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Latin America & Caribbean

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"In Venezuela, Conditions for Building Socialism of the 21st Century Have Been Created"
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Heinz Dieterich, who has advised President Chavez, discusses what 21st century socialism might look like and what the chances for its implementation are in Venezuela.


5th Jan 07 - Cristina Marcano, MR Zine 

Q. Professor Dieterich, did you invent the concept of "Socialism of the 21st Century"?

A. Yes.  I developed it, beginning in 1996.   It has been published with its corresponding theory in book form, from 2000 on, in Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Central America, Brazil, and Venezuela, and, outside Latin America, in Spain, Germany, the People's Republic of China, Russia, and Turkey.  Since 2001, it has been appropriated all over the world.  Presidents like Hugo Chávez and Rafael Correa use it constantly, and so do labor movements, farmers, intellectuals, and political parties.

Along with the theory of socialism of the 21st century, I advanced the theory of Latin American transition that is expressed in key concepts like the Regional Block of Power (Bloque Regional de Poder -- BRP), also already in general use in Latin America.  However, the concept Regional Block of Popular Power (Bloque Regional de Poder Popular -- BRPP) was proposed by a Venezuelan friend, Douglas Pérez, in a business meeting three months ago.

Q. In short, what does this new socialism consists of?

A. In brief: a socialism in which the majorities have the greatest historically possible degree of decision-making power in the economic, political, cultural, and military institutions that govern their lives.

Q. There are politicians and intellectuals of the Left who say that nobody knows how to build socialism.  Why do you maintain the opposite and why does President Chávez aspire to build what is impossible?

A. Because their pronouncement is totally false.  And no matter how often it is repeated, it continues to be false.  Contemporary science does not leave any mystery about what socialism of the 21st century is or its difference from contemporary capitalism and historical socialism.  Nor about how we ought to construct it nowadays.  It is, simply, a mistaken epistemological position.

Q. In your opinion, has there been any socialist country in the modern era?

A. It depends on the criteria that are used for such judgment.  As a scientific economist and sociologist, I prefer the parameters that Marx and Engels used: economy of value and participatory democracy.  And under those criteria, there has been no socialist society since the French Revolution, although, yes, there have been many heroic and tragic attempts to achieve it.

Q. Do conditions for implementing socialism of the 21st century exist in Venezuela?

A. Yes, now indeed they do.  I mention only some.  Two thirds of the population voted for the President with full knowledge of his banner of Socialism of the 21st Century.  This is a substantial mandate of citizens.  The advance of the educational and economic system and of the consciousness of the people has been remarkable.  Latin American integration and the destruction of the Monroe Doctrine seem already unstoppable.  The Armed Forces now are reliable, and three key sectors of the national economy are in the hands of the government: the State, PdVSA-CVG, and more than one hundred thousand cooperatives.

Q. What would be the decisive step that the President would have to take to arrive at socialism of the 21s century in Venezuela?

A. They are two: 1. to gradually replace the regulating principle of market economy, price, by the regulating principle of socialist economy, value, understood as time inputs (insumos de tiempo) necessary for the creation of a product; and 2. to advance the economic participation of citizens and workers at three levels: 1. at the macroeconomic level (e.g., national budget); 2. at the mesoeconomic level (municipality); and, 3. at the microeconomic level (enterprise).

Q. Is the economy of socialism of the 21st century, then, a barter economy?

A. No.  That is as erroneous as the pronouncement that nobody knows how to build socialism of the 21st century.  The problem of economic injustice does not lie in money.  It has nothing to do with whether economy is monetized or functions through exchange in kind (by barter).  In the exploitative relation between slave and master, once the initial payment is amortized, money does not intervene, and yet it is one of the worst brutalities in history.

Injustice exists when a product "A" is exchanged for a product "B," and their values -- the labor time necessary to produce each one of them -- are not equal, that is to say, when equivalents are not exchanged.  Whether that exchange of unequal values (unequal labor efforts) is monetized -- that is to say, whether it is expressed in monetary or natural form -- is secondary.

Q. What would be the decisive step of the President, then?

A. It is not generalized nationalization of private property, because it does not solve the cybernetic problem of the market.  It did not do so in the past and it would not do so today.  Socialism today is essentially a problem of informatic complexity.  Hence, the transcendental step consists in establishing socialist accounting (value) next to capitalist accounting (price), in the State, PdVSA-CVG, and cooperatives, in order to construct an economic circuit of production and circulation parallel to that of the capitalist market economy. The economy of state and social institutions can move step by step toward the economy of value and gain ground against the circuit of capitalist reproduction, until it displaces it in the future.  Since the scales of valuation by prices, values, and also volumes are commensurable, there are no ruptures in economic exchanges that could cause a political problem to the government.  In all this, the State and the majorities play an important role, but both are nowadays mainly with the project of the President.

To create this parallel circuit of the economy of value would be relatively easy, because values exist in underlying form in the present capitalist accounting.  Values exist in it in such a way that, with the development of corresponding software, it would be very easy to establish this socialist economic circuit next to the capitalist one.  Without this passage to the economy of equivalency, it is not possible to have a socialist economy.

Link to original source

This interview was published in Rebelión on 2 January 2007.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.