Venezuela -- Karl Marx versus the Degeneration of Social Revolution
Date: Saturday, October 02 @ 12:15:51 UTC
Topic: Venezuela and Chavez
By Franz J. T. Lee
Roberto Hernández Montoya, in his excellent and most timely article, "How to Prevent Revolution from Degenerating into Government", among other important revolutionary reflections, observed the following: "The proof is in the events on April 13rd 2002 when people reinstated Chávez in power after the coup d’État: if this revolution had been violent it would not have recovered power pacifically. There were no armed groups, and in any case if there were they did not act as such. It was not necessary. That was the perfect occasion for a violent revolution to act as such. In fact, Venezuelans have innovated in revolutionary matters. There have been favourable circumstances for that ... ." (www.venezuelanalysis.com )
It is true that "Venezuelans have innovated in revolutionary matters", that violent self-defence is not always necessary. Even Marx and Engels hoped for a non-violent transition from capitalism to socialism in their life-time.
In spite of the brutal, violent situations, caused by North American corporate imperialism in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Colombia and elsewhere, ... and there is no guarantee that this open fascism will not spread to other countries, like Iran, North Korea, or even Venezuela ... Marx and Engels, the fathers of modern revolutionary práxis and theory, have taught us how to preserve a human, humane, humanist face, how to defend the very existence of the human beings on this planet. They also taught us what degenerates any social revolution, and how to prevent such a social catastrophe.
Surely, as historical products of their epoch, sometimes, even they made Eurocentric "racist" remarks about us, even told us, living in "barbarous and semi-barbarous countries", to foresee our future in the mirror of the advanced European industrialized countries. Nonetheless, across the globe, practically all serious social revolutions of the 20th century were inspired by the revolutionary endeavours of socialists like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Fidel, Che, etc., against economic exploitation, political domination, social discrimination, genocidal militarism and total corporeal and mental alienation. Why their revolutions have been endangered by "government" surely necessitates serious studies, that cannot be dealt with here.
Forty years of the McCarthy type of "Cold War" mentality and indoctrination, during the epoch of "Puntofijismo" in Venezuela, also here the masses did not escape virile anti-communist manipulation. Like elsewhere, even in academic circles, the notion that Religion, Roman Catholicism, and Marxism do not match was simply drilled into the hearts and minds of the American peoples. In fact many believed ... and many still do ... that Communists are monsters, that they will devour our children.
The fact of the matter is that we could learn wonderful things from real, true Marxists with reference to preventing that the Bolivarian Revolution degenerates into bourgeois, democratic, capitalist government. For example, Lenin told us with scientific precision what should be an authentic revolutionary party, the vanguard of the revolutionary masses, how to fight against bureaucracy, and how to arm the revolution. Including Bakunin, Marx and Engels explained to us how the "Government", how the bourgeois "State" should wither away. Trotsky explained the basic elements of Bolivarian Permanent World Revolution.
But, because very few people were ever told the above-mentioned, let us see, in general, what Marx understood by the "human being", by the human species, what he thought about us, about the emancipatory human essence of our Bolivarian Revolution. What was the concrete revolutionary program of Marx? In how far can the Bolivarian projects benefit from this? His point of departure was "Beduerfnis", human need. The interpretation of the human being begins with human need. In his "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844", he stated:
"Man is first of all a natural being. As a natural being
and a living natural being, he is endowed on the one
hand with natural powers, vital powers . . . ; these powers
exist in him as aptitudes, instincts. On the other hand,
as an objective, natural, physical, sensitive being, he is a
suffering, dependent and limited being . . . , that is, the
objects of his instincts exist outside him, independent of
him, but are the objects of his need, indispensable and
essential for the realization and confirmation of his
As can be seen above, Marx confirmed that the "human being"
is a "living natural being", which is endowed with "natural, vital powers". Scientifically completely correct and stringent! In us, Venezuelans, Latin-Americans, these "powers" exist; they exist in Man, exist in her/him , that is, they constitute her/his Existence. We just have to activate all these powerful arms of emancipation. Philosophically totally precise! Thus, Human Activity, Free Labour, humanizes Man, emancipates us. By means of his creative activity, the Human Being identifies itself, becomes an entity, an identity. According to Marx, by mastering Nature, Man realizes his identity with Nature, that is, he achieves free consciousness, he develops his own thinking. Exactly this creative nature, this co-operative spirit, is essential for revolutionary transformation, for the success of the Bolivarian Revolution.
In his conception of the Human Being, Marx argued that, the aurora of "human consciousness" cannot be separated from the dawn of the "human being" itself, with its "struggle against Nature" (later, in the social sphere, the "class struggle" will be added). The consciousness about the struggle against Nature, gives Man the powers, the conditions, for his self-realization, for the fulfilment of the whole Human Being.
Marx explained that what the "Human Being" across his own history, eventually will discover:
" ... all that is called history is nothing else than the process
of creating man through human labour, the becoming of
nature for man. Man has thus evident and irrefutable proof
of his own creation by himself .... for man, man is the supreme being."
