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17.11.2008

November 04, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Marine Voskanyan

A DIALOGUE ON CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIALISM

The Days of Russia in Ibero-America will provide a new impetus for civilizational convergence

THE SPIRITUAL DIMENSION OF MULTIPOLARITY

The current economic crisis far exceeds the sphere of finances. The unipolar model of global architecture, coined in the convenient picture of Fukuyama's "end of history", dissolves like a mirage as stock quotations collapse. Under these new conditions, Russia and Ibero-America, the two potential pillars of global power, are likely to find common language not only in the political and economic dialogue but in the elaboration of the global post-crisis ideology. The Russian Days of Ibero-America, organized for the first time in history, are contributing to this objective.

The Days of Russia, held between October 17 and November 17, 2008, are organized by the Russian Foreign Ministry's Center of Scientific and Cultural Cooperation (Roszarubezhcenter), the Russian Association of Industrialists and Businessmen (RSPP), the Trade & Industry Chamber with involvement of several ministries, in partnership with the Russian Orthodox Church. The geography of the project encompasses seven Ibero-American countries: Cuba, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay. A large part of the program is dedicated to Russian religion and culture. It includes the "Orthodox Rus" and "Modern Russia" exhibitions, a festival of Russian movies, a book exhibition, and a series of concerts of the religious choir of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery.

The ROC delegation is chaired by Metropolitan Kirill, chair of the Moscow Patriarchy's Foreign Relations Department.

Prot. Nikolai Balashov, Secretary on Religious Dialogue, emphasizes that the project, initiated by the Church and Roszarubezhcenter, was entitled "Days of Russian Spiritual Culture in Latin America". In the process of organization, the framework of the event was expanded in order to present a picture of Russia both in its traditions and in its modern life.

The program was started in Havana, Cuba, with the opening ceremony of a new Orthodox cathedral. A capsule with ground from the cemetery with remains of Russian soldiers, who served on Cuba, is walled up in the cathedral's basement.

The Cuban leaders were decorated with the highest awards f the Russian Orthodox Church for their contribution in inter-religious dialogue and assistance in construction of the Kazansky Cathedral in Havana. In particular, Fidel Castro is awarded with the "Glory and Honor" order, while Raoul Castro received the Order of St. Daniel of Moscow.

 

TWO WAYS TO THE SAME GOAL

The idea to open a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Havana belongs to Fidel Castro. While in Russia, the heritage of the "white" and "red" civil war-time traditions is still contraposed to one another (particularly, in the "Name of Russia" TV project) – despite appeals for consolidation of the society, Ibero-America displays a perfect possibility of their integration. The very fact that Fidel Castro, one of the pioneers of Ibero-American socialism, today speaks about common values of Christianity and socialism in the transition towards a more just world order, is very symbolic.

"Metropolitan Kirill and Hugo Chavez are inspired with the same moral principles, emerging from Christ's commandments imprinted in the New Testament", said Castro ant the opening ceremony. He also stressed that the construction of an Orthodox cathedral in Havana is an irrefutable proof that the Cuban revolution respects religious freedom. "His Serenity is not an enemy of socialism; he does not condemn those who have struggled for a just world on Communist principles", he emphasized. Fidel Castro believes that Russia and Cuba "have no grounds to concede to American imperialism".

Chari Villiegas, a legendary comrade-in-arms of Ernesto Che Guevara, also spoke about the unity of Christian and leftist ideas at the joint event. In an interview to RIA Novosti, he indicated that Guevara's humanistic concept was close to Christianity, sharing the principle of improvement of the world and the human being. "The essence of personality was most significant for Che", he emphasized. "Che's main idea was to fight for the human soul, to morally uplift the human community, and to make the distribution of global wealth fairer. He was overwhelmed with this idea and was ready to sacrifice himself for its implementation", said Villiegas.

In other countries of Latin America, where most of the population shares the theology of liberation, the unity of Christianity and socialism is a natural ideological confluence. Hugo Chavez permanently emphasizes that Christian values lie in the foundation of a just social policy.

The theology of liberation, spread in Latin America since 1960s, was theoretically substantiated in the cognominal book of Peruvian theologian Gustavo Guttierez published in 1971. Originally, the theological teaching served rather for propitiating millions of Ibero-American poor in the outskirts of the North American "Big Brother". But during recent years, the situation has essentially changed.

Opposite to the assumption that the US economy is the best model for progress, Ibero-American nations lately displayed increase of economic growth, not contradicting to a socialist approach to economic management. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), elaborated on the initiative of the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba, expresses the intention of the continent to upgrade its economy, and to rise to the role of an independent, self-sustaining pole of the future global order. "It is George W. Bush who is now in the outskirts of history", says Chavez. At this stage, the theology of liberation is going to acquire a new meaning.

 

CASTRO: THE WORLD WILL NEVER RETURN TO THE OLD ORDER

The current crisis is ideologically favorable for Ibero-American socialists, despite its impact on the economies of the whole continent. Leftists view the crisis as an evidence of faultiness of the assumption that disintegration of the USSR has irrefutably proven inconsistency and depravity of the socialist system. The crisis of today's capitalism is therefore viewed with a kind of ideological satisfaction.

Those Ibero-American officials who had been taught textbook capitalism are now raising questions, unpleasant for their teachers. Guido Mantega, Brazil's Minister of Finance, recently criticized the International Monetary Fund for presenting the so-called industrial countries as a model that other nations are supposed to follow, claiming that the planned reform of Brazil's financial system should not follow this model. "Today, policy of nations that had been referred to as a model of good governance is viewed with common mistrust", said Mantega in his speech at the session of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, IMF's executive body.

