Clarity of Purpose
Visitors to this site may be aware that I’ve recently changed the sub-title of the blog from ‘For worker’s power’ to ‘Bermudian politics and socialism for the 21st Century.’
Explaining what it is that I mean by the phrase ‘socialism for the 21st Century’ is not something that is easily described in a single post, but rather will take a series of posts (if it is even possible to truly express it), I will try here to at least give an opening to the idea.
So, what is it?
The phrase itself comes from the German-born, Mexican-based theoretician Heinz Dieterich, who seems to have coined it in 1996.
It has, however, become popularised as a result of the Chavez-initiated movements throughout Latin America. Indeed, Chavez perhaps captured the essence of its meaning the best in his 2005 address to the World Social Forum:
“We have to reinvent socialism. It cannot be the kind of socialism that we saw in the Soviet Union, but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are built on co-operation, not competition. If we are ever going to end the poverty of the majority of the world, capitalism must be transcended. But we cannot resort to State Capitalism, which would lead to the same perversion of the Soviet Union. We must reclaim socialism as a thesis, a project and a path, but a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the State ahead of everything.”
Now, I want to make it clear right here that just because I am using a phrase by Dieterich or quoting Chavez, this does not mean that I agree with everything they say or do. It just means that I think they’ve helped introduced a useful concept into the general discourse, and I’m building on that.
What I get from Chavez’s comments above is that at the heart of 21st Century socialism must be humanity, not the State, not the means of production, not the Party. Those may be important, but we need to learn from the errors and deformations that occurred under 20th Century socialism, both in terms of the ‘actually existing socialism’ of State Socialism (such as the Soviets, the People’s Republic of China, etc) and the social-democratic approach (of which our PLP is a representative of, of sorts).
The logic of the new society must be one where wealth is used to satisfy the full development of all, of the individual, rather than the inverse, which dominates under capitalism, where humanity exists to serve the logic of capital (which reduces humanity into deformed consumers and workers).
It must also not be one which subordinates the development of the individual and the whole to the logic of the State, the Party or bureaucracy.
In many ways it must be the ‘third way’ – not in the sense of the betrayal of socialism (even in terms of lip-service) that the social-democrats under Blair, Clinton and Schroeder (the three main ones, but the PLP very much adopted this turn – but that’s for another post), but a third way in the sense of retaining the idea of socialism while also ensuring the democratic and human aspect of socialism.
Ultimately, the goal must be a society where, to quote Marx, ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’.
We must learn from the errors of the past and guard against a repeat of the nightmares that they too often became, even though they also helped move the idea of socialism forward. Socialism can – and must – learn from its glorious defeats and the failures of the past.
It is necessary to embrace the ‘battle for hearts and minds’ that the ‘there is no alternative’ propaganda of capitalism has been so successful with in disarming the desire for a better, more human world.
At the moment we have a crisis in capitalism, expressed by the continued economic malaise.
For it to become a crisis of capitalism requires a reinvigorated vision of an alternative, a vision which can animate the conscious resistance to the inhumanity of capital.