'Communal Councils' in Venezuela

196 posts / 0 new
Last post
Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 17 2007 20:55

And for Spanish speakers:

http://es.internationalism.org/Intmo/2006/56_elec

http://es.internationalism.org/Intmo/2006/56_armas

I just want to add a small point on the slanders against the 'privileged' oil workers in Venezuela. It all brings to mind what was said about the Chilean copper miners who dared to defend their class interests against the Allende regime, incurring the wrath of leftists the world over. As we said in a leaflet produced after the Pinochet coup, 'The irresistable fall of Allende':

"While copper is the main source of Chile's foreign revenue, mining represents only 11% of the country's GNP, and employs only 4% of the labour force, that is, around 60,000 copper miners. However, the numerical size of this sector of the class is quite out of proportion to the weight the miners have in the national economy. Small in numbers, but highly powerful and conscious of it, the miners forced the escalator clause for wages onto the state and inspired the wages offensive which spread through the Chilean working class in 1971. Journalists like Richard Gott side directly with state capital when they write: "The prolonged strike at El Teniente earlier this year was a contributory factor to the atmosphere that permitted Allende's downfall". And adds: "Any government that really wanted to do something for the poorest section of Chilean society would inevitably have looked unfavourably on the wage demands of such a privileged group as the copper miners" (The Guardian, 1.10.73). This same scribbler thinks that Allende the freemason was a 'marxist', while the rest of the capitalist press assents and tries to prove that the 'Chilean road to socialism' was a variety of 'socialism' which failed. The Stalinists and Trotskyists of course agree, with their Talmudic differences. To the latter, Allende's capitalism deserved 'critical support'. Anarchists weren't left behind: "the only way out for Allende would have been to appeal to the working class to seize power for themselves to forestall the inevitable coup" claims Libertarian Struggle (October 1973). Thus Allende was not only a 'marxist' - he was also a failed Bakunin. But what is really laughable is to imagine that a capitalist government could ever 'appeal' to the workers to destroy capitalism!

In May-June 1973, the miners began to move again. 10,000 struck at the El Teniente and Chuquicamata mines. The El Teniente miners asked for a 40% wage rise. Allende put the O'Higgins and Santiago provinces under military rule, because the paralysis at El Teniente "seriously threatened the economy". 'Marxist' managers, PU members, sacked workers and brought in strikebreakers and replacements. 500 carabineros attacked the workers with tear gas and water cannon. When 4,000 miners marched to Santiago to demonstrate on 14 June, the riot police savagely charged them. The government branded the workers as "agents of fascism". The CP organised parades in Santiago against the miners, calling on the government to use a 'firm hand'. The MIR group, an extra-parliamentary 'loyal opposition' of Allende, criticised the use of force and advocated the use of persuasion. Allende appointed a new Minister of Mines in August 1973: General Ronaldo Gonzalez, the munitions director of the army. In the same month, Allende alerted army units in all of Chile's 25 provinces. It was a move against the lorry owners' strike, but also against some sectors of the workers who were striking, in public works and urban transport. Throughout the last months of Allende's regime, generalised attacks and killings against workers and slum dwellers by the police, army and fascists became the order of the day. From within, the class had already been attacked, vilified and demoralised by the Trojan Horse of the capitalists, the PU. Organisationally, the PU had attempted to strait-jacket its whole electoral support into all kinds of hierarchical 'popular committees', such as the 20,000 or so which existed in 1970, People's Supply Committees (JAPS) and finally, the much vaunted 'cordones' which Trotskyists and anarchists are presenting now as types of 'soviets' or 'factory committees'. It is true that the cordones were in many cases the spontaneous creation of the workers, as were many factory occupations, but they ended up integrated within the ideology and organisational apparatus of the PU. As a Trotskyist paper itself admits, "by September 1973 such cordones had been formed in all the industrial suburbs of Santiago, and the political parties of the left were pushing for the creation of similar cordones throughout the country" (Red Weekly, 5.10.73). The cordones weren't armed and had no independence from the whole network of PU trade unions, local committees, secret police, etc. Their independence would have been posed only if the workers had begun to organise themselves separately and against the Allende apparatus. That would have meant to open up the class struggle against the PU, the army and the rest of the bourgeoisie".

I can't recall who 'Libertarian Struggle' were but it seems that then as now there were anarchists prepared to take the side of a 'left' capitalist government against the right wing of the bourgeoisie. The Chavez issue - like the various debates on national liberation on other threads - has led to a real polarisation between on the one hand the leftist wing of anarchism, typified by the pro-Chavistas, the WSM national liberationists, and so on, and on the other hand those (whether they call themselves anarchists or communists) who are not prepared to sacrifice the autonomy of the working class to the latest leftist hero. Such a polarisation is inevitable and expresses a positive development of class consciousness.

knightrose
Offline
Joined: 8-11-03
Jan 17 2007 21:07

as a quick aside, Libertarian Struggle was the paper of the Organisation of revolutionary Anarchists, which later became the Anarchist Workers Association. Actually a group of fairly young anarchists who were trying to establish a coherent anarchist communist critique, but who made quite a few mistakes, like the one you quote.

jonnyflash
Offline
Joined: 14-01-07
Jan 17 2007 23:13

Alf and friends,
Same planet, different universe. In yours, appointed public sector cronies, judges and other government hacks from pro-US ex-regimes deserve respect to avoid "one man dictatorships" who win repeated huge electoral margins, as well as referunda over constitutional change.....

