Re: re Rakesh's information about Venezuela

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Thu Jan 08 2004 - 14:41:13 EST

I note that Rakesh still has not provided his sources, which surely offer
answers to the many questions he asks. (I thought he would be induced to
reveal these, given my statement that his information is false.) Others,
without access to Rakesh's sources, may appreciate some information (in
addition to that which Jerry has provided on the land reform programmes).
There are over 10,000 Cuban doctors working in the poorest barrios in
Venezuela right now--- one of the most popular programmes for the poor
(sorry, Karl). (The Venezuelan association of doctors has naturally
protested-- Rakesh's sources probably describe this as union-busting.) As
to the size of the march, estimates vary. One Chavist leader said 2 million
were there; the newspaper el universal said 62,000 were there. The Minister
of Planning said a half million, which may be closest to the truth. I took
extensive notes, thinking I would write it up, but subsequently decided I
had better things to do with my time. Here are some points from them. The
(2km?) area of Avenida Bolivar, where the 4 hour march ended, when filled
takes between 120,000 people and 800, 000 people (according to whether you
believe an opposition correspondent of mine-- not there-- or a photographer
who spoke with Marta, who was at the tribune). I would say it was at least
1/2 full (with people like me who mingled rather than marched) before the
marchers began arriving at 2:11 pm (at the far end of the street, distant
from the speakers tribune, where I was). By 2:30, the march was getting
chaotic because there was increasingly nowhere for people to go. It was 30
across and had stopped moving by 2:33. Somehow, it began to move again in
another 10 minutes. A friend of mine, a leader of the healthworkers union
(sorry, Rakesh, not part of the industrial working class) in the state of
Merida was ecstatic, saying 'This is the referendum!'  (I won't bother to
describe the marchers, about whom I have many notes-- suffice it to say
they came from all sectors of the working class.) I thought that the march
was dying out at 3:09 because it seemed sparse. Nope, in another minute or
two, the crowd was thick again. Interesting, though, many people starting
to go the other way on the sidewalk. 3:56--- an enormous crowding,
jostling, etc--- Chavez standing on top of a truck, clenched fist. Everyone
pushing to try to get near him, to catch his eye; thought I might lose my
footing. A few more cars come a bit later. Where will they go? Nowhere, it
turns out-- can't get through, manoeuvre to turn around and join those
going the other way.At 4:26, one of the last groups of workers-- postal
workers union. Basically, no more coming at 4:34. By 4:50, like so many
others--- especially those who began marching at 10am, I go back to my room
and turn on the TV to watch Chavez speak while sitting rather than to stand
and not see him and hear a distorted sound through loudspeakers. I think he
ended at 6:50. How many on the march? It was certainly the biggest I've
ever seen. I was trying to estimate its size as people passed me---
something I've never tried to do before-- and came up with over 400,000.
So, Rakesh, definitely more than 10,000.
         Hope this is useful information for those who have honest questions.
                 in solidarity,

At 04:15 08/01/2004, you wrote:
>>At 14:05 02/01/2004, Rakesh wrote:
>>>2. Chavez's popularity has dropped. His rallies have attracted fewer
>>>people over time.
>>FALSE ON BOTH ACCOUNTS. Even the capitalist press acknowledges his growing
>>and say he is 'buying support' (eg., the Economist's 'if you
>>can't beat them, buy them'--- ie., buy them with rent) with social
>>programmes for the poor (eg., the literacy campaign, the doctors in the
>>neighbourhoods, the grants and loans for the development of the social
>>economy--- coops, etc).
>Michael, I don't see how this paraphrase from the Economist testifies to
>Chavez's growing popularity. And how sizable are these programmes? How
>much have they reduced poverty?  What's their future if oil prices weaken?
>What will happen to the tax base of the state as foreign investors take
>more of the refining and transportation business? What has Chavez done for
>the workers in industries other than oil? Have the promises for better
>severance pay and social security materialized? How is the land reform
>program doing? I don't see why you and Paul B ask us to support Chavez
>without giving us any details about his actual policies.
>>  As for the rallies, I was there at the 6 December
>>march (which, incidentally, went through the right-wing stronghold of
>>Altamira unopposed and seized the square--- something never dared before),
>>and several of my trade union friends were ecstatic, saying they had never
>>seen a larger demonstration.
>How many people were estimated to have attended? You don't say. More or
>less than 10,000?
>>It was certainly the biggest I've ever seen.
>>So, comrade, please be frank and tell us YOUR source of information on both
>>>3. Chavez's popularity was strongest among street vendors, not any part of
>>>the industrial working class.
>>         Is this something like saying that his popularity is strongest
>>among the poor?
>Marxism is not a theory for the poor per se.
>>  Given that 50% of the labour force is in the informal
>>sector, one would certainly hope for high support there. But, again, let's
>>have the evidence for your claim about the industrial working class--- not,
>>incidentally, historical evidence (eg., the actions of the CTV some time
>>back) but, eg., the industrial working class during last year's lockout and
>>since. Evidence, please!
>So you are saying that Chavez is enjoying more support from not only the
>very poor but the industrial working class? You ask me for evidence, but
>even though you have traveled there you are not citing any. I know of no
>evidence that would support this contention, and I already noted what I
>have read.
>Again the evidence of the revolutionary nature of this regime is quite
>thin. He had a big march, and gets very poor people to vote for him. And
>we are supposed to conclude that this is a revolutionary regime.
>>         michael
>>PS. for those who are looking for information on workers in Venezuela, you
>>can check out (it's in Spanish but you can use Babelfish
>>from altavista to get a sense of the content); less specifically on this
>>but in English, I can't tell you where Rakesh
>>gets his opinions. He'll have to tell.
>>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

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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