'Communal Councils' in Venezuela

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 26 2007 06:44

well given as animal farm's an analogue of the russian revolution, it's not an example that serves you well - a 'revolution' from above is always counter-revolutionary. do i really have to explain why the ruler of a country is part of the ruling class?

jonnyflash wrote:
would that automatically make you (a prole) unable to wage class war on behalf of the proles?

leninist crap. the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves. you don't get to a self-organised society by abdicating your agency. I mean stalin was born a peasant, so what?

Lurch
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Jan 26 2007 09:12

And it's not only or even a problem that Chavez is 'introducing socialism from above'. He aint. He's managing Venezuelan capital on behalf of the state and attempting to occupy almost the entire social terrain with his 'defend the fatherland' policies for which, first and foremost, workers and other exploited strata must pay, not a few 'expropriated' private capitalists or 'multi-nationals'.

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Jan 26 2007 13:15
tojiah wrote:
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.

I don't know what's more fucked up - that you think free and autonomous communti assemblies are "tools of the government to watch over communities", or that you're opposed to taxing the rich to fund them. Wow.

Quote:
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,

So you're opposing taxing the rich on principle because it's possible there could be tax evasion? Do you realize this makes no logical sense whatsoever?

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

Could you specifically outline which ruling class interests he is staying faithful to, and how? Where is this phantom ruling class that supports him?

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Tojiah
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Jan 26 2007 13:59
rise wrote:
I don't know what's more fucked up - that you think free and autonomous communti assemblies are "tools of the government to watch over communities",
...

Free and autonomous community assemblies are excellent. Do the Community Assemblies in Chavez` Venezuela exemplify such bodies? I'm not sure. The discussion so far has led me to understand that this is a point of contention. Moreover, government funding will definitely decrease their autonomous power: with great government funding, comes great government oversight and control.

rise wrote:
...
or that you're opposed to taxing the rich to fund them. Wow.

So you're opposing taxing the rich on principle because it's possible there could be tax evasion? Do you realize this makes no logical sense whatsoever?

I'm all for taxing the rich, if you can find them, or, more importantly, their non-tax-deductible assets. I'm saying that this "rich tax" is a populist move, with little to benefit the working class.

rise wrote:
Could you specifically outline which ruling class interests he is staying faithful to, and how?

What is this, Capitalism 101? Members of the ruling class in capitalism has a vested interest in increasing and protecting their material assets as much as possible; the suggested tax does little to impinge on those assets, for the reasons that I've presented.

rise wrote:
Where is this phantom ruling class that supports him?

Right now, he's surfing on a wave of popular support. If, on the other hand, these Community Assemblies that you laud so heroically start asserting their autonomy against his centralist decrees, he will need the support of the more traditional ruling class, the same one which is now in opposition, in order to retain his power. He won't be able to do that if he actually weakens them in any meaningful manner.

jonnyflash
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Jan 26 2007 15:29

Hey, I'm waiting for someone to argue that the hundreds of thousands of free sight-restorative eye operations already done by Cuban and Venezuelan collaboration throughout the Americas, with hundreds of thousands more in planning,....augmented by a literacy program of revolutionary effect delivered around the 3rd world, .....that all this is a cynical ploy to ensure that everyone can read Chavez's evil propaganda. Where's the voice of conscience reminding us that ...."doesn't anyone realize that all this was accomplished on the backs of workers?! "

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 26 2007 15:55

like i said a while ago, UK workers are better off with the NHS - but we didn't get it from the benevolence or generosity of the state, and thus we should all support Labour, but the state's fear of the working class. the carrot maintains the stick, and as long as fundamental social relations remain unchanged it's always liable to turn into said stick should the working class place its faith in anything other than our own capacity to change the world. The particular personalities of leaders are not of great importance in comparison to the class struggle that they must keep at bay.

jonnyflash
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Jan 27 2007 20:11

UVIC Students Against War, Tests, and gf are more important than a quick response to the latest stuff...hold on a bit, chew on this in the meantime..some context.

