Reposted from the International Communist Review: http://www.iccr.gr/site/en/issue2/communist-and-the-so-called-socialism-of-the-21st-century.html
Pável Blanco Cabrera
Member of the central committee of the Communist Party of México
In memory of Vladimir Ilich Lenin, on the occassion of the 140th anniversary of his birth.
The world counterrevolution of the end of the 20th century gave impulse on the ideological field to the thesis of the end of the history, a campaign directed to affirm capitalism for all eternity, centered on questioning the validity of Marxism-Leninism and to disarm to the working class and the opressed people in their struggle for emancipation. Also known as deideologization this pretension designed by thinkers in service to imperialism had as premise to discredit the theory of communism and the praxis of socialist construction using the effect of the crisis that carried to the temporary retrogression of the working class in the USSR and other countries of the socialist field in Europe, Asia and Africa. At the same time, taking advantage of the confusion of the momment in the workers' movement and in the communist parties – several of which renounced to their identity and objectives in order to transform themselves into socialdemocrat parties-, it cultivated the surge of new forms of dominant ideology, such as postmodernism and other variants to influence not only in universities and centers of formation, culture and art, but to permeate unions, popular movements and organizations, left political forces, progressive intellectuals and also to impact negatively in communist and workers parties.
The general objective of imperialist strategy was not achieved, since reality cannot be holded to a straight jacket, and class struggle did not stop for a single second, regardless of the fact that counterrevolution, triumphant at that moment, presented with propaganda historical events distorted to its favor. Today –two decades after the Berlin Wall and all that volley of irrationality- capitalism at crisis has the working class and the communist and anti-imperialist movements confronting it in all continents. Nevertheless in a secondary way this served as breedign ground for a series of approaches that today can become constraints to carrying the struggle to new favorable levels for the international working class and the peoples of the world. Various of these approaches converge in the so called "Socialism of the 21st century".
The so called "Socialism of the 21st century" cannot be identified with the theoretical elaboration of a single political and ideological current, since its the confluence of diverse currents identified by their hostility to Marxism-Leninism and to the international communist movement: for example various trotskyist groups; heirs of the new left; latinoamericanist marxists; supporters of movementism and neo anarquist; intellectuals that consider their contribution produced in the frameworks of the academy as indispensable and essential for social processes. The paternity of such concept can not be attributed to a single current, to a single author, although they all have sought as platform the actual processes in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, but without renouncing to be considered as universal and disqualifying like unfeasible all that can not be grouped under its approaches. Another element of their positioning is that they insist on the "new", “innovative”, "novel" character of their proposal in front of which they consider the workers' movement of the 20th century and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism as old and out dated.
In class struggle, since the conditions of social development made possible the creation of the materialistic conception of history, its not the first time that communists confront themselves with currents that in the name of socialism present the positions of the petite bourgeoisie, its not the first time that reform or revolution are placed face to face.
In The German ideology and in The Manifesto of the Communist Party, just fot citing two works of Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, adjustments are done with "true socialism", "reactionary socialism" ("feudal", "petite bourgeois"), with "reactionary or bourgeois socialism" and with "critic-utopian communism and socialism". In another work, result of the polemic of Marx and Engels with Düring (although the work as was custom in the division of tasks of the teachers of the proletariat carried only the sign of one of them) the following is affirmed: "Since the capitalist mode of production has appeared in the arena of history there has been individuals and entire sects who projected more or less vaguely, as a future ideal, the appropriation of all means of production by society. However, so that this was practical, so that it became a historical necessity, the objective conditions for its execution were needed to be given first.”
A synthesis of the criticisms of Marx and Engels shows us that not everything that is presented in the name of socialism has to do with the historical role of the proletariat and of the communists:
The negation of socialism built in the 20th century.
Among the promoters of the so called "Socialism of the 21st century" there is a fundamental coincidence: the demarcation and rejection to the socialist construction experience in the USSR and in other countries of Europe and Asia. Some of them go further blaming the own October Revolution assuming the old ideas of Kautsky and the opportunists of the II International on the immaturity of the conditions for the conquest of political power by the working class and the impossibility of socialism because what corresponded was to develop capitalism, deriving from here the bases for the alleged separation between democracy and communism; to explain that It was all condemned beforehand to failure. However the generality is that although they vindicate 1917 October the developers of "Socialism of the 21st century" assume the Trotskyist critics towards socialist construction and to the role of the Bolshevik Party particularly, and to Marxism-Leninism in general, in fundamental matters that we are going to examine further ahead. In this they are can not be differentiated from for example the theses assumed by the opportunistic group of Bertinotti for the V Congress of the Refoundation Communist Party of Italy in the year 2002, that planted a "radical interruption with regard to the experience of socialism as it was carried out", something to which they also refer as to a "radical break with stalinism".
