Letting a Hundred Flowers Bloom?
Revista SIC - UCA
Intellectuals, democracy and socialism: Dead ends and access roads” was the name they gave to their critical reflection sessions on Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian project on June 2-3 at the Miranda International Center in Caracas, an institution that forms part of Venezuela’s Ministry for Higher Education.
Over a hundred Venezuelan and some foreign leftist intellectuals, all of whom support the best aspects of Chávez’s project, were invited to the two-day event to analyze and publish its problems. They included Vladimir Acosta, Luis Damiani, Luis Acuña, Iraida Vargas, Emir Sader, Luis Britto García, Santiago Arconada, Rigoberto Lanz, Miguel Angel Pérez, Carmen Bohórquez, Víctor Álvarez, Eleazar Díaz Rangel, Luis Bonilla Molina, Roberto Hernández Montoya, Roland Denis, Fausto Fernández, Daniel Hernández, Filinto Durán, Mario Sanoja, Javier Biardeau, Juan Carlos Monedero, José Luis Pacheco, Arístides Medina Rubio, Aram Aharoniam, Miguel A. Contreras, Eva Golinger, Gonzalo Gómez, Vladimir Lazo, Roberto López, Rubén Reinoso, Nieves Tamaroni, Rubén Alayón Montserrat, Marta Harnecker, Elio Sayago, José Carlos Carcione, Michael Lebowitz, Rafael Gustavo González and Paulino Núñez.
Mao Zedong’s Hundred FlowersTo a certain extent, this meeting brought back memories of April 1956 in China, when Mao Zedong launched the slogan, “Letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend,” as part of a campaign in which he invited intellectuals to express their criticism of the regime.
The 14 problems mentionedThe following were some of the cross-cutting problems noted by this group of intellectuals:
* President Hugo Chávez’s “hyper-leadership” in the current process provides benefits but also “infantilizes society, which ends up not feeling co-responsible and waits for the leader to solve everything.”
* The need for collective management of the process that is critical, democratic and creative.
* The need for a clear political line for the process.
* The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), “an administrative electoral instrument that implements the proposals made by the President,” needs to be democratized.
* The party patronage applied by the PSUV.
* The need for a truly revolutionary party.
* The danger that the PSUV will smother the social movements.
* The rentista mentality, i.e. a state that relies too heavily on petroleum income.
* The state’s inefficiency.
* Revolutionaries administering a state they supposedly should be destroying.
* Despite the socialist, anti-capitalist discourse, capitalist relations of production are being strengthened in practice.
* Limited collaboration from the public media in helping to form critical thinking.
* “One of the major factors aggravating the problems mentioned has to do with the survival of the capitalist and consumer ideology.”
A few months after the spring of critical flowers that bloomed in much of China in the summer of 1957, what was called the Anti-Rightist Campaign was initiated. A little over half a million intellectuals, artists and mid-level leaders were banished to remote places, imprisoned or sent to reeducation camps. In the end, the flowers were cut and the schools closed.
This article originally appeared in the Venezuelan Jesuit magazine Sic, No. 718, July 2009.