In his turn, Brazil's President Ignacio Lula da Silva, addressing the recent meeting of the "Big Three" of new industrial economies (India, Brazil, and South Africa) blamed "rich nations" for the current economic disturbance, indicating that "speculators has transformed the world into a gigantic casino".

Ibero-American analysts indicate that the governments of nations, struck by the crisis, are choosing purely socialist measures for dealing with it – in particular, purchase of insolvent private companies by the state and injection of huge amounts of budget money into financial systems to keep them afloat. "The US Government declares guarantees of security of individual savings if they don't exceed $250,000, intending to operate banks and financial resources that Lenin could not dream of", writes Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez caustically stated that George W. Bush is "heading towards socialism" though quite recently condemned Venezuelan socialist policy as "tyranny". "When the Government of Venezuela, for instance, passes a law for support of consumers, they cry: Chavez is a tyrant! Or: Chavez violates market rules by regulating economy! Why don't they now criticize Bush for nationalization of his nation's major banks? Hullo, Comrade Bush", jeers Chavez.

However, Ibero-American leaders are far from regarding these measures as evidence of revision of liberal principles. On the contrary, they admit that their adversaries will continue to defend their model of global policy and economy until a total collapse stops them. In his book "The Ghost of the White House", Fidel Castro wrote: "The Federal Reserve has lost the count of US dollars injected into the system of global finances to make banks work and to back up depositors. However, this absurdity cannot last for an indefinite period. The system is agonizing. The world will never return to the old order", he says, asserting that the new global system will require new economic and civilizational models.

 

REPELLING THE "LAW OF THE JUNGLE"

Opponents of liberal capitalism had always criticized this system for its orientation towards inequality. The counter-argument was that persons initially possess similar capabilities but better education enables a part of them to become more successful and wealthy. Since the USSR’s collapse, Western nations had been persistently exporting their own "only true" scheme of economic management. However, the supposedly impeccable principles of free trade generated unbridled financial speculation in a dimension which the whole world community now has to pay for.

Politicians and analysts from Third World countries believe that those authorities that overlooked this development have lost the right for "giving lessons of life" to others. Political and economic implications suggest reduction of the US influence, as well as various efforts of other nations to crack upon speculation. However, the expanding crisis, affecting every nation, is raising the issue of a flaw within not a particular model but in capitalist economy per se.

"Competition between stronger and weaker individuals, between those relying upon their physical strength and their education, between those who have valuable connections in top circles and those who haven't, is taking place in every nation", rites Fidel Castro. "Nations rival for better climate, for better land, for larger amounts of water and natural resources, for use of more efficient technologies, including mass media. The gap between wealthy and poor nations is presently enormous: in fact, that is law of the jungle".

In its present liberal version, global economy appeared to be not more than a jungle where victory of one individual turns a defeat for a thousand of others. While in industrial countries, this defeat suggests a redundancy benefit, in the Third World, a loser faces poverty, hunger and inclination to crime.

In Ibero-America, the problem of mass poverty has always been significant. Not surprisingly, the ideas of theology of liberation emerged exactly in the world where the system, based upon selfishness and hyperconsumption of one group and poverty of others, cannot be considered as fair and corresponding with Christian principles. Back in 1970s, the official Vatican used to distance itself from Ibero-American freethinking Catholics. Today, however, top Catholic hierarchs speak of aggravation of social injustice and excessive enrichment of a small layer of individuals on the background of overall poverty (in particular, this view was expressed in the recent book of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone). Certainly, the intonation of this concern is far from the radicalism of Ibero-American Catholic revolutionaries, like Camillo Torres who fought for theoliberal ideas with weapons in a rebel squad four decades ago. However, words about a just world order are heard more and more frequently.

 

IT'S TIME TO UNIFY FORCES

In the conditions of new multipolarity, regions like Russia and Ibero-America, despite their civilizational difference, display a lot of common objectives. This fact was admitted by Hugo Chavez and Metropolitan Kirill during their recent meeting in the framework of the Days of Russia.

"Russia and Ibero-America are two real poles in the new global system. Therefore, we have to keep together in order to support and assist one another, to argue for a multipolar system of the global civilization. That means that we are to make friends not only on the mental but also on the cordial level", said Kirill in his address to the Venezuelan National Assembly. Speaking to the people of Venezuela, he urged its citizens to unify their efforts with Russia in upholding the multipolar organization of the world. The hierarch also emphasized the necessity of reliance upon two universal values, freedom and moral responsibility, and in the correct balance between them in the world of today. "I am convinced that this aspiration exists in Latin America as well. Therefore, we have to unify our efforts", he said.

The Metropolitan's message is really consonant to Ibero-American concepts of socialism based on Christian interpretation of freedom and justice. Hugo Chavez indicates that the tour of the Russian Orthodox Church's delegation across Ibero-America reminds that "there are values more important than oil or SU aircrafts".

"Your visit will elevate the cordial relations between our nations to a higher level", says Chavez. "That is maybe the first time for centuries when these relations are of a demand as great as that".

What lessons can today's Russia derive from Ibero-America? Probably the lessons of unity of political and religious views, instead of search of differences. "My mission of a priest is to bring my people to God, and the best way for this is to inspire them for decent service to the people", said Rev. Camillo Torres back in 1965. "I don't agitate against my Communist brothers to practice the Church ritual. I insist that people behave according to their conscience". A just global community cannot be organized without an effort to unify people for common purposes, both in polity and in the sphere of spiritual values.


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