The hundreds of thousands of sight-restorative eye operations
already done at no charge, for which even US and Canadian citizens are eligible....don't factor in.

Bartering goods from nationalized factories(some also collectivized and worker-run)on an international scale to avoid global capital's influence isn't good enough.

The fact that a historically rooted, egalitarian social project is sweeping the Americas and making unbeleivable gains.......doesn't factor in.

It's more fun for the people I've been debating with to churn up old dead guys, like which old dead guy do I support. I will keep posting on other threads, but I think this thread is done for lack of common values.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 17 2007 23:23

"Alf and friends,
Same planet, different universe. In yours, appointed public sector cronies, judges and other government hacks from pro-US ex-regimes deserve respect to avoid "one man dictatorships" who win repeated huge electoral margins, as well as referunda over constitutional change....."

And if we are against Bush, we are for bin Laden? What on earth is this accusation about supporting "judges and government hacks"?

The working class in Venezuela is in serious danger of being dragged into a violent inter-bourgeois faction fight precisely because of the strength of this false choice you are supporting and selling: for Chavez or for the CIA.

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Jan 18 2007 13:36

I just found this really interesting video - http://www.venezuelaenvideos.com/pt01v09.htm

Interesting insight into the extra-Chavez element in Venezuela?

Jason Cortez
Offline
Joined: 14-11-04
Jan 18 2007 13:58

i find echoes of italy in 1910 1920s in all of this. It might be because my knowlegde of Venezuelean history is poor and i'm just substituting my slightly better understanding of this ,but Giovanni Giolitti and also PSI behavior keep coming to mind. Hey i know you can't transplant historical and geographical just like that. Just wonder if anyone else had bells ringing incorporation of 'socialism' into the state etc

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jan 19 2007 08:43

Lurch: I haven't read the ICC piece yet but i've bookmarked it and will read it from work when i can.

Jason: I don't know enough about Italy to comment, though obviously anyone who couples nationalism and socialism sets alarm bells ringing ... on that note:

Rule by decree passed for Chavez - apparently to force through the nationalisations (i.e. state take-overs) and remove the limit to how long a president can serve. this seems like the kind of thing the minority current in the CRA were on about - a right-wing leader would never get a compliant population whilst centralising power so blatantly. however, iirc Chavez's own bolivarian constitution does allow for citizen-initiated referenda on decree powers (though his decree powers allow him to change the constitution wall ). i guess the problem seems not to be chavez per se, but that a lot of venezuelan workers identify revolution with the state and not their own power, a view mass nationalisations and a cult of personality tend to promote.

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Jan 19 2007 11:21
Joseph K. wrote:
i guess the problem seems not to be chavez per se, but that a lot of venezuelan workers identify revolution with the state and not their own power, a view mass nationalisations and a cult of personality tend to promote.

this is definitely the central contradiction in the whole 'Bolivarian revolution'. But I think there is more of an acknolwedgement within Venezuela of this contradiction than you give credit for. In that video link I gave - http://www.venezuelaenvideos.com/pt01v09.htm - there is a lot of stuff about how the 'real' revolutionary process is about opening up spaces for people to empower themselves at the grassroots level - the kind of stuff a lof of people on these boards would agree with, I guess - and in opening up a symbolic space in which neoliberalism is questioned/questionable. That Chavez and his statist entourage might ultimately be an obstacle to that process doesn't negate the fact that it might be occurring. I.e. it's possible to see good things in Venezuela without necessarily being a nationalist/statist supporter of Chavez - to view it otherwise is to fall into the whole statist/'nationalist' vision of social events that anarchists seek to overcome, no?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jan 19 2007 11:31

sure, i don't not see good things - and in fact Chavez himself has been saying the 'revolution' is only as good as the popular participation (which could equally be read as 'i need your support to maintain my power'). the RAAN article said that talk of 'the revolution within the revolution' is not uncommon at a grassroots level, so i don't presume many venezualan workers don't perceive the contradiction for themselves. i mean there's certainly more scope for autonomous workplace seizures/mass assemblies/radical ideas in venezuela than in the UK at the minute, i don't doubt that.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Jan 19 2007 12:04

Wow this thread is in danger of going intelligent - send in the trolls.

I agree with John and JK in that Venezula is much more complex then being for or against Chavez, in fact the problem is that some anarchists on both side of the argument (including at least from their translations the CRA) keep trying to reduce that debate to that level.

