Independence and Socialism in Our America


Last June 12, Commander Hugo Chávez Frías wrote, in his Program for Government for 2013-2019: “in opposition to the reactionary thesis of the empire and the bourgeoisie against the Nation, we put forward the combative, creative and liberating thesis of independence and socialism as an open project and dialectical construction”. The depth of this proposition inspires me to make a brief commentary on some of the questions which it raises.

The first independence, obtained through a continental exploit which ran from 1791 to 1824, was insufficient, but founded our nations when the very idea of nation was just emerging in Europe; it created new identities and contributed an extraordinary accumulation of revolutionary culture, an invaluable legacy to abide by, as well as the necessity of promoting new liberation projects.

The great Haitian revolution, the Cry of Murillo, the work, thought and project of Bolívar, Sucre – opponent of oligarchy of unequalled virtue – the heroic saga of Hidalgo and Morelos, and later, the transcendent proposal of Martí, confirmed by the blood of the Cuban people, posed very high goals for liberty, much higher than those then current in Europe. Those revolutionaries fought for government of the people long before European liberalism decided to accept and harness their democracy. They gave a preferred place to equality and justice in their battles, something which negated the very fundamentals of the colonial-imperial system which was unfolding in the world, and which placed international law and common consciousness at their service. Resistance, rebellion and the project of Our America turned against even the fundamental bourgeois ideals of civilization such as the patriarchal, colonial mission of the great powers, and their “scientific” racism, which a century ago were dominant both in the spiritual world and that of ideas.

In South America, the wars of independence became international; independence was considered part of an American epic and project and so it was fixed in the social conscience. Hidalgo proclaimed himself “General of the armies of America”; Morazán tried to achieve Central American union. That experience permits us even today to refer to historic facts when we hope for continental integration.

In these last two centuries, those who have exercised dominance have denied true equality, social justice and many rights to broad sectors of the population in their republics, in everything they considered necessary and for as long as they have been able to get away with it, so as to defend and expand their profits, to maintain their political and social power and their private property, with a legal and political ordering favorable to them. They have preferred not to be a national class and, each time it has been necessary, they have been anti-national. At the same time, world capitalism was imposed on the region in accordance with the characteristics of its successive phases, through its old and its new colonialism, crushing resistance and rebellion, coopting and subordinating, to the point where now its own plundering imperialist nature – parasitic and pillaging – has closed off any possibility, under its system, for Latin America to satisfy the basic needs of its peoples, maintain national sovereignty, develop its economies and societies, defend and make the most of its resources and organize its life in communion with the natural environment.

But a Latin American and Caribbean continuum of resistance, ideas, battles and sentiments has maintained alive the popular character of the patriotic legacy, without surrendering it to imperialist capitalism’s complicit bourgeoisie and their subordinates, and it has continued contributing new developments. The President of Venezuela, compañero Nicolás Maduro, recalled at the state funeral of Commander Chávez at the Military Academy, the circumstances which remained after death of the Liberator [Bolivar] and of Sucre. Each epoch had its achievements and its advances, because, in its historical account, no true revolution is defeated.

The long road has granted knowledge and certainties, which help those on this continent who have joined the march to raise their consciousness. The first region of the Third World which achieved the creation and maintenance of independent states learned that capitalism could also develop and establish new neo-colonial systems of domination, more functional in their maturity than barbarous colonialism, and thus subordinate us, divide us and perpetuate our miserable and defenceless condition, having capitalist economic relations as the center of that domination. But this did not lead revolutionaries to undervalue their republics. On the contrary, with a single banner they raised the cause of true patriotism and the cause of struggles of the exploited and oppressed classes.

We have had to go further than our companions in other regions, who were not able to understand that this half of the world could not consider itself “backward” nor resign itself to live through supposedly intermediate stages in the hope of an alien providence. That in order to be ourselves, and in order to fight to be truly free, we had to think with our own mind.

