Socialism is not in limbo
Our generation has seen two seemingly indestructible walls fall: the Berlin Wall, in 1989, and Wall Street, in 2008. The kind of socialism then in existence, marked by statism, authoritarianism and the violation of human rights, collapsed with the Berlin Wall. With the collapse of Wall Street, neo-liberalism was de-legitimized as a political ideology, as was capitalism as a mode of production, with its arrogance, unlimited accumulation (“greed is good”), at the expense of the devastation of nature and of the exploitation of persons.
Previously presented as two visions of the future and two forms of inhabiting the planet, they are incapable now of giving us hope of reorganizing a planet-wide coexistence, where everything has a place, and which assures the natural bases that sustain life, which now is in an advanced state of decline.
In this context ideas are reappearing that were previously defeated, but that now could have a chance of being realized (Boaventura de Souza Santos), such as communal democracy, and the “good living” of the Andean people, or original socialism, conceived of as an advanced form of democracy.
I reject capitalism as it currently exists (the market society), because is so nefarious that if it continues its devastating logic it could destroy human life on the planet. It works now only for a small minority: 737 economic-financial groups control 80% of the transnational corporations and, within them, 147 groups control 40% of world economy (according to the data of the famed Swiss Technological Institute), or the 85 wealthiest people, who accumulate the equivalent of what is earned by 3.057 million poor people of the world, (2014 Intermon Oxfam Report). Such perversity can offer nothing for humanity except growing impoverishment, chronic hunger, dreadful suffering, premature death and, in the end, the armagedon of the human species.
Socialism, adopted in Brazil by several political parties, particularly the Brazilian Socialist Party – Partido Socialista Brasileiro (PSB), of the well remembered Eduardo Campos, presents some opportunities. We know that it was born among Christian activists, critics of the excesses of savage capitalism, such as Saint-Simon, Proudon and Fourier, who were inspired by Gospel values and what was called «The Great Experience», the 150 years of the Guaranies’ Christian Communist Republic (1610-1768). The economy was collectivist, first for present and future needs, and the rest for commerce.
Clovis Lugon (1907-1991), a Swiss Jesuit, passionately described the experiment in his famous book: “The Guarani Republic: the Jesuits in Power” (“La república guaraní: los jesuitas en el poder”, Paz e Terra 1968). A solicitor of the republic, Brazilian Luiz Francisco Fernandez de Souza (*1962) wrote a thousand page book: “Socialism: a Christian Utopia”. He personally lives the ideals he preaches: he made a vow of poverty, dresses simply, and goes to work in an old Volkswagen beetle.
The founders of socialism (Marx tried to give them a scientific character, as opposed to those he called utopics) never understood socialism simply as the opposite of capitalism, but as the realization of the ideals proclaimed by the bourgeois revolution: liberty, the dignity of the citizen, the right to free development and participation in the construction of the collective and democratic life. Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg saw socialism as the full realization of democracy.
Marx’s basic question (abstracting the questionable theoretical-ideological construction he created around it) was: why can’t bourgeois society realize the ideals it proclaims for everyone? It produces the opposite of what it seeks. Political economy should satisfy human needs (food, clothing, life, learning, communication, etc.), but in reality, it attends to the needs of the market, in large part artificially induced, and its objective is to increase profits.
To Marx the failure to achieve the ideals of the bourgeois revolution was not due to the ill will of individuals or social groups. It was the inevitable consequence of the capitalist mode of production, which is based on private appropriation of the means of production (capital, land, technology, etc.) and the subordination of work to the interests of capital. That logic divides society into classes, with antagonistic interests, which has repercussions in everything: in politics, the law, education, etc.
In the capitalist order, people tend, whether they like it or not, to become inhumane and structurally «egotistical», because they feel compelled to care first for their own interests, and only thereafter for the collective interest.
What solution did Marx and his followers contemplate? Let’s change the means of production. Instead of private property, let’s introduce social property. But, be careful, Marx warns, changing the means of production is still not the solution. It does not guarantee a new society, but only offers the possibility of development of people, who no longer would be means and objects, but ends and solidarian subjects in the construction of a world with a true human face. Even with these conditions, the people must want to live in accordance with the new relationships. Otherwise, the new society will not happen. Marx says still more: «history does nothing; it is the concrete and living human being who does everything …; history is nothing but the activity of humans in search of their own objectives.».
My evaluation is: we are headed for a socio-ecological crisis of such magnitude that, either we adopt socialism with a humanistic mode, or we will not have the means to survive.