The reason I like the RAAN article is that it protrays a reality on the ground that is a lot more complex, there are more than a few negative references to Chavez and the people around him but these are counter weighted with reports of the community organisation and social struggle that is happening, sometimes in the name of Chavezism and sometimes against the Chavez government. It's unfortunate that the little reporting the CRA has done on such struggles has been all about the relationship between these struggles and Chavez

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Jan 19 2007 13:36

John and JoeBlack2, I find it interesting that you find this link so interesting. It is simply a propaganda platform for the Chavezista bourgeoisie. This is made very clear in the opening statement

Quote:
Este documental de 76 minutos examina la Revolución Bolivariana
de Venezuela y su conexión al movimiento mundial contra la
globalización capitalista. Esta película muestra la evolución del
movimiento popular en Venezuela desde el suceso del "Caracazo"
en 1989 hasta las acciones masivas que devolvieron al Presidente
Revolucionario Hugo Chavez al poder 48 horas después de un golpe
militar liderado por USA en 2002. El tema principal es cómo la
Revolución Bolivariana, gracias a su increible apoyo popular es una
revolución que trasciende las fronteras de Venezuela y contribuye
con alternaticas concretas a la lucha contra el capitalismo neolibera

Roughly translated this says

Quote:
This 76 minute documtenary examines the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and its link to the international movement against capitalist globalisation. This film demonstrates the evolution of the popular movement in Venezuela since the "caracazo" (I think this refers to the riots that took place in that year) of 1989 until the massive actions that brought the revolutionary president Hugo Chavez to power after an attempted military coup lead by the US in 2002. The main theme is how the bolivarian revolution revolution, thanks to it incredible popular support is a revolution that trancends the boarder of Venezuela and contributing concrete alternatives to the struggle against neoliberal capitalism

This introduction surely makes you somewhat cautious about the real nature of the popular movements it shows you. I have not watched the rest yet, but I cannot see how such a video is some form of objective investigation of the 'Bolivarian revolution'

The real nature of these popular assemblies etc is that they are tools of the state for mobilising the population to support the 'revolutionary president' and to lead the population into the bloody slaughter of a civil war or a war with Venezuela's imperialist rivals.

What is taking place in Venezuela is a clever use of popular discontent by part of the bourgeoisie to increase the weight of democracy over the class, to line up the 'popular' masses against the 'privileged' proletariat and to dragoon the population into a greater militarization of society. All the talk of open spaces etc is just the ideological cover that the Chavezista bourgeoisie try to use to hid their militarisation of society.

Yes there is a social movement taking place, but not what John and JoeBlack2 think it is: it is the mobilizing of the population behind the state ready for the slaughter. Any ambiguity on this can only led one to eventually being forced into supporting the 'bolivarian revolution' against its rivals in a bloody slaughter.

ernie
Offline
Joined: 19-04-06
Jan 19 2007 13:54

JoeBlack2, I apologise, you do not refer to the video. What is the RAAN you refer to?
On the point about the situation being more complex that those who denounce Chavez and the boliverian revolution as nothing but the strengthening of state capitalism, yes all that is happening in Venezuela is not controlled by the state. There are strikes, demonstrations by the poor against the attacks being inflicted etc. However, to conflate these movements with those that support chavismo is to mix up to different things. Those movements that support chavismo, not matter what the discontent is that is being manipulated by the state, are totally different to those movements that seek to defend the interests of the proletariat or the poor against the attacks of the state. Chavismo is not riding on the back of some radical social movement, it has cleverly used the despairing poor masses in the slums etc to strengthen the state and mobilise them against the working class.
The social situation in Venezuela is marked by the increasing weight of the decomposition of capitalist society. The bourgeoisie is divided against itself and each part is seeking to mobilise the population to support it. The poor masses are being used as pawns and the proletariat is in a very weak situation. In this situation it is essential that all those seeking to defend the political autonomy of the proletariat are as clear as possible in order to see the traps of the bourgeoisie, because the prospects for the proletariat and the population of this country are very uncertain and very dangerous.

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Jan 19 2007 14:08

I haven't followed this thread much or the situation in Venezuela ... but the phrase (based on ernie's translation) "struggle against neoliberal capitalism" underlines the whole ideological morass of these sorts of movements.

JosephK has already rightly pointed out that "a lot of venezuelan workers identify revolution with the state and not their own power".

For all the great social movements, the situation in Venezuela can be boiled down to a struggle between two main factions of the bourgeoisie:

- One that seeks a greater independence from America (and is thus following the trend of those noble great powers, France and Germany) and whose policy is nationalisation, etc. and;

- One that is close to the US, has historically relied on US support to maintain its own power and thus follows the "Washington Consensus".

The social movements are pawns in this factional struggle. It mirrors the Spanish situation in 1936 where any autonomous response of the proletariat has been derailed from attacking the bourgeois state, to supporting it and calling for it to increase its power!

Much play has been made of Chavez's anti-poverty initiatives. By this token, we should start to see Hitler's crusade against unemployment, programmes to increase the German standard of living to match the US, etc. as having some kind of proletarian content!

