Lecciones del socialismo / Oswaldo Barreto

Lessons of Socialism

Today it is fashionable once again in our country to talk about socialism. A fashion that is delayed and advanced at the same time.

Delayed, in that this fashion flourished in Europe amid the heat of two types of contrasting events: the arrival to power in many European countries of socialist parties, or coalitions led by these parties, and the demise of socialist governments and States in all the countries that made up the European communist block. On the other hand, it seems our fashion belongs to an authentic vanguard, not so much because of the postscript president Chávez has wanted to adorn with his sermons about “XXI century socialism,” but instead because we have arrived at it due to his insistence—already manifested, not only in words but in deeds—of transforming our society and our culture in all areas. We speak of socialism here when we concern ourselves with the very foundations of public and private life: the role of the State in economic activities, in exchanges of all kinds with other nations, the businesses allowed and their management, the forms of private property and their reach, but also cultural promotion and action, education and morality. Everything seems to be questioned and this questioning wants to be accomplished from the perspectives of socialism. None of this occurred in the France Mitterand governed from 1981 to 1995, nor in the diverse periods in which the Socialist Party has been in power in Spain, nor when the “Il Ulivo” coalition governed in Italy.

Hugo Chávez, the indisputable promoter of this fashion, could feel and probably does feel proud of the novel characteristic of his work. And he would be correct if things were truly that way. If his insistence was to innovatively discuss socialism. But everything he says and preaches in matters of socialism, and everything he proposes to realize in his sermons, unfortunately does not go beyond what the founders of socialism said one hundred years ago.

The determining cause for this anachronistic fundamentalism Chávez preaches to us, by means of the lessons on socialism he insists on giving, is that he does not take into account anything he teaches. Nor does he take into account what is taught to all humanity and all the ages by the socialism that men of flesh and bone tried to build during the last century. My God, people here are talking about the collectivization of agrarian and industrial production, about co-management, about the social utility of property, while wanting to forget or dismissing the terrible and unfortunate experiences that millions of humans lived through when they traversed those routes.

And this is not a theoretical stance, a point of view, nor even a protest. It is a warning, one that condenses the lessons of socialism—the one that has existed in history—into a categorical imperative: no form of individual or collective life that is imposed by force can be effective and lasting; it is fatally destined to function precariously, always bordering the possibility of ceasing to exist. What happened to the thousands of collective farms that existed in the Soviet Union, for example? Where are the famous “koljoses” and “sovjoses” the terrible Soviet novels spoke to us about during the fifty years of socialist realism? What happened to the work of all those artists who were forced to create within the aberrant parameters imposed by that presumptuous aesthetic mode? Nothing remains from all that except tragic memories and these painful lessons of socialism.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 30 September 2005 }

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