We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Socialism for the 21st century. Interview with Michael A. Lebowitz
The Marxist-oriented, retired Canadian professor of economics explores several topics of concern to people who see the necessity of fundamental change to the way our societies are organized. He explains important Marxist concepts that account for the many economic crises of capitalism, the function of capitalism's latest phase of neoliberalism to create a race to the bottom for all societies, the reasons why past socialist experiments in the Soviet Union (vangardism) and Yugoslavia (competing worker enterprises) ultimately failed, the lack of relevance that Keynesian solutions have in our current globalized capitalism, and makes brief reference to the virtues of Venezuelan communal councils and cooperatives.
Because Lebowitz makes only brief reference to Chavez's "socialism for the 21st century", I don't think this is an appropriate title for the article, and this part of the interview doesn't really offer anything of substance. He has spent quite a lot of time in Venezuela and has written very favorably in other articles about their communal councils.
I don't share this enthusiasm based on my own readings and a two week visit to Venezuela in late 2005. While such experiments have produced the germ of grassroots decision-making in that country, these communal councils and other cooperatives have too often been used by Chavez, and now his successor, to secure political support for their party which remains a top-down organized party. Meanwhile, little was done by the Chavez administrations to interfere substantially with the private sector which remains largely in control of the Venezuelan economy.