Opinion and Analysis: Bolivarian Project
“Our Model of Socialism Must Be Profoundly Democratic”
Editor’s note: General Raúl Isaias Baduel held a widely reported speech on the occasion of his leaving the office of Defense Minister. The event was also one in which Chavez swore in the new defense minister and a new military high command. Baduel is a long-time friend of President Chavez, who co-founded the MBR-200 with Chavez, the clandestine movement that was later to organize the 1992 coup attempt against then-president Carlos Andrés Perez. [correction from earlier version: Baduel did not participate in that coup and thus was able to remain in the military.] More recently, Baduel was instrumental in bringing Chavez back into office during the April 2002 coup attempt. Baduel’s speech ruffled some feathers in Venezuela because some believed that he was issuing an indirect criticism of Chavez. A more charitable interpretation, though, is that he was merely telling the country in which direction he believes 21st socialism must go.
I want to begin this speech by thanking from my soul, in the first place the almighty and eternal Lord, for having given me the privilege to serve him from this position, being protected by his powerful hand. And to all the people that with your help, work, dedication, and exchanges, aided me in bringing my time at the front of the Ministry of Defense to a happy conclusion.
I want to give a very special thanks to the President and Commander in Chief of the Bolivarian Armed Forces for the trust that he held in me, assigning me to this responsibility. To you, my Commander in Chief, my friendship and affection.
My fellow soldiers deserve to be mentioned as well, who make up around me a team of invaluable contribution, the successful result of our daily labor, it would have been impossible without them. To them, my eternal gratitude and my friendship forever, whatever road they may take.
Today, as a command from the lord and from my superiors, I will be succeeded by General Gustavo Reyes Rangel Briceño, a colleague and a friend, whose virtues and religious principles will greatly serve him during his time in this position. To you, my colleague and friend, my best wishes and may God’s guidance illuminate all your decisions.
I have had the honor to hold the position of Minister of Defense, a position that requires whoever holds it, by principle and by law, to show his judgment in the direction of the men and the strategy and policy of the state, with a view toward the future so that the citizens of our nation, who today are in an unprecedented political and social transition, know the professionalism of his actions, and, as a consequence, can rest knowing and trusting the decision of their Military Commander, and the institutions of the Venezuelan government.
When I say that we find ourselves in an unprecedented transition, the political and social order that our nation is experiencing, among other things, I am referring to the process of construction of a new political, economic, and social order that we have denominated 21st Century Socialism. The term socialism, unfortunately, does not have a homogenous and fixed meaning for everyone who uses the term and from there comes, perhaps, the uncertainty and uneasiness that is created in some sectors of the country when it is only mentioned. The call from President Hugo Chavez to construct 21st Century Socialism implies the urgent necessity to formalize our own theoretical model of socialism that is adapted to our historical, social, cultural, and political context.
We have to admit that this theoretical model, for the time being, does not exist, nor has it been formulated and I am guessing that as long as it remains so, there will remain uncertainties in some social groups. As I have said, on the other hand, we must invent 21st Century Socialism, yes, but not in an unorganized and chaotic way, but rather taking advantage of the tools and the framework of references that science gives us.
We must invent our own model, with logic, with methodology, with order, and consciousness. On the Aló Presidente TV show on March 27th, 2005, Mr. President indicated, and I quote, “The socialism of Venezuela will be built according to the original ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.”
More recently last Monday, in the graduation event at the Institute of Higher Studies for National Defense, Mr. President demanded from us deep research and analysis and constructive criticism. Reiterating what I have mentioned before, if the base for the construction of 21st Century Socialism is a scientific theory of Marx and Engels, what we build definitely has to be what we construct on top of it. It cannot be anything less or we risk that our construction will be nothing more than a humble hut built upon the foundation of a skyscraper.
