[Marxism] Situation in Venezuela suddenly becomes muchmoredangerous
stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Thu Nov 8 04:02:44 MST 2007
> For those who, like Paula, seem only able to think in quotations,
> perhaps it would help if we were to describe the situation in Venezuela
> as one of Dual Power. That has very good approval in Holy Scripture.
> And it also does seem to point to the actually existing situation -- in
> the country as a whole and within all the major institutions, including
> the military.
There was a very interesting on this at a workshop at the Latin
America Asia Pacific Solidarity forum in Melbourne a few weeks ago.
The topic something like "Parliamentary road, anti-power of workers'
state in Latin America", but it became a sort of "state and revolution
in Venezuela" style discussion (mainly because the the section of the
conference that tended to back the "anti-power" view didn't engage
with it, so it was largely revolutionary socialists).
While it was not the main thing, the question of whether "dual power"
was the best way to understand the situation came up. This is how the
New Zealand Socialist Worker comrades have described it, and one of
their cormad3es was there so it was part of discussion.
In the DSP, which I am from, we haven't used that term, describing
instead a "workers and farmers government", that is struggling to
extend to create revolutionary state. But as you attempt to grapple
with the situation in detail it very quickly becomes clear that what
the comrades from NZ SW are trying to get at is basically the same
thing as those of us in DSP - that is in Venezuela there is an
unfinished struggle for power and the struggle is playing out before
us. The different in label or formula is largely a result of
particular tradition that forces have come from, attempting to
understand it from their tradition, NZ SW call it "dual power", we
called it something else due to our background, but you look at it
concretely, the attempt is to describe and theorise the same thing.
That is the key thing to understand, not any particular label or
formula. Once you break it all down, the formula or label is not
relevant, it is looking at what has been achieved concretely, and what
challenges lie ahead.
However, I also don't think the discussion is completely irrelevent,
and I do think there is real value when looking at Venezuela to
attempt to utilise the concept of a workers and farmers government to
help understand it - that is a government that is independent of the
bourgeiosie, rests on popular struggle, but falls short of the
dictatorship of the proletariat. Such a government, clashing against
dominant economic structures as well as much of the existing state, is
obviously inheriently unstable and needs to struggle to overcome
This is based on both theoriteical contributions that come from the
Comintern and the Transitional Program, and analysis of revolutions
such as the Cuban revolution, the Algerian revolution, Grenada and
This is how it was described in a report to a DSP NC that I gave:
"An important formulation from the Marxist tradition, for which there
are a series of concrete historical examples of how this plays out, is
that of the workers and farmers' government. This was formulated by
the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, as a slogan that calls
for the formation of a government "independent of the bourgeoisie" as
a transitional formation on the road to the dictatorship of the
proletariat and the socialist state. The tasks of such a government
would be to move as quickly as possible to dismantle the capitalist
state and transfer power to a new workers state. "Such a government
falls short of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but is still an
important starting point for winning this dictatorship," the Comintern
The exact way such a struggle played out, and the exact pace at which
this process of transformation would take, can only be determined by
The full report (itself limited by time) raised some historical
examples, but most importantly attempted within its constraints to
discuss how the struggle for power was playing out, including in
relation to the armed forces (here, discussion was limited by space to
say nothing of limited information), anyway the full report is here:
The advantage of this concept, I think, is it gives an indication of
at least some of what has been concquered - the government, however
unevenly, has been liberated from imperialism, and this fact has laid
the ground work for all the gains associated with the process. Simply
saying "dual power" doesn't capture that aspect. In fact, if you
wanted to take it literally from 1917 it implies competing centres of
government, something which doesn't exist in Venezuela (NZ SW
explained they didn;t mean it that way at all)
However, a workers and farmers government also indicates that this is
not the end, but there is still a live struggle for power - for real
state power beyond simply formal structures of national government -
and if the revolution doesn't advance it will be defeated.
But like I say, this is not a concept to live or die by, the key thing
is to recognise the revolutionary nature of the process in Venezuela,
and of the Chavista leadership, and to act accordingly as
revolutionaries to seek to build solidarity and understand its
This applies in the armed forces too. To me, dual power applied to the
military implies directly competing centres of power inside the
military, which doesn't seem to be the case, though maybe under the
right conditions might develop. Instead, it seems we have an open
ended struggle to revolutionise the armed forces, that has gone some
of the way, but not all the way, and is coming up against blocks,
which require revolutionary struggle to overcome. How the
contradictions play out in the military will be determined by a range
of factors and it can go forwards or backwards.
Within all state institutions there is a struggle, but is :"dual
power" the best way to analysis it? I think it doesn't give any sense
of who has the upper hand - for instance, who has the government.
Instead the kind of concept that, in purely theoretical terms, the
Comintern raised, and was how the FI sought to understand Cuba and
Algeria, gives a better grounding.
That to me seems the best way to understand it, and you can call that
what you like, if that is the content, I agree. After all, the whole
point is, whatever the label, is that is temporay and must dissapear
one way or the other.
Here, largely without any attempt to put an exact label or formula, is
another piece I wrote about the very unfinished struggle for power and
what it means, using the reign of terror in the countryside as the
hook, which delved into the difficult question of the military. It was
from before the presidential elections, so is out of date in that
sense. (But it should also dispense with any claims the DSP has
attempted to "romantacise" the situation, or gloss over the major
problems to be overcome...)
"Venezuela's battle in the countryside and the 'revolution within the
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