[Marxism] FW: Wilpert Takes Stock of the Bolivarian Revolution (review)
rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Fri Jun 27 07:15:59 MDT 2008
Wilpert Takes Stock of the Bolivarian Revolution
June 26th 2008, by Derrick O'Keefe - Rabble.ca
Review: Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, by Gregory Wilpert
(Verso, 2007; CAN$33.50)
Gregory Wilpert has pulled off a triumph on two fronts with his
new book on the Bolivarian Revolution, Changing Venezuela by
Taking Power. Most obviously, Wilpert's book - in both its scope
and (sometimes almost maddening) objectivity - is the most
detailed and credible analysis yet published of the Venezuelan
revolution, which itself represents, arguably, the single most
significant challenge today to the hegemony of global capitalism.
But Wilpert has not just produced a comprehensive look at the
social, economic and political transformation that has shaken the
foundations of Venezuela over the past decade; he has also
delivered a sharp rebuke to one of the trendiest, if dubious,
political theories to appear on the academic left in recent years.
Wilpert's title is an unsubtle blast at John Holloway's Changing
the World Without Taking Power, a book that with its theoretical
ambition (and pretension) rivals Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's
Empire in its attempt to carve out a new radical theoretical
manifesto - something that is about the last thing the Left needs
anyway, but I digress.
Holloway, a British academic who has been amongst the leading
chroniclers of the Zapatista movement in the Mexican province of
Chiapas which announced itself dramatically with an armed uprising
on January 1, 1994 (the day NAFTA took effect), makes the case
that the Left should abandon the field of struggle for state
power. In defense of this recommendation, Holloway points to the
historic failures of both state socialism(s) and social democratic
attempts to transcend or, in the latter's case, even reform
capitalism in any meaningful or permanent way. Elevating some of
the success of the indigenous resistance in Chiapas to the level
of universal prescriptions, Holloway argues that progressive
forces should focus only on building autonomous spaces of
"anti-power," organizing on the local level and slowly developing
alternatives in every aspect of life and work in order to
eventually overwhelm the alienating and violent capitalist system.
Against this theory of abstention at the level of the state, enter
the radical and inspiring example of the Venezuelan experience
since 1998, where the presence of an aggressively left-wing
elected government has helped encourage the growth of community
organizing and popular participation. Wilpert gives the basic
chronology of the process, which has steadily radicalized as it
has beaten back right-wing attempts to overthrow it. Wilpert
spends very little time polemicizing against Holloway directly.
Instead, he rolls out chapter after chapter spelling out the
tremendous scope of change that has taken place since Hugo Chavez
was first elected. Wilpert, for instance, examines in detail
changes in governance policy which aim to implement the inclusive,
participatory democracy outlined in the 1999 Bolivarian
Constitution, which was ratified by referendum and has become the
"little blue book" of the revolution - both studied intensely and
carried in pocket-sized form by Chavez's partisans.
Subsequent chapters analyze economic, social and foreign policy.
One of the most interesting sections looks at one of the least
reported developments in Venezuela: the government's promotion of
the "social economy," which "encompasses at least five closely
interrelated programs: redistribution of wealth (via land reform
programs and social policies), promotion of cooperatives, creation
of nuclei of endogenous development, industrial co-management, and
social production enterprises."
In fact, between 1998 and 2005, the number of cooperatives in
Venezuela went from under 1,000 to over 100,000. Here we have the
Left, precisely because it has captured state power, able to build
alternatives to capitalist hegemony. To provocatively use
Holloway's term against his argument, "anti-power" in Venezuela
can better be built from the bottom-up because the Left can
promote its spread from the top down.
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