'Communal Councils' in Venezuela

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 15 2007 10:49
'Communal Councils' in Venezuela

Towards the end of the binned CRA smear thread, a discussion began about the 'Communal Councils' implemented by Chavez in Venezuela. I don't know much about them, and obviously it's easy for Chavistas to hail them as organs of popular democracy replacing the bourgeois state, and for ultra-leftists to denounce them as leftist organs of recuperation. I don't know much about them, and their similarity or otherwise to similar organs in Cuba etc, but it seems they may be one of the more novel features of the 'Bolivarian Revolution' (that is, councils implemented by the state) ...

jonnyflash
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Jan 15 2007 07:56

Joseph K, here is your dictator for which class struggle is tacked onto nationalism.
Call em communal councils or federations, this is exactly what you will be supporting if you are a working class militant.
http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/print.php?newsno=2188

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 15 2007 08:39

Can you tell me when i called Chavez a dictator? You appear to be ascribing opposition/US rhetoric to me - soon i'll be denounced as an asset of the US State dept! tongue

Also, what has a state-led program of citizen participation got to do with class struggle? (note: i'm not saying it's bad).

Quote:
all members of each community over the age of 15 can participate in the process and put forward ideas for development

I don't know what actual power these organs have - though even if it is little and they are top-down, their mere existence may provide at least point of struggle for workers to argue they should be autonomous and bottom-up. Although talk of a participatory state is not necessarily any more revolutionary than Blairite 'consultation' (when Chavez is simultaneously seeking the power to rule by decree, for example), it's certainly interesting - do you have any more links/further info on the "Communal Councils"?

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Jan 15 2007 08:57

A Chavez advisor certainly talks the talk (i'm more concerned with politicians actions than words, but it's obviously difficult to judge actions from here):

Quote:
the law it is very clear: Where is the power? The power is not with the spokespeople — it is with the general assembly.

Quote:
The Communal Councils include both those who are with Chavez and those who are not. They are the community: the Communal Councils must reflect all the colours of a rainbow; must cover everyone who wants to work for the community, without political affiliations, without government associations …

She's also frank about the lack of workers' power - which she however conflates with the unions and sees as belonging in 'the community' not the workplace:

Quote:
Logically, we accept that in general the experience of popular power means that, as it is based on territorial spaces, the workers do not appear [directly] as active members (...) This meant it was difficult, up to now, for the workers to be directly involved (...) In Venezuela, up to now, we don’t have unity of the workers within the [revolution]. The union movement is not strong enough at this stage.

I have said to the trade unions, “Why don’t you strengthen the communal councils, by integrating with them? You, as workers, should be involved in the community.” Up to now, they have not done this.

(interestingly she notes there is not a 'unity of workers within the revolution', which would seem to vindicate the CRA position of engaging with workers, as workers regardless of party). She's also aware how this could lead to or be construed as corporatism, if workplaces are not democratically run:

Quote:
To me, it is very important to consider the micro-economy and the necessity to bring in economic organisations so that they can be democratised, in the direction of solidarity and not of corporatism.

The impression i get is that Chavez is being pushed in more and more radical directions by his grassroots support base who are demanding participatory socialism (libertarian communism is too generous afaict, given as this is still primarily a national movement, as in 'in one country'), and as such the most positive view of him i can see is that he is a pragmatic politician who understands he's only maintained in office by the power of the millions who flooded the streets during the coup - the same millions who are demanding radical change. A more cynical view is that the state take-over of existing popular organs, conflation of workers' interests with the unions etc represents a leftist attempt to recuperate and diffuse the popular clamour for radical change. It may well be a little of column a, a little of column b, i don't know. However, it does seem clear that the motor for change is grassroots power - and it is this we should support, not the party or the man per se - which as i understand it is the general CRA 'position'.

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Jan 15 2007 11:58

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Jan 15 2007 12:48

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Jan 15 2007 16:36

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Jan 15 2007 16:40

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Jan 15 2007 17:43

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Smash Rich Bastards
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Jan 16 2007 10:29

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Jan 16 2007 16:27

Hi Michael (Staudenmaier?), welcome to the boards. the original discussion was moved to the bin and locked because it contained unsubstantiated, serious accusations against the CRA. it can still be read here.

JK.

Michael
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Jan 16 2007 17:19

Hello again,

Yes, Joseph K., that's me, Michael Staudenmaier. Thanks for the welcome, and for the link to the binned conversation. Also, thanks for taking to time to read what I co-wrote two years ago and defending its actual content against Rise's misinterpretations. More soon, no doubt.

