[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]
For much of the 19th and 20th century, socialism was the hope of millions of working people around the globe, including the United States in the early part of the 20th century. This was the period of the growth of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW. Socialism has meant a society committed to meeting the basic needs of all people including health, food, education, and housing , where there is no poverty and full employment, where enterprises and firms are socially and publicly owned not privately owned by capitalists to make profits. It has meant a society where workers control how firms are run and where the economy is democratically planned to serve human needs. As a great socialist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg said in the early 20th century, socialism requires democracy, and democracy requires socialism.
In the 1980’s, we were told by government leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, most economists, media pundits such as Thomas Friedman that there is no alternative (TINA) to unregulated market capitalism. This economic model and the related policies are called neoliberalism in
By the early 1990’s, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Soviet Union, and the defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, signaled to many the end of socialism. So did the movement by formerly non-capitalist nations such as Vietnam and especially China towards a private enterprise led production for profit capitalist system. The severe economic difficulties of Cuba was considered as further evidence that the period of alternatives to capitalism was coming to an end. This led to the "end of history" claims that liberal capitalism was the economic system that the entire world was evolving towards and would not evolve beyond, and that the time for socialism had passed and that it was not a desirable model.
In 1998, Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela. He spoke strongly and acted against savage neoliberalism in his electoral campaign and after taking power but socialism was not a part of his vocabulary or program for his first few years in office. Since late 2004, he has been increasingly calling for Socialism for the 21st Century in
Venezuela, and speaking out against capitalism and imperialism.
This call for 21st century socialism has resonated throughout the
Americas, although a little more slowly in the U.S. than in other places. Even here in the U.S., there is increased interest in and decreased hostility towards socialism.[i]
I will share some of my understanding of the present and possible future of
Venezuela so that we can effectively counter the criticisms we hear of it by our politicians and media.. Another reason to study the