Below is the video and text of a speech by Elias Jabbour, economics professor and author of Socialist Economic Development in the 21st Century: A Century after the Bolshevik Revolution, at our recent event 21st Century Socialism: China and Latin America on the Frontline. Elias discusses how China’s model of socialism and its engagement with global markets is creating an invaluable space for the countries of Latin America to assert their sovereignty and more forward on the long road towards socialism.
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be with friends gathered in this group. In fact, one of the great honors I’ve had in my life has been speaking to comrades who have political clarity about how things work in the real world.
In Brazil and Latin America, we are still a long way from a level of political consciousness on the left to be capable of perceiving the centrality of China and the possibilities that the Chinese socialist experience offers for humanity.
I used to say that China has been noted for building the most advanced social and human engineering of our time. It’s in that country, although still embryonic and taking its first steps, that socialism presents itself as a clearer historical form.
Furthermore, I have said that the current historical form in which socialism presents itself is still far from abstract concepts, among them – for example – the abolition of private property.
Socialism is still an economic-social formation that develops under strong restrictions imposed by a capitalism still dominant throughout the world.
Under current conditions, we can say that capitalism as the dominant mode of production in the world allows the existence of non-capitalist socio-economic formations within it.
For us, China since 1978 has inaugurated the first experience of a new class of social-economic formations: market socialism. Vietnam would be the second experience and Laos the third. Cuba and People’s Korea belong to another typology of socialist-oriented social-economic formation.
In this sense, as the most advanced experience of this new class of economic-social formations, China presents socialism to the world as a historical form that stands out for a fundamental characteristic: the transformation of reason into an instrument of government with the emergence of new and superior forms of economic planning in the country, including the planning of its foreign trade.
It is in this context that we must connect the development of Chinese socialism with the possibilities for national and social freedom in Latin America.
Foreign trade planning is a key point, also for Latin America. The short time I have led me to choose this topic to talk about relations between China and Latin America.
Latin America is the so-called weak link in the imperialist chain in a world still largely dominated by the capitalist mode of production. Therefore, given the historical circumstances, we must have a series of mediations in mind when dealing with the transition to socialism in our region and the role of China in this process.
The law of uneven development proposed by Lenin allows us to take a more strategic and scientific look at this issue. For example, exports of Chinese productive capital to Latin America open up great possibilities, not only for the purpose of improving our countries’ balance of payments. Unfortunately, Latin American elites and much of the Latin American left lack a strategic vision of the relationship between our region and China.
We must understand China’s role as an exporter of public goods and a supplier of credit, overcoming the institutions born under the Bretton Woods framework (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank), which have become arms of imperialist domination around the world. We also have to instrumentalize Chinese investments both to consolidate experiences such as the Cuban and Bolivian, as also to reinforce independent projects.
Socialism in global scope will go through the growing economic gravitation of the world towards China in a similar way to how Marx perceived the capitalism-socialism transition worldwide centered on the possibility of socialist revolution in England, Germany and France. I believe that there is a big conceptual and theoretical gap to be filled in regard to the role of foreign trade planning in the global capitalism-socialism transition.
I return to Lenin to recall that, according to the great Russian revolutionary, the battlefield between capitalism and socialism should be shifted from the military field to the commercial field, and that planned foreign trade would be fundamental to the victory of socialism on a world scale. And our current international scenario, doubtless, has demonstrated that.
Lastly, there is still a long way to go in order to consolidate the transition to socialism in our region. But the path is promising.
China is Latin America’s biggest trading partner, for example. But a type of relationship that isn’t virtuous enough yet, that needs to develop further in order to bring about a qualitative political leap in the region.
Imperialism still has immense strength in the region. Therefore, seeking mediations between the current state in which Latin America finds itself, and the socialist objective, involves the emergence of powerful autonomous national projects, even with a capitalist character.
Imperialism does not tolerate the autonomy of any Latin American country. In this sense, the role of China is fundamental, as well as the left itself in our region.
To conclude, I would like to remind you that this year a great battle for the Brazilian nation will take place next October. In the Brazilian elections, something fundamental will be at stake: the right to continue being Brazilians.