Re: [OPE-L] May Day 2005 in Caracas: the revolution advances

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon May 02 2005 - 16:21:24 EDT

Hi Paolo,
         A general and specific comment. First, the general: I confess that 
I prefer to think in terms of Marta's focus on the 'correlation of forces' 
rather than 'dual power' because the former leads us to focus on the 
construction of forces (national and international), taking into account 
the complexities, multiple classes and fragments, the coalitions that may 
be necessary and the conjunctures whereas the latter inclines toward 
bi-polar schemes (eg. the workers' government, the incipient workers' 
government, etc). It's been years, though, since I read the Russian 
Revolution and I may reacting against the proclamations of many trotskyists 
rather than Trotsky's analysis of the RR.
         As for any predictions that I may have, all I can say on this is 
that I think I will begin to keep a record of how many times a week the 
phrase, 'pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will' pops into my 
mind. Ie., I'm not making any predictions. I think it can be safely said 
that Venezuela has confounded the scholastic 'Marxists' and 'leftists' who 
wouldn't know a revolution if they tripped over it (but who are in no 
danger of tripping because they are safely away); however, where it goes 
from here depends on so many factors. I would say, though, that while the 
growing consciousness of the organised working class is inspiring, a 
considerable expansion of the state sector which employed more of the 
unemployed and the reserve army within the informal sector would strengthen 
the forces on the side of the revolution at this point more than 
encroaching directly upon private capital (and mobilising forces against 
the revolution that are currently in disarray). It's a complex situation, 
and I think it is essential to avoid abstract stylised models and to focus 
on the specific concrete circumstances: in my presentation at the workers' 
table at the solidarity encuentro I raised the spectre of co-management for 
an aristocracy of labour while 80% of the population was poor and half of 
the working class was in the informal sector. From what I could see at that 
meeting, the UNT leadership recognises this but significant parts of those 
represented there (eg., the old Venepal workers) are more inclined toward 
their own self-interest.
         in solidarity,

