[OPE-L] re Socialism of the 21st Century

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Fri Jul 29 2005 - 13:01:17 EDT

Listmembers may be interested in the following note which appeared in
yesterday's MRzine.


Building Socialism of the 21st Century
by Michael A. Lebowitz

[The following is the concluding section of Michael A. Lebowitz's
talk "Socialism Doesn't Drop from the Sky," presented to the National
Conference of Revolutionary Students for the Construction of
Socialism of the XXI Century in Merida, Venezuela on 24 July 2005. -- Ed.]

In the same way that Marx was prepared to change his own views in the
light of the Paris Commune, we have to think about socialism now in
the light of the experiences of the 20th Century.

We need to understand that socialism of the 21st Century cannot be a
statist society where decisions are top-down and where all initiative
is the property of state office-holders or cadres of self-reproducing
vanguards. Precisely because socialism focuses upon human
development, it stresses the need for a society which is democratic,
participatory, and protagonistic. A society dominated by an
all-powerful state does not produce the human beings who can create socialism.

For the same reason, socialism is not populism. A society in which
people look to the state to provide them with resources and with the
answers to all their problems does not foster the development of
human capacities; rather, it leaves them as people who look to the
state for all answers and to leaders who promise everything.

Further, socialism is not totalitarianism. Precisely because human
beings differ and have differing needs and abilities, their
development by definition requires recognition and respect for
diversity. Neither state nor community pressures for uniformity in
productive activity, consumption choices, or lifestyles support the
emergence of what Marx welcomed as unity based upon recognition of difference.

We need to recognize, too, that socialism is not the worship of
technology -- a disease that has plagued Marxism and which in the
Soviet Union took the form of immense factories, mines, and
collective farms to capture presumed economies of scale. Rather, we
must acknowledge that small enterprises may both permit greater
democratic control from below (thus developing the capacities of the
producers) and also may better preserve an environment which can
serve the needs of people.

We can learn the lessons from the experiences of the 20th Century. We
know now that the desire to develop a good society for people is not
sufficient -- you have to be prepared to break with the logic of
capital in order to build a better world. And, we know now that
socialism can not be achieved from above through the efforts and
tutelage of a vanguard which seizes all initiatives and distrusts the
self-development of the masses. "The working class," Rosa Luxemburg
wisely stressed, "demands the right to make its own mistakes and
learn in the dialectic of history." When we begin from the goal of a
society which can unleash all the potential of human beings and
recognise that the path to that goal is inseparable from the
self-development of people, we can build a truly human society.

I suggest, in fact, that many lessons of the 20th Century have been
learned and are embodied in the Bolivarian Constitution. In Article
299's emphasis upon "ensuring overall human development," in the
declaration of Article 20 that "everyone has the right to the free
development of his or her own personality," in the focus of Article
102 upon "developing the creative potential of every human being and
the full exercise of his or her personality in a democratic society,"
in Article 62's declaration that participation by people is "the
necessary way of achieving the involvement to ensure their complete
development, both individual and collective," in the identification
of democratic planning and participatory budgeting at all levels of
society and the focus in Article 70 upon "self-management,
co-management, cooperatives in all forms" as examples of "forms of
association guided by the values of mutual cooperation and
solidarity," and in the obligations noted in Article 135 which. "by
virtue of solidarity, social responsibility and humanitarian
assistance, are incumbent upon private individuals according to their
abilities" -- the elements of a Socialism of the 21st Century are
there in ideal form.

The struggle now is to make them a reality.

<http://www.monthlyreview.org/0504lebowitz.htm>Lebowitz is professor
emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British
Columbia, Canada and is the author of
Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class (Palgrave
Macmillan, 2003), winner of the 2004 Deutscher Memorial Prize.

Comment (0) | Trackback (0)


Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Jul 30 2005 - 00:00:01 EDT