Some of those –really reactionary- ideas preached as characteristics of the so called "socialism of the 21st century", is argued, are not criticized in the name of tactics. In order not to torpedo the process in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador that are in the center of the anti-imperialis struggle of Latin America. There are even communist parties that integrate such concept to its routine vocabulary, to propaganda and to the programmatic question.
We do not believe –upon setting our divergent and critical point of view- to lack respect for those processes, which we support, of which we are supportive. These processes were not born with the flag of "socialism of the 21st century" and they have advanced a lot with relation to their initial programs, but is necessary to add that they are not consolidated processes and that the ideological confusion that is promoted with the "socialism of the 21st century" can carry them to defeat. With Marx we say that a step of the real movement is worth more than a thousand programs, adding that an erroneous program as north of the movement can conduct it off the cliff. It is a duty of the communists to place scientific socialism as the road of the working class and of all the peoples, defending Marxist-Leninist theory and the praxis of socialist construction in the USSR and in other socialist countries.
Before proceeding to a serious, scientific study of the experience to extract the necessary lessons for overthrowing capitalism the historical experience of the working class is condemned based on premises elaborated by reaction or by opportunism, reformism and revisionism. Communists reaffirm that in the same way in which the little more than 70 days of the Comune of Paris provided extraordinary teachings that enriched the revolutionary theory of the proletariat, the experience of socialist construction that started with the Great Socialist Revolution of October constitutes a valuable patrimony for the heritage of the proletariat in its fight for socialism and communism and that it constitutes a serious error to reject or avoid it. We coincide with what is expressed in the document of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece On the 90th anniversary of the Great Socialist Revolution of October "One of the main tasks of communist ideological front is to restore to the eyes of the working class the truth about socialism in the 20th century, without idealizations, objectively, free of petite bourgeois slanders. The defense of the laws of development of socialism and, at the same time, the defense of the contribution of socialism in the 20th century suppose an answer to the opportunistic theories that speak of "models" of socialism adapted to "national" pecularities, they also respond to the defeatist discussion about errors.”
Emerging subjects versus working class
The developers of "Socialism of the 21st century" coincide all in that the revolutionary role of the working class today is occupied by other "subjects", calling inclusive to the construction of new social agents; They resort to arguments of the new left, of marcusianism, of t 60’s and 70’s, on the gentrification of the working class, on their fragmentation, on the "end of labor". They call to rethink the concept of "worker" and without performing that exercise they pass to claim social movements, indigenous, the "multitude" as the center of the transformation.
A very important aspect of Marxism-Leninism is the clarification of the role of the proletariat. Lenin express it thus: "The fundamental thing in the doctrine of Marx is that it emphasizes the historical international role of the proletariat as the builder of socialist society" and further on the same work he expresses: "All doctrines of socialism that have not a class character and of the politics that are not of the class, showed to be a simple absurd”. There have been changes that is true, but in no way they destroy the contradiction in capitalism that is the one existing between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; in no way do they destroy the fact that the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary class to carry to the very end not only the overthrow of bourgeois order, but the emancipation of the whole human genre. They do not take into account that their role is determined by their place in production, by their objective role in economy. The proletariat, the working class, the workers, in function of acquiring class conscience "for themselves" not only emancipate themselves, but all human kind.
Nobody will deny that in political struggle the working class needs and should forge alliances with the opressed mass of the peoples. But there exists a distance with that and the affirmations of those who search for "new social actors" assigning them a liberating role above class conflict when reality shows how passenger movements are.
Socialism without Revolution and… without party
"Socialism of the 21st century" claims that neither the conquest of power or destruction of the State is necessary, but with the conquest of government it is possible to initiate a new road. Because of it all its developers do not speak of overthrowing, of breaking, of Revolution, but jumping that vital need, they present post capitalism and they devise already programs to transit to a new society. Because of it in the speech of this political-ideological nonsense not the most minimum strategic approach exists that conducts to the destruction of the State. Consequently neither any worry regarding the construction of a revolutionary party of the working class exists, a party of vanguard, a communist party. What for? if it does not claim the working class as the interested in burying the exploiters?, If Revolution is not claimed as the moment in which the working class overthrows capitalism?, If the possibility of undertaking post capitalist transformations is claimed in the framework of the old bourgeois State?
Let us take into account that besides planting that "in the Socialism of the 21st century" private and social property are able to and should coexist, inclusive the praise of a socialist market is done.