Precisely at this point, religious belief and scientific socialism part from each other. However, Marx was very clear about Religion and God; he had a famous tutor: Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. What very few people know is what Marx lovingly has explained about religion. He identified Religion as "the heart of a heartless world", ... like the current world in Iraq ... as the "soul of soulless conditions", ... like the sub-human conditions in which people vegetate in Africa ... as the "sigh of the oppressed creature", ... as the sighs of millions and millions of impoverished masses, sighing under the yoke of world corporate imperialism, and who believe that only in the Hereafter they could find some solace and succour.
The Marxian "Human Being" in Modern Capitalist Society
Now, let us highlight Marxian jewels that could pave the revolutionary path of Venezuela and Latin America towards an emancipatory future. Concerning Revolution, the possession of private property of the means of production and communication plays a central role. It indicates the emancipatory trend of any revolutionary mass movement. Let us summarize some of Marx's major deliberations and postulates.
Across the historical process, no Man, no Human Being, had really acquired the fulfilment of all his labour dreams, of his human needs. Few members of the species homo sapiens sapiens had enjoyed heaven on earth, but this is not what Marx understood by human emancipation. Let us see how Marx explains this historical phenomenon.
Marx himself, living in a capitalist society, came to the conclusion that Man is not really free. Adopting the concept of alienation of Hegel and Feuerbach, Marx was convinced that modern Man ... that is, across the globe ... is estranged, that he is not at home in his earthly labouring world: "Man is made alien to man." But Labour cannot be blamed; it is sacred, it is human. Hence, Labour was alienated across the ages. Hence, the central problem is alienated Labour. Urgently Labour must be disalienated! But, how, and why, did Labour become alienated, and consequently, why is Man an alienated Being, an alienated Human Being?
The Encyclopædia Britannica gives us an excellent summary of Marx's views in "The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844" :
"In the 'Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts' the alienation
of labour is seen to spring from the fact that the more the worker
produces the less he has to consume, and the more values he creates the more he devalues himself, because his product and his labour are estranged from him. The life of the worker depends on things that he has created but that are not his, so that, instead of finding his rightful existence through his labour, he loses it in this world of things that are external to him: no work, no pay. Under these conditions, labour denies the fullness of concrete man."
Concerning intellectual alienation, that directly concerns the current 2% of the total global labour force, the "intellectual workers", that produce the lion's share of expensive global products on the world market, Marx stated:
"The generic being (Gattungswesen) of man, nature as well as his intellectual faculties, is transformed into a being which is alien to him, into a means of his individual existence." Nature, his body, his spiritual essence become alien to him. "Man is made alien to man." When carried to its highest stage of development, private property becomes "the product of alienated labour . . . the means by which labour alienates itself (and) the realization of this alienation." It is also at the same time "the tangible material expression of alienated human life.""
Essentially, Marx saw alienated labour as the historic result of the exploitation and domination of Man by Man, of market production, of the division of labour, into manual and intellectual labour, of the division of society into antagonistic classes. The Encyclopaedia Britannica continues with the Marxian explanation:
"As producers in society, men create goods only by their labour.
These goods are exchangeable. Their value is the average amount
of social labour spent to produce them. The alienation of the worker
takes on its full dimension in that system of market production in
which part of the value of the goods produced by the worker is
taken away from him and transformed into surplus value, which
the capitalist privately appropriates. Market production also
intensifies the alienation of labour by encouraging specialization,
piecework, and the setting up of large enterprises.
How workers become "goods", to be bought in capitalist society, to be treated like "mad cows", Marx explained:
"Thus the labour power of the worker is used along with that of others in a
combination whose significance he is ignorant of, both individually
and socially. In thus losing their quality as human products, the
products of labour become fetishes, that is, alien and oppressive
realities to which both the man who possesses them privately and
the man who is deprived of them submit themselves. In the market economy, this submission to things is obscured by the fact that the exchange of goods is expressed in money."
In Venezuela, in Latin America, this economic alienation causes political, social and human alienation; this estrangement results in distorted human relations. The alienated economic base distorts the ideological superstructure, thus creating perverted, metaphysical, philosophical, legal, political and moral ideas and notions. If we do not grasp these problems of alienation at their very capitalist roots, the very future of the revolution will be in danger.
But let Marx himself explain the alienation and disalienation process:
"The act of making representations, of thinking,
the spiritual intercourse of men, seem to be the
direct emanation of their material relations."
"Men produce their representations and their ideas,
but it is as living men, men acting as they are
determined by a definite development of their powers
"Men developing their material
production modify together with their real existence
their ways of thinking and the products of their ways
"It is not consciousness
which determines existence,
it is existence which
This brief commentary about central Marxian issues should encourage us to have a second look at scientific and philosophic socialism, to learn more about our own equal, unequal and combined development, to transcend Marxism, by enriching it with trans-historic "Bolivarianism", forever to nurture "Bolivarianism" with ever-green Marxism.