From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon Dec 22 2003 - 09:42:26 EST

At 04:09 22/12/2003, Rakesh wrote:

>>         Three questions:
>>                 (1) What do you propose that revolutionaries in
>> Venezuela do?
>>                 (2) What do you propose that revolutionaries in Cuba do?
>>                 (3) How does Paresh's position on the reasons for failure
>>of the USSR, etc differ from that of Rosenberg?
>>                         in solidarity,
>>                          michael
>Revolutionaries in Venezuela?  I am not sure. See article below. And
>isn't the question how absence of revolution circumscribes the
>options in Cuba? What possibly in common could Chattopadhyay's and
>Rosenberg's analysis of the demise of Bolshevism have in common?

         Let's agree that 'workers' revolutions in the so called North or
West' would solve a lot of problems (although not all). Let's also agree
that these don't seem to be on the horizon (unless I'm badly out-of-touch).
The question then becomes what those in the 'South' who want to put an end
to the barbarism of capitalism should do. E.g., what should be done in
India? You appear to agree with Paresh (and, I would guess, Rosenberg) that
attempts at exploding the existing societies of the South under the current
conditions would be quixotic, but you haven't answered my questions.
         Obviously, revolutions are not made in abstraction; they must be
made under the specific concrete circumstances that exist. No one who knows
anything about Cuba could deny that they have knowingly made decisions
fraught with danger in order to preserve the victories they have
achieved--- precisely because of the circumscribed options given by
concrete circumstances. What would you have them do?
         As for Venezuela--- you give us Juan Forero's article, which says
Venezuela 'has apparently succumbed to reality' and is trying to lure
foreign investment into its oil industry, as raising questions about
whether there are 'revolutionaries in Venezuela'. Let me say, firstly, that
Forero's piece is crap (as is most of what he writes about developments
there-- you should hear government supporters speak about him--- his
information comes from the opposition press). The foreign investors have
been beating at the doors consistently--- not the least because of new
discoveries in Venezuela. PDVSA is functioning quite well under the
circumstances (after the sabotage last year). The cost of production has
fallen significantly with the substantial reduction in management staff
(which struck and thus no longer captures all that rent). (Its luxurious
empty buildings have been turned into the Bolivarian University of
Venezuela and opened to the poor, who were turned away from the elite
universities--- there are 400,000 who have signed up to go to university.)
The revenue coming to the state from PDVSA has risen-- not as much as it
could if they were in a position at this time to revoke sweetheart deals
signed by the pre-Chavez management, and it will rise because they have
returned to a royalty system in the form of a hydrocarbon tax, which
applies to new wells, etc.
         But here is a concrete question: the revenue from PDVSA is not
infinite, not a bottomless pit. Where should it be directed? Right now,
there are massive programmes to improve the situation of the poor--- a
major literacy programme (where teachers and learners are subsidised), a
medical campaign in which Cuban doctors -- 10,000--- are heavily involved,
bringing healthcare for the first time to the barrios, land reform-- urban
and rural, credit provided for the creation of cooperatives, housing
construction programmes, etc. The money for this comes from PDVSA revenues.
(Everything does.) But, there are other major potential uses of those
revenues, too. Eg., the infrastructure to develop the interior, to allow
for agricultural and industrial development there is sorely lacking
(railway lines need completion); given that Venezuela imports most of its
food (and much of everything!)--- and has lush agricultural land (state
owned) which is uncultivated, development here is seen as essential for the
future. And, finally, there is the need to invest money to maintain
existing oil wells and to develop the new oil and gas fields. What would a
revolutionary do?
         The focus in Venezuela is upon empowering the poor (80%) ---
something that corresponds to both immediate political needs and to the
goals of the Bolivarian Revolution. The special emphasis at this point is
upon building a new social economy, with import substitution provided by
new cooperatives, self-managed enterprises, etc (some taken over by workers
from the owners). Choices have to be made. One, it appears, is to let
foreign capital come in--- in joint ventures--- to develop the new natural
gas fields. The question which is not yet resolved, I believe, is how much
foreign participation will be permitted in new oil development. The less of
PDVSA's revenue that is required for that, the more the funds can go into
attempting to transform the non-oil economy.
         I won't say more at this time (the paper I'm planning to present
at next year's Marx Conference in Havana in May will be on the subject of
the Bolivarian Revolution: vision and reality) except that Venezuela is a
casebook study of how (in Marx's comments) slaveholders' revolts have put
the sword in the hand of the Social Revolution and have accelerated its
movement. Let me come back to the original point:

>Seriously, what would you
>call someone who, if Cuba's project were to collapse, might say Marx had
>the last laugh or who might argue against accelerating the process in
>Venezuela because, in the absence of the fully developed capitalist mode of
>production, all attempts at exploding the society would be Don Quixotism?

         in solidarity,

PS. in response to Ajit: yes, I agree that we should be talking about the
experience in China, too. Marxist economists should be learning from
concrete experiences.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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