Saturday October 25th, 2014, 5:14 pm (EDT)

An Interview with Michael A. Lebowitz on Capital, “Real Socialism,” and Venezuela

The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”

Interview by Gülden Özcan, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, Carleton University (guldenozcan [at], and Bora Erdağı, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Kocaeli University (berdagi [at]

This interview was originally conducted in January 2014 for Kampfplatz (a journal of philosophy, published in Turkish in Ankara, Turkey) and its Turkish translation was published in February 2014. See Özcan, G. and Erdağı, B., “Michael A. Lebowitz ile Kapital, Reel Sosyalizm ve Venezüela Üzerine,” Kampfplatz 2:5, pp. 283-301. More information about Kampfplatz can be found on their website (in Turkish).

Gülden Özcan and Bora Erdağı: In some of the interviews you gave, you talked about your own everyday life experiences that led you discover that Marx’s total critique of capitalism is an unfinished project. In this discovery, you emphasized elsewhere that your class background and political struggle you were involved in have played an important role. Let’s first begin with your book Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992) in which you came to a conclusion that although Marx wanted to deal more deeply with the subject of “human needs,” it had never been realized as he focused more on his revolutionary project of “demystifying capital” than completing his epistemological project. Before getting into the details of your arguments in Beyond Capital, could you explain once again for your Turkish readers the road that took you to write this book?

Michael A. Lebowitz: First of all, let me stress that demystification of capital is an essential revolutionary project. Marx answered the most important question of all—what is capital, what is this world of wealth that stands opposite and over us? If we don’t understand what Marx revealed, then even when we struggle against capital, we are most likely to be struggling against ‘unfairness’—unfair wages, unfair working conditions, unfair distribution of income, unfair taxes, etc. And, in the absence of struggle, it’s likely that we will blame the victims—i.e., that we look upon problems as our own fault, the result of our own deficiencies and that therefore the burden is upon us if we want to do better.

That was certainly the atmosphere in which I grew up. I come from a working class family. My father was a machinist and my mother was a book-keeper, and the overwhelming feeling was one of failure. I did not recognise that as such, however. Rather, I was conscious of the desire to put a distance between my life and that of my parents. For many children from the working class, having more money and a better life is a natural goal.

So, I went to the School of Commerce at New York University, which offered night classes. I went initially to study accounting and law but was quickly attracted to economics, marketing and market research. After a few years, I was fortunate to get a job in market research in the electrical products industry. And, this was a real education because during the day I learned directly and intimately about price-fixing and the allocation of market shares among firms in the industry. Then I would go to my classes at night to learn (contrary to everything I could see for myself during the day) that prices are set by the anonymous market. At the same time, I was angered by the closure of the factory where my father worked in New Jersey because the corporation decided to move operations to the South to avoid trade unions. (Many of the angry songs of Bruce Springsteen, who is from New Jersey, are the product of this phenomenon which was occurring during the so-called ‘capital-labour accord’ and ‘Golden Age’.) The conclusion for me was clear: I am being lied to!

So, I began to search for the truth, and I read many works critical of mainstream economics (including, in particular, Marx and Thorstein Veblen). I had become a critical economist but not a political activist or a Marxist. This changed when I went to graduate school in Wisconsin, where I immediately became involved in activity around the Cuban Revolution, civil rights support, and the struggle in Vietnam; as well, I became an editor of Studies on the Left (a journal of the New Left in the US) and co-chaired the workshop on the economy at the meetings which produced the 1962 Port Huron Statement which founded Students for a Democratic Society. At the same time, I was studying Marx more seriously and thought of myself as a Marxist—but really, it is embarrassing to realise how little I knew and understood. I was an anti-capitalist, socialist and would-be Marxist.

My education continued after coming to Canada in 1965 to teach economics. I began to understand Marx by offering a course in Marxian economics (which I then taught for over 30 years) and, at the same time, I continued political activity, focusing upon workers control (influenced much by the Institute for Workers Control in the U.K.) and community organising—both outside and through involvement in a left faction of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia. (In 1974-5, I served as policy chair of the party, which had become the provincial government in 1972.) I slowly became conscious, though, of a dichotomy in these two parts of my life. In political activity (particularly, community organising), I could see how people grew in the process of struggling (often for immediate local reforms that meant much to them—like fighting a school closure or local rezoning or traffic patterns in their neighbourhoods) and how that opened them up to make links to larger issues. On the other hand, there was Marx’s analysis of capital—his demonstration that capital is the result of the exploitation of workers and that so much of what we observe is not accidental or unrelated but is, rather, inherent in the nature of capital.

