Which Way? … Venezuela

A PA Interview with Michael Albert

Linked with Michael Albert – USA.

Published on pa political affairs.net/, by Political Affairs, 10-02-08.

… Regarding labels, I would call the type of society that I hope Venezuela is moving toward, and the type I would like to help attain, participatory society – and I would call that type of society’s economy, participatory economy. Why not use the word socialism? Well, there are a few reasons.

Socialism, insofar as people describe it institutionally, is overwhelming just an economic goal, and I do not think we should conflate it with the whole of society. Indeed, doing this mistakenly implies that having economic aims is sufficient to deal with kinship, cultural, political, and other basic defining features, as well as with features of the economy. This is an old error that lives on in this terminological confusion, I think.

But further, I try to avoid using the word socialism even solely for the economy. I think this is quite analogous to when Chavez, for example, says he is for Twenty-First Century Socialism. I assume that label means he wants to acknowledge that he likes the underlying sentiments of many historic socialists and socialist movements, but he does not want to align with what they have institutionally put in place. I agree …

… But if revolutionaries favor, and work for, reforms, what distinguishes them from reformists?

The reformist fights for an end to a war, or better wages, or for new taxes that are progressive, or a for new law that is good, affirmative action, say, or whatever else, and does so as an end unto itself. The reformist takes for granted that underlying defining features of society are not going to change. Because of that belief, in the reformist’s view there is no need, indeed it would distract from viable concerns, to worry about making such changes, just as there is no need – and it would distract from viable concerns – to try to get people to flap their arms and fly instead of working on real modes of transportation. It would be nice if such wonderful things happened, but in fact they aren’t going to happen, so we shouldn’t waste time trying, and in fact, we should even deter others from trying – and we should do what we do based on knowing that things are not going to fundamentally change. That’s the reformist viewpoint.

The revolutionary is very different. He or she might fight for the exact same reform as the reformist, but will do so very differently. The revolutionary believes underlying defining institutions can be changed and wishes to contribute to that change. So the revolutionary doesn’t fight for a reform as an end in itself, but first because it will help people, of course, and then second, in ways also designed to cause constituencies to seek more changes after winning, to develop organization and structure, and the aspirations and commitments leading toward new defining relations. The idea is to fight for and win the reform in a non-reformist way, in a revolutionary way that leads forward. (full text).

Comments are closed.