It is a good thing that you have been recently paying serious editorial attention
to developments in Latin America and the changes taking place there, particularly
since Guyana is part of South America and it maintains economic and other relations
especially with Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname.
What is emerging unambiguously is that there is a perceptible leftward shift
and more of the ruling parties/governments have opted for new models of development
based upon some form of socialism inevitably with a Latin American flavour,
adapted to the specific conditions prevailing in these countries in response
to the pressing needs of the majority of the people.
Those familiar with socialism and its various forms and faces would know that
Bolshevik/Soviet socialism differed profoundly in practice and theory from socialism
in China after October '49 and in Tito's Yugoslavia, Ho Chi Min's Vietnam, Fidel's
Cuba, Kim Il Sung's North Korea, and so on, confirming your own observation
(SS, 29.1.06) that "the revolutionary tide takes vastly different forms
in different countries."
Over the years socialism has had its own forms in western Europe, in Africa
during Nkrumah's valid experimentation with a non-capitalist model of development,
as did Toure and Keita in Guinea and Mali.
All over the world, particularly in the post-colonial world 'socialism' has
proven to be an attractive developmental model after the experience with brutal
colonial capitalism. Obviously, some of this attraction emanates from the results
of socialism in the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern Europe, notwithstanding
what Stalin may or may not have done during collectivization in the Ukraine
post 1917, or Hungary in 1956 where there was a misguided attempt to overthrow
the post-1945 agreed-upon spheres in Europe, or even after the unfortunate events
of Prague, August '68.
In Guyana some valid experimentation was also carried out in an attempt to
fashion an alternative non-capitalist model based essentially on state control
of the economy through nationalization, coupled with a large cooperative sector
deliberately fostered by the architects of 'cooperative socialism.'
The experiment did not produce the desired results. A serious economic analysis
of that period and the experiment has not yet been done. Suffice it to say,
there is a universal search for a model that delivers social justice, equity,
economic opportunity, representative governance and which also satisfies basic
needs of the population without the exploitation, inequality and abject poverty
and alienation that the capitalist model brings. In your editorial of January
29, you discuss "unvarnished neo-liberalism" and "Marxism-Leninism"
and conclude that neither works but the former needs a "great deal of tempering"
and the latter "does not work at all." What is happening in Venezuela
is a clear rejection of the neo-liberal/capitalist model in favour of a type
of cooperative socialism. It has nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism which many
claim has failed particularly in the Soviet Union. Many others are not so sure
where Russia will end up after the dust really settles.
Global experience teaches us that a system based upon the ownership
of and access to wealth and capital of a few cannot satisfy the needs of the
majority people particularly in the post-colonial world, mainly because that
was the essential and dominant system in the first place through stages of slavery,
indentureship and colonial capitalism that had failed miserably.
But such a 'private enterprise' model is not intended to do so in the first
place, premised as it on the exclusive and reasonable assumption that investors
legitimately expect and are entitled to their return on investments. There is
nothing inherently wrong with such an idea. The only problem is that where it
is dominant far too much is expected of it. Particularly in the post-colonial
world, this model in practice has failed, when depended upon alone, to deal
with poverty and developmental issues. Therefore, unless it is complemented
by other forms of property relationships driven by other motivations besides
exclusive profit for the investor, it will necessarily always fail.
As a matter of fact, to ask private investors to deal with the challenges of
developing an entire country is probably quite unfair. That is not their business.
Their business is operating business for a profit.
Then you would say that the business of government is to collect the taxes
and develop the country. That is the idea, theoretically. But it never happens.
First of all the private investor, especially the foreign type demands and gets
his tax-free, duty-free concessions, etc. Those who don't get them, take them
anyway. The experience also shows a pathological aversion to pay taxes and contribute
meaningfully to economic development and to the treasury. So the promises of
the compact never materialize.
The most one can expect out of this compact is some employment which lasts
as long as is needed to produce profits on some raw material like sugar or banana,
petty royalties on non-renewable resources or minuscule profits on services
monopoly. This is what passes here in Guyana for a developmental model. From
time to time investors may make some conscience salving charitable donation
or hand out.
But this has been our history since Curtis-Campbell, McKenzie, Reynolds, Barama,
Jessop, Rusal, Omai, Aroaima, GT&T, etc.
This brings us to your editorial of Sunday, January 8, '06 where you purported
to discuss the merits and demerits of "utopian socialism" and in particular
the cooperative sector being fostered in Venezuela by the Chavez government.
You yourself freely draw heavily on the remarks of one 'philosopher' Gomez,
who claimed that "Venezuela was headed for 'radical barbarism,' and that
the country was not going 'forward but backward.'" There is also some reference
to what Marx knew about 'moral values' and what President Chavez 'seemed to
All of this is deliberately confusing, unsupported by evidence and pure conjecture.
Sunday Stabroek then asserts that "the accuracy of Dr Gomez's analysis"
is evident not just from President Chavez's own remarks but also from the "government's
ideological position" on new cooperatives. Which remarks of Chavez support
the so-called accuracy of Dr Gomez's analysis of a future of "radical barbarism"?
