Reformism or Revolution: 10. Nationalism or internationalism?

The main obstacles to carrying out the unification of Latin America is not ignorance but the vested interests of the oligarchies who hold economic power in their hands. The problem is Heinz Dieterich approaches the question not as a revolutionary but as a reformist, not as a materialist but as an idealist, not as a realist but as a hopeless utopian. This emerges very clearly from his writings.

Latin American integration

"This access to the intellectual resources of humanity is feasible, as much for the strategic phase of the struggle (postcapitalist institutionality) as for the transitional phase in Latin America, the Bolivarian integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. A single example for the transitional phase. With a hundred thousand dollars, the Venezuelan government could obtain in six months all the knowledge (the expertise), which is needed for the economic integration of Latin America." [1]

Reformism or Revolution
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Thus far, Heinz Dieterich, but what does it mean? When we speak of the resources of humanity, we know what we mean: the sum total of the resources of the planet: its land, and all the mineral resources that is beneath the earth's surface, its seas and all that is in them, its industry, science and technology, its manpower and intellectual creativity: in short, the wealth of the world, whether in a physical or potential form. All this, Heinz informs us, is now at our disposal (at least "access to it is feasible"). This is news to us. As far as we are aware, the resources of humanity are not accessible at all because they are in private hands. As soon as we attempt to lay hands upon these resources, the owners will send a policeman, or set the dogs on us, or adopt other unpleasant methods to dissuade us from our aim. But in the very same sentence, Dieterich is already beating a retreat, even before he feels the policeman's hand on his collar. He apparently has in mind not the entire resources of humanity, but only the resources of Latin America.

Now we consider ourselves to be very moderate people with very modest appetites, and we can therefore readily agree to lower our expectations and settle for the resources of humanity - in Latin America. After all, these are considerable. The continent, together with the Caribbean, contains vast resources and a huge untapped potential. Here we have the oil of Venezuela and Ecuador, the gas and mineral wealth of Bolivia, the copper of Chile, the huge agricultural and industrial potential of Brazil and Argentina, and a huge and under exploited human potential in a continent surrounded by oceans teeming with fish and full of rivers and forests, with an astonishing range of scenery and climates. In short, we have all the potential for the creation of a paradise on earth.

The brilliant idea of Simon Bolivar, that great and visionary revolutionary, of uniting Latin America today retains its full validity. And yet 200 years later, what has become of this vision? After the death of the Liberator it was betrayed by the bourgeois of Latin America, who have Balkanized the continent, reducing it to a series of artificial nation states that divide the living body of the Patria Grande, separating peoples that speak the same language, have the same history, traditions, culture and interests. This is the real explanation why a huge continent could be dominated by Yankee imperialism for so long. Two hundred years is long enough for the bourgeoisie to show what it is capable of doing for Latin America. It has been weighed in the balance of history and found wanting. The weak and degenerate bourgeois of Latin America have turned what ought to be an earthly paradise into a hell for millions of men and women. Even the national independence that was won with so much sacrifice and blood turns out to be a fraud. The national bourgeoisie is only the local office boy of imperialism and the big transnational companies that have dominated and plundered the continent for so long.

The original idea of the Liberator was to unite Latin America by revolutionary means. Today we support this idea with every enthusiasm. But we need to add just one small amendment to it. After 200 years the bourgeoisie has revealed its reactionary character and its complete inability to carry out the progressive task of uniting the continent. Therefore, the only way in which this great historic mission can be achieved is through the revolutionary overthrow of the landlords and capitalists.

The unification of Latin America will be a reality only when the working class puts itself at the head of the nation and takes power into its hands. It will be achieved in the form of a Socialist Federation or it will not be achieved at all. Is this what Dieterich has in mind? No, it is not. We have already seen that he is opposed to the expropriation of the property of the oligarchy and that he is therefore against the socialist revolution. But if we leave intact the economic power of the oligarchies, what prospect can there be of uniting Latin America?

Dieterich wants to halt the revolution in Venezuela, and prevent any further nationalization. If he succeeds, it will mean not only the end of any prospect of socialism in Venezuela (whether of the 21st or any other century) but the eventual defeat of the Bolivarian revolution and the return to power of the counter-revolutionary Venezuelan bourgeoisie. We will return to this subject later, but for the present let us deal with our friend Heinz's recipe for Latin America: "This access to the intellectual resources of humanity is feasible," he says, "as much for the strategic phase of the struggle (postcapitalist institutionality) as for the transitional phase in Latin America, the Bolivarian integration of Latin America and the Caribbean." [2]

What is meant by "the strategic phase of the struggle" and in what way does it differ from "the transitional phase in Latin America"? Evidently comrade Dieterich likes to keep people guessing, since he offers no explanation. But in most dictionaries the word strategic signifies pertaining to long term goals. What are these goals? Again, your guess is good as mine. Probably the famous "economy of equivalence", a phrase that has the important merit that nobody really knows what it means. As for the "transitional phase", one has to ask; transition from what to what? Since yet again no answer is forthcoming, not for the first time or the last, we have no alternative to guess what he means.