Two apparently different worlds—a world of theory and a world of struggle. Of course, with the weapon provided by Marx’s analysis, one could approach people engaged in struggle to try to move them to an understanding of how capital was the barrier to their goals. But, why was the process by which people struggle missing in Marx’s Capital? Sure, there was his discussion of the struggle over the workday but there wasn’t even an examination of the wage struggle! And what about the transformation of people in the course of struggle? Didn’t that belong in Capital if it was a study of capitalism?

I began to find my answers once Marx’s Grundrisse became available in English. There, it became clear how much Marx focused upon needs, how he explicitly put aside critical questions (like changes in needs) for his planned book on Wage-Labour and how Capital was only part of Marx’s theoretical project. From that point on, I began to write articles about Marx’s theory of needs, the missing book on wage-labour and the silences of Capital. Theoretically, what drove me forward was Marx’s assumption of a constant standard of necessity (in a given period, in a given country) in Capital—the assumption that Marx repeatedly said would be removed in the book on Wage-Labour. What, I asked, if we relax that assumption as Marx intended? And, the more that I explored the implications of the missing book, the more that I concluded that there was not merely an absence and silence in Capital but also a deficiency. Very simply, we need to understand Marx’s Capital (and especially his method of deduction) in order to go beyond it to demonstrate that all those questions missing from Capital belong in the world of theory and are part of Marx’s theoretical project.

GÖ&BE: Interesting and appealing story for many reasons! Would you elaborate further on the importance of the methodology, proposed in Marx’s Capital, to study the political economy of wage-labour? And the silence thereof in Capital?

ML: In the dialectical logic that Marx drew from Hegel and applied in Capital, categories and concepts do not drop from the sky. If, for example, you juxtapose commodity and money externally to one another, you understand neither commodity nor money. This was Marx’s criticism of Ricardo and classical political economy: they lost all sight of the inner connections between commodity and money. And, that is inevitable unless you develop categories from one another logically.

In Beyond Capital, I described the method of dialectical derivation that Marx employed in Capital. It is a method of proceeding logically from a simple concept to more complex and rich concepts by revealing what is implicit in each concept as the dialectical journey advances. As Lenin stressed in his reading of Hegel’s Logic, the dialectical moment with respect to the first term is the understanding of ‘the distinction that it implicitly contains.’ And, this is what Marx demonstrated in his examination of the commodity: the commodity is revealed to be deficient in itself and to imply the necessity of a second term for its existence—money; in short, one divides into two. (You can see my extended discussion of this moment in my ‘Explorations in the Logic of Capital’ in Following Marx: Method, Critique and Crises.) We are introduced, then, to money initially as the opposite of commodity but as we consider the relations between commodity and money—not only money as a mediator for commodity but also the opposite, commodity as a mediator for money, we see that commodity is necessary for money and we develop the understanding of the unity of commodity and money. The dialectical moment with respect to the second term is ‘the positing of the unity which is contained within it.’ That unity is to be found in the concept of capital—the third term (but also a new first term).

And, this is how the logical journey proceeds: from capital as we first meet it (as capital in circulation) to the necessity of capital in the sphere of production (the distinction), to their mutual relations of capitalist production as a necessary mediator for capital in circulation and circulation as a necessary mediator for capitalist production and thus to the understanding of the unity of these opposites in the process of reproduction—capital as a whole (the third term) as a specific unity of production and circulation. This is the whole that Marx presents in Capital.

But then we come to the omnipresent question in dialectical logic: can we stop there? Is capital as a whole sufficient in itself or is it dependent upon something outside it, something implicit in it that it requires for completion? In short, does capital as a whole contain a distinction which must drive the logic further? Does it produce its own premises (as is characteristic of an organic totality) or are there premises external to it? Marx’s answer was clear: the reproduction of capital requires the reproduction of the working class but ‘the capitalist may safely leave this to the worker’s drives for self-preservation and propagation.’ In short, capital must posit the wage-labourer outside it in order to exist as such.

