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Abandoning Capitalism

by Atilio Boron, Friday, Mar. 05, 2010 at 10:11 AM

The sociologist Dr. Atilio Boron, professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires, is an internationally known radical political author. UNESCO awarded him the “International Jose Marti prize” on July 17, 2009


Interview with the political thinker, Atilio Boron, on “socialism of the 21st century” to save the world

[This interview published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis 1/31/2010 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/31/31882/1.html.]

[The sociologist Dr. Atilio Boron, professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires, is an internationally known radical political author. UNESCO awarded him the “International Jose Marti prize” on July 17, 2009 for his “untiring collaboration in the unity and integration of the countries of Latin America.” Atilio Boron directs the Latin American correspondence program for social sciences to give students and popular organizations access to the “best contemporary critical thinking.”]

While industrial countries have not attained the goal of the Kyoto protocol of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, they demanded greater efforts from developing countries at the UN Climate summit in Copenhagen. What is really happening?

Atilio Boron: The main problem was caused by a completely irrational and predatory model of consumption. This model is inherent to the capitalist system and reflects a similarly irrational and predatory mode of production. Changing it presupposes abandoning capitalism and building a higher ethnic, social and economic system that is not even remotely contemplated by the leaders of developed countries.

What must be done?

No solution is possible as long as the economic-social system sees men, women and nature only as simple objects of constant profit maximization. This historical-ecological crisis leads our planet into collective suicide. Such a system is not viable. The challenge of a more humane system is only a question of time. The consumption and waste of the North must be immediately limited instead of preventing Africans and the peoples of Central Asia and Latin America from reaching greater well-being.

This means a greater energy consumption under present conditions, at least as long as capitalism exists. But the only thing that will save the planet is the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a higher form of production and civilization, a new socialism.


After the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya, Nobel Prize winner Obama recognized the illegitimate presidential election in Honduras. What does Obama’s return to traditional US policy mean?

Atilio Boron: What a disaster for Latin America and the world! This means Washington has abandoned its hesitantly adopted policy as a consequence of the advancing popular struggle in Latin America since the end of the 19th century. These rebellions produced the rise of governments like those of Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and made possible the survival of the Cuban revolution, the realization of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and the genesis of center-left governments that defied i8mperialism and destroyed the ALCA (US free trade project in Latin America).

In this new ideological political context, the United States must end its traditional policy of recognizing the de facto regime… What happens in Honduras is the first dress rehearsal. Guatemala and Paraguay, two countries with a similar institutional situation as Honduras, are in the “death tract”: an executive encircled by the legislature and judiciary, governments that are near the ALBA alliance (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) initiated by Chavez etc. Soon other countries will follow.

In the current situation, the empire is re-charged. It takes an increasingly more aggressive stance every time: the seven military bases in Colombia, the activation of the 4th fleet, the support of coup d’états, the approval of falsified elections and recently the threats of Hilary Clinton to Latin American states that carry on trade with partners “unacceptable to Washington: like Iran. Bad times are coming to Latin America and indirectly to the rest of the world. The empire feels threatened and answers with increased force.


Although the 2008 US Congress insisted that the ten-year “Plan Colombia” is not limited to the drug trade and terrorism, Washington and President Alvaro Uribe signed an agreement in October 2009 to build seven US military bases in Colombia supposedly for the same goal. What is the real reason in your opinion?

Atilio Boron: The reason is not the struggle against the drug trade as claimed. The two countries where production and export of opiates have grown most are Afghanistan and Colombia! Both are militarily occupied by the US. We published this information from the United Nations in our book “The Dark Side of the Empire” (Buenos Aires, 2009). If North America’s presence in these regions has accomplished anything, it is a more intensive production and export of drugs, not their combating. In the 19th century, the English did the same thing with the opium war in China.

The real goal of the military bases and the massive North American military deployment is to control the South American continent. Half of the drinking water reserves of the planet, half of all biodiversity, massive oil- and gas-deposits, all sorts of precious and strategic minerals, great surface land capacities for food production etc. are found here. That is the real goal. For this reason, they intend to advance from the military bases in Colombia to the southern-most part of Patagonia where they have complete control of the air space and the oceans with the 4th fleet.

By giving far-reaching possibilities of political decision-making and participation to their peoples, the ALBA-governments practice a leftist-turn unique in the world. What elements will rescue the socialism of the 21st century over against the repeated crises of capitalism?

Atilio Boron: The socialism of the 21st century points the way in the long-lasting system crisis by setting society on a new foundation. Building an ecologically sustainable mode of production is vital.

That is the reason for respecting “Mother Nature,” “Pachamama” in Evo Morales’ description. For this reason, Ecuador in its constitution has codified that nature is a legal subject, which represents a radical innovation in legal ways of thinking. Secondly, the regeneration of society through radical political measures of redistributing assets, riches and incomes is essential. In the long run, no society is viable when it is polarized in a social class of 10-percent superrich and 90-percent extremely poor, needy people living under miserable conditions.

In this sense, capitalism is neither ecological nor sustainable from a social perspective. It is a system that destroys the social classes on which it is based. Thirdly, a genuine democratic system must be re-established that overcomes the farce of liberal democracies. A participatory democracy where the people are the main actors is indispensable.

Atilio Boron has published “Civilization Crisis and Agony of Empire: Dialog with Fidel Castro” (2009), “State, Capitalism and Democracy in Latin America” (2008), “Socialism of the 21st Century. Is There Life After Neoliberalism?” (2008), “The Truth about Capitalist Democracy” (2006) and “Empire and Imperialism” (2002).

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