The five motors aimed at driving Venezuela towards what Chavez has termed “Socialism of the 21st Century” were first announced in early January during the swearing-in of Chavez’s new cabinet. The first motor is the “enabling” law currently being considered by the National Assembly, the second is around constitutional reform, the third, “morals and enlightenment,” activated yesterday, involves a change in the educational system, while the fourth motor, “the new geometry of power” deals with the reconfiguration of state power, and the fifth motor relates to the explosion of communal power in the Communal Councils.

jonnyflash
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Jan 28 2007 11:38
Quote:
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.) - Oliver Twist

Chavez has been working to combine the energy sectors of the nations on the continent into one unit, and integrate so it won't be so easy fro the rich countries to divide and conquer Latin America, and to create real concrete links to make dealing with neighbors a must. Some of these arrangements involve bartering. None aim to centralize energy in Venezuela. The creation of a new powerblock is essential for a multi-polar world. Most people agree that multi is better than mono in his case. Arming the populace is preparation not to be an Allende or Arbenz. Read about them for context. While Columbia may well be the proxy by which the US invades Venezuela, despite the 2-front war caught between Bolivarian armies which any invasion force would be pincered in, Chavez spends time figuring out transition programs and long-term goals for food, education, healthcare etc, rather than rattling a sword at the neighbors. Uribe wants a certain minimum of good relations with Chavez, as evidenced by his goverments' public refutation of US gvernment claims that Columbia was concerned about Venezuelan arms purchases. Uribe spoke of respect for the national sovereignty and lawfulness of the arms transactions.

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Jan 29 2007 20:01
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Arming the populace is preparation not to be an Allende or Arbenz. Read about them for context.

Cock.

jonnyflash
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Jan 30 2007 07:20

Thanks for that, Oliver. Now, I've scavenged some more meat for this thread...

Don't mind the source, look at the quotes.

Chavez quotes from interview with John Riddel of Socialist Voice

"What is needed, Chávez said, is to "dismantle the bourgeois state" and create a "communal state."
The revolution requires a united party, not an alphabet soup," Chávez said. "I Hugo Chávez Frias … declare today that I am going to create a new party." It will be "a political instrument at the service not of blocs or groupings but of the people and the Revolution, at the service of socialism." To great applause, he proposed the name "United Socialist Party of Venezuela" (PSUV).
"The new party will not be a copy of any existing organization. As for the dominant Bolivarian party, the MVR, which Chávez himself founded, "it work is completed; it must pass into history." Nor would party officials be automatically carried over to the new formation: "You will not see me with the same old faces, the same party leaderships — no, that would be a deception."

How then will the party be formed? Chávez recalled the battle of the recall referendum in 2004, which was won by thousands of Units for the Electoral Battle (UBEs), made up of working people across the country. "Afterwards, I asked everyone to maintain the UBEs … but almost everywhere they were lost.… Let us be sure this does not happen after our great victory of December 3."

Hailing the great work of 11,000 Bolivarian battalions, 32,800 platoons, and innumerable squads in rallying the people for this victory, Chávez said, "Let not a single squad dissolve. Starting tomorrow, the leaders of the squads, platoons, and battalions must bring together their troops, their worthy troops, who are the people."

Get hold of a computer, typewriter, whatever, Chávez said, and draw up a list — "a census of the activists, sympathizers, and friends" — for "the battalions, platoons, and squads will be the basic national structure" of the new party, a party built "from below."

Most Latin American left parties of the 20th century, Chávez noted, had "copied the Bolshevik model of the party," which under Lenin’s leadership brought victory in the Russian revolution of 1917. Later, this party "went off course, which Lenin could not prevent because he was ill and died very young." The Bolsheviks "ended up as an anti-democratic party, and the wonderful slogan, ‘All power to the soviets,’ ended up as ‘All power for the party.’