Thus, we see the wage-labourer first as a distinction within capital, as capital’s opposite, and as the mediator for capital in achieving its goal of growth. However, we must also consider the other side, the side about which Capital is silent—the worker as a being for self. Once we consider the side of the wage-labourer in its sphere of circulation (where the sale of labour-power occurs) and in its sphere of production (where use-values are consumed to produce the worker able to re-enter the sphere of circulation), we see that the wage-labourer has her own goals and struggles to achieve them. Class struggle from the side of the worker is present once we consider the worker as a being for self. Nevertheless, as wage-labourer, capital is a necessary mediator for the worker: she is dependent upon capital within this relation to achieve her goals. The dialectical moment here is the recognition of the unity of capital and wage labour in capitalism as a whole, a totality characterised by two-sided class struggle.

Once we now consider the worker as subject, we have moved far beyond the determinism which often passes for Marxism. Now, we necessarily must bring within this theory of capitalism as a whole the way workers transform themselves in their struggle. One-sided Marxists, though, call a halt to the theoretical project and declare that whatever is in Capital is theory and whatever is not in Capital is politics or lesser levels of abstraction. They think they can take Capital by itself. As I argue in my chapter on ‘One-Sided Marxism,’ however, by failing to develop the side of wage-labour, they understand neither capital nor wage-labour; in short, they do not understand capitalism as a whole.

GÖ&BE: Don’t you think that your conceptualization of wage-labour vis-á-vis capital has epistemological similarities with the antinomies in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? According to Kant, antinomies have thesis and antithesis and they never refute each other. Ultimately, don’t you think that you construct an antinomy when you see capital and its opposite, wage-labor? In this case, neither capital nor wage-labor or capitalism as a system can cease to exist. Only our beliefs can be speculatively binding. And that will not lead to the rejection of capitalism in its totality but rather demonstrate we are part of capitalism on a metaphysical level. We do think that this may not be what you would like to propose but don’t you think that such a danger exists? Can you expand on this?

ML: Although it is essential for an understanding of capitalism to grasp its two-sidedness, if the worker only exists as wage-labourer, then there can be no transcendence of the capital/wage-labour relation. Capital would be reproduced, wage-labourers would be reproduced, and the system would go on infinitely. However, in Beyond Capital, I insisted that we need to understand that the worker is more than wage-labourer. In the chapter on ‘The One-Sidedness of Wage-Labour,’ I stressed that wage-labour itself contains a distinction—the worker as non-wage-labourer. Only the side of the worker as wage-labourer is contained within the concept of capital. Outside of this relation are activities within the household, within communities, within the working class, within society in general which occur in different relations and the worker produces herself within all these relations. The worker, in short, is a human being who contains both wage-labour and non-wage-labour, and it is the contradiction between the worker’s self and her conditions of life which underlies the struggle against capital and points beyond to that ‘inverse situation in which objective wealth is there to satisfy the worker’s own need for development.’

But, yes, there is a danger: capital is always attempting to reduce workers to mere wage-labourers and, to this end, divides and separates them to defeat them. The danger is not because of the inadequacy of the concept; rather, it is that capital may be successful in the class struggle.

GÖ&BE: Going back to your remarks on ‘one-sided Marxism’ above, in Beyond Capital you criticize Michael Burawoy who argues that “two anomalies confront Marxism as its refutation: the durability of capitalism and the passivity of its working class.” You also deeply criticize those who since the 1980s made similar statements and turned their back to class politics such as Andre Gorz and Chantal Mouffe. You reveal that the common problem of those who, relying on the experiences of those days, avoided class politics and attempted to condemn Marxism as a whole was that they were unable to fully comprehend Marx’s Capital and treated it as a complete epistemological project and that despite the fact that they read it one-sidedly they thought they completed their critique of capitalism as a whole. Could you speak to us little more about the relation between the silence of Capital and one-sided Marxism?

