Re: Rakesh's speculation on Venezuela

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Mon May 31 2004 - 13:45:34 EDT

The referring to rent as devil's excrement is not my metaphor but an
old Venezuelan one, articulated by those worried as early as the
1930s about the dynamics of a rentier state. There is a history of
rentier states; there are structural reasons why they choke off
dynamic industrialism and the growth of the industrial working class
and breed corruption. There is no reason to believe that Chavez will
be able to escape those structures, however forceful his personality.

Sonntag and others have referred to the increasing authoritarianism
of the Chavez regime. To Paul Z: authoritarian is not a typology but
used here as a description of the dynamics of the state, i.e. the
state is becoming increasingly authoritarian.O'Donnel's typology of
state forms is often used. Even Ellner cites it and speaks to it.

And for those of you who claimed to be well informed on Venezuela, I
don't think your posts reveal it.

  Of what share of the profits that PDVSA plowed back into the
updating and diversification of the oil business that Chavez will now
claim for political buy offs I don't know. But not all surplus value
is for capitalist consumption, and it's not clear  that Chavez is
only attempting to seize that part that had been unproductively
consumed by the managerial class.

Even if the refineries abroad were buying other oil it does not mean
that they did not serve as a safety valve for Venezuelan oil and that
their serving as a safety valve for Venezuelan oil did not depend on
their being price competitive.

I don't think a lot of the oil bonanza is being spent on the poor as
revealed by the marginal improvements in the lot of the poor and in
the lot of increasingly vulnerable industrial workers. The belief has
been that Chavez has not been able to spend on the poor because of
the effects of the strike and the consumption of his time by fighting
other coup attempts. Yet even with those factors in mind, I don't
think his social accomplishments are impressive given the recent
flood of wealth. Again that assumes Sonntag is right. Which you have
not disputed. And his handling of the recent strike is not impressive
at all. To say the least.

Why not parse Sonntag's statement? No one is going to mock whether he
is knowledgeable about Venezuela.

I have no trouble recognizing that AFL-CIO is at best not supporting
true working class interests in Venezuela (say solidarity with the
steel workers) and probably in cahoots with those trying to
spear-head a racist, pro wealthy coup from within the CVA and that
the AFL CIO is an instrument by which the workers of the world have
been undermined (to use Beth Sims' old expression).  Kim Scipes had a
piece on this in Labor Notes, April 2004. I have criticized the AFL
CIO forcefully before by trying to convert the Seattle protests into
a mandate for a hyper nationalist campaign for the non application of
China to the WTO. I have followed Peter Rachleff in believing that
the new AFL CIO does not represent a great break from the old AFL CIA.

I think you will see that I have posted (here and on other list
serves) a great deal more on US imperialism or racist immigration
policy or American labor nationalism than Chavez's regime.

But Chavez is not Aristide even given the latter's problems. If we
want to talk about US imperialism, then perhaps we should turn to
Haiti. Peter Halward has a piece in the latest NLR which I have not
yet read.

