Sun Dec 11, 2011, 07:04 PM
Peace Patriot (24,010 posts)
Food for thought for the 99%: The Difficult Journey from "Me" to "Us"
Last edited Mon Dec 12, 2011, 12:17 AM - Edit history (1)
Venezuela’s 21st Century Socialism and the Difficult Journey from ‘Me’ to ‘Us’
By FRANKLIN ROSALES - VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM, May 25th 2011
The Venezuela of today is a nation mobilized in defense of a new ideal – a proposal for the future referred to simply as Socialismo del Siglo 21, or 21st Century Socialism. In short, the Venezuelan people’s permanent struggle for peace and justice has today converged with humanity’s historical pursuit of equality; giving birth to a present day plan of action for human liberation. Thanks to the Venezuelan people, their decision to elect and defend President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, and their shared interpretation – and permanent reinterpretation – of socialism as a future worth fighting for, humanity has a new opportunity to consolidate a social, economic, and cultural system that serves to overcome many of the pervasive social relations promoted and reproduced under capitalism. This Venezuelan possibility, however, is dependent on both the Venezuelan people’s ability to overcome their nation’s own internal contradictions, and the people-of-the-world’s ability to control capital’s assault on the Bolivarian Revolution.
Born of a critical view towards the devastating impact capital has on human health, human relations, and on the ecosystems that sustain human life – whether as a result of underconsumption (See LINK: Poverty, Global Majority) or its’ interconnected opposite, overconsumption (See LINK: Obesity, U.S. and Europe) – this analysis seeks to contextualize a few of the guiding principles being used by the Venezuelan people in their struggle to consolidate a socialist society, and takes a brief glimpse at the challenge faced by 21st Century Socialism in the fight against capital’s culture of consumption that remains quite present in the Venezuela of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Defining Socialism of the 21st Century, or Bolivarian Socialism –
Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), also known as “The Liberator” in most of Latin America, once said that “the most perfect system of government is that which produces the greatest possible sum of happiness” for the majority of any nation’s citizens – a notion Bolívar is said to have been exposed to while studying under mentor Simón Rodríguez (1769-1854); influenced strongly, no doubt, by Rousseau (1712-1778).
In Bolívar’s view, “nature makes human beings that are unequal in nature, temperament, force and character.” Because of this innate difference in human beings, Bolívar believed that the social systems developed by the human collective must serve to “correct these differences, placing individuals into a society in which they have equal access to education, economic development, the arts, services and virtues.” Equal access, affirmed Bolívar, was the first and necessary step towards social equality, without which, “all freedoms, all rights, perish.” The Bolivarian equation, made simple, understands equal access (to resources, to culture) as a fundamental condition for social equality, and understands social equality as the only guarantor of peace, justice, and prosperity.
According to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez the Venezuelan people’s historical pursuit of social equality has always been guided – “warmed” as he puts it – by deep-rooted sentiments of social solidarity, cooperation, and an entrenched anti-imperialism seeded during the anti-colonial independence period of roughly 200 years ago (1806-1825). In order to flourish, asserts Chávez, the Bolivarian Revolution needs these ‘sentiments’ transformed into daily actions by the thousands upon thousands of organized communities that currently make up the Venezuelan landscape. These aforementioned ‘sentiments,’ affirms Chávez, are the basis for an “ethical fight against capitalism’s vices,” including individualism, egoism, privilege and the exploitative consumption model that are destroying Venezuela’s today and Venezuela’s tomorrow.
Borrowing from a speech by Chávez (Aló Presidente 19/02/2006): “the construction of socialism is our reason for being, but this alone is not the entire picture. It is no longer a simple question of a political, moral, ethical or ideological impulse. No, it is much greater than that. It is now about saving the earth, because the capitalist model, the model of development, the consumerist model imposed on the world by those in the Global North; that model is bringing an end to life on the planet.”
The “ethical fight” against capitalism, and the path towards Socialism of the 21st Century, are detailed in Venezuela’s first set of guidelines for socialism’s advance; the Simón Bolívar National Plan 2007 – 2013 (PPSN). In it, Chávez writes of an “ethical and moral refounding” of Venezuelan society, “rooted in the fusion of principles and values born of socialism’s most advanced humanist currents and the historical inheritance of Simón Bolívar’s political program.” Socialism of the 21st Century, according to the PPSN, prioritizes the “supreme happiness of each citizen” within a societal context of social justice, social equality, and social solidarity.
The PPSN singles out capitalism as social equality’s “enemy number one,” pointing to the alienating, anti-social values it promotes as cause for great concern.
Revolutionary Humanism and People’s Power –
Socialism as People’s Power, held (Che) Guevara, becomes reality when a society’s majority has “the total possibility of determining their collective destiny, deciding how much (of society’s wealth) goes to accumulation and how much goes to consumption. Economic strategies/developments are then put into place based on these figures/ allotments, and the people’s consciousness secures their successful completion.”
The Venezuelan Voyage from ‘Me’ to ‘Us’
The voyage beyond egoism in any society is a difficult road to travel, and this is especially true in the case of Venezuela; a nation entrenched in a consumerist model perpetuated by the ability to export millions of barrels of oil and import boatloads of cheap consumer goods on a daily basis. Confronting a ‘culture of consumption’ that goes far beyond the just struggle to secure people access to their basic human needs (food, water, housing, health, education and culture), the Venezuelan people face an ideology that permeates their day-to-day lives and struggles.