ML: I think we can accept Burawoy’s statement if we recognise that it is one-sided Marxism that is confronted by those anomalies and not Marx himself. Even where Capital was not silent, one-sided Marxists are often deaf. By focusing upon the growth of capital and ignoring the deformation and crippling of workers under capitalist relations of production, they fail to see that capital tends to produce the particular workers it needs. Capitalist production produces not only surplus value, in short, but also a joint product—workers alienated from the products of their labour and the means of production and who seek to fill the emptiness of their lives with alien things. Consider the implications of the nature of people produced within capitalism as it develops. Marx, indeed, proposed in Capital that ‘the organization of the capitalist process of production, once it is fully developed, breaks down all resistance.’ That is strong and unequivocal language; and, he added that capital’s generation of a reserve army of the unemployed ‘sets the seal on the domination of the capitalist over the worker.’ Accordingly, Marx argued that the capitalist relies upon the worker’s ‘dependence on capital, which springs from the conditions of production themselves, and is guaranteed in perpetuity by them.’

So, those are not at all anomalies for Marx. Capital is not fragile: its walls will not crumble with the ‘scream of anti-power’ (as those like John Holloway propose). Rather, capital is strong. Its tendency is the reproduction of its conditions of existence. But there is the other side. Capital is silent about the worker as being-for-self and how, in struggling to achieve her own goals, she transforms herself; it is silent even though Marx always understood the importance of the simultaneous changing of circumstances and self-change. This silence is critical: only because workers produce themselves in their struggles as a class fit to go beyond capital is it essential for capital to divide workers in order to ensure its reproduction. In the absence, though, of exploring the side of the worker as a subject, capital’s inner tendency to divide workers (i.e., this aspect of its essence) is lost. What you are left with is capital’s tendency to grow through the development of productive forces until the glorious day when it no longer grows: the centrality of class struggle, two-sided class struggle, is displaced by economic determinism.

The implications for Marxism are great unless we understand capital’s inner tendency to divide workers. When capital introduces new productive forces, for example, its goal is not that of increasing efficiency; rather, its goal is to increase surplus value and that means that those specific productive forces must weaken the ability of workers to combine against it. Productive forces, in short, reflect the particular relations of production from which they emerge—they are infected. As I argued in Beyond Capital, ‘unless the behaviour of capital is considered in the context of wage-labour for itself rather than just wage-labour in itself, the clear tendency is to think of the autonomous development of productive forces and the neutrality of technology. Both conceptions are characteristic of economism.’

GÖ&BE: In your latest book The Contradictions of Real Socialism: The Conductor and The Conducted (Monthly Review Press, 2012) you talk about the deformation of workers under the logic of vanguard of the Soviet Socialism. In a sense, your arguments here seem to be a continuation of your arguments in Beyond Capital. To what extent does your critique of one-sided Marxism expand to your critiques of vanguard Marxism in twentieth-century Soviet experience?

ML: Given the extent to which Soviet Marxism has been the source of so much inherited Marxism (regardless of political perspective), it is not at all surprising that one-sided Marxism permeates it. In my book on ‘real socialism,’ I stressed the extent to which Soviet Marxism entirely ignored the second side—e.g., the question of the nature of the human being produced under particular relations of production. In particular, it did not consider ‘how workers are deformed by their lack of power to make decisions and to develop their capacities through their activity.’ Indeed, characteristic of Soviet Marxism was the disappearance of the centrality of the relations of production; in its place was an emphasis upon property relations (which are equated with productive relations) and the development of neutral productive forces.

In the case of ‘real socialism,’ this was not abstract theory. It served as a justification of a society in which a vanguard equated juridical ownership of the means of production with socialism, viewed worker management (and decision-making from below in general) as subordinate to the development of productive forces and asserted its role as one of directing an obedient working class from above to the Promised Land (a reason for the subtitle of the book: The Conductor and the Conducted). This is why I labelled this theoretical position Vanguard Marxism.

GÖ&BE: Can you tell us your main points of departure in analyzing and criticizing the Soviet experience and its failures? Also, in so doing, could you briefly explore the links you built between moral economy of the working class and the political economy of the working class in the context of Soviet Marxism?

ML: For many years, when I taught about the characteristics of the existing economies in ‘real socialism’ (particularly the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe), my approach was primarily empirical. I described how dysfunctional the system was in terms of producing bizarre outputs (like heavy chandeliers) and faulty products as the result of ‘storming’ to achieve bonuses. And I also stressed the extent to which workers had benefits in terms of subsidised necessities and security (in particular, guaranteed employment) not available to workers in capitalism but, on the other hand, had no power to make decisions in the workplace and to develop their capacities. This led me to analyse pressures for economic reform and to consideration as well of the Yugoslav self-management approach.

