Socialism of the 21st century
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Socialism of the 21st century is a political term used to describe the unique interpretation of socialist principles advocated first by Heinz Dieterich in 1996 and later by Latin American leaders like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Evo Morales of Bolivia. Socialism of the 21st century argues that both free-market industrial capitalism and twentieth-century socialism have failed to solve urgent problems of humanity, like poverty, hunger, exploitation, economic oppression, sexism, racism, the destruction of natural resources, and the absence of a truly participative democracy. Therefore, because of the local unique historical conditions, socialism of the 21st century is often contrasted with previous applications of socialism in other countries and aims for a more decentralized and participatory planning process. Socialism of the 21st century is a type of democratic socialism; Chávez, Morales, and Correa have all been elected democratically, although there have been concerns about the fairness of elections.
After a series of structural adjustment loans and debt restructuring led by the International Monetary Fund in the late twentieth century, Latin America experienced a significant increase in inequality. Between 1990 and 1999, the Gini coefficient rose in almost every Latin American country. Volatile prices and inflation led to dissatisfaction. In 2000 only 37% of Latin Americans were satisfied with their democracies (20 points less than Europeans and 10 points less than sub-Saharan Africans). In this context, a wave of left-leaning socio-political movements on behalf of indigenous rights, cocaleros, labor rights, women's rights, land rights, and educational reform emerged to eventually provide momentum for the election of socialist leaders.
Socialism of the 21st century draws on indigenous traditions of communal governance and previous Latin America socialist and communist movements, including those of Salvador Allende, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Zapatista Army of National Liberation and the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
According to Dieterich “the program of the Socialism of the 21st Century is necessarily a revolutionary one” in that the existing society is replaced by a “qualitatively different system." This revolution, however, should be a gradual process that does not employ violence but instead utilizes participative democracy to secure power, education, scientific knowledge about society and international cooperation. Dieterich suggests the construction of four basic institutions within the new reality of post-capitalist civilization:
- Equivalence economy, which should be based on Marxian labour theory of value and which is democratically determined by those who directly create value, instead of market-economical principles;
- Majority democracy, which makes use of plebiscites to decide upon important questions that concern the whole society;
- Basic democracy, based on democratic state institutions as legitimate representatives of the common interests of the majority of citizens, with a suitable protection of minority rights; and
- The critical and responsible subject, the rationally, ethically and aesthetically self-determined citizen.”
Latin American application
The model of socialism of the 21st century encourages economic and political integration among nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. This often accompanied with opposition to North American influence. Regional organizations like CELAC, Mercosur, UNASUR, and ALBA promote cooperation with Latin America and exclude North American countries.
ALBA is most explicitly related to socialism of the 21st century. While other organizations focus on economic integration, ALBA promotes social, political, and economic integration among countries that subscribe to democratic socialism. Its creation was announced in direct opposition to George W. Bush's attempts to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas that included the United States. In 2008 ALBA introduced a monetary union using the SUCRE as its regional currency.
Former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has called the process of socialist reforms in Venezuela the "Bolivarian process." It is more heavily influenced by the theories of Mészáros, Lebowitz and Harnecker (who was Chávez's adviser between 2004 and 2011) than by those of Dieterich. The process draws its name from Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar and is a contemporary example of Bolivarianism.
These economic policies have led to severe shortages of many goods and services in Venezuela; very high levels of inflation; and a dysfunctional economy. The government blames the private sector, and the USA, for these problems.
Translating to "good living" or "living well," the concept of buen vivir is related to the movement for indigenous rights and rights of nature. It focuses on the living sustainably as the member of a community that includes both human beings and Nature. Buen vivir is enshrined in Ecuador's new constitution as an alternative to neoliberal development. The constitution outlines a set of rights, one of which is the rights of nature. In line with the assertion of these rights, buen vivir changes the relationship between nature and humans to a more bio-pluralistic view, eliminating the separation between nature and society. This approach has been applied to the Yasuní-ITT Initiative.
Critics claim that democratic socialism in Latin America acts as a façade for authoritarianism. The charisma of figures like Hugo Chávez and mottoes like "Country, Socialism, or Death!" have drawn comparisons to the Latin American dictators and caudillos of the past. Media coverage of Chávez and Latin American socialism of the 21st century has been criticized as unfair, especially in US media outlets.
The sustainability and stability of economic reforms associated with socialism of the 21st century have been questioned. Latin American countries have primarily financed their socialist programs with extractive exports like petroleum, natural gas, minerals, coffee, and soybeans, creating a dependency that some economists claim has caused inflation and slowed growth. Venezuela has the world's worst performing economy; the currency is collapsing, it has the world's highest inflation rate, and GDP is shrinking.
- Heinz Dieterich: „Der Sozialismus des 21. Jahrhunderts – Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Demokratie nach dem globalen Kapitalismus“, Einleitung
Socialism of the 21st Century – Economy, Society, and Democracy in the era of global Capitalism, Introduction
- Burbach, Roger; Fox, Michael; Fuentes, Federico (2013). Latin America's Turbulent Transitions. London: Zed Books. ISBN 9781848135697.
- ECLAC (2002). "Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean". Social Panorama of Latin America 2000-2001: 71.
- "Encuesta Latinobarómetro 1999-2000". Retrieved 3 May 2013.
- "Venezuela toilet paper shortage an anti-Bolivarian conspiracy, gov't claims". CBS News. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Gudynas, Eduardo. 2011. Buen Vivir: Today's Tomorrow Development 54(4):441-447.
- SENPLADES. 2009 National Plan for Good Living. Electronic document, accessed May, 2012.
- "Venezuela after Chávez: Now for the Reckoning". The Economist. March 9, 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- Hart, Peter. "NYT Debates Hugo Chavez- Minus the Debate". Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- Roth, Charles (March 6, 2013). "Venezuela's Economy Under Chávez, by the Numbers". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Why Venezuela is the world’s worst performing economy, in three charts". Quartz. 16 March 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015.