Solidarity,
Michael

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pingtiao
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Jan 16 2007 17:56

Yeah, it looked quite good Michael. I'll give it a proper read tonight.

Welcome to the boards.

jonnyflash
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Jan 17 2007 03:38
Quote:
there is a countervailing tendency of Chavez surrounding himself with loyal politicians and seeking decree powers etc .

Chavez surrounds himself with people loyal to the Bolivarian ideal. The government exists to affect the fundamental change that the inherited bureaucracy existed to limit. Of course, the run-of the mill, dodgy opportunistic politician in Venezuela (or Canada) could never be entrusted with power to hinder a revolution. Chavez is advised by the best and brightest of the living revolutionary leaders on how to duck the noose that got Allende, Arbenz, et all. If bougois governmental organs can't produce the neccessary changes, then I am all for decree powers. Chavez didnt spend 20 years sleeping on floors clandestinely organizing inside of an organization led by semi-fascist like the Venezuelan generals, only to be stopped by some whiskey-swilling, sex-buying political hacks.

Quote:
the situation is complicates wrt de/centralisation, but without very strong evidence i'm reluctant to break from historical experience and accept that what decentralisation there is is a result of anything but 'a govt that fears the people' (to quote some US liberal dick ). - Joseph K

That echos the coldwar rhetoric....if a socialist government dramatically uplifts and empowers the people, then it is because the govt fears the people, rather than being won by, composed of and representative of the people. No good deed may be credited to the socialists. This is ahistorical and may be a barrier to your comprehension of world developments.

Quote:
(which in turn is countered by constitutional rights to referenda on decrees etc)

Complicated by? Chavez wants as many elections and referendums as possible, (10 and counting) to remind everyone that he is REPRESENTATIVE of the Venezuelan people, with a large mandate to empower the masses. Apparently, it;s not working on Joseph K and Michael.

Quote:
At best, we have an attempt to decentralize a process of integrating Venezuela more fully into the structure of global capital.- Michael

How does continental integration, a trading block that favors barter with neighbors over hard currency deals, organizing huge public meetings of poor people, and constant talk of economic imperialism help CHavez or anyone to integrate into the structure of global capital? If thats Chavez's plan, then why do the imperialists hate him so much that they pay good money getting caught trying to overthrow him? The US needs a few caudillos in that region right now.

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Jan 17 2007 03:58
Quote:
of the living revolutionary leaders on how to duck the noose that got Allende, Arbenz, et al

Which ones just out of curiosity?

jonnyflash
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Jan 17 2007 04:01

But Michael, Joseph, I must admit that Chavez's recent nationalization of the telecommunications industry, the entire electricity industry, and the Orinoco oil belt operations where ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Statoil have been operating, really lends creedence to your edifying argument that Chavez wants to integrate more fully into the structure of global capital. After all, what better way to make global capital relax than to nationalize their businesses?
Historically, such behavior results in .... wait! air strikes on residences? hit squads? they kill your family? shit, maybe you guys should put on a pot o coffee, retouch them theories, and then rejoin the debate.

Catch 22
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Jan 17 2007 04:46
Dundee_United wrote:
Quote:
Read the article, I thought it was pretty good, maybe try and criticise what's actually in it rather than making irrelevant claims about the organisation behind it.

Oh for fuck sake that was kind of my point - it seems a perfectly cogent piece!

My problem was with the fact the guy that wrote it hails from an organisation which has 'no membership' whose logo is a fucking hammer and siccle and a circled A, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence, and casts doubt on the guy's piece. The fact that you have proudly now described the group as insurrectionist... Well... Do I need to say anything more?

RAAN is very loosely organized because they're running under a "no bullshit" policy of organization. They define themselves solely by their actions. This creates an environment where every group can experiment with some form of class struggle organization. They hope to eventually synthesize all of these experiments into a single coherent plan of organization and action. Thus the loose organization is merely an attempt to come up with some new ideas and avoid organizational pitfalls of previous groups.

I wouldn't say RAAN is inssurectionist. Most of their member collectives do a lot of popular organizing. They do shit like Antifa, free stores, immigrant support, strike support. They direct actionist, EarthFirst type stuff is a very small portion of their activity. Besides EF! type actions could come in useful if utilized effectively. Think about home demos for union buster firms!

