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A World to Build

A World to Build: New Paths toward Twenty-first Century Socialism

translated by Fred Fuentes
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    A World to Build
    Book Description:

    Over the last few decades Marta Harnecker has emerged as one of Latin America's most incisive socialist thinkers. InA World to Build, she grapples with the question that has bedeviled every movement for radical social change: how do you construct a new world within the framework of the old? Harnecker draws on lessons from socialist movements in Latin America, especially Venezuela, where she served as an advisor to the Chávez administration and was a director of the Centro Internacional Miranda.

    A World to Buildbegins with the struggle for socialism today. Harnecker offers a useful overview of the changing political map in Latin America, examining the trajectories of several progressive Latin American governments as they work to develop alternative models to capitalism. She combines analysis of concrete events with a refined theoretical understanding of grassroots democracy, the state, and the barriers imposed by capital. For Harnecker, twenty-first century socialism is a historical process as well as a theoretical project, one that requires imagination no less than courage. She is a lucid guide to the movements that are fighting, right now, to build a better world, and an important voice for those who wish to follow that path.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-470-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-11)

    I completed this book one month after the physical disappearance of President Hugo Chávez, without whose intervention in Latin America this book could not have been written. Much of what you will read here is related in one way or another to the Bolivarian leader, to his ideas and actions, within Venezuela and at the regional and global level. Nobody can deny that there is a huge difference between the Latin America that Chávez inherited and the Latin America he left for us today.

    By the time Chávez won the 1998 presidential elections, the neoliberal capitalist model was already foundering....

  4. Part 1 Latin America Advances

    • 1. The Pioneer in Rejecting Neoliberalism
      (pp. 13-29)

      Latin America was the first region in which neoliberal policies were introduced. Chile, my country, was used as a testing ground for neoliberal policies before prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s government implemented them in the United Kingdom. But it was also the first region in the world that gradually came to reject those policies which only served to increase poverty, aggravate social inequalities, destroy the environment, and weaken working-class and popular movements in general.

      It was in our subcontinent that left and progressive forces first began to rally after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. After...

    • 2. Correlation of Forces
      (pp. 30-45)

      Evidently, Latin America’s political landscape has been radically altered since Chávez was elected in 1998. A new correlation of forces has been established that makes it more difficult for the United States to achieve its objectives in the region. At the same time, the U.S. empire has attempted to stop this advance by stepping up its attacks on our countries.

      The U.S. government no longer has the same freedom it once had to maneuver in our continent. Now it has to deal with rebel governments whose agenda often clashes with the White House’s agenda. Valter Pomar, a member of the...

    • 3. Typology of Latin American Governments
      (pp. 46-48)

      Previously I discussed how during the past ten years, progressive and left sectors have been winning governments in more and more countries across the region. Various analysts have made an effort to classify governments by drawing up different typologies. We can initially distinguish two large blocs: right or conservative governments that seek to give neoliberalism a makeover and governments that define themselves as “on the left” or “center left” and are looking for alternatives to the existing state of affairs.

      Some Latin American countries want to give neoliberalism a makeover by implementing a series of reforms that “make it possible...

    • 4. “Left” Governments Facing More Objective Limitations
      (pp. 49-55)

      Henceforth I shall speak of “left” (in quotation marks) governments to refer to the group of governments that won elections by raising anti-neoliberal banners, and leave it to the reader to classify them according to the criteria listed below.

      However, before continuing I shall specify what I mean by left. In the 1960s, there was a tendency to define the left not so much by the goal it was pursuing but by the means it used to reach that goal. The implicit goal was socialism, the means were either armed struggle or institutional struggle, and the left was branded revolutionary...

  5. Part 2 Where Are We Going?: Twenty-First Century Socialism

    • 5. Why Talk about Socialism?
      (pp. 57-61)

      You might be asking: why refer tosocialismif this word has such negative connotations? Following socialism’s collapse in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, leftist intellectuals the world over fell into a state of confusion. We seemed to know more about what we did not want socialism to be rather than what we wanted it to be. We rejected any lack of democracy, totalitarianism, state capitalist methods, and bureaucratic central planning. We opposed collectivism that sought to standardize without respect for differences, and productivism that emphasized the expansion of productive forces without taking into consideration the need to preserve...