(His parallel with Hitler is also quite uncanny in that both led failed coup attempts early in their political careers and then decided to use the "democratic" road - funny how history repeats itself as tragedy and then as farce, to coin old Charlie.)

Populist movements always divert resources to the masses to some extent in order to mobilise them - it is balanced by the eventual sacrifices the masses are then called upon to make in order to defend the Fatherland, the Revolution, the workers paradise, whatever.

Real revolutions are identified by the proletariat's ability to recognise the bourgeois state as their enemy, to be able to confront and smash that state and sieze power through their own organs. Workers in a revolution may have to make sacrifices, but the difference is that they come to this conclusion through discussion in their own organs and mobilise through those organs.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
Jan 19 2007 15:12

See my 'send in the trolls' comment above, well ,,,

ernie wrote:
JoeBlack2, I apologise, you do not refer to the video.

Yes that was a bit of a giveaway of an ideologically driven response - forget the facts, lets lay down the theory

as indeed was

ernie wrote:
However, to conflate these movements with those that support chavismo is to mix up to different things.

Seeing as in the post you were claiming to 'reply' to I'd actually referred to social struggles as being

Quote:
sometimes in the name of Chavezism and sometimes against the Chavez government.

your accusation makes no sense.

I realise my name along makes all you left communist anti lefties blind with rage but please do me the basic courtesy of replying to what I write and not what your theory tells you I write.

ernie wrote:
What is the RAAN you refer to?

The article is at http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=3378 (who RAAN are is unimportant). It's by far the most sensible look at what is going on there that I have come across.

Felix Frost's picture
Felix Frost
Offline
Joined: 30-12-05
Jan 19 2007 15:40
ernie wrote:
On the point about the situation being more complex that those who denounce Chavez and the boliverian revolution as nothing but the strengthening of state capitalism, yes all that is happening in Venezuela is not controlled by the state. There are strikes, demonstrations by the poor against the attacks being inflicted etc. However, to conflate these movements with those that support chavismo is to mix up to different things. Those movements that support chavismo, not matter what the discontent is that is being manipulated by the state, are totally different to those movements that seek to defend the interests of the proletariat or the poor against the attacks of the state.

I would disagree. In fact, I think these movements are mixed up with each other to the extent that it is difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. And I think the same is the case on the anti-Chavez side. To take the oil workers strike: One the one hand the oil workers are fighting for their interests as workers, but at the same time it seems clear that they were mobilized in support of the anti-Chavez part of the bourgeosie, through their corrupt trade union.

I agree that the RAAN article is very interesting. I never got around to reading the whole thing, though, and I have a long list of articles about Venezuela that I haven't had time to read yet. I'll post some links later.

Michael
Offline
Joined: 9-01-07
Jan 19 2007 16:04

Hello again,

The position of some posters here (most recently Ernie and Demogorgon303) seems to assume that the people of Venezuela are passive observers -- "pawns" was Demogorgon303's phrase -- of political struggles being waged by competing factions of the ruling class. I find this troublesome not only because my hope for revolution is based directly on the ability of masses of people to collectively change history, but also because it seems so completely at odds with what I experienced when I was in Venezuela two years ago.

Having spent about half my time with anarchists and the other half with avid Chavistas, I would say one of the only things they all agreed upon was that the population was increasingly self-aware and optimistic about the possibilities for social change. This was borne out in all of our interactions with "regular" (non-activist) people: restaurant workers, cab drivers, random people in bars and cafes, everyone was engaged, often critically, with the "Bolivarian" process.

I agree with Felix Frost's assessment that it is mostly impossible to segregate the multiple social movements in Venezuela into "good" working-class movements on the one hand, and "bad" pro- or anti-chavez movements on the other. That's the nature of reality, it seems to me, whether in Venezuela or the US or wherever. Social movements never conform to anyone's neat little categories.

The CRA is correct to fear the recuperative power of the Chavez regime. But to take it a step further, as Ernie and Demogorgon303 do, and ridicule all social movements as dupes of either the US or of Chavez, is not just anti-populist but necessarily anti-revolutionary. Unless of course we believe that revolutions are made by a handful of brilliant libertarian communists with lots of free time to post here. (Insert appropriate "emoticon" here.)

I agree with JoeBlack2 and others who have pointed out that the written output of the CRA/El Liberatario is stilted, wooden, and uninspiring. Happily, I can report that in person they are much more thoughtful and nuanced. I don't think this is primarily a problem with translation, as their spanish writings are similarly one-dimensional. But it's also hardly a problem unique to the CRA. I have said for years that NEFAC's publications suffer from a less extreme but still frustrating lack of complexity. (And, to be clear, I say that as a long time supporter of NEFAC and friend of several members, and someone who would join in a heartbeat if I lived in the Northeast.)

Finally, I will offer again the link to the article my partner and I co-wrote after our visit to Venezuela in 2004. It's not as comprehensive as the RAAN piece, but it does imho offer an appropriately complicated view of the situation. Check it out: http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=839

Solidarity,
Michael

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Jan 19 2007 16:24
ernie wrote:
I have not watched the rest yet

well, you only claim to have read the introduction, so what you mean is you haven't watched any of it at all!