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 17 2007 07:01
jonnyflash wrote:
If bougois governmental organs can't produce the neccessary changes, then I am all for decree
powers.

so you're pro- one-man dictatorship ...

jonnyflash wrote:
That echos the coldwar rhetoric....if a socialist government dramatically uplifts and empowers the people, then it is because the govt fears the people, rather than being won by, composed of and representative of the people. No good deed may be credited to the socialists. This is ahistorical and may be a barrier to your comprehension of world developments.

... think change is driven by politicians and not class struggle ... and think nationalised industries are anticapitalist. sounds like leninism to me.

jonnyflash
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Jan 17 2007 07:29

Joseph, my keen awareness of the fact that every healthy and strong revolutionary tendency is not monolithic, that under the banner of every movement u see working-class militants and their supporters. u see anarchists, feminists, leninist, trots, nationalists, maoists, of all shades and mixtures, all there because that movement is the best vehicle available for them within which to advance the struggle at that time. Revs can't wait for perfect, ideologically homogenous and pure movements to spring from nowhere, we are on a timeline.

Quote:
so you're pro- one-man dictatorship

while you might prefer business as usual in Venezuela, and apparently failed to read the reasons outlined in the post to which your response seemed to address, I will sum them up.

* only dummies (and you?) trust dodgy left-over government hacks from US client states. The social movement headed by Chavez can't afford to be dumb like some of us.

* Like Morales in Bolivia, and Correa in Equador, Chavez has a symbiotic relationship with the social movements on the ground. He keeps the army and cops from shooting them while they institute historic social uplifting, and in return the social movements save his life in coup attempts, and re-elect him often.

IF the potential of movements alone can be limited and kept from power by US military aid and intervention, and the potentials of presidents alone are limited by coups, assassinations, and embargos/economic warfare,

THEN this new synthesis of the Presidents playing air support for the social movements' ground troops is the only tactic scoring simultaneous victories over local, national and international elites.

And victories they are.

Myself and prolly everyone on this site (with the exception of Discursive, who plain isn't invited, and maybe Joseph too? ) understands that seized, worker-controlled collectivized factories ARE anticapitalist. Especially when the goods produced are bartered with neighboring under-developed countries. There are plenty such factories in Venezuela.

I think irrational fear of and inability to admit the obvious successes of other political tendencies really shows the widespread divisions that cripple us while our enemies run roughshod over most of the globe, like barbarians, in our name.

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Jan 17 2007 08:37
Joseph K. wrote:
jonnyflash wrote:
If bougois governmental organs can't produce the neccessary changes, then I am all for decree
powers.

so you're pro- one-man dictatorship ...

jonnyflash wrote:
That echos the coldwar rhetoric....if a socialist government dramatically uplifts and empowers the people, then it is because the govt fears the people, rather than being won by, composed of and representative of the people. No good deed may be credited to the socialists. This is ahistorical and may be a barrier to your comprehension of world developments.

... think change is driven by politicians and not class struggle ... and think nationalised industries are anticapitalist. sounds like leninism to me.

Pro one-man dictatorships + Leninism equals Stalinism, doesn't it?

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Jan 17 2007 08:47
jonnyflash wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
so you're pro- one-man dictatorship

while you might prefer business as usual in Venezuela ...

sorry, i was about to listen to your false dichotomy, but i had to run off to vote for Kerry and join Al Qaeda roll eyes

jonnyflash wrote:
Myself and prolly everyone on this site (with the exception of Discursive, who plain isn't invited, and maybe Joseph too? ) understands that seized, worker-controlled collectivized factories ARE anticapitalist.

except that you said:

jonnyflash wrote:
nationalize their businesses

if you leave the goalposts where they are i might have a crack. nationalised industries are not anticapitalist (we've had enough of them in the UK) - they just mean the boss is the state. I agree that "seized, worker-controlled collectivized factories ARE anticapitalist" (as in a real movement against capital, but not non-capitalist because, like Zanon, they exist in a wider capitalist world which constrains them within a framework of wage-labour and commodity production). therefore, how is the nationalisation of "seized, worker-controlled collectivized factories" a good thing?

john
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Jan 17 2007 09:21
jonnyflash wrote:
He keeps the army and cops from shooting them while they institute historic social uplifting, and in return the social movements save his life in coup attempts, and re-elect him often.

you make it sound as if Chavez has secretly duped the entire state-machine, so that he alone stops the coercive elements within the state. I think this is a misreading of state power - Chavez is in the position that he is in, in part because he is able to utilize the coercive element of the state. That he has opened up opportunities for some social movements to develop does not deny the fact that at some point the tension between state-control and social/self-control is going to force him to choose one or the other. As his power derives from the fact that he is the leader of the State, this makes me suspect he'll choose state power (and the continuation of his own privileged position) over social movements.