We have listened in recent times to some theorists who want to contribute to the construction of a specifically Venezuelan socialist model, about how inconvenient it would be to repeat the errors made in countries known as socialist, among them the emblematic example of the extinct Soviet Union. However, I think that the errors that these theorists point to belong exclusively to the failures of the political order of the Soviet model, for example, with respect to the relationship between the revolutionary party and the government, and between the party and the population, or in the danger in making the same errors of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which became n organization that substituted and displaced the society, and ended up being controlled by the Central Committee of the Party.
In the political order, our model of socialism must be profoundly democratic. It must explain once and for all that a system of socialist production is not incompatible with profoundly democratic political system and division of power. In this aspect, I think that indeed we should separate ourselves from the Marxist orthodoxy that considers that democracy with a division of powers is only an instrument of bourgeois domination. As our President pointed out in an interview with Manuel Cabieses, the director of the magazine Punto Final, I quote, “In the political line, one of the determining factors of 21st Century Socialism must be participatory democracy, popular power, everything has to be centered in the people. The party must be subordinated to the people, not the other way around.”
However, the errors of the political order are not the only errors that we should consider. We must not forget something fundamental. Socialism is, in a strict sense, a system of economic production, just like the capitalist system that it must replace is also a system of economic production but in subjugating terms against the human condition, and therefore, with an abysmally different focus.
They also committed errors of an economic sense in the socialist countries. Against those, we also must be on guard so to not repeat them. The economic errors of these socialist countries, like the Soviet Union, include the insufficient creation of wealth. Despite having achieved advanced industrialization, having a centrally planned economy and having 5-year plans, the Soviet economy could not be profitable. It could not create the wealth necessary to keep its population comfortable.
One of the great paradoxes and contradictions of the Soviet economy is reflected in the fact that the nation came to depend on imported wheat coming from its archenemy during the Cold War, the United States of America, in order to feed its population. As example of that, in 1979 the US government of the time sent the Soviet Union 25 million tons of corn and wheat. The Soviet Union could not take the definitive step forward to reach the same levels of efficiency in the creation of wealth as its capitalist competitors, even though it achieved notable advances in social material, in education, sports, health, and art among others. Certainly we do not want to repeat these errors either. We cannot permit our system to be transformed into state-led capitalism, where the state is the only owner of the means of production.
A country can make the error of nominally calling itself socialist, and in reality practice state-led capitalism. During some time, and after the stage known as war communism, the Soviet Union still called itself a socialist republic while actually practicing state-led capitalism, at the urging of Lenin himself. At that time, between the years 1921 and 1927, the stage that is known as the new political economy, this action was justified, alleging the economic errors of the so-called communism of war that led to the rebellion of Kronstadt and other events that almost liquidated the Bolshevik revolution.
This period of war communism that went from 1917 to 1921, was characterized, above all, by failure, failure in agriculture and failure in industrial activity. The policy of total nationalization of all the agricultural companies, industry, and the general discontent ended in anarchy, hunger, and anti-communist rebellion. The prices went up vertically, while the production fell, and the currency lost value and stopped being a normal mode of exchange. Agricultural production was one-third of its volume in 1913. Industrial production corresponded to 13 percent of its level in that same year and train traffic was 12 percent. It is estimated that in 1921 five million people died of hunger in the Soviet Union. War communism left the message that you cannot implant abrupt changes in the economic system, such as the sudden abolition of private property and the brutal socialization of the means of production, without it having negative repercussions in the production of goods and services and without consequently generating general discontent in the population.
Lenin coined the term state-led capitalism to refer to what he considered to be the ideal transitional phase between capitalism and socialism. This means a co-existence, for a period of seven years, of capitalism with socialism. Private ownership of small and medium-sized means of production was permitted. However, the state reserved for itself the large means of production. The bank was nationalized but trade was left in private hands and they allowed products to be sold at the prices that the market fixed.