My point was that to support developments in Venezuela isn't necessarily to support Chavez, and to claim that it is is to over-simplify and to place yourself within a 'bourgeois' perspective that is unable to separate society from state.

the video shows both support for Chavez, and development of extra-state sentiment - I'm arguing that the latter can be separated from Chavismo, and that it has the potential to be a good thing. That's all.

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Jan 19 2007 17:16
Michael wrote:
But to take it a step further, as Ernie and Demogorgon303 do, and ridicule all social movements as dupes of either the US or of Chavez, is not just anti-populist but necessarily anti-revolutionary.

It's anti-revolutionary to present a profound political defeat for the working class - i.e. the recuperation of its struggles for the interests of the bourgeoisie - as some kind of victory.

Furthermore, neither ernie or myself are ridiculing all social movements. One of the reasons psuedo-radicals like Chavez and Lula are being placed in power is precisely because of the growing strength of the working class internationally.

The working class is not passive in Latin America. The strike wave in Argentina in June / Autumn was the biggest for 15 years until it was trapped into the piquetero movement. In Chile and Bolivia there have been strikes in the education and mining sectors respectively. In Brazil, in the banking sector and and car industry.

But the bourgeoisie doesn't sit around and wait for the working class to work out it has to struggle. It actively intervenes in the class, using its leftist and union organs to keep the workers coralled in a framework that doesn't threaten them. If, as is the case in Latin America, they can dragoon the workers into rallying to the state by either manipulating or creating massive movements, so much the better for them. Most importantly, they are attempting to reinforce "democracy" which has proved the most insidious, anti-proletarian ideological poison in the bourgeoisie's arsenal.

Your claim that our opposition is because we "believe that revolutions are made by a handful of brilliant libertarian communists with lots of free time to post here" can be easily rectified by referring to the basic positions of the ICC, of which Alf and ernie are members, while I'm a sympathiser:

- "In order to advance its combat, the working class has to unify its struggles, taking charge of their extension and organisation through sovereign general assemblies and committees of delegates elected and revocable at any time by these assemblies."

- "The revolutionary political organisation constitutes the vanguard of the working class and is an active factor in the generalisation of class consciousness within the proletariat. Its role is neither to ‘organise the working class’ nor to ‘take power’ in its name, but to participate actively in the movement towards the unification of struggles, towards workers taking control of them for themselves, and at the same time to draw out the revolutionary political goals of the proletariat’s combat." http://en.internationalism.org/node/604

It is quite clear from those quotes that we support the autonomous struggle of the working class, which will have to confront the likes of Chavez and sundry hangers-on and destroy them as they make their revolution.

Michael
Offline
Joined: 9-01-07
Jan 19 2007 17:43

Demogorgon303,

Nothing here that I fundamentally disagree with, although the ICC has never been my cup of tea, and we probably have different views of class struggle. One point of contention, however: "the autonomous struggle" seems to imply that there's an on-off switch somewhere labeled "autonomy," such that some struggles are autonomous and others are not. But to borrow a turn of phrase, autonomy is a process not an event: all (or almost all) social movements contain the seeds of autonomy even as they contain the seeds of dependency and recuperation.

I don't think this a merely a question of semantics, either. It points to the same questions Wayne Price has been asking about left communist "abstention" from political struggle. Obviously I know nothing about your engagement in social struggles, but from your comments I tend to infer that you oppose engagement with social movements other than those specifically identified with workplace demands, and then only so long as they avoid being "trapped" or "dragooned." After that, well, too bad, better luck next time, as if recuperation were some Rubicon from the far side of which there is no return.

I guess I side with those who prefer to get their hands dirty. In the case of Venezuela I think that means some level of critical participation in social movements that have significant autonomous tendencies even as they also feature counter-vailing tendencies toward buying into Chavez hook, line, and sinker. That said, I agree completely that social struggles, as a part of the process of expanding their autonomy (and thus their revolutionary potential) "will have to confront the likes of Chavez and sundry hangers-on and destroy them." If that happens in the very process of making "their revolution," so much the better.

Solidarity,
Michael

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Jan 19 2007 18:48

Michael

I haven't been following the Wayne Price stuff as closely as I should but I can guess what the arguments are.

The question of what is class struggle is vitally important and so is your question about autonomy and I'll have a bash at responding to both.

Autonomy (as with the whole question of class consciousness in general) is as you rightly say, a process. The working class doesn't suddenly grasp its consciousness as a ready formed object. The mass struggles in Poland, for example, in the early 80s betrayed a great deal of confusion with regard to the weight of democracy, Catholicism, the call for "free" trade unions, etc. Nonetheless, they began as autonomous struggles, raising class demands that the whole of the working class could recognise and rally behind. Not only that but they had a strong tendency to question the very ideologies that I mentioned earlier. There was a real danger that the ruling class could lose control and they moved very quickly to break up the movement, quickly hijacking the new Solidarnosc movement precisely so it could perform that role.

