segunda-feira, 24 de junho de 2013

Towards a 21st Century Socialism?

Instituto Chris Hani
África do Sul

14h00 – 15h30 SESSION 8
Towards a 21st Century Socialism?
Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party (SACP)
Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu Natal
Voltar Pomar, Sao Paolo Forum
15h30 – 16h00 TEA BREAK
16h00 – 18h00 SESSION 9


First, I want to congratulate each and every one of the comrades present at this seminar.

Unfortunately I could not rearrange my schedule to be physically present, which I deeply regret, because for the Workers’ Party and also for the Foro de São Paulo it is very important the relationship with Africa in general, with South Africa in particular, especially with you, the South African left.

Anyway, I wrote a short essay on the theme Towards a 21st Century Socialism? to contribute with the debate of the seminar on alternatives to neoliberalism.

I will start by explaining how we see the international situation and, from there, to talk about the possibilities of the struggle for socialism on a global scale. Then, I will talk about Latin America and, in this context, about Brazil.

The first thing we underscored is that the international crisis is still going on. Although with different impacts from region to region, country to country, economic sector to economic sector, social layer to social layer, the truth is that the crisis continues, and the struggle between States and social classes on a national and global scale is hinged around its outcomes and the search for its solutions.

The international crisis continues partly due to the structural determinants of capitalism in this stage of financial imperialism. Partly because the dominant classes in the United States and Europe are still committed to policies of a neoliberal nature, to extreme austerity measures, to policies based on the exploitation of their peoples, on plunder of and war against the so-called peripheries of the world, and also to standing up against countries, small or big, that decide to build alternatives to neoliberalism, to imperialism, to the forces that are still hegemonic across the planet. And also partly because forces of change have not established themselves yet, at least not at the required scale, forces that are capable of superseding the crisis for the benefit of another type of society.

The continuity of the crisis, the stance of the dominant classes and the relative weakness of the progressive and leftist forces indicate that we will continue to go through a period of global instability, marked by economic crises, major social conflicts, and by increasingly more dangerous wars. We cannot predict how long this instability will last, or which trends will prevail in the medium term, since that depends on the struggle that is being waged today between social classes in each country and between States on a regional and global scale.

The United States is facing a twofold problem: on the one hand, a decline of its world hegemony; on the other, a relative exhaustion of its productive structure. Surely the two processes are connected. Facing both problems successfully (from the point of view of the dominant classes, by restructuring the US economy and restoring its hegemonic role worldwide) implies among other things a high level of unity of the US dominant class, which only tends to occur in an environment of acute international military conflict and/or internal collapse.

Regarding the first, the US is not in geopolitical and economic conditions to wage a conflict that will have the beneficial collateral effects the Second World War had on its economy. About the second point, there is no collapse, but rather an important decline, which in turn generates an internal environment of uneasiness that constitutes the backdrop of the political and social confrontation between the US political and social forces, bringing about permanent tension on a global scale and inclined to solve any conflict by military means.

Compounding the situation, one of its outcomes is the political stalemate and relative equilibrium between the Republican and Democratic parties. Hence, our expectation is that Obama’s second term will be, at best, similar to the first, which is no good news either for the world, both politically and economically.

It is our understanding that the conflict opposing, on one side, the USA and its allies and on the other the BRICS, is but one of the expressions of a long-lasting process, namely, the geopolitical shift of the world’s dynamic center towards Asia and the South.

The competition between the so-called BRICS and the bloc led by the United States reflects on different regions, like Africa, along with Latin America, posing many challenges to Latin America and the Caribbean, which do not seek to replace the United States hegemony with another one, wherever that may come from.

The so-called Pacific Alliance, an initiative stimulated by the United States to undermine autonomous integration efforts like the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) and the MERCOSUR (Southern Common Market), is also part of the shifts in the political strategy of the US to concentrate efforts in Asia and regain control of what they call "backyard".

As for Europe, what we have witnessed is the commitment of the European dominant classes to extreme austerity measures, to the dismantling of the so-called welfare state and the strengthening of a business Europe to the detriment of a democratic Europe.

This option has led to an antidemocratic and antipopular centralization process that is triggering multiple reactions, from the simultaneous growth of the left and the far-right (as in Greece), to the questioning of national unity (as in Spain), to stimulus to militarism (as seen in several actions by Italy and France over the recent months), threats of a disruption of the European Union (as made by the British government) and so forth.

As for Germany, we do not expect this year’s elections to change the positions of the German government, not only because today’s polls favor Merkel, but also mostly because Merkel’s policy is hegemonic with great part of the German society.

As for the European social democracy, both where it is in the opposition, as in Germany, and where it is in government, as in France, our evaluation is that it can neither propose nor implement a real alternative program.

Meanwhile, with important exceptions (as in Greece), the European left has not yet been able to become a government alternative, which casts pessimistic shadows over Europe’s capacity to get out of the crisis, through the left, at least in the short run.

The São Paulo Forum is following attentively the situation in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the neighboring areas. As in other periods of history, this region concentrates conflicts and contradictions that are already tragic in themselves for their peoples, yet today may evolve into even more terrible circumstances for all humankind.

Some situations are more urgent. In Israel, there is a government kept by those who oppose the two-state solution, plus standing for antidemocratic, racist, and militaristic measures. This constitutes a further threat not only for the Palestinians and Iran, but also for world peace.

The conflicts in Syria and Mali, in turn, confirm that a destabilization process is under way in the region for the purpose of facilitating and legitimating the presence of European powers and the United States, under the guise of fighting terrorism or of the hypocritical responsibility to protect.