The normal meaning of the transitional phase in Marxist parlance is the transitional phase between capitalism and socialism. Leon Trotsky wrote The Revolution Betrayed in 1936, which contains almost everything that needs to be said on this subject. No doubt Dieterich does not want to hear about the ideas of Trotsky (yet another point on which he disagrees with Hugo Chávez). That does not matter very much, because Trotsky based his programme almost entirely on the programme of the Bolshevik Party in 1917 and on the programmatic documents of the first four congresses of the Communist International. The question here is therefore not whether Trotsky was right, but whether the ideas of Marxism are right.

How does Dieterich pose the question? He rejects the Transitional Programme for the socialist revolution. He will not hear of nationalization or workers' control or a workers' and peasants' government. He cites only a single example for his "transitional phase": With a hundred thousand dollars, he says, the Venezuelan government could obtain in six months all the knowledge (the expertise), which is needed for the economic integration of Latin America. We have heard of government on the cheap. But this the first time we have heard of revolution on the cheap. This is really a very remarkable offer. For the trivial sum of a hundred thousand dollars, in just six months the Venezuelan government could have at its disposal all the knowledge needed for the economic integration of Latin America. What are we waiting for?

This is faulty logic. It assumes that what is preventing the unification of Latin America is the lack of knowledge. In the same way, it was the lack of knowledge (of computers) that was supposed to be the reason why Marx, Engels, Lenin and everyone else, until the Founder of 21st Century Socialism appeared on the scene, were unable to carry out the socialist transformation of society. But this is not the case. Even if we imagine that we know everything we need to know concerning Latin American economic integration, would that remove all obstacles to carrying it out in practice? No, it would not. The main obstacles to carrying out the unification of Latin America is not ignorance but the vested interests of the oligarchies who hold economic power in their hands.

Our Heinz approaches the question not as a revolutionary but as a reformist, not as a materialist but as an idealist, not as a realist but as a hopeless utopian. This emerges very clearly from the next few lines: "If it [the Venezuelan government] launched an international contest over Internet on, let us say, eight problems of economic integration - the monetary unit of reference, a Central Bank, high tech-development centres, comparative advantages in the global economy, etc. - and offered prizes of ten thousand dollars in each heading, it would have in six months an avalanche of proposals from the whole world which would dynamize extraordinarily the formation of the Regional Latin American Power Bloc (RLPB)." [3]

Isn't this absolutely priceless? The way to achieve the unification of Latin America is to launch an international contest over Internet with a prize of ten thousand dollars! When we have recovered our composure after an uncontrollable attack of laughter, it occurs to us to ask Heinz what has become of all those selfless individuals who, according to him, are queuing up to offer their services to humanity entirely free of charge? Now it turns out that they have to be offered a bribe of 10,000 dollars to serve the human race. This does not show much confidence in the future of the economy of equivalence when all capitalistic egotism will disappear.

Having held his competition and distributed his largesse (or rather, not his, but that of the Venezuelan government) to these selfless servants of humanity, all Heinz has to do is to sit back and wait for the inevitable result, which will be the immediate formation of the Regional Latin American Power Bloc (RLPB). Just how the mechanics of this operation would work remains something of a mystery. The selfless servants of humanity collect their winnings and deposit them in a bank where they will earn a good rate of interest, and all of a sudden, the movement towards the RLPB becomes irresistibly dynamized. Why? For what reason? Only Heinz knows the answer, but chooses not to let us in on his secret.

It is difficult to know whether the Founder of 21st Century Socialism is having a joke at our expense. But no, he is very serious about all this - which makes it even more amusing. However, let us try to find some solid content in all this nonsense. Let us ask yet another question that Dieterich prefers not to ask: namely, what does this Bloc consist of? Answer: it consists of a bloc between a number of existing governments in Latin America that Dieterich believes are progressive, such as Lula's government in Brazil. The purpose of this Bloc seems to be to prevent the aggression of US imperialism against Venezuela (presumably also Bolivia).

The ‘Regional Power Bloc'

The present world situation is really unprecedented in history. Never before has such colossal power been concentrated in the hands of a single state. Not even the Roman Empire in its high point possessed such colossal supremacy as that which is now enjoyed by the United States of America. Never in the past 300 years has there been just one super power. There were always at least two or three great powers, jostling for supremacy - Britain, Germany, France, Spain and so on. With colossal power comes colossal arrogance. Bush and the ruling clique in Washington now believe they can intervene anywhere in the world with no restrictions. It is a return to the old gunboat diplomacy pursued by British imperialism in the past.

The reformists and pacifists hypnotized by the supposedly absolute power of US imperialism. They conclude that, in the face of such overwhelming might, all resistance is futile. Instead of fighting against US imperialism, they say, it is better to seek a modus vivendi (way of living together), for any attempt to go beyond the bounds laid down by Washington will inevitably lead to disaster. This is the real message that Heinz Dieterich wishes to convey, although, as usual, he resorts to his "squid tactics" to conceal the fact.

