Re: [OPE-L] Query to John Holloway: What's your position on the Bolivarian revolution?

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sun May 15 2005 - 20:40:19 EDT

Hi Jerry,
         Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I don't know when this
will get out-- internet problem since this morning.

At 08:55 12/05/2005, you wrote:
> >          Do you support the arguments that John H. made in his book?
> >          I regard them as erroneous, a very negative political influence
> > and as demonstrably refuted by events in Venezuela.
>Michael L,
>Do I agree with _all_ of the arguments in his book?  No.  But, I am
>sympathetic to many of his claims, especially as they relate to the
>need to struggle against and surpass authoritarian forms of organization
>and develop new forms of social organization, including the construction
>(where possible) of autonomous anti-capitalist spaces. I also agree with
>him that capital and the state are linked to each other and that, as a
>consequence, there must be struggles against both capital and the state.

Well, I would put all these in the category of 'parenthood' statements-- it
would be hard to find many people on the left who haven't learned this.
But, I don't think that's what John's book is about--- he makes very
explicit statements some of which I quoted in my initial note to him. It's
those I was asking for your reaction to--- his statements re the state---
rather than anything general. I won't bother quoting them again because I
re-stated them in my response to him.

>I don't agree that events in Venezuela have "demonstrably refuted"
>his argument.  To begin with (as you have emphasized), events in
>Venezuela are rapidly changing and complex.

I don't recall the context in which I said this was a complex process but
I'm certain it was not intended to justify withholding judgement on the
process. Yes, it is complex--- there are so many aspects that fly in the
face of ones stereotypes here; eg., I've recently noticed that some of the
most impressive and solid Chavist officials are deeply devout evangelicals.
Lots to learn here.

>   I think the jury is still
>out about what the events there have demonstrated or "refuted".


>I am also leery about drawing conclusions regarding a social
>perspective on struggle based on only 1 historical experience:
>the struggle in Venezuela might be, in some significant ways,  an
>exceptional case.

So, you think that John's assertions about the state, eg, as the assassin
of hope, etc may be valid outside the Venezuelan case?

>  To claim therefore that John's perspective has
>been refuted by events in Venezuela makes about as much sense to
>me now as a claim that events in Hungary in March, 1919 "refuted"
>Marx's proposition that the bourgeoisie will not voluntarily and
>peacefully hand-over power to the working class.

Well, perhaps 'refuted' is not the best term. How about 'exposed'? Do you
agree with the inference in my response to John that it is reasonable to
conclude that someone who consistently held and acted on the basis of
arguments in his book would logically be an opponent of the Bolivarian
revolution? If not, why not?

>As you know, I have been supportive of the Bolivarian Revolution.
>But, I think there are dangers which need to be discussed,
>confronted and overcome.  One such danger that I mentioned previously
>is the extent to which for many the revolution has become identified
>with Chavez.   You will recall what I told you about the (professionally
>printed and expensive color) placards which read:  "CHAVEZ _IS_ THE
>PEOPLE!".    To repeat a question that I asked you before (in a
>post on May 2): is this a popular slogan in Venezuela?

Sorry I missed that before. I'll respond to the later note you sent on this.

>Another point:  I think that the way in which much of the Left has
>addressed this question -- by counter-posing  the experience of the
>Bolivarian  revolutionary process in Venezuela to the struggles of
>Zapatistas in Chiapas -- is dangerous and divisive.   Both
>movements are under attack by imperialism; neither one represents a
>universal "model"  for revolutionary change which should be uncritically
>adopted in all other nations;  both movements should be supported.

I hadn't really noticed that the zapatistas were under attack by
imperialism. Did I miss the US efforts to get rid of them? I don't want to
be facetious-- I think the Zapatistas represent an important struggle for
human dignity; however, I would not equate this with Venezuela.

>When John says (to paraphrase) that he will go to Venezuela, in large
>part, to listen and to learn,  I think he should be commended.

Yes, but that is not the only reason he is going (as I commented in my
response to him)

         in solidarity,

>In solidarity, Jerry

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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