Overall, the São Paulo Forum finds it necessary to deliver to the European social-democratic parties our critical assessment of their actions in face of the ongoing crisis, the neoliberal policies, and the migrants, and at this particular juncture, in face of the present attitudes of a colonial nature in Europe regarding situations as those of Libya, Syria, Mali, and Iran.

The view of the São Paulo Forum about the world situation constituted the starting point for assessing the accomplishments, challenges, weaknesses, and contradictions of the Latin-American and Caribbean regional integration process, underscoring the importance of the Community of Latin-American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and of the UNASUR.

Surely, the integration is hinged on the strength of our social movements, parties, and governments, as is the case of Uruguay and Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, El Salvador, Ecuador and so forth.

As we see it, in the present international context, Latin America and the Caribbean still offer better conditions to get the struggle for socialism out of its strategic defensive.

We know that deepening the changes and accelerating regional integration will be easier if we succeed in building a mass, democratic, popular, and leftist culture in favor of integration and of a new development model.

This, in turn, presupposes, among other factors, the strengthening of the political and social left in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an improvement of the working conditions of the São Paulo Forum.

Our experience, since we created the São Paulo Forum in 1990, is that strengthening and enhancing the São Paulo Forum is the partisan equivalent of deepening the regional integration: it does not solve all the existing strategic and political-organizational problems in the region and/or in each country, but it creates an environment in which we will be better equipped to solve these problems.

All the parties of the Forum consider that the integration is fundamental and strategic, both as protection against foreign meddling in general and against the impacts of the present international crisis in particular, and to make better use of the regional potential; and also as an “umbrella” for the various strategic projects pursued by the Forum’s parties.

From those who defend socialism to those advocating a new capitalist development model, all recognize that the integration is a key factor in limiting the reach and the meddling of the conservative alliance between the local oligarchs and their metropolitan allies.

Now, let me to talk not as Executive Secretary of the São Paulo Forum, but as a member of the National Board of the Workers’ Party.

To me it seems that the left all over the world -and in Latin America and the Caribbean is no different-, we all have a theory deficit that delays and distorts the carrying out of our goals.

This theory deficit includes the regional integration itself and a study of more than a decade of progressive and leftist governments, in addition to three other themes: the analysis of the capitalism of the 21st century, since many are still operating with a twentieth-century interpretation of capitalism, a study of the socialist, social democratic, and national-developmentalist experiences of the 20th century, since many repeat some of the mistakes and disregard some of the accomplishments and teachings of those experiences; and the strategy, since in many leftist Latin-American minds Che Guevara still supplants Allende, even though, at least today, most of us are engaged in experiences that have more to learn from Allende than from Che.

Surely when we speak of a theory deficit, we do not mean that there is “little intellectual production”, but rather we are referring to the weakness of this production.

In the specific case of Brazil, the causes of this weakness are at least three.

Firstly, the loss of status of the “traditional middle class” pressures part of this social sector to have very conservative stances, including a propensity to right, while driving other sectors to leftist stances. Moreover, as the middle class is the social basis of great part of the intellectuality, including that of the left, this affects theory production.

Secondly, there is the impact and influence of neoliberalism and of the triple crisis (of Soviet socialism, of the social democracy, and of national-developmentalism) in the fields of culture, education, and social communication.

This impact and influence affect the mechanisms of formation and promotion of the intellectuality, and do not favor leftist thought.

Neoliberalism’s influence on culture, education, and communication prevents the creation of a mass thought based on leftist values: there will be no popular culture with tens and tens of millions in favor of sovereignty with integration, of democracy, of social equality, and of a new kind of development unless we have a cultural industry, a public education, and a mass communication of a new kind.

Without these changes we will keep on collecting results such as that of a recent poll that showed that Brazil’s Workers’ Party is the most admired party in the country (24% against 6% of centrist Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement and 5% of right-wing Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy), yet in a context of a decreasing number of people who declare themselves to have a partisan preference (falling from 61% in 1988 to 44% in 2012).

Thirdly, there are political differences across the Brazilian left on how to accomplish our two great tasks: overcoming neoliberal hegemony and implementing structural reforms that go beyond conservative developmentalism.

These political differences generate two symmetrically ill-conceived positions: either exacerbated governism, with eyes that only see that which is “possible to do” here and now and attacking any critical position; and a leftism that is also exacerbated, with eyes that only see the ultimate goal, without consideration of any realistic analysis of the correlation of forces.

To some extent, governism and leftism express the same phenomenon: a divide between theory and practice, between ultimate goals and political means, between strategy and tactic.

In order to overcome this situation we need a strong linkage between theory and politics, especially now when we have achieved partial success and have also realized that in order to keep moving forward we must change important aspects of the strategy we have adopted so far.

Our field of ideas, whose hard core is prioritizing the social, broadening democratic freedoms, affirming the role of the State, and combining national sovereignty and regional integration, must be made hegemonic through our struggle. Surely, this field of ideas comprises an array of positions ranging from the “progressive” to the revolutionary socialists. Moreover, this is positive: one of the experiences of the São Paulo Forum is that one should not fear diversity, including ideological diversity, within the left.

Lastly, I would like to say that the global and Latin-American setting today urges us to be faster if we wish to move from an emphasis on superseding neoliberalism to an emphasis on structural reforms. Faster in the integration, faster in changing the countries we govern, more effective where we are the opposition and, overall, with greater unity of the Latin-American and Caribbean leftist parties and organizations. Moreover, obviously, with more dialogue and cooperation between the São Paulo Forum and the leftist parties and organizations of Oceania, Asia, the United States, Europe and Africa.

I would also like to invite you to continue discussing these themes during the 19th Meeting of the São Paulo Forum that will take place in Brazil, in the city of São Paulo, from July 31 to August 4, 2013.

PT Greetings,

Valter Pomar

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