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Hugo Chávez comments on Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-first Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006).
Hugo Chávez, Aló Presidente No. 252, 9 April 2006
On Chapter 7, “The Revolution of Radical Needs: Behind the Bolivarian Choice of a Socialist Path”
Michael Lebowitz sent me a good work, [. . . ]a chapter of a book about Venezuela, “The Revolution of Radical Needs.” A revolution has to satisfy people’s needs in a radical way — that is at the root — and therefore this revolution has to become more and more radical because, as Karl Marx said, for human beings the root is human beings themselves. . . . I stress Michael Lebowitz’ concept, “the revolution of radical needs,” satisfying our people’s needs. Who better than them to say what their radical needs are, their root needs? I am, in fact, I admit it, excited about the subject of the Communal Councils, because we are in a hurry, that is. Today we are beginning to receive your amazing creativity, you who come up with projects, put forward ideas. . . . “The revolution of those radical needs,” that is the objective of the Revolution.
Hugo Chávez, Aló Presidente No.263, 21 January 2007
On Chapter 5, “Socialism Doesn’t Drop from the Sky”
But let’s look at reality as well as discourse, because in this other book — which I recommend — by Michael Lebowitz, “Socialism Doesn’t Fall from the Sky,” a good title — socialism isn’t going fall on us from the sky, we are going to have to understand it, work on it, plant it, sweat over it.
Now in this part, he refers to and reminds us of one of Karl Marx’s theses, that socialism is built through practice, it has to be built through practice. Listen, I’ll read some: only one way, practice itself. But these people don’t fall from the sky. He’s talking about the new people. I am going to go back a bit. . . .
My good friend Michael, Marta Harnecker’s partner, says here: “No one articulated better in the twentieth century the importance of developing new, socialist human beings than Che Guevara. He understood that if you try to build socialism with the help of the ‘dull instruments left us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, individual material interest as the lever, etc.)’, the effect is to undermine the development of consciousness. To build the new society, he stressed, it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and the new woman.”
It’s not enough to set up socialist companies, to take back companies and now coordinate them or encourage them under the new legal concepts of self-management or co-management, collectivism is not enough. No, comrade, the soul is the new human being, the new man, the new woman.
Then, further on Michael says the following. “There is only one way: practice.” And he adds, “but these people don’t drop from the sky.” They won’t come wearing parachutes, here come the new people, the new human beings are dropping from the sky. The stork won’t bring them.
“There is only one way in which they are produced — through their own activity. Only by exercising both their mental and manual capabilities in every aspect of their lives do human beings develop those capabilities; they produce in themselves specific capacities that allow them to carry out new activities.”. . .
Alright, I’ll continue here: “The simultaneous changing of circumstances, now pay attention to these two details, the simultaneous changing of circumstances and self-change, (what Marx called “revolutionary practice”) is how we build the new society and the new human beings.”. . .
Well, I’ll leave it at that but I recommend this good book, booklet to go by its size, but the content is big, “Socialism doesn’t fall from the sky.”
Hugo Chávezon Aló Presidente, #279, 27 March 2007
President Chávez: And speaking of that, of this book — small but whose contents are huge — by Michael Lebowitz, Socialism Doesn’t Fall from the Sky — we must publish millions like this one through Moral y Luces, in the missions, to read, to talk about.
It touches on a subject which is extremely important and which has to do with what we are doing now: Human beings and socialism. I’ll read some of it: “No one articulated better in the twentieth century the importance of developing new socialist human beings than Che Guevara.” Do you really think that a person is going to become a socialist because one day she wakes up and, just like that, says: “O.K., I’m a socialist”? No, socialists have to be made. A revolution has to produce not only food, goods, and services — it also has to produce, more importantly than all of those things, new human beings: new men, new women. And these missions and the efforts of Moral y Luces are going to be guided by that need, new women and men.
I’ll read on: “He understood that if you try to build socialism with the help of ‘the dull instruments left us by capitalism (the commodity as the economic cell, individual material interest as the lever, etc), the effect is to undermine the development of consciousness. To build the new society, he stressed, it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations’ — the factors of production and the production of goods and services — ‘to build the new man, the new woman.'” And do you know who spoke of new human beings more than two thousand years ago? Do you know who? Christ and the prophets spoke of the arrival of new human beings. Christ was a new man; he was the incarnation of the new human being, except that they crucified him. Old human beings often crucify new men and women because they don’t want anything new. And new human beings are social beings, human beings. Che said that revolutionaries are the highest form of human beings, the kind of person who lives each day not thinking of her own gain nor of how to obtain that personal material gain — no, no, no, thinking of other people. And, what is more, in relation to a project — in this case the revolutionary Bolivarian project — completely committed, struggling against old vices — corruption, abuses of power, egoism — and against those categories that are capitalist: commodities, economic profitability. This isn’t the most important thing — individual material interest, etc. can’t be what guides any human being who calls herself socialist and who joins in the construction of a socialist society. I’ll read some more: “We need to remember the goal. The world that we want to build is the society of associated producers, where each individual is able to develop his full potential, the world which, in Marx’s view would allow the ‘absolute working-out of his creative potentialities,’ the ‘complete working out of the human content,’ the ‘development of all human powers as such the end in itself.'” And these last sentences are direct quotes from Marx. Marx’s thought must become a potent nutrient of the Bolivarian Revolution. We have to go to this thought and to socialism’s great thinkers. (Of course, we here are not going to copy this thought as if it were a catechism and we are not going to carry around a little book which tells us what has to be done. No, no. We just take sustenance [from them] to use to invent our socialism). Simón Bolivar, a thinker who becomes more social, more revolutionary, more socialist with each day that passes — somewhere around here I have a book published by Simon Rodriguez University: Simon Rodriguez’ Letters — a socialist to the core, a thinker, a philosopher. There’s a lot to be found, taken, extracted, as if from a gold mine, from Simón Rodriguez’s thought: ideas, inspirations, guidance for our socialism . Zamora, Mariátegui, and many, many other thinkers. Christ, as I mentioned before — although some bishops get angry, that’s not my fault, I am free to say what I believe; here everyone is free to say what she or he thinks — I believe that Christ was a great socialist, the greatest of our era.
President Chávez: The true Christ, the human Christ, Christ, the new man. And here Lebowitz gives us another important element for the Mission Robinson Commission, the Moral and Luces engine. Listen: “There is only one way: practice itself,” because this is something else that is important. You can spend 100 years reading about socialism, shut in here; we could spend a hundred years ourselves, if you wish, until we are all dried up from studying socialism. We could bring in theoreticians, we could even . . . well, let Karl Marx come back to life and give us a seminar, and let FriedrichEngels and Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin and Mariátegui and Simón Rodríguez and Simón Bolívar come and tell us about their experiences and then go away. And we would acquire knowledge; we could do a hundred doctorates, one a year. And when the hundred years are up, we would be doctors of socialism a hundred times over, those most knowledgeable about socialist thought. . . . But we wouldn’t be really socialists if we didn’t practice it. The way is that of practice with theory as the weapon, the tool. But we have to go down the road as a sower, who has to go to the fields to sow and not just study: “The corn seed is made up of the cotyledon . . . and has such and such. You sow it this way and that way and you have to make a hole with the dibble. . .”. Like Adan and I, when we were little, we sowed with a dibble, with a hoe, well, you know, or a tractor. We have to have recourse to practice; or the soldier to battle.
Similarly, you can tell a soldier for a hundred years how an individual soldier moves on the ground and how a rifle is fired and how to solve what are called gun stoppages, when the rifle jams . . . what do I do now? He has to know how to solve the problem: how to fix the gun, how to clean it, how to put up a tent, how to cross a river in a military raft, etc. And if he has no practice, he never will. What I am saying is elementary but sometimes we forget about it because it is elementary.
Now, socialist practice, I’ll read some more: “But those people don’t drop from the sky” — the individual, the new person, “there is only one way in which they are produced — through their own activity.”. . . Whose own activity? The teacher’s? The person who educates? “[T]he activity of those who are producing themselves as socialists,” our own practice. We have to practice socialism, that’s one way of saying it, have to go about building it in practice. And this practice will create us, ourselves, it will change us; if not, we won’t make it. I’ll read a bit more: “Only by exercising both their mental and manual capabilities in every aspect of their lives do human beings develop those capabilities; they produce in themselves specific capacities that allow them to carry out new activities. The simultaneous change of circumstances and self-change (what Marx called ‘revolutionary practice’) is how we build the new society and new human beings.” That’s what Robinson II is: a process of producing new human beings for the new Homeland. Let everyone get that into their head and let’s go and do our revolutionary practice.
A telephone call. Let’s see, who is calling us?
Translation by Janet Duckworth.