Is it true, as the reformists imagine, that the power of US imperialism has no limits? No, it is not true. The fact is that the imperialists have over-reached themselves. We see the limits of the power of imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. With 160,000 troops the Americans cannot control Iraq. The occupation of Iraq is costing them at least one billion dollars a week, as well as the thousands of American soldiers killed and wounded. Not even the wealthiest nation on earth can sustain such a haemorrhage of blood and gold indefinitely. They will have to retreat with their tail between their legs.

Despite its huge power, US imperialism is really a colossus with feet of clay. Almost every day bush fires are breaking out everywhere. For years US imperialism has attempted to destroy the Cuban Revolution. Bush spoke of an "axis of evil" and named Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Later he added Venezuela to his list of "rogue states" that allegedly threaten peace and stability. However, Washington has not been able to impose its power in Latin America by military means as it has done previously. In the past, it would have sent the Marines to Venezuela long before. But now it is unable to do so.

We can increasingly see the limits of US imperialism in Latin America. The petty-bourgeois alarmists say: "the Americans are coming!" Like the character in the fairy story they are constantly crying wolf, trying to frighten people. But US imperialism is trapped in Iraq and Afghanistan and at the moment they cannot open another front directly. Any attempt to intervene militarily in Venezuela would be a tremendous reaction by the masses throughout Latin America. The effects would be felt inside the USA itself, where there are millions of Latinos living in poverty and a general mood of discontent reflected in the mass opposition to the Iraq adventure and the collapse in Bush's support.

Dieterich always uses the threat of imperialist intervention to argue against revolutionary measures. He says that the working class in Latin America must on no account take power. Instead they must support "progressive" bourgeois governments and the latter must come together to negotiate with imperialism to get a better deal for the Patria Grande. For example, in an article in Revista Mariátegui (15/08/06) he is asked:

Q: "How do you perceive to the new axis of evil in the Pacific: Alan Garcia, Michelle Bachelet and Alvaro Uribe?

A: "I feel that the potential of the axis of evil in the Pacific depends on the capacity of the axis of good in the Atlantic to extend the Mercosur, to deepen it and to democratize it. In itself, that axis of the Pacific has neither the territorial, economic nor demographic power to be an alternative to the Bolivarian bloc. But since the enemy knows this very well, they are going to try to prevent the integration of the Bolivarian bloc from advancing any further, and if it does not advance any further and it retreats, then it may be that that axis of evil in the Pacific, can make bilateral alliances with Paraguay or other countries and try to break up the Atlantic."

We note that this "scientific economist" here abandons all pretence at a scientific approach and uses the language of demonology (the axis of evil, as opposed to the axis of good). In place of a class policy we have the usual moralistic and sentimental approach to the Patria Grande. This comes as no surprise. After all, foreign policy is the continuation of domestic policy. Since Dieterich has embraced the policy of class collaboration at home, he must necessarily adopt the same policy in regard to other states. This is only an extension on the international plane of the reformist politics he advocates on the national scale. If the Venezuelan workers and peasants must reach a friendly agreement with the Venezuelan oligarchy, promising faithfully never to touch the private property of the landlords, bankers and capitalists, then it is logical that the Bolivarian Revolution must also strive for a friendly agreement with the oligarchs and bourgeois governments of the rest of Latin America. The only thing is that one must be careful to distinguish between the good capitalist who belong to the "axis of good" from the bad capitalists who belong to the "axis of evil".

Which countries does he include in this hypothetical Regional Power Bloc or "axis of good"? Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. This presupposes that all these countries have the same interests and the same foreign policy. But this is far from being the case. Cuba and Venezuela have taken a strong anti-imperialist stand. In Cuba the landlords and capitalists have been expropriated and in Venezuela we are moving in the same direction, although the process is far from complete and may still be reversed. But Brazil and Argentina, despite the leftish colouring of Lula and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, are capitalist states that show no sign of moving in this direction. In domestic policy they attempt to pacify the masses by certain gestures (Keynesianism) and in foreign policy they strive to keep on good terms with imperialism, while not openly breaking with Venezuela. In order to break the diplomatic isolation that Washington seeks to impose on Venezuela, the Bolivarian government has developed relations with these countries, which is understandable. But in the last analysis, no trust can be placed on such diplomatic arrangements, which can change like the shifting sands of the desert, according to which way the wind blows.

Somebody once said: nations do not have friends, only interests. The governments of Brazil and Argentina can change at any time, leaving Venezuela in the lurch. Even now, Washington is constantly pressurising the governments of Lula y Cristina Fernández, who will not be able to resist such pressures. In addition, the policy of nationalizations in Venezuela is not at all to their liking. It gives dangerous ideas to the masses in Argentina and Brazil, who will say: if this can be done in Venezuela, why can't it be done here? The imperialists understand what we understand: there is a revolutionary process in Venezuela, and the masses are moving to change society. In the old days, all socialists were "communists" as far as Washington was concerned, but now US imperialism needs to deal with "good" socialists like Lula and Bachelet to isolate Chávez. They are trying to draw in Morales also. That is the meaning of Bush's tour of Latin America in 2007 and the attempt to sign bilateral trade agreements with Brazil and other countries in the region.

