[Marxism] Re: Venezuela debate

Javier A javierunderground at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 11 17:07:38 MDT 2005

Im in Venezuela right now and I dont have time to read thoroughly all the emails to be able to contribute to the debate in a very direct way. Nevertheless I would like to say a few things about Chavismo. Ive compared alot my expierence here with that of Argentina after the 2001 crisis.  The poor, in many places outside of Caracas, do have a strong attachment to Chavez. Alot will comment ´´És´mi Papa.´´ The comment to me is significant. You cant characterize Chavez as simply a populist that needs to be overthrown but because of the expierece and the political militancy so much of the working class has internalized, which is being expressed through Chavez. But at the same time the relationship is paternalistic where the medium of struggle against the oligarchy and capitalism is through electoralism. This is the opposite of Argentina, where workers (around the PTS mainly) struggled directly against employers and began occupyng the factories while ignoring the elections. The
 paternalistic relationship with Chavez undermines the potential the workers have as being their own agents of change. There is potential, especially with the radicalization from the attempt of the 2002 coup, workers could begin acting and moving as their own agents but they see themselves being subordinated to the Chavista movement.  This being said, the marxist here in Venzuela, which is very small, is not, from what I can tell, pointing out this dynamic. A concrete example of this is the Venepal factory which was taken over by workers in 2003, August 15 (I think). They agreed that they will take out loans from the government and give 51 percent of profits to the government and keep 49 percent. In Argentina the workers demanded Nationalization under workers control, the point being for no government interference. If the oil prices shoot down, it could create a Venezuelan economic crisis and put pressure on the government to take back these gains from the workers.  
Anyways, I got to run to a meeting,
        Javier in Caracas. 

Fred Feldman <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net> wrote:
(I edited and reformatted this article to make it more comprehensible.

Joaquin stated:
Calling on "the Venezuelan working class to take state power" is just an
algebraic and abstract way --a shamefaced way-- of saying "Down with

Andrew responded:
If Joaquin believes that one man, Hugo Chavez, has eradicated the need
for such a mass revolutionary socialist party in Venezuela, he should
argue that position instead of slandering and distorting the position of
the ISO. I am personally very enthusiastic to read about the growing
unity of key union militants in the UNT who believe that building a new
revolutionary party based on workers' power is on the agenda in
Venezuela. I think they may have something to teach us. 

And Fred comments:

Well, I don't know if it is correct to say that the abstract call on the
working class to take state power amounts to saying "Down with Chavez."
That could be the case, or it could just be a way of dissolving
differences within the grouping over Chavez and other questions. After
all, nobody in the very broad revolutionary camp today, as
far as I know, is saying that state power HAS been taken or that it does
not need to be taken more than it has so far. 

The formulation is odd to me. Has the Venezuelan working class and
peasantry and other oppressed layers NOT been fighting for state power?
Has the course of the revolution been evading that question?
Didn't the election of Chavez begin a process of battling over state
power that has deepened since?
Is the call a reference to a process that is taking place, or to a
change of course that the new group will advocate -- from reform to
revolution or something of that sort? If to a process, and I believe
that is
what is taking place, why not say so clearly. As in calling on the
working class, peasantry, and other allies to continue the fight to
conquer state power.

The general call to seize state power, instead of continuing and
deepening the fight for state power, may paper over differences, for
example, over whether the process is underway or can only begin when an
alternative leadership appears tro Chavez -- while recognizing, of
course, that the left-populist, Kerensky-Allende-or-whatever role of
Chavez in the process can only be transcended over time and that it is
necessary for now to adapt ourselves to the masses' confidence in him.

For instance, I still believe everybody should be saying a lot more
about the bloody battle now being fought between the peasants and
Landlords, a central one and not just one of many -- just as important
at this time as issues of workers control and so on. (And I hope at
least that those who, in my opinion, underestimate the importance of the
peasantry because of its relatively small numbers, at least recognize
the importance of defeating the landlords, and do not underestimate
their ties and political weight at home and abroad). Isn't this an
important battle for state power? Can state power be won without winning
this fight? So far, Chavez shows signs of having a better grasp of the
importance of this fight for the revolution, including the battle for
state power, than high-Marxist critics of all tendencies.

And how can you assess the process of fighting for state power without
assessing the role of Chavez, and without recognizing the centrality of
his leadership in taking the revolutionary process forward?