Ultimately, after developing my understanding of Marx, I went beyond empiricism to search for the inner structure underlying the various phenomena in ‘real socialism’ that I had been describing. As I argued in my book, much of that dysfunctionality was the product of a class struggle between the vanguard and an incipient capitalist class in the form of enterprise managers. Further, the particular position of workers reflected a ‘social contract’ in which the vanguard offered real benefits for workers in return for acquiescence in the rule of the vanguard in the workplace and society.

Inherent in that social contract was opposition to one element latent in the moral economy of the working class in ‘real socialism’—workers’ power and democratic decision-making from below. However, this social contract reinforced other elements in that moral economy: equality and egalitarianism, a focus upon satisfying basic needs and an emphasis upon the reduction of insecurity. What workers benefited from in that social contract, though, came under direct assault as the logic of capital increasingly infected (and displaced) the logic of the vanguard. Guided by economists (the ideological spokespersons of capital), the thrust was to remove anything that was identified as a barrier to capitalist efficiency (such as subsidies, free healthcare and guaranteed jobs).

It is striking to see how easy it was for capitalism to triumph and to remove what workers gained in ‘real socialism.’ But it is not surprising—given how workers were deformed and unable to develop their capacities under vanguard relations of production, how they were suppressed politically from developing independent organisational expressions of their interests and how they were disarmed theoretically by the substitution of Vanguard Marxism for Marx’s political economy of the working class. What was possible were spontaneous (and transient) responses to perceived violations of their concepts of fairness (i.e., to their moral economy). As Marx demonstrated with respect to capitalism, however, it is essential to go beyond moral economy to the political economy of the working class if we are replace the underlying system.

GÖ&BE: Speaking of the moral economy of the working class, in your books you discuss a certain kind of conservatism among the working class people (let it be working-class demands to protect previous gains as in the case of the trade unions in the West in neoliberal times or kind of conservatism emanating from seeing only the appearances not the essence of capitalism). Do you see any signs of that now? Also, you do not have any serious emphasis on religious conservatism. This is in particular important for your Turkish readers, as in Turkey we witness the rise of religious conservatism among the working classes over the last ten years under the current AKP government. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think any special socialist strategy is needed to overcome the dominance of religious conservatism and the pacification it involves, or do you think it will resolve itself through empowering people at the local level and through focusing on the real needs of people?

ML: While struggles of workers over violations of their concepts of fairness and justice are essential, characteristic of the moral economy of the working class is that it looks backward with the goal of restoring a real or imagined past. This is why Marx described 19th Century responses to wage cuts carried out under the slogan of ‘a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’ as conservative and called for workers to struggle for the revolutionary goal of ending capitalist productive relations.

To the extent that workers do not go beyond the existing moral economy, those struggles reach a dead end (much like the struggles of the 18th Century English crowd that E.P. Thompson described in discussing the moral economy of that time). And those limits were demonstrated more recently with respect to the dominant tendencies in the Occupy movement and ‘the Arab Spring’: as long as the focus remains upon saying ‘no’ to particular injustices and not ‘yes’ to building a movement that can go beyond capital, the results (although exhilarating in the moment) end in co-optation, disarray and disappointment. To educate participants as to the nature of the system is why it is necessary to move beyond moral economy to the political economy of the working class and why revolutionaries must be in those struggles.

Rather than beginning with abstractions, therefore, the starting point must be real people with particular ideas and concepts. But the point is not to embrace those current conceptions. Rather, it is essential to articulate what is implicit in current struggles to show how these contain within them the elements of a new society. To see the future in the present is what is needed if we are to build that future. That means there must be a vision which looks forward. For the political economy of the working class, that vision is one of a society based upon the goal of human development, i.e., that ‘inverse situation’ oriented to ‘the worker’s own need for development.’

That means, too, that we cannot be indifferent to the methods of struggle and forms of organisation. We need to keep in mind the central concept of ‘revolutionary practice’: ‘the simultaneous changing of circumstances and human activity or self-change.’ Since people develop through their activity, the creation of institutions and organisational forms of struggle which allow people to develop their capacities is essential. While such forms may not be as (narrowly) efficient as a particular military organisation in which directions come from above, the people produced through protagonistic practices are different—i.e., we need to recognise these as political investments which can produce people fit to change the world.