In public, relations between Chávez and Lula and Cristina Fernández are cordial. The President of Brazil and Argentina cannot afford to come out against Chávez because that would cause a storm of protest at home. But in private their support for the Bolivarian Revolution, always lukewarm, is getting cooler all the time. As the revolution begins to take serious measures against private property, this attitude will harden. And all the time Washington is whispering in their ears: "Don't be a fool. Don't you see that Chávez is a danger to you as well as to us? This man is mad. He must be stopped. You must use your influence to put pressure on him to stop this revolutionary madness. He will destabilize the whole continent..." and so on and so forth.

The idea that countries with such different governments and economies could present an effective united front to world imperialism is just plain stupid. To begin with Brazil and Argentina - the two economic giants of Latin America - have serious economic contradictions and are traditional rivals for regional hegemony. On a capitalist basis, this rivalry will persist. In the event of a world recession, which is inevitable in the next period, the competition for markets in Latin America will become intense - especially between these two countries. It is even possible that Mercosur will break apart under the strain.

There are other contradictions. When Bolivia nationalized Brazilian-owned Petrobras, there were howls of protest from Brazil. It is true that an uneasy compromise was later patched up. But this incident shows how each national bourgeoisie jealously defends its own interests and has a reactionary attitude towards the revolutionary movement. On the contrary, the nationalizations in Bolivia were enthusiastically welcomed in Venezuela. This shows the real conflict of interest that exists behind the outward show of solidarity between these countries.

Later the Brazilian senate attacked the government of Venezuela for refusing to renew the license of the counter-revolutionary RCTV. Chávez correctly pointed out that this was an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and threatened that Venezuela would withdraw from Mercosur if this kind of thing continued. This little incident tells us quite a lot about the real nature of Mercosur and the class interests that lie behind it. The idea that the members of Mercosur could establish a stable and powerful bloc capable of negotiating with imperialism and thus, presumably, extracting major concessions and arriving at a modus vivendi with imperialism is yet another of Dieterich's utopian schemes.

The inclusion of Cuba in this bloc serves to underline its utopian nature. The US imperialists have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of negotiation with Cuba, for the same reason that they have no intention of negotiating with Venezuela. These countries represent a direct threat to the interests of US imperialism because of the example they give to the millions of exploited and oppressed people of Latin America. The imperialists are determined to destroy the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions. Whoever does not understand this is incapable of understanding anything.

It is clear that US imperialism is trying to isolate Venezuela internationally and in particular it has striven to incite the OAS against it. Under such circumstances, it is obviously necessary for the Bolivarian government to do everything in its power to break the isolation. This means that it is permissible to enter into negotiations with governments like that of Lula and attempt to block the diplomatic intrigues of Washington aimed at inciting Brazil against Venezuela.

All this is self-evident and should not even have to be said. Revolutionaries must learn to master the art of diplomatic manoeuvring just as they must learn every other aspect of the art of war (diplomacy is really a subordinate aspect of warfare). But heaven help the revolutionary who allows himself to be deceived by diplomacy or tries to substitute diplomatic deals for a revolutionary policy. If we really believe that the Bolivarian revolution must become a socialist revolution or else fail, we must act accordingly. We must take steps to expropriate the oligarchy and make an appeal to the workers and peasants of Latin America to follow this example.

"But this will provoke the opposition and the Americans," Dieterich will protest. "It will place the Bolivarian Revolution in danger." To which we reply: the counter-revolutionary forces do not need to be provoked. They are already provoked and have been almost from the day Chávez was elected. What provokes them is not this or that speech by Chávez or this or that decree: what provokes them is the existence of the Bolivarian revolution itself. They have already tried to overthrow it on at least three occasions. If we do not destroy their economic power, they will try again and again until they succeed.

President Chávez attempted to reduce the threat from Colombia, partly by trying to build a rapprochement or understanding with Uribe. But this policy is now in ruins. Uribe, clearly prodded by Washington, brutally broke off connections with Chávez allegedly over his contacts with the FARC guerrillas and Colombian army officers during his attempt to mediate over hostages. This shows the limitation of bourgeois diplomacy in defending the Venezuelan Revolution. Diplomatic manoeuvres are necessary but can play only a subordinate role.

Foreign policy is only the continuation of domestic policy. A revolutionary government in Venezuela must pursue a revolutionary foreign policy, aimed at the extension of the revolution to the whole of America. The strategic goal is the revolutionary unification of Latin America. But this can only be achieved through the overthrow of the landlords and capitalists. This must be kept firmly in mind. In war, sometimes tactics can diverge from the overall strategic goal, but tactics must never be in open contradiction to the overall strategy. It is one thing to manoeuvre with the bourgeois governments of other countries to prevent the isolation of Venezuela and gain time. It is another thing to compromise the revolutionary socialist goals by unprincipled blocs with the enemies of socialism, which is what Heinz Dieterich proposes.

"But if we go too far we will alienate our allies in Latin America and destroy the RLPB!" he will howl. To which we will answer: the Venezuelan revolution needs allies, but it needs allies who are really ready to defend it and fight for it, not false friends who will abandon it in a decisive moment. The revolution has such allies: not the governments who can easily turn against us and go over to Washington, but the millions of workers and peasants, poor people, revolutionary youth and progressive intellectuals in Latin America and throughout the world. They are the only people we can rely upon.