Politicians rarely voluntarily liquidate their own source of power - i.e. the state.

Lurch
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Jan 17 2007 17:05

Joseph K asked

Quote:
So does anyone know much about these councils? presumably Chavez-supporters do, jonnyflash? I think it was Devrim who posted a left-communist take on Chavez on the other thead, do any left coms know anything?

Below is one link to one article written by the ICC comrades in Venezuela in November 2005 which may have been the one from which Devrim extracted details on the binned thread. No, it's evidently not bang up to date but, written after some 7 years of Chavez in power, makes some telling points IMO, particularly on the actual situation of the working class there.

http://en.internationalism.org/ICConline/2006/march/chavism_fraud.html

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Jan 17 2007 17:45

Lurch: You might want to edit that url to add an "http://"

Jonny: Chavez has been buying energy in poorer Latin American countries. He's been a big pusher for economic integration in Latin America. The creation of new power blocs is an essential step for another world war (and more locally, the widespread arming of the populace that he is doing is also preparation for imperialist war - it is the first step towards war with Colombia or putting pressure on Guyana to be annexed.)

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Jan 17 2007 17:57

Lurch, cheers i'll check out the ICC link from work tomorrow. let me guess, the communal councils are further proof of capital's decadence yeah? wink

Lurch
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Jan 17 2007 18:14

Joseph K: I won't spoil the suspense... But you might find a fair amount of 'factual' info for you to use as you will.

Oliver: thanks for the technical assist.

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Jan 17 2007 18:48
Quote:
The biggest and most significant attack has been the one directed against the oil workers. Through the coordinated action of the Chavist and oppositional factions, the Chavist government has succeeded not only in reducing the number of workers, but also in passing a law that has long been wanted by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, namely the elimination of the staff co-operative which, since the time of the multinational oil companies, had allowed workers and their families to obtain foodstuffs at reduced prices. This was done with the argument that “the situation is very hard for everyone” and that the oil workers are privileged, a “workers’ aristocracy”.

This much was interesting (all facts, no decadence...)

Lurch maybe you should talk to the ICC's Venezuelan section - apparently the CIA is paying everyone else who says this! smile

ernie
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Jan 17 2007 19:04

Jonnyflash all the Chavez has done is succeed in extending the tentacles of the capitalist state even deeper into society and disguising this as some form of popular democracy. All of the stuff about popular democracy etc used to be said about Cuba; free public transport, good health services etc etc. In Cuba there is a whole system of neighborhood committees which are simply the means for the state to keep an eye on the neighborhood.
The Communual Councils carry out the same purpose, they are the means for the state to extend its control into the neighborhoods where openly state institutions would not be able to function. They are also the means for mobilizing the part of the population against workers and others who are not willing to submit to the Venezuelan bourgeoisie in its chavezismo guise. They, along with the popular 'arming of the people' are also part of the Chavezismo fraction of the bourgeoisie's plan for a possible future civil war against the rival fraction.
The scandalous denigration of the oil workers as being privileged is not different to that we used to hear about the miners here being privileged, or the present campaign to turn workers against public sector workers because they have a 'wonderful' pension. It is the oldest trick in the book, divide and rule. The oil workers are one of the oldest, most experienced and militant parts of the proletariat in Venezuela and so it is in the interests of Venezuelan capital to isolate and denigrate them.
As for Jonnyflashs idea that Chavez is ok because the imperialist don't like him. Well yes American imperialism does not like him because he is seeking to undermine there presence in the region. On the other hand, European, Chinese imperialisms are pretty happy with him, because he is undermining the influence of their rivals. May be for jonyflash it is a question of: US imperialism bad, European and Chinese good.

Lurch
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Jan 17 2007 19:34

OliverTwister wrote:

Quote:
The biggest and most significant attack has been the one directed against the oil workers. Through the coordinated action of the Chavist and oppositional factions, the Chavist government has succeeded not only in reducing the number of workers, but also in passing a law that has long been wanted by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, namely the elimination of the staff co-operative which, since the time of the multinational oil companies, had allowed workers and their families to obtain foodstuffs at reduced prices. This was done with the argument that “the situation is very hard for everyone” and that the oil workers are privileged, a “workers’ aristocracy”.

This much was interesting (all facts, no decadence...)

Lurch maybe you should talk to the ICC's Venezuelan section - apparently the CIA is paying everyone else who says this!

