Between Caracas and Delhi

It seems more than a coincidence that two important conferences of the international left took place last month, in November 2009. One, the 11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers’ Parties was held in Delhi, India and the other, a World Meeting of Left Parties, met in Caracas, Venezuela.

It seems more than a coincidence that two important conferences of the
international left took place last month, in November 2009. One, the
11th International Meeting of the Communist and Workers’ Parties was
held in Delhi, India and issued the “Delhi Declaration” (DD) and the
other, a World Meeting of Left Parties, met in Caracas, Venezuela and
issued a document entitled the “Caracas Commitment.” (CC) There were
approximately 50 organizations at each conference. I will try to relate
here to some of the main issues raised by these two meetings and the
calls that they issued.

There is some difficulty in comparing the two documents in that the
Delhi Declaration (DD) is much shorter, about a third in length of the
Caracas Commitment (CC) and much more general and less specific. In
addition to listing the progressive position on the many fronts of
concrete struggle, the CC suggests important international initiatives.

There are important differences between the two calls. However, it
should be stressed that they are not and were not written as opposing or
alternative theses. There is indeed some danger of ‘over analyzing’ the
differences many of which may have more to do with form than substance.

The general tone of both meetings reflects a desire to concretize the
call for socialism. Both documents center on the analysis of the current
crisis of capitalism and emphasize the need for a socialist solution to
the crisis. The motivation is quite clear. The current crisis of
capitalism poses the question of socialism as an urgent theoretical and
political problem. The crisis is also a crisis for social-democracy, for
class collaboration in the economy and a blow to the faith that things
will work themselves out in the economy. One can hope that the common
position of the DD and the CC on this vital question will afford a broad
basis for unity and cooperation. Both conferences wish to reframe the
demand for socialism and to transform it into an urgent social-political
issue. It is no longer sufficient to think of socialism as an abstract
perspective. If socialism means anything it must present itself as the
best and most reliable solution for the present crisis.

What is Socialism?

There are important differences between the two documents in the
treatment of socialism. CC talks clearly about 21st Century Socialism
and Chavez has some clearly uncomplimentary things to say about the
Stalinist deformation in the Soviet Union. Though Chavez and Venezuela’s
Latin-American allies are in the forefront of the struggle against US
imperialism, the CC clearly states that opposition to imperialism and
the struggle for national sovereignty are not enough. In short, the time
has come to move past the main slogan of the anti globalization movement
to the effect that a “better world is possible”. The movement against
capitalist globalization must transform itself into a revolutionary
movement for socialism.

The DD is exceptionally cautious and restrained in its description of
the current scene in Latin America. It categorizes the fight in Latin
America as an essentially defensive front: “Latin America, the current
theater of popular mobilizations and working class actions, has shown
how rights can be protected and won through struggle.” (www.11IMCWP.in)
The dramatic difference between this DD description, which can be
characterized as positive but cool, and the CC on this and other
important strategic questions is a highly significant.

Though one can easily identify with the chief demands in the DD, it does
seem a bit long on platitudes and short on specifics. There is a glaring
discrepancy between the detailed and clear arguments against capitalism
in the DD and the rather unclear role of the category of socialism in
the very same document. Precisely, in the light of a new priority
granted to the advance of socialism to a higher place on today’s agenda,
the absence of a deeper analysis, historical and contemporary, on the
outlines of the socialist alternative is sorely felt. No one could
demand a single, one-size- fits all formula for socialism today from the
DD. But this is a not a reason to ignore differences on the subject and
the need for detailed analyses on the multiple paths to socialism. It
is, of course, a fact that there are different ideological trends and
political approaches on this key question in the Communist movement. If
socialism is indeed to be on the agenda, the discussion of these trends
and their significance cannot be suppressed.