"In my humble opinion, this deformation took place close to the outset of the socialist revolution that gave birth to the Soviet Union, and we saw the results 70 years later" in the USSR’s collapse. Workers did not come out to defend the Soviet system "because it had become converted into an elitist structure that could not build socialism.

"We here will build Venezuelan socialism — an original Venezuelan model."

The new party "must be created not for electoral purposes — even though it will carry out electoral battles as we have done," Chávez said. "The task is to carry out the battle of ideas for the socialist project." For this purpose, everyone must "study, read, discuss" and "distribute information, printed material

t is not hard to enumerate the massive obstacles facing Venezuelan workers and farmers along this road. The capitalist profit-making system remains intact — in fact, has had a banner year. The capitalist right wing controls almost all the media and benefits from the sympathy or lethargy of many in the governmental apparatus. The enemies of the revolution stand ready to use violence and dictatorship to impose their will — backed to the hilt by U.S. imperialism.

Although the Bolivarian government’s measures have brought tangible benefits to the poor, poverty remains widespread and profound. Land reform has progressed slowly. Only a minority of workers have stable employment in the legal economy.

And the Bolivarian trade union movement that represents this minority is in disarray, wracked by factional divisions, and has done little to implement the government’s program to expand workers’ control.

But the most immediate barriers impeding further advances towards overturning capitalism in Venezuela lie in the political realm — the state bureaucracy ensconced in the ministries and different levels of government, and a vast layer of careerists operating in the traditional political parties, including pro-Chavist organizations.

Most political parties in Venezuela function as electoral machines dominated by parasitic elements who use them to control and dispense jobs and other favours to their clientele. By launching a new united socialist party, Chávez has made an important move to allow workers and farmers to push these elements aside and position themselves to fight more effectively for their class interests.

If built as Chávez advocates, the new party could solve the central challenge facing the Bolivarian movement: that of linking the worker and farmer base together with their chosen leadership in a cohesive, democratic political movement.

As for the government apparatus, the Bolivarians continue to focus on creating parallel institutions controlled by the worker-farmer ranks. On December 15, Chávez focused on the Communal Councils (Consejos Comunales), of which 16,000 have been organized to coordinate action around the concerns of residents. "They are the key to peoples’ power," he said, appealing for their extension to every party of the country.

These councils, he said, must "transcend the local framework" and achieve "a sort of regional federation of Communal Councils" that could elect coordinating bodies. On January 8, he went further, projecting the councils as the embryo of a new state.

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Jan 30 2007 08:47

This all sounds vaguely familiar. This sounds exactly like the manouvres that Mao used to launch the Cultural Revolution against Deng and Lui in the 60s: bypassing the party and using grass-roots cadres to achieve aims of a fraction of the of bourgeoisie.

More importantly, the rhetoric is exactly the same as the SPD used in Germany 1918 where it called for the councils to take power in order to better disarm them.

Note for example, the new enabling act that has already received initial approval from the Venezualan parliament, giving Chavez the power to rule by decree for 18 months, not to mention rewriting the constitution to allow himself to be elected in perpetuity - if "elected" is the correct word when he's taken control of the electoral commission. This crude manouvre is Chavez's insurance policy in case the elections don't go his way - the lack of cohesion in the Venezualan bourgeoisie doesn't allow for the deals and manouvring that more developed bourgeoisies indulge in if the "wrong" party gets into power.

So, if Chavez is planning to give power to the councils, why this reinforcing of the state? And since when do the workers councils require the permission of the bourgeois state to take power? They sieze power and dismantle the bourgeois state.