When freedom and justice are posed in such a way and with such depth from the beginning, independence must turn into national liberation, and social justice into socialism. Experiences and studies, battles and debates, have been the workshop and the school. One fundamental advancement is in the comprehension of the relation which has existed historically between independence and socialism. It has not been easy or fast; an entire universalizing culture has been against our understanding that; and above all imperialism, which raised successive promises, such as progress, pan-Americanism and development, and was always directed toward leading entrepreneurs, confusing everyone else and neutralizing and conquering the rebels and those that wanted their countries to advance. Capitalism today has lost the possibility of offering promises, it only proposes words like success and failure, images and information controlled in a totalitarian system for forming public opinion and converting the people into the public – the face of a merciless world in which everything is merchandise – while it passes out a few prizes to the complicit. Nevertheless, we cannot underestimate its power, its aggressiveness and its criminal immorality, nor the attractions of its colossal capacity for cultural manipulation.

But we have also met with many difficulties and obstacles amongst ourselves. In the independent nation, which does not know how to be a nation for all of its progeny; and the government which, faced with crises, does not carry its challenge to such powerful enemies so far as to cross the frontier of giving more power to the people, which in the end is its only force, and convert itself into a people's power. In education and culture which, in formally independent countries, continue being the school and agent for the colonization of minds and sentiments, the basis for contempt and exclusion of part of its own people and a refuge for legitimizing the domination of some persons over others. In the states which do not manage to free themselves from the vile branding scars from the epoch of balkanization, and in those which put too much emphasis on their own advantage in treaties with countries which, if their national interest were well understood, they should consider as brothers.

Another America of ours is possible, because we have come along creating its foundations. It was in order for us to take possession of this force that President Chávez launched himself into liberating the past. A history in which Simón Rodríguez taught Simón Bolívar that a social, cultural and economic revolution is necessary along with the political revolution. In which Sandino directed a great insurrection of poor farm workers who fought for six years against the Yankee invader without being defeated, and was able to write to a communist leader that his army was the vanguard of the Latin American proletariat. In which Che, amongst so many lessons of thought and action which he left, claimed that on this continent there will be “a socialist revolution or a caricature of revolution”, and that in order to triumph, left-leaning governments will have to be installed. And the leader of the Cuban heresy, Fidel, who is so great and is for everyone, clarified more than forty years ago that the great revolutionary Karl Marx conceived socialism as the consequence of development, but in our world, it will be socialism which makes development possible.

That socialism, Chávez said two years ago, has to be a power, but a power of the people, a new concept of power and a new form of creating power and distributing power. Just as the Venezuelan constitution prays for a democratic and social state of law and justice which advocates life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy and human rights as superior values. And in his text of June 2012: “This is the time, as there never before has been, to put a face and meaning on the Socialist Nation for which we are struggling.”

We already know that an economic bonanza on its own does not bring any real advancement for the majority, and that modernizations under a regime of domination bring with them, in most cases, the modernization of domination. Liberating action is decisive; it is what will be capable of giving sense to socio-economic forces. The character of a revolution is not determined by measurement of the economic structure of the society, but rather by revolutionary practice. In the disadvantageous conditions of the majority of countries in the world, the socialist transition and the society to be created are obliged to go much further than their “stage of development” supposedly permits, and to go beyond the expected reproduction of social life: consisting in simultaneous and successive cultural revolutions which become invincible. We need to take up the creation of a new culture, which implies a new conception of life and the world, at the same time as the indispensable tasks are accomplished – the more immediate, urgent and unavoidable.

What is decisive is that there exists a great cultural accumulation on this continent, of economic capabilities, political and social culture, identities, experiences and ideas, of popular powers and autonomous processes which seek well-being for our peoples and have the will for integration and union. That cultural accumulation makes us able to confront, in better conditions than other regions of the world, the wrongs committed in recent decades and the rapacity and current wars of imperialism, and therefore to undertake profound transformations which make things that are prevented by the capitalist system become possible, converting them into reality.

We are the heirs to a marvelous tradition which transformed what were considered, in the Old World and in colonized ideas, bourgeois national struggles and primitive rebellions of archaic social groups, into extraordinary revolutions of the humble, their guides and representatives, that have embarked on the conquest of assuming full sovereignty for our nations and full dominion over our resources, and through these, as is suggested in the Plan for the Nation, assuring the greatest sum of social security, political stability and happiness.

We have to call things by their name. Socialism is our Latin American form of being independent.
(Translation: Donald Lee)

Fernando Martínez Heredia is a Cuban researcher, who received the National Social Sciences Prize in 2006. This article is his intervention before the 10th International Meeting of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Fighters in Defense of Humanity, Plan for the Nation: Thought and Action of Hugo Chávez, which took place in Caracas on March 25 and 26, 2013

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