One of the attractive things that classic socialism has always practiced is the underlying idea that a socialist system must be able to have a more equitable and fair distribution of wealth than a capitalist system where the immense inequalities are the order of the day. But there is something that we must not forget, that perhaps many times we overlook, that before wealth can be distributed, it must be created. You cannot distribute something that does not exist. That formula has not been invented yet. The model of socialism that we develop must be that one. One that shows us the socialist road toward production and creation of wealth first and later allows equitable distribution of that wealth among those who generate it. Or as Marx would say, I quote “From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs.”
For the socialist model that we propose to be successful, it must find the way to make the Venezuelan people more productive. In the past, during the Fourth Republic, the governments used the excessive wealth generated by the oil boom to finance all kinds of economic help and subsidies. Many Venezuelans came to depend entirely on official aid. Instead of teaching Venezuelans how to create wealth through work and effort, it taught them to ask for help from the government.
When the oil boom ended, the government suddenly found itself without the funds to continue subsidizing the national economy. It was at that time when the country fell into the crisis, the worst of all Venezuelan history. Our model of socialism must and has to avoid the repetition of those errors. We need to learn…
We need to learn from the errors made during the last four decades and avoid repeating them at all costs.
And our President’s call to construct and invent 21st Century Socialism has also been accompanied by some guidelines and directives such as that our model must and has to be profoundly Christian, based in the ideas of social justice, of Christ our savior.
I think it is pertinent to quote a passage of the bible that illustrates well what our Lord Jesus thought with respect to the creation and distribution of wealth. It is the known passage of the talents, found in the book of Mathew, chapter 25, verse 14 to 20. Jesus says there, and I quote, “it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.”
With that, Jesus Christ goes directly against the absolutist concept of property that prevailed during that time and that some seem to still hold, that one can do with their property as they please. This contradicts our Lord Jesus because of the obligation of settling the accounts according to the use of moral, intellectual, and material goods, and the settling of accounts means a harsh punishment. The bible continues by saying, “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
To each one he demanded from them according to their ability. To each one according to their talents, to each one according to the goods that he had received. He could not demand the same from the one who had receive five, as from the one who received two. The duties of human beings are not comparable. Our responsibility, although of the same nature, is different for some than for others. From he who has received much, much will be demanded.
In the end, Jesus Christ, condemns hoarding in this passage very clearly and plainly, when Mathew says, and I quote, “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did no sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore, take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents, for to everyone who has shall be given and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
From who he had given little, he demanded little. But even so, he did not fulfill even a little, to hell with this man. Hell is, in the bible, the inevitable punishment for he who having the possibility, does not produce; for he who has the ability, does not use it, for he who is poor because he has been given little, does not use the little that he has for the good of others.
In order to achieve the goal of creating wealth in a different way from the capitalist model, our socialism must educate the people, as the famous teacher Simon Rodriguez said, I quote “There cannot be a republic without the people.” In order to educate the people, Simon Rodriguez would suggest the implementation of what he called in a visionary manner, social education. Simon Rodriguez affirmed in 1828 the following: I quote, “The customs that form social education produce a public authority. It is not a personal authority but an authority sustained by the will of all. Not the will of only one converted into authority. The authority is formed through education, because to educate is to create will. Authority is developed in customs which are necessary effects of education, and it returns to the education because of the tendency of the effects to reproduce authority. It is a circulation of the spirit of union among partners, as are the blood and the body of each associated individual, but circulation begins through life.”
Our model must break the bad customs of the past, of teaching rights to the people, but not duties. Our socialist model must teach the people what they have to do in order to obtain what they don’t have. Our socialist model must teach the people that things don’t appear magically, but rather you must obtain them through effort and work. That must be the task of true social education that allows the formation of the citizen that we need in order to acquire the potential that this beloved, blessed, and god-protected Venezuelan land is capable of. In that sense the Bolivarian Armed Forces can contribute a lot to the construction of a model since education in the armed institution has always been reversed. We have learned and practiced that our duties are the first priority of importance, and just as is pointed out in our rules, the principal and fundamental duty of every soldier is civic duty, the duty of citizenry; to be a citizen with some very special characteristics, a citizen that is at the service of the rest of the citizenry.