In Venezuela, as far as I can see, the bourgeosie is very much in control, for the reasons ernie and I mentioned before. Any potential for autonomy has been wiped out for the moment. Instead of partipating in the Chavez movement, the working class should retreat and reflect on the reasons for its defeat instead of allowing itself to be dragged along in Chavez's wake. Once a movement, or organisation, has been recuperated by the bourgeosie there is indeed no turning back.

The role of class conscious minorities in this situation is precisely to subject the whole movement to a merciless critique, to denounce the agents of the bourgeoisie that have sabotaged and betrayed the movement, drawing out the lessons for the future.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Jan 19 2007 18:53

I've been reading recently about the "ultra-left" in China during the GPCR. Basically these were the groups who went beyond Mao's statement that there were "capitalist-roaders" or individual capitalists in the CCP; they said that the entire CCP was a "red bourgeoisie", that the existing state and party had to be replaced by a new party and a state modelled on the "Paris Commune", etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Communism_in_China

The details of their programme(s) leave a lot to be desired, certainly, but they were a very important development that arose specifically due to the chaos of the different bourgeois factions maneovering for power.

The Bolivarian "Revolution" is not so different from the "GPCR" (except, perhaps, in intensity) and it would not be surprising to see similar developments there. One difference is that in China the totalitarian regime had had control over the working class for quite a number of years, and so the "ultra-left" only had the terminology of Maoism to express themselves. Obviously the same is not true in Venezuela (now), and there are already groups holding these thoughts (such as the CRA or the ICC's section).

However I'm not implying that the Bolivarian movement should be "critically" engaged with or any of that nonsense, simply that we should be on the look out for, as Ernie mentioned, "History repeating itself, first as tragedy, second as farce".

john
Offline
Joined: 9-07-06
Jan 19 2007 22:24
Demogorgon303 wrote:
In Venezuela, as far as I can see, the bourgeosie is very much in control, for the reasons ernie and I mentioned before. Any potential for autonomy has been wiped out for the moment.

what are these reasons? and what is your view based on?

obviously Chavez is a strong man in Venezuela. No-one is refuting that. The point is that the contradictory elements of his rhetoric (and some policies) have opened spaces for movement.

Quote:
Instead of partipating in the Chavez movement, the working class should retreat and reflect on the reasons for its defeat instead of allowing itself to be dragged along in Chavez's wake.

no-one here is calling for support for Chavez' movement. Who are you arguing against?

Quote:

Once a movement, or organisation, has been recuperated by the bourgeosie there is indeed no turning back.

What does this mean? The point is that there are lots of movements within Venezuela, I don't see how your advice to them to give up on their daily struggles can be in any way helpful?

Quote:
The role of class conscious minorities in this situation is precisely to subject the whole movement to a merciless critique, to denounce the agents of the bourgeoisie that have sabotaged and betrayed the movement, drawing out the lessons for the future.

ok, so what do they do whilst they're waiting for the future?

Lurch
Offline
Joined: 15-10-05
Jan 19 2007 23:06

A few comments on recent posts (not including Oliver's which I haven't absorbed at present)

Though I'm in political disagreement with much of what JoeBlack2 and Wayne write, I agree with them and others that the RAAN (Red and Annarchist Action Network - I know nothing about them) article is an excellent resource. See the link above.

Michael: I haven't yet read your (and your partner's) link. I will do so. Re your recent posts: You wrote that the ICC is not your cup of tea. You are in good company - the vaaaast majority of the world's population and a fair majority on this particular board are with you on that. You also said, in response to Dermagorgon "I guess I side with those who prefer to get their hands dirty."

Before we (hopefully) get beyond the rutting stagg stage, I want to say again ('again' cos I alluded to it in a previous post) that while it's not always possible or even necessary to have comrades 'on the ground' to make an analysis or an intervention towards struggles in this or that country (there are trains and planes to get you there after all), it is indeed preferable. In that regard I note that one of the ICC's founding sections has been active in Venezuela, through all the events subsequently, since 1964. 43 years or so. That doesn't make what they say or do correct. But their hands are dirty, if that's among your criteria. I ask that you extend your sign-off, "Solidarity", to them as well. In addition to the RAAN article, I recommend the comrades' analysis of the situtation (link cited in a previous post).

Michael wrote:

Quote:
"The position of some posters here (most recently Ernie and Demogorgon303) seems to assume that the people of Venezuela are passive observers -- "pawns" was Demogorgon303's phrase -- of political struggles being waged by competing factions of the ruling class. I find this troublesome not only because my hope for revolution is based directly on the ability of masses of people to collectively change history, but also because it seems so completely at odds with what I experienced when I was in Venezuela two years ago.

"Having spent about half my time with anarchists and the other half with avid Chavistas, I would say one of the only things they all agreed upon was that the population was increasingly self-aware and optimistic about the possibilities for social change. This was borne out in all of our interactions with "regular" (non-activist) people: restaurant workers, cab drivers, random people in bars and cafes, everyone was engaged, often critically, with the "Bolivarian" process."

