn, that there are natural human rights that are self-evident, that we have simply by being human. They evolve through time and place; states may or may not acknowledge them, but we have them nonetheless. Sovereignty resides in the people themselves, and the powers of any state, including the dictatorship of the proletariat, thereby face limits.

    Finally, I’m not interested in a political system, whether one-party or multiparty, where one runs in an election and cannot be challenged and lose to a person or group with opposing views. You might restrict this for a temporary period, but otherwise it will soon turn into its opposite and work against the working class and its allies.

    I’m sure others can add more. I have in my own book deal with information theory and cybernetics as it applies to a socialist transition to classless society.

    But these are the starting points I think important for socialism in our current century. Some are the result of bitter lessons from the past; others a result of new things under the Sun.

  24. Just read up on a new article posted from Venezuela Analysis, & I must say that if anyone really has questions concerning Venezuela & their road to Socialism, this article answers them & much more:

    http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/5615

    • Just to be clear, from a little brief research, Marea Socialista, the PSUV faction interviewed in the VA article, is a Trotskyite grouping within the PSUV. I understand there are also Marxist-Leninists and anti-revisionists in the PSUV who have different views.

      • Yes, I’ve come to find this out as well. Either way, I still appreciate this article they presented about how developed worker-control is taking place in Venezuela.

  25. Obviously we shouldn’t disregard the article just because it’s written by Trotskyists. But there are a few particular points of emphasis in the article which I think have less to do with the Venezuelan experience than they do with a Trotskyist understanding of the Russian experience.

    These include the problem with governmental bureaucrats and the notion of direct workers control.

    Obviously any socialist believes in workers control. But complete control over a given factory by the workers who work there is a different matter. Some Trotskyists advocate that. Other socialists don’t for several reasons.

    One is that a factory has to operate within the framework of the economy as a whole, which requires a centralized decision-making framework. As a result, some decisions just can’t be made locally.

    Another is that a Marxist understanding of socialism has the means of production belonging to the working class as a whole. This has important implications for the distribution of the proceeds of labor. If the workers at a given factory own that factory, then workers at more modern factories, factories with more capital, will make more money for the same amount of work, because the capital they own will multiply their labor. This is contrary to the principal of to each according to their labor or to each according to their need.

    The article also largely ignores the international problems of the Chavez regime, and the danger that still exists of a counter-revolution. It’s very possible than in striving to be the “most left faction in the PSUV” these people may pressure the Chavez government towards adventurist decisions. This was part of the problem Allende faced with the Trotskyist MIR in Chile.

  26. Carl:

    I’m afraid I’ve lost interest in your smug, sophistic, basically anti-communist drivel. You know a lot of facts, and you are an expert at putting them together in nonsensical ways. I’m tired of trying to untangle them. As a result, I couldn’t find the energy to wade through your last post. Sorry.

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