The DD states correctly that “Imperialism,[has been] buoyed by the
demise of the Soviet Union” and that “the achievements and contributions
of socialism in defining the contours of modern civilization remain
inerasable.” (www.11IMCWP.in) However, nothing in the least critical is
said of the Soviet project. There is something very problematic in the
total evasion of any discussion regarding the weaknesses of Soviet
socialism and its sad collapse. This is a serious weakness and silence
on this matter would seem to open the door to attack by many enemies of
the very idea of socialism. Moreover, for many serious progressives, the
thinking of Communists on this question is of genuine interest.

The Bolivarian Revolution on the Move

The immediate historical background of the CC is the 2005 declaration by
Chavez to build “21st Century Socialism” and the creation of a new,
mass revolutionary party in Venezuela. It is important to add here the
growing consolidation of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela,
Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Paraguay and its historical link with revolutionary and independent Cuba.

The constant machinations by US imperialism to undermine and isolate the
Bolivarian revolution by military, political, and economic means are
convincing proof that this arena is presently the flash point of the
battle against imperialism.

The CC does not, unlike the DD, stop at recommending general positions
and ideas. It offers detailed plans for the creation of new platforms of
joint action by the left, including (1) Establishment of a “Temporary
Executive Secretariat (TES) that allows for the coordination of a common
working agenda” on agreed policies; (2) Organization of a World
Movement for Peace; (3) Special instruments to advance public
communication and win the battle of the media.

All of the above, if properly implemented, could impart new vigor and
enthusiasm to the fight for peace and socialism. But Chavez and the
Venezuelan leadership have also moved far past the above initiatives,
and presented a new, bold proposal for the establishment of a Fifth

”The international encounter of Left-wing Political parties held in
Caracas on November 19, 20 and 21, 2009, received the proposal made by
Commander Hugo Chavez Frias to convoke the V Socialist International as
a space for socialist-oriented parties, movements and currents in which
we can harmonize a common strategy for the struggle against imperialism,
the overthrow of capitalism by socialism and solidarity based economic
integration of a new type.” (www.venezuelanalysis.com)

Diversity and Controversy on the Way to a New International

Leftists and students of the modern era are cognizant of the complex
issues involved in the conception, goals and practice of Marxist
internationalism and its main tool, the international, which it
established to create a material and organizational foundation for its

Chavez considered it important to outline from the outset of the
discussion on a new international his own understanding of the historic
outcome of previous attempts. These views were summarized in a report by
Kiraz Janicke of his speech at the Caracas conference and published in
an official Venezuelan website: “During his speech, Chavez briefly
outlined the experiences of previous ‘internationals,’ including the
First International founded in 1864 by Karl Marx; the Second
International founded in 1889, which collapsed in 1916 as various left
parties and trade unions sided with their respective capitalist classes
in the inter-imperialist conflict of the First World War; the Third
International founded by Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, which
Chavez said “degenerated” under Stalinism and “betrayed” struggles for
socialism around the world; and the Fourth International founded by Leon
Trotsky in 1938, which suffered numerous splits and no longer exists,
although some small groups claim to represent its political continuity.
Chavez said that a new international would have to function “without
impositions” and would have to respect diversity.”

It is of course far too early to jump to any kind of conclusions
regarding the Chavez proposal on the basis of the above outline or the
results of the first responses from various organizations. While it
would be unwise to disregard the historical ‘hints’ in Chavez’s outline,
my reading of the proposal is that we are not going to be asked to
return to an international based on ‘democratic centralism.’ The idea of
the international was associated historically with some sort of
centrally disciplined world- wide party. It is important to stress that
Chavez seems to understand his proposal as suggesting a new form of
international built around the concept of unity in diversity.

At any rate, the Chavez project is a political thunderbolt and should
initiate new and broad discussion of the role of internationalism in the
struggle against imperialism and for socialism. Such a discussion can
only contribute to our ideological and political consciousness. We are
at the very beginning of a process and it would be wise to reserve any
tendency to hasty judgment.

Note: this article was republished from a post by Reuven Kaminer to the Marxmail list.