I too remember being in a country in which "the population was increasingly self-aware and optimistic about the possibilities for social change."

To the pop tune of 'Things Can Only Get Better' the left government of the day - greeted with much enthusiasm after a decade of right-wing, free-market, pro-US, attack-the-workers rhetoric and reality - quickly set about 'giving the people' (!!!) 'choice' about how their schools, their hospitals, even their police force might be run, pumping money into the health service, etc, etc, etc.

I was wary about such widespread euphoria in Britain in 1997 as I am wary of any such example in Venezuela today.

Posters have stressed how very 'complex' the situation in Venezuela is. I agree. There and everywhere. But we can have some anchors.

When this thread began, JohnnyFlash in particular was absolutely uncritical of the Chavez regime. I am absolutely critical of them: it's a bourgeois gang attempting to run a nation state for the benefit of the national capital. Or, to put it in the words of the much-admired RAAN article (forgive the long quote, it's worth it, it's written by an anrchist, not the ICC):

Quote:
Chávez inherited a capitalist state just like any other, and “Bolivarian” Constitution or no Bolivarian Constitution, it has remained completely unchanged. He has inherited a bourgeois military machine and rather than even attempt to restructure it, has consolidated it from every angle. There has been absolutely no real judicial reform in the Fifth Republic, and as long as Chávez himself refuses to address this issue the rest of the government, for whom politics is merely a balancing act in which you do your best to appear in complete agreement with anything the president says, will continue to do nothing.

"In fact the Bolivarian Revolution has given the state a “softer, friendlier” image, which has encouraged an unprecedented rise in urban crime by those who expect to be able to get away with more. This has in turn been used by the government as a justification for the strengthening of the pre-existing repressive apparatus, which in April culminated in the chief of Caracas’ police being replaced with a FAN brigadier general...

"...While Chávez speaks almost endlessly about his plans to benignly integrate the armed forces into society, in practice it is Venezuelan society that is forced to take on the nature of the armed forces. Although Article 61 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, Articles 130 and 134 then declare it obligatory to “defend the patria”. Among the largest changes we now see the country undergoing is the implementation of obligatory “pre-military” programs in all schools, which seek to indoctrinate the youth with a bizarre blend of nationalism and “socialism” (sound familiar?).

"These programs will of course be complimented by a wide variety of centrally planned - and approved - education initiatives, especially through the new Bolivarian University. This institution, which Chávez claims now hosts more students than all the independent ones put together, is rigorously controlled by the state so that all activism, cultural activities, and studies undertaken by the students fit into the prefabricated mold of Bolivarian Socialism (Alan Woods, for example, being a typical guest speaker). As a result one can expect to see significant deterioration in the quality and autonomy of student struggle, which had previously characterized the universities as traditional points of resistance throughout all of the past regimes.

"Meanwhile, like so many other vertically-implemented projects of the state, the Bolivarian University has been failing to live up to it’s promise: the professor’s union has publicly said that student desertion is at over 40%, and attendance statistics have been manipulated by the government. The curriculum has also had to be completely redesigned three times in the past four years.

"The Bolivarian Revolution and Chávez as a personality are increasingly intolerant of criticism, and even more so of projects that fall outside of their control. The much-lauded and incredibly tiny urban garden projects in Caracas, which were deliberately dressed up with things like premium fertilizer to look more impressive in the run-up to the FSM, actually predate the government but have been turned into clients of the state with the promise of funding. This has happened to untold numbers of community projects and autonomous organizations, with those who refuse to collaborate inevitably being called golpistas. As Humberto Decarli explained to me, Chávez’ interest in Cuba is not so much an ideological common ground as it is an admiration for the raw efficiency of the repressive mechanisms that have allowed Castro to remain in power for so long, and a key part of this is the absorption or dismantling of all institutions and movements outside of the state."

So we're clear on Chavez and the state, right? Yes, No?

But things are complex. Michael says social struggles don't fall into neat categories. True again.

So in the context of what RAAN, Ernie and Demogorgon have written, all I have to add is that for those autonomous communities that do exist or that arise, for those trying to take control of their lives in the situation in which they find themselves; for those workers trying to defend living standards, jobs, benefits or their local communities: don't get too euphoric. Be aware that no-one's smashed the bourgeois state, that the army is intact, that you may be called upon to defend the 'Bolivarian revolution', and that to do so will be against your own interests.

jonnyflash
Offline
Joined: 14-01-07
Jan 24 2007 02:57

Recent national television broadcast of "Hello President", Chavez'z call-in talk show:

...Chavez also stated that he would approve a new tax “on big capital, on big earnings,” although again, no figures were given, and instructed his recently designated Minister of Finance, Rodrigo Cabezas, to design the mechanism through which to tax the wealthy. The Venezuelan President, who said he wanted an Enabling Law on the matter, stated that those who own a yacht, a plane, a second home or lavish art collections should be taxed, and declared that the money collected would go towards funding the newly created Communal Councils, which will themselves decide how to spend the revenue on improving their communities.
-venezuelanalysis.com

