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Hugo Chávez and Néstor Kirchner

Socialism of the 21st century is a political term and a slogan coined by Heinz Dieterich in 1996. It was used by Hugo Chávez during a speech at the World Social Forum of 2005 and it has been publicised actively by Dieterich worldwide since 2000, especially in Latin America.[1]


Bolivarian Process

Dieterich is considered the (informal) advisor of the Bolivarian development process, executed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. According to Dieterich, neither “industrial capitalism” nor “real socialism” have managed “to solve the urgent problems of humanity, like poverty, hunger, exploitation, economic oppression, sexism, racism, the destruction of natural resources, and the absence of a really participative democracy.” [2]

Failed Systems

According to Dieterich Steffan, the necessity for capital accumulation, Fordism, the world market, competition (among other things), which characterise capitalism, “as well as the undemocratically vertical party, society, and state structures" (among other things), which characterise real socialism, have contributed to "mercilessly narrow the degree of freedom in the development of both systems, against the will of their protagonists”. [2]

In broad terms, the current age has stood under two “global historical omens”: “The exhaustion of social projects of the bourgeoisie and of the historical proletariat". This has led to a "transition from a bourgeois civilisation to a post-capitalist world society: universal liberal democracy.”[2]

However, none of these large scale social projects have been successful in ending poverty and securing a global sustainable development.

Basic Institutions

To remedy these failures, Dieterich suggests the “construction of four basic institutions within the new reality of post-capitalist civilization, namely:

  1. Equivalence economy, which should be based on Marxian labour theory of value and which is democratically determined by those who directly create value, instead of market-economical principles;
  2. Majority democracy, which makes use of plebiscites to decide upon important questions that concern the whole society;
  3. Basic democracy, based on democratic state institutions as legitimate representatives of the common interests of the majority of citizens, with a suitable protection of minority rights; and
  4. The critical and responsible subject, the rationally, ethically and aesthetically self-determined citizen.”[2]

These institutions of the New Historical Project rest upon the fundamental pillars of participative democracy, regional cooperation (by forming "regional blocks of popular power") and worker rights.

According to Dieterich, the existing society should be replaced by a “qualitatively different system". “The program of the Socialism of the 21st Century is necessarily a revolutionary one.”[2] This revolution, however, should be a gradual process, which does not employ violence and that is sensible to the fact that the institutions we have now are the result of thousands of years of trial and error. Because of this, they cannot be changed from dusk till dawn, as the experiences of real socialism have shown us. According to Dieterich, human beings are not rats in a laboratory. Every large scale social revolution that wants to be successful, has to be the result of well informed persuasion about the benefits of a project, rather than imposition through state force and repression. This revolution will result from participative democracy to secure power, education, scientific knowledge about society and international cooperation.


  1. ^ Entrevista a Heinz Dieterich
  2. ^ a b c d e Heinz Dieterich: „Der Sozialismus des 21. Jahrhunderts – Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Demokratie nach dem globalen Kapitalismus“, Einleitung
    Socialism of the 21st Century - Economy, Society, and Democracy in the era of global Capitalism, Introduction


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