Marx or List?

The Bible says: "As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). In plain language this means: some people never learn from their mistakes. This is clearly the problem with comrade Dieterich. In interview in Junge Welt (7/1/06) Carsten Schiefer asks him the following question:

"Q: How would you characterize the direction of the Bolivarian revolution in Latin America? How far has it come?

"Dieterich: I would say that one could characterize the process in terms of five macrodynamics. The first is the development of a state capitalism of the kind Friedrich List propagated in Germany 180 years ago and in Venezuela is designated as indigenous development. That's nothing new. The English invented it; the Germans and Japanese copied it. Today, China and the Asian tigers are following this path because it's the only kind of development that is possible today within the context of world capitalism. One could speak of a kind of state capitalism of a Keynesian character that includes national dignity." (our emphasis)

It is no accident that Dieterich quotes the ideas of Friedrich List, whom Marx and Engels regarded as the archetype of a vulgar philistine and petty-bourgeois economist. In fact, it would hardly be possible to find an economist whose views were more alien and repugnant to Marx than List, who Dieterich takes as his model. Here are a few examples of what Marx wrote about him in Draft of an Article on Friedrich List's book: Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie (March 1845):

"Everywhere he allows the thing to remain in existence but idealises the expression of it. We shall trace this in detail. It is just this empty idealistic phraseology that enables him to ignore the real barriers standing in the way of his pious wishes and to indulge in the most absurd fantasies (what would have become of the English and French bourgeoisie if it had first to ask a high-ranking nobility, an esteemed bureaucracy and the ancient ruling dynasties for permission to give ‘industry' the ‘force of law'?)." [4]

"The German bourgeois is religious even when he is an industrialist. He shrinks from speaking about the nasty exchange values which he covets and speaks about productive forces [von produktivkräften]; he shrinks from speaking about competition and speaks of a national confederation of national productive forces; he shrinks from speaking of his private interest and speaks about the national interest. When one looks at the frank, classic cynicism with which the English and French bourgeoisie, as represented by its first - at least at the beginning of its domination - scientific spokesmen of political economy, elevated wealth into a god and ruthlessly sacrificed everything else to it, to this Moloch, in science as well, and when, on the other hand, one looks at the idealising, phrase-mongering, bombastic manner of Herr List, who in the midst of political economy despises the wealth of ‘righteous men' and knows loftier aims, one is bound to find it ‘also sad' that the present day is no longer a day for wealth."

"The German philistine here reveals his ‘national' character in many ways.

"1) In the whole of political economy, he sees only systems concocted in academic study rooms. That the development of a science such as political economy is connected with the real movement of society, or is only its theoretical expression, Herr List, of course, does not suspect. A German theoretician."

Every word of this is applicable to Heinz Dieterich - the Friedrich List of the 21st Century. Even his comments on List's style of writing accurately describe the literary school of our Heinz: "He continually shows off in a clumsy and verbose rhetoric, the troubled waters of which always drive him in the end on to a sandbank, and the essence of which consists of constant repetitions about protective tariffs and true German [...] factories." [5] And if the style is similar, the content is exactly the same: empty, sentimental petty bourgeois moralising instead of a scientific analysis. What did List's economic wisdom consist of? Protective tariffs. This reflected the weakness of German capitalism at that time relative to its French and English rivals. "Let us protect ‘our fatherland' with protective tariffs!" That was the position of List, who tried to push the German workers behind the German capitalists on a nationalist basis. What did Marx have to say about this? He writes:

"[8] What then does the German philistine want? He wants to be a bourgeois, an exploiter, inside the country, but he wants also not to be exploited outside the country. He puffs himself up into being the ‘nation' in relation to foreign countries and says: I do not submit to the laws of competition; that is contrary to my national dignity; as the nation I am a being superior to huckstering.

"The nationality of the worker is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is labour, free slavery, self-huckstering. His government is neither French, nor English, nor German, it is capital. His native air is neither French, nor German, nor English, it is factory air. The land belonging to him is neither French, nor English, nor German, it lies a few feet below the ground. Within the country, money is the fatherland of the industrialist. Thus, the German philistine wants the laws of competition, of exchange value, of huckstering, to lose their power. at the frontier barriers of his country! He is willing to recognize the power of bourgeois society only in so far as it is in accord with his interests, the interests of his class! He does not want to fall victim to a power to which he wants to sacrifice others, and to which he sacrifices himself inside his own country! Outside the country he wants to show himself and be treated as a different being from what he is within the country and how he himself behaves within the country! He wants to leave the cause in existence and to abolish one of its effects! We shall prove to him that selling oneself out inside the country has as its necessary consequence selling out outside, that competition, which gives him his power inside the country, cannot prevent him from becoming powerless outside the country; that the state, which he subordinates to bourgeois society inside the country, cannot protect him from the action of bourgeois society outside the country.