Cuba’s José Ramón Fabelo explains how the egocentrism so common in societies dominated by capital is nothing more than the result of a logic perpetuated by society’s elite – an elite, according to Fabelo, that finds itself in a “permanent pursuit of the maximization of profits at the cost of everyone and everything, and which forces others, including the poor, to act in an egocentric way, because for the poor this egocentrism is often the only way to achieve their own survival.” Struggling to survive, Venezuela’s majority has for centuries been forced to fight against itself in an illogical pursuit of a portion of Venezuela’s abundant resources – resources that for centuries had been siphoned off by the upper-crust of Venezuelan society.
And while capitalism’s value system is quite deeply engrained in the collective consciousness of Venezuelan society, renowned eco-socialist Michael Löwy explains how it is far from permanent. Löwy argues, instead, that socialism is a future “founded on a reasonable assumption, already supported by Marx: the predominance of ‘being’ over ‘having’ in a society without social classes or capitalist alienation, i.e. the primacy of free time over the desire to have innumerable objects: personal fulfillment by means of real activities - cultural, sporting, playful, scientific, erotic, artistic and political. Commodity fetishism encourages compulsive buying through the ideology and the advertising that are proper to the capitalist system. Nothing proves that this is part of “eternal human nature”.
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I am not as "sold" on socialism, per se, as some of those quoted in this article but I DO think that it's time--way past time--for a new re-balancing of society's priorities, away from the "dog eat dog" egotism of predatory capitalism, especially here in the U.S. where the imbalance has become such a threat to world peace and to economic justice everywhere.
That the Corporate Giants spawned in our midst--transformed into transglobal monsters--are intent on looting Social Security and Medicare--the last of the "New Deal" programs of social cooperation and fairness (--we pay into them all our working lives; we get help when we need it)--is a major indicator that the rich capitalists are out of control and that, whatever benefits their ideology may once have had for the rest of us (for instance, job creation or production of clever and desirable products) are over. They are no longer producing anything but disaster for the 99% while enriching the 1% beyond all reason.
Venezuela's socialist model should be closely studied, but more than this, Venezuela's ELECTION SYSTEM should be studied for HOW TO ELECT LEFTIST LEADERS willing to battle the Corporate Powers on our behalf.
---Venezuela has an electronic voting system but it is an OPEN SOURCE system. Anyone may review the code by which the votes are tabulated. Here, we have an electronic 'TRADE SECRET' system--the public IS FORBIDDEN to review the code by which the votes are tabulated--now run largely by one, private, far rightwing-connected corporation (ES&S, which bought out Diebold). Our system is EXTREMELY riggable--which is how the "powers-that-be" have produced this Scumbag Congress and is also, I believe, one of their controls on Obama.
--Venezuela does a whopping 55% audit (comparison of ballots to electronic totals)--more than five times the minimum needed to detect fraud in electronic voting systems. In our system, HALF THE STATES do NO AUDIT AT ALL and the other half do a miserably inadequate 1% audit.
--The above--public as opposed to private vote counting--is how the Venezuelans have been able to vote themselves a "New Deal." The privatized vote counting that we have here is why we can't even hope to get a "New Deal" in the U.S. It has been blockaded.
--There are other stark differences in the two election systems, in Venezuela's favor, which reflect the overall trend in Latin America toward honest elections (restrictions on campaign contributions, on last minute campaign "attack" ads, etc.) but this is the big one--the one causing the most problems for us: private rather than public control of the vote counting.
Without transparent vote counting, we CANNOT elect good leaders--whether they are "New Dealers," or socialists, or favor a mixed socialist/capitalist model, or whatever. We wonder why we seem to have no one in Washington DC representing the interests of the 99%? This. Is. Why.
It was a recent coup d'etat, circa 2002 to 2004, perpetrated on us by the Anthrax Congress in the same month as the Iraq War Resolution (Oct. '02) in the form of a $3.9 billion e-voting boondoggle with NO audit/recount requirements and NO restrictions on lobbying. They did NOT mandate that everybody had to vote on private 'TRADE SECRET' machines. This was accomplished all over the country by corrupt lobbying (and it can therefore still be undone at the state/local level--an important bit of information).
Keep in mind that Venezuela also has terrible Corporate Media--even worse than ours--and multi-millions of our tax dollars have been infused into Venezuelan elections in devious ways to rightwing candidates and causes, through entities like the USAID. The Venezuelan National Assembly has tried to ban this kind of outside interference but it still happens. So, what is the difference between Venezuela and the U.S., as to the people's ability to elect the leaders they want? It is very simple, in my opinion: The voting system!
It is quite notable that we can't even have a DISCUSSION about socialism--or, say, about the value of putting "Me" aside and thinking about "Us"--in this country. We know why that is so. The Corporate Powers control the political discussion. But they also do that in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, where a leftist revolution is taking place in the teeth of Corporate propaganda. "We, the People" CAN create our own networks of news and information and our own organizing tools to elect the best leaders but all this is wasted effort if the Corporate Powers control the vote counting.
That is our situation. Venezuela is one of the best examples of how much bullshit can be overcome if the voting system is an honest one. They have given themselves their version of a "New Deal"--more socialist than ours was. We may not want to go that far. We may settle for securing certain kinds of social programs, pulling some corporate charters and dismantling some of these corporate monsters, defunding the war planners and establishing a peaceful military and other such reformist measures. But first we need to restore honest vote counting in the PUBLIC venue.
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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)
Mon Dec 12, 2011, 10:28 PM
arely staircase (12,482 posts)
1. Reminds me of a Hitchens quote on Ayn Rand
I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings; I don't know what your impression has been, but
some things require no further reinforcement.