Building a socialist alternative which grasps this key link of human development and practice is especially critical in a time of crisis when working classes despair of stopping the capitalist assault against all that they consider fair and just. Under such conditions, it is not surprising that religious conviction is strengthened. If we recall Marx’s comment that religion is the heart of a heartless world, then the more heartless the world, the more the need for heart may be felt. While in some cases that religious message is not necessarily in contradiction to a socialist vision (c.f., in particular, liberation theology), the same can not be said of the spread of religious conservatism and fundamentalism. Although I cannot speak about specifics in Turkey, I suggest that, in general, religious conservatism is not simply a search for a heart in a heartless world. It is also the enforcement of another relation in which people exist which is diametrically opposed to human development—patriarchy; and the impulse to restore the old values of the oppression of women grows as the new world is increasingly heartless.

Thus, while socialists need to begin with the existing concepts of fairness as reflected in the moral economy of the working class, to the extent that those concepts of fairness are contrary to the principle advanced in the Communist Manifesto that ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all,’ they must be rejected. The development of our capacities, in short, must be indivisible: in the society we wish to create, no longer can ‘the development of the human capacities on the one side [be] based on the restriction of development on the other side.’ In this particular struggle between the future and the past, it is essential that socialists offer a socialist heart for a heartless world—not only in the form of a vision but as well through programmes which reach out to support the exploited, excluded and the most oppressed.

GÖ&BE: Back to your influential works on twenty-first century socialism, i.e. Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty First Century (Monthly Review Press, 2006), where you solidly identify socialist strategies for our times based on the Venezuela’s experience of socialism, can you briefly mention what is specific about the vision of socialism emerged as a goal in Venezuela? Can we consider Chávez’s elementary socialist triangle as a success in practice during and after Chávez? Also, what do you think can be done to advance these practices vis-à-vis the aggressive restructuration of capital under neoliberal economies on a global scale?

ML: Specific to the vision of socialism that emerged as a goal in Venezuela was the recognition of the key link of human development and practice. As I indicated in Build it Now, this concept is present in the Bolivarian Constitution, the first action of the Chávez government. From that point on, the question became one of finding the path to reach that goal—not an easy process because of the opposition of the local oligarchy, U.S. imperialism and the culture of corruption and clientalism inherited from decades of dependence upon oil rents. Ultimately, the route became clear with the development of the communal councils, small neighbourhood councils where neighbours were empowered to work together to decide on key questions affecting them. And these have evolved into communes where a number of communal councils come together to work on problems beyond the scope of individual neighbourhoods. During the seven years I was in Venezuela, you could see clearly how those councils gave people strength and a sense of dignity; this was especially true for women who were able to participate fully in decision-making in their communities—i.e., this decentralisation was not gender neutral. In this process, Chávez was central; although there were neighbourhood organisations in some places, he elevated the local councils to an essential part of a socialist model for the country. They were, he insisted, cells of the new socialist state.

Although Chávez also stated that ‘without workers control, you can’t have socialism,’ the empowerment of workers councils in recovered factories and state industries has met with more difficulties—reflecting opposition from state bureaucrats and economistic trade unions formed in the old society. Nevertheless, like community power, workers power remains an essential part of this concept of protagonistic democracy by which people develop their capacities. It forms one side of what Chávez called the elementary triangle of socialism: social production organised by workers, social ownership of the means of production and the focus upon satisfying social needs. All three sides have advanced in practice both under Chávez and thus far under his successor, Nicholas Maduro.

We could not say, though, that this elementary triangle of socialism is a success. It is, rather, a process—one that faces class struggle at every point (both from outside and within the Chávez camp). All we can say is that the struggle continues and that it will succeed to the extent that the masses are empowered to advance the process. While I am convinced that the elements in this particular combination of production, distribution and consumption are essential parts of socialism as an organic system, it is important to understand that Venezuela is not a model. We need to get away from models to be followed and to recognize that, to succeed, we need to build our own models based upon our histories and traditions.

That, too, is what Venezuela has demonstrated; you can’t imitate what has happened elsewhere because if you do, you are certain to err. Nevertheless, I think that Venezuela has demonstrated some general principles: firstly, that you do need power to change the world and, secondly, that you change that world by using the old state to create the conditions by which people develop their capacities and build the new state from below.