Hi Oliver. Taken in the spirit in which you sent it!! Well, the CIA might as well get their money's worth then. Here's more from the same article.

After this unprecedented attack on the oil workers, in which all the parties and unions were complicit, those in power as much as those in opposition, the Chavist government has had its hands free to inflict even stronger attacks on the living conditions of the employed workers: freezing of collective agreements, ridiculous increases in the minimum wage that are well below the current price increases in consumer goods. The threat of massive redundancies has been used to intimidate workers who try to strike for their demands. This is what has been done in response to protests by health and education workers throughout the period of the Chavist government, and likewise with workers in the legal sector and state television, that Chavez himself threatened to “crush” as he had done with the oil workers.

The living conditions of the workers, above all in the public sector, have also been attacked by means of the commissions, co-operatives and co- and self-managed enterprises created by the government in order to exert its political and social control. With these organs, the Chavez government has succeeded in making the workforce ‘flexible’, because they are hired only temporarily by these organs, without any social wage and for the most part on wages even lower than the official minimum wage. Thus the Chavist bourgeoisie is doing the same thing as the bourgeoisies of the other governments of the right and the left in the region that are applying the typical measures of “brutal neo-liberalism”: making employment even more precarious and exploitation even more intense. This is the true face of ‘socialism of the 21st century’! These organs, however, are also instruments of blackmail against the conventionally employed workers: the government has progressively covered the public services with commissions and co-operatives, with the explicit aim of weakening and blackmailing the workers who provide these services. If they mobilise to put their demands forward, they are threatened with dismissal and replacement with workers organised in co-operatives. This is how Chavism pits workers against each other.

Behind all these attacks against workers in the public sector you can see an old necessity of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, that of drastically reducing employment in the public sector. During the Caldera government, the left-wing minister for economic planning at that time, Teodoro Petkoff, said that employment in the public sector had to be cut by half a million. The repeated declarations by Chavez and his acolytes against the “bureaucratic counter-revolution” have just one objective: to denigrate workers in the public sector in order to justify the ever stronger attacks on their conditions and the redundancies.

However, the bourgeoisie’s attacks on the proletariat don’t stop there. Chavism, thanks to the coordinated work of the government and the opposition, has succeeded in imposing a series of measures that, in other circumstances, would inevitably have provoked protests among workers and the general population. This concerns the brutal increase in taxes and, above all, of VAT (which adds 14% to the prices of most products and services) thanks to which the state raised more than half of the 2005 budget (more than £9000 billion); taxes on some consumer products reached 30% during 2005. Finally, the laws passed by parliament envisage the creation of further taxes, such as that foreseen for health costs of 4% for all active, unemployed and retired workers and those in the ‘black economy’.

The attacks on wages and decreases in the social wages of workers, supplemented by new state taxes, have led to an economic and fiscal policy that has given rise a level of inflation that is the highest in the region (23% on average for 2003 and 2004), which erodes wages month after month, all of which is in the process of forcing millions of workers and their families into an alarming degree of pauperisation: according to unofficial statistics, 83% of workers (of a total workforce of 12 million) are paid the minimum wage of 405,000 bolivars (about £105) whilst the basic ‘basket’ of foodstuffs, according to the government itself , now costs 380,000 and about 600,000 bolivars according to other authorities. This is without speaking of the levels of malnutrition, epidemics etc which can only increase. The government does everything possible to doctor the figures on poverty in order to be able to be coherent with its lie about the ‘struggle against poverty’, but it is impossible to conceal the evidence.

Furthermore, in addition to the alarming level of unemployment, the poverty and misery which weigh on the workers’ districts are causing ever more social decomposition that official propaganda tries to hide, but which is clearly visible everywhere: beggars from the towns and countryside, children living in the street, prostitution of children etc. One of the scourges which has worsened during Chavez administration is that of criminality: each week there are about 100 murders in the country, above all in the poorest districts, where a large percentage of the working class lives. The Chavist government, using its brains in media manipulation, has found a name for its project: the “nice revolution”, but what the working class experiences in its everyday life is the wretchedness of capitalism in decomposition; and that is the only reality that the bourgeoisie, whether of the right or of the left, can offer us.

Only one 'decomposition' in there then. (sorry, I've lost my smileys - must be the humour by-pass control). But what is serious is the precarious position of our comrades in Venezuela who hold and attempt to intervene using the above analysis: and it's not, as Dundee-United might have it, because no-one wants to read it.