At 13:25 02/05/2005, you wrote:
>Michael, thanks for the update.
>I was for a moment drifting into Trotsky´s analysis of the Russian 
>Revolution when a
>double power began to arise. Actually, for him the rising of a "double power"
>situation is common to all revolutionary process. In fact, you cannot 
>think about
>disolving the old power (cristalyzed in the bourgeois institutions) withou 
>a new power
>rising on its side. Well, it seems that the new power is gathering forces. 
>How likely
>though it is that Chaves will support workers controll of private firms, 
>which is
>tantamount to the socialization of all private productive forces? And do 
>you think
>this power will gather enough momentum to prevent a coup d'etat, that is 
>to say, will
>it gather sufficient strenght so as to overwelm the reaction which can 
>only come from
>within the army?
>In Chile Allende was wary of supporting the workers in their quest for 
>control of
>factories, except in the ones that had been abandoned by their owners. He 
>did not want
>to give the reactionary forces any reason to counter-attack. It seems that 
>Chavez is
>more daring than Allende. But then again, all hinges into how much real 
>power you have
>to smash the counter-revolution that is certainly brewing all around.
>"michael a. lebowitz" wrote:
> >         I thought people would be interested in a brief update on 
> developments in
> > Venezuela.
> >         I marched for several hours today in the May Day march with 
> workers from
> > Alcasa, the state aluminum company, and other workers from state companies
> > in the state of Bolivar. Well, 'march' is not quite an accurate way to
> > describe the stop-start pattern of our progress. In fact, far better to
> > describe it as a street party, which occasionally lurched forward when
> > streams of marchers coming from other streets lessened: infectious dance
> > music blared from the sound truck leading us, and dancing was occurring
> > throughout the crowd--- most impressively from two older women and a man
> > (occasionally joined by others) in front, who periodically shared the
> > microphone to lead us in chants.  The main chant, which everyone happily
> > shouted, was 'Without co-management, you cannot have a revolution!'
> > (Occasionally, the variant--- 'without a revolution, you cannot have
> > co-management'.) And then back to the music. The theme was echoed
> > everywhere on the banners; one big one banner that I seemed either to be
> > behind or to being hit on the head with was-- 'co-management and
> > production: all power to the workers'.
> >         This was a happy crowd. And, the slogan was not a demand but an
> > assertion--- because the workers in Alcasa have begun a process of
> > co-management (which, to distinguish from the German use of the term, might
> > better be called self-management or worker management); they have begun
> > organising production themselves and electing their shop directors. What
> > the workers in Alcasa have begun now will be a model for the workers in the
> > other state industries (held by the CVG, the development corporation of
> > Guyana) in Bolivar. And, this process is not only occurring in Bolivar---
> > co-management is the model which is being followed in Cadafe and Cadela,
> > two state electricity distribution firms. And, the term is also being used
> > to describe the process in two closed private firms which were recently
> > taken over by the state to be run jointly by the state and worker
> > cooperatives. In fact, the main slogans for the march itself, organised by
> > UNT (the new trade union federation) were 'Co-management is revolution' and
> > 'Venezuelan workers are building Bolivarian socialism.' These were the same
> > themes that came out of the several-day workers' table on co-management
> > that was part of the 3rd international solidarity meeting two weeks ago in
> > the city of Valencia.
> >         None of this could have been predicted six months ago. And, the 
> speed with
> > which the concepts of co-management and socialism have spread here
> > testifies to the life and energy of this revolution. We have moved quite
> > quickly from social programmes (with money circulating but without new
> > production of goods) to a push for endogenous economic development
> > (stressing co-operatives and agriculture but without sectors likely to
> > accumulate) to the creation and expansion of state sectors and the focus on
> > co-management. True, it's not entirely clear what either socialism or
> > co-management mean here yet. But what the crowds out for this May Day march
> > believe (if faces are any indication) is that both are 'good'; and that,
> > you will recognise, means a lot.
> >         After four hours on this march/party, my companera and I 
> recognised that
> > we were several hours away yet from the place where the march was to end.
> > So, we decided to walk home (which was on the way) and use the opportunity
> > to watch the rest on TV. When we got back at about 2:30, we could see the
> > flood of red shirts on TV cheering the speakers and singers. The crowd was
> > immense. (I haven't seen estimates yet but my guess would be a few hundred
> > thousand.) Then Chavez arrived. He listened to a number of speakers from
> > UNT, and then began to speak about the need to create new models, to borrow
> > but not copy, to build co-management and socialism of the 21st Century.
> > These are becoming familiar themes. But, there was a new issue posed--- the
> > question of introduction of co-management in private firms. This is not
> > Chavez's initiative--- it is a question being pushed by UNT and forms the
> > basis of a bill which will be debated in the National Assembly. This, too,
> > was part of our discussions in Valencia, and it is something to watch
> > closely because the form it takes (our North American group at the workers
> > table stressed the importance of opening the books of the companies to the
> > workers) is likely to mean an encroachment on capital.
> >         in solidarity,
> >         michael
> > PS. There also was a demonstration by the CTV, the old labour federation
> > that backed the coup and the subsequent bosses lockout.  A good indication
> > of what the CTV has come to was revealed the day before when they indicated
> > that they were expecting 40,000 participants and indicated that their main
> > demands would be to free political prisoners (in particular, their former
> > leader Carlos Ortega, a coup leader) and to deal with unemployment (which,
> > they stressed, would need economic growth-- something requiring
> > negotiations between government, workers and industrialists). From my
> > window, before we headed for the UNT march, I could see the street where
> > the CTV people were assembled. Didn't look like much more than a thousand
> > but maybe more came (not many more, though, if the careful phrasing on El
> > Universal's website is any indication).
> > Michael A. Lebowitz
> > Professor Emeritus
> > Economics Department
> > Simon Fraser University
> > Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
> >
> > Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
> > Residencias Anauco Suites
> > Departamento 601
> > Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
> > Caracas, Venezuela
> > (58-212) 573-4111
> > fax: (58-212) 573-7724

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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