"However much the individual bourgeois fights against the others, as a class the bourgeois have a common interest, and this community of interest, which is directed against the proletariat inside the country, is directed against the bourgeois of other nations outside the country. This the bourgeois calls his nationality." [6]

From the above lines we can see the abysm that separates the nationalist philistinism of the petty bourgeois List from the proletarian internationalism of Marx. We stand firmly in the tradition of Marx. Heinz Dieterich stands very clearly against Karl Marx and with Friedrich List. Here at least comrade Dieterich quite clear and unambiguous (and let us thank God for small mercies!). What he is advocating for Venezuela is not socialism at all, but state capitalism: "a kind of state capitalism of a Keynesian character." That is to say, he advocates the same model invented by List that was embraced by the European Social Democracy in the period 1945-79, a model that collapsed in a welter of inflation at the end of the 1970s and which both the bourgeoisie and the Social Democrats have abandoned, because it did not work. Now our friend Heinz regards this as "the only kind of development that is possible today within the context of world capitalism." That is perfectly clear, is it not? Yes, it is quite clear - and quite clearly in contradiction to the idea that has been expressed many times by Hugo Chávez, who says that the alternative before the human race is capitalism or socialism.

Here, moreover, Heinz gets entangled in a series of insoluble contradictions. On the one hand, he accepts the existence of capitalism on a world scale, and sees no possibility of overthrowing it (if he does, he keeps it very quiet). On the other hands, he thinks that it is possible for Venezuela to follow its own road on the basis of pursuing the kind of economic policies that were invented by the English and then copied by the Germans and Japanese. What are these policies that Heinz admires so much? They are the policies of protectionism that were adopted by the aforementioned countries in the nascent phase of capitalist development. Here our friend has a point. The argument of the liberal economists about the absolute necessity of free trade reflects the present state of development of capitalism in the USA, Japan, France, Britain and Germany. But in the past they sang a very different song. In the early days of capitalism, they were all protectionists. Their feeble nascent industries required protection against foreign competition, which would have destroyed it. Only when their industries were sufficiently strong to compete on world markets did they become converted to the virtues of free trade. That is why List, reflecting the interests of the weak German bourgeoisie of the mid-19th century called for protective tariffs.

Marx explained long ago that capitalism, beginning with the establishment of a national market, necessarily develops a world market. Today, the crushing domination of the world market has been established to an unheard-of degree. All nation states, even the biggest and most powerful, are compelled to participate on the world market and find themselves subordinate to it. In this context, the concept of national sovereignty has lost most of its meaning. Those states that succeeded in throwing off the shackles of direct imperialist domination now find themselves subjugated by imperialism through the mechanism of world trade and the stranglehold of giant transnational companies and foreign investors.

It is possible for weak colonial countries to achieve some respite on the basis of protectionism. The example of Malaysia in recent years is a case in point. However, such measures can only work for a time and to some extent. Ultimately, it will be impossible for Venezuela to free itself from the powerful pull of the world market, which is the most important manifestation of the present epoch. The idea that Venezuela can somehow cut itself off from the world economy is entirely false. If neither Russia nor China, with their gigantic internal markets and vast reserves could maintain a regime of autarky, how could this be achieved by Venezuela, a far smaller economy? The only real way to protect the national economy against the depredations of foreign capital is though a state monopoly of foreign trade, the cornerstone of a nationalized planned economy.

Here again, Heinz gets everything hopelessly mixed up. In the interview in Junge Welt already mentioned he says: "Neither a democratic socio-economic development nor a defence against US and European interests or even the separate development of socialism in Venezuela is possible. It's possible only in the context of a Latin American regional bloc. Venezuela surely will not be able to develop economically along social-democratic lines or make a transition to socialism without a regional bloc that includes Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

"The result of all is that the emphasis of the measures taken by the government is based on the development perspective of market economics. Venezuela is naturally a capitalist third world economy, completely distorted in its structure of production because everything depends upon oil; it is completely distorted as well in its lack of diversification in the global market, without a single technology for the future, and so forth.

"On the one hand, the government must concentrate its efforts on remedial action, while on the other improving the level of labour power and combating outright poverty. From the latter come measures such as the literacy campaign, the opening of new schools and universities and health clinics. That is at the centre of the political task. At the same time, one attempts to make some headway at the socialist project, first of all by beginning to think collectively."

What does all this mean? First of all, the perspective of socialism is conspicuous by its absence. Our professor considers that Venezuela is "naturally a capitalist third world economy", which is destined to "develop economically along social-democratic lines". What does this development social-democratic lines consist of? Firstly, the maintenance of a capitalist market economy for the foreseeable future. Secondly, remedial action (i.e., reforms) to alleviate poverty, tackle illiteracy, etc. In other words, to continue much as the Bolivarian government has done in the period since 1998. This means, in practice, the abandonment of the socialist transformation, or its postponement to a far-distant future.

Socialism and internationalism

Marx and Engels were not internationalists out of sentimentality but for scientific reasons. The tendency of capitalism to develop a world market, which was predicted in The Communist Manifesto, is a fact. Socialist internationalism is not an utopian dream but flows inevitably from the development of capitalism itself. The formation of the European Union was a tacit admission by the bourgeoisie that the old national states have outlived their usefulness and become transformed into reactionary barriers to the free development of the productive forces.