    • 6. Recovering the Original Socialist Thinking
      (pp. 62-67)

      This socialism of the 21st century, which seeks to guard its distance from the practices of twentieth-century socialism, has recovered some of Marx and Engels’ original ideas. These ideas were not only distorted by the actions of the Soviet regime and the Marxist literature disseminated by that country, but were also downplayed or ignored by those who rejected socialism given what was done in its name.

      Let us proceed to outlining some of these principle ideas.

      Integral human development. According to Marx and Engels, future society will facilitate the integral development of all the potentialities of human beings, something that...

    • 7. Some Current Reflections on Twenty-First Century Socialism
      (pp. 68-97)

      Obviously, we have to go beyond simply looking at the ideas of Marx and Engels. More than 150 years have passed, the world has changed, the new electronic-information revolution has brought with it new challenges and opportunities, and we face an alarming rate of environmental destruction. We are confronted with new questions that require new answers. We need to enrich these ideas with new reflections and proposals. Regarding this task, today we are in a better situation than we were a few years ago.

      In what follows, I shall present some of the features that must be key characteristics of...

    • 8. Transition and Its Varieties
      (pp. 98-112)

      Up till now we have spoken about some of the characteristics of this new society that we want to build, but you may be asking, how long will it take us to reach this goal? History has shown that “heaven” cannot be taken by storm, that a long historical period is needed to make the transition from capitalism to a socialist society. Some talk in terms of decades, others of hundreds of years, and yet others think that socialism is the goal we must pursue but that perhaps we shall never completely reach.

      We call this historical period “the transition...

    • 9. Making Progress When the Government Is in Our Hands
      (pp. 113-157)

      Thus far, I have given a broad overview of the characteristics we see as essential to 21st century socialism. Now we will go into some of the concrete measures that can be taken in order to move toward that goal, using the state bequeathed to us. This requires a fundamental condition: that revolutionary cadres, instilled with the political will to do so, run the inherited state.

      A lot of ground can be covered in the international sphere once in government. Imbued with the ideas of Simón Bolívar regarding the need to unite our countries, certain Latin American governments have begun...

    • 10. A Guide to Judging How Much Progress Is Being Made
      (pp. 158-161)

      Thus far I have tried to analyze the characteristics of the processes of building socialism in our subcontinent. I indicated how progress can be made with this project using government power, and said that in order to judge our governments it is more important to look at the direction in which they are going and not the speed with which they are advancing. Now I would like to propose criteria that could allow us to make an objective assessment of the progress made by those governments that have explicitly set themselves the goal of beginning to build 21st century socialism....

  6. Part 3 A New Political Instrument for a New Hegemony

    • 11. Building a New Hegemony
      (pp. 163-172)

      Previously, I specifically focused on the issue of participatory and protagonistic democracy as the fundamental characteristics of the new society we want to build. I also took up the characteristics of the transition in those countries whose governments have decided to advance toward socialism via the peaceful or institutional road. I explored some of the steps these governments could take, pointing out the need not to look at the pace with which they proceed but rather the direction in which they are going, since the pace to a large extent depends on how the obstacles in their path are dealt...

    • 12. A New Political Instrument
      (pp. 173-196)

      Previously, I discussed the necessity of building a new hegemony and why a political instrument is indispensable to achieving this. Now, I want to develop some ideas regarding the kind of instrument we need and the task that this political instrument needs to take up.

      Historical experience shows that the intervention of the state or government to push forward the transition to socialism is crucial. Why is this state intervention necessary? Did this happen with capitalism, too? No, the historical process of capitalist development was very different.

      Capitalist relations of production were born in the bosom of pre-capitalist societies, and...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-204)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 205-216)
  9. Index
    (pp. 217-224)