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Chavez is NOT a Socialist

26 December 2007

Recently, Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, was defeated in a referendum for constitutional change. Among other things, Chavez wanted to be able to run for re-election indefinitely, impose emergency media censorship, and further consolidate power by choosing regional officials. In other words, he wanted to move closer to a dictatorship with himself on the throne. Fortunately, the people, many of whom had supported his previous bids for president, rejected this proposal. The “No” rallies opposing his reforms were brutally put down by state police wielding tear gas and rubber bullets. Through all this, and throughout his terms in office, Chavez has continually been described as a “socialist”. The Toronto Star (30/11/07) carried an article by Marc Burleigh that stated, “Even some devout Chavez supporters…have expressed doubts at their president’s bid to turn their country into a permanent socialist state.” And, “He (Chavez) also wants to enshrine his Bolivarian revolutionary ideals by declaring Venezuela a ‘socialist’ state, taking over the central bank and permitting authorities to expropriate private property — mirroring communist Cuba under Fidel Castro, whom Chavez idolizes.” Chavez’s admiration for Castro and his fiery opposition to US imperialism are well known.

None of the above makes Chavez a socialist. On the contrary, it proves that he is NOT a socialist. Socialism is a society based on the common ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth, administered democratically in the interests of all. It would be a society without states, classes, money, employment, wages, but with voluntary labour and free access for all to the available goods and services. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. Such a society has never been established, and when it is, it must be a world-wide system and must replace capitalism entirely.

Thus a “socialist state” is a contradiction of terms. The state and its institutions exist only to support the capitalist mode of production. It will disappear with the coming of socialism. Socialism must be established and run on truly democratic terms — obtained only when the vast majority wants it and organized by councils, elected and accountable to all the people. Therefore there will be no leaders at all, never mind ones proposing themselves as dictators .Nor will there be state armies or police to protect and uphold the interests of the ruling class. No ruling class!

So why does Chavez call himself a socialist and why does the world media concur when the term “socialist” obviously does not apply? For Chavez, it gives him an aura, sets him apart, positions him as opposite to Venezuela’s capitalist class and to the US, and thus gains him popular support as ‘a man of the people’. The international press is happy to go along with this as, sooner or later, Chavez will fall and they can once again point to the ‘failure’ of a socialist experiment. This has been their clarion call for decades, gleefully exposing the austerity, backwardness, inefficiency, and repression of the so-called communist states of the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba et al. All of these countries established a form of capitalism run by the state, not socialism-communism (compare with the definition of socialism above). How many times do we hear the collapse of the Soviet Union trumpeted as ‘The Fall of Communism”? Repeat it enough and you are likely to be believed. It is a handy tool for the capitalist press, obscuring the real nature of socialism, and creating a huge hurdle for real socialists to overcome. Chavez might, at best, be described as a Left Winger, but to us Left Wing and Right Wing are but the two wings of the same bird — capitalism.

Chavez is NOT a socialist!

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