Which position exactly in the document on cooperatives agreed that the country
was not "going forward but backward."
There is absolutely no evidence of any confirmation of and agreement with Gomez
on any of his 'conclusions.' Gomez is an academic charlatan, part of the political
counter-revolution in Venezuela. It is entirely preposterous to assume that
such intemperate, malicious, unscientific and subjective analysis would find
support from Chavez and his government.
Venezuela through its agency SUMACOOP is embarked on an aggressive policy and
programme of promoting and funding cooperatives.
You complain about the form of the coop - i.e. state owned companies designed
to create jobs as opposed to "compete in a free market." What is wrong
with using the quintessential capitalist form of the 'company' to achieve objectives
of generating jobs and engaging in economic activity? The fact that the state
is purchasing the output and there is no free market competition, as you call
it, seems to affect your obsession with the free market.
It is the failure of the so-called free market competition which existed unchallenged
for so long in Venezuela that produced massive poverty and created untold exploitation
that is the direct root cause of what is happening today in Venezuela and many
other parts of Latin America.
The so called free market is freedom to exploit and free lunches for the 'haves'
while most of the people remain unemployed, hungry, homeless, sick, uneducated
The misguided neo-liberal, private sector model that promotes wrenching poverty
and inequality is a failed model and is being swept away all over the world,
especially in Latin America where it was accompanied by unconscionable foreign
exploitation of national resources by local oligarchs, by brutal dictatorship,
repression and torture, pauperization of entire nations while a few generals,
politicians, local oligarchies and their foreign masters rule over the people
like modern slavemasters. No one who refuses to acknowledge this and its root
cause has any credibility and moral authority to pronounce on the changes now
taking place. The revolution jolts open the long silent and self muzzled mouth
to now spew venom on the revolution.
As for the document on coops itself, although the goals are very high sounding
and idealistic, there is nothing essentially wrong with placing those ideals
as goals for future. During slavery and feudalism many dreamed of a future of
social justice and equity.
They too were dismissed. At that particular historical juncture, ordinary people
imbued with the dominant ideological positions of the principal economic/political
forces just could not have envisaged anything other than that system to which
they had become so accustomed and were thus incapable of contemplating change.
But change did take place under the pressure of class formation, class struggle
and technology. The great utopian socialists Fourier and Owen especially since
1802 outlined ideas for a world based on fairness. Engels explained all of this
in his seminal work Socialism: Utopian and Scientific and in it he especially
differentiated between the two since many still erroneously believe that one
is a very "special brand" of the other. No such thing.
So it is today. Two hundred years after Owen, many naively reject the notion
of the inevitability of radical social change, and supercession of one economic
system by another. They cling falsely to the idea of the permanence of the global
capitalist order and its subsidiary domestic free market system, all of it based
on greed and plunder producing inequality and poverty.
No one expects that radical transformation such as that being attempted in
Venezuela is a simple task. Far from it. Revolution even peaceful revolution
as the one unflolding in Venezuela has many challenges. Years ago that prompted
Mao Tse Tung to remark that "Revolution is not a dinner party, it is not
doing embroidery, it is not magnanimous." It is often violent because it
involves major changes in class relations.
A genuine revolution peaceful or not involves a new class taking over the reins
in politics and in the economy, in culture in everything. Guevara's ideas therefore
about creating a 'new man' in a new revolutionary order is quite understandable.
Guevara did not mean this to take place overnight. These things take a lot of
As for the reference in your editorial to Burnham and his experiment with cooperative
socialism, it is not true to say that Burnham's ideas were not founded on any
form of ideology. They were definitely founded on the notion of the cooperative
as the engine of growth rather than private enterprise, as we know it.
And so too is Chavez's policy of fostering cooperatives in Venezuela. It is
properly founded. It is the framework within which the problems of poverty and
unemployment are being addressed. Without a strong cooperative sector, the revolution
will not be able to deliver and address the needs of the poor and unemployed.
The need for a supportive state sector becomes also a prerequisite for economic
transformation. No wonder the appeal of the tri-sectoral, mixed economy is so
strong. It is a rejection of the all-embracing capitalist model whereby the
state sector and coop sectors are relegated to the dustbin.
We have seen that the capitalist model with the hegemony of a few, particularly
the rapacious foreign few, cannot develop a country and deal with the myriad
needs of its people, particularly the question of democracy, poverty and corruption.
In Venezuela, special laws have been passed to deal with corruption - a legacy
of pre-Chavez and contrary to unsupported conjecture, the cooperatives are making
a serious impact.
According to Camila Harnecker, writing on the situation in Venezuela, the number
of coops increased from 762 in 1998 to 83,769 by August 2005 and, "it wouldn't
be totally misguided to assert that coops have contributed to the increase in
Official statistics show unemployment decreasing from 16.8% in 2003 to 13.7%
On the question of democracy, you state that democratic freedoms "might"
be under threat, that Chavez "might" be leaning towards autocracy.
Chavez in November 2004 articulated his commitment to "establish a new
democratic model of popular participation," to replace the pre-Chavez democracy
when 80% of the population lived in poverty and squalor amidst plenty. And so