Re: Rakesh's musing on Venezuela ("Left-wing Communism ...")

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 10:54:38 EDT

>Rakesh's energy re Venezuela is spent on one individual Chavez, Chavez,
>and then again Chavez, not what U.S. imperialism is doing in the concrete
>in Venezuela; not on the day-to-day maneveurs of the opposition; not on
>the day-to-day actions of supporters or qualified supporters of the
>government.  In the final analysis Chavez is not that important.

And later Paul Z writes:

>   One thing I'm confident of: the opposition blames Chavez for
>anything and are as fixed on Chavez as Rakesh.

Oh, no, I am not fixated on Chavez. As I see it, you, Michael, Paul B
and David Y are fixated on him as a revolutionary leader and  hero of
the working class and poor.

  Paul Z then writes:

>Placing Chavez as government leader in context of a very wealthy,
>extremist opposition could lead one to think that the opposition may
>believe it has lost a lot from the current government.  Their acts speak
>much louder than Rakesh's words from afar, who digs up, for this list, an
>article more than a year old that Chavez is nothing more than a

>The Venezuelan government must be placed in context, just as we must place
>Aristide in context, Lula in context, Gandhi in context, etc.

And in each case (though least of all in Aristide's) it is important
to understand how each prepares the ground for a right wing coup or
even right wing formally democratic take over by engendering
alienation, indifference and cynicism in those in whose respective
names they  rule. There are several Brazilian members of OPE-L; it
would be wonderful if they would discuss the complexities of Lula's
government which  seems more complex than Chavez's. More North
Americans speaking Spanish than Portuguese may be one reason why
Chavez gets more attention than Lula despite what may be the latter's
greater historical and regional and ideological importance.  At any
rate, as I have said, Chavez should use force to suppress right wing
coups and he should expose international right wing support of
conspirators. But this does not mean that he is himself not cutting
his own base from underneath him.

I also don't see how this serves as a criticism of Sonntag or as
support for his critics such as Lander who I believe serves in the
govt. I introduced the article with the intent of eliciting specific
criticism. Sonntag seems associated with the world systems school,
and he was chosen to represent left criticism in a debate at UC
Berkeley. What he says should be answered directly.

>Just yesterday I happened to speak with a woman who knows the daughter of
>one of five wealtiest in Venezuela who flies around at the touch of a
>button.  We're talking about opposition with real hatred. We're talking
>about Ku Klux Klan type-mentality, we're talking about racism at its core,
>we're talking about money big-time, and we're talking about such people
>wanting governmental power.

That does not invalidate the opposition from the left.

>As to the SIDOR strike, I happened to have visited that plant many years
>ago in a very memorable visit (including spending a night among its some
>workers migrating, at the time, from places like Spain).  I've have been
>trying to understand it now, but I'm not running to this list with
>wholesale judgement of its current strike activity (although, frankly, my
>credentials to do so would exceed Rakesh's).

Many years ago would have been before the neo liberal restructuring
of industrial relations, no? So how good are these impressions now?
It would be like my saying that I was in Gary Indiana in 1948.

>Unlike Rakesh, I would be
>asking of people on the scene what's going on.

I can't ask people on the scene. So let's say managment can call on
the National Guard as violent strike breakers. What does this say
about the nature of Chavez's regime, that it does not have power over
the National Guard?

>   Maybe the workers are
>angry with Chavez, but maybe not (Michael reports that no one in Venezuela
>is blaming Chavez personally; Michael may be in error, but maybe not, and
>if not, Rakesh obviously doesn't know what he is talking about). Maybe the
>workers are, rather, angry at their managment and also at their union

It also seems that they wanted to Chavez to nationalize the industry
and for the state to use its 40% ownership stake to improve
conditions. But of course the workers are probably angry first and
foremost at their own bosses and,  second, at their own leaders. Yet
it does not seem to me that they have concluded that Chavez's state
is a workers' state; indeed the state seems at best indifferent to
their plight. And in this case it seems to have done worse. The only
plus is that Chavez did not declare the strike illegal but given use
of the National Guard it seems that it was de facto declared illegal.

>  Does the
>context of American military defeat in Iraq (but inability to so
>acknowledge) mean that the American empire is ready to fall and thus give
>an opening to genuine and immediate socialism/communism in Venezuela?

US imperialism is not the only 'thing' holding that up.

>not, what are progressive steps available within the actual Venezuelan

Well it seems that SITOR got a raw deal.

>  Is the current government taking none of those steps, or can we
>acknowledge that they have taken some?  If some, could it move faster, or
>is it already moving too fast?

And isn't moving backward despite choking on a surfeit of oil wealth?


>Paul z.
>Vol.21-Neoliberalism in Crisis, Accumulation, and Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy
>RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, Zarembka/Soederberg, eds, Elsevier Science

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