Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Thu Dec 06 2007 - 06:55:28 EST

I understand where you are coming from Dogan, and I agree about the necessity of leadership but I would differ from you on a some points.


1.       The difference between leadership and command. Plato argued against democracy on the grounds that on a ship you need an expert captain who is in command. Ironically, this was then echoed by Maoists with the slogan ‘sailing the seas one needs the Helmsman’, Platos democratic opponents replied that any human has the capacity for political judgement, that it is not the preserve of special people. I think that the later Leninist tradition has very strong Platonist anti-democratic elements in it, and it identifies leadership with command in the sense that a ships captain commands. This is only in the later Leninist tradition, at the time of What Is To Be Done, Lenin is arguing for leadership in a different sense – not of commanding but of explaining and educating.

2.       I think that the institution of the randomly selected assembly combining legislation with executive function is the key here. So long as you have a state structure based on an elected or appointed head of state – the roman dictatorial or imperial model, the role of leadership and command are combined. In a randomly selected popular assembly, the working masses will   be in the majority ( except perhaps in a highly parasitic rentier state).  As Aristotle says, the poor are always many and the rich are few. This class character of the state then provides a high probability that it will make decisions in the interests of the masses, provided that leadership in the original Leninist sense of mass education is there.

3.       I don’t agree that democracy on harmony at all, democracy is a form taken by the political class struggle. If there were harmony of interests, then we might as well be ruled by philosopher kings. It is because there are conflicting class interests that the poor need to be able to exert political power, and direct democracy is the means to do this.  Direct democracy is an aim of the revolutionary movement to the extent that it has not yet been achieved, once it has been achieved, Engels ‘conquest of democracy’ it becomes not an aim but a *means* by which property is progressively wrested from the grip of the upper classes.


From: OPE-L [mailto:OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU] On Behalf Of Dogan Goecmen
Sent: 06 December 2007 09:12
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum


Paul C, in this very short email you rais lot of intersting questions and you make also some logical mistaktes that can lead to fatal consequences not only for practical revolutionary movements but also for the whole society in general. 

To start with logical mistake you commit is that you do not take into account how the leadership should look like the advarsary movement. In the trasitory period what we do and how we act depends not only on our principles and ideals but above all how our advarsaries act. Dialectical approach suggests, as Smith, Hegel and Marx would say, that we first analyse the way how our advarsaries act, which means they use and which tactical and strategic projects they pursue. From that perspective there is no one way for 21st century socialism. It will vary from country to country and from region to region. It will vary according to international power constalation and relations. Indeed we need to develop new concepts of leadership. Lenin, Stalin, Tito and so on they all were the leaders of their historical situation. They became what they could became in their historical situation. But what is absolutely neccessary is that we stay in power once we got into it to manage the transitory period. Popular support can chanage sometimes even from day to day. Including elections, parliament and strong leadership all means must be used to stay in power in order to deepen towards socialist society. The whole issue about socialist chanage turns around the question of property. To be successful the revolutionary government must takes measures to introduce ways of socialist ownership. Direct democracy is not a static concept. It must be the aim of revolutionary movements. But to implement it fully you have to have a socialist society with some sort of harmony of interests of individuals, cities, regions, continents.

Comradely, Dogan


-----Ursprüngliche Mitteilung----- 
Von: Paul Cockshott <wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK>
Verschickt: Mi., 5. Dez. 2007, 17:30
Thema: Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum

I think you are overestimating support for the measures in the referendum. There 
a decline in turnout as well as a decline in percentage votes since the 
presidential election.
Support for the measures was well under 50% due to large levels of abstentions.
I dont want to underestimate the great service that has historically been given 
socialism by strong leaders like Stalin, Castro or Tito, but the problem with 
strong leaders is that they are mortal and corruptible.
XXI century socialism has to develop non monarchical forms of state power, and
I think direct democracy is the answer. If the constitution had proposed 
both the head of state and the parliament and replacing these by a people's 
chosen by lot, then we would have been making real progress. Remember what Marx 
about the combination of legislative and executive functions as being a key
to communitarian democracy.
It is notably that in his series of articles on this Wood has had to justify the
abolition of term limits by looking at imperialist states like the UK and 
saying they have no term limits. Well that may be true, but it is hardly a 
from the standpoint of revolutionary democracy. Woods is using republican rather
than democratic arguments.
Paul Cockshott
Dept of Computing Science
University of Glasgow
+44 141 330 3125
-----Original Message-----
From: OPE-L on behalf of Dogan Goecmen
Sent: Wed 05/12/2007 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum
"The change in property rights, though, requires a commitment
and understanding on the part of the masses for such a change.
History, I think, teaches us that revolutionary change can not be
imposed (or, at least, sustained) from above by enlightened leaders."
Hi Jerry,
at least 50 percent of the people support a revolutionary change.
How many percent is needed to make such changes in property rights.
I think that the revolutionary process must go on with more radical political 
measures, exactly because people need to be empowered.
Otherwise the revolutionary government may lose the popular support.
-----Ursprüngliche Mitteilung----- 
Von: GERALD LEVY <gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM>
Verschickt: Mi., 5. Dez. 2007, 15:16
Thema: Re: [OPE-L] Venezuela After the Referendum
>>> I agree wit everything you say. But I feel that there is a deeper problem 
here that needs to be addressed.
Once again Venezuela experience shows that the change of political power must be 
accompanied by the change of property rights.
And this in turn requires some radical political measures. This cannot be done 
without centralising the political power. Justifiably people expect some 
improvements in the material conditions of their lives. If political measures 
are delayed in that respect understandably people will get impatient and will 
not show any interests in what so ever is happening in the country. That almost 
half of the people did not go to vote is a sign of tiredness. In South Africa 
political power has changed. Black people got their citizen rights. But the 
material conditions of their lives have hardly changed. Just because the South 
African government did not touched property rights.  <<<
Hi Dogan:
The change in property rights, though, requires a commitment
and understanding on the part of the masses for such a change.
History, I think, teaches us that revolutionary change can not be
imposed (or, at least, sustained) from above by enlightened leaders.
As Mike L recently put it, "Without workers' control, there can be
no socialism".    A corollary might be:  without mass participation
and consensus, there can be no genuine revolution.  This is 
a message that should have been learned in Venezuela when the
masses, following the brief  CIA-inspired coup, took to the streets
and put Chavez back in the President's office.  Chavez owes 
everything - including his life - to that mass support. The challenge, 
thus, for the Bolivarians  is to assist in the empowerment of the
masses - the ones who will in the last analysis be the agents of
revolutionary change. 
In solidarity, Jerry
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