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Jan 30 2007 08:52

that lowers my opinion of him actually - he explicitly places himself in the latin american populist tradition (as argued in the RAAN article), wanting to incorporate 'the people' into the state to short-circuit struggle for the good of the nation (sorry 'revolution'), and employing the classic rhetoric of military populism to that effect ("the leaders of the squads, platoons, and battalions must bring together their troops, their worthy troops, who are the people").

his analysis of the bolsheviks is telling; it all went wrong because the charismatic front man died young. do you generally take politicians' words at face value? do you understand what a contradiction in terms is - e.g. the unions tasked with implementing the government's policy of 'workers' control', or the president decreeing a party from below?

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Jan 30 2007 12:04

The analysis of the Bolshevik revolution is actually trotskyist to a word, he even uses the term 'deformation'. Not sure if I agree with the maoism comparison, I think we can go a little far trying to find analogues though I agree he is a populist and in all likelihood a lot more self serving than a lot of the left give him credit.

petey
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Jan 30 2007 14:52
jonnyflash wrote:
"What is needed, Chávez said, is to "dismantle the bourgeois state" and create a "communal state." The revolution requires a united party, not an alphabet soup," Chávez said.

BINGO!

jonnyflash
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Jan 31 2007 20:46

For those who would claim Chavez is a dictator:

Region-wide polling by Latinobarometro shows Venezuelans nearly tied with Uruguay for first place in considering their country to be democratic, and again second only to Uruguay in their satisfaction with their democracy, as well as the most politically active of any Latin American country.

Quote:
...bypassing the party and using grass-roots cadres to achieve aims of a fraction of the of bourgeoisie.- Demogorgon303

How might you consider Chavez a fraction of the bourgeoisie?
(aside from the fact that he is in the Presidential seat, which I do not believe instantly turns one to the dark side, whatever pop-psychology may dictate to the contrary).

Quote:
...a contradiction in terms is - e.g. the unions tasked with implementing the government's policy of 'workers' control', or the president decreeing a party from below.. - Joseph K

The near annihilation of the regional revolutionary left via operation Condor etc, combined with the co-optation of most union leadership, combined with the surprise electoral success of the Bolivarians, has resulted in a historical peculiarity: A government with the stated aim of devolving power onto a politically conscious population, whilst having to educate that population on why and how this is a good thing, and elevating the standard of living in the meantime. Never having seen such a situation before, mistaken comparisons can easily be drawn.

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Jan 31 2007 20:54

IF chavez is a historical peculiarity, i'll praise him when power is ceded. but if you actually believe what you're saying why are you championing Chavez rather than working class autonomy?

jonnyflash
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Feb 1 2007 02:22

We have different versions of what constitutes working class autonomy, Joseph.

look at the way Mark Weisbrot, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, describes what you call a principled stand by oilfeild labor in defense of the working class.

"On the positive side, the official poverty rate, which measures only cash income, shows a 21 per cent decline from 42.8 per cent of households when Chávez took office at the beginning of 1999 to 33.9 per cent for the first half of 2006. Furthermore, incomes would be considerably higher and poverty lower in Venezuela today if not for the enormous economic losses inflicted by the opposition oil strike of 2002-2003, the explicit goal of which was to overthrow the elected constitutional government; as well as other economic instability and damage attributable to other extra-legal opposition efforts such as the April 2002 military coup."

Heere's how rthe US state department saw it

"Continued dissatisfaction with the Chavez administration led to a national work stoppage on December 2, 2002. Strikers protested the government and called for the resignation of President Chavez. On December 4, 2002, the petroleum sector joined the strike. Other sectors of the economy also joined the work stoppage and effectively shut down all economic activity for a month. The OAS Permanent Council passed Resolution 833 on December 16, 2002, calling for a "constitutional, democratic, peaceful, and electoral solution" to the crisis in Venezuela. The strike formally ended in February 2003 as political opponents of Chavez sought a recall referendum to revoke the mandate of the president."

If your vision of working class autonomy includes lockouts reminicient of the Anaconda Copper company's tactics against Arbenz, then we are speaking of two vastly different phenomenon.