What is the alternative to capitalist globalisation - that is, to the domination of the entire world by a handful of gigantic corporations and imperialist states? Dieterich counterposes to globalization - bourgeois nationalism. We counterpose to it the class struggle and the fight for socialism nationally and internationally. The standpoint of Heinz Dieterich means the complete abandonment of Marxism and Leninism. It signifies the abandonment of the proletarian standpoint in favour of bourgeois or petty bourgeois national philistinism. One looks in vain in all the articles of Heinz Dieterich for even the slightest glimmerings of a class position. He refers in sentimental language to "our great Latin American fatherland", without explaining that this "fatherland" is composed of exploiters and exploited, masters and slaves.

Marxists do not gloss over the class contradictions, but on the contrary, bring them to the fore. As Lenin explains in Critical Remarks on the National Question: "On the boards of the joint-stock companies capitalists of different nations sit together, completely amalgamated with each other. In factories workers of different nations work side by side. On all really serious and profound political issues sides are taken according to classes and not according to nations." What has the Argentinean worker got in common with the Argentinean factory owner? What has the Brazilian landless peasant got in common with the Brazilian latifundist? What has the Venezuelan proletarian got in common with the Venezuelan oligarch? In another work Lenin writes: "The interests of the working class and of its struggle against capitalism demand complete solidarity and the closest unity of the workers of all nations; they demand resistance to the nationalist policy of the bourgeoisie of every nationality." [7]

Lenin always wrote in a clear and ambiguous way. There is no way his meaning can be misunderstood. And his meaning is this: that for Marxists, at all times and under all conditions, the class question comes first. We stand for the sacred unity of the working class, irrespective of nationality, language, colour or religion. We are opposed to nationalism and in favour of internationalism. In order to combat the pernicious illusions peddled by the bourgeois and petty bourgeois nationalists, Lenin warned that: "The proletariat cannot support any consolidation of nationalism, on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers, supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer or leads to the amalgamation of nations. To act differently means taking the side of reactionary nationalist philistinism." [8]

The Communist Manifesto explains that the proletarian revolution, though national in form is international in content. The workers must first settle accounts with their own bourgeoisie and carry out the revolution in their own country. The Revolution has begun in Venezuela and it is moving in the direction of the socialist transformation of society, despite the strenuous efforts of reformists like Heinz Dieterich to prevent this. It is the duty of the workers and peasants of Venezuela to overthrow the power of the oligarchy and take the power into their own hands. The socialist revolution can succeed in Venezuela, but it cannot be consolidated unless it spreads at least to the rest of Latin America.

The anti-Marxist theory of "socialism in one country", first expounded by Stalin in the autumn of 1924, went against everything the Bolsheviks and the Communist International had preached. Such a notion could never have been countenanced by Marx or Lenin. Unless the Soviet state succeeded in breaking out of its isolation, Lenin thought that the October Revolution could not survive for any length of time. This idea is repeated time after time in his writings and speeches after the Revolution. In the end, the revolutionary movements in Germany, Hungary, Italy and other countries were defeated, but they were sufficient to halt the attempts of imperialism to overthrow the Bolsheviks by armed intervention. The Russian workers' state survived, but prolonged isolation in conditions of extreme backwardness produced a process of bureaucratic degeneration that was the basis for the Stalinist political counter-revolution.

The Cuban revolution from the beginning was inspired by revolutionary internationalism. This was personified by Che Guevara, that outstanding leader of the Cuban revolution. Che was born an Argentinian and fought in the front line of the Cuban revolution. But in reality he was a true internationalist and a citizen of the world. Like Bolivar he had the perspective of a Latin American revolution. After his tragic death there have been many attempts to turn Che Guevara into a harmless icon, a face on a tee shirt. He was presented by the bourgeois as a well-meaning romantic, an utopian idealist. This is unworthy of the memory of a great revolutionist! Che Guevara was not a hopeless dreamer but a revolutionary realist. It was not an accident that Che attempted to extend the revolution to other countries, not just in Latin America but also in Africa. He understood very well that, in the last analysis, the future of the Cuban revolution would be determined by this.

From the very beginning the destiny of the Cuban revolution has been tied to events on a world scale. How could it be otherwise when the revolution was threatened at birth by the most powerful imperialist state on earth? The Cuban revolution - like the Russian revolution - had a tremendous international impact, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. That remains the case even today. Che tried to light a spark that would set the whole continent ablaze. Maybe he made a mistake in how he went about it, but nobody can question his intentions and his fundamental idea was correct: that the only way to save the Cuban revolution was to spread it to Latin America.

Unfortunately, some erroneous conclusions were drawn from the Cuban experience. The attempt to export the model of guerrilla war and "focos" led to one terrible defeat after another. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, the Cuban insurgency had taken US imperialism by surprise. But they soon learned the lessons and every time a "foco" appeared, they crushed it immediately before it could spread. A more important fact was that the majority of the population in Latin America now lives in towns and cities. Guerrilla war is a typical method of struggle of the peasantry. Therefore, while guerrilla war can play an important role as an auxiliary, it cannot play the main role in the socialist revolution. That is reserved for the working class in the towns. And tactics must be adapted accordingly. This is shown by the experience of Venezuela, where the attempt to organize a guerrilla war was a complete failure. The Venezuelan revolution is unfolding as an essentially urban revolution, based on the masses in the towns and cities and supported by the peasantry. The Bolivarian Movement of Hugo Chávez has used the parliamentary struggle very effectively to mobilize the masses. But it has been the movement of the masses that has defeated the counter-revolution on three occasions.

