Saturday, May 11, 2019

Socialism of the Twenty-first Century

The socialist experiments which were most popular with Western intellectuals were the ones that were least tainted by associations with earlier, now discredited, experiments. Intellectuals had to be able to convince themselves, and others, that they had found a genuinely novel model of socialism, which had nothing in common with those earlier ones. It was not enough for a country to just adopt socialism: it had to contain the promise of a fresh start, a promise that ‘this time will be different. 
Mao-mania started at the time of the Sino-Soviet split. Hoxhaism started at the time of the Sino-Albanian split. The Cuban revolution was popular because it was homegrown. The same was true of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. Pilgrims of a more romantic disposition were drawn to politically isolated places such as North Korea and Cambodia, because isolated places could not be tainted by associations with earlier, now discredited, attempts to build a socialist society. The German Democratic Republic, in contrast, received some praise, but it never inspired starry-eyed enthusiasm.

‘Venezuela-mania’ is an extension of this pattern. It took off around the time that the Venezuelan government started to brand its policies internationally as a new model of socialism. It defined this new model not just in opposition to capitalism, but also, crucially, to earlier socialist models. In 2005, President Hugo Chávez was a keynote speaker at the World Social Forum, an annual conference of various anti-capitalist groups from around the world. (Read more.)

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