Re: [OPE-L] David Schweickart presenting 'Economic Democracy' theory in Venezuela

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Fri Oct 27 2006 - 01:16:10 EDT

Actually, I agree that this is a time for exploring alternatives,
which is why CIM is publishing the book and why we invited all the
authors to come to make presentations. (I did want to stress to
anyone who might have misunderstood Carl Davidson's note that it
wasn't an official government invitation to David S but, rather, one
from our institute.) For your interest, here's the Foreword I wrote
for the Vzlan edition:

Forward for the Centro Internacional Miranda edition

             Venezuela has started upon a new path--- a path whose
goal is set out clearly in Article 299 of the Bolivarian
Constitution, that of 'ensuring overall human development'. The path
to that goal is what President Hugo Chavez has called 'a new type of
socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the
state ahead of everything.'
             But, what is the model for this socialism for the 21st
Century? Is socialism, in fact, possible? A Greek Chorus says, no, it
is not. It says socialism failed. The chorus says, too, that planning
failed--- that it was abandoned and replaced by the market
everywhere. And, further, that once the market was allowed to work,
capitalism inevitably came back because capitalism and markets belong together.
             The chorus repeats this mantra over and over again
because it is speaking on behalf of capitalism in the Battle of
Ideas. This is the attempt to convince us that there IS no
alternative, no alternative to capitalism.
             The essays in this book were not written for the purpose
of guiding Venezuela on its path. Rather, they were written by
well-known writers on socialist economics in the context of the
decline of the Eastern bloc countries which were attempting to build
an alternative to capitalism--- and, in particular, in the context of
the economic lessons that were being drawn from the defeat of those
attempts. However, precisely because these essays challenge the
stories told by that Greek Chorus, they can be an important source of
ideas for discussions about a Venezuelan model for socialism for the
21st Century.
             Was it socialism that failed? Was it planning? What
failed and why? And what can we really learn from this? By what they
emphasize, the writers in this excellent collection demonstrate their
own understanding of the problems and the lessons to be learned.
There is much variety in their perspectives--- ranging from a focus
upon the potential of computers in planning to models of
self-managing enterprises in markets or in non-market relations. And,
there are many questions raised, more questions perhaps than answers.
Issues of centralism vs. decentralism, pricing, incentives,
innovations, solidarity, income distribution, the compatibility of
markets and socialism, the potential to follow a socialist path in
countries ravaged by imperialism--- the variety of questions
(resolved and unresolved) raised by this book can make it especially
useful for Venezuela as it enters into discussions about its socialist path.
             And, this is precisely what the Centro Internacional
Miranda hopes to encourage by presenting these rigorous and
well-considered arguments which are based upon an understanding of
the concrete experiences of the 20th Century. By making available a
Venezuelan edition of this collection, we look forward to enriched
theoretical discussions of socialism for the 21st Century and to
helping to build that path to a better world.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela.
Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-6333, 571-1520, 571-3820 (or hotel cell: 0412-200-7540)
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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