Yours, Rakesh

At 5:58 PM +0100 5/31/04, Paul Bullock wrote:
>at the risk of perpetuating an opportunity for you to make wild and
>speculative assertions against the present government of Venezuela, the
>purpose of which can only be to provide comfort to the enemies of  any kind
>of progress whatsoever, I add  a few comments below.
>Paul Bullock.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Rakesh Bhandari" <rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU>
>Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 10:40 AM
>Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Rakesh's musing on Venezuela ("Left-wing Communism
>>  At 11:27 PM +0100 5/28/04, Paul Bullock wrote:
>>  >Rakesh,
>>  >
>>  >I interpolate a few answers to your questions below. However you should
>>  >that the points made are also those made by the  Venezuelan Government
>>  >has been carrying out detailed investigations into the theft of national
>>  >assets by the previous board of  PdVsa.
>>  >
>>  >Paul Bullock.
>>  >
>>  Not sure whether the Mommer royalty system will bring in more revenue
>>  to the state than the old profit sharing deals; moreover, you don't
>>  deny that Chavez has been pretty easy on imperialist capital as well.
>>  I guess you are saying that concessions had to be made because of the
>>  power of imperialist capital in the form of oil service companies
>>  over a hapless third world state. Fine but concessions they are. The
>>  royalties are supposed to be harder to evade than profit sharing
>>  given ability of imperialist capital to cook the books, e.g. transfer
>>  profits out. Mommer asserts this, but I don't see how it has been
>>  proven either in theory or practice.
>>  And even if the state is able to take a greater share of the devil's
>>  excrement
>*******this seems to me to be an obnoxious manner by which to refer to the
>surplus labour time extorted from the working classes, part of their lives
>(rent, surplus profit) through the use of royalties,  it
>>  will probably be mostly dissipated in corruption and unproductive
>>  consumption.
>*********By unproductive consumption I suspect that you are refering to
>revenues NOT used to expand private profit, which makes you an apologist for
>capital Rakesh. If you mean 'unproductive in the most general sense as
>'useless', then it is for you to provide chapter and verse as raised by the
>Venezuelan workers themselves, and from within their debates, not indulge in
>you notion of the probable**************************
>Corruption and unproductive consumption mark the the
>>  history of rentier states, afflicted by Dutch disease. What is the
>>  reason to think Chavez's Venezuela will be any different? His
>>  authoritarian regime seems to have eliminated several checks against
>>  corruption.
>******Once again there seems to be no sense of proportion in your
>accusations, nor fact, nor proof. You are now digging another hole for
>yourself, marked, it seems to me,  "gratuitous and pointless attacks on any
>progressive efforts against imperialism whilst sitting in the shade of US
>Imperialism (expensive as rents are in my area)" ********
>>  Not sure Chavez's 'investments' will be better than PDVSA's in
>>  refineries which at least guaranteed a market for Venezuelan oil
>  ************** Ah so the markets have been flooded have they?, prices
>collapsed, and building refineries overseas that need purchases of other
>countries oil  to be run helps Venezuela does it?******************
>(I don't see how this was a subsidy to the American consumer since the
>>  Venezuelan owned CITGO was not selling the final product below market
>>  price.)
>******** The profits realised in the US were retained there, or expanded the
>pockets of the managerial class, or enabled the constant rise in 'costs'
>charged by overseas operators in Venezuela.*****
>Just as Chavez's decision to restrict output seems to have
>>  wreaked havoc on the domestic oil industry so may a decision to
>>  withdraw from downstream operations abroad (the Kuwaitis have been
>>  praised for investing downstream since it has allowed them to capture
>>  markets, rents, profit, etc). The problems of the oil industry could
>>  then not be blamed on conspirators and strikers.
>>  Moreover, when oil prices collapse so probably will Chavez's much
>>  exaggerated poverty programs; anyways he has not done very much at
>>  all considering how high spot and future prices have been (at least
>>  if Sonntag is correct, which you do not dispute).
>******Indeed this is a serious and obvious problem... if only, Rakesh,  the
>coup had been successful then the benefits of the present oil prices would
>have gone 80/20 to overseas actors, as before.. without the cost of the
>lockout.!! Coups are quicker.. that why all hands are to this particular
>pump at the moment, up to 1,300 AUC have been pushed into Venezuela to
>provide  support for such efforts.  What a shame that so much of the oil
>money is being used so 'unproductively' on the health of the poor at the
>moment!  After all if as you say the regime is corrupt ( inevitably you
>suggest,  as a rentier regime) then you won't have to regret his
>assassination... a plague on all their houses eh??. The tone of your
>approach seems to me to demonstrate complete cynicism, an a lack of realism
>or any understanding of the tasks of State ****************
>>  Chavez certainly has not presented a model generalizable to non
>>  rentier states. His fight against savage neo liberalism--such that it
>>  is--does not point the way forward for Latin America. That however is
>>  not true of the example of workers who occupied factories in
>>  Argentina.*******I do not understand your distinctions here, the
>Venezuelan workers  along with the majority of the armed forces, at a loss
>of many dead,  forced Chavez's reinstatment... this is politically miles
>ahead of  the factory occupations per se however much those are to be
>welcomed...Even so the comparison is not helpful for us , it is an invidious
>>    Marxism is not a theory for the defense of landlord or rentier
>>  states against imperialist capital.
>***********nor was the intention to create a class of unproductive discussio
>Perhaps dependency theory is. I  think we should resist dragging Marx's name
>through the mud of a
>>  chaotic, ideologically confused, arbitrary and  authoritarian regime,
>>  wanting more devil's excrement to live off of. Even if imperialism is
>>  opposed to it.
>******************** The only name being dragged through the mud here is
>Chavez's , by you*******
>Paul Bullock.

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