Caracas Lurches Left and Rejects Markets

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sat Aug 7 23:05:03 MDT 1999

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<DIV>>>Has anyone seen a full  text of Chavez's speech to the
Constituent Assembly that was referred to in the article? <<</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>It was broadcast live in Venezuela and CNN en Español carried most
of it throughout Latin America (CBS Telenoticias may have too, I didn't check
them). Perhaps someone made a tape. Unfortunately, all I got to see were 15 or
20 minutes of "highlights" from the CNNe broadcast, plus a variety of
press reports. What was posted seems to faithfully reflect the speech's content,
insofar as its denunciations are concerned. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    A central point not well covered in the bourgeois press
reports was that the CA is the supreme expression of the sovereignty of the
Venezuelan people, and as such should brook no "uppitiness" from
Congress. What struck me from this part of the speech is that Chavez certainly
<EM>appeared</EM> to be mostly trying to convince <EM>his own</EM> declared
followers and especially <EM>the members of the assembly.</EM> Thus he went on
about how "magnanimous" the CA had been to accept Congress's going
into recess until October, but that this should not lead assembly deputies to
think that they had taken over the legislative chamber by leave of the old body.
"You are the owners of this house," he stressed time and again. It may
be seen as an arcane legal argument about whether the CA is
"originaria" (the Spanish legal term -- I'm afraid I don't know the
English one), but it can be something else. Most CA's that are supreme,
sovereign bodies issue from revolutions. Chavez --if his words mean anything,
and I think we must now assume they do-- means for this to be a
<EM>revolutionary</EM>  constituent assembly, one bound by no prior rules
or restrictions.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    Although Chavez is (IMHO) no Fidel as an orator, this
part of the speech reminded me very much of Fidel when at various times he's had
to try to bring along a lot of Cubans who weren't predisposed to agree with him.
He was clearly trying to win <EM>his own</EM> followers (or at least those who
claim to be) to Danton's line: <EM>audacity, audacity, audacity.</EM></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    A lot of people are making fun of his calling for a
"Bolivariana" republic of Venezuela. But I thought he was right on the
mark. To hell with the old "republic"! It was a stinking, rotten
corpse, riddled through and through with corruption, And if the new republic is
to be founded, not just on honesty and transparency, but on the interests of
working people, so much the better. <EM>That</EM> would be a Republic worthy of
the ideals that inspired the revolution against Spain.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    For all that, I was struck by the modesty of Chavez's
proposals. Re-electable presidency rather than the old fetish of "sufragio
efectivo - no re-elección" which was once a revolutionary slogan but
today mostly serves to decorate PRI letterheads. Term limits for members of
Congress (even some Republicans will be glad). Election of judges (frankly, I'm
not too much of a friend of judges in general, preferring juries, but I can see
where he's coming from in trying to break down the traditional interlocking
corruption of Venezuelan functionaries). All these structural reforms are well
and good, but by themselves, are hardly iron-clad guarantees against corruption,
never mind of social justice. As Chavez himself explained, it's the "hairy
invisible hand" of the capitalist market that's behind the corruption and
poverty Venezuelans have been the victims of. His appointees appear to be
attacking corruption, but it is not yet clear if and when and how an attack
against the <EM>root cause</EM> of corruption will come.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Such an attack,
of course, can't be made within the confines of a Constituent Assembly; it can
ONLY happen in "civil" society itself, in the <EM>real </EM>economy
where the "invisible hand" of the capitalist market has been and
remains the real sovereign. However much a Constituent Assembly may declare
itself sovereign and "originaria," really it can ONLY be so as a
representative of a real, living, organized force in society, and the only one
capable of challenging the "invisible hand" of the capitalists and
their market are working people.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>That,
unfortunately, is the key thing those of us looking at this process through the
fun-house mirror of bourgeois press reports really lack: any reliable
information and solid information on the rise of the independent organizations
of working people and their combativeness. To some degree it MUST be happening,
the Chavez phenomenon and his radical positions are very hard to explain without
it. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>But with even
the BID describing the attitude of the bourgeoisie as an "investment
strike", sooner rather than later Venezuela is going to have to make a
choice whether to give way to capitalist blackmail or to take over those
enterprises the capitalists are driving into the ground. In the real world, you
can't take over enterprises in a situation of revolutionary crisis by decree.
You need to do it with people, and most often they need to be organized and
armed, not just with a clear idea of what they're doing, but with the requisite
instruments of force to make the takeover stick. I'm sure the most
class-conscious workers in Venezuela, the communist workers (with a small
"c" and no suggestion of specific party affiliation), are trying to
work their way through these kinds of questions right now. But the fate of this
new Bolivariana revolution </FONT></FONT><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT
size=3>--assuming Chavez is sincere about what he's trying to do, which he sure
<EM>seems</EM> to be-- will depend on what has been done in this field when the
crisis hits. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Overall, I was
impressed by Chavez's speech. He explained some basic truths, and --admirably--
did so without ideological and terminological "excess baggage." In
particular, his centering his fire on the "invisible hand" of the
market seemed to me an especially good way of explaining the situation countries
like Venezuela find themselves in. The problem isn't just the vampires, but the
whole blood-sucking system.</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>BTW., if a bunch
of us on the left aren't sure what to make of Chavez, it should be noted the
imperialists are in the same boat. It's funny, but on both sides of the class
line many of the most conscious people are saying "I sure hope Chavez knows
what he's doing" -- although what we mean by it are polar opposites.
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>

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