[Marxism] Chávez Restyles Venezuela With '21st-Century Socialism' (NYT)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 30 06:04:06 MST 2005

(Extremely encouraging information on the current stage of the
Bolivarian revolutionary process now unfolding in Venezuela and
you'll see a nice image of Chavez at the NYT as well. I'm sure 
this won't be enough to satisfy the ultra-left sectarians who
don't think Chavez is "really" revolutionary because he hasn't
nationalized private property. Such voices confuse the later
stages of the Cuban and Russian Revolutions with the specific
process which is unfolding today in Venezuela under its own
specific historical and political historical circumstances.
The mechanical transplanting of experiences from one country
and its transformational process to other countries who "must"
follow the experiences of others means anyone can formulate a
strategy and tactics which are applicable to all times and
places, just plugging in the local names and geography. Cuba
avoided such mistakes. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro
and the leadership team in Cuba, such an error was avoided as
students of the Cuban Revolution can study by reading at once
"History Will Absolve Me" and Lionel Martin's excellent book,
THE EARLY FIDEL, The Roots of Castro's Communism, published by
Lyle Stuart in 1975 and still easy to find on the internet.)

October 30, 2005
Chávez Restyles Venezuela With '21st-Century Socialism'

CARACAS, Venezuela - Firmly in power and his revolution now in
overdrive, President Hugo Chávez is moving fast to transform
Venezuela's economy by bucking free-market planning with what he
calls 21st-century socialism: founding state companies, seizing
abandoned private factories and establishing thousands of
cooperatives and worker-run businesses.

The populist government is reorganizing the country's colossal oil
industry, taking a bigger share from private multinationals. Planners
are reorganizing the banking system, placing stringent restrictions
on lending while creating state banks. Venezuela is also developing a
state-to-state barter system to trade items as varied as cattle, oil
and cement as far away as Argentina and as near as Cuba, its closest

"It's impossible for capitalism to achieve our goals, nor is it
possible to search for an intermediate way," Mr. Chávez said a few
months ago, laying out his plans. "I invite all Venezuelans to march
together on the path of socialism of the new century."

According to many mainstream economists, the change is simply a mix
of plans taken from the protectionist policies of the 1960's and
others adopted from Cuba and countries of the former Soviet bloc. It
may not be communism - as detractors contend it is - but it mixes
socialism with capitalism and what some call improvisation.

Many of the president's grandest plans are put into practice at the
year-old Ministry for the Popular Economy. Planners there have
already created 6,840 cooperatives that employ 210,000 people
nationwide, many producing for the state.

The banking system is crucial to the government's plans. Regulators
tightly control interest rates and demand that private banks devote
31.5 percent of all loans to agricultural projects, housing
construction, tourism and microcredits, loans to tiny startup

The new measures - which include the seizure of factories, mines and
fields the government says are unproductive - are playing well
domestically. Mr. Chávez has an approval rating topping 70 percent.

"I'm not afraid of socialism and never have been," said Rivas
Silvino, who works in a diaper factory run by workers and managers
under a state co-management plan. "The world is afraid. I say, don't
be afraid."

So far, no noticeable exodus of foreign companies operating in
Venezuela has occurred. Banks and oil companies are making record
profits thanks to oil prices that have left the country, the world's
fifth-largest exporter, awash in petrodollars. This year, the oil
industry is generating $20 billion for the government, nearly $8
billion more than last year.

Still, there is restlessness in the boardrooms, with executives
worried about government intervention, which is sometimes seen as
haphazard and improvised. Economists say the government has not made
the investments needed in the oil sector. And political analysts and
mainstream economists warn of recession and dourly note that foreign
investment is about a third of what it was five years ago. They say
that Venezuela's vast oil profits give the illusion of prosperity -
the economy's growth rate is 9.3 percent - but that if prices fall,
or Venezuela's growing spending catches up, the economy could

Domingo Maza Zavala, the director of the Central Bank, warned of
recession as soon as 2007. "There is uncertainty and instability
because of the strategies being used by the state," he said in an
interview. "If there was a strategy, defined, well established and
clear and with objectives, this would create a climate of confidence
that could generate a recuperation of investments."

In the tumbledown barrios where Mr. Chávez draws much of his support,
it is easy to see why the new system has been warmly welcomed. The
hills around Caracas and the farms in the outback are filled with
cooperatives and other businesses in which the state plays an
important role. Workers produce everything from shoes to corn.

Aura Matos, 28, is a seamstress in a state-run textile factory that
sells to the state, a job she has held just a few weeks. "I was in my
house, with nothing to do, and President Chávez and God gave me this
opportunity," Ms. Matos said as she took a break from sewing jeans
and blouses.

One of the government's most ambitious ventures is a new state
airline, price $110 million so far. The airline, Conviasa, now has
three planes, which regularly serve Bogotá, Havana and other nearby
destinations. It plans to expand to 14 jets in about a year and
travel as far as Beijing and Europe.

What about competition in this cutthroat industry? "The philosophy is
not to compete, but to cooperate with other airlines," said Wilmer
Castro, who as Venezuela's tourism minister oversees the airline.
"Our policy is to have fares that are lower than the others in the

Another project gives workers a stake in the ownership and management
of tottering private companies. In return, management - made up of
the original owners and the workers - receives government credits and
other incentives.

"The businesses closed by the neoliberal system - factories and farms
- are reopening, but it's done by the people," said Elías José Jaua,
minister of the popular economy. "This is a state that has the duty
to push and support this."

The state is also founding a mining company, an iron and steel
company, a tractor factory and a state computer company, which Mr.
Chávez says will produce "Bolivarian computers" in honor of his
guiding light, the 19th-century independence hero Simón Bolívar. The
government has even spoken about acquiring nuclear technology from
Brazil and Argentina - emphasizing that it would be for peaceful
purposes, like energy production or medical care.

* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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