When you concede that power does not neccessarily make people into devious malovent sociopaths of the elite, but can also be used constructively by principled people such as you, I and many others.....then we will be on the same page.

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Feb 1 2007 03:03

To me it seems the oil workers strikes were probably more similar to the CIA backed truckers strikes in Chile and possibly funded and initiated by American interests. Isn't the oil workers union in Venzuela also affiliated with the AFL-CIO? (I could be wrong on this but I think its the case). Hardly working class autonomy but likely neo liberal powers using working class power to push forward a bourgeois agenda, not all that different than the pattern of 'revolutions' in eastern europe. I mean just because a union calls a strike doesn't mean it can't be manipulated between various political agendas, unions often don't represent working class interests.

I worry that this debate is polarising between support for the Oil Workers and support for Chavez.

Quote:
When you concede that power does not neccessarily make people into devious malovent sociopaths of the elite, but can also be used constructively by principled people such as you, I and many others.....then we will be on the same page.

So, Johnny, are you an anarchist? I mean its cool if you are some sort of trot, I'll disagree with you but I think you have some pretty serious misunderstandings of what being a libertarian communist is if you don't think that power in one way or another corrupts.

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Feb 1 2007 08:11
jonnyflash wrote:
We have different versions of what constitutes working class autonomy, Joseph.

look at the way Mark Weisbrot, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, describes what you call a principled stand by oilfeild labor in defense of the working class.

you fucking liar. all i've said on the oil strike/lockout, about which i know little, is that it seemed to be mostly management that got culled (to be replaced by Chavistas).

jonnyflash wrote:
When you concede that power does not neccessarily make people into devious malovent sociopaths of the elite, but can also be used constructively by principled people such as you, I and many others.....then we will be on the same page.

Yeah, we're so much better than everyone else roll eyes the way power can be used constructively is by exercising it through organs thrown up by the class - classically workers' councils/soviets. your idea of working class autonomy explicitly involves "symbiosis" with the state, i.e. it isn't very autonomous. if i replaced my boss it wouldn't make my workplace libertarian communist, because the structural role overdetermines the particular traits of its holder. same with state power - anarchists joining the republican government in spain didn't create anarchism, funnily enough.

you admit you're claiming a historical novelty - a politician who craves giving away power - yet you want people to accept this to 'be on the same page.' But the point is, if you are correct and if you actually mean it - our course of action is the same - we still don't support Chavez or the state, we support the building of autonomous working class power outside of them (which supposedly Chavez wants so he can cede power).

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Feb 1 2007 10:29
jonnyflash wrote:
How might you consider Chavez a fraction of the bourgeoisie?(aside from the fact that he is in the Presidential seat, which I do not believe instantly turns one to the dark side, whatever pop-psychology may dictate to the contrary).

It's not a question of "pop-psychology" and your attempt to reduce the issue to this betrays your complete lack of understanding of class structures.

Chavez is a fraction of the bourgeoisie both historically and contingently. The guy was a general in the Venezuelan military for years and in 1992 organised a failed coup attempt. If the top brass of the military aren't part of the ruling class, who is? You also completely ignored all the points I and others have made about the way Chavez has both reinforced the bourgeois state and done it in a way to bolster his own personal position. It's blindingly obvious that Chavez is representing the most anti-american wing of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie.

Others have already mentioned his analysis of the Bolsheviks, hinging solely on the misconception of Lenin as some kind of personality cult. He clearly sees himself as some kind of new Lenin - or rather the Lenin presented by Stalinist mythology.

As JosephK has ably demonstrated, Chavez's strategy is not about giving power to the working class. Even if the councils in Venezuela were genuine products of the class struggle, which I doubt, Chavez's strategy is to fuse these organs under the domination of the bourgeois state. These "workers councils", in practical terms, seem to be representatives that work with company executives - in other words, new (or old) unions.