When the programmatic approaches of "Socialism of the 21st century" are observed one can not stop from noting the similarity with what was the democratic- bourgeois Revolution of 1910 in Mexico and the period of greater radical nature in the developments that happened during the government of Lazaro Cardenas in 1934-1940. During that six-year period it was established that in schools, social organizations and in state administrations along with the national anthem, The Marsellaise and The Internationale were sung; an impressive distribution of lands was carried out, a true agrarian reform; oil up till then in the hands of the American and English monopolies was nationalized and in general a politics of nationalizations was opened that conducted to the result that in the 80’s 70% of the Mexican economy was nationalized; even a great aid to the Spanish Republic was given. From this, under the influence exercised by browderism illusions on the Mexican Revolution as way to socialism grew. Just like the followers of today’s "Socialism of the 21st century" then they spoke of a State placed above classes and of class struggle, as a lever for development. For Marxists-Leninists the State is not a referee above the classes in combat, its the apparatus of domination, of repression, in the case of capitalism, of the class that has the property of the means of production and of change, the bourgeoisie. Nationalizations are not by themselves socialists, therefore in the case of Mexico they showed to be a mechanism for centralization and concentration of capitalism.
In stead of contradiction among capital and labor: north against south, center against periphery.
Another notion sustained by "Socialism of the 21st century" notes as a fundamental problem to resolve the contradiction between the rich North and the poor South, parting from deceitful statistics and above all leaving sideways that both in the north and the south of the Planet class struggle exists; the same thing is the harmful idea of the center versus periphery that intends to ignore that we live in the monopolist phase of capitalism, the higher phase of capitalism which is imperialism and that all the countries are immersed in it, as well as with relations of interdependency.
It is not a matter of minor differences but of different roads.
There are those who sustain that in reality such proposal has come to bring up to date the debate on the alternative against capitalism today in crisis; that that is its value and relevance and that besides its a critical focus that with a similar ideological base than ours helps to surpass the errors of socialist construction bringing fresh air.
We try to show here some questions in which the followers of "Socialism of the 21st century" converge, however it is necessary to affirm that we face a proposal that is not structured, but that results from a mixture of positions, in some cases based on aspects of marxism, of christianity, of the ideas of bolivarianism; eclecticism dominates.
They express that participatory democracy, cooperatives and self-management will come to give answer to the "authoritarianism" of the Dictatorship of the proletariat. And in short they throw incoherent concepts with the purpose of torpedoing communist theory; but without arguments; nowadays a position, tomorrow another; full confusion as the calling to the construction of a "V International" with enemies of the workers like the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico.
Contemporary struggle requires to advance firmly grouped around the red flag of communism, for the transformation of the material conditions of life, for the abolition of bourgeois relations of production by the only possible way, the revolutionary way. Confusion helps In nothing, the maelstrom of incoherent approaches that are raised with the debated concept and that in last instance only are presented to retouch capitalism trying the unrealizable operation of "humanizing it". For the working class, and not only in Latin America, for the class-conscious forces and revolutionary forces the duty is to fortify the communist parties that inscribe in their principles and program, in their action the historic experience of the workers of the world to overthrow capitalism and to build socialism, from the Paris Comune to the October Revolution.
It is nevertheless necessary to conclude that “Socialism of the 21st century” is an alien position and even opposed to Marxism-Leninism and to the international communist movement in not only questions of politics but ideological matters. It corresponds to the communist parties to raise the red flag for the development of class conscience, the organization in class of the proletariat and the assembly of exploited and opressed workers, the construction of the necessary alliances with all interested in overthrowing capitalism with an objective that since 1917 has full force and validity, Socialist Revolution. Its a task of the epoch that we live at, that of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, and there is no space left for "compromises" neither for confusion.
Marx, K.; Engels, F.; Collected Works in two Tomes; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1971
Marx, K.; Engels, F.; The German ideology; Ediciones de Cultura Popular; México; 1979
Lenin, V.I.; Collected works in three tomes; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1977.
 Engels, F.; From utopian to scientific socialism; in Collected Works by Marx & Engels in two Tomes; Tome II; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1971; Pg. 149
 Communist Party of Greece; On the 90th anniversary of the Great Socialist Revolution of October; in Propuesta Comunista number 51; Ediciones del Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España; 2007; Pg. 48.
 Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; Historical destiny of K. Marx’s doctrine; in Marx, Engels, Marxism; Foreign Languages Editions; Moscow; 1950; Pág. 77 y 78.
Editor's Note: Compare this then to Sam Webb's "A Party of 21st Century Socialism: What it says and what it does"... - Koba