The fulfillment of duties is one of the greatest things a soldier ponders. We can attest to this in recent years, and above all with the popular approval of the 1999 Constitution, our duties and responsibilities have increased, since now we have besides the inherent traditions of security and defense of the nation, and the cooperation in the maintenance of internal order, the active participation of the Armed Forces in national development has been added to our duties. We have been fulfilling this last mission faithfully and effectively and it is an honor for the institution to be taken into account in order to carry out national development. However, we consider that it is necessary to refine the legal instruments that regulate and permit the Armed Forces to better carry out this task with more administrative, operative, and financial efficiency.
The Venezuelan people gave the Military a clear duty in Article 328 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. There the Venezuelan people gave us, speaking in military terms, an objective that can be translated as guaranteeing the independence and sovereignty of the nation, and assuring the integrity of the geographic space. The Venezuelan people also told the members of our Armed Forces how through the exercise of three fundamental missions: military defense, cooperation in maintaining internal order and active participation in national development are the three missions that must be in perfect equilibrium. And for that, the people assigned us the custody of the weapons of the Republic to defend their interests and be administrators of legal and legitimate violence of the state. But more than administrators of violence we must be promote and maintain peace, and generate tranquility and provide a certain path toward the development of our country.
I share with you the words of the good Pope, the Saint, Pope John Paul II, the guarantor, the pilgrim of peace, of happy and unforgettable memory. I quote. “In a climate of agreement and respect for justice, an authentic culture of peace can mature, capable of extending to the international community and navigating the pages of Vatican Council, finding us en the Gaudium Ex espezz, happiness and hope.” I quote, “Peace is not the mere absence of war, nor can it be reduced to the simple equilibrium of adverse force, but rather it is the fruit of order rooted in the human society by its divine founder, and men desirous of a perfect justice will have to carry it out.”
The National Armed Forces must be an instrument of power for political democracy, peace and development, whose actions are framed in the challenge that the national will demand and leadership with a view towards to the vindication of the institutions and procedures in benefit of the national collective. At this point begins a time of reflection for this humble soldier of the Parachute Infantry.
And in finishing I want to share with my fellow soldiers, and knowing my admiration for the eastern cultures, some precepts of the Code of Buddhism. These are the seven principles that govern the Code of Buddhism, the moral guide of the majority of samurais: be faithful to him and your honor will grow. Break it and your name with be insulted by future generations.
First principle: GI, Honor and Justice. Be honorable in dealings with everyone, believe in justice.
Second principle: YU, Heroic Value. Rise up among the people that are afraid to act. Hide yourself like a turtle in its shell is to not live. Heroic courage is not blind, it is intelligent and strong. It replaces fear for respect and precaution.
Third principle: JIN, Compassion. Develop a power that must be used for the good of everyone. Help your peers in everything. If the opportunity does not emerge, go out of your way to find it.
Fourth principle: RIE. Courtesy. A samurai is courteous even with his adversaries. He receives respect not only by the force of action, but also by his manner of dealing with others. The authentic interior force of the samurai becomes evident in times of haste.
Fifth principle: MEYO. Honor. The decisions that you make and how you carry them are a reflection of who you are in reality. You cannot hide from yourself.
Sixth principle: MAKOTO. Absolute Sincerity. When a samurai says that he will do something, it is as if he has already done it. Simply by saying it he has put in march the act of doing it. Speaking and doing are the same action.
Seventh principle: CHUGO. Duty and Loyalty. The words of a man are like his fingerprints; you can follow him wherever he goes.
May Yahweh, the supreme creator of everything, bless and guard forever the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Ladies and gentlemen, infinite thanks.Translated by Chris Carlson
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