His vaunted anti-poverty measures are also not all they're cracked up to be. While some living standards have improved, they have not kept pace with economic growth and the increase in oil revenues. In other words, this growth has been achieved through the extraction of more and more relative surplus value from the Venezuelan working class. In fact, per capita income has declined by 4% since Chavez took power. Unemployment has supposedly fallen from 16% to around 10% but this seems easy enough to explain by the fact that the state now counts street vendors and those studying in the Bolivarian missions as "employed". Other indicators suggestthat although those defined as living in poverty has seen their incomes rise, the number of people in poverty has also risen. Chavez has clearly learned much from Tony Blair!

Is Chavez calling upon Venezuelan workers to unite with workers across the world? Is he demanding the abolition of the Venezuelan state and for the international rule of soviets? Is he calling for world revolution?

No, instead he's enjoying the hospitality of imperialist powers like China, Iran and Cuba (those renowned ghurkas of Stalinist imperialist in the Cold War) and buying massive arms shipments from Russia and Brazil, whilst inviting former Venezuelan military dictators to his inaugaration!

To sum up, Chavez represents Venezuela's attempt to escape from the suffocating grip of US imperialism and to pull the rest of the population behind this drive, smothering all class and ethnic divisions with a reactionary leftist populism.

knightrose
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Feb 1 2007 12:28
Quote:
Chávez given broad new powers
By Gary Marx

Chicago Tribune

LESLIE MAZOCH / AP

Supporters of President Hugo Chávez raise their hands as a bill giving him new authority in 11 areas is read Wednesday in the Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela.

HAVANA — In an unusual outdoor meeting in downtown Caracas, the Venezuelan National Assembly voted Wednesday to give President Hugo Chávez broad powers to accelerate this oil-rich nation's push toward socialism.

The National Assembly, which is dominated by Chávez supporters, unanimously approved La Ley Habilitante, or the enabling law, which will give Chávez the authority for 18 months to issue decrees in 11 key areas ranging from the economy to defense.

Chávez and his supporters say the new authority is vital to forge a new, more egalitarian economic and social order in Venezuela. Critics say it will speed Venezuela's slide into authoritarianism.

"The enabling law will turn the Congress into a house of followers and the president of the republic into a dictator," Eduardo Fernandez, president of the opposition COPEI Party, told the Venezuelan cable-news channel Globovision.

But Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Rodriguez told legislators gathered in the Plaza Bolivar that the new law will lay the groundwork for "democracy, peace and, in the end, socialism."

"Dictatorship is what we had before, a dictatorship of the few," he said. "Of course, we want to install a dictatorship, the dictatorship of a true democracy. You, us, together [are] building a different country."

Since winning re-election in December to a new six-year term, Chávez has announced plans to nationalize Venezuela's electrical industry and its largest telecommunications company and he has refused to renew the broadcast license of RCTV, the television station most critical of him.

The passage of the legislation Wednesday is likely to worsen the already tense relations between Venezuela and the United States, which have been rocky ever since the Bush administration appeared to back an aborted coup against Chávez in 2002.

Since then, Chávez has denounced the U.S. as the worst terrorist nation on Earth, and he described President Bush as the devil in a speech last year at the United Nations.

Chávez also has forged close ties to such U.S. foes as ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to whom Chávez played host in January.

American officials have accused Chávez of undermining Venezuelan democracy and destabilizing Latin America. But the U.S. continues to bankroll Chávez's revolution by purchasing large quantities of Venezuelan crude oil.

First elected president in 1998, Chávez has survived a tumultuous eight years in office that has included the aborted coup in 2002, a devastating opposition-led national strike several months later and a recall referendum in 2005 that failed to garner enough votes to unseat him.

Aided by opposition missteps and high oil prices, Chávez has soared in popularity as he has funneled tens of billions of dollars into social programs.

In addition to nationalizing the telecommunications and electricity sectors, Chávez has said he would use his new authority to reform banking and other financial regulations while raising taxes on the rich and bringing the oil and gas sectors under greater state control.