Interesting balancing act this Bolivarian govt is doing. Steadfastly engaging in progresively heightening class warfare against the Ven elite, while organizing Bolivarian circles of popular military power, and communal councils for popular governing power.
Looks like the last thing on earth that people need criticize, except from the imperial or elite perspective. Bizzarre fringe notions that Chavez is consolidating power for personal or imperial reasons smell like milk left out in a hot room.

daniel's picture
daniel
Offline
Joined: 8-04-06
Jan 24 2007 03:34

its so ironic - give it a few years and these pro-Chavez people will all have moved on to support some other Third World dictator. I could laugh from the irony of it but it isn't funny.

jonnyflash
Offline
Joined: 14-01-07
Jan 24 2007 05:46

"its so ironic - give it a few years and these pro-Chavez people will all have moved on to support some other Third World dictator. I could laugh from the irony of it but it isn't funny." - daniel

Maybe you have a problem with people in the 3rd world organizing their own models of national liberation. Watch some more John Stewart, and solidify your mistaken judgements into rigid dogma some more why don'tcha.

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Jan 24 2007 06:14
jonnyflash wrote:
...Chavez ... stated that those who own a yacht, a plane, a second home or lavish art collections should be taxed, and declared that the money collected would go towards funding the newly created Communal Councils, which will themselves decide how to spend the revenue on improving their communities.

So these community councils, which, if I've been following the discussion, may well function as tools for the government to watch over communities, are going to be given more funding. And how is Chaves proposing to do that? By taxing people "who own a yacht, a plane" etc.

Which is nice, except that if you have enough money, or have the right friends, the tax authority might just not know, or be made to pretend not to know, say, about the yacht and plane that you have stored in your second summer home in the Bahamas, or whichever tax haven the affluent Venezualans favor, where you go to enjoy your lavish art collection. And whatever you are forced to pay just comes out of your workers` salaries.

Smart move by Chavez: buying mass support (at home and abroad, apparently) while staying faithful to ruling-class interests. He sure got my vote. roll eyes

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Jan 24 2007 07:02

jonnyflash, how is it possible that the government is not part of the ruling class, and so how is it possible that they are waging class war on behalf of the proletariat?

oh no wait, the 'bolivarian government' is fighting 'the elite' - no bourgeoisie, no proletariat, but a faction fight which may nonetheless open up space for radical workers' action.

jonnyflash
Offline
Joined: 14-01-07
Jan 25 2007 02:23
Quote:
So these community councils, which, if I've been following the discussion, may well function as tools for the government to watch over communities, are going to be given more funding. And how is Chaves proposing to do that? By taxing people "who own a yacht, a plane" etc.

Which is nice, except that if you have enough money, or have the right friends, the tax authority might just not know, or be made to pretend not to know, say, about the yacht and plane that you have stored in your second summer home in the Bahamas, or whichever tax haven the affluent Venezualans favor, where you go to enjoy your lavish art collection. And whatever you are forced to pay just comes out of your workers` salaries. - Treeofjudas

I completely agree with you to a point, that point is when you relate how the Chavez administration is a typical gravy-train administration with all the characteristics of the bureaucracies we are all familiar with.

The Bolivarian government is aware of the tendency of landlords and bosses to gank workers' cash, and is not protecting either group from pretty much anything organized workers feel like doing to them within Venezuela. Such awareness is evident in the CITGO subsidized heating oil campain inside the US. Landlords of buildings where the aid was administered agreed not to raise rent that percentage and gank that wealth intended for poor US residents. The agreement was guaranteed by the public nature of the aid, which precluded any landlord from doing (more) bad for fear of the social/political repercussions of doing so.

The aforementioned awareness is also evident in legislation barring landlords from raising rent/employers decreasing salaries to soak up the benefits of the national system of Costco-like big box food outlets offering food at prices about 40% less than the commercial retailers.

jonnyflash
Offline
Joined: 14-01-07
Jan 26 2007 04:32
Quote:
jonnyflash, how is it possible that the government is not part of the ruling class, and so how is it possible that they are waging class war on behalf of the proletariat? - Joseph K

Joseph, if you waged a 20 year organizing drive inside of the armed forces of the US, then won over the public opinion by a failed attempt to overthrow Bush, and your honesty in the aftermath, lived to tell the tale, then got elected president by pissed off people looking to end the corruption and poverty, would that automatically make you (a prole) unable to wage class war on behalf of the proles? When exactly would that magic process occur? The moment you decided your movement would take power to affect change? Or would it happen when an obscure anarcho-sect of irrelevant size and less influence sullied your good reputation with bizarre allegations? When exactlyu would Joseph K turn into Joseph S? (remembering the animal farm cartoon.....) is it just human nature to have oppression and venality in governments? Orwell said...roughly...The more he looked, the harder it became to see who was a man, and who was a pig...When would you grow your curly little tail., Joseph?