The destiny of the Cuban Revolution is now organically bound up with that of the Venezuelan Revolution. They will determine each other. If the Venezuelan Revolution is defeated, the Cuban Revolution will be in the greatest danger. Every effort must be made to prevent this. But here we must learn from history. The Venezuelan Revolution has accomplished miracles, but it is not yet finished. Like the Cuban Revolution, the Venezuelan Revolution began as a national-democratic revolution. In the early stages of the he programme advocated by Hugo Chávez was the programme of advanced bourgeois democracy. But experience has shown that the oligarchy and imperialism are the mortal enemies of democracy. They will stop at nothing to destroy the revolution. Therefore, to attempt to limit the Bolivarian Revolution to the bourgeois democratic tasks - that is, to halt the revolution - would be to prepare the way for the inevitable downfall of the revolution. Why is US imperialism so determined to destroy the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions? It is because of the effect they are having on a continental scale. The imperialists are terrified that Cuba and Venezuela will act as focal points. Therefore, they are determined to liquidate them.

The idea of Che was to open up twenty Vietnams in Latin America. That was not a bad idea, but it was not possible at that time, partly because the conditions had not ripened sufficiently, but mainly because of the false model of guerrilla war that was followed. But now things are different. The crisis of capitalism has had devastating effects in Latin America, and this has had revolutionary consequences. The conditions for revolution are maturing everywhere. In fact, at the present time there is not a single stable capitalist regime from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande. With correct leadership, there is no reason why successful proletarian revolutions should not occur in one or several Latin American countries in the next period. What is needed is not nationalism and blocs with the reactionary bourgeoisie, but a revolutionary socialist programme and revolutionary proletarian internationalism.

For an internationalist policy!

Socialism is internationalist or it is nothing. Our policy must be a class policy, an anti-militarist and anti-imperialist policy. But such a policy can only succeed if it is firmly linked to an anti-capitalist policy and the perspective of socialism, nationally and internationally. Heinz Dieterich considers the socialist alternative utopian. But this should not surprise us, since he considers socialist revolution in general to be utopian. Instead he offers us yet another of his supposedly "realistic" alternatives, namely the Regional Bloc of Power. This is a bourgeois reformist alternative to the Bolivarian idea of the revolutionary struggle for the unity of Latin America. The two ideas have absolutely nothing in common. The former is the idea of uniting the existing bourgeois regimes of Latin America without touching the existing property relations or expropriating the oligarchy. The latter is a revolutionary idea of uniting the workers and peasants of Latin America in a common struggle against imperialism and the oligarchies - the only way to establish a genuine and lasting union of the peoples of the continent in a socialist federation.

Like Simon Bolivar we stand firmly for the unification of Latin America, but we recognise that on the basis of capitalism, this will always be a utopia. As long as the oligarchies own the land, the banks and the industries, the only future possible for Latin America is one of unemployment, cuts and misery for millions. The only alternative is the Socialist Federation of Latin America. Does this seem so difficult? Yes, the struggle for socialism is difficult. Every great cause in history has always been difficult. But is it not far more difficult to accept the present situation of unemployment, cuts, wars, mass starvation and all the other horrors that capitalism has prepared for the peoples of the world? Despite the colossal potential, the bourgeoisie has failed to give the peoples of Latin America the future they deserved. For almost two centuries the bourgeoisie has ruled Latin America, and what has it achieved? The productive forces stagnate, while agriculture is ruined. Everywhere we see unemployment and poverty. The youth is faced with the choice: unemployment or emigration. And what remains of national independence when the entire continent is held fast in the embraces of the northern giant?

The victory of socialism in Venezuela would have profound and immediate repercussions in the rest of Latin America. How long would the oligarchy retain power in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru? A revolutionary wave would sweep through Latin America and would have an effect north of the Rio Grande, where discontent is growing and the Latino population is now the biggest ethnic minority in the USA. A socialist planned economy would create the possibility of mobilizing the productive forces of Latin America - its fertile land, its industry, science and technology, and above all the enormous creative potential of its population - for the purpose of transforming society. The colossal talent of the peoples of Latin America, their artists, scientists, students, intellectuals, writers and architects, would flower as never before in the long history of this rich, beautiful and wonderfully diverse continent. It would transform the entire world, laying the basis for a socialist world federation. That is the only perspective worth fighting for in the first decade of the 21st century: the perspective of a socialist Latin America - the first gigantic step towards a socialist new world order.


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[1] Dieterich, La revolución mundial pasa por Hugo Chávez, Rebelión, 5/3/05.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Marx, Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s book: Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie, MECW Volume 4, p. 265.
[5] Ibid, pp. 266-67.
[6] Ibid., p. 280.
[7] Lenin, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination.
[8] Ibid.