AN INTERVIEW WITH HEINZ DIETERICH
Excerpted from Reportaje a Heinz Dieterich , by Mercedes Bontempo and Anibal, published in Machaca, November. Translated by Lisa Garrigues.
Dieterich, proponent of a ìnew socialismî that is linked to direct citizen democracy, takes on representative democracy, the Argentine left and John Holloway.
Q: What do you think about this criticism of the idea of political representation that is not just limited to Argentina but is a worldwide phenomenon?
A: The burgeoisie got married to democracy, not because it was democratic but because it needed a flag to wave when it pulled down the feudalist system of power. And democracy was the flag so that farmers, workers and intellectuals would align themselves with it. Once in power, just like when some guy marries a woman for her money and then says ìNow how can I kill her off?î, the first thing the burgeoisie did was say ìHow can I get rid off this damned democracy?î The first thing the French revolution and the American revolution did was to prohibit the right to strike or join a union. Thatís how this social contract with democracy came about through bad faith, and then tried to reduce its impact with money. So representative democracy suffered a plutocratic involution: it is less and less representative of the will of the people and more and more substitutive, only representing the pockets of the parliamentarians and the elite, substituting the will of the farmers, the workers, etc.
It is the first form of democracy that has been possible in the modern era. It couldnít be any other way because if you live for example in Bahia Blanca and the center of political decision is in Buenos Aires, you needed two months to travel: the only way the will of your community can be felt in Buenos Aires is by way of a delegate. The government didnít permit any other form of democracy. But the cultural abyss between the city and the country doesnít have any reason to exist today. With TV, radio and internet you can be just as informed in one area as in another. The limitations to the first form of democracy no longer exist. Itís an anachronism to stay at this level of democracy, we need to expand from the political to the social and to the direct, to give the element of plebiscite that 200 years ago you couldnít have. This is a dinosaur.
Q: In Argentina, many new movements have arisen (piqueteros, assemblies) which take as one of their precepts participative democracy. Nonetheless they exist along with the parties of the traditional left, which in many cases claim the only path is the taking of power and anything else is reformism. How can you explain this contradiction?
A. What characterizes many people that call themselves ìleftistî today, or ìrevolutionaryî, is an extremely low level of understanding of reality, a tremendous ignorance about any way of understanding it, and upon this ignorance it is impossible to build a vanguard. Marx and Engels built their project of ìthe vanguardî on very advanced theories: English economy and politics, French rationalism, and the dialectic of Hegel, which is basically the epistemology of nucelar physics, as we now know. And they would probably shoot themselves if they could see the people who today are calling themselves ìMarxistsî or ìrevolutionaryî or ìLeninistî, who have no knowledge whatsoever of cybernetics, of advanced mathmatics, of biology, that is to say people who want to create a new society without having any advanced knowledge of the human being. This human being who is the fundamental element for a society which understands itself to be a complex and dynamic system. They continue on without understanding the dynamic of world history, so itís no surprise what kinds of discussions we end up with.
Argentina is in itself an extreme case of dogmatism and also of narcissism. The other day I saw in the press this discussion in which someone said, ìIím on the left, and youíre on the center left and therefore we canít have a discussion.î In any kind of serious political discussion, everyone would die laughing because this kind of clowning is okay in a circus, but not in a political discussion. To stick a label on something is an inacceptable method when youíre facing the kind of serious problems this country faces. To say ìI canít have anything to do with the center left because Iím a revolutionaryî is...I canít even find a category to put it in. These are people who canít take themselves seriously.
I remember an interview with Aliverti in which he said, ìOkay Heinz, but the Argentine left is not going to agree with what you are proposing.î And my response was, ìthe Argentine left? How many are they? What percentage of the vote do they have, how many new members do they have since December? Someone needs to take people for what they are worth, not for what they think they are worth. One should never let oneself be intimidated, and these are tactics of intimidation. If you are of the left or the center left, revolutionary or reformist, you are defined by your praxis. When you say you are of the left and therefore you canít join with someone of the center left, you show that you are not a revolutionary but a dogmatic.
There are thereforce limitations in the discussion, on the one hand a huge arrogance and on the other a tremendous intellectual submission. For example, here comes Holloway who writes this pap about how to change the world without taking power. He writes more than three hundred pages and on page 308 he repeat the question: ëHow to change the world without taking power?í And he answers, ëI donít know.í He might as well have said that on the first page. This is stale postmodernism, ten years too late. But you find people here who support it, this book that has no scientific merit, that knows nothing of science nor of methodology. So you have on the one hand a ìleftî in quotation marks which is extremely arrogant, but on the other hand, absolutely servile and neocolonial in terms of its mentality. ì