Re: [OPE-L] Query to John Holloway: What's your positionontheBolivarianrevolution?

From: John Holloway (johnholloway@PRODIGY.NET.MX)
Date: Thu May 12 2005 - 00:47:49 EDT

> Michael,
>     The simple answer to your simple question ( >does he stand behind the
> arguments in his book?<) is that I have not changed my views. The state is a
> historically specific form of social relations developed for the purpose of
> excluding us from the determination of our own lives. The state has been
> developed as a process of exclusion and it does not make sense to organise
> ourselves through the state if we are trying to create a communist (socially
> self-determining) society.
>     However, it is important to me (and always has been) that this is an
> argument made within a movement, a broad anti-capitalist movement. The purpose
> of the argument is to stir discussion within the movement, not to divide the
> movement. The aim is to promote discussion of the meaning and possibilities of
> revolution, not to stimulate a process of mutual denunciation, and the best
> contributions to the debate on the book have taken up the argument in this
> sense. I assume as a starting point that none of us knows how to get rid of
> capitalism, and that it makes no sense at all to assert dogmas as though we
> possessed the correct line. It is important that a discussion should take
> place, but without losing sight of the fact that we are all trying to go in
> more or less the same direction, that we are all committed to the struggle to
> get rid of capitalism. The struggle to change the world will always be
> confused and contradictory, and should be so.
>      It is absurd to think that I might consider Chávez, or Fidel, or Alex
> Callinicos or Atilio Borón or indeed yourself as the enemy. The fact that I do
> not agree with someone does not mean that I regard them as my enemy. What I am
> opposed to is particular forms of social organisation – capital, the state,
> value, money: any form that negates our humanity.  If I go to Venezuela, it
> will be neither with enemies nor idols in mind but to argue in what I assume
> will be an atmosphere of mutual respect about the forms of revolutionary
> organisation and their impact, and to learn. I take the zapatista maxim
> preguntando caminamos (asking we walk) to be a fundamental principle of
> revolutionary organisation. It should be clear that I have absolutely no
> intention of going to Venezuela to attack the Bolivarian revolution. I support
> any process of anti-capitalist revolution, though I certainly think it is
> important to discuss and question and criticise and question again its forms
> of action – this is surely what revolution means.
>     You speak of my arguments as >a very negative political influence
> and as demonstrably refuted by events in Venezuela<. I think this completely
> overstates the influence of my book. If it has had any influence at all, then
> it is simply because (together with many other books) it gives expression to
> what is a very important trend in class struggle in Latin America and
> throughout the world: the turn away from the idea of taking state power, the
> rejection of the party as a form of organisation and the attempt to change
> society by other means. To say that the argument is demonstrably refuted by
> events in Venezuela makes little sense to me: it is an assertion that could
> meaningfully be made only when capitalism no longer exists.
>     The process of struggle in Venezuela, as in Mexico, as in Bolivia,
> Ecuador, Argentina is, I assume, contradictory and experimental. In all of
> these cases, debate about the meaning of revolution and how we can get rid of
> capitalism is surely of crucial importance.
>     The only thing that I have written that addresses Venezuela specifically
> is a short Preface to a collection of articles published as a book under the
> title of Keynesianismo: una peligrosa ilusión (Herramienta, Buenos Aires,
> 2003). I attach an English version (as yet unpublished).
>     On the question of my reply to your criticisms, I think that I mentioned
> previously that I have written an article for Historical Materialism (entitled
> “No”) and a lengthy epilogue for the new edition of Change the World (due out
> over the summer).
>     I hope that aggressive discussion is not part of the style of the
> Bolivarian revolution. That would, I think, involve a regression to a type of
> politics that we should be now have left behind.
>     I hope very much that, if I go to Venezuela, you will be there and we
> shall be able to pursue the discussion in person.
>     John
> At 07:57 11/05/2005, John Holloway responded to Paul Zaremba's question:
>>     I'm not really going to answer the question now either, apart from
>> making the general point that the issue here is not just "the Bolivarian
>> revolution" in general, but the interplay between the state and the process
>> of popular revolt in Venezuela. What is the effect of the fact that the
>> revolt is being channelled into these organisational forms? This is
>> something I simply don't know enough about.
> Dear John,
>         Unfortunately, I don't think that is good enough. In your book you say
> (and I quote you, as you know,  from my critique-- long overdue for
> publication in Historical Materialism):
>>  Œthe very notion that society can be changed through the winning of state
>> power‚ is the source of all our sense of betrayal, and we need to understand
>> that Œto struggle through the state is to become involved in the active
>> process of defeating yourself‚ (12-3, 214)
>>  To retain the idea that you can change the world through the state (whether
>> by winning elections or by revolution) is a grave error--- one which has
>> failed to learn from history and theory that the state paradigm, rather than
>> being Œthe vehicle of hope‚, is the Œassassin of hope‚ (12). For one, the
>> state does not have the power to challenge capital: Œwhat the state does and
>> can do is limited by the need to maintain the system of capitalist
>> organisation of which it is a part.‚ It is Œjust one node in a web of social
>> relations‚ (13).
>         Your position in your book is rather unequivocal. Are you now saying
> that you are not certain? That maybe everything you have said about the state
> was wrong? That the winning of state power can change the world? That
> struggling through the state may not be to defeat yourself? That the state
> does have the power to challenge capital? Will you ask your publisher to issue
> a large 'Erratum' sticker? If not now, when?
>         Or, will you be consistent with the argument in your book and argue
> that Chavez is the enemy, the misleader, the spreader of illusions about the
> state? Will you come here to Venezuela to attack the Bolivarian Revolution
> because it is absurd to think that state power (rather than the 'shadowy world
> of anti-power') can change things for the 80% of the population that is poor?
>         Will you join in support or will you wait... to see if you can say, 'I
> told you so!'?
>         Inquiring minds want to know.
>                 michael
> PS. Have you written anything in support of what is happening in Venezuela?
> 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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