Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twenty-First Century Socialism

The Unión Civica Democratica (UCD), a far right organization in Honduras funded by the US government, is holding a conference in Tegucigalpa today called "Antidote to Twenty-First Century Socialism" with Roberto Micheletti Bain as the keynote speaker. We have not yet explored what it is they want to cure us of.

Twenty-first century socialism is the brainchild of Heinz Dietrich Steffan, a German professor, in his book "El Socialismo del Siglo XXI" published in 2000. It was popularized outside of scholarly circles by Hugo Chavez starting in 2005. It is currently said to be the basis of reforms in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

So what is twenty-first century socialism? According to Dietrich, neither capitalism nor real socialism have managed to solve the urgent world problems. To resolve this, Dietrich proposes a new kind of socialism with four basic institutions.

The first institution is the equivalence economy, based on Marx's theory of labor and value. Under this system, value is determined by those who create it, instead of the market. Dietrich proposes creating an economy of values based on the idea that something derives its value from the work put into it, not the law of supply and demand. Value replaces price.

The second institution is participative democracy, which uses the plebiscite to decide important questions that concern its citizens. Dietrich calls for a high quality democracy that slowly moves from representative to participative democracy. Key is self-determination via everyone participating in the decision making process.

The third institution is basic organizations, that is, the political or social organizations closest to the community that they serve. These in turn are assisted by larger organizations, such as political parties or NGOs.

The fourth institution is development or structuralism, an economic theory that holds that the core industrial center with an agricultural periphery produces underdevelopment and increases the gap between developed and underdeveloped nations. The industrial development of raw materials (such as wheat, soy, wood) adds value to these exportable materials, and their use internally instead of imports leads to less of a development gap between the industrialized and developing nations. This economic theory has its roots in dependency theory, which holds that the current world economy is rigged in favor of the developed nations.

Dietrich refined twenty-first century socialism down to a single phrase in a 2007 interview, saying
"it's when the majority have the greatest historically possible degree of control of the decision making in the economic, political and cultural and the military institutions that govern their lives."
We've seen Micheletti's antidote: stage a coup and trample civil rights. Which one would you prefer?

No comments: