Heinz Dieterich - the German academic, self-proclaimed prophet of "Socialism for the 21st Century", and so-called "friend" of the Bolivarian Revolution - has recently written another new article offering "advice" to the Venezuelan Revolution. We publish here a response to Dieterich by Alan Woods, who explains the tasks necessary for completing the Revolution.
To the degree that the reformist and class collaborationist nature of Heinz Dieterich’s ideas has been exposed, he has met with rejection. In Venezuela his pro-bourgeois views and his close relation with the counterrevolutionary General Raul Baduel discredited him and led to a radical break with Chavez. Recently a scandalous article by him was published in the well-known left-wing website Aporrea. In response to requests from activists in Venezuela, Alan Woods has written a reply.
[Note: Heinz Dieterich is a German academic who has been living in Mexico for some years. He was working for the Mexican Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) and as far as we know is still there. His main activity, apart from writing books written in an obscure and pedantic manner, is systematic self-promotion, advertising himself as the Prophet of “Socialism of the 21st Century”. However, his ideas have nothing to do either with socialism or the 21st century. They are merely a rehash of a few ideas taken from the prehistory of the movement such as those of the Utopian socialists like Proudhon. The role of Dieterich and others like him has not been to help and advance the Bolivarian revolution, but to confuse the minds of people on the Left in Latin America. This has been analysed in depth by Alan Woods in his book Reformism or Revolution (published by Wellred Books).]
There is a well-known horror movie called The Night of the Living Dead, in which corpses arise from the grave to torment living people. Such films are capable of producing a feeling of angst, because once a person is dead and buried it is usually safe to assume that they will never again walk the Earth. But the latest emergence of Heinz Dieterich with an article entitled “2015: the last year of Chavista government?” makes one begin to fear that the makers of that film may have had a point.
This article is quite typical of a man who has dedicated his entire life to a single aim: to draw attention to his own importance. To this end, the worthy professor Dieterich produces books like a machine churning out sausages. The only difference is that one learns less from all these books than from a single sausage, and the latter is infinitely more palatable. But I have said all I have to say on the content of these books in Reformism or Revolution.
When I first met him in Caracas (in 2004 if I am not mistaken) Heinz Dieterich used to call himself a friend of the Bolivarian Revolution. But with friends like Dieterich, who needs enemies? The real face of this “friend” was shown by his close association with General Raul Baduel, who actually wrote the Introduction to his book called The Socialism of the 21st Century. What kind of socialism it is that requires an Introduction by a general who shortly after proceeded to join the camp of the counterrevolution it is easy to guess. Suffice it to say that Dieterich’s relation to socialism and revolution is far more distant than that between his literary production and sausages.
In his article Dieterich predicts the imminent demise of the government headed by Nicolas Maduro. But it is not the first time he has made such predictions. In October 2013 he said Maduro's government “will not reach beyond March/April 2014”. Then in March 2014, when his prediction was not realised, he decided that Maduro“will not last eight weeks in the government and will likely be replaced by a governing junta.”
The viability of any scientific hypothesis is judged by its ability to predict correct results. Judged from this point of view, Heinz’s predictions are without any scientific or empirical value. They do not even come up to the level of a competent astrologer. It is well known that if one keeps on saying “It is three o’clock”, one is shown to be correct at least twice every twenty four hours. But a clairvoyant who attempted to earn an honest living making such predictions about the future would very soon be out of a job.
Professor Dieterich’s constant failures to predict the course of events is well documented. He has made equally bold predictions in relation to Bolivia. A few years earlier Dieterich had set a date for an alleged coup in Bolivia that: “Reliable sources of high Bolivian government, who requested anonymity, revealed that the first attempted coup against Evo Morales is planned for this Wednesday, October 11,” he affirmed boldly on October 8, 2006.
As we see, the professor’s powers of clairvoyance are so astounding that he can predict events even down to the precise calendar month and day of the week. All that is needed is for him to add “it is three o’clock” and everything would be perfect. Or rather, would be perfect, except that, needless to say, this imaginary coup never happened.
Now our good friend makes the same kind of prediction for Venezuela, hoping no doubt that nobody will remember his early essays into the field of clairvoyance. Unfortunately, our memory is not yet completely defective, and we can safely conclude that his latest efforts will be no more successful than the earlier ones.
How Heinz saved Venezuela in two days
Old Heinz does not confine himself to playing the part of a modern day Cassandra. No indeed! He does not merely predict the future. He tells us how to alter it. In October 2013, he announced a plan to save “the Venezuelan economy and Bolivarianism in two days”.
Yes, you read that correctly. Professor Dieterich offers to save the Bolivarian Revolution, not in one month, nor yet in one week, but in just two days. Compared to such a feat, the labours of Hercules seem to be mere child’s play.
Taking all this childish gibberish as a whole, it would be too easy to dismiss Heinz Dieterich as a clown. But taking his activities over the years as a whole, he must be taken rather more seriously than that. It can be no coincidence that Dieterich's latest article was published just when a new offensive of the reactionary opposition against the government and the Bolivarian Revolution is launched.
It sees the light of day just as Washington has approved new sanctions against Venezuela. Dieterich says nothing of this. Since the man is notoriously verbose and never uses one word where ten will suffice, his silence cannot be an accident. Nor is it the product of ignorance. He goes into the minutiae of the politics of Venezuela and also of its foreign policy, dwelling on President Maduro’s visit to China and many other matters. Are we supposed to believe that the Professor knows nothing of the US sanctions against Venezuela? We can believe almost anything about Professor Dieterich, but we find it hard to believe that he does not read the newspapers.
The whole content of this article is that the Bolivarian Revolution is finished because it has lost the support of the people of Venezuela. We will deal later with this argument. But why does Dieterich say nothing about the external threat to the Bolivarian Revolution? Why does he not mention the US sanctions which are clearly an attempt to destabilize the government and overthrow it?
In politics as in everyday life, silences can often be more eloquent than speeches. What is important is not just what is said but what is not said. In reality this article actually helps the oligarchy and imperialism just because it serves the useful purpose of allowing them to say: "You see even the chavistas are against Maduro!"
Dieterich's article is scandalous both in what he says, the arrogant and insulting tone he uses and what he proposes. First he states that the Bolivarian government “maintains it on the basis of lies and bayonets” and then he describes it as a “police state”. This repeats word for word the propaganda that the oligarchy and imperialism have been repeating for years. These arguments are a barefaced lie.
Everybody knows that the Bolivarian Revolution has been ratified at the polls on countless occasions. If it is to be criticized, it is not because of its harsh treatment of the opposition. On the contrary, it has not been hard enough. It has not taken the necessary measures to disarm and destroy the counterrevolution that has been constantly provoking violence and bloodshed on the streets and sabotaging the economy with the aim of destabilizing the country and overthrowing the democratically elected government. And everybody (except it seems for Heinz Dieterich) knows that behind all this is the hand of Washington.
When Dieterich speaks of lies, he specifically refers to the government’s statement that the opposition is waging an economic war against the revolution. Is this really a lie? Who can deny that there is a campaign of sabotage of the economy, when millions of units of commodities, food, cleaning supplies and other items that are scarce in the supermarkets have just been confiscated in Maracaibo in a warehouse owned by a company linked to elements of the opposition party Voluntad Popular? Similar reports appear daily in the newspapers in Venezuela. But as we know, the Professor does not read the newspapers – or rather, he only reads the parts that interest him.
Of course, this does not mean that no criticisms can be made of the Bolivarian government. I have made many criticisms myself. But there are criticisms and criticisms. One can criticize with the aim of helping to solve problems, eliminating negative elements and helping the Revolution to find the way forward. But there is another kind of criticism that does not try to assist the Revolution but to undermine it. Such criticism helps the counterrevolutionary opposition and imperialism, and that is just what it intends to do.
Nowadays Dieterich is a critic of the Bolivarian leadership. But that was not always the case. In the past he attempted to cultivate relations with the same leaders. Like an obsequious courtier, he poured bucketloads of flattery on them. It would be difficult now to re-read those articles without being overcome with a feeling of nausea. Now the flattering courtier has become a vicious critic. It is hard to say which of the two variants is more poisonous.
Dieterich criticizes the Bolivarian Revolution, not from the left but from the right. In all his criticisms he stands on the same ground as the reactionary bourgeoisie. But he hides this fact under a thick smokescreen of “left” phraseology. This is a trick he has perfected over the years, raising it to the level of a fine art.
What Dieterich proposes
Let us proceed to the concrete. What are his suggestions? In essence Dieterich proposes to put an end to exchange control and price controls. This is exactly the same as what the bourgeoisie is demanding. But by relinquishing these necessary controls, the Revolution would immediately place itself at the mercy of the bourgeois and the speculators who wish to destroy it by economic sabotage.
The lifting of currency control would provoke an immediate outflow of capital, which would bring about an economic collapse and prices would soar. Goods may or may not appear on the supermarket shelves (they are now being hoarded by the speculators) but they would be so expensive that no ordinary people could afford to buy them. Thus the “plan” proposed by Dieterich is no different to that of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie. The fact that it is camouflaged by “socialist” rhetoric is irrelevant and resembles the pretty roses and coloured ribbons that adorn a box full of poisoned chocolates.
In February 2014, during the opposition offensive, Dieterich proposed the formation of a National Salvation Government including Henrique Capriles, the main leader of the reactionary opposition, the aim of which would be to take “necessary painful economic measures”. The majority of Venezuela wants “a democratic and centrist government,” he said.
Capriles and the other counterrevolutionaries have lost one election after another. Having failed to win power by democratic means, they have resorted to violent street demonstrations, in which a number people have been killed, and sabotage of the economy. Yet now it is suggested that they should be invited to join a so-called National Salvation Government. This is neither more nor less than a proposal to hand power to the counterrevolutionary opposition on a plate.
In the interview with CNN in Spanish Dieterich said the government should invite Capriles “and his forces” to join it to ensure that this economic proposal should have a “broad national majority”. In other words, the majority must bow to the will of the minority. This is a very peculiar version of democracy. Democracy means that the minority accepts the verdict of the majority. Here it is a case of the tail wagging the dog.
What would be the purpose of this government? According to Dieterich it would be to take painful economic measures. Here is what CNN reported:
“This section of the opposition, which would be within the national salvation government, would support the economic measures that will be painful, but he said that Venezuela has the money for the people affected to be protected by the State”. Whether or not the “people affected” (i.e. the majority of poor people) would be protected is open to doubt. What is not open to doubt is that these “painful economic measures” would be painful for the workers and peasants, not for the rich people who would be back in the saddle. The opposition would certainly support such measures. This is their programme. It is a programme the majority of Venezuelans have repeatedly voted against.
The anti-socialist and anti-revolutionary essence of Dieterich’s views is clearly expressed in his hostility towards the most revolutionary elements of the Bolivarian Movement. In the abovementioned article that predicted the fall of Maduro by March 2014, he described “the Socialist Plan Guyana, workers' control and the Communes” as “the road to the abyss”, “chimeras” and “fantasies”. That is, he is opposed precisely those aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution that have tried to advance the struggle against capitalism in the field of the economy and the state.
He is hostile to these movements because they are directed against the bourgeois state and have tried to replace it from below by organs of workers’ control and revolutionary power. It is true that these efforts have a hesitant and inconsistent character and are incomplete and they have been met with the sabotage of the bureaucracy. But at least here we have in embryo the elements of workers' control and revolutionary democracy, which are the prior condition for genuine socialist planning. But these are precisely the things that Dieterich wishes to stamp out. Evidently there is no room for workers’ democracy in his “Socialism of the 21stcentury”, which bears more than a passing resemblance to capitalism.
All his hatred is directed against the left-wing Bolivarians – the most radical and revolutionary elements who are the heart and soul of Bolivarianism. In February 2014, in the middle of the previous attempt by the reactionary opposition to overthrow the democratically elected government, Dieterich gave an interview to CNN. According to Dieterich, Venezuela had to leave aside “the radicals” who are causing problems with their “international partners” (read the USA). They must be “shown the red card”, and instead, there must be a policy of the “democratic centre”, which, he says, is all you can do in Venezuela today, if there is to be a solution to the crisis.
Dieterich announces that the solution is “the formation of a new political party of the centre-left on the lines of Syriza and PODEMOS”. This shows that he has understood nothing about anything. The rise of SYRIZA and PODEMOS has been due largely to the fact they are opposed to the brutal austerity policies and cuts being carried out by right-wing governments in Greece and Spain.
Dieterich, as we have seen, is advocating precisely such “painful measures” for Venezuela. In other words, he stands for the exact opposite of what is proposed by SYRIZA and PODEMOS. But then, consistency was never one of his most noticeable virtues.
Carry out the Revolution to the end!
Marxists approach the Bolivarian Revolution from precisely the opposite direction than the one taken by Dieterich. We stand for the defence of the Revolution against the counterrevolutionary opposition and imperialism. We do not predict the downfall every two minutes of the Bolivarian government nor give much credence to opposition “opinion polls” invented for the purpose of undermining the morale of the revolutionary masses. Our criticisms of it are exactly the opposite of those made by Dieterich and the right wing.
It is true that the Revolution is facing a very difficult and dangerous situation. But this is the result of the mistaken attempt to regulate capitalism to defend the interests of the masses. That was the origin of exchange controls, price controls, and other attempts to regulate and control capitalism. But this has failed. Inflation is now in the region of 60% annually and there is a shortage of basic products. The black market and speculation are flourishing. These things undoubtedly place the Revolution in grave danger. But what is the solution?
What all this proves is that it is impossible to plan capitalism and make it work in the interests of the majority. The solution, however, is not to make concessions to the capitalists, as Dieterich and the right wing propose. It is to remove the means by which the campaign of sabotage is organized. In the words of the Venezuelan revolutionary leader Ezequiel Zamora, “what we must confiscate is the property of the rich, because with it they wage war on the people, we must strip them down to their underpants”.
In November 2013 Dieterich said that “despite his controversial expropriations Chavez understood that there were no conditions in Venezuela to radicalise the process and to begin to take control of the economy from private capital”. Did Chavez really say these things? Where? What speech or article is Dieterich citing? He is not citing anything. Once again, he is inventing things that do not exist.
Is it true that Chavez in November 2013 was retreating from “further radicalisation” of the Revolution? No, it is not true. In his last speech to the Council of Ministers (Golpe de Timon) Chavez expressed his frustration at the slow pace of the Revolution. He criticized his Ministers and specifically emphasized the key importance of the People’s Communes – something that Dieterich is completely opposed to. It is therefore downright dishonest of him to misinterpret the views of Chavez – who incidentally rightly considered him as an enemy.
There is one thing in which Dieterich is correct. Unless serious steps are taken, the Revolution will be in mortal danger. However, contrary to what Dieterich says, the way to save the Bolivarian Revolution is not by calling a halt and negotiating surrender to the bourgeoisie, but on the contrary, by finishing what has been started. All attempts to negotiate a solution with the bourgeoisie were doomed to fail and have already failed. It is impossible to reconcile class interests that are totally antagonistic and incompatible. The attempt to control capitalism has also failed and was bound to fail.
Experience has shown that it is impossible to achieve socialism by utilizing the mechanism of the old state. The bureaucracy that the Revolution inherited from the old regime represents a powerful brake on society. This thick layer of parasitic Mandarins is hostile to socialism by its very nature. It has been reinforced by a new layer of careerists who wear red shirts and shout Bolivarian slogans but who are really a Fifth Column that is gnawing at the entrails of the Revolution and destroying it from within.
The only real base that the Revolution can rely upon is the revolutionary people, and above all the working class. This is the force that has defended and sustained it from the beginning. It is the only force that can guarantee its final success. But the patience of the masses has its limits, and these limits have been reached.
As long as key points of the economy remain in the hands of the enemies of the Revolution, they will continue to sabotage the economy, causing chaos and misery. To fight the economic war it is not enough to seize one warehouse here or a lorry full of smuggled goods there. It is necessary to draw the necessary conclusions and complete the expropriation of the bankers, landlords and capitalists. That is the only way that a genuine socialist planned economy can be created in Venezuela.
Time is running out. The question is posed point blank: either the Revolution will finally destroy the economic power of the oligarchy or the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie will destroy the Revolution. There is no “third way.” It is time to carry out the Revolution to the end.