And this brings me to this assertion:

"If Joaquin believes that one man, Hugo Chavez, has eradicated the need
for such a mass revolutionary socialist party in Venezuela, he should
argue that position instead of slandering and distorting the position of
the ISO. I am personally very enthusiastic to read about the growing
unity of key union militants in the UNT who believe that building a new
revolutionary party based on workers' power is on the agenda in
Venezuela. I think they may have something to teach us.

Of course, Joaquin did not say this or anything like it. 

This is classic antileadership demagogy, which has become part of the
stock in trade of Fourth International for far too long. Since
revolutions began being made by other forces, and has
had a tendency to grow worse (or at least, not better since leaderships
emerged that were real popular revolutionary mass leaders, not
Stalinists. The undernote is: Beware the One Man! Beware the Central
Leader! Beware Fidel! Beware Chavez! They all represent the threat of
degeneration, repression, betrayal, etc., etc.

It suggests to me that the author sees the leadership of a Chavez, as
the Fourth International generally tends to see the leadership of Fidel
in Cuba, as a danger or a threat, a problem to be overcome, a weakness,

I'm a firm Cannonite on this. It is better to have a hundred real
revolutionary leaders than ten, and better to have ten than one, but you
don't abandon, suspect, or shrink away from the one because you believe
that there need to be more, or because you believe in revolution from
below, or because you don't follow leaders, you watch the parking
meters, and all the other variants. 

Of course, in reality Cuba and
Venezuela have forged thousands of leaders, and the central role of the
individuals Chavez and Fidel has been completely positive in this.
Reading Armando Hart' "Aldabonazo!" is a good antidote to antileadership
approaches to Cuba or Venezuela.

This process has been led and very well led indeed by Chavez since the
1992 coup attempt. The starting point right now for a group like this
is learning what he has to
teach, and what he has educated and learned from the revolutionary cadre
that he has gathered in this process across the country. They are the
heart of the revolutionary cadre in Venezuela today. They are the
leaders of the fight for state power that is going on now. This entire
layer ought
to be seen by this new party as THEIR political leadership. And the
ultimate aim needs to be a broad revolutionary regroupment around that
Core, not a regroupment of ideological "revolutionary socialists" or yet
another "section of the Fourth International."

The greatest danger would be to begin to view the leaders of the UNT who
are forming this party as THE central leadership of the revolutionary
process today -- the real working-class revolutionaries as distinct from
the stumblebum populists arising out of the movement led by Chavez. One
reason I stress the importance of the peasant question right now is that
I am actually a bit concerned about apolitical or antipolitical (in word
or deed, in the form of a "party" or not) syndicalist,
workers-control-fetishist, councilist, or just downright workerist
tendencies in the UNT. That
is the road away from the fight for state power in Venezuela today,
however much talk about "workers' power" and organizational forms and
purely urban "socialism" or "dual power" it might seem to develop.
Turning the face of the workers toward the countryside as well as their
own factories, and toward fighting for state power together with the
peasants and other oppressed leadership under the leadership of the
revolutionary team around Chavez, is needed partly to counter these

I am also concerned about the use of the quote from Lenin about not
giving a "communist coloring" to the national revolution. This national
revolution is taking on a worker-peasant, worker-poor, worker-Black and
native coloration from the actions and course of the leadership of the
national revolution. That does not need to be brought to it from the
outside by the "revolutionary socialist" or "revolutionary Marxist"

Used here, the formula seems to represent the idea that the new party
represents the socialist tendency of the revolution as distinct from or
opposed to the nationalist-populist trend around Chavez.

People won't like this parallel, but that was the attitude which Anibal
Escalante had toward Fidel Castro and his cohorts in 1962 when he tried
to put the "real socialists," not the mere "populists" who had led the
revolution in charge of the
new party that was being formed. He didn't see himself and the
hard-Marxist core of the People"s Socialist Party as a sellout to
imperialism or an agent of Moscow but as the most consistent
representatives of socialism. And
in that quite sincere pose, he threatened to destroy a revolutionary
regroupment without which the Cuban revolution would not exist today.

Serious thought to the Chavez question is vital now to prevent the new
party from becoming an obstacle to the revolution.
It isn't excluded that something positive could come out of this
unification, but we have to be absolutely clear after having been around
the block so many times, that something very bad can come out of it too.

There are problems that cannot be evaded with a generality about calling
on the masses to take state power.
Fred Feldman

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