What a good job Chavez is on our side eh?

gordonL
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Feb 2 2007 14:07

You may want to try sources of information other than the capitalist press:

[http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/lebowitz010207.html]

"There should be no surprises there. After all, in a country with an enormous social debt, where people have basic needs for sewers, electricity, water, jobs, housing, etc. and where they are being encouraged to take things into their hands through communal councils, cooperatives, and other forms of collective self-activity -- and where everywhere they come up against the long-standing patterns of bureaucracy, corruption, and clientelism -- should we be surprised that the people are impatient? Should we be surprised at how few people answered the Opposition's call to demonstrate against the Enabling Law? Should we be surprised that the people are in a hurry?"

Lurch
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Feb 2 2007 14:55
Quote:
You may want to try sources of information other than the capitalist press:

That's a good idea. Do RAAN (Red Anarchist Action Network) or The International Commmunist Current (both links quoted earlier) qualify?

After all, your link is to "the apparent resident apologist (or, let's just say, on-site interpreter) for the Bolivarian Revolution", distinguished and learned gent though he may be...

petey
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Feb 2 2007 14:57

i hope these commmunity councils are self-actuated and that there comes to be far greater self-control over the conditions of life in venezuela. i'm sure we all do here. but in that quote i notice:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/lebowitz010207.html wrote:

"... where they are being encouraged to take things into their hands through communal councils, cooperatives, and other forms of collective self-activity..."

if it's 'encouraged' from above, can it be 'self-activity'?

and i notice:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/lebowitz010207.html wrote:
"the people are impatient ... the people are in a hurry"

invoking 'the people' has an unhappy history behind it, and i'm not going to trust the left press either by mere assertion.

so, there is a clear possibility of positive developments, but there is also the clear desire for centralization of power in chavez' thinking and actions. i put some links about this here: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/the-farc-ep-red-headed-stepchild-of-1st-world-revolutionaries-good-bad-or-just-keepin-it-real?page=2

jonnyflash
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Feb 4 2007 05:33

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1950

knightrose
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Feb 4 2007 09:34

Of couyrse, now I understand. One man management of the state and economy. Never heard of that one before ever. Saves alll that nasty messing about with workers democracy, eh?

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Feb 4 2007 10:44

jonny, have you read that? it's an excitable western leftie viewing from afar, and it still manages to support the critics:

Quote:
For Lanz this new strategy will necessitate a “strategic alliance between State enterprises, the associative economy, the non-monopolistic sector of national capital, and small and medium enterprises in both the countryside and the city”

so 'socialism for the 21st century' requires the working class incorporated into a state-paternalistic 'associative economy' which forms a 'strategic alliance' with factions of national capital. old-style populist class collaboration, with a 21st century gloss, which Raby gets all excited about presenting it as some new discovery (according her book blurb on pluto press' website).

jonny, for reference 'anti-neoliberal' does not equal anti-capitalist, it simply quibbles what kind of capitalism we have. that may mean improvements in living standards, as did the british welfare state. but like the welfare state, a revolution it isn't.

jonnyflash
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Feb 6 2007 21:04

It's interesting that so many lefties assume that the Venezuelan people have the same opinion as the capitalist media and evidently, many posters on this thread. Here is some context from Michael A. Lebowitz, professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada...

"I had dinner last night with two friends (one a first-time visitor), who had spent a full day talking with people active in communal councils in two Caracas neighbourhoods (one extremely poor). And, they were telling me about the frustration and anger of so many with local and ministry officials who were holding back change -- and about their identification with the impatience of Chavez, whom they trusted. Not surprisingly, this led us to a discussion of the Enabling Law and of Lopez Maya's interview. No, they said, the people they saw weren't worried about that at all -- they agree with the need for speed. You mean, I asked, that the people are in a hurry? Yes, they readily assented (to my surprise), and one commented that they are less interested in democracy as process than in democracy in practice.

