Skip to Content

state capitalism

Hugo Chavez: ‘21st Century Socialist’ or Populist Strongman?

The formula ‘socialism of the 21st century’ encapsulates the hopes that many leftists throughout the world placed in President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and his so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ or ‘Bolivarian Process.’ (‘Bolivarian’ refers to Simon Bolivar, commander of the army that defeated the Spaniards in 1821 and won independence for Venezuela and other Spanish colonies in the north-western part of South America.)

The term ‘21st century socialism’ was coined by Mexican sociologist Heinz Dieterich Steffan, who served as an adviser to Chavez for several years but fell out with him in 2011. It conveys the idea that Venezuela is pioneering a new and exciting ‘socialism’ for the new century, based on grassroots participation, in contrast to the stodgy bureaucratic ‘socialism’ (what we call state capitalism) of the 20th century.

Defying the Yanquis

‘Surplus Theory’ versus Marxian Theory

The work of Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick contains some insights for socialists but it is not Marxian economics and is not socialist.

Confusion About Class

Gorän Therborn, Professor of Sociology at Cambridge University, is known for his writings on 'post-Marxism,' notably his 1980 book, The Ideology of Power and the Power of Ideology, where he reflects on the writings of Louis Althusser, and then describes the 'ideological constitution of classes' and the relationships between ideology, political power and social change.

In his 25-page essay, Class in the 21st Century (New Left Review 78, Nov/Dec 2012), Therborn describes the twentieth century as ‘clearly the age of the working class,’ stating that ‘working people who lacked property became a major and sustained political force’ but ‘the working-class century no doubt ended in defeat, disillusion and disenchantment, it also left behind enduring achievements’.

Cooking the Books: It Wasn’t Socialism

Commenting on multi-millionaire and Tory backwoodsman Adrian Beecroft’s description of LibDem Cabinet Minister Vince Cable as a “socialist”for criticising his proposal to make it easier for employers to sack workers, Owen Jones asked “How did ‘socialist’ turn into an insult?”(I newspaper, 25 May).

It’s a question we ourselves have often asked. Our answer has been that it’s because the word became associated with the Labour Party and the state capitalist dictatorship in the old USSR.

Although we consistently opposed both, we were unable to keep to the fore the original meaning of ‘socialism’ as a co-operative commonwealth based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production for use, not the market or profit, and the end of having to work for wages.  Both Labour and the Russian dictatorship failed and people were encouraged to see this as the failure of socialism.

Syndicate content