There should be no surprises there. After all, in a country with an enormous social debt, where people have basic needs for sewers, electricity, water, jobs, housing, etc. and where they are being encouraged to take things into their hands through communal councils, cooperatives, and other forms of collective self-activity -- and where everywhere they come up against the long-standing patterns of bureaucracy, corruption, and clientelism -- should we be surprised that the people are impatient? Should we be surprised at how few people answered the Opposition's call to demonstrate against the Enabling Law? Should we be surprised that the people are in a hurry?

The real question that needs to be posed is one to traditional Venezuelan intellectuals and their counterparts abroad: why aren't you in a hurry, comrade?"

jonnyflash
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Feb 6 2007 21:16

Metrolefty: "isn't this the road to Stalinism and to the gulag?"
-
Lebowitz:
"As some of the dismay over the idea of a unified party of the revolution dissipates with Chavez's stress upon the need to build it from below and to make it the most democratic party in Venezuela's history, attention now has focused upon his request to the National Assembly for an Enabling Law that would allow him to introduce laws in specific areas directly rather than taking these through the National Assembly. Reminded that designation of such time-limited special powers is nothing new in Venezuelan history, predating Chavez and also essential in his own introduction of 49 Laws in 2001 (laws on cooperatives, fisheries, hydrocarbon tax, etc), friends ask -- but why now? After all, given the opposition's brilliant manoeuvre in boycotting the National Assembly elections (once it was apparent they would be overwhelmed), there is no opposition present to delay matters in that body. So, what's the hurry?
... (for more, see http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1952 )

Jonny -
Furthermore, every move by the Bolivarians in Venezuela has displayed a keen understanding of tactics. The idea of stages comes into this. You may have noticed, many of us metropolitan intellectuals are all excited about the intricacies of alleged violations of liberal democratic process in Venezuela. In fact, perfectly legal, widely internally accepted and not unprecidented fast-track authority, rather than "decree powers", as Amy Goodman gaffed, have been proposed and accepted through the regular governmental channels.

What is being well accomplished is a concerted attempt to delegitemate the Bolivarians among the international intellectuals.

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kiwi hirsuta
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Feb 7 2007 07:51
Joseph K. wrote:

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'.

With respect, I dont think either of your analysis are quite correct - Im only going by what I have heard from a friend at Hands of Venezuela, and also from some articles by Michael A. Lebowitz (sp?), an influential thinker to the whole revolution:

From this I gather that although there are competing voices around Chavez, the simple concensus is that Marxist-socialism of the last century failed because it relied to much on centralised power. In fact its like stepping back to the arguments of the 1st International, with Proudhon disagreeing with Marx.

The pressure to give power to the grass-roots is coming from within the party, and was always part of the plan.
There has always been an ideology at the heart of "Socialism for the 21st Century" that seeks to give power back to the people and slowly take away power from the state.

Sensibly, this is being done slowly - particapatory politics, whether in councils or co-oped workplaces can only work if people are sufficiently educated and familiar with the practice - this is slowly happening. People need to learn how the system works, and generally be given an education, not just in political ideals.

The anarksimo article linked before says that this whole process has "saved popular faith in political institutions and electoral participation", and sees it as a bad thing. I am very confident that this is a good thing, that the state is truly working to dissolve itself, but that this process will take many years - and all the more stability and tangible progress for that. WHile its there its cashing in on nationalised services and redistributing them for grass root activities - fantastic.

The arguments amongst the inner cabal relate to how much power to give back and how fast - I gather the unions are actually keen to put the brakes on, amongst others.

A last thought about Chavez' new powers - although slighlty unnerving even to me as a supporter, there is a real feeling amongst people on the ground that things arent moving fast enough - this "enabling law" allows things to move faster. He looses the power after 18 months, the people voted for it, I support it at this stage.